TLC Book Tour Review: Driving Lessons by Zoe Fishman

Publisher: William Morrow

Publication Date:   April 8/2014

Pages:  336

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Source:  TLC Book Tours

Synopsis:

Sometimes life’s most fulfilling journeys begin without a map.

An executive at a New York cosmetics firm, Sarah has had her fill of the interminable hustle of the big city. When her husband, Josh, is offered a new job in suburban Virginia, it feels like the perfect chance to shift gears.

While Josh quickly adapts to their new life, Sarah discovers that having time on her hands is a mixed blessing. Without her everyday urban struggles, who is she? And how can she explain to Josh, who assumes they are on the same page, her ambivalence about starting a family?

It doesn’t help that the idea of getting behind the wheel—an absolute necessity of her new life—makes it hard for Sarah to breathe. It’s been almost twenty years since she’s driven, and just the thought of merging is enough to make her teeth chatter with anxiety. When she signs up for lessons, she begins to feel a bit more like her old self again, but she’s still unsure of where she wants to go.

Then a crisis involving her best friend lands Sarah back in New York—a trip to the past filled with unexpected truths about herself, her dear friend, and her seemingly perfect sister-in-law…and an astonishing surprise that will help her see the way ahead.

quick mix review

Buy/Borrow/Bargain:  Library Loaner

Quick or Long Read: Even thought it’s not a big book, it was a loooong read!

The Cover: Absolutely stunning!  However, I didn’t feel that it truly represented the storyline.  Perhaps, the cover is trying to encompass the life of a small town with hope in a jar, but that’s me stretching it.

The Title: I love the title.  The title is truly a reflection of what the book is about: learning a new life.

Audience:  Those like enjoy Women’s fiction!

Overall Thoughts: I really struggled with this book.  I loved the beginning of the book, but the storyline moved so slowly that I found myself daydreaming…and reading is my escape.  So, if I’m daydreaming, while reading, well- that’s just not a good sign.  The characters were likeable, the plot was quite realistic and ordinary to me, you, your neighbor.  I wanted a little bit more pizzazz, some bigger issues to show the strength and transformation of the characters, since the book was more character driver and not plot driven.  Overall, it was a good book.  It’s a cozy read that people will enjoy reading as a break from more heavier topic books.

good cupcake 3

About Zoe FishmanZoe Fishman

Zoe Fishman is the author of Balancing Acts and Saving Ruth. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and son.

Find out more about Zoe at her website, follow her on Twitter, and connect with her on Facebook.

Tour Stops

Tuesday, April 8th: BoundbyWords

Wednesday, April 9th: Bibliotica

Thursday, April 10th: cupcake’s book cupboard

Monday, April 14th: missris

Tuesday, April 15th: Books in the Burbs

Wednesday, April 16th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf

Thursday, April 17th: Seaside Book Nook

Monday, April 21st: Write Meg

Tuesday, April 22nd: Luxury Reading

Wednesday, April 23rd: A Bookish Way of Life

Thursday, April 24th: From L.A. to LA

Monday, April 28th: The Well-Read Redhead

 

 

 

Book Review: The Never Never Sisters by L. Alison Heller

Publisher: St. Martin’s
Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2011
Pages: 336
ISBN: 978-0-312-54270-2
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Format: E-book
Source:  NetGalley
Synopsis:
An absorbing, highly entertaining novel about family secrets, The Never Never Sisters introduces you to the strong-willed and big-hearted Reinhardt women, as they reunite one summer in New York. Gifted storyteller L. Alison Heller has written another witty and moving page-turner that will captivate readers and keep them guessing right up until the satisfying end. 

Sometimes you just need to get away….Marriage counselor Paige Reinhardt is counting down the days to summer, eager to reconnect with her workaholic husband at their cozy rental cottage in the Hamptons. But soon a mysterious crisis at Dave’s work ruins their getaway plans. Paige is still figuring out how to handle the unexplained chill in her marriage when her troubled sister suddenly returns after a two-decade silence. Now, instead of enjoying the lazy summer days along the ocean, Paige is navigating the rocky waters of a forgotten bond with her sister in the sweltering city heat.

As she attempts to dig deeper into Dave’s work troubles and some long-held family secrets, Paige is shocked to discover how little she knows about the people closest to her. This summer, the self-proclaimed relationship expert will grapple with her biggest challenge yet: Is it worth risking your most precious relationships in order to find yourself?

quick mix review

Buy/Borrow/Bargain:  Borrow

Themes:  family secrets, mental illness, family separation, siblings, marriage issues

Quick or Long Read:  Quick

The Cover:  Beautiful cover! Love how it shows the sisters are close, or will be close…

The Title:  Didn’t quite understand it, as it’s not their last name and not any reference made to the title.

