Thursday, 29 December 2016

The Taste of Air - Book Review



What would you do if you learned that your mother was living a second life in another town?

Nell receives a phone call one day from a hospital in Vermont letting her know that her mother has been admitted to their ICU, but Nell is confused because her mother lives in a senior's community in Massachusetts. And her mother no longer drives. What is she doing in Vermont? How did she get there?

As Nell sees her mother in the hospital, weak and unable to really speak, Nell learns from those around that her mother has a complete second life, complete with a lakeside cottage, car, neighbours, Fall Festivals, and even her own puppy.

As her mother remains in the hospital, Nell and her sister Bridget begin unraveling the secrets of this other life.

I really enjoyed reading The Taste of Air! It pulled me in from the very first page and had the perfect balance of secrets and suspense to keep me going. To give you a taste, you can read chapter one here.

Timelines from Nell, Bridget, and their mother Mary interweave throughout the novel, slowly revealing pieces of a complicated puzzle. I always love novels where the characters' stories steadily merge together at the end, and I found the three women's different lives easy to follow.

The Taste of Air is about love, longing, family, friendship, impossible choices, and the internal struggle we all face to find a space that we can call our own.

If you enjoy books about family secrets, then you will absolutely enjoy The Taste of Air. An excellent way to spend some of those Amazon gift cards you may have received over the holidays :)

"What we do for love...to ourselves and for each other."
- Gail Cleare, The Taste of Air

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I was sent a copy of The Taste of Air courtesy of the author. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. You can connect with Gail Cleare on her website, Facebook, and on Twitter.



Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Marlene: A Novel of Marlene Dietrich - Book Review

I have always loved history told through stories. I gravitate often towards historical fiction when reading because I throughly enjoy learning about people, places, and events that I didn't know of before. I sincerely believe that the more we know about other people, their challenges, and their resolve, the more empathetic we become ourselves. For me, historical fiction allows me to walk in the shoes of others in a very accessible way. This has certainly been the case with C. W. Gortner's new novel, Marlene.




From cabarets in Germany to Academy Award nominations in Hollywood to actively serving during World War II, the life of Marlene Dietrich was nothing short of fascinating.

Synopsis:
A lush, dramatic biographical novel of one of the most glamorous and alluring legends of Hollywood’s golden age, Marlene Dietrich—from the gender-bending cabarets of Weimar Berlin to the lush film studios of Hollywood, a sweeping story of passion, glamour, ambition, art, and war from the author of Mademoiselle Chanel.
Raised in genteel poverty after the First World War, Maria Magdalena Dietrich dreams of a life on the stage. When a budding career as a violinist is cut short, the willful teenager vows to become a singer, trading her family’s proper, middle-class society for the free-spirited, louche world of Weimar Berlin’s cabarets and drag balls. With her sultry beauty, smoky voice, seductive silk cocktail dresses, and androgynous tailored suits, Marlene performs to packed houses and becomes entangled in a series of stormy love affairs that push the boundaries of social convention.
For the beautiful, desirous Marlene, neither fame nor marriage and motherhood can cure her wanderlust. As Hitler and the Nazis rise to power, she sets sail for America. Rivaling the success of another European import, Greta Garbo, Marlene quickly becomes one of Hollywood’s leading ladies, starring with legends such as Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Cary Grant. Desperate for her return, Hitler tries to lure her with dazzling promises. Marlene instead chooses to become an American citizen, and after her new nation is forced into World War II, she tours with the USO, performing for thousands of Allied troops in Europe and Africa.
But one day she returns to Germany. Escorted by General George Patton himself, Marlene is heartbroken by the war’s devastation and the evil legacy of the Third Reich that has transformed her homeland and the family she loved.
An enthralling and insightful account of this extraordinary legend, Marlene reveals the inner life of a woman of grit, glamour, and ambition who defied convention, seduced the world, and forged her own path on her own terms.


