Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I Don't Have A Happy Place by Kim Korson

4 Star

When a trip to the therapist ends with the question “Can’t Kim be happy?” Kim Korson responds the way any normal person would—she makes fun of it. Because really, does everyone have to be happy?

Aside from her father wearing makeup and her mother not feeling well (a lot), Kim Korson’s 1970s suburban upbringing was typical. Sometimes she wished her brother were an arsonist just so she’d have a valid excuse to be unhappy. And when life moves along pretty decently--she breaks into show business, gets engaged in the secluded jungles of Mexico, and moves her family from Brooklyn to dreamy rural Vermont—the real despondency sets in. It’s a skill to find something wrong in just about every situation, but Kim has an exquisite talent for negativity. It is only after half a lifetime of finding kernels of unhappiness where others find joy that she begins to wonder if she is even capable of experiencing happiness.

Sabrina-Kate - 4 Star

I always have enjoyed short stories and when those short stories are autobiographical and also somewhat hilarious and abnormal at the same time, you have a winner in my book! I probably also really enjoyed this book because Kim grew up in Montreal, where I live, and also lived in Brooklyn and Vermont, both of which I love. I always enjoy stories that take place in places dear to my heart and I am sure that this is reason alone for these stories to appeal to others as well.

The stories themselves wove a bigger tale of her life but each could stand alone which made this an easy read because I found that I could easily take a break without losing momentum or forgetting anything essential to the story. 

Kim Korson definitely has a great talent in writing witty stories with just that type of off beat humor that I really do enjoy. Partly tongue-in-cheek at times and cringe worthy in others, I appreciated her brutal honesty and outright bravery in recounting some of these very personal stories.

The entire premise of the book is about how some people can never find happiness. Or can they? Being somewhat of a lifetime malcontent, I found myself relating with these stories and the bigger message they were sending and chuckling to myself at times in recognition of actual thoughts I would probably have shared with the author in the same situation. For anyone who has had these somewhat dark and despairing thoughts, this book will strike a chord in your deep and dark soul.

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

Connect with Kim Korson:
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Monday, June 29, 2015

Would you rather...with Holly Schindler

Please welcome Holly Schindler, author of Fifth Avenue Fidos.

Holly Schindler:


Holly Schindler is a hybrid author whose work has received starred reviews in Booklist and Publishers Weekly, has won silver and gold medals in ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year and the IPPY Awards, respectively, has been featured on Booklist’s Best First Novels for Youth and School Library Journal’s What’s Hot in YA, and has been a PW Pick of the Week. 

Her next YA, SPARK, is due out from HarperCollins in ’16. Her next independent project is PLAY IT AGAIN, the sequel to PLAYING HURT. 

Connect with Holly:
Website    Facebook     Twitter   Goodreads

Would You Rather... 
with Holly Schindler

Chips, chocolate or cheese?

Chocolate cheesecake.

Bridget Jones, Becky Bloomwood or Carrie Bradshaw?


Wine, beer or vodka?

Fave cocktail’s actually a gin and tonic.

Camping or spa vacation?

How about a spa where I can take my dog?

Water or mountains?

Definitely the water. It keeps showing up in my books— A BLUE SO DARK begins and ends with a vacation to the ocean. PLAYING HURT—and its forthcoming sequel, PLAY IT AGAIN—both take place at a lake resort. FERAL takes place in the midst of an ice storm.

Zombies or vampires?

I prefer ghost stories.

Dogs or cats?

I’ve had animals my entire life—as do most of my characters! Dogs are obviously featured front and center in my latest, FIFTH AVENUE FIDOS—Innis, the Pekingese, is based loosely on my own Peke, Jake! Cats run amok in my last YA, FERAL…I also grew up with two cats I adored (one of them, Tuffy, was born feral).

Coke or Pepsi?

I’m a Squirt kind of gal.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee. No doubt.

Dine out or take away?

I take out. Eat with my dog. (You’re getting a definite love me, love my dog theme here, aren’t you?)

High heels, sneakers or flip flops?

Mostly, I’m in flats.

Physical Book or ebook?

I love my e-reader; I also love the possibility e-readers have opened up for me as an author. Independent releases are allowing me to explore new avenues—and to continue to release fresh new material between what can often be painfully long gaps between traditional releases. 

Paperback or Hardcover?

I love old hard-to-find first editions.

Pen or pencil?


