Thursday, 30 July 2015

Circling The Sun

Author: Paula McLain
Genre: Biography
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 384
Source: Random House Canada
Publisher: Ballantine Books
First Published: July 28, 2015
First Line: "The Vega Gull is peacock blue with silver wings, more splendid than any bird I've known, and somehow mine to fly."

Book Description from GoodReadsPaula McLain, author of the phenomenal bestseller The Paris Wife, now returns with her keenly anticipated new novel, transporting readers to colonial Kenya in the 1920s. Circling the Sun brings to life a fearless and captivating woman—Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa.

Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships.

Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly.

Set against the majestic landscape of early-twentieth-century Africa, McLain’s powerful tale reveals the extraordinary adventures of a woman before her time, the exhilaration of freedom and its cost, and the tenacity of the human spirit.

My Review:  Circling the Sun details the life of Beryl Markham, a real-life British expat who was raised in Africa in the 1920's.  Living in the rough and wild African landscape the book also looks at the rather frivolous lifestyle of rich British expats.

Beryl was unique and stood out from other young women of the time.  Her accomplishments were impressive and her goals admirable.  She was a strong and fiercely independent woman especially for the era in which she lived.  She became an accomplished and respected horse trainer and the first woman to fly solo from east to west over the Atlantic Ocean (the fact that this flight was barely mentioned in the book was rather disappointing).  She paid a high price to follow her own path but, in the end, I don't think she would have wanted it any other way.

I found it interesting to read about Beryl's connections to Denys Finch Hatton and Baroness Karen Blixen (who wrote under the pen name, Isak Dinesen), the author who wrote "Out of Africa".  The story is told with the beautiful and wild backdrop of Africa which was vividly described for the reader.

Beryl was a hard person to figure out.  At times you applaud her for her accomplishments and breaking through the barriers put up around her.  Even though Beryl endured sexism, abandonment and some rather nasty relationships involving family members and men, Beryl was resilient. Then other times she makes some rather bad choices, comes off as self-centred, immature and so focused on her goals that she barreled through life without enough thought to the consequences.  I suppose that makes her realistic but, in the end, not overly likable.

A lot of the book focuses around Beryl's tumultuous relationships with men as well as her dysfunctional family life.  She had lived through hard times - abandonment, loss, failed relationships - but I can't say I really connected with her. It was her relationship with her childhood friend Ruta (which I would have loved to read more about) where I felt we truly got to see the real Beryl and its within that relationship that she was able to truly be herself.

This was an interesting read -- the era, the beautiful location, the African culture, the fact that it is based on a real woman -- but I didn't find it overly riveting.  This may stem from the fact that the story is told only through Beryl's eyes.  I would have loved to get other characters' input on Beryl and her choices - the good and the not so wise.  Circling the Sun had a rather leisurely pace as it followed Beryl's life and fans of "Out of Africa" should enjoy this book and its different take on the relationships that were first mentioned in Blixen/Dinesen's work.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to Random House Canada for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Broken Promise

Author: Linwood Barclay
Genre: Suspense
Type: Hardcover
Series: 1st book in the Promise Falls series
Pages: 484
Publisher: Random House Canada
First Published: July 28, 2015
First Line: "I hate this town."

Book Description from GoodReadsAfter his wife’s death and the collapse of his newspaper, David Harwood has no choice but to uproot his nine-year-old son and move back into his childhood home in Promise Falls, New York. David believes his life is in free fall, and he can’t find a way to stop his descent.

Then he comes across a family secret of epic proportions. A year after a devastating miscarriage, David’s cousin Marla has continued to struggle. But when David’s mother asks him to check on her, he’s horrified to discover that she’s been secretly raising a child who is not her own—a baby she claims was a gift from an “angel” left on her porch.

When the baby’s real mother is found murdered, David can’t help wanting to piece together what happened—even if it means proving his own cousin’s guilt. But as he uncovers each piece of evidence, David realizes that Marla’s mysterious child is just the tip of the iceberg.