This book is told from Marlene's perspective, and I found it very easy to connect with her. I felt as though Marlene herself was telling me about her life, or that I was reading her personal journals where she had been documenting her extraordinary life's journey. I found the writing style very captivating, and Gortner authentically brought to life many people, each with their distinct traits and characteristics. This novel is incredibly well-researched and very enjoyable to read. In the notes at the end of the book, Gortner says that every single person in the novel was real, and I sincerely appreciate that attention to detail.

I haven't yet seen any of Marlene Dietrich's movies, and to be honest, I didn't have more than a vague idea of who she was before I read this book; however, with her independence and determination, Marlene is certainly a woman I will not soon forget. I'm so happy to have learned her story, and I look forward to seeing some of Marlene's movies that Gortner describes in the book.

While Marlene is not technically a memoir, anyone who enjoys reading either historical fiction or memoirs will certainly enjoy reading Gortner's book.

Among other novels, C. W. Gortner also wrote Mademoiselle Chanel, which I've added to my TBR list. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and his website.

Marlene is available for purchase from HaperCollins or Amazon.

xo
Jenn


Disclaimer - I was sent a copy of this book courtesy of HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. To read what other bloggers had to say about Marlene, check out the full book tour.



Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Under the Influence by Joyce Maynard - Book Review




Under the Influence is the newest release by Joyce Maynard.

Helen is at her absolute lowest. Her marriage has failed and her drinking has cost her custody of her only son, Ollie, whom she now only sees briefly on weekends. While at an art gallery, Helen meets Ava and Swift Havilland and is immediately pulled into their lives. She takes on small jobs for them, and they take her under their wing by inviting her to lavish parties, providing her with an extraordinary home to use when her son is visiting, and promising to help her regain custody of Ollie. However, things that seem too good to be true generally are and when it comes time to pay up for all of the Havilland's generosity, Helen may not be able to comply with their demands.

When Wally Lamb calls a book "riveting" that sets some high expectations, and this book did not disappoint. Under the Influence was completely captivating.

I was pulled in right from the very first page. It is a story about friendship, family, envy, and escape. Under the Influence was a book that I mentally carried around with me, even when I was not reading it.

Helen is so desperate for attention and love that it's hard not to understand why she was so pulled to the Havillands. They have everything, and they are more than happy to share it with her, as long as she continues to do their bidding. This story kept me engaged because the reader knows that somewhere along the line, Helen is going to be asked to pay up in a major way for all of the opportunities that she has been given by Ava and Swift, but what will be the cost?

I enjoyed the writing style and the storyline very much. There were twists and turns along the way that kept me thinking. I felt there was just enough suspense to keep me interested without the terrified feeling that comes along with psychological thrillers.

Under the Influence is available for purchase from Amazon or HarperCollins.  You can also connect with the author, Joyce Maynard, on her website or on Facebook.

Part of the reason I love participating in promotional book tours is that I often get to learn about authors that are new to me, and that I possibly would have not otherwise known. This was my first Joyce Maynard novel, and it will not be my last. I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I was sent a complementary copy of Under the Influence from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. To see what other bloggers had to say about this book, you can check out the full book tour.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Novel Editions - December 2016 Review + Coupon Code



Novel Editions is a new Canadian book box subscription. Each Novel Editions box includes a newly released fiction novel and 3 or 4 other bookish goodies.

Cost - $44.99 + shipping (currently they only ship within Canada)
Use the code SPLENDIDLIFE10 to receive 10% off the January Novel Editions box. Their next theme is Enchantment.

The theme for the December box was Literary Rebels.

Inside the box was a book, beautifully wrapped...


.... along with a number of other wonderful treats!




I love beautiful stationery, so I know I will put the notecards to good use. And I've already been using the brass bookmark actively because while I love beautiful bookmarks, I'm always sad when they inevitably get bent or creased. That will not happen with this feather bookmark. Even my four year old declared it "so beautiful, Mommy" when he saw it in my book.

