Sunday, 29 September 2013

Review: The Benefits of Line Dancing by Edward Shull

From Goodreads:

Jim Morgan is living the life he always wanted. He's a promising young entertainment lawyer, on the verge of representing the Hollywood elite, and engaged to Emily, a beautiful, smart lawyer at his firm. He's so happy, he almost doesn't think about Amanda, the girl who ripped his heart out 8 years ago.

But one phone call changes all that, taking Jim from the glitz of Los Angeles to the small town of Ashford, Alabama, to save Amanda from going to prison. Jim knows he'll need help, so he's bringing the best criminal defense lawyer he knows: Emily, his fiancee.

Jim and Amanda's last chapter has yet to be written. And with Emily in the mix, how can this possibly end well?

My Review:

 Edward Shull, the author, kindly sent me a copy of this novel after I entered a Goodreads contest.  This is my honest review.  I read this novel a few weeks ago, but wasn't quite sure how I felt about it.  Really!  It's not often that I put a book down and don't know what to say, but this was one of those times. 

I really had a hard time getting past the first few chapters - I picked it up and put it down and read a few titles in between.  Knowing that I owed Mr. Shull an honest review however, I made a point of getting through those first few chapters - not that they were ill-written, but because I just wasn't in the mood for this style or genre.   Once I got into it however, I wanted to see how it all panned out. 

Let me tell you that there are many of my friends & acquaintances who will find this novel offensive.  It has a lot of mature themes that will not be comfortable read-through for those who stick to squeaky clean novels.   Skip this one, ladies.  

That said, I did find myself intrigued.  First love, trust issues, commitment issues, drama, conflict, small towns, illness, secrets, Hollywood and lawyers.   This had it all.  The characters were well written and wanting to see the resolution kept me hanging on.  Amanda was a mess.  Emily had a broken confidence.  And, Jim, well I don't know what to say about Jim.  I loved them. I hated them.  I wanted to give them all hugs and sometimes slap them up the head.   The content and some of the elements might not be my exact cup of tea, but there's no denying that Edward Shull is a talented writer and the quirky humour and interesting characters draw you in.

Review: The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

From Goodreads:


A heartbroken woman stumbled upon a diary and steps into the life of its anonymous author. 

In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after. 

Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily's good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life. 

A mesmerizing debut with an idyllic setting and intriguing dual story line,The Violets of March announces Sarah Jio as a writer to watch.

My Review: 

This is my quick and less-than-comprehensive review of The Violets of March as posted on my Goodreads profile.  Sorry for the lack of depth!  

The Violets of March was infused with just enough mystery and romance to capture my attention. It was a quick read and gently written with a bittersweet undertone. I was slightly confused at times - but not completely lost - and all my wondering was answered, you just have to get through the end. Recommended for anyone who enjoys a little heartbreak and a little mystery, a beautiful setting, and a premise that loss, love, and the secrets we keep shape our lives and those around us.

I gave this tile a 4/5 star review - I would recommend it for a quick read that isn't all cheesy romance.  It definitely IS a romance, but it has layers in the overall storyline.

Review: Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

From Goodreads:

Issy Randall can bake. No, Issy can create stunning, mouthwateringly divine cakes. After a childhood spent in her beloved Grampa Joe's bakery, she has undoubtedly inherited his talent. She's much better at baking than she is at filing, so when she's laid off from her desk job, Issy decides to open her own little café. But she soon learns that her piece-of-cake plan will take all of her courage and confectionary talent to avert disaster.Funny and sharp, Meet Me at the Cupcake Café is about how life might not always taste like you expect, but there's always room for dessert!

My Review:

I finished this book earlier in the week.  It wasn't my favourite, by I didn't dislike it either.  I have never read any of Jenny Colgan's novels before, so this was my first foray into her world.  I amparticipating in a group challenge where a partner selects three titles from your to-read shelf at random and you have three months to read them.  This was the first selection from my partner.

I expected Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe to have more of a Sophie Kinsella feel to it than it did.  I found it slow in the beginning, but after a few chapters, I was a little more entrenched in the plot and characters, quirks and all.  It is definitely chick-lit with all the romance, drama, and betrayal you'd expect.  However, it has the added bonus of including recipes that relate to the chapter you're currently reading.  The recipes are written by the Alzheimer-suffering grandfather to his granddaughter embarking on a new course in life and aren't written as recipes.  I think the sweetness with which they're related was one of my favourite parts of this book. 

