Book Review: 20 Things To Love About The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me by Barbara Quinn

TheSummerSpringsteen'sSongsSavedMeAbout the Book

Coming home to catch her husband with his face between the long, silky legs of another woman is the last thing Sofia expects – and on today of all days. But, after scratching an expletive into his Porsche and setting the cheating bastard’s clothes on fire, she cranks up her beloved Bruce and flees, vowing to never look back. Finding solace in the peaceful beachside town of Bradley Beach, NJ, Sof is determined to start over. And, with the help of best friends, new acquaintances, a sexy neighbour, and the powerful songs of Springsteen, this may be the place where her wounds can heal. But, as if she hasn’t faced her share of life’s challenges, a final flurry of obstacles awaits. In order to head courageously toward the future, Sofia must first let go of her past, find freedom, and mend her broken soul.

Watch the book trailer:

Format: eBook (300 pp.), paperback (280 pp.) Publisher: Lakewater Press
Published: 24th October 2017                              Genre: Women’s Fiction

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20 Things To Love About The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me

  1. Phoebe – The smelliest, laziest but most lovable pooch in the world
  2. Jerome – Two words: poetic justice
  3. Coincidence or fate? A sexy, unattached man living right next door
  4. Living the fantasy of moving to the beach
  5. Dumping a jerk (see 2)
  6. Taking control of your life and moving on (see 2)
  7. Proof positive there’s a Springsteen for every occasion and every mood – he really can read your mind!
  8. Being rescued and being a rescuer
  9. The genius that is Yappy Hour
  10. Female friendships and solidarity
  11. Getting in shape
  12. Ditching the mismatched, slightly faded undies you should have replaced years ago
  13. Revenge is a dish…best painted somewhere
  14. Appreciating craft and artistic skills
  15. There are clambakes outside of the musical Carousel?
  16. Spirit of community
  17. Baking as therapy
  18. Having a great business partner who’ll do more than their fair share
  19. Summer by the sea
  20. An isolated sandbar….

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of publishers Lakewater Press in return for an honest review.

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In three words: Hopeful, funny, summer

Try something similar…Under A Tuscan Sky by Karen Aldous

BarbaraQuinnAbout the Author

Barbara Quinn is an award-winning short story writer and author of a variety of novels. Her travels have taken her to forty-seven states and five continents where she’s encountered fascinating settings and inspiring people that populate her work.

Her many past jobs include lawyer, record shop owner, process server, lingerie sales clerk, waitress and postal worker. She’s a native New Yorker with roots in the Bronx, Long Island, and Westchester. She currently resides with her husband in Bradley Beach, NJ and Holmes Beach, FL. She enjoys spending time with her son and his family and planning her next adventure. She wants to remind everyone that when you meet her, SHE’S NOT SHOUTING, SHE’S ITALIAN.

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My Week in Books – 22nd October ’17


New arrivals

DeathDescendsonSaturnVillaDeath Descends on Saturn Villa (The Gower Street Detective #3) by M R C Kasasian (ebook, Kindle deal)

Gower Street, London: 1883. March Middleton is the niece of London’s greatest (and most curmudgeonly) private detective, Sidney Grice. March has just discovered a wealthy long-lost relative she never knew she had. When this newest family member meets with a horrible death, March is in the frame for murder—and only Sidney Grice can prove her innocence. Grice agrees to investigate (for his usual fee) but warns that he is not entirely convinced of her innocence. If he were in her position, he might have been tempted. But the more he uncovers, the more all the clues point to Grice himself . . .

TheSecretsofGaslightLaneThe Secrets of Gaslight Lane (The Gower Street Detective #4) by M R C Kasasian (ebook, Kindle deal)

London, 1883: All is quiet at 125 Gower Street. Sidney Grice is swotting up on the anatomical structure of human hair whilst his ward, March Middleton, sneaks upstairs for her eighth secret cigarette of the day. The household is, perhaps, too quiet. So, when a beautiful young woman turns up at the door, imploring London’s foremost personal detective to solve the mystery of her father’s murder, Grice can barely disguise his glee. Mr Nathan Garstang was found slaughtered in his bed, but there is no trace of a weapon or intruder. A classic locked-room case. But what piques Grice’s interest is the crime’s link to one of London’s most notorious unsolved murders. Ten years ago, Nathan’s uncle aunt and servants were murdered in their sleep in the very same house. Now, it seems, the Garstang murderer is back…

True GrandeurTrue Grandeur by Cal R Barnes (ebook, review copy courtesy of the author)

True Grandeur is the tale of Conrad Arlington, a young man who moves to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of becoming a great artist. Within a few short years of his arrival, Conrad’s success as a writer brings him to the attention of Gracie Garrison, a beautiful and alluring socialite whose glamorous lifestyle is just as mysterious as the rumours that surround her. After spending a spirited and adventurous night on the town together – one fuelled by an excess of beautiful people, extravagant parties, gallery openings, and the madness of a fallen director – Conrad ultimately falls in love with her, believing them to be destined. However, when he awakes the next morning to find that Gracie is gone, he is distraught, and thus embarks on his relentless journey to find her, resulting in a tumultuous spiral of passion, art, and romance as he searches his soul to try and uncover the greatest mystery of all – true love.

