Thursday, April 19, 2018

As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner

5 Star

In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters--Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa--a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without--and what they are willing to do about it.

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Kathryn - 5 Star

I learnt a lot from this book.  As Bright As Heaven covers the Spanish flu epidemic in the US at the end of the first world war. I knew absolutely nothing about the situation except for the vague notion that it had happened so the whole subject matter had me hooked.

The characters were intense and attached themselves to me immediately with their narrative. Each one had a different perspective based on their ages and their stages of life.   Pauline is a strong and capable women and it's interesting that the novel begins with her thought process after the recent loss of her infant.  The novel begins with death and death is a theme throughout because Pauline and her husband move to Philadelphia to help his uncle run his funeral home.  Each of their three children also has their own voice in the book which is interesting as they begin at ages 6, 12 and 15 and grow up over the story. The author does a fantastic job of keeping true to their voices and characteristics as they grew up.  

The novel is full of heartache so be forewarned but it is also though a wonderful example of family workings and relationships- quite apart from the history lesson.

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

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Friday, April 13, 2018

The Runaway Children by Sandy Taylor

3 Star

London, 1942: Thirteen-year-old Nell and five-year-old Olive are being sent away from the devastation of the East End. They are leaving the terror of the Blitz and nights spent shivering in air raid shelters behind them, but will the strangers they are billeted with be kind and loving, or are there different hardships ahead?

As the sisters struggle to adjust to life as evacuees, they soon discover that living in the countryside isn’t always idyllic. Nell misses her mother and brothers more than anything but she has to stay strong for Olive. Then, when little Olive’s safety is threatened by a boy on a farm, Nell has to make a decision that will change their lives forever…

They must run from danger and try to find their way home.

Together the two girls hold each other’s hands as they begin their perilous journey across bombed-out Britain. But when Nell falls ill, can she still protect her little sister from the war raging around them? And will they ever be reunited from the family they’ve been torn from?

Kathryn - 3 Star

I started reading this book with great anticipation as I have always been interested in the lives and families of the children evacuated during war.

Nell and Olivia are sent away during the blitz in London to remove them from imminent danger and we are very much aware that it is tearing this family apart.  Their older brother decides at the last minute to stay behind which leaves Nell to support her little sister in whatever may come next.  Luckily for the girls they are initially placed with a very loving couple who take them in as their own.   Despite missing their parents and siblings the girls are content in the country.  They are distraught when the couple must move and cannot take the two with them.  

Unfortunately their next billet isn't so nice and Nell is forced to try and escape with her little sister to safety.  They are then on their own with no money and no communication with anyone who can help them.  This portion of the novel was obviously distressing but I found it a tiny bit unrealistic.   I found it astonishing that children weren't checked on in these placements. They eventually find themselves in luck again though with someone who becomes very special to them and this bond was so special for both parties that it held throughout the remainder of the novel.

The girls learn to entirely rely on each other which was,for me, the heart of the novel.  The circumstances in which they found themselves were perhaps exaggerated at times but I still found the story gripping and worth reading and I did learn a few new tidbits of information about the process of evacuation from the novel.

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

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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

4 Star

The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They're both wrong.

One year ago, Caroline Johnson chose to end her life brutally: a shocking suicide planned to match that of her husband just months before. Their daughter, Anna, has struggled to come to terms with their loss ever since.

Now with a young baby of her own, Anna misses her mother more than ever and starts to question her parents’ deaths. But by digging up their past, she’ll put her future in danger. Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie…

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Sabrina-Kate - 4 Star

I always love a great, twisty mystery novel and I have always liked Clare Mackintosh therefore I was quite pleased to receive this book for review. The story started off kind of depressing, with Anna coming to terms with the recent deaths of both of her parents. I can imagine that being somewhat of an insurmountable place to be, so I definitely felt for her.

She never can let the double suicides go though and feels that something just isn't right, and of course, that is what this whole book is about. We learn about what she finds out and how, and how very terrible it is to discover the truth sometimes. Couple the investigation into her parents' suicides with the uncertainty of her new life with her partner and child, Anna was a person with a lot on her mind.

There were a lot of things that happened in the story that I was not expecting and the element of surprise did appeal to me.The story annoyed me at times though and at times I liked it but although I enjoyed this novel, and the twists within, I did not think it was really plausible so I didn't completely love it.