Overall Thoughts: Paige is a very part-time therapist, who sees one patient throughout the book.  Her husband is suspended for work and Paige doesn’t know why.  Sloan is her sister, who disappeared when Paige was a little girl, and never knew why.  Their mother is quite happy when Sloan returns to their hometown, with her fiancé.  Paige has many revelations regarding her marriage, her role in her parent’s life, and how to come to terms with not having a sister for the majority of her life.  Sloan is a free spirit, bi-polar (unmedicated), and never really addresses her issues with her parents.  Paige learns family secrets, has decisions to make regarding her own marriage, and the kind of relationship she wants with her family.  Overall, it’s a good story with not much depth to the characters.  I would have liked more information on Sloan’s life (before returning home), and the issue with her husband was quite glazed over. However, the ending was a little sweet.

Audience: Women’s fiction reader, who like cozy stories.

Rating:  A Good cupcake

 

 

 

 

TLC Book Review: Vintage by Susan Gloss

 

 

Publisher:  William Morrow

Publication Date:  March 25, 2014

Pages:  320

Format:  Paperback

ISBN-10: 006227032X

Source:  TLC & Publisher

Synopsis:

At Hourglass Vintage in Madison, Wisconsin, every item in the boutique has a story to tell . . . and so do the women whose lives the store touches.

Yellow Samsonite suitcase with ivory, quilted lining, 1950s

A small-town girl with a flair for fashion, Violet Turner had always dreamed of owning a shop like Hourglass Vintage. But while she values the personal history behind each beautiful item she sells, Violet is running from her own past. Faced with the possibility of losing the store to an unscrupulous developer, she realizes that despite her usual self-reliance she cannot save it alone.

Taffeta tea-length wedding gown with scooped neckline and cap sleeves, 1952

Eighteen-year-old April Morgan is nearly five months along in an unplanned pregnancy when her hasty engagement is broken. When she returns the perfect vintage wedding dress to Violet’s shop, she discovers a world of new possibilities, and an unexpected sisterhood with women who won’t let her give up on her dreams.

Orange silk sari with gold paisley design, 1968

Betrayed by her husband, Amithi Singh begins selling off her vibrant Indian dresses, remnants of a life she’s determined to leave behind her. After decades of housekeeping and parenting a daughter who rejects her traditional ways, she fears her best days are behind her . . . until she discovers an outlet for her creativity and skills with a needle and thread.

An engaging story that beautifully captures the essence of friendship and style,Vintage is a charming tale of possibility, of finding renewal, love, and hope when we least expect it.quick mix review

  •  Buy/Borrow/Bargain:  The cover is so gorgeous! If it’s a bargain, snag it!
  • Themes:  Love lost, friendships, loss/disappointment, loneliness, new beginnings, stories told through items
  • Quick or Long Read:  Quick
  • The Cover:  Gorgeous!!  The dress is everything vintage-lace, style of dress, with peek-a-boo red on the rose and belt.
  • The Title:  Love the name!! It is definitely a great fit for the book!
  • Overall Thoughts:  Violet is the owner of Hourglass Vintage, and she is faced with the possibility of losing her store.  At that time, 3 customers, who soon become close friends, start this adventure with Violet.  Vintage is everything a light read should have: adventure, love lost, friendships gained, and a little something special along the way.
  • Audience:  Anyone that loves vintage items, is a boutique shopper, women, women’s fiction readers, and those who want a great weekend read!
  • Rating:  A Great Cupcake

 

my book thoughtsI remember attending university, in a small town, and there was a street of little antique shops.  I’ve always loved books, and remember walking into a vintage shop with rare copies of books.  Of course, I couldn’t afford them, but I did find a book I could afford.  I had no idea what it was about, but I was drawn to the book cover.  It was dark brown with a gold emblem on top. It turned out to be an etiquette book from the 1920′s.  Being the non-hoarder that I am, I think I donated it to some place and wish I had kept it.

This book reminds me of that.  Well, the characters do.  Violet is a store owner of vintage items.  She is faced with the prospect of having to sell her store, and doesn’t know what to do.  Violet is running from her past, and the store is a great diversion for that.  She meets 3 women, who each have their own share of issues and together, the 4 of them become great friends-who overcome obstacles, experience new beginnings, dream bigger, and become their own little support system.

