Sunday, June 30, 2013

Meet Me At The Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

4 Star

Having grown up in an apartment above her Grandpa Joe's little bakery, Issy Randal has always known how to make something sweet. She's much better at baking than she is at filing, so when she's laid off from her desk job, Issy decides to open up her own little caf . But she soon learns that her piece-of-cake plan will take all her courage and confectionary talent to avert disaster. Funny and sharp, Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe is about how life might not always taste like what you expect, but there's always room for dessert!

Kathryn - 4 Star

Meet me at the Cupcake Café is a lovely novel about a lovely woman, Issy, who is looking for a new career having failed fantastically at love and been made redundant from her job.  Despite the dismal beginning the tale is sweet like cake and the characters are all warm, delicious and mix well together to form a delicious concoction.

Issy’s personality is much better suited to running her own cupcake shop rather than working in a high stress real estate agency and it’s completely clear that her boyfriend (from the agency) is not the man she’s going to end up with. Her interest in the new man (Austin) is a bit obvious but took nothing away from her empowerment in setting up her own business. What is special about the unfolding romance is Austin himself, a man perfect on paper, in person and who is also in charge of raising his little brother?  What could be better for Issy who is feeling a bit left on the shelf in her early thirties?  I particularly appreciated that Colgan made her an early 30’s heroine rather than the mid to late 20’s that seems to be the norm.

One of my favourite things about Colgan’s writing is the details that make the places and people come alive. Issy’s apartment, with the pink kitchen, and the café’s details are important to paint a picture of Issy herself.  I loved Helena, Pearl and even Caroline, but the most unique relationship was between Issy and her grandfather. I actually found it so poignant that I hope will come across the same for others. That bond is rare and very special.  On the other hand Issy and her mother have one of the strangest relationships I’ve found in a book- there was clearly love there between them but a complete lack of interaction with each other until the very end. It might have been better to just leave her out completely.

I’ve read Jenny Colgan novels before and I enjoyed them - this is light and airy (like a good cupcake) and a good summer read.

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

Connect with Jenny Colgan:


Rita Hayworth's Shoes by Francine LaSala

3 Star

Amy Miller gets dumped on her wedding day and everyone knows it's for the best as her relationship with David had eaten away at her for years. Except for Amy... When her best friend, Jane Austen-Rabinowitz, and Jane's sagacious six-year-old daughter, Zoe, convince Amy to treat herself to an extravagantly priced, super-cute pair of shoes, which purportedly once belonged to a siren of the silver screen, she balks at first, but their allure soon wears her down. Once they are hers, her life turns around. She gets refocused on her career and meets a true kindred spirit, the also-jilted English professor, Decklin Thomas. She's not attracted to Deck at first. But when circumstances lead to them spending more time together, they bond, and Amy starts to believe she may have found her soul mate. But when Deck's former wife goes missing, again, the perfect romance may not be what it seems...

Kaley - 3 Star

Every once and awhile I get the chance to read a book that everyone seems to have enjoyed. Francine LaSala’s novel Rita Hayworth’s Shoes was one that a lot of my blogger and author friends have loved. I was really looking forward to it but, unfortunately, it fell a little flat for me.

I think part of the problem, for me anyway, was that I didn’t feel much of a connection with Amy. I can’t really put my finger on why – perhaps I couldn’t understand why she felt like she needed to stay with David even though none of her friends liked him or how she changed for him.

There were lots of other little things that kind of irked me, too. Zoe (Amy’s best friend’s daughter) was a little too clever for a six year old (though she did have some hilarious comments), Deck and Amy had lengthy discussions about literature that went right over my head, and I really didn’t like having to wait until over halfway through the book before finding out what kind of animal Amy and David’s “babies” were. While these things seem trivial, they took away from my enjoyment of the novel for a good chunk of the book. Kind of silly, I know.

Of course, all that being said, I did end up being drawn into the story. While I didn’t want to be BFFs with Amy, I did want things to work out for her. She was sweet and I really wanted her story to have a happily ever after. Her life and her goals had been pushed to the side when she was dating David but once she was free of him she was really able to achieve everything she was meant to.

