Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Studio Saint-Ex by Ania Szado

3 Star

Set in Manhattan and Quebec City in 1943, Studio Saint-Ex is a fictionalized account of the love triangle among Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, his mercurial wife, Consuelo, and a young fashion designer. Mignonne Lachapelle leaves Montreal for New York to make her name, but is swept away by the charms of France’s greatest living writer. Nothing about their relationship is simple—not Antoine’s estranged wife who entangles Mig in her schemes to reclaim her husband, not his turmoil, and certainly not their tempestuous trysts or the blurring boundaries of their artistic pursuits. Yet the greatest complication comes in the form of a deceptively simple manuscript: Antoine’s work-in-progress, The Little Prince, a tender tale of loneliness, friendship, love, and loss in the form of a young prince fallen to earth.

Sabrina-Kate - 3 Star

Despite excellent descriptions and writing, I really had trouble getting into the book. I think that perhaps it was because I didn't find the story itself that appealing. Despite that, the dialogue and descriptions in Studio St. Ex are rich and full of incredible detail. For anyone interested in modern historical fiction and fashion, this will probably be a book you will very much enjoy.

Ania Szado has created a very intriguing novel full of lots of realistic and factual details that any history buff will lap up. There is an interesting story entwined between the two women and the author of Le Petit Prince that is the focus of this literary tale that made me long to read that book again since it has been since I was a child since I have last read it.

The story is a deft look at ambition, passion and desire that shows just to what lengths someone might go to get what they want. The story is something that is quite epic in its own way and will stay with you long after having been read.

Thank you to Penguin Canada for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Ania Szado:

The Very First Bite by Cynthia Langston

3.5 Star

The Very First Bite chronicles the toils and triumphs of Lanie Albers, who has just ten weeks to mentally and physically prepare for the ultimate day of reckoning: her high school class reunion.

With twenty pounds of extra weight, a dead-end job and a boyfriend who won’t commit, the prospect of revisiting old classmates has Lanie reeling with panic. Not to mention the loose ends she’ll finally have to face, like Chad, her first love, for whom she suspects she might still have feelings. And Candace, her lifelong best friend, who abruptly ended their friendship seven years ago with no explanation.

By examining the ghosts of her past, Lanie begins to prepare for the revelations and confrontations of the big night. She also launches a desperate campaign to lose weight: an uproarious battle with fad diets and disastrous workouts, most of which lead her right back to the cookie jar.

Kaley - 3.5 Star

Have you ever read two books back to back that had very similar storylines? One was probably better, right? And I’d guess that there was a very good chance that the lesser of the two would have been more enjoyable had you not also experienced the other. This was the case for me with The Very First Bite by Cynthia Langston. I was listening to an audiobook of another novel that was very similar to this plot and I couldn’t help but compare the two. Why am I telling you this? Partly in case you’ve read Langston’s novel and are thinking, “Why didn’t she love this book like I did?” And partly because I really do think I would have liked this one more had I not been listening to the other book. I did enjoy reading this novel, it was just unfortunate timing.

The only other, teeny, thing is that Lanie kind of drove me crazy. She’s not exactly overweight but she wants to lose about twenty pounds. Cool, that’s great for her. What bothered me was her total cluelessness when it came to dieting. I don’t think this should be a big deal but it bugged me. All she needed to do is put down the Pop Tarts, pick up the vegetables, and put in some gym time. Not try every fad diet there is. Not only was it silly but it also got a bit repetitive.

I really liked the storyline with Candace, Lanie’s estranged best friend from childhood. Candace isn’t in Lanie’s life in the present day so the stories we get are all told in flashbacks. Not only did we get to find out more about their friendship but also what Lanie was like as a child, teen, and young adult, which gave more depth to her character. Exploring friendships is always enjoyable for me and this was the part of the novel I liked the most.

I wasn’t sure what would happen at the end of this novel and I loved that. It’s not often that you get a really unpredictable chick lit story. I didn’t know how her romantic life would play out or if Candace would come back into her life. I liked that there were just enough twists and turns to keep me guessing but not confused.

The Very First Bite by Cynthia Langston was a fun and enjoyable chick lit read. There were crazy character quirks, romantic issues, and entertaining adventures with friends. If you’re looking for an amusing read for the weekend, I suggest checking this one out.

