Saturday, August 31, 2013

Flipping by Mary Ellenton

3 Star

Fay Famaghetti is ready for a change. She realizes that she is meant for something beyond the drudgery of working in her family's Italian restaurant business. When she moves from her hometown of Brooklyn, New York to suburban Long Island, a unique opportunity in a traditionally male dominated profession presents itself and with not much more than a supercharged ambition and an accounting degree, self-assured Fay decides to go for it. 

Willfully seduced by the greed of the era and prospering in the murky waters of a corrupted system, Fay quickly gets in over her head while mixing business with pleasure within the treacherous industry that helped tumble the world's greatest economy.

Sabrina-Kate - 3 Star

Flipping was a book with big aspirations. It took a heavy type of subject matter and developed a story around it. I can't say that flipping houses, selling houses, or anything to do with real estate or finance interests me at all. So, it is to the author's credit, no pun intended, that this book interested me at all. Therefore, I can say that she does seem to know her subject and gives enough detail to make it realistic.

It makes me sick to think about the stories within about the terrible situations that the people found themselves in due to financial situations, and I also had a huge dislike for a lot of the characters for taking advantage of those who were unlucky. I think that it is probably very realistic, but it is also very sad.

I didn't like the naivete of the main character at all. She seemed to be so confident and driven from a very young age so I didn't feel that it was a character trait of hers that made sense. I couldn't reconcile many of the different things about her as to belonging to one individual. Perhaps that was the author's intention though - to prove that she was a conflicted and confused person?

Also, I have to say that I detested the ending. It seemed too convenient, if I can use that word for lack of a better one. I didn't like the way things were wrapped up. It just seemed too easy, but I won't say more in order to not spoil the ending!

Flipping definitely had its good qualities, as I did learn a fair amount about mortgages and how people can get taken advantage of, but I just didn't particularly enjoy the characters within.

Thank you to Moonlight Garden Publications  for our review copy. All opinions are our own. 

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All You Could Ask For by Mike Greenberg

5 Star

Three women are about to find their lives intertwined in ways none of them could ever have imagined. . . . 

Brooke has been happily married to her college sweetheart for fifteen years. Even after the C-section, the dog poop, the stomach viruses, and the coffee breath, Scott still always winks at her at just the right moments. That is why, for her beloved, romantic, successful husband's fortieth birthday, she is giving him pictures. Of her. Naked.

Samantha's newlywed bliss is steamrolled when she finds shocking evidence of infidelity on her husband's computer. She has been married for two days. She won't be for much longer.

Katherine works eighteen hours a day for the man who irreparably shattered her heart fifteen years ago. She has a duplex on Park Avenue, a driver, a chef, and a stunning house in Southampton, and she bought it all herself. So what if she has to see Phillip every single workday for the rest of her natural life? Brooke, Samantha, and Katherine don't know one another, but all three are about to discover the conquering power of friendship—and that they have all they could ask for, as long as they have one another.

Jen - 5 Star

Finally, a book that made me cry! Trust me, it was a good cry. All You Could Ask for by Mike Greenberg touched so many high points of emotion for me. I devoured the pages.

One characteristic of all of my favorite books are different points of view that change with each chapter. In All You Could Ask For, I felt like there was the perfect mix of interesting characters, all with their own unique story to tell, but at the same time each story had a magnificent common thread that knit the novel together as a whole.

An author who tackles the characters finding how what makes life worth living is a brave one and Greenberg succeeds.

What happens when 3 women, leading 3 completely different lives, all find each other walking down the same, scary road? I don’t want to give too many details but must say that the battles they are facing are heavy wars many many women face and the stories never cease to tug at my heart. Facing a health problem, growing older, or infidelity are all scary things and the characters in this book handle all of their situations with grace, attitude, and charisma. 

During their individual stories, Samantha, Brooke, and Katherine find each other on an online support group. That’s when the book really took off for me. I loved watching them warm up to each other (and even when they showed some tough love, too). I was rallying for them to find strength in each other when they needed it the most.

I think mothers should make their young daughters read this book to teach them what strong women act like. They handle their lives with poise, there is amazing examples of true friendship and good deeds and there’s more bravery in this book than most put together.

If you are in the mood for a empowering book, if you appreciate the impact of true friendships and need to be reminded what sheer bravery looks like, read All You Ask For. 

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

Connect with Mike Greenberg:

Honeymoon In Paris by Jojo Moyes

5 Star

For fans of Jojo Moyes' Me Before You, who can't wait for her new novel The Girl You Left Behind - out in September - here is an irresistible ebook-only prequel novella, Honeymoon in Paris.