Overall, I didn’t really love Rita Hayworth’s Shoes. I had to push my way through most of it but I really did want to find out how Amy’s story ended (even if I’m not entirely sure what happened). While this novel didn’t thrill me, I still plan on checking out Francine LaSala’s other novel one of these days!

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

Connect with Francine Lasala:

Saturday, June 29, 2013

My Life On Craigslist by Alexandra Ares

3 Star

Meet Emily Thompson, 25, quirky, wholesome, with a keen eye for contemporary art. One year after she moves from Buffalo to the trendy East Village, where she lands a job in an art gallery and an artist boyfriend, her life is turned upside down when she loses everything. Alone, broke and depressed, she turns to Craigslist to find - for free - everything she needs for both fun and survival. She soon discovers a wild, flawed world where everyone is either the con or the conned, and decency has flown both the laptop and the desktop. A roommate who is rarely home, turns out to be an escort, which makes Emily get on her high moral horse, but later, when Emily herself becomes an escort for a day things spiral out of control... 

Jen - 3 Star

The best way to describe this book is just as the author says it “Welcome to the age of internet lust. Shameless and unbridled, tacky and silly, often crazy. Decency has flown the desktop, the laptop and the smartphone.”

The main character claims that Craiglist “serves as reflection of who we are.” Well, then that makes me cheap used furniture, but maybe that’s just me. Maybe my life would be a little more exciting if I searched out single white males and apartment subletters via Craigslist.

In My Life on Craigslist, author Alexandra Ares paints an intriguing and dangerously sexy picture of what people can find on today’s interwebs, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little intrigued, and a little grossed out.

Emily Thomson is a fun loving 25-year-old, living the dream life in New York City. Okay, maybe not your typical Gossip Girl dream life, but as far as independent, young and carefree lives go, Emily has it made. Sure, she lives paycheck to paycheck and is forced to fish for less than desirable roommates to cover her rent, but still, she’s single and a New Yorker.

For Emily, there is much more to strive for and apparently, you can find it all on Craigslist. I kept thinking about how much fun the author must have had trolling around on Craigslist, trying to find the juiciest inspiration for this book. Free tickets to a play? Sure! A new roommate who can move in by the next day, easy! Men looking for women to fulfilled their dirtiest fantasies, coming right up!

Emily is as real as it gets. She knows what she wants to find on Craigslist. I knew I loved her no-bull character when I read about her posting her own ad on Craigslist: “I typed this headline: Fast love and fast sex. Then I delete the last part and leave only “fast love.” No need to be too explicit. Everyone knows that love has become just a euphemism for sex.”

This book is all about being honest about what we truly want and not being ashamed about it. Sex. Love. Companionship. And in an age where we are more connected than ever and instant gratification is just a phone app away, there’s no reason we shouldn’t own up to the fact that if we could all find love and satisfaction as fast as it takes to post an ad online, we’d all be doing exactly what Emily is doing in this story.

You’ll be pleased with the ending…I was happy for Emily and her ironic happy ever after.

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

Connect with Alexandra:

The First Rule Of Swimming by Courtney Angela Brkic

5 Star

A woman must leave her island home to search for her missing sister-and confront the haunted history of her family.

Magdalena does not panic when she learns that her younger sister has disappeared. A free-spirit, Jadranka has always been prone to mysterious absences. But when weeks pass with no word, Magdalena leaves the isolated Croatian island where their family has always lived and sets off to New York to find her sister. Her search begins to unspool the dark history of their family, reaching back three generations to a country torn by war.

Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

The absolute first thing that struck me about The First Rule of Swimming was the absolutely stunning cover. And yes, I know I probably shouldn't, but I do often judge a book by its cover. There are so many choices these days for excellent reading material that I definitely can say this cover drew me to this book and I am quite glad that it did.

From the first word, this book had the exact kind of delicious descriptions that I crave while reading. I almost felt like I was there experiencing the characters lives even though they are very different than mine but the author made their world come alive.