Other strange things are happening. Animals are found ritually slaughtered. An ominous abandoned Ferris wheel seems to stand as a warning that something dark has infected Promise Falls. And someone has decided that the entire town must pay for the sins of its past…in blood.

My Review:  Recently I had a hankering for a good suspense read - the kind that you can lose yourself in the plot and characters and have a little edge of your seat action.  Linwood Barclay's latest book, Broken Promise, hit the spot.

One of the things that stood out for me was the fact that this is a wonderfully well paced book. There were no dull moments and it had just enough things happening with its interesting and diverse cast of characters that I had a hard time putting it down.  I will admit that I guessed one of the big twists but overall it was still a very enjoyable book.

Barclay is also adept at having a lot going on in his books with various plots. There are several gripping subplots that were easy to immerse yourself in and I enjoyed seeing how Barclay weaved these plots around each other and resolved them in the end ... for the most part.  

The characters are varied and interesting with each of them having a strong purpose to propel the plot forward.  You definitely love some and love to hate others.  And although there are quite a few characters in this book Barclay easily reminds his readers of who is who without dumbing things down or spoon feeding his readers which I appreciated.  

The chapters are fairly short and the story is told via multiple points of view.  David Harwood tells the majority of the story but I liked how other characters took up the reigns so that readers could get inside their heads to round out the story telling.  David was a likable main character and even though there was one subplot involving his 'love life' that was a little hard to swallow overall his decisions were believable and he was an easy guy to get behind.  The other characters rounded out a very diverse and interesting cast of characters.

While this book could work as a stand-alone it is actually the first book in a new series and some readers may recognize David Harwood from Barclay's earlier book Never Look Away which focuses on David's life a few years before Broken Promise's story begins. I have yet to read Never Look Away but not getting David's background didn't hinder my enjoyment of this book but I understand how other people may like to get a more detailed look at David's life before jumping into Broken Promise. 

At the end of Broken Promise Barclay leaves his readers hanging just a bit with some unfinished business.  Not so much to be frustrating but just enough to have them coming back for more from the cast of Promise Falls.  And you can bet that I will be eager to revisit Promise Falls and its inhabitants for the next installment of the series.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to Random House Canada and Linwood Barclay for providing me with a complimentary hardcover copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Pretty Baby

Author: Mary Kubica
Genre: Suspense
Type: e-book
Hardcover Page Count: 384
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
First Published: July 28, 2015
First Line: "The first time I see her, she is standing at the Fullerton Station, on the train platform, clutching an infant in her arms."

Book Description from GoodReadsShe sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can't get the girl out of her head...

Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family's objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.

Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow's past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she's willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.

My Review:  I loved this a suspenseful read with its complex characters that had me captivated throughout.  How's that for an opening line?  

Pretty Baby has a lot going for it.  It is a great suspenseful read that slowly builds tension as the reader is made privy to more information about the main characters, each of whom have their own healthy dose of personal baggage.  It has a tightly knit plot with great writing and perfect pacing making me eager to get back to this book as much as possible. Let's just say that not a lot got done at the Bookworm abode while I read this book.  Yup, this was a good read.

The characters were really well thought out and definitely weren't one dimensional. The story is narrated by three of the characters - Willow, Heidi and Heidi's husband Chris - which gives the reader a chance to get inside of each of their heads.  But things don't stop there.  Kubica then gives more insight into each of their lives which made me view them differently.  I cannot remember the last book that had me jumping character allegiances and I loved it!

This is not a light book by any means.  It deals with several serious issues - child abuse, foster care, homelessness, family secrets, marriage issues ... but they're all incorporated into the main plot seamlessly and help give each of the main characters a lot of depth.

In the end, this book had many layers, was a very well executed suspenseful read and was hard to put down for any length of time.  Needless to say I am eager to read Kubica's first book, The Good Girl in the very near future.