By the end of the novel, with the inevitable happy ever after, I was smiling and wanted to know what came next - so much so that I checked out the next title in the series through my e-library.  This is not a deep read and some may find it difficult to get into the rhythm of the book.   There were some curse words sprinkled without and it did touch on mature subject matter (I feel like a parental advisory at the beginning of a television show!)  Not for everyone, but it was a quick and often sweet (yes, the pun was intentional) read.

Review: The Housemaid's Daughter by Barbara Mutch

From Goodreads:

Barbara Mutch's stunning first novel tells a story of love and duty colliding on the arid plains of Apartheid-era South Africa

When Cathleen Harrington leaves her home in Ireland in 1919 to travel to South Africa, she knows that she does not love the man she is to marry there —her fiance Edward, whom she has not seen for five years. Isolated and estranged in a small town in the harsh Karoo desert, her only real companions are her diary and her housemaid, and later the housemaid's daughter, Ada. When Ada is born, Cathleen recognizes in her someone she can love and respond to in a way that she cannot with her own family.Under Cathleen’s tutelage, Ada grows into an accomplished pianist and a reader who cannot resist turning the pages of the diary, discovering the secrets Cathleen sought to hide. As they grow closer, Ada sees new possibilities in front of her—a new horizon. But in one night, everything changes, and Cathleen comes home from a trip to find that Ada has disappeared, scorned by her own community. Cathleen must make a choice: should she conform to society, or search for the girl who has become closer to her than her own daughter?

My Review: 

First off, I have to tell you that I won an Advanced Reading Copy of this novel through the Goodreads First Reads program.  The description intrigued me and I thought, "Hey, why not?"   When I received this book in my mailbox last week, I was happy to have a new title to throw in my bag to take to an all day event that would allow for some free time between clients.  I will ashamedly admit that I know next to nothing about the Apartheid or the history of South Africa in general.  

The Housemaid's Daughter is a beautiful book.  It brought tears to my eyes it was so compelling & eloquently written.   It is not my typical light-hearted, quick escape romance, but a rich narrative on a remarkable relationship.  It was a deeply moving tale of love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, acceptance and shame, secrets and triumph, in a time and place when blurred lines could result in unspeakable danger.  

Barbara Mutch did an incredible job of drawing you into the lives, minds, and personalities of the characters.  You will feel like you are in the room with Ada, feel the emotions behind Cathleen's journal entries, and eventually become one of the family yourself.   This story is poignant and beautiful, at times both heartbreaking and heart warming.  My ARC copy was just over 400 pages but I read it in a day - a very busy day - that is how incredibly gripping this story is.   

The Housemaid's Daughter is scheduled for sale December 10, 2013.   Ask your library to order a copy, or order in advance online.  Read it for yourself and give a copy to your friends!  You don't want to miss it.  I highly recommend, especially for those who have enjoyed novels such as "The Help".   

Sunday, 8 September 2013


The last few weeks of summer seemed to pass in a blur.  With two little monkeys ready to cram as much as possible into the August days before school started again and an overwhelming number of work-related orders, we actually didn't have much time to read, let alone review any books!

I am not saying I didn't read - I'd probably be a very difficult person to live with if I didn't have a chance to decompress or get lost in a novel. However, I didn't read nearly as voraciously, and most of the books were a quick escape - fluff, if you will, rather than great literary works.  

Now that the children are back in school and our schedule resembles something with structure, the days are not as crazy and I'm finding time for me again.  I will post reviews or at least a quick synopsis of the books I read and will keep you updated on what I'm reading now.  I received a surprising number of ARCs over the last few weeks and have yet to crack their spines.  I can't wait to get lost in their pages.  

Apologies for the absence!

Friday, 16 August 2013

Review: Three Little Words (Fool's Gold) by Susan Mallery

From Amazon:

Can first love turn into the real deal? Anything can happen in a sizzling new Fool's Gold story from New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery. 

Isabel Beebe thinks she's cursed in the romance department. Her teenage crush, Ford Hendrix, ignored all her letters. Her husband left her for another…man. So Isabel has come home to dust off her passion for fashion and run the family bridal shop until her parents are ready to sell it. Then she'll pursue her real dreams. At least, that's the plan, until sexy, charming Ford returns and leaves her feeling fourteen all over again….. 