Thank you to Cynthia Langston for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Cynthia Langston:

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge

5 Star

Who is Lucie Walker? Even Lucie herself can’t answer that question after she comes to, confused and up to her knees in the chilly San Francisco Bay. Back home in Seattle, she adjusts to life with amnesia, growing unsettled by the clues she finds to the selfish, carefully guarded person she used to be. Will she ever fall in love with her handsome, kindhearted fiancé, Grady? Can he devote himself to the vulnerable, easygoing Lucie 2.0, who is so unlike her controlling former self? When Lucie learns that Grady has been hiding some very painful secrets that could change the course of their relationship, she musters the courage to search for the shocking, long-repressed childhood memories that will finally set her free.

Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

Love Water Memory is exactly the type of book that I just LOVE. And yes, that needed capitals. Everything about this book was just fantastic. The story was entirely captivating and well paced. I didn't want to put the book down but of course had to but the story stayed so fresh in my mind that I didn't hesitate for a moment to remember where I was at and what was going on.

The story is a bittersweet one of a woman who has lost her memories. All of them. I cannot even begin to imagine what this might be like. I imagine it would be very frustrating but perhaps also liberating. I am pretty sure that the author did a great job in portraying Lucie's reactions and actions both in realistic ways.

The story is a wonderful one of a woman losing everything to gain everything back. It was a book that gripped me and captured my emotions. The character was often on an emotional rollercoaster and therefore so was I. This was definitely the greatest strength of the book. That I got so completely lost in it that I felt like I was living it along with Lucie. It is rare that a book so completely grips me like this but it truly did.

I also quite enjoyed the fact that I did not expect or figure out a lot of the things that occurred in Love Water Memory ahead of time, like what had happened to Lucie or to her parents in the past. Shortridge did a great job of weaving this story together in a believable and shocking way.

Thank you to Gallery Books for our review copy. All opinions are our own. 

Connect with Jennie Shortridge:

The Best Of Us by Sarah Pekkanen

4 Star

Following a once-in-a-lifetime invitation, a group of old college friends leap at the chance to bring their husbands for a week’s vacation at a private villa in Jamaica to celebrate a former classmates' thirty-fifth birthday.

All four women are desperate for a break and this seems like a perfect opportunity. Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie needs to escape from the shattering news about an illness that runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And, finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her husband an unforgettable birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks that have already formed in their new marriage.

The week begins idyllically, filled with languorous days and late nights of drinking and laughter. But as a hurricane approaches the island, turmoil builds, forcing each woman to re-evaluate everything she’s known about the others—and herself.

Lydia - 4 Star

There is something about a once in a lifetime vacation at a private villa that includes a personal chef and pristine empty beaches with a bunch of old friends that conjures up a dreamy feelings. I couldn’t wait to get started on this one as I’ve loved every Pekkanen novel I’ve read. Escapism at its best, Pekkanen delivers a treat with The Best of Us full of wonderful characters, a twisting plot, a few secrets, and a setting I’m sure anyone would be envious of. 

This is a perfect beach read and I wish I could have devoured it on my honeymoon, but Netgalley doesn’t often allow the luxury of waiting long to read their review copies. I finished it a few weeks before the wedding and as soon as we decided to rent a private villa for our honeymoon I wanted to wait to post my review so I could briefly discuss the novel from personal experience. Pekkanen nailed it. 

The tight quarters of a house, particularly when there is strife and secrets among certain individuals in the group, was perfect. You’re relaxed, your guard is down on vacation and these characters are old friends that had kept loosely in touch over the years and were all at different stations in life. You can only imagine what comes to the surface. I was surprised and shocked several times and appreciated the unpredictability. 

I enjoyed all the characters and what they brought to the table, even though I didn’t love them all – or agree with all of their decisions. They were all so different and it was easy to grasp who was who from the first pages which I loved as sometimes this can be difficult when multiple characters are involved. I thought the interactions between them were realistic and there were some intense moments that raised the stakes for all involved and I found myself rapidly flipping pages to see what would occur.

The Best of Us didn’t carry quite the same weight for me as the more intimate stories such as Skipping a Beat did for me, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. Pekkanen vaults us right into the heads of her characters so we know their motivations, fears and goals. There is something for everyone in this one. 

As a side note - If you’re searching for a vacation and think this is out of reach, just Google it. It may not be as exorbitant as you think. You don’t have to have a private chef and if you’re going with friends you can all pitch in with the cooking – and share the costs of the villa. If you don’t mind being a five minute walk to the beach or go off season, the prices are even better. You’ll have more privacy and won’t be on a resort’s timetable. You wouldn’t have to listen to the incessant poolside music and activities. Or maybe it’s just me and the hubs. We’re older now and aren’t looking for a party vacation. Or it could be that we don’t have children we might like babysitters for which resorts offer. Anyhow, just consider it if you’re interested. I’m not sure I would ever return to a resort again.