Literary candles are so popular right now! In this sampler there are 12 scented tea lights with themes like Pemberley Park, Aged Page, Walden Woods, and Café au Library.

The book featured this month is The Ballroom by Anna Hope. I heard about this book a few months ago, and added it to my Goodreads to be read list. I've heard it's really captivating. I was looking forward to reading it before, but now I'm even more excited because I can't wait to see how all of the items chosen tie into the novel. Feathers will play a role somewhere I'm sure!!



Novel Editions also prepares a monthly book club guide for their selected books with ideas for creating the right atmosphere, preparing themed food, and discussion questions. You can join the Novel Editions Book Club group on Facebook and also look forward to discussions with the authors themselves!

Head on over to the Novel Editions website to subscribe. They offer 1 month, 3 month, or 6 month subscriptions. Remember to use the code SPLENDIDLIFE10 to receive 10% off your January box! Be sure to tell them you saw this post too!

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I was sent a complementary Novel Editions box for review. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. 

Friday, 2 December 2016

Christine's Christmas Countdown {Excerpt}

No matter what kind of holiday you plan, Christmas almost always crazy-making. Shopping, holiday cards, decorating, meal planning, co-ordinating families, travel, wrapping gifts, school concerts, house-cleaning, etc etc etc...It just goes on. It can feel very overwhelming.

Christine's Christmas Countdown is an adorable little book that has covered everything you could possibly think of needing to do to prepare for the holidays. I particularly love how there are pages pre-organized for you to fill out directly in the book about with of the various lists we need to make this time of year!

Below you can find an excerpt of a few things to start thinking about around this time of year. They may not all apply to you, but you may find one or two tips here that hadn't yet crossed your mind!





Mid – End November. Now is the time to buy all the boring essentials that you will need over the Christmas period. Some goods you require irrespective of it being Christmas, some are regularly used items that you need more of and some are additions to the usual shop because it is Christmas.

Remember:

1. Cling film, kitchen foil and extra wide for the turkey, freezer bags, non-stick baking paper, ice cube bags, washing up liquid, washing powder, fabric conditioner, dishwasher tablets, cleaning agents, kitchen rolls, bin bags, toilet rolls, tissues, paper napkins, sellotape, light bulbs, firelighters, matches, toothpaste, toothbrushes, bars of soap, liquid hand soap, shampoo, hairspray, nail varnish remover, tea, coffee (also decaffeinated), breakfast cereals, pet food, Elastoplast, Paracetamol, Calpol.

2. If you have babies, make a list of all their daily needs according to their age and get as much as possible now, in particular nappies. Have some thermometers to be on the safe side!

3. Discuss alcohol requirements and, according to taste, purchase wine, spirits, mixers, fruit juices, soft drinks, bottled water.

Special buys:


• Advent calendars for your own children and for presents.
• Wreath for the front door if you are buying an artificial one.
• Buy any additional decorations as desired while there is still a good selection in the shops.
• Christmas wrapping paper, brown paper and jiffy bags for posting parcels.
• Santa sacks and stocking fillers.
• Balloons.
• Christmas crackers, a must for the Christmas table to create a festive atmosphere, fun from the jokes and laughter from the hats. You can of course make your crackers. There are numerous websites with instructions.
• Music for Christmas. Check what you have for background music, parties and Christmas numbers. Now is a good time to review your collection, know where to find them and buy some new ones.
• Treat yourself to some good hand cream (so that your hands don’t portray how much work you have been doing!) and make sure you have very effective facial cleansing agents for removing the party makeup.


Dr. Christine Harrington is a retired Consultant Dermatologist who now lives in a farmhouse in South Wales where she spends her time gardening. Christine loves nothing more than spending time with her family and dogs, especially over Christmas.

Thank you so much to Clink Street Publishing for sending me a copy of Christine's Christmas Countdown and for providing this excerpt!

xo
Jenn




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