Highly recommended to fans of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Harlequin MIRA and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Coconut Lime Rice

My readers know that I adore potatoes.  My love of the spud is bordering on obsession, actually.  But every so often I get the urge for another kind of side dish.  I like rice but I'm not an avid eater of it.  Admittedly I prefer my rice in a pudding (if you're a fan of rice pudding you have GOT to try this recipe) or with some kind of sauce on it.  Rice, let's face it, is rather bland on its own.

This recipe combines some of my favourite flavours - citrus (lime) and coconut - with my favourite rice, basmati.   I have whole-heartedly jumped on the coconut oil band wagon over the past few months (have you tried sauteing broccoli in it?  Divine!) and with the nutty taste of basmati rice I thought that this would be a hit.

I enjoyed this rice.  The coconut milk gives it a slightly creamy taste and texture and the lime zest gives it a wee kick too.  If you're not big on a coarse texture you may opt to leave out the coconut flakes.  We didn't love its coarseness in contrast to the soft rice.  It stood out too much and I don't plan to add it next time.

Overall, I would make this side dish again.  I think it would go great with pretty much any grilled meat, pan-fried fish and/or as a side dish for an Asian inspired meal.

1 cup Basmati rice
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp butter
1/4 cup flaked coconut (I used sweetened) -- optional
1 large lime - zested and juiced
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup chicken broth
salt and black pepper - to taste

In a fine colander rinse rice under cool water until water runs clear; drain well.

Heat coconut oil and butter in a large pot (that has a lid) over medium-high heat.  Stir in rice and coconut flakes (if using) and cook for 3-4 minutes.  

Stir in lime juice, coconut milk, chicken broth, lime zest and salt.  Bring mixture to a low boil.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook for 15 minutes or until rice is done.  Remove from heat and allow it to sit for 5 minutes, covered.  Fluff with a fork and season with fresh black pepper, if desired.

A perfect paring with Honey Lime Haddock or as a side dish for Asian and/or Indian dishes.

Source: Inspired by - - Coconut Lime Rice

Monday, 20 July 2015


Author: Kim Thuy
Genre: Fiction, Canadian
Type: Paperback
Pages: 139
Source: Random House Publishing
Publisher: Random House Publishing
First Published: August 26, 2014
First Line: "Maman and I don't look like one another."

Book Description from GoodReadsMãn has three mothers: the one who gives birth to her in wartime, the nun who plucks her from a vegetable garden, and her beloved Maman, who becomes a spy to survive. Seeking security for her grown daughter, Maman finds Mãn a husband--a lonely Vietnamese restaurateur who lives in Montreal. Thrown into a new world, Mãn discovers her natural talent as a chef. Gracefully she practices her art, with food as her medium. She creates dishes that are much more than sustenance for the body: they evoke memory and emotion, time and place, and even bring her customers to tears. Mãn is a mystery--her name means "perfect fulfillment," yet she and her husband seem to drift along, respectfully and dutifully. But when she encounters a married chef in Paris, everything changes in the instant of a fleeting touch, and Mãn discovers the all-encompassing obsession and ever-present dangers of a love affair. Full of indelible images of beauty, delicacy and quiet power, Mãn is a novel that begs to be savoured for its language, its sensuousness and its love of life.

My Review:  Mãn reads like a novella as Thuy tells her story via short chapters (some only a paragraph or two) about her immigration from Vietnam to Canada.   The writing is simple but with a very unique and lyrical feel to it.  It's not overdone, definitely not verbose and almost poetic as she recounts brief glimpses of Mãn's life to her readers.  

"Mãn", which means "perfectly fulfilled", or "may there be nothing left to desire", or "may all wishes be granted". I can ask for nothing more because my name imposes on 
me that state of satisfaction and satiety…I grew up without dreams. 