At the heart of Jojo Moyes' heartbreaking new novel, The Girl You Left Behind, are two haunting love stories - that of Sophie and Edouard Lefevre in France during the First World War, and, nearly a century later, Liv Halston and her husband David.

Honeymoon in Paris takes place several years before the events to come in The Girl You Left Behind when both couples have just married. Sophie, a provincial girl, is swept up in the glamour of Belle poque Paris but discovers that loving a feted artist like Edouard brings undreamt of complications. Following in Sophie's footsteps a hundred years later, Liv, after a whirlwind romance, finds her Parisian honeymoon is not quite the romantic getaway she had been hoping for...

This enthralling self-contained story will have you falling in love with Liv and Sophie, and with Paris then and now, and it is the perfect appetizer for the The Girl You Left Behind, a spellbinding story of love, devotion and passion in the hardest of times.

Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

As with everything that I have read from Jojo Moyes, this novella was immensely enjoyable. As anyone who knows me is probably aware, I am not that big of a fan of any kind of historical novel or story. This one isn't completely set in the past, but I think that even if it had been, I would have enjoyed it anyway.

Moyes just has such a gift of telling a lyrical tale that is completely enthralling and captivating yet simple and just plain good. I found myself loving the characters immediately without having to get to know them for a long time which as it was a novella, this was an important detail. I loved how I could identify with them and felt in my heart that I would be feeling and acting the same exact way.

There isn't much more than I can say without giving too much away but anyone who loves a good and complete story, this will not disappoint!

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

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Lake House by Marci Nault

2.5 Star

VICTORIA ROSE. Fifty years before, a group of teenage friends promised each other never to leave their idyllic lakeside town. But the call of Hollywood and a bigger life was too strong for Victoria . . . and she alone broke that pledge. Now she has come home, intent on making peace with her demons, even if her former friends shut her out. Haunted by tragedy, she longs to find solace with her childhood sweetheart, but even this tender man may be unable to forgive and forget. 

HEATHER BREGMAN. At twenty-eight, after years as a globe-trotting columnist, she has abandoned her controlling fiance; and their glamorous city life to build one on her own terms. Lulled by a Victorian house and a gorgeous locale, she is determined to make the little community her home. But the residents, fearful of change and outsiders, will stop at nothing to sabotage her dreams of lakeside tranquility. 

As Victoria and Heather become unlikely friends, their mutual struggle to find acceptance with their neighbors and in their own hearts, explore the chance events that shape a community and offer the opportunity to start again.

Lydia - 2.5 Star

I love stories that intermix generations and those that swap between the past and present, so I had high hopes for The Lake House. Unfortunately, though, even with this novel being an easy read that was fun in parts, I was disappointed in the end.

The Lake House would make a great beach read not only because it’s easy to read, but because the majority of the novel’s setting is on a lake. The cover alone had me craving some cottage time and reminded me of steamy summers up at my Granny’s house on the lake with my cousins. This alone set my expectations very high which probably caused some of my dissatisfaction with the novel.

I did chuckle from time to time while reading, particularly around the uncomfortable and often cringe-worthy conversations Heather had with Victoria and Maggie as well as some of the silly pranks the men of Nagog get up to. There were also a few mysteries that kept me reading surrounding Victoria’s character. I wanted to know what happened, but found when we reached the great reveal it all wrapped up too quickly for my liking. My favourite part of the novel occurred with the mailbox, and I think that might be because it seemed real and genuine where the majority of the novel didn’t seem to reach that depth for me.

Overall, I found The Lake House predictable, and if I’m being completely honest, a bit boring. I didn’t feel that much really happened – probably because of the predictability. I mostly liked the characters but didn’t feel very strongly about any of them in the end. They actually all fell flat where I wanted them to be vibrant and less stereotypical. They never really did much out of character which led to the predictability, and I found them all a bit one dimensional. There were also quite a few residents to keep track of which caused me difficulty, particularly with the men for some reason. I also didn’t really appreciate how the Nagog residents snubbed Heather or how irritated Heather herself was about living there – although I could understand it to a point. 

Anyone who likes lighter reads might enjoy this one, and there are fabulous reviews out there for The Lake House, so it might have just been me not connecting with it for some reason. 

Thank you to Kelly and Hall  for our review copy. All opinions are our own. 

Connect with Marci Nault:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Me And Mr Jones by Lucy Diamond

3 Star

You may love him, but can you ever love his family?

Introducing a family business and four different women, each dealing with their very own Mr Jones...

Lilian and Eddie Jones have been the owners of Mulberry House for years, but now Lilian's worried about Eddie's health. Will any of their three sons step in to take on the business?