Thank you to Washington Square Press for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Sarah Pekkanen:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Margaret From Maine by Joseph Monninger

3 Star

Brought together by war, separated by duty, a love story for the ages.

Margaret Kennedy lives on a dairy farm in rural Maine. Her husband Thomas—injured in a war overseas—will never be the man he was. When the President signs a bill in support of wounded veterans, Margaret is invited to the nation’s capital. Charlie King, a handsome Foreign Service officer, volunteers to escort her. As the rhododendron blossoms along the Blue Ridge Highway, the unlikely pair fall in love—but Margaret cannot ignore the tug of her marriage vows.

Jen - 3 Star

Margaret From Maine didn’t speak to me as much as I thought it would after reading its description. The  beautiful cover photo did enough to pique my interest and I wish I could say my interested didn’t stop there. Luckily, Joseph Monninger knows what elements make a great love story, so it has high points that made many points of the story enjoyable.

Maybe it was the dairy farm, where Margaret lives with her father in law and young son, Gordon. Maybe it was Margaret’s matter of fact, vague descriptions of the setting and people around her. But I just couldn't connect with this twenties something military wife who lived on a dairy farm.

The disconnect continued when I read about Margaret’s husband, Thomas, who has been left in a vegetative state after being wounded in fighting overseas. It’s been six years since he was injured and I think six years is too long of a gap for Margaret to still be on the dairy farm, going every day to see her husband. She doesn't seem that connected to Thomas but at the same time, she’s still there, taking care of his father and their family business. 

It’s only when Margaret flies to Washington to witness the President sign a bill for wounded veterans that the book picked up pace for me, because in walks Charlie King, a handsome officer who volunteers to escort her to the White House and around D.C. Charlie and Margaret’s love affair that follows  saved the story from that point on for me. He pulls a “Cinderella story” on her, complete with a beautiful borrowed dress and a night out to a ball. It was enchanting to read about a young woman who has been virtually asleep on a dairy farm come alive again in the arms of a handsome stranger. 

It’s their love story that spoke the most to me in this story, even though the strongest bond throughout Margaret’s life is her marriage to Thomas. I won’t tell you how the story ends or even what happens in the second half of the book. There are some really great points in this book like dedication to loved ones, standing your ground and doing what you feel is right even when it hurts, being a good mother, and being kind to others. With those common themes as the story’s backbone, it still goes right in the long run. 

Thank you to Plume for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Joseph Monninger here:

Friday, April 12, 2013

Tapestry Of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg

3.5 Star

Cecilia Ross is looking for a change. She has decided to take time off from her job as a successful motivational speaker and sell her home. She moves in to a beautiful old house in St. Paul, Minnesota, complete with a big front porch, a wild garden, a chef's kitchen-and three roommates. The four women are different ages, but all are feeling restless, and want to take a roadtrip to find again the people and things they miss. One woman wants to connect with a daughter she gave away at birth; another wants to visit her long-absent ex-husband; a third woman, a professional chef, is seeking new inspiration from the restaurants along the way. And Cecilia is looking for Dennis Halsinger, the man she never got over, who recently sent her a postcard out of the blue.

Kathryn - 3.5 Star

Cece’s life isn’t in a happy place- the recent loss of her best friend has left her sad and contemplating what she ought to be doing with the second half of her life. I immediately felt connected to Cece’s thoughts and situation but didn’t feel the warmth I would have expected from her. I truly didn’t see her as a motivational speaker either- this could just be me though.

I was, however, really in the right mood for the idyllic nature of Tapestry of Fortunes. Cece’s move from the house she lived in next door to her lost friend to a house full of women she doesn’t know at all appeared hasty but worked out just fine and everything seemed to flow easily and perfectly into place. Maybe everyone’s life has a moment or two when everything goes just according to plan?  It was nice to drift along with Cece in this perfect progression and I absolutely loved each one of her new roommates- they were realistic and hopeful and certainly what Cece needed to bring her back into the future.  I wish this for us all when we need it the most- great friends who bring clarity!

Cece’s mother was a bit of an odd persona and I’m not sure what her purpose was and how she fit in- especially with her own dating agenda- that was a bit peculiar- but I liked some of the bit players, the little girl on the airplane was extremely colourful- not sure of her purpose in the plot but she was great!

Although I loved the hope, Berg’s writing and even the storyline  I’m not sure I am in love with this book- I enjoyed Tapestry of Fortunes but it didn’t fill me with passion and there lacked main character development and some depth of the back story.

