General Fiction

#BookReview
Mothers And Other Strangers
@ginasorell @PGCBooks

Synopsis:

“My father proposed to my mother at gunpoint when she was nineteen, and knowing that she was already pregnant with a dead man’s child, she accepted.”

Thus begins this riveting story of a woman’s quest to understand her recently deceased mother, a glamorous, cruel narcissist who left her only child, Elsie, an inheritance of debts and mysteries. While coping with threats that she suspects are coming from the cult-like spiritual program her mother belonged to, Elsie works to unravel the message her dying mother left for her, a quest that ultimately takes her to the South African family homestead she never knew existed.


Book Rating: 8.5/10

Heart-wrenching, engrossing and deeply moving!

This is an intriguing novel that highlights the enduring physical and psychological effects parents can have on their children and emphasizes just how important guidance, affection, respect and love are in child development.

The prose is eloquent and fluid. The characters are fragile, tormented and raw. And the plot is a subtle journey into one middle-aged, woman’s life as she tries to discover her true self and find some form of closure and happiness while piecing together all the secrets and sins of a mother she never truly knew.

Overall this is an incredibly thought-provoking, gripping, beautiful debut by Sorell that does a remarkable job of illuminating the complex bonds and emotional ties between mothers and daughters.

About the Author

Born in South Africa and raised in Canada, Gina Sorell now resides in Toronto, and lives in a world of words. Some of those words are: writer, namer, creative director, artist, daughter, sister, wife and mother.
After two decades as a working actor of stage and screen in NYC, LA, and Toronto, Gina decided to return to her first love–writing, and graduated with distinction from UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Gina likes to balance out the long solitary hours of novel writing, with her work as a Creative Director of Eat My Words, a SF based branding firm, where she collaborates all day long with innovators and entrepreneurs whose identity she establishes with only one word, their name.

Thank you to PGC Canada for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

This novel is available now.

Pick up a copy from your favourite retailer or from the following links.

                                            

For more information on Gina Sorell visit her website at: ginasorell.com

or follow her on Twitter at: @ginasorell

#Excerpt
Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh
@jennilwalsh @torbooks

Synopsis:

From debut historical novelist Jenni L. Walsh, Becoming Bonnie is the untold story of how wholesome Bonnelyn Parker became half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo!

The summer of 1927 might be the height of the Roaring Twenties, but Bonnelyn Parker is more likely to belt out a church hymn than sling drinks at an illicit juice joint. She’s a sharp girl with plans to overcome her family’s poverty, provide for herself, and maybe someday marry her boyfriend, Roy Thornton. But when Roy springs a proposal on her and financial woes jeopardize her ambitions, Bonnelyn finds salvation in an unlikely place: Dallas’s newest speakeasy, Doc’s.

Living the life of a moll at night, Bonnie remains a wholesome girl by day, engaged to Roy, attending school and working toward a steady future. When Roy discovers her secret life, and embraces it—perhaps too much, especially when it comes to booze and gambling—Bonnie tries to make the pieces fit. Maybe she can have it all: the American Dream, the husband, and the intoxicating allure of jazz music. What she doesn’t know is that her life—like her country—is headed for a crash.

She’s about to meet Clyde Barrow.

Few details are known about Bonnie’s life prior to meeting her infamous partner. In Becoming Bonnie, Jenni L. Walsh shows a young woman promised the American dream and given the Great Depression, and offers a compelling account of why she fell so hard for a convicted felon—and turned to crime herself.

Excerpt:

Chapter 1    

But I, being poor, have only my dreams.

Hands in my hair, I look over the words I wrote on the Mason jar atop my bureau. I snigger, almost as if I’m antagonizing the sentiment. One day I won’t be poor with dreams. I’ll have money and dreams.

I drop my hair and swallow a growl, never able to get my stubborn curls quite right.

My little sister carefully sets her pillow down, tugs at the corner to give it shape, the final touch to making her bed. “Stop messing with it.”

“Easy for you to say. The humidity ain’t playing games with your hair.”

And Little Billie’s hair is down. Smooth and straight. Mine is pinned back into a low bun. Modest and practical.

Little Billie chuckles. “Well, I’m going before Mama hollers at me. Church starts in twenty minutes and you know she’s got to watch everyone come in.”

I shake my head; that woman always has her nose to the ground. Little Billie scoots out of our bedroom and I get back to taming my flyaways and scan my bureau for my favorite stud earrings, one of our few family heirlooms. Footsteps in the hall quicken my fingers. I slide in another hairpin, jabbing my skull. “I’m coming, Ma!”