Alicia, married to Hugh Jones, is a perfectly behaved wife and mother. But with her fortieth birthday looming, she feels the need for excitement. Maybe it's time to spice things up...

David Jones is struggling to come to terms with his redundancy, while his wife Emma is desperate for a baby – whatever the cost.

And Isabel Allerton is on the run from a dark and troubled past. She's determined not to fall for charming, unreliable Charlie Jones... but will her heart listen?

Kathryn - 3 Star

Me and Mr. Jones is a novel perfectly suited for holiday reading and I enjoyed it for just that reason. I found it a bit of a slow start, perhaps because we’re introduced to the parents instead of the brothers on the off-set, the mother is a bit scary so I wasn’t sure I was going to warm to any of them.  Luckily my opinion soon changed.

The novelty of the story is really that Diamond is directing us to the marriages after the falling in love and I liked her slightly different perspectives from the brothers.  I loved Alicia’s turning-40 plan of attack and can see myself creating such a list when my children no longer need me for every detail of their existence. The time to find oneself again is a bit scary for Alicia and I related to her. Izzy’s story is very touching and her relationship with the black-sheep brother Charlie is lovely- I found them so sweet and her children are darling- you just want to hug them all. Her eventual bond with the mother was the most touching part of the novel to me.  It’s those relationships- that come from mutual need- that are the most compelling to read about. The third brother, David, drove me a bit nuts, I just didn’t have a lot of patience for him but his wife was more interesting so I gave him a chance!

All in all I didn’t read Me and Mr. Jones and find myself particularly fussed about how things would be worked out because it just isn’t that kind of book - in the end all the pieces of the puzzle were placed in the correct spots which is comforting in itself sometimes!  

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Friday, August 23, 2013

The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

1.5 Star

Impressionable and idealistic, Esme Garland is a young British woman who finds herself studying art history in New York. She loves her apartment and is passionate about the city and her boyfriend; her future couldn’t look brighter. Until she finds out that she’s pregnant.

Esme’s boyfriend, Mitchell van Leuven, is old-money rich, handsome, successful, and irretrievably damaged. When he dumps Esme—just before she tries to tell him about the baby—she resolves to manage alone. She will keep the child and her scholarship, while finding a part-time job to make ends meet. But that is easier said than done, especially on a student visa.

The Owl is a shabby, second-hand bookstore on the Upper West Side, an all-day, all-night haven for a colorful crew of characters: handsome and taciturn guitar player Luke; Chester, who hyperventilates at the mention of Lolita; George, the owner, who lives on protein shakes and idealism; and a motley company of the timeless, the tactless, and the homeless. The Owl becomes a nexus of good in a difficult world for Esme—but will it be enough to sustain her? Even when Mitchell, repentant and charming, comes back on the scene?

Kaley - 1.5 Star

I was really looking forward to reading The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler. I thought, “With a title like that how could it go wrong?” Turns out it could go pretty wrong. There were several times when I wanted to throw the book aside and never finish it but I had hope that it would eventually get better. Alas, I should have stopped when I first wanted to as I never ended up enjoying the book.

I’m a huge character girl and when I don’t like a character or feel connected to her or her story, I’m not interested. That’s what happened with The Bookstore. I found Esme slightly annoying and way too na├»ve. I also have a problem with characters who are surprised they end up pregnant after just one night of unprotected sex. Must we send everyone back to health class? She was too trusting of Mitchell (who I hated) and it was hard for me to try and understand why she kept going back to him even though he clearly wasn’t good for, or to, her.

I also found that there were too many secondary characters. There’s an interesting crew that comes along with the bookstore but I had a hard time keeping some of them straight. In fact, something happens to one of them and I honestly couldn’t remember which one he was. I suppose these types of characters would be present in a real bookstore but it didn’t add much of anything to the overall story.

I really wish I had liked The Bookstore. Deborah Meyler presented an interesting synopsis but the story itself doesn’t have a whole lot going on. In fact, it ends abruptly after a lot of nothing happens. Overall, this one was not a winner for me. 

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

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison

3.5 Star

Jodi and Todd are at a bad place in their marriage. Much is at stake, including the affluent life they lead in their beautiful waterfront condo in Chicago, as she, the killer, and he, the victim, rush haplessly toward the main event. He is a committed cheater. She lives and breathes denial. He exists in dual worlds. She likes to settle scores. He decides to play for keeps. She has nothing left to lose.

Lydia - 3.5 Star

I’m not really sure what to say about The Silent Wife. I often have this problem with very popular works which I clearly do not “get” all the time. This one has rave reviews, and then has horrible ones, and then there are those, like me, left scratching their heads neither loving nor hating it. I fall somewhere in this middle, and while I thought the writing was stellar I wasn’t sure about the rest of it. 

