Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Dressmaker's Dowry by Meredith Jaeger

4.5 Star

This gripping historical debut novel tells the story of two women: one, an immigrant seamstress who disappears from San Francisco’s gritty streets in 1876, and the other, a young woman in present day who must delve into the secrets of her husband’s wealthy family only to discover that she and the missing dressmaker might be connected in unexpected ways.

An exquisite ring, passed down through generations, connects two women who learn that love is a choice, and forgiveness is the key to freedom...





Kathryn- 4.5 Star

Told in both the present and the late 1800s this novel was intricately woven from two different stories for much of the book.  

The present day story of Sarah, who is on the cusp of a crisis as a novelist and within her marriage, felt detached from the historical line. I found it a bit difficult to attach to Sarah, mostly because I felt her caginess with her husband unnecessary. She was worried about him finding out about an accident in her past which was causing hesitation about her desire to have a child. I didn't understand why she couldn't tell him and it made me distrust her so I could empathise with her husband.  

On the other side I was drawn to Hanna immediately. Her energy and silent rebelliousness came right off the pages. In a dire situation with little money, siblings to care for and an abusive father she had nothing but herself to rely on.  I felt the bond between herself and Margaret and could appreciate how much she wanted to help the only person she felt she could rely on.  I loved the desire between Hanna and Lucas. They seemed to be two of a kind and yet their circumstances kept them apart. 

Having set the two scenes the author then links them with a mystery and a ring and I was on the edge of my seat with the historical drama and who had done what.  I didn't work out the whole plot until the very end. 

Though my bond with Sarah was lacking I think the rest of the novel carried me through and I wouldn't hesitate to read Jaeger's next book.


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

Connect with Meredith Jaeger:
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Friday, October 13, 2017

Friend request by Laura Marshall

5 Star

1989. When Louise first notices the new girl who has mysteriously transferred late into their senior year, Maria seems to be everything Louise's other friends aren't. Authentic. Funny. Brash. Within just a few days, Maria and Louise are on their way to becoming fast friends.

2016. Louise receives a heart-stopping email: Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook. Long-buried memories quickly rise to the surface: Those first days of their budding friendship; cruel decisions made and dark secrets kept; the night that would change all their lives forever.

Louise has always known that if the truth ever came out, she could stand to lose everything. Her job. Her son. Her freedom. Maria's sudden reappearance threatens it all, and forces Louise to reconnect with everyone with whom she'd severed ties in order to escape the past. But as she tries to piece together exactly what happened that night, Louise discovers there's more to the story than she ever knew. To keep her secret, Louise must first uncover the whole truth, before what's known to Maria-or whoever is pretending to be her-is known to all.



Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

I could not put this book down. As my eyes were literally trying to close, I would stand up in order to be able to read a bit more as I was reading very late into the night. The story is adeptly written with an expertly woven story that kept surprising me with more and more twists. I also think that the topic of bullying is one that we have all had touch our lives in one way or another with it being a prevalent topic these days so it also caught my attention due to that.

I can somewhat identify with a few of the characters in the book as I pretty much left high school behind without a backward glance for many reasons and I could not imagine what would happen if things in my past came back to haunt me. Louise was trying to avoid talking about or dealing with the past and was scared of possible repercussions for bullying in the past. Everything seemed to escalate quickly following a Facebook friend request and the scary power of what social media set up was upsetting.

As a mother, I could also empathize with Louise as I could not imagine the terror of feeling that not only your but your child's life could also be in danger. A few times my heart was actually thudding from fear when super crazy things were happening. And to be honest, I truly was not expecting exactly where this book was headed. Once some things were revealed, I thought it was over, but it just kept shocking me, over and over.

A very relevant book to our times and realities, I raced through this book as fast as I could and loved every single word. I cannot wait to see what Laura Marshall comes up with next!


Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

Connect with Laura Marshall:
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Monday, October 9, 2017

Ella's Ice Cream Summer by Sue Watson

4 Star

Ella’s life just hit rock-bottom, but can a summer by the sea mend her broken heart? When life gives you lemons… make ice-cream! 