I love how Susan starts each chapter with a vintage item that somehow weaves itself into the storyline.  It was a great way to begin each chapter and had me wondering which item would be introduced next.  While Violet is the main character, Susan highlights each character’s story in different chapters, so that readers can learn more about the background to each woman.  It is such a heartwarming book, one that many will love, and gives people an appreciation for vintage!great cupcake rating 4

 

*A huge thanks to TLC Book Tours for giving me an opportunity to be on this tour!

 

Tour Stops:

Tuesday, March 25th: BookNAround

Wednesday, March 26th: Book Hooked Blog

Thursday, March 27th: Book-alicious Mama

Monday, March 31st: Kritters Ramblings

Tuesday, April 1st: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, April 2nd: Bibliotica

Thursday, April 3rd: A Bookish Way of Life

Tuesday, April 8th: Doing Dewey

Wednesday, April 9th: Suko’s Notebook

Thursday, April 10th: Walking With Nora

TBD: Books in the Burbs

About Susan Gloss

Susan Gloss is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Wisconsin Law School. When she’s not writing fiction, Susan can be found working as an attorney, blogging at GlossingOverIt.com, or hunting for vintage treasures for her Etsy shop, Cleverly Curated. She lives with her family in Madison, Wisconsin.

Find out more about Susan at her website, connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and see what she’s pinning on Pinterest.

 

 

 

SheReads April Book of the Month: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Publisher:  Algonquin Books

Published Date: April 1, 2014

Length:  272 pages

ISBN-10: 1616203218

Genre:  Contemporary Literature

Source:  She Reads & Publisher

Format:  Ebook

Synopsis:

The #1 Indie Next Pick and the #1 Library Reads Selection for April 2014!

In the spirit of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Gabrielle Zevin’s enchanting novel is a love letter to the world of books—and booksellers—that changes our lives by giving us the stories that open our hearts and enlighten our minds.  

On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

quick mix review

  •  Rent/Buy/Borrow:  Definitely a keeper!  Buy the book-it’s worth the price!
  • Themes:  widowhood, adoption, family secrets, community, relationships
  • Quick or Long Read:  It was a quick read!
  • The Cover:  The cover doesn’t do the story justice.  However, I absolutely love the U.K cover and it gives a great picture to the idea of what the story is about.
  • Overall Thoughts:  It’s a book about a bookstore owner, who has decided how he will live the remainder of his life.  However, fate has a different idea.  Working in the bookstore, and living above it, the story mainly takes place in the small store that becomes a community meeting place.  A.J. Fikry becomes the father to a little girl, left at his store, which is when he gets a new lease on life and love.  A true gem of a book, it’s a book that many will love!
  • Audience:  Anyone that loves contemporary fiction, a love story wrapped up in a little book, a story about the relationship between a father and his daughter, a great read for an afternoon or two.

my book thoughts

I absolutely loved this story.  From the first few pages, I was immediately hooked and wanted to know more about the quirky, “old” bookseller, A.J. Fikry.  He is an Edgar All Poe collector, and an old copy of EAP’s book, “Tamerlane”.  One night, that is book is missing and a little girl appears in his bookstore with a note attached from the girl’s mother.

The story is so cleverly written, almost like a fairy tale, because of the oddity of a little girl being left in the bookstore and the magical relationship she and A.J. have.  However, it goes far beyond a fairy tale. There is heartache, lessons learned, and love reborn.  Above all, the cranky and detached A.J. creates a family consisting of the townspeople and his little girl.

I loved Amelia’s character, too.  She is a young woman, who loves books so much, that she takes a low paying job of being a publicist rep.  She has to take the long trip to Alice Island, where she meets A.J. for the first time.  From there, a relationship grows as both her passion of books and A.J.’s gives them much in common.  Even, their commonality of feeling lonely.

With nods to some great literary works and book clubs, this book will easily become a favorite for many bibliophiles.  More than anything, it will make readers more curious when they go to their own little bookstore and wonder what magical finds are awaiting them, too!

supreme cupcake rating 6

Author Links

Website   |   Facebook   |   Pinterest   |   Tumblr

 

HFVBT Book Review: Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter by Anne Clinard Barnhill

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Released: March 18, 2014

Format: Kindle

Pages:  320

Source:  HFVBT & Publisher

Synopsis:

Mistress Mary Shelton is Queen Elizabeth’s favorite ward, enjoying every privilege the position affords. The queen loves Mary like a daughter, and, like any good mother, she wants her to make a powerful match. The most likely prospect: Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. But while Oxford seems to be everything the queen admires: clever, polished and wealthy, Mary knows him to be lecherous, cruel, and full of treachery. No matter how hard the queen tries to push her into his arms, Mary refuses.

