Thursday, June 30, 2011

Here, Home, Hope by Kaira Rouda

Kelly Johnson has been a devoted wife and mother living in beautiful Grandville, but as her fortieth birthday approaches she is feeling restless. She is married to a successful attorney and has two fantastic boys, but she wonders to herself…what’s next. She looks at her best friends Charlotte and Kathryn who run their own businesses and can’t help feeling she is less than perfect. After finding herself in a dentist chair from grinding her teeth, Kelly decides something has got to change. From that point on Kelly begins with her T2C (Things to Change) post it note list. Her list grows throughout the story and is all about being the best person she can be.

Not really sure how she was going to spend the summer, besides gaining her usual 6 pounds, Kelly soon finds herself very busy. Charlotte offers her a prospect of a business venture of home staging, which Kelly is hugely successful at. Kathryn tells her how her daughter Melanie is an anorexic and asks her to take her daughter in while she goes out of town. Kelly quickly finds herself starting a business, taking care of an anorexic teenager girl, and dealing with neighborhood and best friend bombshells going off all around her. Relying on her T2C post it notes (hanging all over the house and in her car) she is able to offer her love and support to those around her.

As an almost 40 year old, ALMOST not yet-- I could relate on a number of levels to Kelly Johnson. I loved reading about a women’s journey through the transition into the next stage of her life. I found Kelly to be able bodied, strong, confident, having integrity and a good friend. I loved reading about a strong woman who had the love and support of her husband behind her. What a wonderful change from so many books I’ve read. There was a lot of dialogue about friendship within the novel. Each of these three women went through so much alone. They closed off from their friends so afraid of being judged as less than perfect. I could not help, but feel this is such a relevant topic for today. As women, I think so many of us want to come across as strong and having it all together when we would all be better off being real with one another and leaning on each other for support. Rouda got it right.

I found this to be a fairly quick read, funny and inspiring. Kaira Rouda’s debut novel was an absolute refreshing read. I HIGHLY recommended this book. I am looking forward to Rouda’s next novel.

You can learn more about Kaira Rouda on her webpage at

The Five W's of Kaira Rouda

I met with Kaira over the weekend at a local Barnes & Noble in Memphis, TN.  She is sweet, warm and funny! I enjoyed meeting her and getting a chance to chat with her. She was kind enough to answer questions on video (my husband's idea as we were leaving), so she had no idea and was willing to do it! I was so excited!

Click to find out the The Five W's of Kaira Rouda

Thank-you so much for the interview, Kaira!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepard

The first thing we learn is there has been a possible suicide at the prestigious school, Swithin. There is a shadow around the students’ death, a possible hazing. Sylvie Bates-McAlister gets the call. As a board member, she isn’t sure why she is being told about the incident until she realizes her son, Scott who is an assistant wrestling coach, will need to be questioned about his possible knowledge of hazing. You expect the story to move in the direction of a full investigation, but story isn’t about the possible hazing but about the family. The chapters center on the private thoughts of Sylvie, her son Charles, and his wife Joanna—not Scott.

Sylvie is a widow who is coping with her husband’s infidelity and questioning whether Scott had anything to do with or knowledge of this boy being hazed. She seems to walk on egg shells around Scott—not comfortable in her own skin when he’s around. Charles & Joanna are newlyweds whose marriage seems to be crumbling. For these characters are all functioning under the weight of their secrets, fears, and rumors.

The first half of the book has very little forward movement, more of learning how each of them got to this point in time. As the story begins to move forward, the characters seem to grow further apart, as the secrets and fears of the past slowly come to light. The more we learn the darker their worlds’ become.

When I began reading this novel it seemed very dark. The description of the family home, Roderick, reminded me of Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. The house almost seems to have a personality of its’ own. I honestly did not relate or really care for any of the characters at first, but as I got to learn a little bit more about each of them I wanted to see how everything would play out. Shepard wrote each chapter designating it to Sylvie, Charles or Joanna. The chapters moved quickly and had me wanting to know more about each of them. In no time whatsoever, my opinions started to shift. The characters had so much emotional baggage (especially Sylvie and Charles), so as I read on I was very impressed by the depth of these characters. I loved how real the characters began to feel and interestingly found Scott to be so very one dimensional for most of the story.

I would say the sudden change from Scott being a one dimensional character to suddenly being a very real three dimensional person was one of the best parts of the novel, and I personally thought this was a great book. When they begin to see Scott for who he truly is and was. The end of the book goes back to the house and the sameness. The house is the same as when Sylvie’s grandfather lived there. Yet, they are all different. It’s then they are no longer bound to the family heritage.

