Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dunaway's Crossing by Nancy Brandon

4 Star

One Georgia town paralyzed by disease, Two women secluded in a remote cabin. Only one man stands between them and death. It's 1918 when newlywed Bea Dot Ferguson leaves her posh Savannah lifestyle to visit her pregnant cousin's home in rural Pineview, Georgia. Her purpose: to escape her abusive husband, who knows her shameful secret. Immediately, Bea Dot realizes she's traded one perilous situation for another as Pineview is infected with deadly Spanish influenza. Only with the help of Great War veteran Will Dunaway can Bea Dot fight for survival, not against a cruel husband, but against the deadliest virus the world has ever known.



Kathryn- 4 Star

I was drawn to the synopsis of Dunaway's Crossing and it was just as intriguing as I'd been hoping. The author put the characters on the page with authenticity and I was drawn in right from the start.

The very first pages were immediately dramatic and I felt Bea Dot's strength and presence from the first lines of the novel. She is married to a horrific human being and despite knowing this she's not sure how to get away from the situation. Her housekeeper and aunt are also aware of her predicament and somehow manage to get her an exit pass which takes her away from him, at least temporarily. 

She is sent to another town to help her cousin Nettie during the confinement prior to birth. I had hoped that Bea Dot and Nettie would be friends but it seemed that their history was fraught with tension and despite being forced to work together they didn't really like each other much and were wary of each other. Forced to be together and isolated because of the influenza outbreak eventually made them come to respect each other, I think. Unfortunately things didn't work out well for everyone and although I can appreciate that that was the reality of the times I was still disappointed for them as a family.

The best part of the novel for me was the attention to detail by the author. There were many instances of historical tidbits such as the indoor bathtub Bea Dot had at her home with her husband which were in contrast to the rural way she and Nettie were living at the crossing. This bathroom must have been the height of luxury at the time. I also relished all the details about Will's shop and his camaraderie with the neighbours. 

Dunaway's Crossing was somewhat predictable as a romance but I greatly enjoyed reading it and on the whole there was enough history to draw me in.


Thank you to Lake Union Publishing for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

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Mahalas Lane by Marianne Cushing

3 Star

Exhausted and dismayed, Madi Lyons arrives on the rocky shores of Maine, hoping for a relaxing respite from Madison Avenue’s relentless grind. Twelve-hour days and the sudden news of her best friend’s engagement have the aspiring creative director’s head spinning. Shortly after settling in at the quaint rental cottage, she is awoken by the local sheriff with startling news: A woman has been murdered on her private beach. A violent encounter next door and an elusive stranger draw Madi deeper into Mahalas Lane’s mysterious past, while a magnetic attraction propels her into the sheriff’s welcoming arms. Will she find the solace she seeks, or will a small town’s dark secrets cost her the ultimate sacrifice—the love of her life?





Sabrina-Kate  - 3 Star

Mahalas Lane is a debut novel from Marianne Cushing and I really enjoyed her description of Maine as it truly brought it to life. I could definitely tell that Cushing was very well acquainted with the area and I would even dare say that she loves it. The descriptions were vivid and I felt like I could almost smell the salt air!

Mahalas Lane was a pretty short read so even though the story flowed fairly well, it did feel to me like the plot was a bit rushed. There were also things that I didn't quite buy into... Like if Madi was a virtual stranger in the community, why would she be so involved in the investigation of a murder? Especially since she was by no means a law enforcement professional?

I also was someone disinterested in the murder story involving a love story. I just don't see how it could be possible. If someone sees something traumatic or is involved in any way, I would think that your mind is upset and stressed and not particularly thinking about romance. I would have liked the author to focus on one aspect or the other.

Mahalas Lane was well written despite the fact that I didn't like the story itself so I am interested in seeing what Marianne Cushing comes up with next.


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

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Skating at Somerset House by Nikki Moore

4 Star

There’s nothing Holly Winterlake loves more than Christmas and skating, so working as an Ice Marshall at London's Somerset House is a dream come true.

Noel Summerford hates the festive season and is a disaster on the ice, so taking his godson to Somerset House is his idea of the nightmare before Christmas!

Things are bound to get interesting when these two collide…

With a forty foot Christmas tree, an assortment of well meaning friends and relatives, and a mad chocolate Labrador, will this festive season be one to remember … or forget?