This book focuses on the bonds and differences between sisters and portrays two very different women and their lives. The complexity and richness of this book was impressed upon me from the very beginning. The story has many very intense events in it and you learn why it is called what it is quite quickly as nothing seems simple for this family who has many hardships they need to overcome.

You are able to get to know the characters well throughout creating a rapport with them that makes you actually care about what will happen to them next. The pacing was a bit slow but I think that was the reason you could get to appreciate them as individuals more than characters in another book.

The story flows well from past to present and you get to see what secrets in the past can do to a family in the present throughout this deftly woven tale.

Thank you to Little Brown & Company for our review copy. All opinions are our own. 

Connect with Courtney Angela Brkic:

Friday, June 28, 2013

Looking For Me by Beth Hoffman

5 Star

Teddi Overman found her life’s passion for furniture in a broken-down chair left on the side of the road in rural Kentucky. She learns to turn other people’s castoffs into beautifully restored antiques, and eventually finds a way to open her own shop in Charleston. There, Teddi builds a life for herself as unexpected and quirky as the customers who visit her shop.  Though Teddi is surrounded by remarkable friends and finds love in the most surprising way, nothing can alleviate the haunting uncertainty she’s felt in the years since her brother Josh’s mysterious disappearance. When signs emerge that Josh might still be alive, Teddi is drawn home to Kentucky.  It’s a journey that could help her come to terms with her shattered family—and to find herself at last.  But first she must decide what to let go of and what to keep.

Lydia - 5 Star

Only Beth Hoffman can make me shed tears within the first thirty pages or so of a novel. She did it with Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt, and she’s done it again with Looking For Me. And the beginning wasn't the only time my eyes leaked during this fantastic, definitely top-5-of-the-year reads.

Hoffman is a word wizard. Her prose is truly simple, yet so lyrical. The end result is an effortless read, with an extraordinary impact. Many times I re-read sentences in utter wonder. Vivid and unforgettable in prose, plot and character, Looking For Me will not be easily forgotten.

"Never tie your happiness to the end of someone else's kite." I cannot tell you how much I adore this line. And it's just one of many incredible words Hoffman has strung together to weave this fabulous tale.

Looking For Me combines so much of what I love in life - and a novel - from nature, to antiques, to complicated family dynamics and a relatable, down-to-earth, woman who has some growth to do. I adored Teddi Overman. I wish she lived near me. I wish she was real. I wanted to walk into her shop. Yes, this book felt incredibly real. I felt present when I read this novel and wanted to wander into the lives of these characters and have a glass of wine.

This novel is not an explosive read, but rather bobs along gently with flashbacks and present day story. It is done so well that I barely noticed when we had flipped into a reverie. I loved the ‘leg up’ and ‘pay it forward’ theme and really appreciated that it is subtly done and not a knock you over the head kind of lesson.

I think what I loved most about this novel is that Teddi is mostly happy with her life, which is a refreshing change from the many main characters these days that are struggling, suffering or received some sort of life altering news. She has already followed her dreams – and is successful at it. She’s even fine with her singleton status. The only blips on Teddi’s happy-meter is a mother who is less than thrilled with her career path, and, more significantly, her brother’s mysterious disappearance years ago, something she still struggles with as it was never resolved.

I grinned from ear to ear during this book. I whooped out loud, gasped in shock, and laughed and cried. What more can you ask for in a novel? Slap down Looking for Me in your summer must-read pile. You won’t be disappointed.

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

Connect with Beth Hoffman:

The Time Between by Karen White

4 Star
Thirty-four-year-old Eleanor Murray is consumed with guilt for causing the accident that paralyzed her sister—and for falling in love with her sister’s husband. But when her boss offers her a part-time job caring for his elderly aunt, Helena, Eleanor accepts, hoping this good deed will help atone for her mistakes.