Seeing Isabel all grown-up hits bodyguard trainer Ford like a sucker punch. Back when heartbreak made him join the military, her sweet letters kept him sane. Now he can't take his eyes—or his lips—off her. The man who gave up on love has a reason to stay in Fool's Gold forever—if three little words can convince Isabel to do the same.

My Review:

Those who follow my reviews or peek at my Goodreads shelves know that I'm a huge fan of Susan Mallery.  Her romances always provide a quick, warm escape with a sure fire formula she's perfected.   Some days, and I hate to admit this, but I feel like Fool's Gold has run it's course.  The novels don't entrance me quite as thoroughly as the originals, but still, I'm hooked and when I'm reading this series, there's a part of me that wants to hang out with the girls at Jo's and take part in the small town festivals.  It's charming and the characters are sweet, and for that reason, I keep on reading. 

In Three Little Words, we have two leads who were raised in Fool's Gold, but left to pursue other interests, and have now returned for one reason or another.  We have an unrequited young adult crush.  We have failed relationships (that were almost tacky).  We have family history.  We have hidden scars.  That said, in the midst of a fake dating scenario intended to convince Ford's mom (of Hendrix family fame) that he's in a happy relationship, the heroine, Isabel, realises she's always loved him and he has to come to terms with true love. 

This one was cute.  I enjoyed it.  I rolled my eyes a few times, but in spite of some of the elements, I really enjoyed Ford & Isabel's characters and the sub-plot of Kent & Consuelo. I enjoy the portrayal of the characters with all their quirks and imperfectness.  I appreciate how I know that the characters will stumble, will hurt each other, will laugh, will cry, but will ultimately fall in love and stay in love.  This is what makes Mallery's novels charming. 

Give it a go if you enjoy the Fool's Gold series or just merely appreciate an easy to read, quick romantic novel.  Pass if you find anything "controversial" uncomfortable - there is sex and the ex-husband divorced her because he's gay - we're not talking anything X-rated, but this is a Harlequin novel. 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Review: One Heart to Win by Johanna Lindsey

From Amazon: 

Some young ladies marry for money and social standing, a few lucky ones marry for love, but Tiffany Warren is marrying to end a feud. Honoring her mother’s wishes, Tiffany reluctantly travels west to meet her estranged father and his enemy’s eldest son, rancher Hunter Callahan. Once the Warrens and the Callahans are united by marriage, both clans will stop squabbling over a disputed strip of land. But in the chaos of a train robbery Tiffany seizes a golden opportunity: By assuming the identity of her father’s new housekeeper she can live with the father she never knew while assessing the character of the neighboring cowboy to whom she is betrothed. But the moment she steps off the train, the Callahans steal the “housekeeper” from their rivals, the Warrens! 

Now Tiffany, masquerading as Jennifer Fleming, finds herself living in the enemy camp, under the same roof as her fiancé, a handsome, sweettalking charmer whom she has to fight off because he can’t keep his eyes— or his hands—off Jennifer. After Tiffany’s charade is exposed, she refuses to marry Hunter. How can she wed a man who is in love with another woman? As Hunter goes about claiming his rightful bride-to-be, he knows he loves two women—proper, elegant Tiffany as well as spunky, passionate Jennifer—but he has only one heart to win.

My Review:

I believe my mother-in-law introduced me to the world of Johanna Lindsey - historical romance, dashing and roguish strong male leads, feisty and charming females, a little bit of heat, lots of adventure, overall predictable, but enjoyable.  

This might be the first of her novels that I've found to be just so-so.  It was merely okay, it was a quick read - your typical historical romantic fluff.  Unfortunately, it was a little to "blah" for my liking.  I didn't enjoy the male lead (Hunter) all that much and actually found the side character Degan to be of more interest than Hunter.  Tiffany irked me on some level that can't even pinpoint.

The premise of the story could have been wonderful - sacrificial marriage to end a feud, but really it was one deception after another with a whole heap of trouble caused either by the lies themselves or the revelation of the lies.  The romance was lost in the shuffle of subplots and backstory and I just didn't love it.  It had potential, but was missing some of the Johanna Lindsey magic that will generally capture my attention.   This is a borrow, don't buy - and save it for a mindless read.