Saturday, October 28, 2017

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

5 Star

It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.

For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems. 

As Andrew sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, Emma hides a secret that will turn the whole family upside down. 

In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive…

Sabrina-Kate- 5 Star

I absolutely LOVED this book. I have never read the author before but British literature is on the top of my list so I was thrilled to be offered this book to read. The Birch family was highly entertaining to me and the story had so many endearing qualities to it that I felt like I was catching up with an old friend.

Certain aspects of the book made me wonder and want to research topics more and others just felt like a wonderfully heartfelt story was coming together in exactly the perfect way.

I loved how the family had their issues and how the circumstances of this Christmas season made them have to confront them in order to just be together. Which, admittedly, was not initially pleasing to them. The book had a lot of different elements and I felt it was fairly unique, especially the circumstances that Emma found herself dealing with so unexpectedly.

Getting to know each character, their flaws and dreams, was just so enjoyable that I could not help but read this book in almost one sitting. I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a compulsive read and has the time as it was almost impossible to put this book down!

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

Connect with Francesca Hornak:
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Monday, October 23, 2017

Shoes for Anthony by Emma Kennedy

5 Star

‘They’re running wild. Feral! If I had a shilling for every time a Scott Street boy said he was doing something when he was doing something else entirely I’d be living in Cardiff in a house made of Lardy cake. What did I say? Bad things will happen!’

The idea of the war coming to their small, impoverished Welsh mining village always seemed remote, but with one explosive event and the arrival of the Americans preparing for the invasion of France, the people of Treherbert find their world turned upside down.

But war brings distrust, lies and danger. And as the villagers find themselves hopelessly divided, Anthony, an 11-year-old who hasn’t had a pair of shoes in years, is going to have to choose between what is popular and what is right.

Kathryn - 5 Star

Both the era and the area of Shoes for Anthony always pique my interest so I was immediately intrigued by this family story.  It is funny and sweet as well as heavy and dramatic and kept me turning the pages.

The author draws you in with Anthony's childish voice and the harsh reality of his life (that to him seems quite perfect).  It’s so easy to forget that not so many years ago every day activities could be taxing to the point of impossible for those living in rural villages and that this is still the reality for developing countries around the world.  The harsh working conditions of professions such as mining were always lingering in the background of the story. I found myself tense, waiting for something to drop but as the only source of available income for the families in Anthony’s world this feeling was a part of life.  For small children though, the admiration for the village men working in the mines brought huge excitement and pride. Though they all went to school it was expected that most boys would one day end up down the mine themselves.  Anthony barely had shoes to wear but was already anticipating his future. 

I can’t say I’ve ever been able to completely tune in to the mentality of a small boy- not my forte- however I love reading about their adventures and thought processes because it gives me a little inkling into how my father or husband once saw the world (though neither grew up in these same conditions!).  Anthony is charming in his naivety regarding the stranger that ends up living with them and yet he is also brave and aware when he realises what’s really happening.  He is at the exact age when innocence is becoming awareness- a fascinating mindset.

Despite the difficult living conditions, Anthony's family displayed affection for each other and the mother's love shines through.  Though his father and siblings are stiff and formal with him I still could feel their compassion and overall the story is of love, family and perseverance and it made me smile. 

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

Connect with Emma Kennedy:
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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:


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