The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna Van Praag

The Dress Shop of DreamsThe Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag

For fans of Alice Hoffman, Sarah Addison Allen, and Adriana Trigiani, The Dress Shop of Dreams is a captivating novel of enduring hopes, second chances, and the life-changing magic of true love.

Since her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires.

Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter. Cora’s studious, unromantic eye has overlooked Walt, the shy bookseller who has been in love with her forever. Determined not to allow Cora to miss her chance at happiness, Etta sews a tiny stitch into Walt’s collar, hoping to give him the courage to confess his feelings to Cora. But magic spells—like true love—can go awry. After Walt is spurred into action, Etta realizes she’s set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a sweet, charming tale with characters that are easy to love. If you like magic realism and you are looking for a story to take you away from everything, this would be a good book to choose.

I liked the characters right away. This is one of those stories that will transport you away from your daily stresses and make you smile and feel warm inside. The relationships between the characters, (both family and love interest,) are interesting and different from other books. You feel as if you have gotten to know these people within the first few chapters and after that, it is like you have become part of the story yourself.

The magical surprises in this book are many and as the story continues, you find yourself hoping that everything will work out the way you want it to.

This was a great book, with a lot to recommend it.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher as part of the shereads.org blogging program. All opinions are my own.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The NightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Flat out, there is no other way to describe this book–I loved it.

For anyone who has an interest in the German Occupations during WWII, this book will likely be interesting. Even if you don’t, this book still has something to offer.

Have you ever read a book that brought you so close to the characters that you forgot you were reading a book at all? That is what happened to me whilst reading this. I found myself so involved in the lives of these characters that I felt their pain, longing, loss and redemption.

Down to the very last detail, this is a beautifully written and immaculately researched novel.

One of the things that made me love this book, is that the characters seem to truly belong in the setting. Everything does not turn out perfectly at the end as so many books seem to force. The sad times of war including, cold, hunger and loss of lives is well described here and the characters experience it, enough that the reader feels it too.

The relationships in this story are complex and go far beyond those in the average book. The people grow and change and make you believe in them even when all hope seems to be lost.

I can’t say enough good things about this novel. It is amazing.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.


Mourning Lincoln by Martha Hodes

Mourning LincolnMourning Lincoln by Martha Hodes

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Mourning Lincoln

The news of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination on April 15, 1865, just days after Confederate surrender, astounded the war-weary nation. Massive crowds turned out for services and ceremonies. Countless expressions of grief and dismay were printed in newspapers and preached in sermons. Public responses to the assassination have been well chronicled, but this book is the first to delve into the personal and intimate responses of everyday people—northerners and southerners, soldiers and civilians, black people and white, men and women, rich and poor.

Through deep and thoughtful exploration of diaries, letters, and other personal writings penned during the spring and summer of 1865, Martha Hodes, one of our finest historians, captures the full range of reactions to the president’s death—far more diverse than public expressions would suggest. She tells a story of shock, glee, sorrow, anger, blame, and fear. “’Tis the saddest day in our history,” wrote a mournful man. It was “an electric shock to my soul,” wrote a woman who had escaped from slavery. “Glorious News!” a Lincoln enemy exulted. “Old Lincoln is dead, and I will kill the goddamned Negroes now,” an angry white southerner ranted. For the black soldiers of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts, it was all “too overwhelming, too lamentable, too distressing” to absorb.

There are many surprises in the story Hodes tells, not least the way in which even those utterly devastated by Lincoln’s demise easily interrupted their mourning rituals to attend to the most mundane aspects of everyday life.  There is also the unexpected and unabated virulence of Lincoln’s northern critics, and the way Confederates simultaneously celebrated Lincoln’s death and instantly—on the very day he died—cast him as a fallen friend to the defeated white South.

Hodes brings to life a key moment of national uncertainty and confusion, when competing visions of America’s future proved irreconcilable and hopes for racial justice in the aftermath of the Civil War slipped from the nation’s grasp. Hodes masterfully brings the tragedy of Lincoln’s assassination alive in human terms—terms that continue to stagger and rivet us one hundred and fifty years after the event they so strikingly describe.–From Goodreads

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Truly one of the best “Lincoln Books” that I have had the pleasure of reading.

Rather than just showing the side of America (and the world at large) that felt sorrow for the loss of the sixteenth president, this author researched, learned and wrote a book that shows both sides of the after effects the death of Lincoln had.

Whilst some were angry, disbelieving and sorrowful over the new of the president’s assassination, others were jubilant, relieved or even boastful. This book defines the boundaries between the belief systems of the North and South in a way that I have seen no other book attempt.

Through a multitude of first person accounts, the author manages to paint a picture of the American public after the death of Lincoln and show the reader what was really happening in the minds and hearts of those who survived the event.

From describing the feeling of some that mourning the loss of the president was a collective effort of everyone, to the reality that it was not, the author does a brilliant job of recounting history.

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who is looking for further information about Lincoln, and the period after his death. A smartly researched, intelligently written book.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Deep by Nick Cutter

The DeepThe Deep by Nick Cutter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is creepy in a stuck in a lift with an unknown horror kind of way. Good, clean, claustrophobic, heart-wrenching terror!