On the barrier island of Edisto, Eleanor bonds with Helena over their mutual love of music. Drawing the older woman out of her depression, Eleanor learns of her life in Hungary, with her sister, before and during World War II. She hears tales of passion and heartache, defiance and dangerous deception. And when the truth of Helena and her sister’s actions comes to light, Eleanor may finally allow herself to move past guilt and to embrace the song that lies deep in her heart…

Lydia - 4 Star

The Time Between is my first Karen White novel and I really enjoyed it. From the characters to the story to the atmosphere, I thought this novel was a well written, intriguing read about family and the damage guilt and secrets can do.

You can’t help but sympathize with Eleanor. We are informed of her plight right away and guilt is holding her back. It is also holding back those around her doing the guilting. Rooting for Eleanor comes easily, and it wasn’t long before I was eager for her to move on, to succeed, and to get back to her passion. It takes her boss to nudge her out of her routine, and his curmudgeonly old aunt, Helena, for her to begin to crawl out of her shell. The comfort zone she had hid in for so long is no longer an option in Helena’s sprawling old home. That the house resides in the town Eleanor grew up in, brings back memories, and loosens her up even more.

I particularly loved the banter between Helena and Eleanor, and enjoyed Helena even though she was crotchety at times. I loved how Eleanor was able to draw her out and vice versa. In fact, I loved all the characters from boss, Finn, to his daughter, precocious and older than her age, Gigi. I loved Finn's relationship with his daughter. Women everywhere will swoon over his character. I did - but what isn't attractive about a man who dotes on, and is completely invested in his daughter's well-being. I loved how each and every character seems to grow in this novel, and even though parts may have been predictable, many were not.

The mystery and intrigue in this novel kept me reading as I couldn't wait to find out the secrets Helena had, and what Will was keeping from Eleanor. The writing was excellent and the descriptions were impeccable and just how I like them without boring me, as long-winded descriptive prose tends to do.

I did find The Time Between moved too slowly at times for my liking which was evident as I drifted off into space while I read from time to time. I did find I wanted a bit more action.

The Time Between is a great summer read, full of summer activities, sweltering nights and even some star gazing. Contemporary women's fiction fans who love a hint of mystery will enjoy this one!

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

Connect with Karen White:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Twelfth Child by Bette Lee Crosby

5 Star

Trust, love and friendship — Abigail Anne Lannigan searched for these things all her life; now, when she is at the tail end of her years she teams up with a free-spirited young woman, a nobody from nowhere, who suddenly moves in across the street. It’s an unlikely friendship which comes under suspicion when a distant relative, claims embezzlement. One million dollars is missing and only Abigail knows the truth of what happened – but, she’ll never get the chance to tell.

Lydia - 5 Star

The Twelfth Child blew me away. For some reason, my expectations weren’t very high for this novel, and I can’t really figure out why, although I suspect the cover has something to do with it. It doesn’t come close to portraying the pages within. A southern tale, this novel is rich with description, heavy with harsh family dynamics and follows a little girl with a dream to become a teacher, and the same feisty girl as a frail woman near the end of the life she worked so hard to better.

This absorbing tale alternates between the present to past. It even takes an odd turn part way through with the narration – something some have criticized, but I enjoyed the uniqueness of it. I loved the seamless transitions, and adored both stories, flipping pages well past my bedtime.

You can’t help but root for Abigail immediately. Life is not pleasant under her father’s misogynist rule, particularly after her mother dies when Abigail is only thirteen. As a young girl in the 1920’s living on a rural farm in the south, Abigail eventually learns how to make do, even though she never understands why she is not allowed to become a teacher. She stays out of her father’s way, does what he expects and bides her time – and then, courtesy of a helping hand, she begins plotting how to go about getting it.

In the alternating story line, we meet Abigail later in life after she has met her new neighbor, young and bubbly Destiny, and the two form an instant bond and friendship. I loved every second of their interaction. Not only is this a lovely tale about friendship – and I’m a sucker for stories with women in their later years – but an unusual friendship between an older woman and a young single woman who are not related. The relative that does appear later in Abigail’s life is an evil, money-thirsty man that slithers out from under a rock. He attempts to undermine Abigail and Destiny’s relationship at every turn. I will admit that as much as I loved these two women together and the honesty of their relationship, Crosby manages to spark a bit of doubt. But then I would shake it off and go right back to hating Elliott and championing the women’s friendship.

