Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The Sassy Belles By Beth Albright

Meet the Sassy Belles. They’re strong as a mint juleps, sweet as peach cobbler, and no matter what, they stick together. There are only two seasons in Tuscaloosa—football and waiting-for-football. When Lewis Heart, football announcer and voice of the Crimson Tide, vanishes after an impromptu romp with Vivi Anne McFadden at the Fountain Mist Motel, Vivi does what any Southern woman would do: calls her best friend, Blake O’Hara Heart, attorney-at-law. With the town gossip swirling around them, Vivi and Blake are determined to find out what happened to Lewis and clear Vivi’s reputation. Because after all, men may come and go, but the Sassy Belles are forever. Not since Steel Magnolias have we fallen in love with such sexy, strong and hilarious Southern women. So grab your best girlfriends and join these Belles on the first of many joyrides through the Deep South.... Sexy Southern fun...with a hint of magnolia!

The book has a colourful summer cover and I thought it looked just right for a summer read. This is a debut novel by Beth Albright and is the first book in a series. Beth is from Alabama and this is where she choose to set her story.
The story begins with Vivi's best friend's husband (a lawyer)  receiving a phone call from her saying that his brother (Lewis) with whom she has just spent some time in a hotel bedroom is dead and she killed him. Why she didn't call an ambulance or even motel reception is a bit beyond me. When Harry receives the call about his estranged brother does he call for help? No, he calls his wife and they all arrange to meet at "mothers" house to discuss what to do.
Most of the book tells us in flashbacks the background stories of all the characters but I think that must be because there are a few more books to come.
Lewis is not dead, he is missing and although Vivi says she loves him she never seems too upset and is more concerned about herself. I began to think they had all forgotten that the poor man was missing.
Blake is unhappy in her marriage to Harry, but her childhood sweetheart (who never stopped loving her)  is now a detective heading the investigation into Lewis's disappearance and she is drawn towards him again.
I liked Meridee who is Blake's grandmother, her house is the place everyone goes to when they need help or just to escape from the pressures of life. I would have liked to have read more about her and not just in the last few chapters. She was a strong southern woman with a mind of her own.
What kept me reading this was the descriptions of southern life, the beauty pageants, football and wrap around porches are all put together with a wonderful southern drawl as they call each other, "y'all!"
The way that it's okay to criticise someone as long as you add,"Bless her " at the end. I heard their voices long after I had stopped reading. The sassy belles are women who stick together no matter what and always have each other's back.
I didn't understand the reasoning of why Lewis disappeared and I did feel it could have been explained a bit better but apart from that the book did have a good ending.
There is a lot of humour in this book and I would say it  is good for a quick, light, fun  summer read just don't expect anything too deep.
I have just started reading the second book in the series, Wedding Belles which will be released soon and I'm hoping for more story and less background,so y'all come back here real soon and I'll let y'all know if I enjoyed it.
I found this trailer for the book, it's very good.

I give The Sassy Bells three stars
Amazon uk
Thanks goes to the publisher who provided me with a copy of the book in exchange for a honest review.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Guest Post By Lori Nelson Spielman

Books With Wine and Chocolate would like to give a big welcome to author Lori Nelson Spielman on the publication of her debut novel, The Life List. Loria is going to tell us a bit about her book and also about the uniqueness of the mother and daughter relationship,so over to you Lori.

From my window, I watch a goose leading her goslings down the river, squawking and thrusting at anything that might threaten her gaggle. What causes a goose to act with such guardianship? And why do the goslings follow? Whether we call it love or simply an innate protective instinct, there’s something universal about a mother’s defence and safekeeping of her offspring. And likewise, a biological bond of trust seems to be present in the baby.