Thank you to Random House for our review copy. All opinions are our own. 

Connect with Elizabeth Berg:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes

5 Star
Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.

Lydia - 5 Star

I somehow knew straight off that Me Before You was going to rip my heart out with a grapefruit spoon. I barely knew anything about it other than the rave reviews, and when it popped up on Netgalley, I snatched up the opportunity and crammed it into my busy reading schedule. And am I ever glad I did. This novel is an unforgettable roller coaster ride, one which I devoured in a few short days.

I sobbed for a half an hour after finishing this book. I NEVER do this. I may leak a few tears, sometimes even have some streaming, but sobbing, streaming and blubbering for thirty minutes? Never. I can only say that at no time could I predict the outcome of this one, which was fantastic. No more will be said, but just that this book is probably not for the faint at heart or for people that do not like to feel things because this one make you feel everything.

Me Before You tackles heavy subject matter, which I loved, yet there are humourous moments which keep it easy to read, and Moyes manages to keep an overall lighthearted feel, the effect of which is marvelous. This could have been a depressing, difficult read, but Moyes humanizes this controversial subject matter by making it relatable with two incredible characters. Regardless of which side of the issue you stand on, and what outcome you want in the end, Me Before You is eye opening and definitely makes you think.

Lou and Will are two of the most fantastic characters I have had the honor to read about in ages. I grew attached to Lou instantly. A simple girl - you won't find any Louboutins in this book - her heart steals the show. How selfless she is accepting a job she didn't want to help save her family home and how compassionately she looks after Will is almost overwhelming. I wanted her to stick up a bit more for herself, but at the same time, I didn’t want her to change that much because she was so kind, caring, and compassionate. I was desperate for her to ditch her icky boyfriend and find her path in life, particularly hoping it would wind around to Will. Ahhh, Will. Insert huge sigh here. I loved him, and I grew desperate for him to accept his new position in life and move on – and prayed it would be with the lovely Lou. I adored watching their relationship blossom. These are two characters I will never, ever forget.  

Oh, just go get this book now. You won’t regret it. Promise.

And please, someone make this one into a movie - because I’d like to have my heart shattered all over again.

Thank you to Viking for our review copy. All opinions are our own. 

Connect with Jojo Moyes: 

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Perfect Ghost by Linda Barnes

2 Star

Mousy and shy to the point of agoraphobic, Em Moore is the writing half of a celebrity biography team. Her charismatic partner, Teddy, does the interviewing and the public schmoozing. But Em’s dependence on Teddy runs deeper than just the job—Teddy is her bridge to the world and the main source of love in her life. So when Teddy dies in a car accident, Em is devastated, alone in a world she doesn’t understand. The only way she can honor his memory and cope with his loss is to finish the interviews for their current book—an “autobiography” of renowned and reclusive film director Garrett Malcolm.

Ensconced in a small cottage near Malcolm’s Cape Cod home, Em slowly builds the courage to interview Malcolm the way Teddy would have. She finds Malcolm at once friendlier, more intimidating, and much sexier than she had imagined. But Em soon starts hearing whispers of skeletons in the Malcolm family closet. And then the police begin looking into the accident that killed Teddy, and Em’s control on her life—tenuous at best—is threatened.

Sabrina-Kate - 2 Star

The premise of The Perfect Ghost did not appeal to me from the start but I started reading this book hoping to be pleasantly surprised and I wish I could say that I was but unfortunately that didn`t end up being the case. This book was a rambling account of a story that was all over the place and not in any places that I found to be appealing or interesting. 

The main character was agoraphobic, allegedly anyway, but those characteristics weren`t obviously apparent in how she was portrayed. I would classify her as more neurotic perhaps than anything. Her monologue to a dead colleague and apparent former lover throughout the book was distracting and didn`t follow any kind of logical sequence. The story seemed to have too many elements in it that the character would describe and was left wondering why the author would make the story so unnecessarily complex.

I mention that because Barnes does have an incredible strength with her descriptions which are the only reason that I made it through this book at all. I feel that if she would have toned down all of the things that happened in the book and just focused on a cleaner more simple story but kept the amazing prose that The Perfect Ghost might have been a better read and much more enjoyable.

Thank you to St Martins Press for our review copy. All opinions are our own. 

Connect with Linda Barnes:

Friday, April 5, 2013

Bristol House by Beverly Swerling

5 Star

In modern-day London, architectural historian and recovering alcoholic Annie Kendall hopes to turn her life around and restart her career by locating several long-missing pieces of ancient Judaica. Geoff Harris, an investigative reporter, is soon drawn into her quest, both by romantic interest and suspicions about the head of the Shalom Foundation, the organization sponsoring her work. He’s also a dead ringer for the ghost of a monk Annie believes she has seen at the flat she is subletting in Bristol House.