Both stories are equally gripping and I couldn’t wait to get back to the past when I was in the present and vice versa. Even though the ending kind of threw me, I thought it was fitting, and overall would highly recommend this book. If I had to offer one area for improvement of The Twelfth Child, it would be to strongly suggest a new cover that captures more of the novel.

Thank you to Bette Lee Crosby for our review copy. All opinions are our own. 

Connect with Bette Lee:

Monday, June 24, 2013

Between A Mother And Her Child by Elizabeth Noble

4.5 Star
For Maggie and Bill it was love at first sight . . .

One impulsive wedding later and with the arrival of three perfect children, Jake, Aly and Stan, the Barrett family seem to have it all. Until the day their world stops turning.

When Jake dies suddenly, they're swept away on a tide of grief that fractures Maggie and Bill's marriage. She and the children are left clinging to the wreckage of their family. And they need help, because in her grief Maggie is in danger of losing Aly and Stan too.

Enter Kate, housekeeper, companion and shoulder to cry on. She's here to pick up the pieces and fix what isn't completely broken. But can Maggie trust Kate? And why is Kate so keen to help?

When Bill falls for another woman, Maggie realizes she will have to fight to put her family back together - but will they still want her?

Kathryn - 4.5 Star

Much as this book is easy to read in the way it’s written I found it so intense in moments that I caught myself holding my breath.

The storyline was original and the characters were all interesting, including (and maybe especially) the children. There wasn’t a single person brought into the story without a fully developed history, a unique personality and a purpose. I found the relationship between Maggie and Bill most fascinating- they’d been together since they were so young and then could just not cope with their grief together-yet their love for each other is still apparent and palpable. It was so beautiful to read how much they still had that depth of feeling while knowing that they really didn’t belong together as a couple anymore. Bill’s new girlfriend was a bit hard to accept - I found her so young and unlike Maggie that she just didn’t fit with the image I had of him in my mind. By the end of the novel I did appreciate her more and saw how much Bill needed someone like her to help him move past his guilt and grief.  It was difficult to really take a side in their separation- I liked them both so much.

The addition of Kate to Maggie’s life was a bit odd- though I could understand why her sister wanted someone to watch over the family and that a complete stranger (rent-a-granny) was the only possible scenario Maggie might accept. Their relationship grew quite quickly and although some readers have found it unrealistic I can see Maggie’s need for a mum made the whole thing work.  Maggie also needed that guiding person to re-establish her link to her daughter Amy.  I loved that Amy’s thoughts and feelings were so much a part of the novel- as a teenager losing her brother her thoughts added a unique perspective.

Tragic events can impact a family instantly or gradually and in this case a slow simmer of misunderstandings and intense grief made the perfect family pull away from each other. I loved them so much that I grasped on to the hope that all would be well in the end but grief can be tolerated and then accepted but perhaps never resolved. Losing a child is unthinkable and I felt every gut wrenching ache the writer threw at me but still managed to enjoy the funny bits-which is a credit to Noble’s writing.

Connect with Elizabeth Noble:

Saturday, June 22, 2013

All The Summer Girls by Meg Donohue

3.5 Star

In Philadelphia, good girl Kate is dumped by her fiance the day she learns she is pregnant with his child. In New York City, beautiful stay-at-home mom Vanessa is obsessively searching the Internet for news of an old flame. And in San Francisco, Dani, the aspiring writer who can't seem to put down a book--or a cocktail--long enough to open her laptop, has just been fired...again.

In an effort to regroup, Kate, Vanessa, and Dani retreat to the New Jersey beach town where they once spent their summers. Emboldened by the seductive cadences of the shore, the women being to realize how much their lives, and friendships, have been shaped by the choices they made one fateful night on the beach eight years earlier--and the secrets that only now threaten to surface.