Instead, Mary falls in love with a man who is completely unsuitable. Sir John Skydemore is a minor knight with little money, a widower with five children. Worst of all, he’s a Catholic at a time when Catholic plots against Elizabeth are rampant. The queen forbids Mary to wed the man she loves. When the young woman, who is the queen’s own flesh and blood, defies her, the couple finds their very lives in danger as Elizabeth’s wrath knows no bounds.

My Review:

Two words: BLOWN AWAY!  First of all, I absolutely love the book cover.  It is the perfect illustration of Mary and Queen Elizabeth’s relationship: Mary was often in her shadow, as she should be, however the heart always has another direction it wants to go!

Before I started the story, the author writes a little bit of a prologue. I am in awe of Anne’s courage, fighting spirit as she battled cancer, and that she was able to write this book in the midst of her own struggle.  Also, she is a descendent from Queen Elizabeth’s lineage, which makes this story even more fascinating for the readers, as I am sure it was for her when she researched the people in her book.

While I have read a lot of historical fiction novels about Queen Elizabeth I, and even saw the movies, this book sheds light on another side to the Queen.  In this book, readers will see a vulnerability that other books may not show.  While she is Queen of England and being courted by suitors, she manages to make time for her beloved Mary.  Queen Elizabeth also experiences the heartache of loving her “Sweet Robin”, Robert Dudley, who she can never marry.  Robin is also like a father or dear uncle to Mary, who she looks to for guidance and favor with the Queen during a moment most needed.

Mary is a young woman, who is quite similar to Queen Elizabeth.  Unlike the other maidens, she maintains her “virtue” with the other courtiers and does believe in love, rather than fortune.  She has an opportunity to marry for fortune, but chooses not to marry the Earl of Oxford, which Queen Elizabeth supports.

Throughout the story, readers see what court is like, how Queen Elizabeth handles issues with other countries, Catholics vs. Protestants, as well as the Queen Mary of Scots and the Duke of Norfolk.  It was quite interesting to see how Queen Elizabeth handled all these pressures, dealt with the people in her court, and maintain the relationships she had with her maidens.

Mary has her own challenges of falling in love with a Catholic widowed father of 5 and pleasing the Queen.  I was stunned…just stunned with the way the events unfolded at the end and saddened by Mary’s relationship with Sir John and how their story ends.

This is an incredible book, one that many will love! If you love historical fiction, Tudor history, interested in another aspect of Queen Elizabeth’s history, young love, and just want a great read-then this book is it!  Anne does a remarkable job with keeping the book focused more on the characters and their struggles, rather than just get bogged down with historical facts.  It’s a beautiful story and one that is now an absolute favorite of mine!

*A huge thanks to HFVBT for allowing me the opportunity to join this tour!

About the AuthorAnne Clinard Barnhill

Anne Clinard Barnhill has been writing or dreaming of writing for most of her life. For the past twenty years, she has published articles, book and theater reviews, poetry, and short stories. Her first book, AT HOME IN THE LAND OF OZ, recalls what it was like growing up with an autistic sister. Her work has won various awards and grants. Barnhill holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Besides writing, Barnhill also enjoys teaching, conducting writing workshops, and facilitating seminars to enhance creativity. She loves spending time with her three grown sons and their families. For fun, she and her husband of thirty years, Frank, take long walks and play bridge. In rare moments, they dance.

For more information, please visit Anne Clinard Barnhill’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, March 10
Review at Words and Peace
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, March 12
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, March 13
Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Friday, March 14
Review at The Lit Bitch

Monday, March 17
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, March 18
Spotlight & Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, March 19
Review at One Book at a Time

Thursday, March 20
Review at Book-alicious Mama

Friday, March 21
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, March 24
Review at She is Too Fond of Books

Tuesday, March 25
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, March 26
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Thursday, March 27
Review at Book of Secrets

Friday, March 28
Review at Scandalous Women

Monday, March 31
Review at HF Book Muse – News
Review & Giveaway at WTF Are You Reading?