In 1535, Tudor London is a very different city, one in which monks are being executed by Henry VIII and Jews are banished. In this treacherous environment of religious persecution, Dom Justin, a Carthusian monk, and a goldsmith known as the Jew of Holborn must navigate a shadowy world of intrigue involving Thomas Cromwell, Jewish treasure, and sexual secrets. Their struggles shed light on the mysteries Annie and Geoff aim to puzzle out—at their own peril.

Kathryn - 5 Star

I had no idea what to expect on starting Bristol House and was happily engrossed after a few chapters in a fascinating novel of historical intrigue.  It tied into things I’ve been interested in for years- The Knights Templar, anything Tudor and religious history and as far as I could tell, the story was balanced on a great base of historical accuracies and accepted truths.

Swerling has interwoven a present and a past storyline to meet in a vortex of another plane- I think I was a bit lost for a while with the ghostly monk visiting Annie and wasn’t really sure what to make of his presence.  It was eerie and creepy and though I have to say I’m not so much a believer in ghosts as such- this monk was definitely as real to me as he could be.  His purpose is absolutely essential to the plot.

Annie herself was a bit dry - I didn’t get a very good feel for her and seeking acceptance as an academic because of her past as an alcoholic didn’t bring me much more warmth.  She was just a bit one-dimensional but I accept that it was important for this to be her history so that she is the perfect person to do the research.  I relied on Geoff and his mother Maggie to bring warmth to the book when it was lacking elsewhere. They were larger than life and quite a fascinating pair- as were the various rabbis involved.

Swerling has written a novel full of points of interest and I’m still trying to absorb all the information she managed to cram into it- saying that though, Bristol House was well written and fast paced and not at all slowed down by the details. 

Thank you to NAL for our review copy. All opinions are our own. 

Connect with Beverly Swerling:

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Three Good Things by Wendy Francis

4 Star

Ellen McClarety, a recent divorcée, has opened a new bake shop in her small Midwestern town, hoping to turn her life around by dedicating herself to the traditional Danish pastry called kringle. She is no longer saddled by her ne’er-do-well husband, but the past still haunts her—sometimes by showing up on her doorstep. Her younger sister, Lanie, is a successful divorce attorney with a baby at home. But Lanie is beginning to feel that her perfect life is not as perfect as it seems. Both women long for the guidance of their mother, who died years ago but left them with lasting memories of her love and a wonderful piece of advice: “At the end of every day, you can always think of three good things that happened.” Ellen and Lanie are as close as two sisters can be, until one begins keeping a secret that could forever change both their lives. 

Jen - 4 Star

This is book is the perfect read for a  rainy weekend at  home.  It’s comfy, cozy and makes you feel good. Wendy Francis created a story that every woman would enjoy in Three Good Things. The story has a talented main character, Eleanor, who I wish I could sit down to coffee with, she is so lovable! I liked her because she was relatable, a hard worker and she's talented in her craft. She’s got everything a great main  protagonist needs: interesting family members, an ex husband, a great job and a fun home town.

Eleanor owns a bakery, and it’s not just any bakery. It’s a kringle bakery, which pretty much just means my mouth was watering the whole time I read about her job.  Luckily , Wendy Francis included recipes for the fluffy pastries in the book so one of these days, I am going to try and makes some for myself!

A unique thing about Three Good Things is that Eleanor  has  two love interests and with most romances there’s usually a clear winner. But in this story, I actually liked both men who were vying for Eleanor’s heart and would have probably been happy for her  if she ended up with either one.

The pastry shop, the quaint town and setting and the  additional story lines of the other characters all combine to make this a book any reader would enjoy. Even with all these parts that matched up so perfectly,  Three Good Things still had unpredictable moments and a surprising ending. At times, I thought I had I pretty good idea about what was going to happen and the next moment, the characters surprised me. They are faced with problems that many in real life face too: divorce, loss of a parent, motherhood, infidelity, and more. It’s human nature to be unsure of decisions or a desire to turn back the clocks...and it’s comforting to read about characters going through the same things you have.

If I had to give a little criticism about Three Good Things, I would say there were a couple situations and story lines that were left at loose ends for me, but that’s probably just because I was so invested in their  stories and just wanted to know more.

When real characters come to life like in this book, it reminds me why I love reading so much: reading about people I would love to meet in real life and learning more about myself by meeting them.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Wendy Francis:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...