As a reader I felt for Mãn and her cold and, for the most part, lonely existence. It was through her love of food and her Vietnamese culture that she found a way to endure.  My favourite part of the book were the vivid descriptions of the Vietnamese inspired food.  They were sprinkled throughout the book and illustrated how deeply our memories are linked through the preparation and sharing of food from our past and/or culture.  

When mothers taught their daughters to cook, they spoke in hushed tones, 
whispering so that their neighbours couldn’t steal recipes and possibly 
seduce their husbands with the same dishes. Culinary traditions are 
passed on secretly, like magic tricks between master and apprentice.

Lyrical writing and food descriptions aside, I have to admit that I struggled to stay invested in Mãn's story, to keep track of who certain characters were or even keep the story arc in plain view.  A lot of this feeling stems from the fact that Thuy leaves a lot left unsaid in the book.  I'm a 'need to know' kinda gal so when some scenes are only hinted at it left me wanting.  For example, I found it unusual that readers aren't privy to Mãn's husband or children's names.  I also wanted a more in depth look into certain aspects of her life (for example I would have loved to have learned more about Mãn's Maman).  I felt like I was given a glimpse - a taste - into part of her life only for the story to move on before I was ready to let go.

Overall, this book had beautiful language and I loved how Thuy shared her love of food and her Vietnamese heritage with her readers.  Unfortunately the beautiful prose had more weight than the story line and in the end I was left wanting a more definitive plot.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Random House Publishing and Kim Thuy for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Duet For Three Hands

Author: Tess Thompson
Genre: Historical Fiction (Civil Rights)
Type: e-book
Source: directly from author
Paperback Page Count: 348
Publisher: Booktrope
First Published: February 13, 2015
First Line: "From Jeselle Thorton's journal: June 10, 1928.  'When I came into the kitchen this morning, Mrs Bellmont handed me a package wrapped in shiny gold paper, a gift for my thirteenth birthday.'

Book Description from GoodReadsA story of forbidden love, lost dreams, and family turmoil. 

The first book in a new historical series from bestselling author Tess Thompson, Duet for Three Hands is equal parts epic love story, sweeping family saga, and portrait of days gone by. Set against the backdrop of the American South between 1928 and 1934, four voices blend to tell a tale of prejudice, fear, and love. The Bellmonts are the epitome of the rich and elite in Atlanta society, but behind the picture-perfect façade are hidden moments of violence and betrayal. 

After marrying into the Bellmont family, Nathaniel, a former concert pianist who is nearly ruined by his wife’s unrelenting ambition and unstable mind, finds hope in the promise of his most recent protégé. His brother-in-law, artistic Whitmore Bellmont, and the maid’s daughter, Jeselle, have a secret relationship despite their drastically different circumstances and shades of skin. Unfortunately, most of the world disagrees with their color blindness. 

All four lives intertwine on a collision course, threatening to destroy, or liberate, them all.

My Review:  This was a hard book to put down.  I adore historical fiction that is set during the emotional and tumultuous time surrounding slavery and civil rights - the raw emotion, the vivid setting and the opportunity to read about truly interesting characters.  This book was no exception.  Duet For Three Hands is a historical fiction read (with a romantic undertone) which is set in the American south during the 1920's and 1930's.  It deals with bigotry, lost dreams, a big ol' dose of familial turmoil and the benefits and negative aspects of standing by your spouse through the good times and the very bad.

From the beginning of the book I was engrossed in the Bellmont family's issues as well as their servants, Jeselle and her mother.  As the reader you're quickly pulled into the lives of these people but it was Nathaniel, the former world renowned pianist, that had the most growth and I found the most interesting out of all of the characters.  In the beginning he was quite naive (I could see his wife's motives a mile away) but over the course of the book you see him mature and finally learn about what he needs in order to be happy.

There are some definite villains in this book.  Ohhhh, how I loved to hate them.  But I have to give Thompson credit because they never came off as caricatures or one dimensional.  They all felt authentic to me and (sadly) I could easily picture them.  I loved to love some and loved to hate others.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and read it in a matter of a couple of days while battling pneumonia.  This author is new to me and I'm very happy she approached me to review her book.  I am quite eager to pick up more of her books.