Life hasn’t always been easy for single mum Ella, but she has just hit an all-time low; she’s jobless, loveless, very nearly homeless and, to make matters worse, now the owner of a pocket-sized pooch with a better wardrobe than her. 

Packing her bags (and a bigger one for the dog), Ella sets off for the seaside town of Appledore in Devon to re-live the magical summers of her youth and claim her portion of the family ice-cream business: a clapped-out ice-cream van and a complicated mess of secrets. 

There she meets gorgeous and free-spirited solicitor, Ben, who sees things differently: with a little bit of TLC he has a plan to get the van – and Ella – back up and running in no time. 




Kathryn - 4 Star

At first, I enjoyed this novel for the light simplicity of the story - the summer draw to cold treats in a seaside town can do nothing but bring a smile to your face. There are complex issues though behind Emma's escape to the sea.  She's unsure of her financial position, she has a number of dependents who seem to be entirely her responsibility and she is feeling decidedly without direction.  On top of all this she ends up inheriting a dilapidated ice cream van from her aunt and has no clue what to do with it, except that she's keen to honour her aunt's memory.  

I didn't really care for her mother at first mostly because I found her decidedly unhelpful. But her reluctance to encourage becomes more palatable when the mystery behind the family feud starts to come out. It takes the entire novel to be fully explained though so try not to be impatient as I was!  I wanted things cleared up so that there were no more secrets.  The arrival of Ella's cousin adds tension of course and she's very difficult to read (for us and for Ella) but it's obvious that there are things she'd like to share…

I found our love interest Ben super sweet, perfect and delightful despite his own uncertainties.  I liked him almost as much as the ice cream descriptions.  Honourable mentions go to the dog and the Slimming Club ladies who added to the overall giggles. 

I've enjoyed all my Sue Watson reads. She creates generational family dynamics I always relate to. All in all a fabulous read which will have you on your toes and give you faith that families can come back together if they all want it to be so.


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

Connect with Sue Watson:
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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Violinist of Venice by Alyssa Palombo

5 Star

A sweeping historical novel of composer and priest Antonio Vivaldi, a secret wealthy mistress, and their passion for music and each other 

Like most 18th century Venetians, Adriana d'Amato adores music-except her strict merchant father has forbidden her to cultivate her gift for the violin. But she refuses to let that stop her from living her dreams and begins sneaking out of her family's palazzo under the cover of night to take violin lessons from virtuoso violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi. However, what begins as secret lessons swiftly evolves into a passionate, consuming love affair.

Adriana's father is intent on seeing her married to a wealthy, prominent member of Venice's patrician class-and a handsome, charming suitor, whom she knows she could love, only complicates matters-but Vivaldi is a priest, making their relationship forbidden in the eyes of the Church and of society. They both know their affair will end upon Adriana's marriage, but she cannot anticipate the events that will force Vivaldi to choose between her and his music. The repercussions of his choice-and of Adriana's own choices-will haunt both of their lives in ways they never imagined.

Spanning more than 30 years of Adriana's life, Alyssa Palombo's The Violinist of Venice is a story of passion, music, ambition, and finding the strength to both fall in love and to carry on when it ends. 




Kathryn - 5 Star

I was completely engrossed by this novel from the start. Set in Venice you can't help but be smitten with the setting. The canals, the palazzos and the tiny laneways led to a visual immediately and I was drawn into the story by the setting alone. 

I soon discovered though that I was also captivated by the plot. Though my knowledge of Vivaldi is decidedly lacking it didn't deter my reading with pleasure. The story of Adriana is the main focus and her relationship with Vivaldi leads us into a complex social history of the period.  Feisty and determined, Adriana is the perfect heroine for any novel. She's stuck doing what her unkind father wants and his attitude towards her is depressing at best. Despite their friction she seems to have raised herself to be exactly what he was hoping to avoid.  In an era when daughters were raised to obey you wonder where her independent streak came from?  Her late mother perhaps?  

Having forged the attachment to Vivaldi we are led through her trials as she tries to hide her rebellion from her oppressive family and navigate other relationships. 

The novel has numerous twists and turns and though I've no idea if any of it is based on tidbits of fact I'm quite sure that the possibility of such a liaison could indeed have been possible during the period.