The Silent Wife is one of those books where I couldn’t relate to the characters, but for some reason I don’t think that’s what detracted from my enjoyment. I appreciated the insightful characterization which led to a greater understanding of both husband and wife and how they each played a role in their marriage’s demise. Even though I never connected with the characters, for some reason I seemed to understand them, sometimes even feel sorry for them, so that helped. I found them interesting and am grateful for that as we spend a lot of time in their heads.

I suspect knowing the ending right up front did my enjoyment in. Maybe if I didn’t know? Maybe I could have wondered throughout whether it was him or her who ended up dead. Or something? It took the guessing right out of it, although in other ways it kept me riveted, I suppose, wondering when it would happen, which encounter would seal the deal, and how it would be done. I kept reading, and at no point did I want to put the novel down which says something. There was something there for me to grab onto - I'm just having a difficult time putting my finger on what.

The exploration of their “comfortable” relationship could be uncomfortable at times with both his philandering ways and her complete acceptance of this. But, if that’s how they choose to live their lives, well, I guess that’s up to them. I try not to judge a marriage. And what works for some won’t work for others. It did bother me that she was so accepting, but I had to take it as her character, and as her past was revealed it became understandable at least. Eventually, as things unravel, we see why each act the way they do and why they accept their spouse’s behavior. 

The Silent Wife is definitely unforgettable whether you love the novel, hate it, or fall somewhere in the middle, and is probably worth the read if you love a great psychological read about marriage.

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Shake Down The Stars by Renee Swindle

5 Star

When you’re in trouble, and sinking fast, who do you call?

Piper Nelson is stuck. She can’t quite stay away from the husband she divorced. She isn’t always attentive to the high school students she teaches. And even she admits that she’s been drinking too much and seeking out unsuitable men. Piper’s mother, married to a celebrity evangelist, and her sister, immersed in plans to wed a professional football player and star in a reality TV show, are both too self-absorbed to sympathize with Piper’s angst. They tell her to get a grip. But how can Piper ever really recover from the blow she suffered five years ago, when a car accident took the life of her young daughter?

When Piper’s ex-husband announces his new girlfriend is pregnant, Piper is forced to take stock. Realizing that it’s time for a change is one step, but actually making it happen is quite another. And despite what she thinks, Piper can’t do it alone Lucky for her, a couple of crazy, funny new friends are ready to step in when she needs them most…and show her how to live and laugh again.

Lydia - 5 Star

Shake Down the Stars was a much heavier read than I anticipated, but I LOVED this novel because I love an emotional read. Piper is a real character. She’s flawed. Scratch that, she’s more than flawed; she has serious issues, including swigging scotch straight from the bottle and drowning herself not only in alcohol but one night stands. Her struggle to overcome her demons, particularly the grief and guilt she feels after daughter’s death, makes for an absorbing, intense, and heartfelt read.

The characterization in this book is marvelous, and I empathized with Piper, loathed her family, and had a love-hate relationship with her ex-husband. I rooted for Piper throughout this book. She’s stuck, and you can’t help but want her to sort herself out. There are some grim moments as Piper hits rock bottom, including a cringe-worthy encounter – no spoilers, but we’re talking slap your hand over your mouth, gasp out loud and groan that you can’t believe she did that kind of scene. I loved what it said about Piper and that it was so surprising. It’s a fabulous character-defining scene and shoved the story along.

I loved that the love interest was so unusual, and I never knew if anything would materialize. It is possible that I loathed Piper’s family more than I have any other character’s family in a novel. I hated them. Really. I kept waiting for the realization of how they were impacting her and Piper to realize how she was impacting them, and I must say that I enjoyed how things wrapped up. Yes, that was cryptic. Again, no spoilers! 

Not only were the characters perfectly portrayed, but this story moves along at a quick clip. I never found my attention wandering like I do with other novels I’m much less interested in or am forcing myself to read. I was fully invested in both Piper and her story. I also enjoyed star-gazing escape and appreciated both learning something about the stars and that it was just the right balance and not an overabundance of information.

Even with the depth and emotion of this story, Shake Down the Stars isn’t all doom and gloom. Hope resonates within the pages, and I kept reading well past my bedtime to find out what would happen next. This fabulous novel made my Favourite Reads of 2013 (so far), and I will definitely be looking out for more from Swindle!