Kathryn- 4 Star

Skating at Somerset House is an adorable seasonal novella. That may make it sound trite but I actually was really pleased with the depth of character that Nikki Moore managed to get across in so few pages.

Holly is a Christmas super-fan and Noel is most certainly not. They are an unlikely pair but then I’ve heard somewhere that opposites do attract? I was enchanted by Noel's interactions with his god-son Jasper and loved that the child was so interested in skating. (I did notice though that at 4 years old he was already missing some baby teeth which seemed a bit young?  Must have been an oversight or an over-achieving child? But that was the only thing that didn't ring quite right for me.)

Holly and Noel's relationship naturally evolved over the couple of days the novel covered. Moore also managed to incorporate some other characters that were entertaining. I was enveloped by the love of Holly's parents. They were fun and supportive but didn't take themselves too seriously despite their concern for Holly's injury. I also quite liked Jasper's dad but felt like there was much more of a story there we didn't get the full picture on. I also noticed mention of another child that wasn't given any time in this novella, she could perhaps have been left out?

Skating at Somerset House was packed full of holiday joy and, though predictable, it was exactly what you want from something so sweet. I'm intrigued by the author's abilities and am looking forward to her next novel or novella.


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

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The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

5 Star

In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another. 

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real--and deadly--consequences.


Kathryn - 5 Star

I can describe this novel as nothing else but intense.  I honestly thought I’d previously read a novel by Hannah before and so asked for this one for review thinking I knew what I was getting myself into. But having trolled through my books-read list I actually can’t find this author’s name anywhere so it turns out this is my first contact with Kristin Hannah.  

I could not put this novel down.  At first I was just intrigued by the snippets of history of occupied France during WWII and was drawn into the relationship between the two sisters and their estranged father. I was lulled into complacency and was quite enjoying the book….and then all of a sudden I was reading with my stomach in knots and tears rolling down my face.  It was almost too much and I would have probably put it down for a day or two except that I was desperate to finish it and read something more lighthearted on Christmas Eve.  I honestly sat in tears for the last third of the story.  There was something about Viann’s earnest attempts to try and stay below the radar that touched me. While I can see her being criticized for not doing more during the first half of the war I could also completely relate to wanting to lay low in the hopes of protecting her child.  There’s nothing more tangible in this book than the need to protect your children- from Viann to Rachel and even to Viann and Isabelle’s father.  

There were very few things I could say brought me joy in this book except for the relationships of the people. I was so relieved to finally learn more about the father- the fact that he wasn’t completely lost and was working in his own way. I was overjoyed that Isabelle and Viann were able to say they loved each other face to face.  The children were inspiring with their tiny lives being so tenuous.

This is a wonderfully expressive novel and there are a multitude of different layers to uncover but the horror of the truth of WWII is there in earnest.  If you are left unmoved by this story then I would be shocked and disappointed.

Thank you to St Martin's Press for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Accept this Dandelion by Brooke Williams

3.5 Star

Renee Lockhart has her eye on a lofty goal…to fill the open position of morning radio show host on a nearby secular station. When her co-workers sign her up for a local TV version of “the Bachelor,” Renee goes along with it in order to raise her profile. Ben McConnell, one of the most eligible bachelors in town, insists that Renee be placed on the show, despite her bumbling audition. Ben gets much more than he expected in Renee. He gets a girl who doesn’t bow to his every whim…and a girl who opens his eyes to true, unexpected love. Enjoy a local version of the popular "Bachelor" TV show...where nothing can go right for Renee!



3.5 Star - Kaley

First off, you should know that I love watching The Bachelor. It's my one guilty pleasure and my girlfriends and I get together every week to watch it. We make fun of it but we're also invested in the twisted "romantic" journey the man or woman in question is going on. So, of course I was so excited to read Brooke Williams' Accept This Dandelion, a novel that put its own spin on the popular show.

I did struggle with how the novel was written...and that's why I couldn't quite give it four stars. It's a short novel, which I think worked really well with the story, but it also made it quite noticeable when certain words or phrases were used (I lost count of the number of times "shuddered" came up). There were also a few scenes at the start of the book that I found to be pretty much the exact same. For example, the first couple of scenes featuring Ben had him thinking about Renee and how she intrigued him. One of the scenes, at least, needed to be cut because it was so repetitive. I also found, especially at the beginning, that there was a lot of telling. There were a lot of internal thoughts and, for the most part, the only dialogue really comes from Renee and Ben when they're are on the show together. This all meant that I was bored at the start and just wanted to show to get going.