Lydia - 3.5 Star

I enjoyed All the Summer Girls and think it would make a nice summer beach read, particularly as much of it takes place on well, at the beach. All is not so light and fluffy in this novel, though, and it tackles grief, substance abuse, secrets, and torn friendships as three friends navigate the world nearly a decade after the death of their friend and brother.

The secrets each woman held onto intrigued me. I couldn’t wait to see what they were hiding from each other – and from themselves. I wondered whether they could forgive each other, and themselves, for whatever it was that was tormenting them. Would they place blame? Forgive? It was obvious they all had secrets and struggled with guilt and had issues holding them back.

The characters are well developed and I found them easy to relate to with their motivations and angst so clearly portrayed, even I did find them a bit irritating and unlikeable at times. The fact that they didn’t confide in each other after that fateful evening so long ago drove me a little crazy as well as why they couldn’t find any happiness in their lives and why they were all still so stuck. Although it was the point of the novel, I did find it a bit taxing at times to have them all so woe-is-me. But maybe that was because it was such a short snapshot in time (other than all the flashbacks). If more time had passed, maybe different sides of their characters would have shown up and they would have had more growth.

The format of this novel struck me as odd, and then brilliant, and back to odd again. There were so many flashbacks that I occasionally became confused. But then it would meld with the present, and I would understand, or it picked up seamlessly where the flashback occurred to present day thoughts. Sometimes I didn’t think the memories were necessary and craved the real-time story to continue, and then after going to the present day, I realized they mandatory to understand the story. It was an interesting layout and I could never really decide if I loved it, or hated it.

As a personal preference, I wasn’t much of a fan of the present tense used for the third person. It’s fine when we’re hanging out with one person and their perspective, but I found it unusual to read from the three women’s perspective in the present tense. I had difficulty figuring out who was ‘speaking’ with several chapter changes and found myself rereading sentences at times.

In the end, I feel like All the Summer Girls would make a good fluffy beach even with the heavier subject. It’s one that will keep you turning the pages, but won’t tax your brain too much.

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

Connect with Meg Donohue:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Boots My Mother Gave Me by Brooklyn James

3 Star

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk through life in someone else's shoes?

Strong-willed tomboy Harley LeBeau puts you in the boots her mother gave her, as she takes you along her journey of escape from an abusive childhood and the desire to find herself as she comes of age. Made to feel a burden to her father simply by her gender, Harley is determined to prove her worth and independence, leaving the small town she grew up in and the one boy who gave her a soft place to fall, Jeremiah Johnson. Torn between saving herself and abandoning her mother and younger sister, Harley chooses her own life in hopes they will choose theirs, too.

Sabrina-Kate - 3 Star

I wanted to like The Boots My Mother Gave Me more than I did. I believe it touched on a lot of important and sensitive topics like abuse and teen pregnancy but the author did lose me at certain points, especially when she would expand, possibly unnecessarily, on the sexual relations of the main characters. It didn't feel like it was a necessary element to the story, at least not to the extent that it was described so I found it took away from the overall strength of this tale.

The story was a very strong one about breaking the cycle of abuse and dysfunction - a story that needs to be told more often. I am in hopes that this book could find the right reader and actually help them be strong enough to change their circumstance. I often wondered while reading it if this was a personal story of the author's.

I am very mixed about how I truly feel in the end about this book because despite all of the great qualities, the story did drag for me at certain points and that might be due to a few factors. One very big one being that flashback scenes of the book that were not so obviously flask back scenes until something would eventually tip me off. So then I would feel obligated to go back and read that part over in order to make sure I understood everything. Something I didn't like having to do and have rarely, if ever, done before.

The main character seemed at times very self assured and at other times, just a confused and almost annoying person. I know that people from abusive situations might have conflicted feelings about life and what is right and wrong, but it could get irritating at times.

The pacing also seemed a bit off, again with too much detail in some areas that felt unnecessary to the plot development and made the story drag out without a real point in doing so. Over all, the story was a decent one but I can't say this would rate The Boots My Mother Gave Me very high on my list of recommendations this year.

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

Connect with Brooklyn James:




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