Monday, October 15, 2018

Book Review: Miss You

By Becky Gulc

‘Tess and Gus are meant to be. They just haven't met properly yet. And perhaps they never will...

Today is the first day of the rest of your life is the motto on a plate in the kitchen at home, and Tess can't get it out of her head, even though she's in Florence for a final, idyllic holiday before university. Her life is about to change forever - but not in the way she expects.

Gus and his parents are also on holiday in Florence. Their lives have already changed suddenly and dramatically. Gus tries to be a dutiful son, but longs to escape and discover what sort of person he is going to be.

For one day, the paths of an eighteen-year-old girl and boy criss-cross before they each return to England.

Over the course of the next sixteen years, life and love will offer them very different challenges. Separated by distance and fate, there's no way the two of them are ever going to meet each other properly . . . or is there?’ (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)

For some reason that I can’t explain, this book was sitting on my review shelf way too long before it was finally, and carefully, selected as one of my holiday reads. It was suggested that if I enjoyed One Day (I loved it), I’d love Miss You too. That’s quite a promise, isn’t it? I was a little skeptical about this and wondered if it would offer something different. Well, to sum it up, this is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. To me, perfection.

I fell for both Tess and Gus straight away. The narrative follows them both equally over the years and both were equally endearing, with a touch of sadness and vulnerability to both of them that makes you root for them to get together, somehow. These characters are loyal; they are tackling their own demons and just get on with life, even if it means putting themselves second.

But this novel is different as they only meet very briefly in the beginning, and even that is fleeting and seemingly insignificant to each of them at the time. So I found it fascinating just to see each of their lives evolve, with it being clearly obvious to the reader how perfect they could be for one another. It could have frustrated me, but it didn’t. It was beautifully written, warm and organic.

Another thing I loved about this novel was that it wasn’t predictable. The ending was beautiful and heart-rendering. Just a forewarning that some difficult subjects are covered in the novel including cancer and bereavement. I couldn’t recommend this book highly enough and can’t wait to read more from Kate Eberlen.

Thanks to Mantle for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, October 12, 2018

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
Christmas at the Chalet by Anita Hughes from St. Martin's Press
Otherwise Engaged by Lindsey Palmer from Skyhorse Publishing (e-book via NetGalley)
Forget You Know Me by Jessica Strawser from St. Martin's Press
Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks from Grand Central Publishing
The Secret We Lost by/from Linda Smolkin (e-book)
Christmas Joy by Nancy Naigle from St. Martin's Press
The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth from St. Martin's Press (e-book via NetGalley)
The Adults by Caroline Hulse from Random House (e-book via NetGalley)
Bonjour Girl by/from Isabelle LaFleche
The Object of Your Affections by Falguni Kothari from Kathleen Carter Communications
All that Matters by/from Tracy Krimmer (e-book)

Sara:
The Unscripted Life of Lizzy Dillinger by Marianne Hansen from Lola's Blog Tours (e-book)
A Christmas Date by Camilla Isley from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Erin Cole's story of hope ...plus a book giveaway

How often do you meet someone and think that they have their life together and everything must have come so easy to them when they were growing up? You might think that by looking at Erin Cole, but you would be wrong in assuming her childhood was perfect. She tells us as much in her powerful memoir, The Size of Everything, which she co-wrote with Jenna McCarthy. She's here to tell us more about her book and has THREE copies to give away!


Erin Cole is a designer and author who has been dressing discriminating brides around the world for over 20 years. With her high-fashion style and exquisite taste, the designer’s passion lies in the finest of details. Today, Erin Cole is celebrated in the bridal market for her stunning gowns, couture veils, and one-of-a-kind tiaras, hairpins, flowers, sashes, brooches, and necklaces. The Erin Cole collection can be found in over 175 stores around the globe. (Bio courtesy of Erin's website.)

Visit Erin online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest


Synopsis:
As the face of her eponymous couture bridal business, Erin Cole radiates refined elegance. But the designer’s glamorous lifestyle and sweeping success belie a childhood marked by profound dysfunction.

Raised on a steady diet of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and death, no one would have expected Cole to go on to become a force in the fashion world. As a child, she often had no access to food; other times she was force-fed until she vomited. At home and at school, she was beaten, bullied and belittled. Her alcoholic parents alternately abused and ignored her. By the age of sixteen, she was living on her own.