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

Connect with Alyssa Palombo:

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Would you rather...with Judithe Little

Please welcome Judithe Little, author of Wickwythe Hall.


 

Judithe Little:


Judithe Little grew up in Virginia and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. After a brief time studying in France and interning at the U.S. Department of State, she earned her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law where she was on the Editorial Board of the Journal of International Law and a Dillard Fellow. She lives with her husband and three children in Houston, Texas.



Connect with Judithe:
Would You Rather... 
with Judithe Little

Chips, chocolate or cheese?

Salt, salt, salt—I love salt. I need salt. Salt is life.

Bridget Jones, Becky Bloomwood or Carrie Bradshaw?

Becky Bloomwood. Retail therapy is great for procrastinating. When I’m writing and get to a challenging part, I’ll suddenly realize that I really need a new pair of shoes. All I have to do is switch screens, and Nordstrom is right there at my fingertips. Thankfully, they have a great return policy.

Wine, beer or vodka?

White wine and Pol Roger champagne. It was Winston Churchill’s favorite and is almost a character in my novel Wickwythe Hall.

Camping or spa vacation?

Spa.

Dogs or cats?

Dogs. We have two labs, and we also foster pugs through a rescue called Pughearts. Our current foster is Austin, an 8-year old guy found wandering the streets who needs heartworm treatment. There’s a photo of him and my other fosters who have since been adopted under the “Pugs” tab on my website.

Coke or Pepsi?

Diet Coke.

Coffee or tea?

Neither. Diet Coke is my caffeine of choice.

Dine out or take away?

Dine out. Both are better than cooking, but sometimes I need an excuse to get off of my laptop, get out of my “lounge-wear,” and make myself presentable.

High heels, sneakers or flip flops?

Flip flops.

Physical Book or ebook?

Physical.

Pen or pencil?

Pen. Less maintenance.

Drama or comedy?

Drama. It stays with you longer.

Lipstick, lipgloss or chapstick?

Lipstick during the day, chapstick at night.

Facebook or Twiter?

Facebook. Twitter makes my head spin. I don’t know how people keep up.

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

Everyone is different but for me it’s a mix of both: plot, then fly, then plot, then fly.


Wickwythe Hall


May 1940. The Germans invade France and the course of three lives is upended. Annelle LeMaire is a French refugee desperate to contact her Legionnaire brothers. Mabry Springs, American wife of a wealthy Brit, is struggling to come to terms with a troubled marriage and imminent German invasion. And Reid Carr, American representative of French champagne house Pol Roger, brings more than champagne to Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Their paths entwine when Churchill and his entourage take refuge at Wickwythe Hall, the Springs’ country estate hidden from the full moon and German bombers beneath a shroud of trees. There, as secrets and unexpected liaisons unfold, Annelle, Mabry and Reid are forever bound by the tragedy they share. 

Inspired in part by an actual confrontation between the British and French navies in July 1940, Wickwythe Hall is a story of love, loyalty, and the heartrending choices one is forced to make during wartime.

Available at:

Amazon Barnes & Noble Kindle 


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Cornish Escape by Lily Graham

4 Star

Get swept away along the beautiful Cornish coast with two love stories, centuries apart in time but entwined at their hearts.

Victoria Langley’s world crumbles when her husband leaves, but she knows exactly where to go to mend her broken heart. The rugged shores of Cornwall will be her perfect sanctuary. 

In the quaint, little village of Tregollan, nestled in the sea cliffs, Victoria is drawn to Seafall Cottage, covered in vines and gracefully falling apart. Inside she finds a diary full of secrets, from 1905.

Victoria is determined to unravel the diary’s mystery, but the residents of Tregollan are tight-lipped about Tilly Asprey, the cottage’s last owner. Just as she reaches a dead end, Victoria meets Adam Waters, the lawyer handling the cottage’s sale. He’s handsome, charming, and has a missing piece of the puzzle.

Tilly’s diary tells a devastating love story that mirrors Victoria’s own. Can Victoria learn from Tilly’s mistakes, and give herself a second chance at love? Or is history doomed to repeat itself?