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

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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer

4 Star

The 2:00 a.m. call is the first time Lexie Vidler has heard her sister’s voice in years. Annie is a drug addict, a thief, a liar—and in trouble, again. Lexie has always bailed Annie out, given her money, a place to sleep, sent her to every kind of rehab. But this time, she’s not just strung out—she’s pregnant and in premature labor. If she goes to the hospital, she’ll lose custody of her baby—maybe even go to prison. But the alternative is unthinkable.

As weeks unfold, Lexie finds herself caring for her fragile newborn niece while her carefully ordered life is collapsing around her. She’s in danger of losing her job, and her fiancé only has so much patience for Annie’s drama. In court-ordered rehab, Annie attempts to halt her downward spiral by confronting long-buried secrets from the sisters’ childhood, ghosts that Lexie doesn’t want to face. But will the journey heal Annie, or lead her down a darker path?

Kathryn - 4 Star

Many, many, aspects of this book captivated my attention and tore at my heart.  Kelly Rimmer writes with exactness so there is no chance of getting lost in descriptive details, which I appreciate.

I found the opening pages powerful and they had me initially connect with both Annie and Lexie.  Like some other reviewers though, I found Lexie frustratingly standoffish with her husband Sam and was constantly on edge with my desire to yell at her to listen to him and let him fully into her world. He truly had the patience of a saint.  In fairness, as Annie explores her past and their mutual history as children, I can see why Lexie pushes people away.  She must innately feel as if she's hard to love and accept and she's protecting herself by not letting Sam in completely.

Annie's story is intense and heart breaking and the baby involved just breaks your heart further. Most disturbing for me though was their mother who dragged them into a cult from which she had previously escaped herself?  I just couldn't grasp this at all, and then to know your daughters are being abused by your new husband and do nothing?  Unfathomable to me, even considering her grief...  I could not get on board with her at all.  But I suppose it made Lexie and Annie’s troubles more expected?  Her reappearance didn’t add to the novel or either daughter’s progress- I wish she’d been left in the past.

Overall the book is very powerful for its exploration of drug addiction but be prepared to be a little edgy with the subject matter and frustration level.

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

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

4 Star

After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity--and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution...

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country's growing political unrest--until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary...

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa's last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba's tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she'll need the lessons of her grandmother's past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

Kathryn - 4 Star

I was conveniently heading to Cuba on a family vacation a few weeks after I picked up this novel by Chanel Cleeton.  Though I had some idea of the history of this fascinating country I learnt an awful lot from the book and it inspired me to read a lot more about the waves of history, struggle and strength of the people of Cuba.  I think the most important thing to remember is that though Cuba and America have recently had a tenuous history there was a lot more to their fight than just the past 100 years.

Next Year in Havana though is not only a history lesson, the people and situation were fictional but the characters very much seemed real to me.  The descriptions of the buildings, the streets and the interiors of the places Marisol discovered when she visits her grand-mother’s home-land in current day (2017) worked perfectly and drew me in completely.  Flipping back to the grand-mother Elisa’s day was also transitioned perfectly and I was equally invested in both parts of the story.

I read the novel quickly with passion and heart and found myself yearning to be able to help them reach the country’s potential.  When I visited Cuba afterwards I looked at every person with the same heart and determination that I’d read through in these characters.

This isn’t the only novel about the Cuban people certainly, but I felt a connection to Cleeton’s characters from the first pages.

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

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Friday, March 23, 2018

Hug Chickenpenny: The Panegyric of an Anomalous Child by S.Craig Zahler

3 Star

Hug Chickenpenny is an anomalous child. Born from tragedy and unknown paternity, this asymmetrical and white-haired baby inspires both ire and pity at the orphanage, until the day that an elderly eccentric adopts him as a pet. The upbeat boy's spirit is challenged in his new home and as he is exposed to prejudiced members of society in various encounters. Will Hug and his astronautical dreams survive our cruel and judgmental world?

Sabrina-Kate - 3 Star

I have never heard of this author before, despite him being well known for his books, movies, screenplays and music. I am kind of surprised that someone so accomplished has not crossed my radar before but now that he has, I can say that I did enjoy the idea of Hug Chickenpenny. After all, who does not enjoy the story of an underdog, and especially one who overcomes all sort of obstacles?