As a child, I had separation anxiety. I didn’t have a label for it then. I only knew that my chest felt hollow whenever I was away from my mother for any length of time. I feigned sickness during sleepovers. I was bereft the entire week I spent at my grandmother’s house. When my mother travelled, I loaded the car with rosaries and holy cards to keep her safe. The last episode I remember was in fifth grade, when at the last minute, I backed out of a Girl Scout trip because I didn’t want to be away from her.

Other mothers didn’t smell like her. They didn’t cook like her or keep their home like she did. And most of all, they didn’t make me feel the way she did. She didn’t have to do or say anything. It was more a feeling of stability she created, an atmosphere of constancy and protection that made me know I was loved. More than anyone on earth, I trusted my mother.

A central theme in The Life List is the mother-daughter relationship. In the novel, 34-year-old Brett Bohlinger is forced by her mother to complete the life list Brett had written as a teen. After having witnessed the slow erosion of her daughter’s spirit, the settling and compromising of her relationships and values, Brett’s mother used her death as a last ditch effort to change the trajectory of her daughter’s life.

As Brett reluctantly embarks on the journey through her adolescent dreams, she discovers the self she’d lost along the way—the same fearless, kind-hearted girl her mother once knew.
Each time Brett accomplishes one of her old dreams, she moves closer to true happiness. Every achievement is punctuated with a letter of encouragement, support, and at times, tough love, from her beloved, deceased mother, Elizabeth. 

Elizabeth’s motherly message was crystal clear and universal—she wanted to protect her daughter. But unlike the goose, squawking at predators, Elizabeth wasn’t shielding her daughter from a physical threat. Instead, she was protecting her child from her own choices. She wanted what every mother wants for her daughter: happiness. And just as I struggled to do as a child, Brett learned to trust her mother, even when she was no longer present. Protection and trust: two essential elements of a healthy mother-child relationship, regardless of the species. 

Thank you Lori. Having a daughter myself I know how special the relationship is and how we just want them to be happy. I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing The Life List in the coming weeks.

Lori Nelson Spielman, a former speech pathologist and guidance counselor, currently works as a homebound teacher for inner-city students. She enjoys sailing, running, and reading, though writing is her passion. She lives in Michigan with her husband and a very spoiled cat.
You can find Lori on twitter at  @lnelsonspielman

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The Letter by Kathryn Hughes


Tina Craig has one mission in life – to escape her drunken, abusive husband. She works all the hours she can to save up enough money to leave him. She spends as little time as possible in the violent household she is forced to call home, even volunteering at a charity shop at the weekend to escape Rick’s clutches. One day, whilst sorting through the pockets of a second-hand suit which has been donated to the shop, she comes across an old letter. It is still firmly sealed and unfranked. Unable to resist the pull of curiosity, Tina opens the letter. It was written on 4th September 1939. She is so moved by the contents and bemused as to why the letter was never delivered, she embarks on a quest to find out what became of the writer and his intended recipient, a journey with consequences she could never have predicted.


Billy Stirling knows he has been a fool, but he also knows how to put things right. On 4th September, 1939 he sits down to write a letter that will change his life forever. He slips it into his jacket pocket and, with a spring in his step, and full of optimism, he heads for the nearest post box. How was he to know that his heartfelt missive would not be read for another 34 years, and then by a complete stranger?

The Letter tells the story of two women, born decades apart, but whose paths are destined to cross and how one woman’s devastation leads to the other’s salvation.

The prologue to this book has a lovely start with a grandmother in the garden talking to her granddaughter, it is sweet and gentle. Chapter one had such a violent beginning I wondered if I was reading the same book but right away my heart went out to Tina in her struggle for survival. She was a very likable character but tested my patience when she returned time and time again to her abusive husband and I just knew it would end in tragedy.
She had a friend in Graham, an older man who owned the bookies next door to the charity shop where she volunteered. I felt she used his friendship a bit too much especially as he was married but he did save her skin a few times.
I enjoyed the two parts of the story equally and the way they inevitably came together was well thought out.
In chapter four in 1939 we meet Billy and Chrissie and their parents. Chrissie's dictatorial father made my blood boil and he is also the catalyst in changing everyone's lives for the worse including his own.
The letter that Tina finds in a jacket in the charity shop in 1973 puts her in extreme danger but also has her embark on a journey which could eventually bring her the happiness she has craved.