I very much enjoyed this novel. It wasn’t as much about a story as about people and I found it beautifully written and smart. I would recommend.

Shepard is also the author of the book series Pretty Little Liars

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Scattered Life by Karen McQuestion

This is a story of three women who remind us, “there’s a lot of love out there…if you’ll just let people into your life…open your heart” (254). For me, this book opened up a deep wound and shed light on an area of my life I keep very closed off. What an awesome message. This was for me to open my heart up to other women and to allow myself the benefits of those relationships. I need to cast off my fears of abandonment and let love in.
--oh wait I was supposed to be writing a book review!
Skyla Plinka has spent her whole life scattered around the country until she falls for steady and reliable Thomas, in rural Wisconsin. Together they build the life she dreamed about, but as her daughter begins school Skyla becomes restless and wanting more. She ends up finding a part-time job at a local New Age bookstore and making a new friend with her neighbor, Roxanne Bear.
Audrey Plinka is Thomas’ mother who never really warmed up to Skyla as her daughter-in-law. Skyla does not fit the picture of the wife she had expected Thomas would choose. With her own children grown she now fills her time sneaking—I mean watching over her family and she is not happy about Skyla’s new friend.
Roxanne Bear is the fun loving new neighbor with 5 boys (and counting). Her beautiful home is disheveled and her kids are wild, but Roxy couldn’t be prouder or happier with her life well maybe with a few more kids (and a daughter would be perfect).
Over the next year these three women learn what it means to love unconditionally.
A Scattered Life is a glimpse into the lives of three everyday women in Pellswick, WI. As I was reading this novel, it reminded me how most extraordinary stories are those based in reality. These three women could be anyone. I personally related to all of them on some level. I really enjoyed getting to know each of the women’s stories and motivations. As the story progresses friendships are built, jealous grows, heartbreaking tragedy occurs and they learn how deal with life changing events…finding the best in themselves and those around them.
I really liked the novel. I did notice some areas where I thought there was going to be some story development, but I don’t feel it took anything away by not developing them. The story flowed a little awkward at first having Skyla moving forward and the first Chapter where we get to know Audrey goes backwards to where Skyla starts. With that said, this is a book worth reading. For most of the book I enjoyed it, but wasn’t really sure where it was headed (and I was ok with it). I’ll tell you though when tragedy occurs in the book, McQuestion’s writing stood out as real--raw. I felt I was right there in the room, right there in those moments with them. I have personally delt with a very similar situation with someone I loved and it took me right back to those moments. I was sobbing while reading this book. This is an author you should be reading!

Read more by Karen McQuestion.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Q & A :

Today I'd like to introduce to you writer, Karen McQuestion. She is the author of the novel A Scattered Life (as well as many others), which I will be posting a review for on Thursday of this week. I'm so excited for Karen to be joinging us here on A Novel Review today and answering what are:

THE 5 W'S OF Karen McQuestion

Who is Karen McQuestion.
Reader, writer, wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend—I’m all of these things, but that’s only part of the story. I live in the village of Hartland, Wisconsin on a quiet street in a modest-sized house.
If you’re asking about my personality, I can tell you that I’m a formerly shy child, who is now a fairly confident, outspoken adult, but it took me way too long to get from there to here. I love my nearly-grown kids beyond measure, but look forward to the day when they’re independent, so I can claim my time as my own (I hate to admit that). I second-guess myself constantly when it comes to well, everything. I’m definitely a work in progress.
What do you enjoy doing when your not writing?
Reading, watching movies, spending time with my kids, going on walks with my husband. I love traveling, but I also like time spent at home. Solitude energizes me, so the writer’s life is a good one for me.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
In third grade, my teacher, Mrs. DiFrances, read a story I’d written out loud to my class. Seeing their reaction, which was enthusiastic, clinched it for me. I was the shy kid who was terrible in gym and lacked confidence, but this was something I loved to do, and apparently I wasn’t too bad at it.
Where do you write?
I have a home office, but since I’ve gotten my laptop I either write at the Hartland Public Library or in a recliner in my living room.
Why do you write?
I love writing and I have an endless supply of ideas for stories, so for me the question is--why not? J

Thank-you so much for much for stopping here at A Novel Review, Karen!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Family Pieces by Misa Rush