Tuesday, April 1
Interview at HF Book Muse – News

Thursday, April 3
Review at Books in the Burbs

Friday, April 4
Review at The True Book Addict
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks

Monday, April 7
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Tuesday, April 8
Review at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, April 9
Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, April 10
Review at The Most Happy Reader

Friday, April 11
Review at Silver’s Reviews
Review at The Musings of ALMYBNENR

 

 

 

 

 

TLC Book Tour Review & Giveaway: Shadows in the Sun by Gayathri Ramprasad

 

Publication Date: March 4th 2014
Publisher:
Hazelden
Source: Publisher/ TLC Book Tours
Format: E-book
Pages:  240
Genre:  Memoir
Synopsis:
“Everyone who struggles with a mental illness, or who knows anyone with depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness, must read this engrossing true story of courage in the face of heartbreaking adversity.”
—Dilip V. Jeste, MD, president, American Psychiatric Association

As a young girl in Bangalore, Gayathri was surrounded by the fragrance of jasmine and flickering oil lamps, her family protected by Hindu gods and goddesses. But as she grew older, demons came forth from the dark corners of her idyllic kingdom—with the scariest creatures lurking within her.

The daughter of a respected Brahmin family, Gayathri began to feel different. “I can hardly eat, sleep, or think straight. The only thing I can do is cry unending tears.” Her parents insisted it was all in her head. Because traditional Indian culture had no concept of depression as an illness, no doctor could diagnose and no medicine could heal her mysterious malady.

This memoir traces Gayathri’s courageous battle with the depression that consumed her from adolescence through marriage and a move to the United States. It was only after the birth of her first child, when her husband discovered her in the backyard “clawing the earth furiously with my bare hands, intent on digging a grave so that I could bury myself alive” that she finally found help. After a stay in a psych ward she eventually found “the light within,” an emotional and spiritual awakening from the darkness of her tortured mind.

Gayathri’s inspiring story provides a first-of-its-kind cross-cultural view of mental illness—how it is regarded in India and in America, and how she drew on both her rich Hindu heritage and Western medicine to find healing.

My Review:
This was an interesting read, as Gayathri writes about the challenges of acclimating to America, from India, where her faith, family, and teachings are deeply rooted.  It is learning opportunity for those not familiar with the Hindu faith and for those who are familiar, it’s a great homage. With a glossary at the end of the book, any reader will be able to understand the terminology used throughout the book.
I was most interested in the Indian culture and how the arranged marriage impacted Gayathri.  It was also quite shocking that in a country where women dress so beautifully and are educated, men still have an upper hand, as one man actually paid the college professor for Gayathri to fail-which was her first remembered descent into a deep depression.  Using their Hindu faith and traditional medicines, Gayathri’s parents try different ways to help her escape the traps of her mind.  However, she is unable to and hides her illness from everyone, feeling even more isolated.  In the midst of it all, Gayathri is at the expected age of arranged marriage, and she does her best to hide the depression that has truly affected every part of her life.
The most interesting part of the story is reading how Gayathri moves to America and the cultural differences she experiences and the ways she tries to integrate her faith and beliefs into an American lifestyle.  Married to a supportive husband, Gayathri continues to feel isolated, becomes quite thin (not by choice or anorexia), and describes the post-partum depression she experiences, the treatments she receives and how she not only improves, but vows to help others, too.
I would have liked the book to have focused more on the cultural assimilation to America, and to have had more pages to truly feel the author’s struggles.  However, it was also understandable there were times she was writing from second hand knowledge, as she had memory gaps-so there were times the writing did seem to gloss over  the demise she experienced.  Nonetheless, it is a great book to help break the silence people experience and the stigma depression has.  She breaks down many myths about depression: isn’t because one is weak minded (she is very educated), without family support (she has tremendous family support), isn’t because one is “wanting” attention (she would have done anything to remove depression from her life), and especially that depression isn’t a death sentence (she overcomes her mental illness, has a beautiful family, and is the founder of a wonderful organization).  This book provides hope to many and is a great tool for helping others understand the impact of depression.
great cupcake 4
About the Author:
Gayathri Ramprasad is the founder and president of ASHA International (myasha.org), a nonprofit organization promoting personal, organizational, and community wellness. Gayathri received her first undergraduate degree in science from Bangalore University in India. At George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, she earned a second undergraduate degree in management and information systems and a master’s in business administration. She is a member of the Global Speakers Federation and winner of the prestigious Eli Lilly Welcome Back Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Voice Award for Consumer Leadership sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

For more information, visit the website for ASHA International, Gayathri’s nonprofit organization promoting personal, organizational, and community wellness HERE.