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to author Tess Thompson for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of her book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The Lives Between Us

Author: Theresa Rizzo
Genre: Modern Fiction, Romance
Type: e-book Advanced Reading Copy (ARC)
Source: Directly from author
Publisher: Rizzo Publishing
Paperback Page Count: 441
First Published: July 1, 2015
First Line: "Skylar Kendall darted into St. Francis Hospital's revolving door, made one complete revolution, and burst out of the entrance again."

Book Description from GoodReadsHow far would you go to save the one you love?

Reporter Skylar Kendall has run from commitment all her life, pushing people away before they leave her, until her niece worms her way into Skye’s heart and settles in tight. Skye relaxes into a career she enjoys and relishes being a doting aunt.

Then her niece becomes gravely ill. Unable to bear yet another loss, Skye is determined to find a cure, but the girl’s only hope lies in the embryonic stem cell therapy Michigan Senator Edward Hastings repeatedly opposes. When Skye fails to find alternative treatment in time, she vows to end the senator’s political career.

Curious about the woman behind the scathing articles on his best friend, Mark Dutton pursues Skye. Dating Mark gives her access to Hastings’s life and secrets that would launch Skye's career and satisfy her need for retribution… Only she hadn’t counted on falling in love.

Can she avenge the lives lost to politics at the expense of her new love and friends?

My Review: Count me in for a book that sparks a debate on a sensitive issue and has some heart.  When author Theresa Rizzo offered me her book that focuses on stem cell therapy to read and review I thought that this would be a good fit.  

Rizzo brings up the hot topic of using embryonic stem cells (as well as cord blood stem cells) for medical treatment and covers several viewpoints on the issue without bogging her readers down in too much medical detail.  I admit that I only knew the basics of this issue and Rizzo brought to light the many different sides and morality of this debate.

This wasn't a heavy read and actually took on a much more romantic twist that I was initially anticipating.  I'm all for some romance but a little less emphasis on Skylar and Mark's love life and more focus on the emotion and ethical debate would have been my preference.  The romance took more of a hold of the story towards the middle and I found it to be a bit distracting with some of the dialogue between them felt weak and didn't add to the overall plot.

My main concern with this book is Skylar.  She's a hard one to get behind. I liked that she adored her family but she often came off as brash and while she does mature a little throughout the book overall she wasn't very likable.  And while she had a good reason for not supporting Senator Hastings views on the stem cell issue, her deep hatred of him seemed too intense and too personal.

It was actually Senator Hastings' family that really intrigued me and, I felt, got to the heart of the ethical and emotional results of stem cell use.  The Senator, his son and especially his wife Noelle were my favourite characters and felt like they handled the issue with heart and believable emotion.

The ending.  All I will say, without jeopardizing the plot and my feelings towards one of the characters, is that the epilogue will give you a lot to think about.  While it is a little vague I kind of liked wondering where this character stood and why s/he made certain choices.

No matter which end of the spectrum your thoughts and feelings lie on this issue, Rizzo brings up some good points to think about regarding stem cell therapy.  There are no villains in this book just people trying to figure out where they stand on this very controversial issue as it pertains to their own lives.  Overall, this was a lighter book than I was expecting but it kept my interest. I think that fans of Diane Chamberlain (or those who want a lighter Jodi Picoult read) would enjoy this book.

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to the author, Theresa Rizzo, for providing me with a complimentary electronic copy of her book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The Seven Sisters

Author: Lucinda Riley
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 636
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Atria Books
First Published: May 5, 2015
First Line: "I will always remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard that my father had died."

Book Description from GoodReadsMaia D’Apliese and her five sisters gather together at their childhood home, “Atlantis”—a fabulous, secluded castle situated on the shores of Lake Geneva—having been told that their beloved father, who adopted them all as babies, has died. Each of them is handed a tantalizing clue to her true heritage—a clue which takes Maia across the world to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Once there, she begins to put together the pieces of her story and its beginnings.