One thing that bothers me about a lot of horror novels is that the characters don’t tend to have much poise and personality or appear to have had much of a life before the horror aspects of the story begin. This is not the case with this book, nor with the previous book I read by this author. Nick Cutter is a master at making you wonder if the things he writes about could really happen in some form or another, and he gives the reader well fleshed characters that can support a complex plot.

I think the thing that I like the most about this book is that the reader is never really sure if the horror they are experiencing is really happening, or if it is a byproduct of a psychotic cast of characters.

The terror in this novel is increased by the creepy atmosphere, the mysterious side characters and the flashbacks of a more ordinary kind of horror that all of us could potentially experience.

I have a new favourite horror author in Nick Cutter. Looking forward to what comes out of his twisted mind next.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher and Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Hello from the Gillespies

Hello From the GillespiesHello From the Gillespies by Monica McInerney

For the past thirty-three years, Angela Gillespie has sent to friends and family around the world an end-of-the-year letter titled “Hello from the Gillespies.” It’s always been cheery and full of good news. This year, Angela surprises herself—she tells the truth….

The Gillespies are far from the perfect family that Angela has made them out to be. Her husband is coping badly with retirement. Her thirty-two-year-old twins are having career meltdowns. Her third daughter, badly in debt, can’t stop crying. And her ten-year-old son spends more time talking to his imaginary friend than to real ones.

Without Angela, the family would fall apart. But when a bump on the head leaves Angela with temporary amnesia, the Gillespies pull together—and pull themselves together—in wonderfully surprising ways….

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is most definitely one of my favourite books of the year. I was really surprised actually, by how easily I fell into the rhythm of this book and how much I liked all of the characters. Generally, I end up liking one or two characters a lot and not feeling much for the rest of the cast, but that was not the case with this book.

When you read this novel, you instantly feel like you are part of the family. There is such a special quality to Monica McInerney’s writing. If you are a woman with a husband and children, you will no doubt find something in this book to identify with. I think we all have feelings similar to that of the main character, Angela. I was head nodding a lot whilst reading this book.

The location descriptions are beautiful and the author clearly knows what she is talking about. As this story unfolded, I began feeling terrified of reaching the end of the book. What would I do after this? I felt such a kinship with the characters that it was hard to imagine leaving them and moving on.

Family dynamics take centre stage in this novel, and the author did a beautiful job of showing the difficulties of marriage, growing up and maturing into adulthood.

I would happily recommend this book to anyone looking for a great read with a strong family theme.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Bad Romeo by Leisa Rayven

Bad RomeoBad Romeo by Leisa Rayven
When Cassie Taylor met Ethan Holt at acting school, sparks flew. She was the good girl actress. He was the bad boy about campus. But one fated casting choice for Romeo and Juliet changed it all. Like the characters they were playing, Cassie and Ethan’s romance seemed destined. Until he broke her heart and betrayed her trust. Now the A-list heartthrob is back in her life and turning her world around. One touch at a time.

Cast as romantic leads once again, they’re forced to confront raw memories of the heartbreaking lows and pulse-pounding highs of their secret college affair. But they’ll also discover that people who rub each other the wrong way often make the best sparks. –from Goodreads
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are into books that are steamy-sexy-I-can’t-believe-she-said-that, then this is the book for you. Seriously, the chemistry between the two main characters in this book is off the charts.

I am not much for new adult books, nor am I usually one for the steamy books (they are usually so predictable,) but this book was interesting and held my attention. If you don’t mind some graphic language and some super sexy love scenes, this book will likely appeal to you.

The female lead in this novel is a good heroine in her own right. She is smart and independent and brings a lot of life to these pages. I liked her from the beginning and was sorry to see her go at the end. As for the male lead, he is anything but your typical Romeo. He is not a brainless body as so many of these novels tend to feature. I think overall, this author did a really good job with these characters and I would definitely recommend this book to others.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and was provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Winter Sea by Di Morrissey

The Winter SeaThe Winter Sea by Di Morrissey

Escaping an unhappy marriage and an unsatisfactory job, Cassie Holloway moves to the little Australian coastal town of Whitby Point. There she meets the Aquino family, whose fishing business was founded by their ancestor, Giuseppe, an Italian immigrant, some ninety years before. Life for Cassie on the south west coast is sweet as she sets up a successful restaurant and falls in love with Giuseppe’s great grandson Michael. But when the family patriarch dies, a devastating family secret is revealed which threatens to destroy her dreams. Cassie’s future happiness now rests with her quest for the truth.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a beautifully written and captivating novel that will not let you put it down until the last page has been read. This story begins many years ago and allows the reader to become acquainted with the family at the heart of the book before moving to the present.

Through multiple years and generations, this story bends and weaves around the D’aquino family as well as a main character that you can’t help but love for her personality and passion for life.

This is a book that I found it easy to get lost in and didn’t want to put down. It has been a long time since I got so involved in the lives and world of characters that I forgot about my own, but the break was appreciated.

This author has a certain talent for painting pictures with words and allowing you to really get a sense of the character’s intentions and emotions. If you are looking for a book with a quick pace and a lot of action, this will not be your thing, but if you enjoy generational family tales with secrets, amazing writing and a lot of heart, this will be perfect for you.

Simply put, it is a wonderful book.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and was provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.