Gayathri Ramprasad’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, March 3rd:  Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Tuesday, March 4th:  Bookfoolery

Tuesday, March 11th:  A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, March 12th:  The Whimsical Cottage

Thursday, March 13th:  Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, March 18th:  Lavish Bookshelf

Wednesday, March 19th:  Sarah’s Book Shelves

Monday, March 24th:  The Best Books Ever

Monday, March 24th:  Literally Jen

Tuesday, March 25th:  Bookish Ardour

Thursday, March 27th:  Books in the Burbs 

Friday, March 28th:  Good Girl Gone Redneck

TBD:  Booksellers Without Borders

 

book giveaway logo

Win a copy of the book, courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours!

One random winner will be selected on April 10, 2014.

Open to US/Canada.

In the comments section:

Name

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Answer Question:  What most interests you about this book?

TLC Book Review: Two Sisters by Mary Hogan

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: March 4/2014

Pages:  384

Source: TLC Book Tours & Publisher

Rating: An Excellent Cupcake

Synopsis:

One family, two sisters, a lifetime of secrets . . .

The third child in a family that wanted only two, Muriel Sullivant has always been an outsider. Short, dark-haired, and round, she worships her beautiful blond sister, Pia, and envies the close bond she shares with their mother, Lidia. Growing up in their shadow, Muriel believes that if she keeps all their secrets—and she knows plenty, outsiders always do—they will love her, too.

But that was a long time ago. Now an adult, Muriel has accepted the disappointments in her life. With her fourth-floor walk-up apartment and entry-level New York City job, she never will measure up to Pia and her wealthy husband, their daughter, and their suburban Connecticut dream home. Muriel would like nothing better than to avoid her judgmental family altogether. One thing she does quite well.

Until the day Pia shows up to visit and share devastating news that Muriel knows she cannot tell—a secret that will force her to come to terms with the past and help her see her life and her family in unexpected new ways.

Two Sisters is a powerful and poignant debut novel about two sisters—opposites in every way—as well as their mother and the secrets and lies that define them all.

My Review:

This book, on the surface, can seem quite simple.  Two sisters, both treated differently by their parents, living separate lives, have different relationships with their parents (as adults), and how an illness can bring a family together or separate them further.  However, there were so many layers to this book, that it made it quite interesting all the way through.

What I believe the author, Mary Hogan, truly shows is how hurt people marry other hurt people, and how those hurts can turn to rejection experienced by their children.  It’s a cycle, it’s a family pattern, and it’s sadly one that happens all the time.

Through Muriel’s pain, readers are introduced to the relationship she has with her mother, father, and siblings.  Pia is the woman, every woman wants to be on the outside.  Perfect relationship with her mother, husband, and the mom of a beautiful child.  She has the perfect body, perfect home, finances for anything her heart desires, even a full-time maid.  However, as life always shows: no one is immune to illness.

Pia, in her own way, wants to make amends with Muriel.  However, Murial uses this time to uncover family secrets and face the family, she has worked hard at avoiding.  Muriel is the girl, most will relate to.  Why? Because she opens the most vulnerable part of herself, as she shares different experiences that caused her pain, rejection, humiliation, and sorrow.

It was also interesting to see that regardless of how unemotionally connected Muriel’s mother is, Muriel works in a profession that reminds her most of the times she shared with her mom (even if she was simply used).  It was also quite interesting to see how Lydia and Owen stay together, despite their lack of love, simply because it was expected of them with their respective families.  Lydia is in love with someone else, who is married to his job (so to speak), and had they married would have been shunned from their communities.  Owen, while he is the most quiet in this story, has the greatest heartache.  He doesn’t marry a woman that did love him, he loses his relationship with his children, and he never fully comes full circle in his life.

Two Sisters is a window into one family, where two adults married for different reasons: none of which was for true love.  Sadly, it is their children who may the price for that and it impacts the relationships they have as adults.  Even Muriel’s brother, who doesn’t appear until the very end of the book, has his own reasons for shunning the family.

This is a powerful read.  I imagine many readers will experience disgust, sadness, and anger as each character unfolds in each chapter.  However, Mary Hogan does a remarkable job of bringing her readers to the brink with Muriel, only to give a ray of hope and some happiness for Muriel’s future.

If you love women’s fiction, contemporary literature (although the time period is questionable), relationships about families, love books about the underdog finding his/her voice, then you will love this book!

Also, did I mention the cover?  The cover is gorgeous, although it doesn’t really go with the storyline.  Maybe if it had been the suit, Pia picks out for herself, it would have fit.  Regardless, it is still a great book!