TheFragileThreadofHopeThe Fragile Thread of Hope by Pankaj Giri (ebook, advance reader copy courtesy of the author)

In the autumn of 2012, destiny wreaks havoc on two unsuspecting people – Soham and Fiona. Although his devastating past involving his brother still haunted him, Soham had established a promising career for himself in Bangalore. After a difficult childhood, Fiona’s fortunes had finally taken a turn for the better. She had married her beloved, and her life was as perfect as she had ever imagined it to be. But when tragedy strikes them yet again, their fundamentally fragile lives threaten to fall apart. Can Fiona and Soham overcome their grief? Will the overwhelming pain destroy their lives? Seasoned with the flavours of exotic Nepalese traditions and set in the picturesque Indian hill station, Gangtok, The Fragile Thread of Hope explores the themes of spirituality, faith, alcoholism, love, and guilt while navigating the complex maze of familial relationships. Inspirational and heart-wrenchingly intimate, it urges you to wonder – does hope stand a chance in this travesty called life?

MysteryTour CWA AnthologyMystery Tour: CWA Anthology of Short Stories edited by Martin Edwards (eARC, courtesy of Orenda Books)

This exciting collection of short stories features crime writers working with a “mystery tour” or travel theme. Ann Cleeves on Tanzania, Vas Khan on Mumbai, and Marnie Riches on Holland. Other writers include Sarah Hilary, Alex Marwood, Cally Taylor, Elly Griffiths, Steph Broadribb, Johana Gustawsson, Liz Nugent, Steve Cavanagh, Cal Moriarty, Paul Hardisty, Mason Cross, Sharon Bolton, Vas Khan, Marnie Riches, Bill Ryan, Ian Rankin, Peter James, Kate Rhodes, Ragnar Jonasson, and Ann Cleeves.

On What Cathy Read Next last week

Blog posts

Monday – I shared my comparison of the book and film versions of A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman as part of my From Page to Screen reading challenge.

Tuesday – I welcomed Tom Ward, author of the soon to be published Fires, to talk about his book.

WednesdayWWW Wednesday is the opportunity to share what I’ve just finished reading, what I’m reading now and what I’ll be reading next. I had a really fun guest post by Alison Brodie about her forthcoming book, Zenka.

Thursday – I shared my review of thriller Monsoon Rising by David Lee Corley and my Throwback Thursday post was my review of historical romance, On the Edge of Sunrise by Cynthia Ripley Miller. (I reviewed book 2 of the series, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns last week.)

Friday – I featured a Q&A with actor, playwright and author, Gary Corbin, about his latest book, Lying in Vengeance.

Saturday – I published my review of New Boy by Tracy Chevalier. It’s a modern day retelling of Othello, part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project.

Sunday – I hosted a stop on the blog tour for Home Is Nearby by Magdalena McGuire and shared my thoughts on this fascinating novel set in 1980s Poland.

Challenge updates

  • Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge – 125 out of 156 books read, 2 more than last week
  • Classics Club Challenge – 5 out of 50 books reviewed, same as last week
  • NetGalley/Edelweiss Reading Challenge 2017 (Gold) – 51 ARCs reviewed out of 50, 1 more than last week
  • From Page to Screen 2016/7– 7 book/film comparisons out of 12 completed, same as last week
  • From Page to Screen 2017/18 – 1 out of 2 completed, 1 more than last week

On What Cathy Read Next this week

Currently reading

Planned posts

  • Review: The Last Hours by Minette Walters
  • Review: The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me by Barbara Quinn
  • Review: Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore
  • Blog Tour/Review: A Sea of Sorrow by David Blixt et al
  • Blog Tour/Review: The Murderer’s Maid by Erika Mailman
  • Review: Mr Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

Blog Tour: 13 Reasons Why I Loved Home Is Nearby by Magdalena McGuire

Home Is Nearby blog tour banner

I’m thrilled to host today’s stop on the blog tour for Home Is Nearby, the debut novel by Magdalena McGuire, which is published on 1st November 2017.   Rather than write a standard review, I thought I’d channel just a little bit of the creativity at the heart of Home Is Nearby and give you thirteen reasons to read this thought-provoking and fascinating book.