Mad Men, Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad?

Breaking Bad.

Drama or comedy?

The older I get, the more I find myself gravitating toward comedy. I don’t think anything reveals a character’s world view quite like their sense of humor.

Twilight or Hunger Games?


Lipstick, lipgloss or chapstick?

Lipstick. I have 15 tubes in my purse right now. That’s not a typo.

Facebook or Twiter?


Plot your entire novel or fly by the seat of your pants?

Plot. Definitely. I recently started using Scrivener, and it’s perfect for plotting your book out before you get started. (Takes a bit of the nerve-wracking component out of it, too, if you know where you’re going.)

Fifth Avenue Fidos

Ever felt like a dog? I mean a real mutt. So did Mable…until she realized she was starring in her own fairy tale.

“Once upon a time, in a magical metropolitan kingdom…” 

OR: When a mutt from Queens meets a purebred Upper East Side New Yorker, it takes man’s—and woman’s—best friend to convince them what they feel is more than puppy love. 

When Mable Barker snags a job walking a snarly Fifth Avenue Pekingese belonging to the shy veterinarian, Jason Mead, she expects to spend her days dealing with yet another creature’s crap—figuratively and literally…Only to find that love is unleashed, as she and Jason fall for the Peke and for each other. But can three imperfect beings create utter perfection at the Westminster Dog Show? 

Fifth Avenue Fidos offers a smart, sweet romantic comedy, using the conventions of fairy tales to explore what “happily ever after” means. A heartwarming story of love and dreams in dog-eat-dog NYC.

Available at:


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Adult Onset by Ann-Marie MacDonald

3.5 Star

Mary-Rose MacKinnon--nicknamed MR or "Mister"--is a successful YA author who has made enough from her writing to semi-retire in her early 40s. She lives in a comfortable Toronto neighbourhood with her partner, Hilary, a busy theatre director, and their 2 young children, Matthew and Maggie, trying valiantly and often hilariously to balance her creative pursuits with domestic demands, and the various challenges that (mostly) solo parenting presents. As a child, Mary-Rose suffered from an illness, long since cured and "filed separately" in her mind. But as her frustrations mount, she experiences a flare-up of forgotten symptoms which compel her to rethink her memories of her own childhood and her relationship with her parents. With her world threatening to unravel, the spectre of domestic violence raises its head with dangerous implications for her life and that of her own children. 

Kathryn - 3.5 Star

Adult Onset is a slow but intense read. The internal narrative by Marie Rose versus what’s actually happening around her often becomes twisted together so you’re unclear what is current and what is in her past.   Although integrate it was as if you were reading through a haze which mirrors Marie Rose’s unravelling of her own thoughts.

There is a lot to discover in this novel and a lot being explored- from simple family relationships to a more complicated history between the members. We are also exposed to a rare medical condition and its’ implications when Marie Rose tries to discover the source.  I found most of the novel a bit sad- I think it’s a testament to the author though that you still wanted to keep on reading and that there were some relationships that were so deep with love that you had to continue to see how they survived.
Although there were very few funny moments I actually found the most light-heartedness in Marie-Rose’s thoughts when dealing with her small children, largely on her own. Unfortunately, she is battling with her own dark thoughts at times and feels as if her rage at her children is ominous, to me though her feelings were quite normal for most parents and I challenge a parent to say they have never wanted to grab a child by the arm or shout at the top of their lungs.

I wish the novel had explored Marie-Rose’s relationship with her sister a bit more. I feel there was a lot there that would have helped her uncover her truths and I wished a bit that there had been more current scenes between her and Hilary- not just phone conversations. I felt their love but wished we’d “seen” it with them together.   There was also some repetitiveness that could have perhaps been removed to make the story flow more easily.

I enjoyed Adult Onset, it was fascinating, intriguing and opened my eyes but wished it had been a bit faster paced.

All opinions are our own.

Connect with Ann-Marie MacDonald:
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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

All The Single Ladies by Dorothea Benton Frank

4 Star

Few writers capture the complexities, pain, and joy of relationships—between friends, family members, husbands and wives, or lovers—as beloved New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank. In this charming, evocative, soul-touching novel, she once again takes us deep into the heart of the magical Lowcountry where three amazing middle-aged women are bonded by another amazing woman’s death.

