Monday, 13 August 2018

Review: Love Without a Compass by Lindy Zart

Team building takes on a whole new meaning—when work is the last thing on your mind . . .  
The Illinois wilderness should be a relaxing change of pace for advertising superstar Ben Stitzer. But he has one goal during this company retreat: proving to his boss how far he’ll go to succeed. Even if it means having to team up with the uber competitive, exasperatingly attractive, woman who has tried to undermine him at every turn . . .
Being in the great outdoors is Avery Scottam’s biggest nightmare. And hard as she tries, she can’t even hide her fear from Ben. When one of her especially huge freak-outs gets them lost, they’ll have to rely on each other to survive wild animals, sketchy campers, and their mutual distrust. Yet somewhere between a malevolent crow and a surprising confession, they just might end up something more than friends . . .
Will returning to civilization make them forget how truly wild they can be together?

Kindle Edition, 288 pages

Expected publication: September 4th 2018 by Lyrical Shine

Terri's Thoughts

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you.

I wanted to love this story.  Two people who are attracted to each other who are lost in the woods?  There are so many directions this story can take.  Unfortunately this story was just meh for me.

The bickering that went on between Ben and Avery got old fast.  It was so adolescent and screechy.  Yes I said screechy, they just kept doing it.  I should say it was mostly Avery that screeched while Ben sulked.  It just seemed to stretch too long for a story that is shy of 300 pages.

Also there was inconsistencies in the story.  It talked of Ben waking up and the fire being completely dead without a trace of smoke.  In the next sentence he is watching Avery's hair in the light of the fire.  Now this was an ARC so these items (along with some grammatical errors) may be corrected when the final version is published.

Once the two stopped screaming at each other and started working together, the story picked up for me.  I started liking the characters more and the story more even though it became really far fetched.  I at least was rooting for them at this point.

I have read other books by Zart and enjoyed them more than this one.  I can't give this one a thumbs up.


About the Author

Lindy Zart is a USA TODAY bestselling author that has been writing since she was a child. Luckily for readers, her writing has improved since then. She lives in Wisconsin with her family. Lindy loves hearing from people who enjoy her work. She also has a completely natural obsession with wine, coffee, peanut butter, bloody marys, and pizza. 

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When the Richardsons' friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia's.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.

Audible Audio
Published September 12th 2017 by Penguin Audio
Genre: Fiction
Narrator: Jennifer Lim

Kristine's Thoughts:

I have just recently introduced audiobooks into my life and Little Fires Everywhere was only the third one I've listened to so far. Am I ever glad that I decided to listen to this book. I chose it because it was the Goodreads 2017 winning title in the fiction catagory and I previously read Everything I Never Told You and loved it.

I am not going to re-tell this story because I can't and I won't. This book/audiobook can't be explained properly in a few short paragraphs and I truly feel it would be best enjoyed without too much forward knowledge.

This audiobook was very character driven with so much detailed character development that it would have been impossible to not feel and empathise with each and every one of them. There were so many different little stories (as the title suggests) that weaved and entangled together from different point of view that somehow when thrown together created the bigger story. Just when I was thinking I couldn't enjoy one of the characters more another would capture me just as much. I was truly surprised at how much I got lost in it and how much I could empathise with so many different sides of the same conflict. Celeste Ng did a fantastic job of fleshing out each character and conflict so that you could truly feel all sides of the story.

This book showcased how things are not always as they seem and what looks perfect on the outside isn't always so. It showed the many different faces of love and family and how the choices people make can impact the lives of many others. It was truly a fantastic story that is going to stick with me for a very long time. I loved every minute of it!

About the Author
Celeste Ng is the author of the novel Everything I Never Told You, which was a New York Times bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book of 2014, Amazon’s #1 Best Book of 2014, and named a best book of the year by over a dozen publications. Everything I Never Told You was also the winner of the Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the ALA’s Alex Award, and the Medici Book Club Prize, and was a finalist for numerous awards, including the Ohioana Award, the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award, and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award.

Celeste grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Celeste attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan), where she won the Hopwood Award. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize.

Currently, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere, will be published by Penguin Press in fall 2017.

Connect with Celeste

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Review: Four Hundred and Forty Steps to the Sea by Sara Alexander

In a richly romantic novel set in stunning Positano, Italy, Sara Alexander weaves a story of love, family loyalty, and sacrifice spanning five decades . . . Nestled into the cliffs in southern Italy's Amalfi coast, Positano is an artist's vision, with rows of brightly hued houses perched above the sea and picturesque staircases meandering up and down the hillside. Santina, still a striking woman despite old age and the illness that saps her last strength, is spending her final days at her home, Villa San Vito. The magnificent eighteenth-century palazzo is very different from the tiny house in which she grew up. And as she decides its fate, she must confront the choices that led her here so long ago . . .

