Thursday, June 22, 2017

After You Left by Carol Mason

3.5 Star

You want to know what the worst thing is? It’s not the embarrassment, or the looks on people’s faces when I tell them what happened. It isn’t the pain of him not being there—loneliness is manageable. The worst thing is not knowing why.

When Justin walks out on Alice on their honeymoon, with no explanation apart from a cryptic note, Alice is left alone and bewildered, her life in pieces.

Then she meets Evelyn, a visitor to the gallery where she works. It’s a seemingly chance encounter, but Alice gradually learns that Evelyn has motives, and a heartbreaking story, of her own. And that story has haunting parallels with Alice’s life.

As Alice delves into the mystery of why Justin left her, the questions are obvious. But the answers may lie in the most unlikely of places… 

Kathryn - 3.5 Star

After You Left is a tale of two women's stories that merge into one. I confess that I didn't warm to Alice until the very end of the novel.  I think I could have used more time with Alice and her husband to truly get a feel for her. His leaving was abrupt, to say the least, but because I didn't feel invested in their marriage I found her floundering perplexing. This was likely intentional by the author.  If you felt attached to their marriage then his disappearance would have felt devastating and would have been hard for the reader to move past it- let alone Alice.  His reason for leaving is explained but it seems a flimsy choice to me. Though he obviously needed to refocus most of his attention for a period was their really a reason to leave his wife?

My connection came when we met Evelyn- a woman who is so lively and intriguing that you couldn't help wanting to know all about her. Through their emerging friendship I grew to like Alice more and was appreciative of the quiet strength and support they were giving each other.

The novel isn’t filled with rainbows and unicorns- there weren’t a lot of moments when I felt pure joy from either of our protagonists.  There was so much sadness and misunderstanding in both their lives, even as children I felt that they had been given a very subdued start to life.   And yet neither of them had really had a bad or difficult life, just perhaps not the one that could bring them joy.  Though I didn’t always love reading the novel it did linger with me as I thought about living for the sake of living and living for the joy of life.  

There was a twist towards the end that actually did come as a surprise to me. I certainly don’t want to give it away but it does a lot to explain both Alice and Evelyn.

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

Connect with Carol Mason:
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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Stranded...with Christine Nolfi

Please welcome Christine Nolfi, author of Sweet Lake as she tackles our Desert Island Interview!

About Christine:

Some writers are gifted with an unusual life and I’m certainly one of those. I’ve lived in Ohio, Virginia, California, Utah and now South Carolina. In college I was featured on the front page of the Houston Post for a lark that erased all my debt. I met my four adopted children for the first time in the sweltering heat of the tropics. I helped build several companies and was lucky enough to earn a living doing what I love best–writing–in a PR firm I owned.

In 2004 I made the wisest and most irrational decision of my life–I began writing fiction full-time. All those years of hard work pay off daily in sweet notes and comments by readers. Please continue the mail, tweets and comments on FaceBook, GoodReads and other sites. I cherish your support and love chatting with readers. 

Connect with Christine:
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Christine Nolfi Stranded on a Desert Island

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

Sweet Lake, my February release. Since it is the first book in my new series, many of the characters I’ll feature in upcoming books were mentioned in the pages. I’m sure I’d use the time alone on the island to finish work on the third book in the series.

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

Lots of paper and purple gel pens. I could survive island life without electricity or my iMac, but I’d go nuts if I didn’t have paper to write!

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

Well, if we’re being practical…may I have my computer and Internet access? I love chatting with readers on Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter.

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

Career novelists learn to cherish the solitude needed to bring a cast of characters to life. In fact, we’re never alone. Once we’re deep into the writing of a new novel, we’re happily ensconced with compelling new friends!

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

My husband, absolutely. Barry would have me laughing on a daily basis, and he’d work out the kinks of making fire and catching fish for dinner.

What modern technology would you miss the most?

Internet access. During the development of a novel, I FaceTime with my editor, share email with my agent—and let’s not forget all those readers with whom I chat on a daily basis. Plus I’d miss the Facebook parties, which allow me to interact with readers from around the world.

What food or beverage would you miss the most?

A dirty martini, like they make at my favorite Charleston, South Carolina restaurant.

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

I’d probably wish for rescue at the six-month mark. By then I would’ve completed the third Sweet Lake series novel, and run through my writing supplies!

What is the first thing you would do when rescued?

Take a long, hot bath. With a dirty martini for company.

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

“Guess what? I’ve finished another Sweet Lake book, and my publisher has set the release date!”

Sweet Lake

Linnie Wayfair knows just how many people are counting on her. But knowing doesn’t make doing any easier.

Everyone in Sweet Lake, Ohio, wants her to muster all her business sense and return the Wayfair Inn to its former glory. Her parents hope she’ll forgive her scoundrel of a brother and reconcile the family. The eccentric Sweet Lake Sirens want her to open the inn—and her heart—to new possibilities. And her hilarious lifelong friends Jada and Cat are dropping none-too-subtle hints for her to ignite a romance with Daniel Kettering, the sexy attorney who’s been pining for her for years…

Now a shocking turn of events will open old wounds and upend the world Linnie has carefully built. She has to make changes quickly—and the results, though not entirely what she expected, might be what she’s been yearning for all along.