Through their shared loss they forge a deep friendship, asking critical questions. Who was their friend and what did her life mean? Are they living the lives they imagined for themselves? Will they ever be able to afford to retire? How will they maximize their happiness? Security? Health? And ultimately, their own legacies?

A plan is conceived and unfurls with each turn of the tide during one sweltering summer on the Isle of Palms. Without ever fully realizing how close they were to the edge, they finally triumph amid laughter and maybe even newfound love.

Sabrina-Kate - 4 Star

Dorothea Benton Frank certainly has a very specific type of story that she tells. I love how South Carolina's Lowcountry really comes to life through her writing. I almost feel like I am there while reading her books. I saw someone else review this book, calling it a gem and there is no more apt description.

This is the perfect summer read. A book that has a great story and sucks you in until the very last page, All the Single Ladies focuses on a new group of friends and all of the things they are going through in their lives. I found it interesting and comforting to see how they supported each other and grew close in a short period of time.

The characters felt like friends you already knew or someone you would like to meet. Pleasant and loyal, they were truly a pleasure to get to know throughout the story. I felt like I truly cared about them and wanted them to make it through every tough thing that happened.

The story itself drew me in and kept me interested throughout as an awful lot kept happening to these ladies, but especially to Lisa, who the story focuses on. It was also the type of story that made you want the characters to succeed and probably one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much.

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

Connect with Dorothea Benton Frank:
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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Would you rather...with Isabelle Andover

Please welcome Isabelle andover, author of Cocktails at Le Carmen.

Isabelle Andover:


Originally from England, Isabelle Andover moved to France after graduating from Durham University with a degree in Modern Languages. She lives in Paris with her tabby cat Oscar, who occasionally blogs about apartment-style living in the City of Light, and who also inspired a prize-winning short story when he was a kitten.

Following several years as a media analyst, Isabelle now works at a Paris-based media company specialized in the international beauty market. In addition to fully embracing the culture of her adopted country by way of consuming plenty of French wine and cheese, Isabelle can also be found indulging in the typically British pursuits of shopping at Marks and Spencer on the Champs Elysées and drinking copious cups of Earl Grey.

Connect with Isabelle:
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Would You Rather... 
with Isabelle Andover

Chips, chocolate or cheese?

Ooh this is a tough one. All are equally good. I’d have to go with chocolate, I think.

Bridget Jones, Becky Bloomwood or Carrie Bradshaw?

Carrie Bradshaw  - more for her taste in shoes than her taste in men.

Wine, beer or vodka?

I’d have to say wine, since I live in France.

Camping or spa vacation?

Spa vacation all the way. Not because I can’t live without my hair dryer (I wash my hair less often than Kim Kardashian), but because you can’t beat a bit of pampering and relaxation.

Water or mountains?


Zombies or vampires?

I suppose I’d have to say vampires.

Dogs or cats?

Cats! I love cats. I have one — I’m a total cat lady. My friends think I have ‘issues’.

Coke or Pepsi?

Am I allowed to say neither?

Coffee or tea?

Tea. I really like Earl Grey, although I also drink coffee.

Dine out or take away?

Take away (pizza).

High heels, sneakers or flip flops?

Sneakers. Or ‘trainers’, since I’m British.

Physical Book or ebook?

Physical book. Although I’ve recently started reading e-books, so maybe this will change.

Paperback or Hardcover?

Paperback. They’re easier to read in the bath.

Pen or pencil?

Pen – one with coloured ink.

Mad Men, Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad?

Breaking Bad.

Drama or comedy?

Comedy, definitely.

Twilight or Hunger Games?

Hunger Games.

Lipstick, lipgloss or chapstick?

Lipgloss, but only if you aren’t wearing your hair down, otherwise you have the dreaded 'hair stuck to your lips' problem if you venture out in high winds.

Facebook or Twiter?

Facebook. I spend hours on there. In fact, I’m multi tasking right now.

Plot your entire novel or fly by the seat of your pants?

Fly by the seat of your pants. It probably takes longer to write this way, but your novel can end up taking some unexpected twists and turns.