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*This book was provided by TLC & the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. No forms of compensation were given.

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About the Author:

Mary Hogan is the NAPPA Award-winning author of seven young-adult books. Two Sisters is her first novel for adults. She lives in New York City with her husband, Bob, and their dog, Lucy.

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She Reads March Book Review: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Publication Date: January 21, 2014
Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 304
Obtained:  She Reads & Publisher
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Synopsis:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells comes a novel about heartbroken people finding hope at a magical place in Georgia called Lost Lake.

Suley, Georgia, is home to Lost Lake Cottages and not much else. Which is why it’s the perfect place for newly-widowed Kate and her eccentric eight-year-old daughter Devin to heal. Kate spent one memorable childhood summer at Lost Lake, had her first almost-kiss at Lost Lake, and met a boy named Wes at Lost Lake. It was a place for dreaming. But Kate doesn’t believe in dreams anymore, and her Aunt Eby, Lost Lake’s owner, wants to sell the place and move on. Lost Lake’s magic is gone. As Kate discovers that time has a way of standing still at Lost Lake can she bring the cottages—and her heart—back to life? Because sometimes the things you love have a funny way of turning up again. And sometimes you never even know they were lost . . . until they are found.

My Review:
Being a bit of a realist, this new kind of genre: whimsical fiction, is new for me.  I don’t even know if it is really a legitimate, certifiable, been approved by the book readers and writers of the world-kind of genre.  But, it fits for this book.

Kate is a recent widow, and having basically given her life over to her mother-in-law, to manage and control, Kate one day snaps out of it.  Going through boxes, her daughter comes across a post card from Lost Lake and both decide to venture over there as a one last thing to do, before living with Cricket (the mother-in-law).  Eby is Kate’s aunt and has made the decision to close Lost Lake and sell it to a big time developer.

Throughout the story, readers will become more acquainted with the visitors of Lost Lake, as will Kate and her daughter Devin.  Devin notices the magical qualities of Lost Lake, talks with an alligator (telepathically), and both help Kate, Eby, and others from Lost Lake make peace with their past and embrace their future.

I loved the storyline, the way Kate and Jack reconnect, and the interesting story of the alligator.  I loved the quirky characters in the book, such as Lisette and Selma.  The story weaves together so well, and even had me wishing I was there with them!

I loved the book and would highly recommend this to those who love a great story, enjoy fairytales, love women’s literature, and just want a great read.  I am also most amazed by the author.  As she was fighting her diagnosis of cancer, she created such a beautiful place with a storyline that deals with real issues, and characters we’ve all met or have in our life.  I am truly in awe of Sarah’s work and am glad she wrote a book with happy sprinkles to share with everyone!

 

 

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New Cover Reveal & Book Giveaway: The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag

Early LibraryThing Book Review & Giveaway: Starter House by Sonja Condit

Fiction Addiction Book Tours Review: Mary Bennet by Kate Allan

Synopsis:
No one who has ever seen me would suppose me a heroine. My situation in life, the character of my father and mother, indeed my own person and disposition are all against me.

MARY BENNET

Mrs Bennet is determined that all five of her daughters must marry. Mary overhears a conversation between her parents that shatters her already fragile sense of self-worth. She knows she is the least attractive of the sisters but to hear that her attempts to overcome this by being intelligent and accomplished are laughable sends her into a deep depression.

Mary and her her sister Kitty are sent to Derbyshire so that their elder sister, Mrs Darcy, can introduce them to suitable young gentlemen. Mary is satisfied to remain a spinster and is shy with gentleman. But she does decide she should try and improve herself.On the way to Derbyshire she meets a strange gentleman who she considers ill mannered. However she is intrigued by his knowledgeable conversation about old buildings.

On arrival at Pemberley, the home of the Darcy’s, Mary discovers that the stranger is a Mr Sharnbrook of Kent and also a house guest. Mr Sharnbrook is an amateur archaeologist and has come to Pemberley to excavate possible burial mounds as part of his studies. Mary is interested in his work and offers to help him sort out his notes. Engrossed in the work, her spirits begin to lift.

A continuation of Pride and Prejudice beginning eight months after the end of Jane Austen’s novel, Mary Bennet tells the story of how the Bennet’s neglected middle daughter tries to overcome the disadvantages of her character and find happiness.

My Review:

I have read, and re-read, Pride and Prejudice, many times. It is my favorite book that Jane Austen wrote, although I am a huge fan of all of her work.  In this book, Mary Bennet, Kate Allan uses much of the same pattern, experiences, and characters that Jane Austen created in Pride and Prejudice.  It helped create a natural extension of Jane Austen’s book, and was crafted in a way, that the characters in Mary Bennet stayed true to their characters, first revealed in P&P.