Available at:
Amazon Barnes & Noble Kindle 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Change Room by Karen Connelly

4.5 Star

Eliza Keenan is the mother of two young sons, the owner of a flower studio that caters to the city's elite, and the loving wife of a deliciously rumpled math professor named Andrew. She's on the move from dawn until her boys are in bed, and after they're asleep she cleans her house. Her one complaint about her life is that the only time she has for herself is her twice-weekly swim in the local community centre pool, where sunlight shines in through a tall window and lights up the water in a way that reminds her of the year she spent as a footloose youth on an island in Greece. Then one morning into this life that is full of satisfactions of all kinds except sexual (because who has the time or the energy once the kids are asleep?) comes a tall, dark and lovely stranger, a young woman Eliza encounters at the pool and nicknames 'the Amazon.' The sight of this woman, naked in the change room, completely undoes Eliza, and soon the two of them are entangled in an affair that breaks all the rules, and threatens to capsize not only Eliza and her happy family, but her lover's world, too. And yet the sex is so all-encompassing, so intimate, so can it be bad? Be ready to be shaken up, woken up, scandalized and deeply stirred.

Kathryn - 4.5 Star

I eyed  this book for a while before requesting it for review. The cover kept drawing me back though something about the blurb had me worried that the story would either be too trite or too high brow.  In the end I asked to read it because of the plot synopsis...I was intrigued!

I needn't have worried- I had no trouble relating to Eliza and fell into step with her chaotic life of motherhood, business and marriage. I followed her through her exercise plan, her moments that were just her own and was unsurprised at what felt like a natural first liaison with "the amazon" in the pool change room. The sexual nature of the story, though intense and explicit, does delve into a much more common set of problems faced in marriage and in many relationships. The lack of nurturing (physical or mental)  will allow for discontent and eventual discord. 

I wished that Eliza's trip to Greece had been given more than a passing glance- it felt as if it had more of an effect on her than the novel allowed and that it could have rounded out her character a bit more to have that part of her life more voice.  I was also frustrated by Andrew's brother and parents (mostly mother)- they didn't do much for me or the plot except to add an element of tension in Andrew and Eliza's marriage and they filled me with something close to rage I'm afraid.

I easily accepted all the couple combinations though and felt that each of them was the right fit in their own way. Their meeting and merging was interesting and in the end I'm not convinced I was satisfied with the outcome for any of them- I suppose it couldn't end up perfectly for everyone in the end?

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

Connect with Karen Connelly:
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Friday, June 9, 2017

One good thing by Wendy Wax

4 Star

Embroiled in a battle to regain control of their renovation-turned-reality TV show, Do Over, Maddie, Avery, Nikki, and Kyra find themselves holding tight to the frayed ends of their friendship and relationships. 

Maddie must face the realities of dating a rock star once again topping the charts and dealing with her hapless ex-husband, while Avery is caught up in family drama even as she attempts to transform a tiny cottage into a home for the newly impoverished heiress who helped bankroll their last renovation. Put on bedrest, a hugely pregnant Nikki can’t quite believe love can last, nor can she trust in her own maternal instinct. And Kyra, who has secretly put Bella Flora at risk in an attempt to salvage Do Over, must decide whether to accept a desperately needed bail out from her son’s famous father that comes with far too many strings attached. 

But friendship is made for times like these, to keep each other—and their dreams—from crumbling.

Sabrina-Kate - 4 Star

A feel good novel where you suspect that the characters will triumph, despite it all, I enjoyed this book by Wendy Wax. I haven't read any of the other books in the series, but that did not matter as this book also works on its own.

A story of friends, this is a book that shows the power of friendship, love and believing in yourself. The book definitely teaches some important lessons to those whose story it is, but it also made me reflect on my own life. Sometimes the trials of the characters were a bit insane, but in the end, I guess these things really could happen to anyone. Of course if those anyones were dating or involved with famous people or had been somewhat famous themselves.

I would equate this with the Steel Magnolias genre and feel that it could appeal to many different age groups as the characters themselves do. This is definitely a good summer read!

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

Connect with Wendy Wax:
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Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Fallout by Tamar Cohen

5 Star

Dan and Sasha are Josh and Hannah's closest friends, and lately they all seem to spend more time with each other than they do apart. But cozy weekends together quickly dissolve into a bitter game of tug-of-war when Dan utters three treacherous little words: I'm leaving her. 

Dan fully expects Josh to defend his choices—and that includes welcoming the sexy young model he's suddenly dating. Meanwhile, Dan's soon-to-be-ex-wife Sasha is devastated—dangerously so—by his betrayal, and she leans heavily on Hannah for support. Though Josh and Hannah try desperately to avoid the fallout of their friends' battle, they're quickly engulfed by the poisonous fog of attack lawyers, ugly accusations and untimely revelations. Soon they're suffocating in Dan and Sasha's secrets…and their own. 

Kathryn - 5 Star

I found myself absolutely fascinated reading this novel. A little like that disturbing innate need to look at an accident - The Fallout was difficult to read but you needed to know the final outcome.

At first the author lulled me into a familiar tale of friendship and marriages with some scattered tension and then... so slowly I didn't see it coming, we were in the middle of a nasty, heated and twisty divorce. For Josh and Hannah they found themselves trying not to take sides but obviously being forced to take sides by the nature of the friendships and then that put tension on them so they were also trying to keep their own marriage steady while supporting their friends' battle.  My loyalties kept changing with each party as a new voice took over and while I had a fair idea of who was eventually going to be "in the wrong" I wasn't sure how they would all be able to come out the other side.

Some moments were funny and I laughed out loud more than once but the novel took a dark twist for me when the safety of the children was suddenly at stake. 

On reflection The Fallout (aka The Broken) was probably the most surprising book I've read in a long time. I was thrown off not only by the plot twists but also by the intensity of the feelings I had for and towards each of the people involved. 

Very intrigued by this author. I believe this is an older novel of hers and am certain to seek out her newer titles.

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

Connect with Tamar Cohen:
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