But, even having said all of that, I was totally invested in Renee and Ben's story. I liked them both, they were layered and interesting characters. I was rooting for them and hoped that whatever struggle or misunderstanding popped up near the end of the book wouldn't derail them completely.

I really appreciated that Renee was focused on her career as well. It wasn't just about the love story, which made the novel more interesting. But my big question is: where the heck did Claudia go? She  was who Renee wanted to replace on the morning show and Williams never mentioned, at least that I noticed, what happened to Claudia!

I also liked how Williams portrayed her version of The Bachelor. It was just as cheesy as you'd expect but it was nice to be able to see the real side of the bachelor and bachelorettes (to a certain extent anyway, you really only get to know Renee and Eva). The dates were fun and I liked that Ben broke the rules a little bit (isn't it always more exciting when they do that?).

Accept This Dandelion, as an overall story, did not disappoint. It was exactly what I expected and I really enjoyed reading about Renee and Ben. I feel that it needs some more editing tweaks but I still liked it and do not regret the time I spent reading it. If you're looking for a fun romance, pick up Brooke Williams' novel and enjoy!

Thank you to Rock Star Lit for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

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Friday, February 20, 2015

New Uses For Old Boyfriends by Beth Kendrick

3 Star

After growing up in privilege and marrying into money, Lila Alders has gotten used to the good life. But when her happily-ever-after implodes, Lila must return to Black Dog Bay, the tiny seaside town where she grew up. She’s desperate for a safe haven, but everything has changed over the past ten years. Her family’s fortune is gone—and her mother is in total denial. It’s up to Lila to take care of everything...but she can barely take care of herself.

The former golden girl of Black Dog Bay struggles to reinvent herself by opening a vintage clothing boutique. But even as Lila finds new purpose for outdated dresses and tries to reunite with her ex, she realizes that sometimes it’s too late for old dreams. She’s lost everything she thought she needed but found something—someone—she desperately wants. A boy she hardly noticed has grown up into a man she can’t forget...and a second chance has never felt so much like first love. 




Kathryn- 3 Star

New Uses for Old Boyfriends was fun and though somewhat predictable I still enjoyed it! There was something endearing about Lila and her relationship with her mother. Full of improbable characters and situations, I read this one quickly. 

Most of the story revolves around trying to save the family home and while I found Lila's mother frustrating at times she played her part well and did eventually pull herself out of the muck and get her head on straight. The source of the possible funds comes from mountains of couture her mother has been saving since her days as a model. I liked that we were given a bit of fashion history through the story- just enough for my unfashionable brain to handle. 

There were a cast of quirky characters to help Lila and her mother move into the future and I loved that the romantic aspects of the novel were not entirely predictable. Lila's love interest in the end was a great fit and I adored his multiple personality facets- definitely not your typical leading man. 

The small town lead itself to people getting into each other's business so to open a shop meant a lot of interference and opinion from others but I liked that aspect of the story. My reservations came from the fact that there may have been a few too many people involved that didn't get a conclusion of their story. The older sisters for example, who donated some garments to the store could have given much more humour to the story and the ladies in the bar could also have been made more of I think. I sometimes got a bit confused as to who was who and while the main characters were very well outlined, the sub characters were sometimes only half defined. 

I enjoyed the book though and it was definitely a fun, flirty read. (And I loved the title!)


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

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Stag and Hen Weekend by Mike Gayle

2.5 Star

The Stag and Hen Weekend is the story of Phil and Helen, a couple in their thirties about to commit their lives to one another, that is of course if they can just manage to get through their respective stag and hen weekends (his: Amsterdam; hers: a country house and day spa in the Peak District) without falling apart. Told in the unique form of two separate stories that have common characters as well as themes and conclusion, The Stag and Hen Weekend can be read from front to back or from back to front putting the reader in the driver's seat as to which story they wish to read first. Feisty, fun and thought provoking.