Cocktails at Le Carmen

When job cuts at Chloe Saddler’s London communications firm result in an unexpected transfer to Paris, she finds herself leaving behind her friends, family, and boyfriend Scott to start a new life in the City of Light. Getting to grips with La Vie Parisienne and keeping a long-distance relationship afloat is not made any easier by the culture shock. Committing the odd French faux pas and inadvertently indulging in a few too many flirtations with her very sexy (and very taken) boss, Jean-Luc, is just the start of it. Factor in her bridezilla of a sister’s wedding (the hottest event of the year in the Saddler family’s social calendar), an unexpected session of hot, naked yoga, a slightly psychotic stalker, and one incredible kiss at an infamous Montmartre nightspot, and Chloe can say au revoir to her old, safe London life and bonjour to the romance, splendour, and glamour of Paris.

A delightful debut that harks back to the early days of Chick Lit when heroines were flawed, funny, and forever battling for love and happiness. With quirky characters and classic comedic charm, Cocktails at Le Carmen is pure fun from page one.

Available at:

Barnes & Noble    Kindle 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Leaving Before The Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller

5 Star

Leaving Before the Rains Come begins with the dreadful first years of the American financial crisis when Fuller’s delicate balance—between American pragmatism and African fatalism, the linchpin of her unorthodox marriage—irrevocably fails. Recalling her unusual courtship in Zambia—elephant attacks on the first date, sick with malaria on the wedding day—Fuller struggles to understand her younger self as she overcomes her current misfortunes. Fuller soon realizes what is missing from her life is something that was always there: the brash and uncompromising ways of her father, the man who warned his daughter that "the problem with most people is that they want to be alive for as long as possible without having any idea whatsoever how to live." Fuller’s father—"Tim Fuller of No Fixed Abode" as he first introduced himself to his future wife—was a man who regretted nothing and wanted less, even after fighting harder and losing more than most men could bear.

Leaving Before the Rains Come showcases Fuller at the peak of her abilities, threading panoramic vistas with her deepest revelations as a fully grown woman and mother. Fuller reveals how, after spending a lifetime fearfully waiting for someone to show up and save her, she discovered that, in the end, we all simply have to save ourselves.

Kathryn- 5 Star

Alexandra Fuller writes in a way that reaches the bottom of my soul. Every word she puts to paper in her memoirs seems to make an impact and make me think, make me reassess and value the things around me.

I feel a vague attachment to her because of her childhood though mine was nothing like hers. Somehow her relationship with Southern Africa reaches me via my parents who did spend a lot of time on the continent.  I’m connected with the life, the relationships, the trials and the sense of family ties. Though frustrating, infuriating and sometimes completely baffling her family is close, is real and made her the person she is.  This is completely clear when Fuller explores her marriage when they move to Wyoming. The obvious disconnect between them becomes insurmountable and the bond they had is broken because his childhood truth and the expectation of his life is nothing like she has ever experienced.

It’s been a long time since I took out a pen and underlined passages in a book.  Mostly I wouldn’t do this because I would likely loan it to someone else but this book will likely remain on my shelf, like Don’t Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight which has been packed up and moved with me more than once.
In the chapter The River Runner and the Rat Race, when Fuller is analysing why she and her husband aren’t connecting, there is a passage explaining that there are two ways to live: one is the obvious way of routine and plans and the other the hidden way of soul-searching and epiphanies, allowing the soul to direct us.  Living one way without the other is perhaps to live dangerously but how many of us ever give ourselves over enough to fully understand, accept and see the beauty of the other way of life.  The entire passage (pg.205) struck me as so powerful that I read it over and over again.  It is realistic to expect that most marriages, at some point, reach moments of conflict but how much you are willing to surrender your way to your partner’s way, and even to see the beauty in it? If you do this even temporarily it may make you part of a stronger partnership?  Who knows?  But it certainly made me think.

I love Fuller’s writing- I would read her novels again and again.

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

Connect with Alexandra Fuller:
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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Saving Grapes by J.T. Lundy

3 Star

Thirty-two-year-old Jason Barnes recently lost his job, and his heart. Now, thanks to a meddling ex-wife and a golf cart fiasco, he has just thirty days to pay a $60,000 fine or go to jail.

Jason was hoping his Aunt Clara would come to his rescue, but she unexpectedly dies, gifting her liquid assets to charity. She does, however, will Jason a picturesque French vineyard—and it’s worth millions. But there’s a catch! If Jason goes to jail, the vineyard will transfer to his unscrupulous stepbrother.

To raise the cash he needs, Jason travels to France with his knucklehead of a best friend to sell the vineyard. Cashing in will not be so simple, though. Formidable nuns farm the vineyard, and he needs their blessing to sell. To persuade the good sisters, Jason attempts a madcap series of dubious schemes, and while doing so falls for what he thinks is the perfect French woman. Amidst this melee of wine, women, nuns, and villains, Jason must unearth his true values in order to save more than just his soul.