The entire idea what intriguing at the beginning but I found the story to be somewhat disjointed as it would skip entire time periods, even years before settling back in and focusing on an event or two. And some of the events would be intrinsic to the story; others, not so much. There did not seem to be any rhyme or reasons to how the story played out and developed.

Many things were left unanswered in the story, like exactly why Hug's mom had not survived child birth and there was also the mystery of his parentage and illnesses. I did like the overall story but too many gaps in the tale prevented me from loving it.

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

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Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Boyfriend Swap by Meredith Schorr

4 Star

Robyn has always dated struggling creative types. For once, her parents would love her to bring someone with health insurance and a 401(k) to their Chrismukkah celebration. Her actor boyfriend doesn’t qualify. While across town, Sidney’s professional life already belongs to her parents. She’s an attorney at her father’s law firm and she works tirelessly to keep her love life private. If she brings her lawyer boyfriend to their annual Christmas extravaganza, her parents will have the wedding planned by New Year’s Eve. 

A mutual friend playfully suggests they trade boyfriends for the holidays. The women share a laugh, but after copious amounts of wine, decide The Boyfriend Swap could be the perfect solution. This way, Robyn can show off her stable attorney boyfriend and Sidney’s high-society family will take no interest in her flakey actor beau.

It’s a brilliant plan—in theory. In practice—not so much. When Will turns out to be the boy-next-door Robyn crushed on hard throughout her teenage years, and Sidney’s family fawns all over Perry like he’s an Oscar-winner rather than a D-list wannabe, one thing is certain: The Boyfriend Swap might just change their lives forever. 

Kathryn - 4 Star

You’re going to initially determine that the whole premise for this novel is probably a bad idea.  It’s right there in the title- probably not an ideal plan to swap your boyfriend with someone else’s?  It’s bound to bite someone in the behind at some point you’d think, right?   But that’s a little bit why you should want to read this novel.  It’s bound to be funny, it’s bound to have some cringe-worthy moments and it’s bound to be just a little bit silly…however you’re also likely to be very curious as to how this is a good plan- for anyone involved!

I actually have to confess that I haven’t read Shorr’s blogger series and this was great because her voice and writing style was fresh, quirky and pretty darn funny and I was completely taken in by her main female characters.  I can’t say that I actually liked either of them (Robyn needed more confidence in her choices and Sidney was just a little bit hard!) but I did appreciate both their personalities and loved that each of them had to examine and re-define themselves a little bit by pushing through their mad scheme.

I was utterly entranced by Will (convenient for me that he stuck around for this crazy plan) and actually had a bit of a soft spot for mad Perry.  Even their off the wall families were charming and added to the plot.

On the whole the book was charming, romantic and worked out in the end?  Or did it?  I’m still not entirely sure if it worked out for everyone!

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

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson

4 Star

Forget the old days. Forget summer. Forget warmth. Forget anything that doesn’t help you survive.

Lynn McBride has learned much since society collapsed in the face of nuclear war and the relentless spread of disease. As memories of her old life haunt her, she has been forced to forge ahead in the snow-covered Canadian Yukon, learning how to hunt and trap to survive.

But her fragile existence is about to be shattered. Shadows of the world before have found her tiny community—most prominently in the enigmatic figure of Jax, who sets in motion a chain of events that will force Lynn to fulfill a destiny she never imagined.

Sabrina-Kate - 4 Star

Perhaps because of the current state of the world, I find myself drawn more and more to realistic dystopian novels. Maybe because I can actually see some crazy plague or war wiping out most of humanity, but maybe also because the writing of these types of tales in the past few years has been much more realistic and approachable than they used to be.

The story of Lynn, who is a late teen or young adult, as somewhat heartbreaking. She was ripped from a normal life just when hers was about to begin. Having suffered the loss of so much, it was difficult to imagine being in her place. Having to survive and struggle on a daily basis in order to just find food and have shelter.

A motley assortment of survivors comprised of her entire world, which seemed to be stuck in an eternal winter, with no end in sight. The planet was suffering and those who had survived the virus did not seem to have much to look forward to. Enter Jax, another survivor, and the world shifts a bit. Learning about another person's past and hopes for the future changes what Lynn thinks in an undeniable way.