A deep cough.

I turn to find my boyfriend taking up much of the doorway. He’s got his broad shoulders and tall frame to thank for that.

I smile, saying, “Oh, it’s only you.”

Roy’s own smile doesn’t quite form. “Yes, it’s only me.”

I wave him off, a strand falling out of place. Roy being ’round ain’t nothin’ new, but on a Sunday morning … That gets my heart bumping with intrigue. “What ya doing here so early? The birds are barely chirpin’.”

“It ain’t so early. Got us less than twenty minutes ’til—”

“I know.”

“Thought I could walk you to church,” Roy says.

“Is that so?” My curiosity builds, ’specially with how this boy is shifting his weight from side to side. He’s up to something. And I ain’t one to be kept in the dark. Fingers busy with my hair, I motion with my elbow and arch a brow. “That for me?”

Roy glances down at an envelope in his hand, as if he forgot he was even holding it. He moves it behind his back. “It can wait. There’s actually something else—”

I’m across the room in a heartbeat, tugging on his arm. “Oh no it can’t.”

On the envelope, “Final Notice” stares back at me in bold letters. The sender is our electric company. Any excitement is gone.

“I’m sorry, Bonnelyn,” Roy says. “Caught my eye on it in the bushes out front.”

My arms fall to my sides and I stare unblinking at the envelope, not sure how something so small, so light, could mean something so big, so heavy, for our family. “I didn’t know my ma hadn’t been paying this.”

Roy pushes the envelope, facedown, onto my bureau. “I can help pay—”

“Thanks, but we’ll figure it out.” I sigh at my hair, at our unpaid bill, at the fact I’m watching my sister after church instead of putting in hours at the diner. Fortunately, my brother’s pulling a double at the cement plant. Ma will be at the factory all afternoon. But will it be enough?

I move in front of the wall mirror to distract myself. Seeing my hand-me-down blouse ain’t helping. I peek at Roy, hoping I don’t find pity on his face. There he goes again, throwing his weight from foot to foot. And, sure, that boy is sweet as pie, but I know he ain’t antsy thinkin’ my lights are suddenly going to go off.

“Everything okay, Roy?”

“Yeah.”

That yeah ain’t so convincing.

“You almost done here?” he asks. Roy shifts the old Mason jar to the side, holds up the earring I’d been looking for.

I nod—to the earring, not to being done—and he brings it to me. Despite how this morning is turning out, I smile, liking that Roy knew what I was looking for without me having to tell him.

“Ready now?” he says.

I slide another pin into my hair. “Why’s everyone rushing me?”

Roy swallows, and if I had five clams to bet, I’d bet he’s nervous ’bout something. He edges closer to my bureau. He shakes the Mason jar, the pieces of paper rustling inside. “When did you write this on the outside?”

But I, being poor, have only my dreams.

I avert my eyes, being those words weren’t meant for Roy’s. “Not too long ago.”

“Ya know, Bonnelyn, you won’t always be poor. I’ll make sure of that.”

“I know I won’t.” I add a final pin to my hair. I’ll make sure of that.

“So why’d you write it?”

“I didn’t. William Butler Yeats did.”

Roy shoves his hands in his pockets. “You know what I mean.”

I shrug and stare at my reflection. “It inspires me, wanting to be more than that line. And I will. I’ll put a white picket fence in front of my house to prove it.”

Your house?”

I turn away from the mirror to face him. His voice sounded off. Too high. But Roy ain’t looking at me. He’s staring at the wall above my head. “Our house,” I correct, a pang of guilt stabbing me in the belly ’cause I didn’t say our to begin with. “That jar is full of our dreams, after all.”

Really, it’s full of doodles, scribbled on whatever paper Roy had on hand. Napkins. Ripped corners of his textbook pages. The top flap of a cereal box. He shoved the first scrap of paper in my hand when we were only knee-high to a grasshopper: quick little drawings of me and him in front of the Eiffel Tower, riding horses with dogs running ’round our feet, holding hands by the Gulf’s crashing waves.

Our dreams. Plenty of ’em. Big and small. Whimsical and sweet.

But this here is the twenties. Women can vote; women are equals, wanting to make a name for themselves. I’m no exception. Sure, I’ll bring those doodles to life with Roy, but I would’ve added my own sketches to the jar if I could draw. Standing at the front of my very own classroom. At a bank counter, depositing my payroll checks. Shaking hands with a salesman, purchasing my first car.

Call it selfish, call it whatever ya like, but after struggling for money all my life, my dreams have always come before ours.

