Monday, May 25, 2015

"Things You Won't Say" by Sarah Pekkanen

Jamie Anderson knew that when she married a cop she would always have to worry about her husband while he was on duty. Mike refuses to take a safe desk job, although he has certainly earned it, because he loves being out there in his assigned neighborhood so much.

When his long-time partner is shot and gravely injured just outside of police headquarters, Mike becomes an invisible casualty of the event. While Ritchie struggles to regain his mobility and speech Mike suffers with insomnia and depression and withdraws from his wife and children. One morning Jamie receives a call that changes her life. There has been another shooting but this time it was Mike who pulled the trigger.

As chaos unravels the Anderson's formerly happy home, Jamie's sister Lou takes over the role of caretaker and moves in with her big sister, while ex-girlfriend Christie sees the situation as an opportunity to rekindle her relationship with Mike. As the fault lines in Jamie and Mike's marriage become exposed Jamie decides that she will do whatever necessary to save her marriage and her family.

Things You Won't Say didn't start off as being one of my favourite Sarah Pekkanen novels, simply because the plot line is far from pleasant. There has been a shooting and it appears that Jamie's husband Mike, usually loyal and devoted and calm, is at fault. The majority of the book shows the Anderson family in crisis and while raw and realistic, it wasn't a book that I relaxed in to. I also had problems with two of the main characters. Mike is only shown as distant and disconnected from his family so I had a hard time getting on his side, even when flashbacks demonstrate his true nature. I also really didn't like Christie, as I'm assuming that I shouldn't. She seemed vain and very selfish, not to mention willing to do anything to get what she wants. For those reasons I didn't like this book as much as Pekkanen's previous releases.

However there were ways in which I liked Things You Won't Say even better than her previous books. Pekkanen's observations about motherhood are realistic and deep. She reflects on what the definition of a "good" mother is, and how we as women try to fill this role in similar ways, despite the fact that we are often so different from one another. She reflects on how sensitive we are to how others view our mothering, and how we often feel that we have fallen short in comparison to one another. This story is also a true reflection of marriage and how tough times can tear even the strongest couples apart. I related to Jamie in so many ways and I also related to many of her feelings about marriage and about standing by your husband no matter what. This book was gritty and raw and realistic, and I appreciated that Pekkanen chose not to sugarcoat anything. There were times when I couldn't agree with her observations more! Although it was not the focus at all times, I really appreciated how the Anderson family is portrayed as less than perfect. The Anderson children are, at times, enormous brats, and as the mother of less-than-perfect children I could relate. Not only could I relate but I could breathe a sigh of relief knowing that my children must not be the only ones who behave like that sometimes!

I enjoyed reading about Christie's job even though I didn't enjoy the character of Christie herself all that much. I liked Lou but I felt that the story didn't need her there. She was a secondary character without too much of a story of her own. I thought that it was fine that she was a part of the story but I never really connected with her.

Things You Won't Say is a powerful story about marriage and family and about right and wrong. Although I didn't necessarily agree with the direction that the story took at times I did find the story to be both relevant and timely, and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a thought-provoking read. My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this for review.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

"The Balance Project" by Susie Orman Schnall

Katherine Whitney is skilled at maintaining the illusion that she is balancing it all. She is the COO of a multi-billion dollar health and wellness company, a wife, and a mother to two girls yet somehow she manages to juggle volunteering, helping out at the girl's school and being there for bedtimes. She's the author of a bestselling book heralding the relative ease with which you can have it all, but those closest to Katherine know how close she is to losing her cool. She only manages with the help of a team of nannies, a driver, a housekeeper, and her loyal assistant Lucy, who assists in keeping all of Katherine's balls balanced in the air.

When Katherine does something underhanded to Lucy, Lucy must decide if she wishes to continue working for her, or if she should take measures that will change both of their lives forever.