Mary is the middle child, the forgotten one (so it seems), and she is quite content to be so.  Why? Because she has already decided that fate has determined she will be a spinster and will not marry.  While it is difficult for her parents to accept, Mary is content reading, singing, and enjoying the activities that are limited to her male counterparts.  However, rather than feel comfortable doing so, her parents and family want her to “change” and be more “girl-like” with dancing and entertaining, so that she may find someone to marry.  Kitty is quite different- not only in her personality, but she has a strong desire to marry.  While she wants love, more than anything, she wants security, wrapped up in a very handsome man.

I loved the storyline, especially the relationship between Mary and Mr. Nick Sharnbrook.  As in P&P, Mary also is in a bit of a triangle with Mr. Sharnbrook and Mr. Collins, and Kitty quickly becomes a little like Lydia, in attitude and choices-although not quite ( I won’t divulge).  I enjoyed reading about the research that Nick and Mary collaborate on together.  It was amazing to be reminded again, how limited resources were back in those days, and how they excavated and recorded their findings.  Those little tidbits were what made this book fascinating.  It was also quite natural how the relationship between Mary and Nick (Mr. Sharnbrook) evolves over time.

Fans of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth will absolutely love how their relationship evolves and the new adventures they embark on.  With so many cameos from the P&P cast, readers will enjoy learning more about their journey, relationships, and little adventures along the way.  More than anything, I appreciated Kate’s desire to show how Mary is accepted for who she is, and is able to find love with someone who appreciates those qualities in her.

About the Author

Kate lives in the Bedfordshire countryside, England, close to the Chiltern Hills. She developed plans to be a novelist at the age of seven after reading about the career of prolific children’s author Enid Blyton, whose adventure and mystery story books she read avidly. She taught herself to use her mother’s typewriter to try and make her stories look like “proper books”. Endlessly fascinated by “the past”, Kate took a degree in History before starting a commercial career.

She began seriously writing in 2001, taking a notebook with her on the train to make best use of her commute to work. She wrote two historical novel manuscripts before receiving an offer of publication for the second – a short novel – in 2004 from DC Thomson. Fateful Deception is a romantic adventure set in the early 19th century and was shortlisted for the 2005 RNA New Writers Award.

2006 saw the publication of Perfidy and Perfection, Kate’s romantic comedy set in Jane Austen’s England, and the publication of two short novels: Fateful Deception and The Restless Heart.

Kate also writes in partnership with author Michelle Styles under the name Jennifer Lindsay. Jennifer Lindsay’s first novel, The Lady Soldier, is a romantic adventure about a lady who disguises herself as a man in order to join Wellington’s army. It was published in 2005.

The kind of stories Kate writes are those that she would like to read, and she hopes that others will find them enjoyable and entertaining too.

Kate is member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors.

Author Links

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Facebook

Twitter @kate_allan

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Book Review: While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

ISBN: 9780399166235
Pages: 432
Release Date: February 20, 2014
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books / Putnam
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: NetGalley& Publisher

Synopsis:

A beautiful princess lies in a sleep so deep it is close to death. Was Sleeping Beauty revived by a prince’s kiss? What really happened in that tower so long ago?

While Beauty Slept re-imagines the legend through the lens of historical fiction, telling the story as if it really happened. A Gothic tale of suspense and ambition, love and loss, it interweaves the story of a royal family and the servants who see behind the glamorous facade, following the journey of a young woman as she lives out a destiny that leads her to the brink of death.

My Review:

Out of all the Disney princess movies, Sleeping Beauty, was one of my least favorites.  So, I really had no idea what to expect from this book, but I am glad did read it!

I love the way Elizabeth Blackwell takes a treasured children’s story, and expands on it in such a creative and genius way!  Even if you have not read Sleeping Beauty or seen the movie, like me, you will understand this story and appreciate the direction that Elizabeth takes this book.

With Elise’s point of view, readers gain an insider’s view to the Queen, Maleficent, and even Princess Aurora.  The story truly reads as if it is based on an actual historical event, or at least a real place, which is what makes this book so special.  Regardless of a “fantasy” place, readers will genuinely love the relationship Elise develops with different palace workers, the Queen, and her own love story, that is weaved in.  Overall, a beautiful story and one that will delight readers!

*This book was provided by NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

 

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