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.

Connect with Chanel Cleeton:
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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.

Connect with S.Craig Zahler:

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.

Connect with Meredith Schorr:
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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.

Connect with Tyrell Johnson:
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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?

Amazon   Kindle   Kobo

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.

Connect with Isabelle Broom:
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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.

Connect with Pam Howes: 


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