Kathryn - 4 Star

A fun and easy read The Cornish Escape will take you to the idyllic world of renovating dilapidated cottages and living on the river.   It also delivers some romance and intrigue and some lovely characters with which to explore it all.   I whipped through this novel and definitely enjoyed it.  However, I preferred my previous Lily Graham read A Cornish Christmas. 

Victoria’s marriage is over but I didn’t get the impression that she minded all that much, just that she was seeking a world where she felt she was more comfortable, and doing something for herself.  I liked her purposeful exit and her lack of wavering.  Her new life seemed to suit her personality better, it was not so frenetic and it allowed her time to think and take each new experience in.  The mystery surrounding the cottage’s history had me hooked and I wasn’t expecting the thorough back story for the cottage and the diary to be interwoven into the present so well.  Their story felt current and linked with Victoria’s- very well done.

My prior experience with Graham’s writing was warm, embracing and a little bit gritty.  She dealt with a difficult topic using people that I felt drawn to.  This novel didn’t pull me in as much and though the intrigue was there I didn’t feel the subject was so tender and therefore didn’t require as much subtlety of navigation. However, I enjoyed the novel and I liked the tiny links between this book and A Cornish Christmas- I wished there had been more!


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

Connect with Lily Graham:



Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I hear she's a real bitch by Jen Agg

3.5 Star

Toronto restaurateur Jen Agg, the woman behind the popular The Black Hoof, Cocktail Bar, Rhum Corner, and Agrikol restaurants, is known for her frank, crystal-sharp and often hilarious observations and ideas on the restaurant industry and the world around her.

I Hear She's a Real Bitch, Jen Agg's first book, is caustic yet intimate, and wryly observant; an unforgettable glimpse into the life of one of the most interesting, smart, trail-blazing voices of this moment. 




Sabrina-Kate - 3.5 Star

I was really excited about reading a book by a female chef. As she hates the term "foodie", out of respect for Jen Agg, I will name myself as a "food enthusiast" which made me especially excited to get a peek inside her head and thoughts.  The book was engaging, even though it began way back during her teenage years. I do firmly believe that our experiences shape us, so it was a revelation to see where she started out.

The basic story of her life thus far was pretty interesting and I did really enjoy seeing how hands on she really is, doing a lot of restaurant construction work herself. I am not sure about a few parts of the book though where she went a little to deeply into personal things. There were a few very "Too Much Information" moments that didn't really fit in with the rest of the book or even the chapters where they appeared.

I imagine that it is somewhat necessary for a female in the restaurant industry to be quite ballsy but I didn't really like the me-against-them attitude that was very apparent, especially at the end, given that she appeared to have a lot of support from many men in her life. I also didn't like how she rushed a bit through the last few years at the end of the book. Grey Gardens and Agrikol,  two of her greatest works, I would have liked a bit more focus on.


It was an interesting book to read though and to get some insight into the mind of a very successful woman and to see what it takes to get what you want, at least in the food industry.


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


Connect with Jen Agg:
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Thursday, September 14, 2017

The House of the Soul by Annie Dawson

4.5 Star

Homemaker Ella Casey is circling the middle-age drain. Her once adventurous life is now measured in loads of laundry, her grand dreams of changing the world diluted with each rinse cycle. When she flies to the enchanting California estate of her best friend Teri for a Peace Corps reunion, the accomplishments of her peers threaten to soak up the last drops of Ella’s floundering self-esteem. 

Teri Flores is everything Ella is not: glamorous, wealthy, and fearless. Her sprawling mansion, La Casa Del Alma, serves as both artists’ retreat and modern day salon to Teri’s eclectic entourage. Teri entertains her guests with lavish meals, outrageous activities, and impassioned debates, but the weekend sours when old grievances mix with new ambitions. 

As past and present collide, Ella struggles to redefine herself, but will her growing need to validate her life end up destroying it? 