This is a story about two women whose lives are forever changed after a car accident. Karson is a young college student who is excited to start her adult life. She is in love with her long time boyfriend, James and is already thinking about wedding dresses and setting up house. She is close to her family and lives on the same college campus as her older brother, Brad. Everything is going picture perfect in her life.
Addison runs a Magazine empire in New York City. She can have and do almost anything she wants, except allow herself to be loved by the man of her dreams. A dark secret holds Addison back and pushes her prove herself as a top-notch businesswomen.
After a fatal car accident, the lives of these two women are forever changed. Addison regrettably divulges a secret, while Karson finds her life in utter chaos and searching for answers. Not until all the pieces of the puzzle are together can the lives of these women move forward.
Let me start by saying I loved this book. I admit I felt a connection on a number of levels to this story (I don’t want to say what because I’ll be telling you too much of the story). Let’s just say I cried a number of times. I enjoyed how smooth and effortless this novel was to read, it flowed nicely moving in between the two lives of these women. There is mystery, heartache, loss and finding home—what a great recipe for a novel! If you are looking to read a good book, but don’t have a ton of time to read—this is your book!
I know I did not write much of a synopsis this time around and I’m sorry, but I feel like you just need to go read this for yourself.
This is Misa Rush’s debut novel and I am excited to see what she writes next! Check out her blog!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Check out Chick Lit is not Dead

The D Word HUGE ASS giveaway

I know I haven't posted about giveaways, but I just HAD to mention this one! You have got to go over and check Chick Lit is not Dead's Huge Ass giveaway. There is a chance to win an Ipad2!!!  I've already entered!!!!

I have both books on my Nook Color! I can't wait to start reading them!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hollywood Ending By Lucie Simone

This is a Hollywood love story, ok well it’s more like a story of two regular Joes looking to break into Hollywood—but an ending with true Hollywood style. Trina Stewart and Matiu Wulf are both looking to make a name for themselves in Tinsel Town. Well trying to make a name doesn’t pay the bills. Trina teaches English as a second language as her day job, but has been dreaming of breaking into the business for the last ten years—and according to her best bud what Trina really needs is a good man!
Good guy, Matiu, is in Hollywood for six weeks to take a class and head back home to New Zealand. He is not looking for any entanglements just looking to build his resume with some Hollywood credentials. But all bets are off when Trina banged on his front door.
Hollywood Ending is a really quick read. The story is easy to follow and has a few surprises along the way. The language was a little stronger than what I normally read, but it added color to the story and characters. In the beginning of the book I wasn’t a huge fan of Trina, but mid-way through the story when Trina quit chasing after Matiu I really began to like her. Near the end, I felt sorry for Trina as she tries to figure out her heart. The end of story lives up to its title. I found I enjoyed the book the more I read it. I found this to be a fun lighthearted book. I can’t wait to see what Lucie publishes next.

Also by Lucie Simone:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A PUG'S TALE By Alison Pace

Hope McNeill works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they are throwing a Pug party. The party is in recognition of the very generous donor and pug lover, Daphne Markham for anticipated donation which is to be significant. Hope’s sweet pug, Max suddenly starts barking at the guest of honor—chaos ensues. Hope takes off up to her office, where she finds a painting not where it should be. A quick onceover she realizes she has stumbled onto a fake! The real masterpiece has been stolen!
A slew of characters and likely suspects are introduced. Gil Turner, who was in charge of the party, does not want word of such a scandal to compromise Ms. Markham’s donation. Then there is Elliot Death, her boss and former object of her affection—before she met Ben, her now boyfriend who happens to live or rather work in Kinshasa. When the threesomes uncover how the original artwork has been checked out by Elliot and Hope’s department, none of the three decide to call in the police. After they decide to bring in a private investigator, Hope soon realizes she herself is beginning to look like the only real suspect, so her and her trusty pug, Max go on a quest to solve the mystery.
Within the first few pages I was laughing. Max, the pug seems to notice little things Hope does not. The number of suspects grows, which I loved because I would constantly think oh yes he/she is the one only to say it again about the next suspect! While Hope is going through a scavenger hunt of clues, she realizes she needs to take more control over her own life and where it’s headed (hopefully not the clink). I have to say I loved how the story ended, loved the twist. I found this to be a fun, quick and enjoyable read. I wasn’t sure how the whole pug story would work, but I really rather enjoyed it. I best wait a few days before going to a pet store; I suddenly want a pug dog!
If you are looking for a light read I would recommended this! Due out June 7! Pre-order your copy today!

Other books by Alison Pace

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The books we review on this site (A NOVEL REVIEW) are sent to us by publishers, authors or downloaded from Netgalley. This is a very common practice. We never take payments for these reviews and all the reviews on this site are our own thoughts and feelings and are not influenced.