Part thriller, part love story and definitely captivating, this book is a must read for anyone who fears what may come next.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

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Friday, March 9, 2018

The Place We Met by Isabelle Broom

2.5 Star

Lucy may have suffered her fair share of bad men, but now she has Pete. Finally, a man worth sharing her favourite place with, Lake Como. That's if she can put mysterious phone calls and glamorous ex-girlfriends out of her mind.

Taggie is rushed off her feet, but distraction is exactly what she needs to forget why she fled England and the sadness she left behind. She certainly doesn't have time for infuriating stranger Marco. A man is the last thing she needs right now.

Lucy and Taggie might not know it, but their lives are about to collide. The New Year might begin with fireworks - but how will it end?

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Kathryn - 2.5 Star

The Lake Como scenery for me was the heart of this novel. I enjoyed the romance of the setting with the people we met and was transported to the small streets and beautiful setting immediately. 

I'm not sure I was invested in any of the characters fully.  Perhaps because we only are exposed to a snippet of their lives and it takes a very long time to find out what the big secret is between Taggie and Pete?  I felt it was drawn out to maximum effect and, when revealed, I didn't feel any more empathy for Pete than before.  He wasn’t really good enough for either of the women in the end and his being interesting to either of these intelligent women was a source of frustration.  Marco was marginally more suitable but seemed to mostly be an attractive distraction rather than the love interest he turned out to be for one woman.
Overall, though I enjoyed the setting, I didn't get attached or find myself much invested in the story I'm afraid, and I'm a bit sad because I really wanted to love these ladies and be content with their situations- but neither seemed to have hit the mark for me.

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

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Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Forgotten Family of Liverpool and The Liverpool Girls by Pam Howes

4 Star

Dora Rodgers is adjusting to a new life in Liverpool with her young daughters Carol and Jackie. After the fear of the war years and a difficult break up with her husband Joe, Dora is finally building a future with her children. 

But then an unexpected knock at the door rips her family in two. 

To Dora’s horror, Carol is taken away by a welfare officer to live with Joe. She is determined to fight for her child, but when a tragic accident leaves her mother in hospital, and shocking news from Joe breaks her heart again, she struggles to cope. 

With her family in pieces and her marriage over for good, will Dora ever manage to get her daughter Carol home where she belongs? 

Kathryn - 4 Star

I read the first part of this trilogy last year and was completely hooked. There was something about how the author tackled post-partem depression from an era past that opened my eyes a little more to just how far we have come in a short time. I waited somewhat impatiently for the next book and ended up getting them both at the same time so read them back to back.  

The second novel (The Forgotten Family of Liverpool) shows Dora raising her two daughters alone, having come through to the other side of her heartbreak.  Things finally seem to be settling down and she's finding her way but it soon thrown off again by child protective services removing Carol from her care and her mother being attacked. She also struggles with housing as her ex-husband Joe has custody of Carol and moves back into the house they once shared.  All this while dealing with her lingering feelings for Joe and the lingering other woman.  It makes for a tumultuous read and kept me engaged!  

The third novel (The Liverpool Girls) has Carol and Jackie in their late teens/early twenties and the sisters have a tenuous relationship at best.  The hardest part for me was that they both seem to have wanted a sisterly bond but their lives just didn't turn out that way.  This story really focussed on the girls rather than Dora and Joe and takes a rough ride through their trials.

Both novels will satisfy the cravings of curiosity left over from the first but while content I would still like to know more!

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

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Snowflakes, Iced Cakes and Second Chances by Sue Watson

3.5 Star

A year after she separated from her husband, Gianni, on Christmas Day, Chloe’s heart is still in pieces as she unpacks the decorations for her first ever festive holiday alone. That is, until the phone rings… 

It seems Gianni’s new seaside restaurant is in trouble and Chloe must go to Appledore to save the business – and him. Equally famous for his experimental culinary extravaganzas and his explosive temper, Gianni has been really stirring up a sensation with the locals – and not in a good way! 

As pans fly and the temperature in the kitchen rises, Chloe’s calming influence and magic touch might just get critics back on side in time to save the restaurant from sinking like a sad soufflé. But will it be enough to save their marriage? 

Kathryn - 3.5 Star

This novel is one of a series set in the village of Appledore but it's a stand-alone novel and no prior knowledge of characters is required- though I loved being reunited with some of the same characters!