Eighty years earlier in Rio’s Belle Epoque of the 1920s, Izabela Bonifacio’s father has aspirations for his daughter to marry into the aristocracy. Meanwhile, architect Heitor da Silva Costa is devising plans for an enormous statue, to be called Christ the Redeemer, and will soon travel to Paris to find the right sculptor to complete his vision. Izabela—passionate and longing to see the world—convinces her father to allow her to accompany him and his family to Europe before she is married. There, at Paul Landowski’s studio and in the heady, vibrant cafes of Montparnasse, she meets ambitious young sculptor Laurent Brouilly, and knows at once that her life will never be the same again.

In this sweeping, epic tale of love and loss—the first in a unique, spellbinding series of seven novels—Lucinda Riley showcases her storytelling talent like never before.

My Review:  This is a book about the power of family.  I had read and adored one of Lucinda Riley's previous books, The Midnight Rose, last year so I was eager to read more from this acclaimed historical fiction author.  I have to admit that it wasn't until I had finished reading The Seven Sisters that I realized that it is the first book in a seven book series - with each book focusing on a different sister's past.  Cool premise but a big commitment from readers.

This first book focuses on Maia's search for her birth family and what she discovers is a gaggle of familial secrets on a different continent spanning generations.  The secrets themselves weren't all that scandalous and were even predictable but this book held my interest for the most part.  

Honestly, I wanted to learn more about Maia and her adoptive family than her birth family.  There were so many unanswered questions - I wanted to know more about Maia's adoptive father, Pa Salt, and his mysterious life as well as how and why he adopted six baby girls from all over the world.  And yes I said six, not seven, because the seventh sister was never introduced.  Mystery ... dun dun duuuuun.  I suspect that Pa Salt has a lot more to his story than the reader (or the sisters) are privy to.  His death was quite sudden and the way he died and even how he was buried was quite suspect.  I sense that he had (and will have) a much larger role in each of his daughter's lives than they initially believed.

The characters were interesting enough and quite diverse.  I have to give credit to Riley for giving each of the sisters a very unique voice in the beginning of the book.  Sadly we really don't get to see much more of the six sisters for the remainder of the book which was unfortunate because they were quite an interesting and diverse group of women. After Maia takes off to find her birth family the plot began to falter for me.  As the story progressed it became less about Maia and more about Maia's great great grandmother, Izabella.  While Izabella's story was fairly interesting it was Maia who I wanted to read about.  And with the inclusion of Maia's grandmother and mother into the story, at times, it became hard to remember which generation we were talking about.

The setting and history aspects are what enthralled me.  Rio isn't a place that I've read about (let alone visited) before and while I know what the Christ the Redeemer (aka Christo) statue looks like it was interesting to learn more about its design and construction as well as a brief history of Brazil.  The streets, people and culture of Rio was vividly described and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about this unique city as it's woven within a fictional tale.

In the end, I can't say that I loved this book.  It was good, not great.  The pace dragged and it felt like it could have been condensed quite a bit and still kept the story in tact.  The lackluster ending leaves readers with too many unanswered questions which may be used to entice readers to read the future books in the series but it left me feeling a little jilted if I'm being honest.  Overall, this was a decent book but not up to par with some of Lucinda Riley's early works.  

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Those Girls

Author: Chevy Stevens
Genre: Suspense
Type: ebook Advanced Reading Copy
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: St Martin's Press
First Published: July 7, 2015
First Line: "We'd only been on the road for an hour but we were almost out of gas."

Book Description from GoodReadsLife has never been easy for the three Campbell sisters. Jess, Courtney, and Dani live on a remote ranch in Western Canada where they work hard and try to stay out of the way of their father’s fists. One night, a fight gets out of hand and the sisters are forced to go on the run, only to get caught in an even worse nightmare when their truck breaks down in a small town. Events spiral out of control and a chance encounter with the wrong people leaves them in a horrific and desperate situation. They are left with no choice but to change their names and create new lives. 

