Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Flower Arrangement by Ella Griffin

3.5 Star

Golden peonies bowing their heads beneath blue delphinium bells. Delicate pink anemones threaded between freckled green orchids. Soft apricot roses woven together with velvety purple irises. Every bouquet tells a story. And every story begins at Blossom & Grow, a tiny jewel-like flower shop in the heart of Dublin. Here, among the buckets of fragrant blooms, beneath the flickering candles and lanterns, Lara works her magic. Translating feelings into flower arrangements that change hearts and lives. But what about her own heart? Has she really healed since she lost her chance to be a mother? What will happen when her own story takes a sudden turn? Can the flowers that heal the customers work their magic on the florist? Drawing together a delightful cast of characters, Ella Griffin brings her warmth, wit and wisdom to a captivating tale woven around a Dublin florist.

Kathryn - 3.5 Star

Full confession- I almost put this book down a few times within the first few chapters.  Not because it wasn’t well written or intriguing but because the emotional dance it took through the first few pages made me hurt and I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to be hurting.  I have to confess that there wasn’t much of the lighthearted in this novel.  By the cover you’d expect some lighter romantic notions but I found the whole things very subdued on the romance front and very heavy on the aspect of loss.

I found Lara to be very hopeful at her core but she is plagued by a series of losses in her life that would take their toll on the most upbeat of people. The story centers round her but brings in a number of shorter vignettes by way of the customers in her flower shop. We are given chapters dedicated to a character who passes through Lara’s life and each of their stories has some hardship or joy that draws them to buying a bouquet or an arrangement. The aspect of the flowers for each occasion was a bit lost on me. I’m not sure if this is well known knowledge or something the author gave Lara to focus on, either way it was an interesting addition to their stories. 

Though difficult to read most of the time I did find myself encouraged by Lara and her relationships. There were some wonderful strong people in her life (like her brother and co-worker) who gave the narrative a lift.  On the whole though I’m not sure if I enjoyed the story or simply respected the way it dealt with difficult subjects in a sympathetic way.

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

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks

5 Star

At 32, Russell Green has it all: a stunning wife, a lovable six year-old daughter, a successful career as an advertising executive and an expansive home in Charlotte. He is living the dream, and his marriage to the bewitching Vivian is the center of that. But underneath the shiny surface of this perfect existence, fault lines are beginning to appear...and no one is more surprised than Russ when he finds every aspect of the life he took for granted turned upside down. In a matter of months, Russ finds himself without a job or wife, caring for his young daughter while struggling to adapt to a new and baffling reality. Throwing himself into the wilderness of single parenting, Russ embarks on a journey at once terrifying and rewarding—one that will test his abilities and his emotional resources beyond anything he ever imagined. 

Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

Never a huge Nicholas Sparks fan, I got this book awhile ago and let my mom read it first because she loves his writing. Once she commented that it was different from his usual stuff, I was surprised but kept it on my bedside table until I had a moment to pick it up.

Over the holidays, I picked it up and read it within a day, which did not impress my almost-4-year-old, but I was so captivated that I did not want to put it down. It is fairly long, at almost 500 pages but I kept reading ahead, thinking, "One more chapter." The reasons why it seems to be so different, at least for me, is because I feel there is a certain maturity in this book compared to his other work. Less outright happy romance and a more complex plot but of course a lot of happy times.

I was very pleased with the story and how it won this jaded person over, making me believe that fate and kistmet may possibly be things that exist.

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

Connect with Nicholas Sparks: 
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Friday, January 20, 2017

The Atlas of Us by Tracy Buchanan

5 Star

How far would you go for those you love the most?
When Louise McKenzie’s mother is reported missing after the Boxing Day tsunami, Louise leaves her young family and travels to Thailand. There, she finds a bag containing her mother’s passport and a book filled with beautifully illustrated maps: The Atlas of Us, belonging to a woman named Claire. 

Who is Claire? How was Louise’s mom connected to her? And might the atlas help Louise find the answers she needs – and her mom? 

As Louise pores over the keepsakes hidden amongst its pages, she pieces together the mystery of a love affair, a dark tragedy and a secret both Claire and her mother would go to the ends of the earth to protect. 

Amazon  Kindle  

Kathryn- 5 Star

The Atlas of Us tugged at every heartstring I had and took me on a roller coaster of feelings I was only somewhat expecting!

Every emotion is covered in this book from the foundation of parental love to the selfishness and self-preservation required when dealing with the basics of hurt. At first I wasn’t sure I was going to warm to any of the main characters as there were so many little angles brought into their lives that they felt disjointed- but, somewhere a third of the way through, I actually had placed myself in their personas and was heavily invested in their future. 