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

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Monday, August 19, 2013

The Village by Nikita Lalwani

4 Star

Ray, a young British-Asian woman arrives in the afternoon heat of a small village in India. She has come to live there for several months to make a documentary about the place. For this is no ordinary Indian village - the women collecting water at the well, the men chopping wood in the early morning light have all been found guilty of murder. The village is an open prison. Ray is accompanied by two British colleagues and, as the days pass, they begin to get closer to the lives of the inhabitants of the village. And then it feels too close. As the British visitors become desperate for a story, the distinction between innocence and guilt, between good intentions and horrifying results becomes horribly blurred.

Sabrina-Kate - 4 Star

It took me awhile to warm up to The Village but once I got into it, I really did enjoy it as it told me about a part of India that I did not realize existed before. I am a great fan of fiction set in India, so it was refreshing to learn something new. I had to look up and read about the rehabilitation prisons that are the subject of this book as I grew curious about them while reading.

The characters, however, were a bit harder to relate to, and I almost found the main character, Ray, to be somewhat irritating at times. I tried to figure out why, and I think it was perhaps because she was so conflicted. I find it hard to relate to characters who are going through such turmoil and are unable to remain true to themselves because they don't know why they are.

I enjoyed the story, but I found that I was also waiting for something to happen a lot of the time. However, when more interesting things did start happening, the story got incredibly interesting, and quite quickly. I suppose the beginning was slower on purpose to set the scene, but I would have enjoyed a faster paced book as I am not sure everyone would continue to read through the beginning. The last parts are well worth the wait, though.

I am interested to see how Lalwani will evolve as she has had an interesting life herself and as it appears that she writes about her experiences, or so it seems, I am curious about what she will write about next.

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

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

4 Star

An inheritance from a mysterious stranger . . .
An abandoned perfume shop on the Left Bank of Paris . . .
And three exquisite perfumes that hold a memory . . . and a secret

London, 1955: Grace Monroe is a fortunate young woman. Despite her sheltered upbringing in Oxford, her recent marriage has thrust her into the heart of London's most refined and ambitious social circles. However, playing the role of the sophisticated socialite her husband would like her to be doesn't come easily to her—and perhaps never will.

Then one evening a letter arrives from France that will change everything. Grace has received an inheritance. There's only one problem: she has never heard of her benefactor, the mysterious Eva d'Orsey.

So begins a journey that takes Grace to Paris in search of Eva. There, in a long-abandoned perfume shop on the Left Bank, she discovers the seductive world of perfumers and their muses, and a surprising, complex love story. Told by invoking the three distinctive perfumes she inspired, Eva d'Orsey's story weaves through the decades, from 1920s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London.

But these three perfumes hold secrets. And as Eva's past and Grace's future intersect, Grace realizes she must choose between the life she thinks she should live and the person she is truly meant to be.

Illuminating the lives and challenging times of two fascinating women, The Perfume Collector weaves a haunting, imaginative, and beautifully written tale filled with passion and possibility, heartbreak and hope.

Jen - 4 Star

Any book that starts with a France, perfume and mysterious inheritance holds immediate potential for me and The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tarresso lives up to its intrigue.

It would be amazing to find yourself instantly richer on behalf of a will, but what good would it do if you had no idea who the will belongs to and why they left it to you? That’s the beginning of Grace Monroe’s journey in the book but it’s the just the start of the chain of events that make up her adventure.

Grace is a great character because I could tell right away that she was on the verge of change  at the beginning of the book was not who would be there on the last page. She was bursting to change, I could feel the tenseness in her shoulders and the hesitant breaths she took before speaking or when she thought of her current life. I think that’s a state of mind alot of women can relate to, even if they are worlds and decades apart.

The author nails descriptive writing, especially when it came to the perfumes, which were the real stars of this book. I couldn’t believe that Tessaro was able to provoke actual scents through descriptive words. I never knew that perfume could have characteristics like fire, warmth and sensuality but after reading this book, I’ll probably never under appreciate the perfume counter at Macy’s again.

From the beginning of the book to the point where Grace’s discovery of why a mysterious older woman has left her an apartment in France was a bit long for me and I thought about 30 percent into the book that it could have began right there. The secondary story of a hotel maid in the 1920s didn’t quite fit with Grace’s story right away and I found myself wishing that the connection between the two stories would have become evident faster. Both were interesting story lines and I wanted more, faster, which probably accounted for my impatience.

When their connection become clear, the story bloomed into a fascinating vacation for me. Grace finds out that the owner of the will, Eva d’Orsey was a mysterious perfume maker and led a mysterious, adventurous life that would eventually cross paths with Grace’s in a way she never expected.

The only thing missing from this book is a scratch and sniff guide. All joking aside, it’s a worthwhile historical fiction that is sure to please. 

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

Connect with Kathleen Tessaro here:


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