Still, I link our hands. “I’m ready to go.”

* * *

“Hallelujah!”

The congregation mimics my pastor’s booming voice. The women flick their fans faster with excitement. Pastor Frank shuffles to the right, then to the left, sixty-some eyes following his every movement. From the choir pews off to the side, I watch his mesmerized flock hang on his every word, myself included. My ma is amidst the familiar faces. She prefers to use Daddy’s brown hat to cool herself, holding on to him even after he’s been gone all these years. I can’t say I blame her.

“Amen!” we chime.

Pastor Frank nods at me, and I move from the choir box to the piano. I bring my hands down and the first chords of “Onward, Christian Soldiers” roar to life. Every Sunday, I sit on this here bench, press my fingers into the keys, and let the Lord’s words roll off my tongue. Ma says Daddy would be proud too. I sure hope that’s true.

It’s another reason why I’ll make something of myself. In our small town or in a big city, it doesn’t matter much, but Bonnelyn Parker is going to be somebody. Wherever life takes me, whatever final notice stands in my way, my daddy will look down on me and smile, knowing I ain’t struggling, I’m thriving. I’m more than poor.

I push my voice louder, raise my chin, and sing the hymn’s last note, letting it vibrate with the piano’s final chord.

The congregation shouts praises to the Lord as Pastor Frank clasps his hands together and tells us all to, “Go and spread His word.”

Voices break out, everyone beating their gums at once. I slip off the bench, weave through the crowd. A few people are always louder than the rest. Mrs. Davis is having a potluck lunch. Mr. Miller’s best horse is sick. He spent his early morning hours in his barn, from the looks of his dirty overalls.

Ma’s got more pride than a lion and makes certain we’re dressed to the nines, even if our nine is really only a five. Still, my older brother’s vest and slacks are his Sunday best. And even though we’ve got secondhand clothes, my sister’s and my white blouses are neatly tucked into our skirts. We may be pretending to look the part, but our family always gets by. We find a way, just like we’ll make sure that electric bill gets paid. Though I don’t like how Ma let this bill get so late.

I rush through the church’s double doors, sucking in fresh air, and shield my eyes from the sun. A laugh slips out. There’s my brother, playing keep-away from my little sister with one of her once white shoes. Buster tosses the shoe to Roy. Roy fumbles it. No surprise there, but part of me wonders if his nerves from earlier are sticking ’round. On the way to church, he wouldn’t let me get a word in, going on nonstop ’bout the weather. I reckon the summer of 1927 is hot, real hot, but not worth all his fuss.

“Little Billie, those boys picking on you?” I call, skipping down the church steps, keeping my eyes on Roy.

He takes immediate notice of me, missing my brother’s next throw. “Say, Bonnelyn.” Roy wipes his hairline. “I was hoping to do this before church, but you were having trouble with your…” He gestures toward his own hair, then stops, wisely thinkin’ better of it. “I’ve a surprise for you.”

“A surprise? Why didn’t you tell me so? I could’ve hurried.”

He also wisely doesn’t comment on my earlier irritation at being hurried.

“Follow me?” Roy asks, his brown eyes hopeful.

“Not today, lover boy,” Buster cuts in. “Bonn’s watching Billie.”

Billie hops toward me on one foot, her voice bouncing as she proclaims how she’s eleven and doesn’t need to be babysat no more. I bend to pick up her lost shoe, letting out a long sigh. Roy sighs too. But Roy also looks like a puppy that’s been kicked.

“Will the surprise take long?” I ask him. “Buster doesn’t need to be at work for another two hours.”

“Actually an hour,” my brother says. “But Roy here probably only needs a few minutes, tops.” He winks, and Roy playfully charges him.

My cheeks flush, and not ’cause Roy and I have done that. Roy hasn’t even looked at me in a way that would lead to that.

“Let’s go.” I bounce on my toes and push Roy down the dirt-packed street, then realize I don’t know where I’m going and let Roy lead. Buster’s laugher trails us.

We go over one block, passing my house, nestled between the cemetery and the library. An old picket fence that Ma’s been harping on my brother to paint for ages stretches ’cross the front.

Cement City is barely more than an intersection, and there ain’t much farther to go; just the cement plant, a few farms, and the river. Then there are the railroad tracks, separating us from Dallas.

I glance up at Roy, confused, when we stop at a home just past the library.

He motions toward the house, his sweaty hand taking mine with his. He swallows, his Adam’s apple bobbing.

“What is it?” I ask him. “Why’re we here?”

“My father said they are going to tear down this old shack.”