Kathryn - 2.5 Star

The Stag and Hen Weekend is intriguing because it explores the same weekend from the perspective of both the bride and groom but this is the first Mike Gayle book that I didn't love utterly and completely.

There is no indication about which half you should read first. I started with the male perspective and I think that was the right choice because there was a warmth established between Helen and Phil in the stag side in the first pages and it helped me solidify their relationship from the start. When I started her side he had already left for Amsterdam so you didn't get that rapport. In fact, in her side you don't have direct  interaction between them at all.  

Throughout their weekends they are both plagued by people from their past which makes them doubt their upcoming wedding. I was disappointed that this was the direction taken by the book because I had hoped for something a lot more lighthearted. Even if it wasn't full of silliness I still didn't get the expected Mike Gayle humour I love because there was so much angst and frustration that they didn't even interact well with their friends. We are given a brief introduction to other party goers but it was a bit wooden and was delivered as if he was trying to fit in the facts and I sadly didn't get the full effect of the friendships. The only friends who are given any depth at Yaz and Simon and I liked that they had a bit of a chance to express themselves. The others felt too much like filler. Phil's sister Caitlin was particularly pointless. She was meant to provide tension but I couldn't get on board with it at all.

Some have appreciated that the ending was left open ended and sometimes I find that when an author does that you can feel free to put your own thoughts into the ending. But the lack of conclusion for the stag and hen weekend just added to dissatisfaction unfortunately. 

I am a big fan of Mike Gayle and I'm choosing to skip over this novel in his catalogue because I've always loved reading his novels in the past.


All opinions are our own.

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Friday, February 13, 2015

House of Wonder by Sarah Healy

5 Star

When we were little and I needed Warren, I would rub my earlobe.  And perhaps it was the alchemy of childhood, a magic that happened because I believed it could, but I swear it worked. He always came.

Theirs wasn’t always the misfit family in the neighborhood. Jenna Parsons’s childhood was one of block parties and barbecues, where her mother, a former beauty queen, continued her reign and her twin brother, Warren, was viewed as just another oddball kid. But as her mother’s shopaholic habits intensified, and her brother’s behavior became viewed as more strange than quirky, Jenna sought to distance herself from them. She is devoted to her career and her four-year-old daughter, Rose. But now, in his peculiar way, Warren summons her back to 62 Royal Court.

What she finds there—a house in disrepair, a neighborhood on tenterhooks over a rash of petty thefts, and evidence of past traumas her mother has kept hidden—will challenge Jenna as never before. But as she stands by her family, she also begins to find beauty in unexpected places, strength in unlikely people, and a future she couldn’t have imagined.



Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

A very emotional book for many reasons, I loved House of Wonder for its very real, very heartfelt story. The novel was one that broached many uncomfortable topics with an entirely human approach. I couldn't help but feel for, and with, the characters because their stories became so true and poignant. 

The story and heartbreaking circumstances and life of Jenna was utterly compelling to me. A lot of the things were not things I could imagine as I had never gone through them but I could see the possibility of them having happened which is the essential part of this book. The book went back and forth, revealing secrets and past events until everything came together.

What I truly loved about House of Wonder was the fact that I just did not want to put it down. It is so beautifully written and the story appealed to me so much. It felt authentic and despite the myriad disappointments and troubles in the characters lives, or perhaps because of them, it resonated with me in a very profound way.  

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

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips

5 Star

Sir Humphrey du Val of the Table of Less Valued Knights - Camelot's least prestigious table, boringly rectangular in shape and with one leg shorter than the other so that it always has to be propped up with a folded napkin to stop it from rocking - has been banned by King Arthur from going on quests, and hasn't left the castle in fifteen years. He's tempted out of his imposed retirement by Elaine, who is looking for her kidnapped fiance. She appears to be the classic Damsel in Distress, but turns out to have a big secret to hide.

Across the border in Puddock, the new young queen, Martha, is appalled to be married off against her will to the odious Prince Edwin of Tuft. She disguises herself as a boy and runs away, but doesn't get very far before the Locum of the Lake - standing in for the full-time Lady - intercepts her with some startling news: Martha's brother, the true heir to the throne of Puddock, is not dead as she has always thought, and Martha must go on her own quest to find him.

The two quests collide, entangling Humphrey, Elaine and Martha's lives, and introducing a host of Arthurian misfits, including a twelve-year-old crone, a magic sword with a mind of her own, a freakishly short giant, and not one but three men in iron masks.