Amazon     Kindle  
Kathryn - 4.5 Star

My apologies to Annie Dawson as I sat on this novel for some time before reading it for no good reason other than I wasn’t sure I was in the right frame of mind to read it.  I suspected that it was going to tug at my heart (which I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for) but I actually found that I was more mentally involved than emotionally.  Sometimes you really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

It reminded me of the movie Stealing Beauty from the 90’s with Liv Tyler - the music in that movie evokes a slightly hazy reality and for the second part of The House of the Soul I had the same impression of Teri’s home. A haven for artists and new artistic thinking there was something definitely on the outside of reality about La Casa del Alma.

By contrast the earlier part of the story when Ella and Teri meet in the Peace Corps seemed much more stamped in realism.  They were exploring their own notions of self and parted under distressing circumstances, a real coming of age for them both and a bond that united them as “sisters”.  Once they physically are parted they seem to have little communication and Ella becomes stuck in a bit of a rut.  The reunion of their group of Peace Corps volunteers brings in a host of interesting characters that inter-mingle, collide and give focus to Ella’s desire to do more with her life. 

I found the references to Captain Nemo a touch frustrating.  There wasn’t anything clearly wrong with her relationship with David, more a dissatisfaction with herself, so I found the implication that another man was on her mind a bit insulting.  However that does clear itself up and I am perhaps the only one to have found it distracting!

I encourage people to read this book because it’s insightful, different and covers a number of topics that I found fascinating.


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

Connect with Annie Dawson:
Website    



Saturday, September 9, 2017

How to change a life by Stacey Ballis

4 Star

Eloise is happy with her life as a successful private chef. She has her clients, her corgi, and a recipe for the world's most perfect chocolate cream pie. What more could she need? But when her long-lost trio of high school friends reunites, Eloise realizes how lonely she really is.

Eloise, Lynne, and Teresa revamp their senior-class assignment and dare one another to create a list of things to accomplish by the time they each turn forty in a few months. Control freak Lynne has to get a dog, Teresa has to spice up her marriage, and Eloise has to start dating again.

Enter Shawn, a hunky ex-athlete and the first man Eloise could see herself falling for. Suddenly forty doesn't seem so lonely--until a chance encounter threatens the budding romance and reveals the true colors of her friends. Will the bucket listers make it to forty still speaking to one another? Or do some friendships come with an expiration date?




Kathryn - 4 Star

I really have enjoyed the last few novels I’ve read by Stacey Ballis.  There’s something about the way she creates current, realistic personalities that immediately draws me into the story and I always find something in each character to relate to.

How to change a life focusses mainly on Eloise who is private chef to a charming family with a bunch of kids.  She’s happy enough being wrapped up in their family and catering to her other private clients on the side until she realises part of life really is passing her by…the man part. The reappearance of her high-school girlfriends at a teacher’s funeral cements the notion that none of them has reached their life plans that they’d set out in high school.  Both Lynne and Teresa are also struggling a bit, they’ve accomplished some of their goals but some things are still lacking- the three women’s promise to kick their lives into gear sends them all on their own personal life missions.

While the narrative sticks mainly with Eloise, her dating exploits and her hilarious mother & auntie we also do have some insight into Lynne and Teresa’s lives.  There’s a fair amount of conflict between the women as they try to make their bucket lists before they turn forty but for women who had led separate lives for the past 20 plus years this wasn’t really a surprise- it’s hard enough having someone who knows you well be critical of your choices let alone someone who hasn’t seen you in that long.

My only stumble was Eloise’s past relationship left in France- I felt there was so much stock given to this man and she deserved to not have had to drag that baggage around with her. It didn’t feel entirely realistic that she would have still been afraid to date.


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

Connect with Stacey Ballis:
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Monday, September 4, 2017

The bookshop at water's end by Patti Callahan Henry

4 Star

Bonny Blankenship's most treasured memories are of idyllic summers spent in Watersend, South Carolina, with her best friend, Lainey McKay. Amid the sand dunes and oak trees draped with Spanish moss, they swam and wished for happy-ever-afters, then escaped to the local bookshop to read and whisper in the glorious cool silence. Until the night that changed everything, the night that Lainey's mother disappeared.