Kathryn - 3 Star

Saving Grapes was a madcap race through the French countryside rather than a novel about character development for me.  But it was fun and fast paced and the crazy situations definitely amused me. 
I was occasionally frustrated about Jason’s character and liked that Stumpy eventually put his foot down and said enough was enough. But it was hard to get into the seriousness of the novel’s situations without really feeling for Jason.  He seemed stuck between genuinely interested in making amends and only being concerned with himself and it was tough to get inside his head.

I had a quibble with the passport issue- it seemed very unlikely that he would make it into France on someone else’s passport so that was a bit irritating every time it came up.  I also wish we had had more time with Aunt Clara, she obviously cared for Jason as there was warmth shown when he was a child and “motherly” memories but it seems she dismissed him as he grew up and became more independent- I wish that hadn’t been so or that we’d had more time with them during the growing-up period of his life.

The novel was funny though and there were moments of beauty with the countryside and the peace of the nuns and their vineyard.  

In the end I enjoyed reading Saving Grapes but it did leave me feeling like something was missing or that more could have been done to make the story utterly enticing.  It all wrapped up in a perfect little bow in the end with a little twist I wasn’t expecting (but how else were they going to get out of the legal situation!).

Thank you to Emerald Book Company for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

Connect with J.T.Lundy:

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Love May Fail by Matthew Quick

5 Star

Portia Kane is having a meltdown. After escaping her ritzy Florida life and her cheating pornographer husband, she finds herself back in South Jersey, a place that remains largely unchanged from the years of her unhappy youth. Lost and alone, looking for the goodness she believes still exists in the world, Portia sets off on a quest to save the one man who always believed in her—and in all of his students: her beloved high school English teacher, Mr. Vernon, who has retired broken and alone after a traumatic classroom incident.

Will a sassy nun, an ex-heroin addict, a metalhead little boy, and her hoarder mother help or hurt Portia’s chances on this quest to resurrect a good man and find renewed hope in the human race? Love May Fail is a story of the great highs and lows of existence: the heartache and daring choices it takes to become the person you know (deep down) you are meant to be.

Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

I really loved this book though I can say that I have never read anything like it before. What I really enjoy about Matthew Quick`s work is his truly unique voice and the unexpected stories he tells. And this story was no less unique that his previous work but it also had its own clearly developed characters and plot line.

The wacky cast of characters is an unbelievable mix of people and if you are a fan of the TV show Shameless, this book would probably be right up your alley with this absolute crew of misfits. And I mean that term in the nicest possible way as the characters are the people who will never just `fit in`and most definitely dance to the beat of a different drummer.

The story was completely unexpected and unpredictable the entire way through which is probably one of the reasons that I loved it so much. There is nothing typical about anything that happened, which is often the best type of tale to be told in my opinion. Even if I thought I might be able to anticipate something coming up, I could never quite anticipate exactly what which kept me extremely interested and racing through the book to find out more.

I adore this author`s strong sense of self and how he feels that those who aren`t like everyone else deserve to be heard and that these stories are important. He addresses many social issues as well as insecurities that some of us may relate to but in a highly entertaining way and I am already longing for his next oeuvre!

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

Connect with Matthew Quick:

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella

3.5 Star

Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) has stars in her eyes. She and her daughter, Minnie, have joined husband Luke in LA—city of herbal smoothies, multimillion-dollar yoga retreats, and the lure of celebrity. Luke is there to help manage the career of famous actress Sage Seymour—and Becky is convinced she is destined to be Sage’s personal stylist, and go from there to every A-list celebrity in Hollywood! But things become complicated when Becky joins the team of Sage’s archrival. How will charming and supportive Luke deal with this conflict? Is it possible that what Becky wants most will end up hurting those she loves most? 

Kathryn - 3.5 Star

I have to admire Sophie Kinsella’s ability to keep writing these novels about Becky without losing any of the floaty, seemingly selfish but still charming character that was present in the original book.  There is definitely still the essence of Becky even all these years later and several novels in.  It’s impressive that this character has not lost her appeal and is still as popular as ever.