With its crooked shutters, chipped paint, caved-in roof, I can understand why. No one’s lived here for years, and Ma doesn’t go a day without complaining ’bout its drab looks and how it’s bad for our little town.

I nod in agreement.

“But,” he says, “I’ve been squirreling away my pennies, and I’ve enough to save her.”

A cool heat rushes me, but I’m not sure how that’s possible. I wipe a strand of hair from my face. “You’re buying this here house?”

“I am,” he says, his Adam’s apple bouncing again. “For you and me. Our house.” Roy keeps talking before I can get a word—or thought—in. “Bonnelyn…” He trails off, digs into his pocket. “Here’s another one for your jar.”

My eyes light up, recognizing one of Roy’s infamous black-and-white doodles.

It’s our church.

It’s Roy.

It’s me, in a puffy dress.

I look up from the doodle. It’s Roy no longer standing in front of me but down on one knee.

“Bonnelyn Elizabeth Parker,” he says, “I’m fixin’ to take you down the middle aisle.”

I knit my brows. “Are you proposing?”

“Well I ain’t down here to tie my shoe.”

I’d laugh, but I’m stunned. Marriage? With Roy? I swallow, and stare at the drawing, his lovely, heartfelt drawing.

Sure, marrying Roy has always been in the cards. But … I’m not sure I’m ready yet. Some people wait ’til their twenties to get married, in today’s day and age, giving ’em plenty of time to make their own mark.

Roy taps the underside of my chin, forcing my gaze away from his doodle and down to him.

“I … um … I’m flattered Roy. I am. But we’re only seventeen—”

“Not now.” He stands slowly and palms my cheek that’s probably as flushed as his own. “We’ve got some growing up to do first. I know you got dreams for yourself.”

I sigh, in a good way. Hearing him acknowledge my goals relaxes me. Those jitterbugs change a smidge to butterflies. “You really want to marry me?”

“I do, Bonn.” Roy leans down, quite the feat to my five-foot-nothin’ height, and presses his lips lightly to mine. “When we’re good and ready. You tell me when, and that’ll be it. We’ll create a life together. How does that sound?”

I smile, even while my chest rises from a shaky breath. I curse my nerves for dulling my excitement. My boyfriend declaring he’s ready to build a life with me shouldn’t give me the heebie-jeebies. It doesn’t, I decide.

“We’ll finish school,” Roy says.

I force my smile wider.

“I’ll get a good-paying job as a reporter,” he goes on. “You can become a teacher, like you’ve always wanted. You can lead the drama club, be onstage, do pageants with our little girls.”

Now my grin is genuine. “We’re going to have little girls?”

“Of course. A little fella, too. ’Til then, I’ll fix this house up. She’ll be spiffy when I’m done with her, white picket fence and everything.”

“You think?”

“I know it.” He dips to my eye level. “You’re happy, right?”

Am I happy? I roll those five letters ’round my head. Yes, I’ve been stuck on Roy for ages. He made me happy when we were seven and he picked me dandelions, when we were ten and he stopped Buster from making me kiss a frog, when we were thirteen and he patched up my knee after I fell off my bike. The memories keep on coming, and I don’t want that happiness to stop. His proposal caught me off guard, that’s all. But, yes, we’ll make something of ourselves, and we’ll do it together.

I lean onto my tiptoes and peck his lips with a kiss. “Roy Thornton, I’d be honored to be your wife one day.”

He hoots, swooping his arms under me. Before I know it, I’m cradled against his chest and we’re swinging in a circle.

I scream, but it’s playful. “You better not drop me, you clumsy fool.”

He answers me with a kiss on the side of my head, and then another and another, as he carries me toward my ma’s house.

Freeze, I think. I don’t want the secure way he holds me, the way the air catches my skirt, the hope for what’s to come, to stop, ever.

Copyright © 2017 by Jenni L. Walsh

About the Author:

Jenni L. Walsh spent her early years chasing around cats, dogs, and chickens in Philadelphia’s countryside, before dividing time between a soccer field and a classroom at Villanova University. She put her marketing degree to good use as an advertising copywriter, zip-code hopping with her husband to DC, NYC, NJ, and not surprisingly, back to Philly. There, Jenni’s passion for words continued, adding author to her resume. She now balances her laptop with a kid on each hip, and a four-legged child at her feet.

 

Thank you to Jenni L. Walsh and Forge Books for providing me with an extract for my blog today! It was truly an honour to participate!

This novel is available now!