Now, in her early fifties, Bonny is desperate to clear her head after a tragic mistake threatens her career as an emergency room doctor, and her marriage crumbles around her. With her troubled teenage daughter, Piper, in tow, she goes back to the beloved river house, where she is soon joined by Lainey and her two young children. During lazy summer days and magical nights, they reunite with bookshop owner Mimi, who is tangled with the past and its mysteries. As the three women cling to a fragile peace, buried secrets and long ago loves return like the tide.



Sabrina-Kate - 4 Star

A perfect vacation read, I was thrilled to have this when I had a few days off from work and time to spend at the beach. This book is classic Patti Callahan Henry at her finest; she certainly creates characters that cause you to empathize with them.

You know the saying, "You can't go home again."? Well this was nothing further from the truth with this book. Despite her reservations, Bonny Blankenship returned home after a somewhat catastrophic period of her life. She then spent her time healing with her best friend Laney and her daughter Piper. Not always easy, but very necessary.

The book alternates between different points of view and past and present. This style is increasingly becoming one of my favorites as it seems to make the story more rounded and complete. The different perspectives created a wonderful synergy.

This book felt like catching up with an old friend and drew me into the plots deeply that I did not want it to end. It was one of those nice reads that feels almost like a warm blanket on a cold day.


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

Connect with Patti Callahan Henry:
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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Bridges by Maria Murnane

3.5 Star

It’s a piece of news Daphne never expected to hear: Her globe-trotting friend Skylar, who vowed never to get married, is engaged! Time to celebrate in Manhattan—Skylar’s treat, of course. After years scaling the corporate ladder, she can more than afford it. 

Daphne arrives in NYC with news of her own—the novel she’s finally finished appears to be going nowhere but the trash bin of every publishing house around. She’s devastated but plans to keep her disappointment under wraps, something that becomes trickier when she sees Skylar’s spectacular apartment. Could her life have been like this if she’d chosen a different path? 

What Daphne doesn’t know is she’s not the only one with a secret. Skylar and their friend KC are also holding something back, but what? As the trip unfolds, the truth about each woman emerges, along with tears. 

And laughter. And love. 




Kathryn - 3.5 Star

I was given Bridges and the prequel, Wait for the Rain, to read by the author and I read them back to back which was really helpful.

In Wait for the Rain you’re given a chance to explore all three of the friends’ personalities, though the perspective comes from Daphne alone.  It’s a chance to really get to know each of the ladies and see how they relate to each other.  As I was reading it though I wished there had been a little bit more about their connection in college.  I found it somewhat peculiar that after very little contact over many years that they would still feel so close to each other.  If I haven’t made contact with someone for ten years (bar a short email or phone call once in a blue moon) I would have likely seen that relationship peter out so more details about their past would have been appreciated.

However, I loved their banter and their support of each other while reading Wait for the Rain so I made up the rest of their history in my head!

I think you really need to read the first novel before reading Bridges.  I tried to see it as a stand-alone book and I just don’t think I would have found the connection to any of the women if I hadn’t had the prior read.  

I loved Skylar’s new found soft side and the tricky relationship she was experiencing with her step-daughter.  KC is my favourite so I was happy to connect with her again and although Daphne had come a long way I still felt she needed her friends to help her push into the next stage of independence.  

All in all I enjoyed both books but I wouldn’t recommend reading the second without the first.  I also wish we’d had a bit more history in their friendships.



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

Connect with Maria Murnane:
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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Hum if you don't know the words by Bianca Marais

5 Star

Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a nine-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970s Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband's death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred . . . until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built, and shatters their worlds when Robin’s parents are left dead and Beauty’s daughter goes missing. 

After Robin is sent to live with her loving but irresponsible aunt, Beauty is hired to care for Robin while continuing the search for her daughter. In Beauty, Robin finds the security and family that she craves, and the two forge an inextricable bond through their deep personal losses. But Robin knows that if Beauty finds her daughter, Robin could lose her new caretaker forever, so she makes a desperate decision with devastating consequences. Her quest to make amends and find redemption is a journey of self-discovery in which she learns the harsh truths of the society that once promised her protection. 