I enjoyed The Balance Project for so many reasons. The topic of the book is what really made it a stand out for me. Author Susie Orman Schnall clearly did her homework in regards to what counts as "balancing" one's life, and how hard balance can be to truly achieve. As an incredibly busy mom myself who balances working a 48-hours-a-week job, maintaining a household, raising three boys and having a reading habit, I could relate to everything that these women were doing and feeling. I wish that I had the help that main character Katherine had, and I appreciated the fact that the author truly understood the plight of real women everywhere, and that she made it a point to work these contrasts between working moms with help and working moms without help into her plot. Another plus about The Balance Project is that there is not an underlying theme that implies that women should stay home with their kids in order to be good moms. While that would be the ideal situation for many mothers such as myself, many of us truly have to work and we don't need additional guilt piled on us for that fact. The Balance Project has a great message, and it's one that I need to remember more often: balance isn't about doing everything perfectly, it is about doing your best with what you have to work with. It's a message that is especially valid in today's day and age.

My only wish is that the book had been written from Katherine's perspective. While I understood why the author chose to write it from her assistant Lucy's perspective I think that writing the story from Katherine's perspective could have shown the reader a different side of things. I would have even liked if it was written from both women's perspectives.

The Balance Project is a well-written and insightful book, especially relevant in the times that we live in when women are busier than ever. The characters all had something unique to bring to the story and the underlying message is something that we should all take to heart. I look forward to reading books by this author in the future and I thank BookSparks PR for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

7 Years Bad Sex by Nicky Wells- Cover Reveal!!

It's here!!!! The cover of Nicky Well's next novel, 7 Years Bad Sex, is here!! I've already had the chance to read and enjoy my copy, and I can assure you that her next novel is one not to be missed, for both current fans and new fans of Nicky's novels. Read on for a blurb and a chance to win a copy!

7 Years Bad Sex

One wedding. One curse?  Disaster ever after…

A seven-years-bad-sex curse? Surely not! Yet something went wrong when rock singer Casey and drummer Alex got married on that beautiful yacht anchored off St Tropez in the south of France. Something went badly wrong. For even on their wedding night, the young couple discovers a complete and somewhat surprising inability to make love. Muddling through their honeymoon with a string of thin excuses for their predicament, the lovers defer finding a solution (and panicking) until the return to their home in London. After all, they married for life and to make rock music, not for the love of sex. Right?

But when they resume life as normal in London, all hell breaks loose. Increasingly frantic in their quest for release, the unhappy newlyweds embark on a string of hilarious and occasionally harmful antics that drives them, their band, and an assortment of random strangers to the brink of despair. But it ain’t over ‘til it’s over or, in this case… it ain’t over ‘til the newlyweds sing.

About Nicky Wells: Romance that Rocks Your World!

Ultimate rock chick author Nicky Wells writes romance with rock stars—because there’s no better romantic hero than a golden-voiced bad boy with a secret soft heart and a magical stage presence!

Nicky’s books offer glitzy, glamorous romance with rock stars—imagine Bridget Jones ROCKS
Notting Hill! If you’ve ever had a crush on any kind of celebrity, you’ll connect with Nicky’s heroes and their leading ladies.

Born in Germany, Nicky moved to the United Kingdom in 1993 and currently lives in Lincoln with her husband and their two boys. Nicky loves listening to rock music, dancing, and eating lobsters. When she’s not writing, she’s a wife, mother, occasional knitter, and ad-hoc radio show presenter. Rock on!

***Coming May 2015: 7 Years Bad Sex!***

Join Nicky: Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Romantic Novelists’ Association | Sapphire Star Publishing | Amazon | Goodreads | Pinterest | Google+

Did you know? There’s a single out now by Nicky’s fictional rock band Tuscq come to life! “Love Me Better” is available for download from Amazon, iTunes and many other places.

Want to win a signed paperback of 7 Years Bad Sex from Nicky? Click on this link to enter to win! The contest runs until May 10, and is open to US, Canada and the UK! Good luck!!