Kathryn- 5 Star

The Table of Less Valued Knights is a great read. It's funny and original and I couldn't put it down. It was also a tad complicated so try to keep track of the various knights, squires, distressed maidens and temper tantrum throwing lords as best you can.

The premise behind the novel is about those knights that didn't make King Arthur's inner circle of great knights and ended up on the "also-ran" tables. Or worse, had failed so utterly at their missions that they'd been demoted from the round table to the square or triangle one (where the wine is watered down). I laughed out loud so many times reading this one and was constantly poking the husband trying to explain something that had made me giggle. This is always frustrating as you can rarely translate these things to their full effect.

The loose plot line is that there are two damsels in distress and that one requests the help of a knight to locate her missing husband-to-be. They end up meeting the other damsel who is in disguise as a man, has a magic sword and is trying to escape her boar of a husband and find her brother who may or may not actually be dead. There is also an elephant and a not-quite-giant giant. They all spend the novel marching round, having duels, drinking and chopping each other’s heads off!

This Month Python’esque novel will make you happy and I've already compiled a list of people I'll be mentioning this one to!


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

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Getting Away With It by Julie Cohen

2.5 Star

Liza Haven couldn't wait to escape the small village where she grew up with her perfect identical twin sister, Lee. Her life in LA as a stunt woman is reckless, fast and free - and that's just the way she likes it. But when a near-fatal mistake drives her home, she finds Lee gone and everyone in the village mistaking her for her twin sister.









Kathryn- 2.5 Star

I think perhaps I wasn't quite in the right mood for this novel. I found it rather long and was at times tempted to drop it. I kept going because I was convinced that others, who had enjoyed it, couldn't possibly be wrong! In the end, I did appreciate some aspects of Getting Away With It.

I liked the story of their mother and her plotting her own way to succumb to dementia. It was well written into the plot and seemed to show a natural and realistic progression. I also liked that Liza organized for some old friends to visit her mother which gave some humanity to Liza's personality.

Apart from those moments with her mother though, I found both Lee and Liza a bit one-dimensional. I had a very hard time believing that either of them would do the things they did in the novel. There was perhaps too much back story given about Liza and not enough about Lee so our opinions of each were skewed. Liza is presented as so selfish that it seems utterly unlikely she would do anything like hold the fort for her sister. Lee by contrast is given very little history but the bit we are given doesn't match the person we are presented with-to dessert her life completely is out of character for the bit we know. I wished that we had had more information about them growing up which could have created warmth between the girls.

I did enjoy the business of the specialty ice cream and I liked that Liza found herself in working there again. Despite the predictability of the romance I also quite liked this aspect of the novel because Will was lovely and he grounded Liza's personality a bit. The novel was a bit heavy in the beginning and yet I found it wrapped up too quickly in the end.  It unfortunately left me feeling indifferent, which is definitely a shame.


All opinions are our own.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom

3 Star

"My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us.”

Lucky Us introduces us to Eva and Iris. Disappointed by their families, Iris, the hopeful star, and Eva, the sidekick, journey across 1940s America in search of fame and fortune. Iris’s ambitions take them from small-town Ohio to an unexpected and sensuous Hollywood, across the America of Reinvention in a stolen station wagon, to the jazz clubs and golden mansions of Long Island.

With their friends in high and low places, Iris and Eva stumble and shine through a landscape of big dreams, scandals, betrayals, and war.




Sabrina-Kate - 3 Star

Despite being able to turn a phrase like none other, I was unable to love Amy Bloom's latest book, Lucky Us. I did read it through to the end even though I did not enjoy the story because her writing can be just that gorgeous at times. When reading her books, I often find myself wishing that I could write as wonderfully as she does and this book was no exception.

The sad part of the book to me was that despite loving the way she writes, I felt like the characters were not lovable or even a bit likeable. The story didn't seem to go anywhere, sort of like a car spinning its tires. The settings and initial plot were quite appealing so it was quite disappointing that the story just never seemed to develop or come to any kind of satisfying conclusion.

The story had a lot of interesting happenings but tied together it just didn't seem to work somehow. I can't exactly put my finger on the reason why, but I do know that it was just not something that worked. 


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

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