There are a few books with the title of The Letter published at the moment but this is the first one I've read. There is always a good story in someone finding and reading a letter written years ago and perhaps full of secrets.The difference with this letter is, it was never posted,the recipient didn't get to read the words that would have made three lives so very different.
 This is such an easy read as you will find it hard to put down. I cried buckets of tears reading it, some were sad tears and some were happy. I became so frustrated at the injustice towards women in the 1940's and at how they were made to suffer the consequences of  mistakes they made. How people who could have helped made life unbearable. In a good book you have to love some characters and hate at least one and that is exactly what I found in this book.
This is a debut novel by Katherine Hughes and it's a great first book, I'm looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next.
Thank you to Troubador Publishing who provided me with a e-copy of this book in exchange for a truthful review.
The letter by Kathryn Hughes

Five stars for a great read 

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Bombs and Butterflies by Jo Carroll

Did you know that Laos is the most bombed country in the world? If Jo Carroll had spent more time with her guidebooks and less with a physiotherapist preparing her creaking knees for squat toilets she’d have been better prepared when she crossed the Mekong in a long boat and stepped into the chaos of Huay Xai. But bombs still lie hidden in Laos’ jungles, in the rice paddies, and in the playgrounds. While young people open their doors to new ideas and possibilities, memories of war are etched on the faces of the old.
What sort of welcome would they give a western woman, wandering around with her notebook? Would they dare let her peer into their secret corners?

 This is the third book in Jo Carroll's Over The Hill series. This time our intrepid explorer heads off to Laos in Thailand. I always enjoy going exploring with Jo because I am far too scared to do what she does but I have a real curiosity of far flung places.
This time Jo is not entirely on her own, she uses guided hop on bus tours which I think was very sensible of her although she may not agree with me. Now some people might say that they never read non fiction books, that they find them boring, I would like to challenge them to read Jo's books and I will be astounded if they don't enjoy them.
 When I read  books I like to finish the story with at least a little knowledge of a subject I know nothing about and Bombs and Butterflies fitted into this category. Jo doesn't bog you down with facts, she tells you things just as they are told to her, things you would want to know about anywhere you visit.

Laos is still suffering the effects of war, landmines are everywhere and people are still being maimed by them. Jo can't understand why the Laos people are so kind and accepting to outsiders, to people from countries that ignored what was happening in Laos and who did nothing about it.
Rice fields in Laos (Wikapedia)
She also struggles with her conscience as she visit the tigers, asleep and bored while visitors have their photos taken with them. She moves on to the elephants providing entertainment and rides, although Jo realises that the people have to making a living from the animals and they also have to earn their keep and there is no alternative you can feel her uneasiness in her words.

With Jo jumping on and off buses she meets all kinds of people, the Aussies, the couple who are there to visit their son who's the tour guide and convince him to come home and the monk she thought she was helping with his English but it was more help of the financial kind he wanted.
There was also the rat who shared a bedroom with her one night (uninvited). I have to say I had to shake my duvet reading that as I was reading in bed, and that's why I can't do what Jo does.
The mighty Mekong River, the streets of Luang Prabang, how it feels to sit on an elephants back,we are taken by the hand and shown all the sights, the sounds and the smells of this country. She makes it all so real and I was disappointed when the book came to an end,but the good thing about the Over The Hill books is you can read them over again and never be bored.

Mekong River, Laung Prabang  (Wikapedia)
It wouldn't be one of Jo's books without the odd disaster or mishap but I'm giving nothing away, you'll have to read her book.
Bombs and butterflies, 97p for kindle Amazon uk

A worthy five start read