While there is certainly an aspect of mystery in the set of The Atlas of Us I wasn’t really chasing that conclusion so much as I was chasing the relationship between Claire and Milo. I’m not sure why that aspect drew me in more than the story of Louise looking for her mother in Thailand. I knew somehow these things would connect but in the end both Claire and Milo were so fragile that I wanted to hope for their lives to become something meaningful for each other.  There seemed to be so much unsaid in their relationship and yet you could tell they belonged together, somehow, despite their very different upbringings.  I wished at times for more background on Milo and the home in which he grew up but when you unravel the last parts of the mystery it became clear why this was left vague.

The author also takes us around the world and sets us down in a number of different countries with great success. At no point was I questioning the authenticity of her knowledge of the places, perhaps as I trusted her telling of the ones I had seen myself?  I found the inter-weaving storylines suitably confusing and was fully immersed in the novel until the very last pages.

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

Connect with Tracy Buchanan:
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Monday, January 16, 2017

The Trap by Melanie Raabe

3.5 Star

For 11 years, the bestselling author Linda Conrads has mystified fans by never setting foot outside her home. Haunted by the unsolved murder of her younger sister--who she discovered in a pool of blood--and the face of the man she saw fleeing the scene, Linda's hermit existence helps her cope with debilitating anxiety. But the sanctity of her oasis is shattered when she sees her sister's murderer on television. Hobbled by years of isolation, Linda resolves to use the plot of her next novel to lay an irresistible trap for the man. As the plan is set in motion and the past comes rushing back, Linda's memories--and her very sanity--are called into question. Is this man a heartless killer or merely a helpless victim?

Sabrina-Kate - 3.5 Star

Having read a lot of thrillers this year, it is starting to take a lot to impress me but I also truly love this genre, so it is normal to be a bit critical at this stage. This particular book has been getting rave reviews but unfortunately it fell flat for me.

The main character, Linda, is a strange shut in and I found that part of the book fascinating as it helped open my eyes to a world that I have never been a part of and cannot really understand. It must be very difficult to be mentally ill and have to manage living despite the limitations.

Understandably, Linda wants to get revenge for her sister's murder, which she witnessed. That I can really understand, but I found the way she went about it entirely strange if not even a bit insane. Bordering on harassment, the way she acted with Lenzen was a bit out there and even though we don't learn much about him, his reaction was understandable. One strength of the book was the way that his character was portrayed because it was impossible to get a grasp on whether he was guilty or not.

I am not sure if the reason I didn't like this book very much was due to the fact that it was so talked about or if I just expected more to happen. Maybe even something was lost in translation. With a plot that seemed to just plod along with not a whole lot happening, I was sadly disappointed in what could have been.

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

Connect with Melanie Raabe:
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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Would you rather...with Annie Dawson

Please welcome Annie Dawson, author of The House of the Soul.

Annie Dawson:


Annie Dawson grew up bouncing around the United States. She began writing while studying at the University of Hawaii. After graduation, she worked in television news before joining a leading advertising agency in Honolulu. There she produced a wide variety of documentaries, industrials, and television commercials. At the age of 30, Dawson left the corporate world and traveled to Ghana as a Peace Corps volunteer. Soon after her return from West Africa she married her soulmate and moved with him to New Zealand. Together they are raising two beautiful boys and a variety of two, three and four-legged pets.

Connect with Annie:
Would You Rather... 
with Annie Dawson

Chips, chocolate or cheese?

Dark chocolate and more dark chocolate please. It is a health food after all.

Bridget Jones, Becky Bloomwood or Carrie Bradshaw?

I’d like Carrie’s wardrobe, but there’s no way I could pull it off, so it’s Bridget and Mr. Darcy for me.

Wine, beer or vodka?

Red wine, preferably a lovely Pinot Noir or a Chambourcin from our local winery.

Camping or spa vacation?

I dream of spa vacations, but my husband says they are an urban myth.

Water or mountains?

Warm tropical water filled with beautiful fish and green sea turtles to play with.

Zombies or vampires?

I’ll take Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire thanks.

Dogs or cats?

Dogs. We currently have two big mutts with seven legs between them.

Coke or Pepsi?

True confession: I was a serious Diet Coke addict for years. I still miss it, but I’m taking it one day at a time.

Coffee or tea?

I transferred my Diet Coke addiction to unsweetened iced tea.

Dine out or take away?

Either is heaven as long as I don’t have to cook or clean up.

High heels, sneakers or flip flops?

How I wish I could walk in heels higher than two inches! So many gorgeous shoes that will never adorn my clumsy size 10 feet. (insert heavy sigh here) It’s usually sneakers for me, but I’m happy any time I put on flip flops because it means I’m heading to the beach!