Eighteen years later, they are still trying to forget what happened that summer when one of the sisters goes missing and they are pulled back into their past. 

This time there’s nowhere left to run. 

As much of a thriller as it is a deep exploration of the bonds among sisters, THOSE GIRLS is an unforgettable portrait of desperation, loyalty, and evil.

My Review: Chevy Stevens is a Canadian author who has this whole suspense genre thing down pat.  I have truly enjoyed some of her books, especially Still Missing and That Night which left me on the edge of my seat more than once.  In Those Girls she adds in a big emotional factor as readers follow the lives of three sisters who go from being tormented by their father for years to being victims of aggressive sexual abuse and torture at the hands of strangers.

The first half of the book is told from the point of view of Jess, the youngest sister.  Her recount of their horrendous upbringing and subsequent escape was heartbreaking and told in a no holds barred kind of way.  Jess' account of their experiences was very suspenseful and yes, at times, very hard to read.  Please note that this book isn't for the faint of heart.  While the rape scenes weren't overly graphic, not a lot was left to the reader's imagination as to the torment these three went through with these men.

The last half of the book, told from Skylar's point of view, took on a different tone which I didn't enjoy as much.  A lot of that had to do with the fact that some of the characters made silly and extremely dangerous decisions.  Their sudden choices didn't mesh with how they had tried to keep away from their past for so long.  I understand that if they had let things lie it wouldn't make for an interesting suspense read but I was hoping for a more realistic final half.  I just couldn't imagine these women ever, EVER, wanting to go back and face their tormentors.  If Jess and Dani had just sat down with Skylar and told her the truth then that situation could have been avoided.  Skylar, even though she is young, made too many silly and dangerous decisions.  Sure, it propelled the story line but her decisions/reactions often felt ridiculous.

In the end this is a well written story.  While there are some aspects that I wasn't fond of overall it was a good, disturbing suspenseful read.  I liked the fact that Stevens also focused on the strong bond between sisters.  As the oldest of three sisters, I can relate to the closeness and the 'butting of heads' that Stevens writes about.

This isn't a 'whodunnit' kind of suspense read.  The reader knows the identity of the 'bad guys' all along.  The suspense comes from how these women deal with their tormentors and try to take back some of the power that was wrenched from them so many years ago.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to St Martin's Press and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Leftover BBQ Chicken Quesadillas

This recipe came to me because we had had quite a busy weekend of BBQing.  We had leftover BBQ'd chicken thighs to use up as well as extra sauce from my Grilled Citrus Salmon (a fav and popular dish here) which I had served when my parents and Brad's mom came over for supper.  Not wanting to waste some good chicken or the yummy sauce I thought I'd use them in quesadillas for an easy supper for Brad and I.  

Oh these were delish!  The sauce is light and sweet and the hint of lemon was amazing with the chicken.  (Note: Unless you like your quesadillas super saucy you'll probably have extra sauce left over). Now that I know it tastes good on salmon as well as chicken I'll definitely be making extra chicken so I can make this easy meal again.

3 leftover chicken thighs - cooked and finely chopped
cooking spray
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 yellow or green or red pepper, sliced and seeded
1 cup mushrooms, sliced (optional)
2 large tortillas
1 cup marble cheese, grated

1/4 cup Diana Sweet Sauce - Honey Garlic flavour
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp chopped chives or green onion
2 tsp butter, melted
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Sour cream

Heat a small skillet to medium heat.  Spray with cooking spray and saute onion, yellow pepper and mushrooms until al dente.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare BBQ sauce.