Kathryn- 5 Star

A novel told in two voices that come together to make one story- I found the book sometimes intense and sometimes agonising because I truly sometimes cannot believe the things people are capable of doing to each other-  if only we all were equipped with empathy…  

Beauty is drawn to look for her teenage daughter who had been living with her brother in Soweto and appears to have gone missing during the student uprising.  She leaves behind her younger children and makes the long journey into a city in which she feels ill at ease.  Beauty’s voice is that of a teacher, measured and consistent, calm and intelligent.  I connected with her as a mother immediately and could feel her frustration at the hurdles she faced just seeping off the pages.

The other perspective comes from 9 year old Robin who is white and English and whose parents are murdered during the uprising at an unrelated event.  The one person who can care for her is her aunt and though they both like each other the aunt isn’t really ready to become a parent and Robin finds herself in the care of Beauty.  I found Robin’s passages to be very well issued- she’s a child and her world has fallen apart. Her sense of abandonment is overwhelming and I found Marais gave her enough time to explore this life change, it wasn’t rushed.  I also like that her innocence brought us back to reality, her choice to keep something hidden later in the novel was a decision made by someone so young that you were forced to be reminded of how little of the world she knew.

Beauty’s searching brought out many aspects of apartheid South Africa in a subtle and matter of fact way that were natural to the exploration of the plot of the novel.  And yet, they were no less poignant. Her ability to weave story and reality was very well done.  I am certainly putting Bianca Marais on my to-watch list.

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


Connect with Bianca Marais:
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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Stranded on a desert island with Melissa Pimentel

Please welcome Melissa Pimentel, author of The One That Got Away as she tackles our Desert Island Interview!






About Melissa:

MELISSA PIMENTEL grew up in a small town in Massachusetts in a house without cable and therefore much of her childhood was spent watching 1970s British comedy on public television. These days, she spends much of her time reading in the various pubs of Stoke Newington and engaging in a long-standing emotional feud with their disgruntled cat, Welles. She works in publishing.

Connect with Melissa:
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Melissa Pimentel Stranded on a Desert Island

If you could only have one book with you, what would it be?

Gone with the Wind.  I read it the first time when I was eleven and completely fell in love with it, and then spent my teenage years rereading it whenever I could. My mom and I still debate about whether or not she gets him back. (I think she does. Come on, it’s Scarlett O’Hara!)

What one luxury item would you want to be stranded with?

I’m not much of a luxury item person (I like to say I’m thrifty. My husband thinks I’m cheap.) but I think Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour cream would come in handy on an desert island, and it’s definitely more expensive than my usual own-brand stuff.

What is the one practical item you would want to have with you to use?

Duct tape. Seriously, is there anything duct tape can’t do?

Would you enjoy the solitude, even briefly, or would it drive you crazy?

I would both enjoy it and be driven crazy by it. I like my own company but I definitely start to turn a little weird if I’m left to my own devices for too long. I would 100% be talking to myself non-stop.

If you could be stranded with one other person, who would you want it to be?

My husband, Simon.

What modern technology would you miss the most?

Water pressure. I love a good power shower.


What food or beverage would you miss the most?

Cheese. Unless there’s a cow on this island…?

How many days do you think you would cope without rescue?

I feel like I could do a month. After that, they’d have to come with a butterfly net.

What is the first thing you would do when rescued?

Facetime with my nieces.

What would be your first Tweet or Facebook update upon your return?

I am the world’s worst social media person (I think I’m allergic) so I probably wouldn’t say anything at all! I do love a good stalk, though, so I’d probably do a little bit of that to see what everyone had been up to.



The One That Got Away

A modern retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion, where a young woman comes face-to-face with a lost love, proving that the one that got away is sometimes the one you get back. Ruby and Ethan were perfect for each other. Until the day they suddenly weren’t.

Ten years later, Ruby’s single, having spent the last decade focusing on her demanding career and hectic life in Manhattan. There’s barely time for a trip to England for her little sister’s wedding. And there’s certainly not time to think about seeing Ethan there for the first time in years.

But as the family frantically prepare for the big day, Ruby can’t help but wonder if she made the right choice all those years ago. Because there’s nothing like a wedding for stirring up the past…

Available at:
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