Physical Book or ebook?

Physical. I love the feel of a ‘real’ book (and my husband doesn’t make that face when I click to the next page while he’s trying to sleep).

Paperback or Hardcover?

Paperbacks are easier to tote around.

Pen or pencil?

Erasable pen?

Mad Men, Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad?

Downton Abbey. I want all the vintage dresses, the long silk gloves, and the hats! (And I could probably even walk in those sensible shoes.)

Drama or comedy?

If in doubt, I choose to laugh.

Twilight or Hunger Games?

Hunger Games, although I thought the first book was by far the best of the trilogy.

Lipstick, lipgloss or chapstick?

Chapstick. Sad, but true.

Facebook or Twiter?

Neither. I occasionally glance at my husband’s Facebook page and look up to see two hours have evaporated with nothing to show for it.  I know as an author I’m meant to be a queen of social media, but I just can’t go there.

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

Both. I have an outline of where I’d like a story to go, but sometimes (when I’m really lucky) my characters revolt and decide to go their own way. I love when that happens!

The House of the Soul

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?

Available at:

Amazon Barnes & Noble Kindle 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Lemon Twist by Charise Olson

4 Star

Audrey is planning her perfect wedding for her perfect life and perfect future as Dr. Gregory Smith’s wife. Right up until he calls with the news his chilly feet have gone icy cold.

With an unworn dress (that was just a few salads away from fitting), a lost promotion, and living in her best friend’s spare room it’s no wonder her therapist is on speed dial.

With help from great friends, some divine intervention, and a few Lemon Twist martinis, Audrey deals with her commitment phobic fiancĂ©, her boss’ roving eye, and the decision to chuck what’s left of her life state-side and head for volunteer work in Costa Rica.

In Costa Rica, Audrey learns Spanish, the perils of raw coffee beans, and how man trouble can find you even in the rain forest.

Because while Audrey might have left a lot behind, she still manages to bring along plenty of baggage.

Kathryn - 4 Star

I have to say that this novel was pleasantly different and not exactly what I was expecting. I had anticipated an alcohol fuelled series of events to help Audrey move past her fiance's change of heart. While she certainly has a few drinks with her friends (including the titled Lemon Twist) she actually ends up internally circling her relationship end by herself much of the time. Her depression and questioning, while at times a bit prolonged, actually leads her to seek help in her long forgotten God. I haven't come across a novel like this that brings religion in so firmly. While I found the frequent Bible quotes a bit annoying as they interrupted the flow of the plot, the sentiment was well placed. While not religious myself I still really a‎ppreciated the strength she found in them.

The move to overhaul her life was fabulous. There was so much newness in her move to Costa Rica and I was then really interested in her further journey. The men presented to her while in Costa Rica were both interesting but I didn't get a great feel for their bonds. The implication was there but not a lot of time was spent on their time together. It was interesting to realise this having finished the book. I suppose most of the focus was made on the other relationships she developed, the family she lived with in the country and her host missionary. And actually this was probably the right route to take when she was trying to find out who she was, without a man. 

On the whole Lemon Twist wasn’t exactly what I was expecting and I enjoyed it.

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

Connect with Charise Olson:
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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

It's not you, it's them by Portia MacIntosh

4 Star

First comes love. Then comes family…

After a lifetime of kissing frogs, Roxie Pratt has given up on finding her own fairytale romance. That is, until she meets her very own Prince Charming, Mark Wright, and he sweeps Roxie off her feet!

So when Mark finally gets down on one knee and pops the question, there’s only one thing left to do: meet the family! And when everything has been picture-perfect so far, what could possibly go wrong…?

Kathryn - 4 Star

I always grab the chance to read a Portia MacIntosh novel and this one was a treat. MacIntosh delivers easily relatable characters with humour and warmth instantly from the first few pages. I was immediately drawn to Roxie and her boyfriend Mark because of their desire for each other. Their attraction was fabulous and I loved the vague details of their active sex life. Not because it was out there for the world to see but because it was honest and there's a lot to be said for healthy mutual attraction. 

The hurdle for them both throughout the novel was working out if their physical attraction was all they had. Much as their silly banter with each other complemented their attraction was there enough in common to build a complete life together? I liked the fact that they weren't in their early twenties but early thirties because there was a level of maturity about a life plan than isn't necessary earlier on in life.

The novel delivered hilarious circumstances which I've come to expect from the author. The family was perfectly awful for the most part and I was shocked by the outward feelings of disapproval coming from the mother-in-law. But that only served to make them examine their relationship more deeply.  It’s not you, it’s them made me laugh and feel frustrated but that’s what made it a great read.

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

Connect with Portia MacIntosh:
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