The Size of Everything is Cole’s moving story and so much more. Equal parts heartbreaking and hilarious, it’s a love letter to her surviving siblings, a how-not-to-parent manual, a testament to the power of positivity, and proof that where you come from doesn’t have to determine where you can go. Above all, The Size of Everything offers a powerful message of hope to anyone who believes that impossibly rocky beginnings can’t have a happy ending. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

How did you go from designing bridal gowns to writing a memoir?
For the longest time, I kept my past a secret even from my closest friends. It wasn’t because I was ashamed, I just didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for me. But my story was always gnawing at me from the inside; it was as if it wanted to be told. I figured if I could help one person who was suffering as I had suffered, it would be worth it. My career—along with my sense of humor I believe—is what saved me. Having a creative outlet and being surrounded by supportive women was and is so important to me. Something tells me that if I had decided to pursue accounting or data storage, I wouldn’t have wound up writing a memoir.

What is something new you learned about yourself while writing The Size of Everything?
Where do I start? I learned that it can be incredibly scary—and also wonderfully liberating—to revisit your past. I discovered that despite how often or how fully my parents betrayed me, I still want to protect them, even posthumously. I learned that people will call you brave for sharing your story, even when not sharing it would have been the harder option. And most of all, I learned that your friends can be everything that your family wasn’t, and that while you can’t go back and re-write the beginning of your story, you can always change the ending.

If a movie were made about The Size of Everything, which actor would portray you?
My co-author says all the time it’s a tossup between Demi Moore and Sandra Bullock. Maybe we can get them to duke it out?

What is your favorite thing about October?
I love all the seasons, but by the end of any one of them, I’m ready for the next. October is amazing because it means boots and sweaters and soups and stews and it’s almost time to break out the holiday decorations. Warm food and fuzzy blankets just make you feel safe and cozy. What’s better than that?


If you could design a bridal gown for your favorite book or movie character, who would you choose and what would the gown look like?
Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. She'd be spectacular in a clean, elegant gown with just a touch of shimmer. Of course, you could put Julia Roberts in a grain sack and she’d be stunning.

What is something your friends would say is "so you"?
I guess because of my upbringing, to me food is love. If you come to my house, I don’t make one appetizer; I make six. And then I put out a cheese platter for you to nibble on while I’m cooking. I will feed you until you can barely walk, and then I’ll send you home with a doggy bag. It’s because I love you!

Thanks to Erin for visiting us and for sharing her book with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Giveaway ends October 16th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Book Review: The Lies We Told

By Jami Deise

There’s something especially chilling about the evil kid genre. Whether she’s featured in a movie or a book, The Bad Seed (both the original and the new Lifetime version) is born this way, which makes her incorrigible, inexplicable, and destined for horrible things. A few months ago, Atlantic magazine even featured an article about treating child psychopaths, implying that it’s not an uncommon concern.

In British author Camilla Way’s latest thriller, The Lies We Told, Beth knows there’s something very wrong with her daughter Hannah. In Cambridgeshire in 1986, she tries to make her husband Doug see that Hannah’s pranks are more than mere childish games.

In London in 2017, Clara’s boyfriend Luke has disappeared… and as the days pass, it’s clear that this is no lad’s adventure he’s fallen into. As Hannah grows up and Beth begins to fear her more and more, Clara’s timeline takes more time: The days pass, the investigation grows deeper, and Clara begins to wonder whether she knew her boyfriend at all. While the two separate mysteries develop, the question in the reader’s mind—how will these two storylines converge?—takes a while to answer, but when Way does answer the question, the revelation is a satisfying, if predictable one.

The writing in this thriller is strong, and the characters are very well-developed. Beth and Clara are both third-person point-of-view protagonists, and they are such different women that the reader never gets too comfortable in a single storyline. Way pulls no punches with her plot points, and there’s never a feeling of safety in the prose.

It doesn’t require a spoiler alert to say that Hannah is the psychopath in question, and her deficits drive the story. But most criminals are not psychopaths, and readers should not be lulled into a false sense of security because Way points a finger so quickly in the narrative.

The Lies We Told starts with a bang and gets better and better with each chapter. Although this is Way’s fourth book, it’s the first one I’ve read, and I’ll be going over her backlist to catch the ones I’ve missed.

