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:
   Facebook    Twitter   Goodreads

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:
Amazon Barnes & Noble Kindle Nook Kobo

Friday, August 18, 2017

How did this happen? by Mary D. Esselman, Elizabeth Ash VĂ©lez

3.5 Star

From the bestselling authors of The Hell with Love, a fierce, funny, touching collection that takes the sting out of "aging while female."

Sabrina-Kate - 3.5 Star

A funny little anthology of poetry that I sometimes loved and sometimes hated, but that I could entirely understand. How Did This Happen? was a funny little book. Some of the poems were amusing and profane and I loved those ones the best. I recognized some of the writers and some of the others were new to me.

I could have lived without the commentary between poems because I did not enjoy it as much as the poems themselves, and I did not see what it really added to the book as the poems were strong enough on their own.

Sometimes hilarious and also at times poignant, this was a great little book for anyone who is at the end of their 30s and feeling things change.

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

Connect with Mary D.Esselman and Elizabeth Ash Velez:

Monday, August 14, 2017

What Happens in the Alps by T.A.Williams

3 Star

UP IN THE MAGICAL, SNOW-KISSED MOUNTAINS…Two years ago, Annie Brewer’s life was turned upside down when her adrenaline-junkie husband died in a tragic climbing accident. So she’s hoping that moving to the beautiful village of Santorso in the Italian Alps will finally put her life back on track
…ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN!    She might be going into business with her oldest friend – notorious lady-charmer Matt Brown – but men are definitely out of the question for Annie! That is, until she bumps into tall, dark and delicious Alessandro Lago on the ski slopes…and spontaneously says ‘Yes’ to a date!
It must be the crisp, mountain air but suddenly, anything seems possible. The only trouble is, chivalrous Matt is looking more gorgeous than ever…
Kathryn - 3 Star
I’m a big fan of T.A. Williams as he writes realistic modern romances with a female protagonist like a pro.  I’ve read every one of his novels that has come out in recent years and loved them all.
Unfortunately this one was not my favourite and I can’t really put a finger on why that was except that I didn’t warm to Annie in the same way I had warmed to the other female leads.  I ought to have done…. she has independence galore and a determination to succeed. She has overcome the loss of a partner which is obviously heartbreaking… I just didn’t desperately want to have dinner with her.
I had a hard time accepting her love interest.  He didn’t seem to fit, though I liked him, and it was very obvious from the start that she should have been looking closer to home instead.
What I did like about this novel was the setting- I loved the mountains, the lodges and the description of the snow.  I liked the skiing, the rock climbing and the workings of a new ski resort.  I felt completely immersed in the scenery.  The trademark mad dog was present all over the mountain and he added a certain freedom to the plot and I adored Annie’s assistant- a completely original character.
Maybe my issue was that I’m not a winter/ski girl?  Maybe I didn’t warm to the novel because I personally prefer warmth and water?  Perhaps that was it was but I certainly won’t let my mixed feelings about this story deter me from picking up the next T.A.Williams release!
Thank you to Penguin Random House for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

Connect with T.A.Williams:
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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

5 Star

Lilian Girvan has been a single mother for three years—ever since her husband died in a car accident. One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, she’s just starting to get the hang of this widow thing. She can now get her two girls to school, show up to work, and watch TV like a pro. The only problem is she’s becoming overwhelmed with being underwhelmed.

At least her textbook illustrating job has some perks—like actually being called upon to draw whale genitalia. Oh, and there’s that vegetable-gardening class her boss signed her up for. Apparently being the chosen illustrator for a series of boutique vegetable guides means getting your hands dirty, literally. Wallowing around in compost on a Saturday morning can’t be much worse than wallowing around in pajamas and self-pity.

After recruiting her kids and insanely supportive sister to join her, Lilian shows up at the Los Angeles Botanical Garden feeling out of her element. But what she’ll soon discover—with the help of a patient instructor and a quirky group of gardeners—is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not…

Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

I simply loved this book. From the gorgeous yet simplistic cover to the story within, The Garden of Small Beginnings is one of my favorite books of this year so far.

Lilian was one of those characters that you loved and just wanted good things to happen to. Having had a rough past few years, she was as true to life as they come. I felt for her, felt like her and sometimes wanted to be her. I loved how strong she was and what a great role model she was to her own children despite having been through so much.

Admittedly, the story was a bit easy to figure out at times, but that was part of its charm. I really do enjoy books that are inspiring and easy to read and this was definitely all of that and more!

I loved that the plot was endearing and amusing and made me want to cry and give Lilian and hug. I also really liked all of the supporting characters, from her kids, to her sister and to the oh-so-cute gardener. If you give this book a try, you will probably also fall in love as well!

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

Connect with Abbi Waxman:
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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

After the fall by Julie Cohen

5 Star

When an unfortunate accident forces Honor back into the lives of her widowed daughter-in-law, Jo, and her only granddaughter, Lydia, she cannot wait to be well enough to get back to her own home. However, the longer she stays with Jo and Lydia, the more they start to feel like a real family. But each of the three women is keeping secrets from the others that threaten to destroy the lives they’ve come to know.

Honor’s secret threatens to rob her of the independence she’s guarded ferociously for eighty years.

Jo’s secret could destroy the “normal” family life she’s fought so hard to build and maintain.

Lydia’s secret could bring her love―or the loss of everything that matters most to her.

One summer’s day, grandmother, mother and daughter’s secrets will be forced out in the open in a single dramatic moment that leaves them all asking: is there such a thing as second chances?

Kathryn - 5 Star

After the fall is a book full of emotion from every direction.  Because much of the feeling of loss wasn’t explained fully until the end of the book, I spent a lot of time speculating on what had happened in their mutual past.  It shines a light on today’s society with the sense of detachment we now have from our immediate family and the isolation we can feel by living via social media rather than in person.  

Honor lives alone and is determined to remain independent but a serious fall forces her to have to accept help.   It appears she doesn’t have anyone to turn to except her daughter-in- law and that’s only because the hospital calls her next of kin on her behalf.  Honor is a difficult person to unravel and the reader is immediately curious because Jo is the in-law and we don’t know what happened to Honor’s child?    

Jo’s swamped with two small children, a teenager and a frustrating ex-husband but the notion of leaving Honor to fend for herself isn’t an option.  There’s so much tension between Honor and Jo though that there’s whole sections of the book where you’re feeling edgy because you want them to sort out their issues...

Lydia, Jo’s teenage daughter, is navigating her first feelings of love and she’s not sure she can share how she’s feeling with anyone.  I was really invested in her story andI was thrilled to have her inching closer to her grandmother, to have that bond starting to form because her social life started to spiral rapidly out of control and I desperately wanted someone to catch on...

Overall this book will have you look more closely at the way we relate to each other and how much listening we really do.  I hope it’s given me some insight into how teenagers (particularly daughters) can hide things that are tearing them up inside and to try to be a better communicator. 

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

Connect with Julie Cohen:
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