In 1949, Positano is as yet undiscovered by tourists, a beautiful, secluded village shaking off the dust of war. Hoping to escape poverty, young Santina takes domestic work in London, ultimately becoming a housekeeper to a distinguished British major and his creative, impulsive wife, Adeline. When they move to Positano, Santina returns with them, raising their daughter as Adeline's mental health declines. With each passing year, Santina becomes more deeply enmeshed within the family, trying to navigate her complicated feelings for a man who is much more than an employer--while hiding secrets that could shatter the only home she knows . . .

Paperback, 416 pages
Expected publication: August 28th 2018 by Kensington Publishing Corporation

Terri's Thoughts

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher Kensington in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

I chose this story because I love a good book that spans over multiple generations.  I had a gut feeling that this would be one of those stories that would haunt me and I was proven correct.

I loved the character of Santini from the very beginning and wanted everything to work out for her.  Her quiet strength and sense of loyalty and selflessness made her a compelling character even when I wanted to slap her and tell her to wake up and choose a better life for herself.  I wish I could say the same for the men in her life as I had a dislike for all of them.

While I was not a fan of the romantic choice in the story I was still glued to the pages as it defined who Santini was and the decisions she made.  This would make an excellent selection for a book club because I could talk for hours about said men and how I felt all of them were controlling and held Santini down.  Without giving spoilers, her one true love was the worst one of all in my opinion.  I felt that he was asking too much of Santini and was controlling her life and I wasn't really rooting for the two of them together as I felt he was not worthy.

Lastly, if you love food, this would be a good choice for you.  There is a lot of time spent in the book describing the food and the preparations of it.  At first it made me hungry and I enjoyed it.  After a while, if I am being truly honest, it got a little old and repetitive and added unnecessary length to the book.  This is just my opinion, others may love it.  I recommend to read it on a full stomach.

All in all a really good read.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Happy Friday!

What are your plans for the weekend? I plan to get lots of reading done and watch my daughter play in her championship rugby game.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Review: Keep You Safe by Rona Halsall

How far would you go to protect your child?

Four years ago, new mum Natalie was torn away from her beloved baby boy and sent to prison. She doesn’t remember the crime, but the evidence was all there.

Even her husband Tom didn’t believe her, then filed for divorce and took their son Harry to live on the Isle of Man – a place where Natalie has no legal rights. He claimed it was the safest place for them to be.

Natalie isn’t so sure.

As soon as she’s released, she goes in search of her four-year-old child… and some answers. But she may be in more danger than she can possibly realise...

What secrets has Natalie kept hidden? Can she get to Harry before her past catches up with her? And just how far would Natalie go to protect her son?

Kindle Edition, 363 pages
Expected publication: August 17th 2018 by Bookouture 
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Kristine's Thoughts:
** I received an advanced readers copy from Bookouture via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!**

Natalie worked in finance at her husband's company and a large sum of money went missing from a client\s account, her client, and she was arrested and sent to prison. The only problem was that she didn't remember doing it. She had been struggling ever since the birth of her son and there were many blanks and acts of strange behaviour that she could not account for.

Fast forward almost four years and Natalie was released from prison a little early. Her only thought was to get to her son and keep him safe. Threats were made against him during her time in prison and she was desperate to get to him first. She was convinced that the only way to keep him safe was for him to be with her.

Guilty Little Secrets was told mostly from Natalie's point of view but every few chapters there was an unknown voice of someone who was after her. It also went back and forth from her time before and in prison to the present when she was trying to get to her son.

This book was OK and definitely entertaining but the one thing that stopped me from rating it higher was that it was blatantly obvious who the mystery narrator was and it took away the rush that these types of book usually give me. There was no sitting on the edge of my seat and dissecting the story in order to try and figure it out. I was still keen to find out how Natalie was going to get out of her numerous predicaments but the excitement and creep factor of the unknown predator was missing.

I feel like the author was on the right track with her debut novel and that her stories will only get better. I look forward to reading what she comes out with next.

* This book was originally titled Guilty Little Secrets but was then changed to Keep You Safe*

About the Author
I love a mystery to solve, and write psychological thrillers for Bookouture - my debut, Guilty Little Secrets is out on 17th August 2018 and my second will be out in November 2018.

I live on the Isle of Man with my husband, three guinea pigs and two dogs who are very helpful when it comes to discussing plots. As are my three children and two step-children, who are all grown up and lead interesting lives of their own, providing plenty of ideas for new stories!

Connect with Rona

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Review: A Nice Day for a Cowboy Wedding by Nicole Helm

As the oldest of three brothers, Shane Tyler takes his responsibility to the family ranch seriously--and it's clear to him that the younger man who wants to marry his widowed mother is only looking for a meal ticket. He's determined to stop the nuptials whatever it takes, but the shy wedding planner his mom hired is harder to intimidate than he expected.

When Cora Preston worked up the nerve to leave her abusive ex and move with her young son to Gracely, it was a huge step. Accepting the position as wedding planner at brand-new Mile High Weddings took even more courage. But Cora's biggest challenge is turning out to be the bride's handsome--and stubborn--oldest son, Shane, and the way the strong-willed cowboy makes her feel.

Can the heat crackling between them warm two hearts suspicious of love?

Paperback, 320 pages

Expected publication: August 28th 2018 by Zebra

Terri's Thoughts

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you.

Full disclosure:  I am not a fan of cowboys.  I should clarify, I am not a fan of cowboy themed books, I am sure real cowboys are very nice.  I don't find the whole cowboy thing attractive and I avoid books with cowboy in the title or a cowboy on the cover.  Obviously I have made an exception and that is due to the author.  As I have read her work previously, I felt I needed to give it a chance.

I was pleased that this story seemed to be a spin off of the Mile High Romance series as all of those characters were present or mentioned in this story.  No need to worry if you haven't read that series, it is not required but an added touch for those who have.

I'll admit I got over my cowboy issues pretty fast.  Cora and Shane were pretty cute right from the beginning.  It is kind of nice that the reader didn't have to sit through the characters hating each other first (which is pretty common in this genre). Instead we got to see pretty fun flirting which was entertaining.

Both characters had some pretty serious baggage which I cant really comment on as I have not experienced anything like that to be able to lay any judgment.  While I felt Shane's issues should have been more easily overcome than they were, there was no denying Cora's.

I enjoyed this book and I do see some potential for a new series as Shane has some family which could use their own story.  I stand correct, I do like cowboy stories, well at least if they are written by Nicole Helm

Side Note:  I believe I may have commented on Helm's Mile High Romance male leads as well.  I believe I ranted how the lumberjack type man is not my thing also.  It is a good thing I like her writing as we don't seem to share the same taste in men :-)

About the Author

Nicole Helm is the bestselling author of down-to-earth contemporary romance and fast-paced romantic suspense. From farmers to cowboys, midwest to the west, she writes stories about people finding themselves and finding love in the process.

She lives with her husband and two young sons in Missouri enjoying Cardinals baseball and dreams about someday owning a barn.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Review: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Berlin 1942

When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 31st 2007 by Oxford University Press
Genre: Historical Fiction

Kristine's Thoughts:

This book has been sitting on my daughter's bookshelf for many years. Both of my children have read it and I always intended to but never quite found the time for it. It wasn't until recently when I stumbled across a list of the top books about WWII of the decade in which this book was listed that I finally picked it up and read it. I have a fascination for historical fiction and WWII.

The Boy In the Striped Pajamas was narrated from the perspective of nine year old Bruno. It told the story of his father's promotion and the move from their five story house in Berlin to a house in the middle of nowhere in "Out-with." As the reader you learn how he felt about the soldiers that were constantly coming and going out of his house and the strange camp behind the giant fence that he could seen from his bedroom window. Next, the unusual friendship he developed with the boy on the other side of the fence.

This book is very short so I won't divulge any more of the plot but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading a story about such a horrible time and awful place from the naivety and innocence of a young child. It really made me stop and think. It goes to show that behaviour is learned and not something you are born with. I don't know how to describe the way this story made me feel but I can say that it was powerful in its delivery and its message.

One sitting is all that is needed to get through this gem of a book. Once you start reading you won't want to stop and I guarantee you will still be thinking about it long after the last page has turned.

About the Author

John Boyne (born 30 April 1971 in Dublin) is an Irish novelist.

He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where he won the Curtis Brown prize. In 2015, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by UEA.

John Boyne is the author of ten novels for adults and five for young readers, as well as a collection of short stories.

His novels are published in over 50 languages.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which to date has sold more than 7 million copies worldwide, is a #1 New York Times Bestseller and a film adaptation was released in September 2008. Boyne resides in Dublin. He is represented by the literary agent Simon Trewin at WME in London, United Kingdom.

His most recent publication is the novel 'The Heart's Invisible Furies', published in the UK in February 2017. It will be published in the USA in August.

Connect with John