Monday, April 20, 2015

"Wish You Were Here" by Catherine Alliott

When a good deed done by James leads to Flora, James, and their two teenage daughters being invited to a fabulous villa in the south of France belonging to a famous opera singer, they jump at the chance to leave it all behind for a while. They exchange their everyday worries about the mortgage and their jobs and their future for a chance to leave it all behind and just relax. What they are not expecting is that their baggage from home can follow them anywhere.

James develops a school boy's crush on their famous host, Flora's past comes back to haunt her, and their relatives and their troubles join them in France, and suddenly their blissful holiday takes a not- so- blissful turn. Will their dream vacation turn into a nightmare?

Wish You Were Here was, at times, a blissful and fun retreat into the south of France with the Murray-Browns and their wacky friends and family members. I liked Flora and James and their daughters most times, but the supporting characters were the ones that really stood out to me, especially Flora's hippie mother who loves her family so much! I also really loved James's father, even though he didn't often take a starring role in the book. I didn't like Flora and James's daughter Amelia, who was selfish and spoiled, but I suppose that it is a reflection on how many of the kids of today act.

I'm a big fan of Catherine Alliott, but this wasn't my favourite book of hers so far. It started off pretty slow for me, and truthfully I didn't care much for Flora, James, or their children. Thankfully it picked up for me when I was about halfway through the story, and I started really enjoying the plot, and I definitely appreciated the ending.

Wish You Were Here was the story of one family's life-changing vacation in the south of France. It was a thought-provoking story about marriage and fidelity and parenthood and finding happiness in whatever stage of life you are in, and I enjoyed this light, engaging read. My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a copy for review.

Friday, April 17, 2015

"Happiness for Beginners" by Katherine Center

Helen is 32 and has been divorced from a man who loved drinking more than he loved her for a year now, and she knows that it's time for her to be strong and to move on with her life. Knowing that she needs to do something symbolic in order to get past everything that happened, she signs up for a three week wilderness survival course- one that doesn't have the best reputation for actual survival.

Discovering that her younger brother Duncan's annoying best friend is also coming on the trip, and that somehow she has been volunteered to drive him to Wyoming where the course is taking place, changes her mind about the trip. She's sure that it will now be nothing short of a disaster. But what she finds is something entirely different- perhaps it will be on the brink of disaster that she can finally find happiness again.

I picked up Happiness for Beginners and started to read it....and then I couldn't put it down. I became caught up in the story of Helen- prickly on the outside but genuinely a person who wants to be loved despite that. I loved Josh, Duncan's best friend, from the very beginning as well. It's hard not to. He's charming and sweet to Helen, and he seems to only see the best in her despite her guarded nature. As we delve deeper into the story and we discover what tragedy Helen has been through, and what secret Josh is hiding, I liked both characters even more.

Katherine Center has created endearing secondary characters too, and although I liked almost none of Helen's survival group at the beginning of the story, by the end I found them all to be entertaining or interesting in some way. Center's absorbing writing kept me reading page after page, long after it was time for me to put the book down. Most interesting to me was how Center got me thinking about happiness, and about what truly makes me happy in life. That message was there, but not in a hit-you-over-the-head preachy way, and I appreciated that even more. It was subtle but enlightening.

Happiness for Beginners was a satisfying story of one woman's quest to find herself, and her own happiness, after a painful divorce. It wasn't the first book that I've read by Center and it certainly won't be the last. It was enjoyable to the last page, and I thank the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"Two For the Heart" by Ekta R. Garg

"The Proposal": Pooja and Ashkay have both been corralled into marriage by their families despite their lack of desire to be hitched, so they come up with a fool-proof plan. They marry in order to please their respective families and then plan to quietly divorce soon afterwards. But will their plan backfire?

"Remembrance": Helen wakes up in the hospital with no knowledge of what brought her there. What she does know is that her estranged sister won't leave her alone, despite Helen's repeated requests for her to do so. When she remembers what led to her arrival in the hospital, will she want her sister with her or will she push her away?

Ekta R. Garg has created a unique premise for a collection of short stories: stories released in pairs. Each pair will follow a common theme and will contain some sort of connection, and half of the fun is figuring that connection out.