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Camilla Way:

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Heather Frimmer's prescription for good reading...plus a book giveaway

We are thrilled to have Heather Frimmer here to celebrate the publication of her debut novel, Bedside Manners. Melissa A read the book and enjoyed it (reviewed here). She also connected with Heather on social media and learned that they share a love for musical theater. She's here today to talk about her novel and some other fun topics. Thanks to Suzy Approved Book Tours, we have one copy to give away!

Heather Frimmer is a physician by day, specializing in diagnostic radiology and breast imaging, and an avid reader and writer at all other times. A published book reviewer across multiple websites, including Books, Ink and Booktrib, and a member of the Westport Writers’ Workshop, she lives in Connecticut with her husband and two sons.

Visit Heather online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
As Joyce Novak’s daughter, Marnie, completes medical school and looks ahead to a surgical internship, her wedding, and a future filled with promise, a breast cancer diagnosis throws Joyce’s own future into doubt. Always the caregiver, Joyce feels uncomfortable in the patient role, especially with her husband and daughter. As she progresses through a daunting treatment regimen including a biopsy, lumpectomy, and radiation, she distracts herself by planning Marnie’s wedding.

When the sudden death of a young heroin addict in Marnie’s care forces Marnie to come face-to-face with mortality and her professional inadequacies, she also realizes she must strike a new balance between her identity as a doctor and her role as a supportive daughter. At the same time, she struggles with the stark differences between her fiancĂ©’s family background and her own and comes to understand the importance of being with someone who shares her values and experiences.

Amid this profound soul-searching, both Joyce and Marnie’s futures change in ways they never would have expected.

Which authors or books inspired you to become a writer?
Lisa Genova, the author of Still Alice and Every Note Played, along with several other wonderful novels, has been my major inspiration. I love how she uses her expertise as a neuroscientist to explore the details of a specific neurologic disease, its emotional ramifications and the ways the disease impacts everyone in the patient’s sphere. I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite—her books are all that good. I also admire Jennifer Weiner’s writing—I read her novels the day they release. The way she can make a story compulsively readable and hilarious while still addressing serious topics is incredible.

Who do you relate to more in Bedside Manners: Joyce or Marnie?
I almost feel like I am part of the Novak family after spending so much time with them over the past few years. Marnie is similar to me in a lot of ways and some of her experiences during medical training are based on things either I or my friends encountered on the wards. Joyce’s character was inspired by many different patients I’ve interacted with over the years. Though I didn’t do it on purpose, she also has a lot in common with my own mother. The creative powers of the subconscious can be scary.

If you could cast Bedside Manners as a movie, who would play the lead roles?
Marnie would be played by Emmy Rossum. I think she’s one of the most talented actresses working today. Her performance as Fiona Gallagher on Shameless is truly masterful. Barbara Hershey could play Joyce. She’s about the right age and could look the part. The two actresses also look like they could be related. I hate when family members on TV shows/movies look like there’s no way they could possibly share genetic material.

What is something about you that would surprise us?
I was a competitive figure skater up until ninth grade. The insanity of that world makes an appearance in my novel in progress, a family drama about a neurosurgeon who makes the questionable choice to operate on his sister-in-law. It’s a complex story of addiction, love and survival on the operating table. The surgeon’s teenage daughter is on a figure skating team.

What new TV series do you plan to watch this fall?
I am definitely going to watch the second season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I love the creative story and gorgeous sets and costumes. The final season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend drops in October and I can’t wait. The show is hilarious and irreverent and the tongue-in-cheek nods to Broadway are right up my alley.

Since your book is focused on medical situations, what is the strangest injury you've ever experienced (or seen someone you know experience)?
I have been very lucky to be relatively healthy so far. But I do have a mild case of psoriatic arthritis (similar to rheumatoid arthritis). On a family trip to Disney World a few years ago, my right knee blew up to five times its normal size and my husband had to push me around the park in a wheelchair. My sons were thrilled they were allowed to bypass the lines with their very own personal FASTPASS!

Thanks to Heather for visiting with us and Suzy Approved Book Tours for sharing her book with our readers. Visit the other stops on Heather's tour.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Giveaway ends October 14th at midnight EST.


Monday, October 8, 2018

Book Review: Relatively Normal

By Sara Steven

Successful New York City event planner, Catriona Masterton, has been on a mission to keep her new fiancé from meeting her family. This Thanksgiving, she's flat out of luck when orderly and regimented Ethan Crenshaw declares he will meet the Masterton Clan.