Gianni and Chloe's love story has a fair amount of twisty turns and we are in the present but given their history throughout the book.  I liked the way their story was presented in small bits to support their present phase with each other.  They clearly loved each other but their past was so filled with heartache and misunderstanding that they had decided to part ways.  When Chloe ends up being hired to help her ex-husband open his new restaurant I couldn’t help but think that this was an uncomfortable choice for all parties.

Gianni is a caricature of the egotistical chef- he shouts a lot, he’s demanding and due to his incomplete English language abilities he’s also frequently unclear in his instructions.  But he’s also passionate and loyal to a sense- for those he’s invested in at least. Chloe is smart and organised and clearly also passionate about her job. I had a hard time seeing her in the somewhat passive role she adopted when they were together. Correction- perhaps not passive exactly, but she did take the backseat to Gianni’s vision.  

Their reunion is prickly at first and they tiptoe around each other for most of the novel. I found their interactions realistic given the circumstances and truthfully wasn’t convinced that being together again was a good idea- but it’s a story of fiction so I had to accept that they could attempt to overcome their hurdles. 

The setting is delightful and the giggles available throughout- a lovely read.

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

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen by Hendrik Groen

4 Star

In the vein of bestsellers like A Man Called Ove or The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry comes a funny, tender-hearted tale about friendship, love, and an old man who is young at heart.

Hendrik Groen may be old, but he is far from dead and isn't planning to be buried any time soon. Granted, his daily strolls are getting shorter because his legs are no longer willing and he has to visit his doctor more than he'd like. Technically speaking he is...elderly. But surely there is more to life at his age than weak tea and potted geraniums?

Hendrik sets out to write an exposé: a year in the life of his care home in Amsterdam, revealing all its ups and downs--not least his new endeavor the anarchic Old-But-Not-Dead Club. And when Eefje moves in--the woman Hendrik has always longed for--he polishes his shoes (and his teeth), grooms what's left of his hair and attempts to make something of the life he has left, with hilarious, tender and devastating consequences.

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen will not only delight older readers with its wit and relevance, but will charm and inspire those who have years to go before their own expiry date.

Sabrina-Kate - 4 Star

I have never been a fan of all the books of this type that have been all the rage these past years and quite frankly, I am not entirely sure how this phenomenon of sorts began either. That being said, I truly enjoyed the story of Hendrik Groen, the unlikely hero of our book. 

Quite cantankerous at times, he was still a man with a heart of gold and I loved hearing about the people who lived near him and became his friends. Even though they were a motley group of people who might not have been friends should circumstance not have brought them together, they all found ways to connect and adventures to go on, which I can only hope is the case for me should I reach that age.

A story that had happy and sad moments and everything in between, I very much loved getting to know Hendrik and his friends. A tale full of wisdom and heartfelt tale, I will not soon forget the time I was able to share with these characters.

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

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Monday, February 19, 2018

Things to do when it's raining by Marissa Stapley

4 Star

When secrets tear love apart, can the truth mend it?

Mae Summers and Gabriel Broadbent grew up together in the idyllic Summers’ Inn, perched at the edge the St. Lawrence river. Mae was orphaned at the age of six and Gabe needed protection from his alcoholic father, so both were raised under one roof by Mae’s grandparents, Lilly and George. A childhood friendship quickly developed into a first love—a love that was suddenly broken by Gabe’s unexpected departure. Mae grew up, got over her heartbreak, and started a life for herself in New York City.

After more than a decade, Mae and Gabe find themselves pulled back to Alexandria Bay. Hoping to find solace within the Summers’ Inn, Mae instead finds her grandparents in the midst of decline and their past unravelling around her. A lifetime of secrets stand in the way of this unconventional family’s happiness. Will they be able to reclaim the past and come together, or will they remain separate islands?

Kathryn - 4 Star

My thoughts on this novel come a fair amount of time after reading the story - occasionally I have to let something sink in before I can put down my ideas.

I’m not sure I loved the novel as a whole but there are aspects of it that have clearly stuck with me.  Stapley is a fantastic writer and her words always give a clear picture of setting, surrounding and of “mood”.  By this I mean that I feel the characters energy from the way she writes.  In this book though I didn’t connect with any one particular character- I liked some of them and empathised with them but I didn’t really bond with them.  I felt more of a connection for the town, the countryside and the water than I did with the people.  I think initially there were a number of people to get to know which made it a bit difficult to keep track of and Mae’s introduction to us as an adult in New York, with the dramatic downfall of her relationship, didn’t seem to have a lot to do with the rest of the book except to ground her present while examining her past.  There was a pretty big gap of knowledge about her life between the present and the childhood we examine- I wish we had had some more snippets of the years in between.

Gabe is a heartbreaking sole who grew up with not only the physical uncertainty of an alcoholic father but also very little to stake his emotional growth on.  His relationship with Mae’s grandparents is parental but they cast him out which sets a trajectory for an emotional void in his adulthood.  It’s no wonder he was difficult to connect to as a reader. 

Mae’s grandparents also held their own batch of secrets which probably would have been better suited to be brought out into the open well before they were and caused much pain and sadness later in their lives.  

On the whole the novel is a powerful example of how families function throughout their lives with great secrets but it shows the pitfalls of retaining things for too long.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

3.5 Star

After being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have all the trimmings of a happy life and marriage; they have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other's sentences. However, a trip to the doctor projects they will live another 68 years together and panic sets in. They never expected "until death do us part" to mean seven decades.

In the name of marriage survival, they quickly concoct a plan to keep their relationship fresh and exciting: they will create little surprises for each other so that their (extended) years together will never become boring. But in their pursuit to execute Project Surprise Me, mishaps arise and secrets are uncovered that start to threaten the very foundation of their unshakable bond. When a scandal from the past is revealed that question some important untold truths, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all. 

Kathryn - 3.5 Star

Let me start this review by saying that I love Sophie Kinsella's lighthearted novels. I always enjoy settling into her usually slightly kooky main ladies and their predicaments. 

Surprise Me definitely held some of the same charms and I was intrigued by the initial premise that Sylvie and Dan are thrown off kilter by their prospective longevity and a possibly additional 60 plus years married to each other.  It held a lot of promise for laughs and misunderstandings.  I felt though that through their internalised panic that we lost some of their connection.  They somehow disconnected for too long into the novel for reasons that had little to do with their marriage and more to do with Sylvie's father.  I can see why Dan had been secretive, he wasn't given much choice over the years and was trying to protect his wife but I found that whole notion made less of their marriage.
I wish their own family unit had been given more time rather than the one with her parents.  It seemed to have a disconnect with the initial premise.

I enjoyed the novel regardless as Sylvie was entertaining and a fully developed character who made me laugh and empathise with.  Surprise Me was certainly entertaining and the intrigue surrounding her father kept me engaged, I just didn't feel it followed through from the onset.

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

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Friday, February 9, 2018

Between Me and You by Allison Winn Scotch

5 Star

When their paths first cross, Ben Livingston is a fledgling scriptwriter on the brink of success; Tatum Connelly is a struggling actress tending bar in a New York City dive. They fall in love, they marry, they become parents, and they think only of the future. But as the years go by, Tatum’s stardom rises while Ben’s fades. In a marriage that bears the fallout of ambition and fame, Ben and Tatum are at a crossroads. Now all they can do is think back…

A life of passion, joy, tragedy, and loss—once shared—becomes one as shifting and unpredictable as a memory. As the pieces of their past come together, as they explore the ways love can bend and break, Ben and Tatum come to see how it all went wrong—and wonder what they can do now to make it all right. 

Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

This was one of those books that just made your heart sing. I always love books that vacillate from past to present and back again as I think they give a unique perspective to the stories they weave. Told from both perspectives and moving alternatively backwards and forwards, this book is an actual triumph of writing. 

Allison Winn Scotch has always impressed me with her amazing ability to tell the most incredible stories; not incredible because of what happens but because of just how much you feel for the characters and what happens to them. I felt immersed into their lives and could not decide if I was more on Ben or Tatum's side during all of the drama and disagreements.

I could not imagine how fame could separate a couple but I am sure that it does have its impact. I also could not imagine falling out of love with someone after they had stood by me through fame arriving.
This book was one that spans a seventeen year period of time so sometimes I would have to actually pause to reflect on what the other character had said about the same time period in order to piece this book together properly. I think that the fact that I had to stop and think actually made the book stronger and almost larger than life as it simply consumed me.

This book captured my heart and my heart actually ached at some times during the telling of the story of Ben and Tatum as I got that involved in them and the story of their love. Ultimately, I loved this book as I suspected I would and I may just read it again already as I loved it that much.

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

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