I'll admit that I don't usually read short stories, but not for any particular reason. This collection of short stories, intended to be released in pairs throughout the year, caught my attention and encouraged me to read a format that I haven't read in a while, and I'm glad that I did! Both stories were the perfect short story- they left the reader wanting more, as any good short story should, but they also answered enough questions that I was left satisfied. I have read novellas and short stories in the past that felt like they should have been full-length but were instead compressed into a novella format, but Two For The Heart truly felt like they worked best as short stories. I enjoyed meeting the characters, albeit briefly, and I quickly came to care about them. The writing was concise and the plots interesting, and I enjoyed figuring out the connection between the two stories.

Garg plans to release more stories throughout the year in pairs, and I enjoyed these so much that I know I will be eagerly awaiting those releases. Like an amuse-bouche, these delightful short stories whet my appetite for more. My thanks to the author for providing me with a copy for review.

Monday, April 13, 2015

"Wishful Thinking" by Kami Wicoff

Who among us doesn't wish that they could be in more than one place at a time?

Divorced mother-of-two Jennifer Sharpe is burning the candle at both ends. Working a job with incredible demands on her time, sleeping on the sofa bed in her tiny apartment because her ex-husband is "pursuing his acting career" and not paying support, and left with little time for her children or a social life, she often wishes that she could be in more than one place at a time. When she loses her phone one night and finds it outside of her apartment door the next morning with a mysterious new app installed called "Wishful Thinking", Jennifer finds that she can do just that. With the help of her app-creating neighbor, physicist Dr. Diane Sexton, suddenly Jennifer is able to work until 8 pm every night and be home with her children in the evening at the same time. Jennifer is living the dream, even able to pursue a relationship with her son's handsome and charismatic guitar teacher in thanks to the app's time travel properties, but then the realities of time travel start to make themselves knows to her. She finds herself exhausted much of the time, unable to remember important details about friends, and she finds herself aging more quickly due to the multiple times that she lives each hour of each day. She, along with her best friend, know that she needs to stop using the app. But will Jennifer be able to cope without the app? Will she be able to find a balance that allows her to live happily ever after?

I love the concept of Wishful Thinking and I found myself absorbed in the plot early on. It was hard not to like Jennifer Sharpe. It was clear from the beginning that she adored her two small boys and would do anything for them, but it was also apparent that she had no choice but to work punishing hours in order to support them single-handedly and put food on the table. I think that any working mother, divorced or otherwise, can relate to how Jennifer feels. That is likely why I found myself so taken with this story from the very beginning! I miss the days when I was able to volunteer at my sons' schools or read them an extra chapter or two at night before bed, but being a working parent certainly puts time constraints on day-to-day life. This is likely why I found the app Wishful Thinking such a fun concept. Imagine being able to be in two places at once! Hard at work until 8 pm, while being home with your family at the same time! However as with any good story about time travel, I knew that things would, at some point, go spectacularly wrong. They did, but with an important lesson to go along with the mishaps. Is there such thing as being too much? Doing too much? I believe that there is. We, as women, as mothers, as employees, tend to try to be everywhere at once. We aim for perfection, and we often exhaust and disappoint ourselves in the process. Perhaps it is time for us to step back and just be, to allow ourselves to be the best that we can be, and to remind ourselves that it is ok for us to be less than perfect from time to time. That is what I took away from Wishful Thinking.

I thoroughly enjoyed Wishful Thinking. I enjoyed the writing style, the underlying message, and all of the characters. I enjoyed getting to know Jennifer as well as getting to know her best friend and Dr. Diane Sexton. The characters came alive on the pages and I related to each of them in some way. They were all doing their best to find their own happiness, and I appreciated them for that. While the concept of the time-travel app was fascinating, what I really appreciated was the underlying theme- we are all perfect as we are, and that it is more important for us to find balance in our lives than to burn out trying to do it all. This was a thought-provoking read, and one that I will definitely be recommending. My thanks to the publicist for inviting me to participate in this book tour!