Pick up a copy from your favourite retailer or from one of the following links:

                                          

For more information on Jenni L. Walsh visit her website at: jennilwalsh.com 

or follow her on Twitter at: @jennilwalsh

#BookReview
After the Fall by Julie Cohen
@julie_cohen @StMartinsPress

Synopsis:

From the author who brought you Dear Thing, Julie Cohen, comes After the Fall — a poignant, beautifully heartbreaking novel about what it means to be family, the ties that bind us, and the secrets that threaten to tear us apart.

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?


Book Rating: 8.5/10

Thought-provoking, reflective and deeply moving!

This is an intriguing novel that emphasizes the enduring mental and emotional anguish that can be caused by underlying grief, secrets, guilt, family dynamics, sexuality struggles, friendship and loneliness and emphasizes the importance of acceptance, closure, forgiveness and love.

The prose is expressive and clear. The characters are consumed, troubled, wounded and real. And the character-driven plot interweaves the lives of these three generations of women as they learn to cope, survive, support and love each other unconditionally.

This truly is an absorbing, emotional novel that is incredibly captivating and will tug at your heartstrings from start to finish.

This is the first novel I have ever read from Julie Cohen but I can tell you it definitely won’t be my last.

About the Author:

 

Julie Cohen grew up in Maine, USA, and studied English at Brown University, Rhode Island and Cambridge University in England. She moved to the UK permanently to research fairies in Victorian children’s literature at the University of Reading, and then taught English at secondary level. She now writes full time and is a popular speaker and teacher of creative writing. She lives with her husband and their son in Berkshire. She is also the author of Dear Thing and Where Love Lies.

 

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

This novel is due to be published on May 2, 2017. 

Pick up a copy from your favourite retailer or from one of the following links.

                                            

For more information on Julie Cohen, follow her on Facebook at: julie-cohen.com

or on Twitter at: @julie_cohen

#BookReview
Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
@LizStrout @randomhouse

Synopsis:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout comes a brilliant latticework of fiction that recalls Olive Kitteridge in its richness, structure, and complexity. Written in tandem with My Name Is Lucy Barton and drawing on the small-town characters evoked there, these pages reverberate with the themes of love, loss, and hope that have drawn millions of readers to Strout’s work.

“As I was writing My Name Is Lucy Barton,” Strout says, “it came to me that all the characters Lucy and her mother talked about had their own stories—of course!—and so the unfolding of their lives became tremendously important to me.”

Here, among others, are the “Pretty Nicely Girls,” now adults: One trades self-respect for a wealthy husband, the other finds in the pages of a book a kindred spirit who changes her life. Tommy, the janitor at the local high school, has his faith tested in an encounter with an emotionally isolated man he has come to help; a Vietnam veteran suffering from PTSD discovers unexpected solace in the company of a lonely innkeeper; and Lucy Barton’s sister, Vicky, struggling with feelings of abandonment and jealousy, nonetheless comes to Lucy’s aid, ratifying the deepest bonds of family.

With the stylistic brilliance and subtle power that distinguish the work of this great writer, Elizabeth Strout has created another transcendent work of fiction, with characters who will live in readers’ imaginations long after the final page is turned.


Book Rating: 8.5/10

Powerful, compelling and extremely thought-provoking!

In this latest novel by Strout she delves into the enduring emotional and psychological effects that socioeconomic differences, gossip and war has on some of the people we were introduced to in her previous novel “My Name is Lucy Barton” from the small town of Amgash, and highlights that every family has its struggles and life is never easy.

The characters are raw, troubled and vulnerable. The prose is sophisticated and smooth. And the plot is written in the form of nine linking stories that are full of familial drama, introspection, anger, shame, remorse, disappointment, abandonment, forgiveness, survival, support and love.

This is certainly a deeply moving novel that emphasizes just how much our childhood experiences shape us and reminds us of the importance to always believe that anything is truly possible!

Thank you to NetGalley, especially Random House, for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

This novel is due to be published on April 25, 2017.

Pick up a copy from your favourite retailer or from one of the following links. 

                                          

For more information on Elizabeth Strout, visit her website at: elizabethstrout.com

or follow her on twitter at: @LizStrout

#BookMail
Thank You!
@BonnierZaffre @PGCBooks @HarlequinBooks

Look at all my wonderful book mail this week!

 

Thank you Bonnier Zaffre for sending me The Body in The Ice by A. J. MacKenzie.
I am honoured to be part of the blog tour for this novel on April 26, 2017.


Thank you Publishers Group Canada for sending me
Need You Dead by Peter James and Mothers and Other Strangers by Gina Sorell.
They both look fantastic and I can’t wait to read and review them!

Thank you Harlequin Books for sending me two copies of Red Clover Inn by Carla Neggers and two door hangers so I can host a giveaway on my blog.
It was extremely generous of you and I am truly thrilled!
😘😘😘
For more information on Bonnier Zaffre and their upcoming releases check out their website at: bonnierzaffre.co.uk
For more information on PGC Books and their upcoming releases check out their website at: pgcbooks.ca
For more information on Harlequin and their upcoming releases check out their website at: harlequin.com

#BookReview
The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley
@lucindariley

Synopsis:

Ally D’Aplièse is about to compete in one of the world’s most perilous yacht races, when she hears the news of her adoptive father’s sudden, mysterious death. Rushing back to meet her five sisters at their family home, she discovers that her father – an elusive billionaire affectionately known to his daughters as Pa Salt – has left each of them a tantalising clue to their true heritage.

Ally has also recently embarked on a deeply passionate love affair that will change her destiny forever. But with her life now turned upside down, Ally decides to leave the open seas and follow the trail that her father left her, which leads her to the icy beauty of Norway…

There, Ally begins to discover her roots – and how her story is inextricably bound to that of a young unknown singer, Anna Landvik, who lived there over 100 years before, and sang in the first performance of Grieg’s iconic music set to Ibsen’s play ‘Peer Gynt’. As Ally learns more about Anna, she also begins to question who her father, Pa Salt, really was. And why is the seventh sister missing?

Following the bestselling The Seven Sisters, The Storm Sister is the second book in Lucinda Riley’s spellbinding series based loosely on the mythology surrounding the famous star constellation.


Book Rating: 9/10

Fascinating, enchanting and bittersweet!

This story is predominantly set in Norway during the late 1800s, as well as present day, and is told from two different perspectives, Ally, a young sailor who journeys to Scandinavia to unravel the mystery surrounding her ancestry after suffering heartbreaking tragedies; and Anna a country girl with an angelic voice that at times was not only a blessing but a curse.

The story, itself, is a dramatic tale filled with family, love, loss, grief, introspection, and new beginnings; as well as a comprehensive look into the composition of music and the art of sailing. 

The prose is lyrical, fluid and vividly descriptive. The characters are complex, intriguing, sympathetic and real. And the plot is written in a back and forth, past/present, style that captivates and engages you as it sweeps you along through the highs and lows of both Ally and Anna’s life.

This once again is another large novel by Riley, with over 700 pages, but it is so remarkably researched and well written that before you know it the story is finished and you’re yearning for more. I absolutely loved this story and even though it can be read as a standalone novel I strongly recommend you read The Seven Sisters (Book #1) first.

If you haven’t already done so, pick up a copy of this story from your favourite retailer or from one of the following links. 

                                          

For more information on Lucinda Riley, visit her website at: lucindariley.co.uk

or follow her on Twitter at: @lucindariley

#BookReview
It Happens All The Time by Amy Hatvany @AmyHatvany @AtriaBooks

Synopsis:

From master storyteller Amy Hatvany—whose writing has been hailed as “gripping and emotionally honest” (Stephanie Evanovich, New York Times best-selling author)—comes a provocative and compelling novel about two friends whose lives are changed by a drunken kiss.

I want to rewind the clock, take back the night when the world shattered. I want to erase everything that went wrong.

Amber Bryant and Tyler Hicks have been best friends since they were teenagers—trusting and depending on each other through some of the darkest periods of their young lives. And while Amber has always felt that their relationship is strictly platonic, Tyler has long harbored the secret desire that they might one day become more than friends.

Returning home for the summer after her college graduation, Amber begins spending more time with Tyler than she has in years. Despite the fact that Amber is engaged to her college sweetheart, a flirtation begins to grow between them. One night, fueled by alcohol and concerns about whether she’s getting married too young, Amber kisses Tyler.

What happens next will change them forever.

In alternating points of view, It Happens All the Time examines the complexity of sexual dynamics between men and women and offers an incisive exploration of gender roles, expectations, and the ever-timely issue of consent.


Book Rating: 8.5/10

Intense, emotional and extremely impactful!

This is a heartbreaking story that delves into the devastating and enduring physical and psychological effects of acquaintance rape and reminds us that sometimes good people make bad decisions and do bad things.

The story is narrated from two different perspectives and uses a past/present style to give both depth and understanding to all the relationships and connections between the characters. 

The prose flows seamlessly. The characters are young, multi-layered and sympathetic. And the plot is engrossing, fast paced and full of ups, downs, tension and drama.