It's not that Cat's ashamed of her eccentric family, but how does one explain a mother with a kitchen gadget fetish, a father whose best friends are taxidermied field mice, and a super stoner man-child brother who lives in the basement? That doesn't even include the fiercely-proud Scottish grandmother with a proclivity for profanity.

Just when the visit couldn't get much worse, Cat is thrown a large curve ball when her ex-boyfriend and his family show up for Thanksgiving dinner. She's torn between the order and predictability Ethan and her life in New York City represent, while her family and the Midwest pull her in a different direction. Will Cat make it out of her hometown in one piece or is she willing to embrace the chaos? Mishaps, mayhem, and confusion ensue in this laugh-out-loud tale of familial pandemonium.
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I always find a piece of myself within a Whitney Dineen novel. The characters, the eclectic and eccentric situations, they speak to me on a relative level. And speaking of relative. While reading through and becoming a part of Cat’s experiences in Relatively Normal, I couldn’t get over how much I could identify with her. I’ve been in those shoes before, having dealt with my own cautious, meticulous love interest and offbeat, peculiar family. Feeling as though I had to come up with a balance between the two polar opposites. It’s not easy.

Adding to this chaotic adventure is the ex-boyfriend, a man Cat swore she’d never see again. I really loved the emotional layers his presence brings about, a tug of war within her that only intensifies the feeling she has of not really knowing where she belongs. We get the impression that she’s done everything she can to try and distance herself from the type of life she led growing up, yet none of us can forget who we are, or where we come from.

Dineen has this special way of showcasing the emotion, while keeping her own unique comedic spin on things. Putting various characters in a room who are so completely different, giving them the leeway needed to do what they want to. From Grandma’s tell-it-like-it-is personality to Dad’s penchant for taxidermied mice and spitting pistachio shells (one of the best scenes, hands down), to the supposed normalcy of her fiancee’s family, it gives off a thrilling unpredictability to what might happen next at any given moment. And the undercurrent with all of it are lessons in tolerance. There were a lot of scenes in Normal that really showcase what it means to be a lot more accepting of others, even if they’re different or not your own idea of what’s “normal”, because, really. What is normal? It’s a refreshing take on better appreciating the people and past that has helped shape who we become in the present. Even if that means potentially dodging spittooned pistachio shells!

Thanks to Whitney Dineen for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Whitney Dineen:

Friday, October 5, 2018

Book Review: My Sisters And Me

By Becky Gulc

Meet Rae, Emmy and Noelle. They are three sisters who are tasked with renovating their childhood home for their mum Willow. Following the death of her husband/their father around a year ago it’s not somewhere Willow Lake spends a lot of time, preferring to spend her time travelling, and so came the idea of doing their home up as a holiday let. The problem is the sisters, the family, were never really welcomed in Maplewood. They were treated as dirt and the sisters never really knew why. So the thought of returning for a period of three months isn’t one that’s exactly appealing to the sisters, particularly Emmy and Noelle who have unfinished business in Maplewood. Unless they are going to stay indoors for three months can they avoid their past, the people who made their lives hell? Or will they find everyone has moved on or grown up after a decade or so? You’ll have to read this to find out!

I have LOVED Lisa Dickenson’s Christmas novels so I was excited to read another novel by her. My Sisters and Me was an enjoyable read although I didn’t love it quite as much as the Christmas novels if I’m honest but the bar has been set very high before!

The sense of place throughout the novel was fantastic. Maplewood came to life for me, as did the house (in the woods), which felt important given the focus of the story. This grew in strength throughout, and I particularly loved the last third of the novel for this. The three sisters are all quite different and I enjoyed getting to know each of them individually in their day-to-day lives before they head back to Maplewood. What I struggled with at times was empathy towards the sisters; sometimes their fears of returning to Maplewood and how they acted seemed a tad repetitive and immature given the time lapse. I felt more empathetic once as a reader I learnt more about how they’d been treated in the past (and why) by various characters that were still local.

I thought the novel picked up greatly in the build up to the Halloween party and its aftermath. There were some very funny scenes involving the local mayor. I also enjoyed how the sister’s ‘endings’ were not predictable. What this novel does well is self-awareness, being proud of who you are and where you come from and sisterhood, a definite feel-good book.

I am already looking forward to Lisa’s next novel and would happily re-join this family again; I would love to read more about Willow! If you haven’t heard of her before I would definitely recommend checking out her books for fun lighthearted reads.

Thanks to Sphere for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Lisa Dickenson: