Book Review

Book Review: Not a Fairy Tale – Romy Sommer

Set in Los Angeles, Hollywood starlet, Nina Alexander is beside herself for losing the Oscar for a supporting role. Thinking it couldn’t get worse, she receives an unexpected proposal on the same stage. Not wanting to commit to someone she doesn’t love, she turns it down, thus attracting further media attention.

Dominic Kelly, a gorgeous stuntman and womaniser comes to her rescue. Nina’s always found him attractive, yet strangely he’s never shown an interest in her. They spend the night at his place to lose the paparazzi and Nina gains a glimpse into his life.

Nina loves fame, fortune, even the isolated life she leads. Her past has hardened her and she’s worked hard to reinvent herself as the actress she envisioned. She comes up with a plan to redeem her image by going after a coveted role. To do this she’d need to transform into an action heroine and asks Dominic to train her.

Dominic doesn’t exactly jump at the offer. He has reasons to decline, one of them being the fear of losing his heart to Nina. She was unlike the women he bedded and didn’t want to complicate things. Through his better judgement he agrees to her request and is unable to resist her charms.

Romy Sommer is a talented romance Author. The story is captivating, her characters are believable, the sex steamy and the ever-after beyond satisfying.

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Book Review

Book Review: The Pursuit of Happiness – Douglas Kennedy

This novel is 648 pages long. It took me back to the tomes of yesteryear, the kind that kept one spellbound from cover to cover with intrigue and drama.

Douglas Kennedy writes in first person. He tracks the journey of two women, Kate Malone and Sara Smythe. The saga commences at the funeral of Kate’s mother and the spotting of Sara for the first time. Coming to terms with a major loss, Kate is contacted by Sara begging to see her. Not understanding why a total stranger would want to meet at this juncture, she affords her a hearing only to have her world uprooted a second time. Sara claims to be her father’s lover. A father Kate barely knew having passed on when she was only a few months old.

The story shifts to Sara and how she meets Jack Malone at a party in her brother, Eric’s apartment in Manhattan, 1945. One glance was all it took to bring the pair together. They chatted and ended up making love before having to rush Jack back to the ship that would take him out to sea for the next nine months. Though this behaviour was out of character for Sara, she knew Jack was the one. He promised to write everyday as he kissed her deeply and set sail.

Jack lied. Sara wrote countless letters; she waited, hoping he’d return. He sent her a postcard many months later with the words, “I’m sorry”. Sara was crushed. It took forever to forget Jack and only through Eric’s aid was she was able to find herself again. The relationship the siblings shared was unbreakable. Both were up and coming writers reaching success before long. Eric for a short stint was involved in communist party activities which he regretted and distanced from. However, this association leads to his downfall.

Three years later, destiny draws Jack and Sara together again. Only this time Jack is married with a young son who was the reason why he didn’t pursue a relationship with Sara. Now he wants her back and refuses to take no for an answer. Sara eventually relents and they come to an arrangement that allows Jack to remain in his marriage while maintaining one with her. Their affair, for a brief period was everything Sara had hoped for. Once again, Jack lets Sara down, this time betraying her in the worst possible way. Tragedy strikes over and over, Sara caught in the midst, unable to forgive and forget.

Douglas Kennedy is a phenomenal writer. He captures every scene to the minute detail. The capacity to write from a women’s perspective and doing it so convincingly is impressive. There were paragraphs of truth that stood out throughout the book that had to be savoured more than once. Sara’s characterization was impeccable, I felt her heartbreak, suffering and never-ending grief. I laughed, cried, then cried some more until sadness overwhelmed me realising I’d come to the end of her story and there wasn’t any more.

This novel tops my best reads list. A well-deserved five star rating!

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“Which is perhaps one of the great reasons why love always disappoints. We enter it hoping it will make us whole – that it will shore up our foundations, end our sense of incompleteness, give us the stability we crave. Then we discover that, on the contrary it is a deeply exposing experience. Because it is so charged with ambivalence. We seek certaintly in another person. We discover doubt – both in the object of our affections and in ourselves.

So perhaps the trick is to recognize the fundamental ambivalence lurking behind every form of human endeavour. Because once you recognise that – once you grasp the flawed nature of everything – you can move forward without disappointment.”

Book Review

Book Review: Grayson’s Vow – Mia Sheridan

This is the second book I’ve read by Romance Author, Mia Sheridan. As much as I’m acquainted with her writing style, I had no idea she’d enchant me again.

I read this book in a weekend! And it speaks volumes to the pulling power she has over readers. Especially when one salivates on romance as much I do and it racks up as one of the best reads, ever!

The setting is Napa Valley, land of vineyards, mountain ranges and timeless living. Kira Dallaire has returned from a sojourn in Africa to heal her soul from a scandal instigated by her father, Mayor Dallaire and an ex-fiancé, Cooper Stratton. Refusing their money, Kira concocts a plan to access funds bequeathed by her Gran on condition of marriage. A chance encounter with Grayson Hawthorn who is bordering financial ruin in a winery, fits the bill for a marriage of convenience.

Kira Dallaire is a vivacious, lovable character. Although raised in wealth, she refused to be sucked into a world of power and greed, instead fighting for the underdogs. Despite the strife those close unveiled upon her, she refused to be embittered, steadfast in the belief that love conquers pain. Grayson Hawthorn had been wronged all his life, never afforded love or worth by his parents. Even the prized winery bestowed by his father with a vow to keep it thriving was set to sabotage his efforts.

From the outset, the relationship between Kira and Grayson was a business arrangement. But living in close quarters, they discover annoyances to dislike and an inescapable magnetism. Rushing into a fake wedding, the prospect of living as a married couple becomes real and enticing.

Mia Sheridan is an extraordinaire! She weaves spell-binding tales. Characters to adore or throttle when they can’t get it together. Endless twists and turns to keep flicking pages at a rapid speed. Mostly, a Mia Sheridan novel is a lesson in love and hope intertwining in a symphony of words.

A must-read five star rating!

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Book Review

Zebra Crossing – Meg Vandermerwe

I have the pleasure of sitting around Meg Vandermerwe’s table once a month learning the art of creative writing. A lecturer at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). The Editor of New Contrast Magazine devoted to the publishing of original stories by South African writers. Her first published work was a collection of short stories “This place I call home”.

Zebra Crossing isn’t a lengthy novel, yet I meandered through it. I wanted to savour every word, every beautiful detail of a remarkable tale. Meg’s writing is unlike anything I’ve encountered. Sentences that stop you in your tracks, taking a moment to reflect on its sheer magnificence. Characters that creep into your heart with every flick of the page. It’s authentic and lyrical style lingers as it hurtles to a close with one wishing it could have turned out differently.

Chipo is a seventeen year old albino, raised in Zimbabwe. She knows only ridicule and shame from many who perceive her to be superstitious, unnatural and an eye sore. Holding on to memories of unconditional love from a mother who passed too soon, she is left in the hands of a brother, George. They flee Zimbabwe, illegally crossing the border in search of a bright future.

The year is 2010, the World Cup has arrived on South African soil and xenophobia is rising. The pair settle in Cape Town with two brothers, David and Peter, fellow Zimbabweans. Chipo maintains her keep by taking care of household chores and assisting Jean-Paul, a dressmaker. David is the beholder of Chipo’s heart. Ignorant to this, he follows his own destiny and love interest. In a desperate plea to win the man of her dreams, Chipo’s path crosses that of Dr Ongani, a self-professed healer of bad fortune. Placing belief in him leads to disastrous consequences not only for herself, but the entire household.

Meg Vandermerwe has encouraged through her teaching to read out of one’s comfort zone and now I know why. South Africa has many talented storytellers who sadly don’t receive the support and appreciation they deserve. The knowledge they possess living in a country as diverse as ours, cultures intertwined, shining the spotlight on hidden struggles, makes for explosive reading.

I have only the highest praise for this book and the Author. I urge you to give it a try. A five star rating.

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Book Review

The girl on the train – Paula Hawkins

This book has been floating around the West Coast Writers’ Circle for a while and each time I wished to borrow it – it vanished! I eventually got around to buying my own copy only to have it sit on the “to be read” pile.

One evening I was searching for great opening lines amongst my library when I read the first paragraph, only to continue reading two to three pages. I had to curb myself from delving further for fear of forgetting my task at hand! This is a natural inclination when one sneaks a peek into this book.

The novel comprises of three perspectives. The main narrator is Rachel, an alcoholic lonely soul who commutes the same route daily by train. Her life has crumbled since her divorce from a man she still pines for. She lives with a friend who feels sorry for her, yet is exasperated by her unchanging behaviour. Rachel loves trains, feels comforted by them, soaking up the views at every stop. With an overactive imagination, she concocts her own reality prying into the homes of strangers.

Anna is the woman Rachel’s ex-husband left her for. She has everything – the man she stole and a daughter to cement their marriage. She lives on Blenheim Road in the same house Rachel had lived, close to the trains, which she abhors. She sees Rachel as a threat with her drunken calls and unexpected visits unsettling their perfect world.

Megan also lives on Blenheim Road. She is blond, beautiful and has a husband who adores her. Far from being happy, she initiates flings with men, searching for an escape from secrets that are tormenting her. She goes missing one night – the last person to have seen her was her husband after they’d had a massive row. Her body is found two weeks later washed up by torrential rains, any evidence at the crime scene lost. The police are desperate to find the killer and make an arrest.

The lives of these women become intertwined on that fateful night of Megan’s disappearance. Rachel was on a drinking spree finding herself on Blenheim Road. She recalls seeing Anna and her ex-husband but cannot piece together the events of the evening leading to her being bloodied and bruised. She’d blacked out, the memories out of her grasp. Although she’d never met Megan personally, she’d watched her from the train, believed she had the perfect marriage only to witness her kissing a stranger, crushing her illusion. She has a desperate desire to unravel the mystery of the murder, not realising the more she digs, the danger it spells for her.

The Author is spot on in her depiction of Rachel as an alcoholic. Her loss of dignity, self-loathing and loneliness is told in sobering clarity. The characters flaws, insecurities and unhappiness are painted in bold strokes. The story moves at an incredible pace, with twists and turns keeping the reader on tenterhooks. I thought I knew who the killer was only to be led down the wrong track. The denouement is chilling to say the least.

I found this book hard to put down. The authentic characters crept into my mind, the description of something as mundane as a train ride was brought to life through the Author’s vision and exceptional writing talent. The suspense, drama, hopelessness and tragedy unfolding kept me spellbound. A must-read five star rating from me 🙂

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Book Review…

Eversea by Natasha Boyd

I was fortunate to meet Natasha Boyd at a Romance Writers’ gathering in 2014. She is an internationally acclaimed Romance Writer, having penned five successful novels to date. She was on a brief visit to South Africa where she hails from before returning home to South Carolina. She revealed how a chance encounter with writers gave her the courage to submit her work leading to the publishing of “Eversea” and “Forever, Jack” which sky-rocketed her career.

One of my goals this year is to read as many romance books as possible and Eversea was top of the pile. From the moment I dived into the novel I was blown away by Natasha’s flawless writing talent. She has the gift of enticing you from the first page, reeling you in with each captivating chapter until you’re left gasping for more!

Keri-Anne is a waitress in Butler’s Cove, South Carolina. Life hasn’t been easy on her. She lost her parents, put her dreams on hold for the sake of her only brother and shoulders the upkeep of their historic home. Her simple life collides with Jack Eversea, a heart-stopping Hollywood star hiding out from fame and a cheating celebrity girlfriend. As much as Kerri-Anne is drawn to Jack, she doesn’t treat him like a besotted fan and helps him lay low for a while. Jack finds Kerri-Anne beguiling, what with her natural beauty, sassiness and love of the outdoors. So begins a friendship that borders on mutual attraction – each hesitant to take it further, yet unable to fight their feelings.

Just when you think Kerri-Anne and Jack are destined to live happily ever after, Jack’s past catches up with him and rips apart their brief love affair. Kerri-Anne is left nursing a broken heart and Jack returns to the vain world of acting. As a glimmer of hope appears on the horizon, the Author snatches it and leaves the reader hanging on for dear life – in my case without the second novel, “Forever Jack”?!

Reading Eversea was like sinking into a water bed and floating off on a desirable dream. The characters got under my skin, the storyline hypnotised me and the twists and turns kept me on the edge of my seat. Natasha Boyd has catapulted herself to the No. 1 spot of Romance Authors on my list. If you’re looking for whimsical romance, steamy scenes and an epic love story, Eversea is everything and more!!!

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Book Review

We are all completely beside ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

WAACBO-coverpb-195x300[1]I must admit I’ve been sitting with this book for a while. The reason being I’m reading two books simultaneously, which isn’t always a good idea!

I chose this book as it’s one of those “must reads” and since I tend to get serious fomo when there’s hype swirling around, had to read it! The cover is eye-catching, canary yellow letting off a warm and welcoming feel, matched with black, bold and daring. I couldn’t escape the glowing reviews on the inside of the book, compelling me to cure my curiosity.

I don’t want to delve too much in summarising the story as I don’t want to give the game away. It has an abundance of twists and turns with a surprise element I didn’t see coming. It’s at this point when you’re completely intrigued or could toss the book aside. I persevered and wasn’t disappointed in the least. What I can reveal is the story weaves around family dynamics, complexities of sibling rivalry and the unconditional love stemming from an unbreakable bond.

Karen Joy Fowler’s writing is fascinating. She has the uncanny ability of dropping the reader in the middle of the story and pulling you in different directions. This didn’t bother me in the least as I eagerly followed her lead. Even though the subject matter is quite serious, dark and despairing at times, she manages to pepper it with dry humour, taking the edge off her creation. No wonder it was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2014.

I highly recommend this book to all avid readers. It will keep you spell-bound, rob you of sleep, toy with your emotions and keep you riveted to the very end. Trust me on this!

Book Review

The Keepers: Archer – Rae Rivers

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One can only call yourself lucky when you’re able to read a book by an Author you’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person. I met Rae Rivers through the Romance Writers’ Organisation and she truly is an inspiration to many aspiring Romance Authors hoping to succeed in the genre.

When I got to meet Rae a second time, I brought along a copy of her book and she didn’t hesitate to inscribe it, jotting a personal message especially for me, much to my delight. The Keepers is a trilogy, comprising of Archer, Declan and Ethan.

Curling up with my copy of Archer, I was a tad sceptical whether I would find the book interesting considering it is a paranormal romance novel. I thrive on romance, but I’d never ventured into mystical tales before. However, I kept an open mind and plunged into the book.

The story floats around Sienna Beckham, a witch who has supernatural powers bestowed upon her by her grandmother and a long line of ancestors. The three dashing Bennet brothers, Archer, Declan and Ethan are her Keepers, fighting off evil in the town of Rapid Falls, maintaining harmony. From the onset, one is drawn to the sizzling chemistry between Sienna and Archer. Such a relationship is forbidden between a witch and a keeper, yet they are unable to resist temptation, allowing their love to consume them.

Amidst love, there is never a dull moment as evil lurks, threatening to destroy the peace and harmony they fiercely protect. This book oozes action, drama, intrigue, magic and a non-stop battle between good versus evil. Rae Rivers is a talented writer; she has the unique ability to hook the reader from the very first page to the last with her captivating storytelling.

If you love romance, are a fan of magical tales or just adore reading per se, you will be enchanted by this book. I cannot wait to sink my claws into the follow-up of the Keepers: Declan 🙂

Book Review

Book Review: Archer’s Voice – Mia Sheridan

Natasha Boyd, an American Romance Writer I met in December last year revealed in one of her Facebook posts her awe in reading a Mia Sheridan novel and how she’s become one of her favourite Authors’. I immediately googled her books and found sterling reviews on all of them and knew I had to follow suit.

I selected Archer’s Voice. From the moment I held the smooth book in my hands, appreciating the innocent yet seductive cover, flipping to read the blurb at the back with delight, I was bubbling with excitement.

The only reading time I have is during my lunch hour at work. I lock myself into my office, sink into my red leather chair with a steaming cup of tea, immersing myself in the story. Bree Prescott runs away from her life to settle in Pelion, Maine, a quiet town set along a serene lake to escape the tragedy of losing her father.

On her first day of arrival in town, she comes into contact with Archer Hale. She is taken aback by his unkempt appearance, unsightly beard, yet he has the warmest whiskey eyes with an admirable frame of note. She is drawn to him and attempts to hold a conversation, with no response forthcoming. Bree is intrigued by Archer, enquiring from the locals the reason for his withdrawn behaviour and low self-esteem.

Archer Hale is a forlorn character, having lost his entire family in a freak accident and worst still, being shot in his vocal cords at a tender age of seven. He was taken in by his uncle until he too had passed on, leaving Archer to fend for himself. He never interacted with the town folk, they ridiculed him and he didn’t bother to set them straight. He kept himself busy taking care of his property, reading everything in sight, building a cocoon for himself. He thought he would never find love, until Bree walked into his life.

Mia Sheridan writes beautifully, simply and straight from the heart. Time whizzed by reading this book and I struggled to put it down and tear myself away. She pulled out all the stops in denouement, one moment I was reeling with delight, the next she yanked the carpet right under my feet and just when I thought it would all work out in the end – I was balling my eyes out!

Archer’s Voice engraved in my mind the reason why I love the romance genre. Writers like Mia Sheridan convince me time and time again that matters of the heart are the most magnetic, alluring and heart-wrenching stories readers will never become bored of. And when you discover a treasure trove in the form of Mia Sheridan, you know you’ve struck gold.

Book Review

Somebody Else’s Kids – Torey Hayden

An acquaintance of mine loan me this book, claiming I had to read it as it’s one of her all-time favourites. A lot of people tend to lend me novels for they know I love reading and I can never be nasty and say I already have enough books, thank you very much. I meekly accept it and grudgingly walk away. I know how much it bothers me when I borrow a must-read book to a friend and they take eons to read it – I become annoyed and eventually ask them to return it, vowing never to offer my books again!

So here I was with a book I had no desire to read, compelled to finish it for I needed to give it back as soon as possible, my shelf of unread books glaring at me with disdain as I paged through it. The blurb at the back revealed the Author, Torey Hayden as an educational psychologist and a special needs teacher who chronicles her struggles in the classroom. Her novels have become best sellers.

I started reading this book when I flew down to see my Dad when he was still alive and in hospital. This was a very traumatic time for me and I attempted to read it to take my mind off the hopelessness I felt.

This is a true life story of Torey heading a resource classroom in a district school, receiving four special needs children nobody else could deal with. Boo is a severely autistic seven year old who lives in his own world. Lori, also seven, a beautiful young girl who was severely abused as a child resulting in brain damage, hampering her reading abilities. Ten year old Tomaso witnessed his stepmother shoot his father and brother and is filled with anger and hatred. Claudia is a twelve year old who had to leave her private catholic school when it was discovered she was pregnant.

I have to commend Torey Hayden on her utter devotion, patience, belief and untainted love for the children under her care. Her job wasn’t easy in the least and yet she remained determined to educate them, instil unconditional love and respect, assisting them to thrive and find joy in her class.

Torey Hayden is a talented wordsmith. You can feel the passion she has for these children and you cannot help but admire the bond she forms with them. However, there were times when I didn’t agree with her methods and felt she could’ve been more assertive to the educators and learning system in general. The novel was slow moving and I really had to buckle down to finish it as it became disheartening and I couldn’t predict a happy ending.

I didn’t particularly love this book and it’s not the kind of genre that appeals to me. Perhaps I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to appreciate the Author’s work. The question is whether I would read another Torey Hayden novel – no, it’s just not my cup of tea!