Heat a large skillet or preferably a flat griddle to medium heat.  Spray skillet/griddle with cooking spray and place tortillas (one at a time or both if you have the room) onto the hot surface.  Sprinkle half of the grated cheese, chicken, onion mixture over one half of each of the tortillas.  Drizzle the BBQ sauce on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.  Fold over the other half of the tortilla and cook until the bottom of the quesadilla is golden brown.  Carefully flip the tortillas (this may be a messy endeavour depending on how full your quesadillas are.  If filling spills out just push it back in.  It's all good).  Cook until the second side of the tortilla is golden brown.  Remove from heat and allow it to sit for a couple of minutes.  Using a pizza cutter slice quesadillas into wedges.  Serve with sour cream.  Enjoy!

Source: The Baking Bookworm

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Opening the Veil

Author: C.L Clark
Genre: Supernatural, Light Mystery
Series: #1 in the New Sight series
Type: e-book
Source: Directly from author
Publisher: Independent (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)
First Published: March 21, 2015
First Line: "The water is a perfect lapis lazuli blue as it ripples out from my body."

Book Description from GoodReadsOne choice can change everything.

When Cassie agrees to go on a date with her gorgeous new neighbor, she doesn’t expect the night to end with a glimpse into eternity. Within twenty-four hours she discovers not only are young women being brutally murdered around her beloved town, but an ancient evil is using her new neighbor like a puppet to do the killing. Knowing the police won’t believe her without solid proof, she makes it her mission to find the evidence they need. Add to that how her cat has started talking to her, plus she's seeing ghosts that want her help, and it’s no surprise that she’s beginning to question her sanity. Will she be able to help the living and the dead and not end up another victim? She'll need to learn fast if she wants to survive in one piece.

This is the first book in the New Sight Series - a paranormal mystery series about a young woman whose eyes are opened to the hidden world around her and her compulsion to help the dead seek answers and justice.

My Review: I'd deem Opening the Veil as a light supernatural mystery with a touch of humour.  It has a lot going on, especially with it being the first book in a new series, but overall it worked.  

Personally I would have liked more suspense and supernatural action but I think that cat lovers who like a light mystery with a paranormal twist will enjoy this book.  My concerns about this book generally have more to do with personal preferences than quality of writing.  Clark's writing is generally strong and descriptive which helped in setting up the scenes and introducing the secondary characters (which were quite entertaining and memorable). 

Unfortunately I'm not a cat person per se and this book is a cat lover's paradise.  I have nothing against cats but I found the references to all things kitty too overpowering for the story.  I realize that Cassie loves her cat, Alli, but there were some scenes that I just felt were too over the top to be believable.  For example, I just couldn't believe that hospital staff, family and friends of Cassie's would think that bringing her cat into the hospital to stay with Cassie was a good idea.

Cassie was a likable and endearing main character with a good sense of humour and a penchant for putting her nose into mischief.  A good mix for a protagonist of a light mystery.  She's new to this investigation stuff but she doesn't come off as stupid or overly naive for the most part.  She has a heart (as witnessed in the trailer scene which I found touching) and is brave enough to jump into the fray to solve the mystery.  She makes some rash decisions at times but I'm chalking that up to her new found status as newbie investigator. 

Clark wasn't afraid to go into this book with both feet and I appreciate that.  There is a lot going on in this first book in a new series.  Many ideas were good but I can't help but feel that not enough time was given to some of Cassie's supernatural abilities. The reader gets a peek at these powers but I would have loved to get a better understanding about why Cassie has these powers or why suddenly her cat can talk to her and has special abilities.  I can only assume that these loose ends will be given more page time in future books.

Clark's writing was strong and her plot moved well and held my interest.  Her setting was welcoming and her secondary characters were engaging and memorable too.  I appreciate that Clark didn't rely on the age old 'romance' factor right out of the gate and kept the focus on introducing her readers to Cassie and Kensington Falls.  On the downside I think that the strong focus on all things cute and kitty may detract from the mystery aspect and may not endear her to non-cat people who would rather have more mystery than cute cat scenes.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to author C.L Clark for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of her book in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.

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