I confess that I don’t leap on these novels as I used to but I’m still under the charm of Becky when I pick up a new installment.  She’s quite infuriating and her husband Luke must be some kind of saint because she would drive me mad.  Completely selfishly in this novel she decides it’s her destiny to become a Hollywood stylist and forges ahead on this path leaving behind friends and family to fend for themselves. In Becky’s true fashion though she does have these moments of doubt and uncertainty about her path and that’s what continues to make her endearing.

Although quite “LA”, this novel actually doesn’t seem far-fetched and I was happy that Suze and Tarquie made an appearance. There was a bit of frustration for me at the end that we weren’t given much of a conclusion about Tarquie and Suze- perhaps that is sorted out in the next novel?  I also wish we’d been given a better wrap up about Lois and Sage as they were heavily involved in Becky’s plot line and yet there was no real recap for their story either.  Again, perhaps this will be concluded in the next novel?

I was a touch perturbed about the various children and the seemingly lack of child care when all these adults were out and about.  However the children are peppered throughout the novel and Kinsella does ensure that all the parents are shown as loving as always – the rapport between parent and child is clear despite them all going off in different directions all the time!

Another installment of Becky Bloomwood that fans will appreciate!

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

Connect with Sophie Kinsella:
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Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan

4 Star

In 1966, Kathleen Eaden, cookbook writer and wife of a supermarket magnate, published The Art of Baking, her guide to nurturing a family by creating the most exquisite pastries, biscuits and cakes. Now, five amateur bakers are competing to become the New Mrs. Eaden. There's Jenny, facing an empty nest now that her family has flown; Claire, who has sacrificed her dreams for her daughter; Mike, trying to parent his two kids after his wife's death; Vicki, who has dropped everything to be at home with her baby boy; and Karen, perfect Karen, who knows what it's like to have nothing and is determined her facade shouldn't slip. 

As unlikely alliances are forged and secrets rise to the surface, making the choicest pastry seems the least of the contestants' problems. For they will learn--as as Mrs. Eaden did before them--that while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it's very much harder in life. 

Kathryn - 4 Star

I was in England a few years ago and watched a couple of episodes of The Great British Bake-Off.  I’m all for a reality show about food and this one was completely mesmerising (because who doesn’t like dessert?).  I returned to Canada though and forgot about the program and how delightful it was until I came across this novel by Sarah Vaughan. 

Now, I am no expert on The Great British Bake-Off and also no expert on baking but this novel was enchanting not only because of its’ loosely drawing on the television program but also because of the characters participating in the contest. 

I found it difficult to keep the different women straight at first and created some little tricks to remind myself who was who. I think their names seemed similar and this was a little distracting at first but once I had them clearly sorted out I soon got into their chapters and gobbled up the next bit of their story. There was a good assortment of troubles that these ladies were experiencing which made the plot move quickly. I liked that they gradually befriended each other, despite the competition and fledgling friendships began. They all needed some good friends around them and you could see the author was hoping to create that bond, despite the competition and their very different backgrounds.  There was a token male contestant that we didn’t hear much from and I’m not sure he was entirely necessary to the plot- I liked him though and it would have been nicer to have his situation told like the others.  It was a nice touch too to have Kathleen’s story unfold with the others- her life was really the reason they were all there so it would have felt less special if she wasn’t given as much voice as the present day contestants.

On the whole the novel was heart-warming, the personal stories and contest aspect were equally represented and I loved the way it was written.  There were only a couple of little things that, if tweaked, would have made it a perfect read for me.  One of the ladies stories didn’t quite wrap up for me and I wish Mike had been left out or brought in more definitely.

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

Connect with Sarah Vaughan:
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Friday, June 12, 2015

Girl Underwater by Claire Kells

5 Star

Nineteen-year-old Avery Delacorte loves the water. Growing up in Brookline, Massachusetts, she took swim lessons at her community pool and captained the local team; in high school, she raced across bays and sprawling North American lakes. Now a sophomore on her university’s nationally ranked team, she struggles under the weight of new expectations but life is otherwise pretty good. Perfect, really.

That all changes when Avery’s red-eye home for Thanksgiving makes a ditch landing in a mountain lake in the Colorado Rockies. She is one of only five survivors, which includes three little boys and Colin Shea, who happens to be her teammate. Colin is also the only person in Avery’s college life who challenged her to swim her own events, to be her own person—something she refused to do. Instead she’s avoided him since the first day of freshman year. But now, faced with sub-zero temperatures, minimal supplies, and the dangers of a forbidding nowhere, Avery and Colin must rely on each other in ways they never could’ve imagined.