This ultimately is a deeply moving story about friendship, trust, sexual dynamics, power, violence, betrayal and revenge and even though the subject matter is incredibly dark I highly recommend it.

Thank you to NetGalley, especially Atria Books, for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

This book is due to be published on March 28, 2017.

Pick up a copy from your favourite retailer or from one of the following links.

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CanadaIndigoBook DepositoryB&NKobo

For more information on Amy Hatvany, visit her website at: amyhatvany.com

or follow her on Twitter at: @AmyHatvany

#BookReview
Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser @jessicastrawser @StMartinsPress

Synopsis:

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.

Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.


Book Rating: 8/10

Emotional, captivating and well-paced!

This is a perceptive novel that delves into the complex relationship between a husband and wife and highlights the detrimental effects suppressed guilt can have on the psyche. 

The writing is well done. The characters are flawed, deceptive and selfish. And the plot is an intricate web of secrets, lies, manipulation, desperation, heartache, grief, shame, and destiny.

Overall I think this is a well written, enthralling debut from Strawser that ultimately reminds us life is all about choices and good or bad those choices define us.

Thank you to NetGalley, especially St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

This book is due to be published on March 28, 2017.

Pick up a copy of this novel from your favourite retailer or from one of the following links.

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CanadaIndigoKoboBook DepositoryB&N

For more information on Jessica Strawser, visit her website at: jessicastrawser.com

or follow her on Twitter at: @jessicastrawser

#BookReview
City of Friends by Joanna Trollope #JoannaTrollope @PGCBooks

Synopsis:

She glanced at her phone again. There were appeals from the girls, from her colleagues, a text from Steve reading with uncharacteristic imperiousness, ‘Call me.’ She couldn’t. She couldn’t call anyone . . . She leaned forward, gripping the edge of the bench, and stared at the ground. God, she thought, am I losing my mind? Is this what happens when you lose your job? 

The day Stacey Grant loses her job feels like the last day of her life. Or at least, the only life she’d ever known. For who was she if not a City high-flyer, Senior Partner at one of the top private equity firms in London? As Stacey starts to reconcile her old life with the new—one without professional achievements or meetings, but instead, long days at home with her dog and ailing mother, waiting for her successful husband to come home—she at least has The Girls to fall back on. Beth, Melissa and Gaby. The girls, now women, had been best friends from the early days of university right through their working lives, and through all the happiness and heartbreaks in between. But these career women all have personal problems of their own, and when Stacey’s redundancy forces a betrayal to emerge that was supposed to remain secret, their long cherished friendships will be pushed to their limits.


Book Rating: 8/10

Thought-provoking, intriguing and deeply moving!

This is Joanna Trollope’s twentieth novel and once again she has written a mature story that delves into the complexities and inevitability of change on relationships, both familial and friendship, graciously.

The characters are strong, ambitious, troubled and real. The prose is smooth and sophisticated. And the plot is an engaging mix of depth, emotion, determination, acceptance, communication, love and support.

Overall I would have to say this is an enjoyable, satisfying story that highlights the difficulties and struggles women still face today when juggling high-powered careers, marriage and motherhood and reminds us how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go.

Thank you to NetGalley, especially Publishers Group Canada, for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Pick up a copy from your favourite retailer or from one of the following links. 

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CanadaIndigoBook DepositoryKobo

For more information on Joanna Trollope, visit her website at: joannatrollope.com

#BlogTour #GuestPost
Gustave Flaubert: The Ambiguity of Imagination by Giuseppe Cafiero

Synopsis:

What would happen if a character, even if only roughly sketched in the mind of a writer, decided to take on a life independent of his creator in order to take revenge against all the other characters that this author had created in his other books?

This is what happens to the legendary writer Gustave Flaubert, when his character Harel-Bey comes to life with a grudge to bear. Even the imaginary characters of books that Monsieur Flaubert has never actually written, but had long pondered and discussed with his most intimate friends, begin to stir with their own motivations.

Quite unexpectedly, Harel-Bey begins a long and difficult journey through the writings of Monsieur Flaubert to try to understand the reasons that induced the writer to write so many books and stories, but never the one that would have had him as leading protagonist. As a vengeful killer, Harel-Bey is determined to murder all of the protagonists of the books and stories Flaubert has written.

In the company of a certain Monsieur Bouvard, himself the star of another book which Flaubert had started but never finished, Harel-Bey seeks his revenge. There’s will be a mission rich in disturbing discoveries, revealing the reasons and the irrationalities of fictionalised reality and unreal fiction.