In the wilderness, the concept of survival is clear-cut. Simple. In the real world, it’s anything but. 

Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

A very dramatic and completely original story, I had no idea what this book was about when I first started reading it and I found myself very quickly drawn in. The story focuses on Avery Delacorte and the aftermath of her survival following a devastating plane crash. Horrible to even contemplate going through, this story was almost unbelievable, but written in such a way that you could not help but believe that it could actually have happened.

A conflicted person even before the accident, Avery was very obviously going through a lot and had some difficult decisions to make and realizations to come to. The story was really a coming of age story of sorts as many of these changes were necessary for any young woman to come to terms with but the importance was magnified given the extenuating circumstances.

I can't write about this book without mentioning Colin Shea, who is the bad boy who done good in this tale. Born close to Avery but worlds apart, their worlds collided in many ways which is shown throughout the story, little by little.

This story was an original one full of a lot of soul searching by Avery which ultimately lead to her finding herself and becoming true to her own desires and needs instead of trying to please others. 

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

Connect with Claire Kells:
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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Disclaimer by Renee Knight

5 Star

Finding a mysterious novel at her bedside plunges documentary filmmaker Catherine Ravenscroft into a living nightmare. Though ostensibly fiction, The Perfect Stranger recreates in vivid, unmistakable detail the terrible day Catherine became hostage to a dark secret, a secret that only one other person knew--and that person is dead.

Now that the past is catching up with her, Catherine’s world is falling apart. Her only hope is to confront what really happened on that awful day even if the shocking truth might destroy her.

Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

It is no secret that I have been enjoying suspense novels lately and even though this one didn't quite grab me from the synopsis on the cover, I was definitely very pleased to have read it. It actually did not take very many pages before I felt myself very much drawn into the story, almost wishing that I could turn pages faster and faster.

I really enjoy books that are written with multiple point of views, especially when done well, which was definitely the case in this book. I feel like it gives a good and more complete story without leaving you to wonder what the other characters perceptions were. 

The story was unique with the premise being that a mysterious book had been left for Catherine to read, which revealed the terrible story of something that had happened, revealing long hidden secrets. Yet despite that being the initial assumption, the ending of this book still left mea bit shocked and ultimately very satisfied with an extremely well written story.

The characters were well developed and complex in their own ways. Some seemed more approachable and others were more removed but this could be like any situation given that all people are different and unique. I think it helped to differentiate from their own experiences and opinions because they were so different.

The story was complex and multi viewed, it vacillated between different people, places and times but that just helped make the story all that more suspenseful with a wonderful finale.

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

Connect with Renee Knight:

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy

4.5 Star

When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.

   Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance. 

   Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way. 

Kathryn - 4.5 Star

I was really excited to read The Mapmaker’s Children as Sarah McCoy came with very high praise and I wasn’t disappointed by the thread of the story or the characters in the novel.  Sarah McCoy gives us a bit of her research process at the end of the novel and I appreciated that she took the time to explain that some of the story was based on snippets of history while most of it came from the people she imagined the characters to be.  I really liked that she included her path to the novel and it made me think more about the parts that were real and the parts imagined for my review.

To be quite truthful, it took me some time to get engrossed in the plot- this may be because I was reading it in small increments and I didn’t get a chance to read it with any speed until the end. I was interested in Sarah’s story more than Eden’s at the onset.  The Underground Railroad is so powerful a system in history that it drew me in while Eden’s early chapters made her difficult to become attached to.  I understood Eden’s mindset, her struggles to have a child were all encompassing and I knew that she wasn’t her true self but I found myself less empathetic with her than I would have liked.  What made me come back to her chapters with interest was her interaction with Cleo’s charming little persona.  I was also curious about her relationship with her husband and liked that McCoy gradually showed us the love in the marriage in a realistic manner given the stress they were both under.

Sarah’s journey, her relationships and her decisions were powerful and I was immersed in the time period completely. I wanted to make the links between the past and Eden’s present and was hoping that Sarah’s strength would trickle down through history to give Eden the boost she needed.

I really enjoyed Sarah McCoy’s attention to detail and her obvious research and passion for her characters. I can’t wait for her next novel, her writing is impeccable.  

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

Connect with Sarah McCoy:
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