About The Work of Gustave Flaubert:

It was almost a duty to write about Gustave Flaubert.

Flaubert is a unique writer, sublime in his stylistic perfection. A very good reason to be intrigued, so that it’s all the more interesting to explore him, his work as a writer, his life.

An arduous journey but a rewarding one, because Flaubert remains inimitable and he reciprocates every effort to know him with fascinating and unexpected discoveries that prompt investigations and explorations. Flaubert created a myriad of unforgettable characters whom he then released so that they could live their own lives in the minds of his readers.

Therefore, I thought that it would be very stimulating to write a story which would also involve the characters in Flaubert’s books, to allow them to experience a fascinating and different adventure.

Almost an irregular book that would, in some way, go beyond the classic and stereotyped schemes of narrative tradition to explore distinctive notes from a different, perhaps even dark and suggestive, perspective, and above all with the urgent and emotional participation of one sitting down to write, nurturing a particular admiration for Flaubert.

A true interest and a particular interest are the primary reasons for my journey into Flaubert’s world. Almost an intimate and specular journey characterized by two primary elements: his life and the characters in his books. These two ingredients, never so specifically explored in other writings on Flaubert, were, in my opinion, fundamental in Flaubert’s literary life and thus they became the pillars on which to construct a sequence of events, a narrative, a literary game.

Then there are the obsessions. Obsessions that were almost a paradigm necessary to better understand Flaubert the man and the writer. Obsessions that were subtle and tragic spells that consumed him slowly and inexorably. Especially the obsessions with writing, the obsessions with creativity, the obsession with an imposed solitude when he took to living in his Croisset retreat along the banks of the Seine among roses and honeysuckles, the obsession with satisfying and unsatisfying loves: for his mother and for his mistress Louise Colet.

A life that appeared to be a frantic and relentless race toward already reached and unreachable goals previously proposed as destinations to be conquered, hence a painful race without him ever having set aside that manifest rationality of principle that always governed his life.

Flaubert also represented, and represents, a particular moment in regard to any type of traditions, customs and consolidated habits in nineteenth-century writing. Flaubert’s was an artistic break implemented and practised by means of an operational complexity that involved him as a man able to put himself on the line against an excessively conformist society.

When we consider his choice as a writer able to overcome past customs of writing and of psychological investigations of the characters he created, what immediately stands out is his specificity in the care taken in the writing he proposed as an absolute communicative sign, as a unique occasion to present images that seem alive and an integral part of the narrative discourse.

Thus Flaubert recounts the plots and the characters through the use of expressive notes which provide, with a magical commitment and iron will, a persuasive and enchanted tale, an incomparable sign of writing.

For Flaubert, writing becomes a mission, almost a rite. A votive ritual for which there is significant value in narrating stories that must respect a rite which is no longer the bourgeois rite but an investigation capable of demonstrating new sensations whilst experimenting with new languages.

In the definition of his narrative style, reality assumes a value that is almost a moving immortality rich in compelling drama, because quite often life is not always full of mellow merriments, of affable sweetness, of pleasant realities.

Indeed the writing is used to express feelings and to evoke and arouse strong emotions, exactly in the contrasts when characters are placed side by side. The style is characterized principally by assiduously sought words, able to create three-dimensional effects in a choral ensemble that is a unique representation of writing hitherto never employed or conceived.

Therefore, Flaubert’s writings are imbued with vitality in a form that seems to caress expressionist tones. A continuous theme that leads to precise, intimate, persuasive writing. On closer look, it is nothing but writing with dimensions limited to places and people: people become necessary to survive, thus to participate in the story, in life, in becoming.

It was necessary then to define the places, the circumstances, the people. Places as identities of a life, circumstances as a mirror of psychological conditions, people as occasions to decipher sentiments.

Flaubert was, therefore, a unique, decidedly innovative writer, a precise calibrator of feelings and events.

About the Author:

Giuseppe Cafiero is a prolific writer of plays and fiction who has produced numerous programs for the Italian-Swiss Radio, Radio Della Svizzera Italiana, and Slovenia’s Radio Capodistria. The author of ten published works focusing on cultural giants from Vincent Van Gogh to Edgar Allan Poe, Cafiero lives in Italy, in the Tuscan countryside.

It was an honour to have Giuseppe Cafiero guest post today!

Pick up a copy of this novel from your favourite retailer or from one of the following links.

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For more information on Giuseppe Cafiero, visit his website at: giuseppecafiero.com

or follow him on Facebook at: giuseppe.scrittore

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