My thanks to Natalie at Impress Books for the advance proof copy and the invitation to join the blog tour.

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HomeisNearby1About the Book

1980: The beginning of the polish crisis. Brought up in a small village, country-girl Ania arrives in the university city of Wroclaw to pursue her career as a sculptor. Here she falls in love with Dominik, an enigmatic write at the centre of a group of bohemians and avant-garde artists who throw wild parties. When martial law is declared, their lives change overnight: military tanks appear on the street, curfews are introduced and the artists are driven underground. Together, Ania and Dominik fight back, pushing against the boundaries imposed by the authoritarian communist government. But at what cost?

Format: Paperback , eBook (320 pp.)    Publisher: Impress Books
Published: 1st November 2017                Genre: Literary Fiction

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13 Reasons Why I Loved Home is Nearby

1) Our narrator, Ania: her relationship with her father, her courage, her determination to be true to herself, her commitment to her art and the gradual awakening of her creativity as she is exposed to the contemporary art scene

‘The tin can sculpture, the cubes, Malgorzata’s photos – these were far from traditional. And yet here they were displayed in a gallery. I was beginning to see that being an artist didn’t mean I had to copy the masters. What I did have to do was create something that belonged to me – something that no one else could make.’

2) Ania’s father: his tender, unselfish support of Ania’s desire to be an artist, his sacrifices and his unconditional love

3) Learning about the economic situation in Poland in the 1980s – food shortages (using teabags multiple times, drinking water before eating to feel fuller), waiting lists for a telephone line or an apartment (unless you could afford a bribe or to call in a favour)

4) Learning about the political background and the Polish state’s attempts to stifle the rise of the Solidarity movement: censorship, internment, surveillance, informers and control of the press. Was this really happening as recently as the 1980s?

5) The defiance of the Polish people both explicit (student protests, graffiti) and implicit (carrying on with traditional Christmas preparations)

Every time the militiamen painted over the graffiti, it appeared again the next day. With new slogans, bigger writing. It was an ongoing battle between us and them: slogan, silence, slogan.’

6) The way the author brings to life the process of creating art from initial inspiration, through manufacture to completion.

‘The professor was right. Metal was a masculine material, the stuff of guns and tanks. If I was going to work with it I had to find a way to use it slyly, with a wink in the other direction. Take the notion of hardness and turn it on its head.’

7) Examining the question that Ania wrestles with – is art enough? ‘What good was a picture when people were suffering?’ ‘What good was sculpture at a time like this? Unlike Dominik’s writing, it couldn’t change the world.’ Ania’s gradual realisation that art can be an act of defiance as well.

8) The evocative picture of rural Poland and the constrast between life there and in the city. As Dominik says: ‘I’d forgotten what the rural parts of Poland were like.’

9) The moral dilemmas facing Ania and others protesting against the system and the anguish and consequences that follow from their decisions

10) The insight into Polish customs, culture, food and drink (carp, cabbage parcels, cherry compote)

11) How contemporary events and culture in the rest of the world are woven in – the rise of punk rock, Ronald Reagan, Hollywood films.

12) That Ania’s final piece neatly alludes to the author’s own act of creativity.

13) The gorgeous cover

MagdalenaMcGuireAbout the Author

Magdalena is an award-winning writer who was born in Poland, grew up in Darwin and now lives in Melbourne with her husband and son. Her short stories have been published by The Big Issue, Mslexia, Margaret River Press and The Bristol Prize. She won the 2017Mslexia Women’s Short Story Competition with ‘Salt Madonna’. She has published widely on human rights topics, including women’s rights and the rights of people with disabilities. She is an avid reader and particularly enjoys reading books about girls who like reading books. Home is Nearby is her debut novel.

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Book Review: New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

NewBoyAbout the Book

‘O felt her presence behind him like a fire at his back.’

Arriving at his fourth school in six years, diplomat’s son Osei Kokote knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day – so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again. The tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970s’ suburban Washington schoolyard, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practise a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. Watching over the shoulders of four 11-year-olds – Osei, Dee, Ian and his reluctant girlfriend Mimi – Tracy Chevalier’s powerful drama of friends torn apart by jealousy, bullying and betrayal will leave you reeling.

Format: eBook, paperback (183 pp.) Publisher: Random House UK/Vintage
Published: 11th May 2017                    Genre: Literary Fiction

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Find New Boy: Othello Retold on Goodreads


My Review

New Boy: Othello Retold is the fifth in a series of retellings of Shakespeare plays by bestselling novelists as part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project. Other writers who have contributed so far are Jeanette Winterson, Howard Jacobson, Anne Tyler and Margaret Atwood. You can find out more about the project here.

I always approach a retelling of a classic in something of a quandary.   To be successful, I feel a reinterpretation needs to shed new light on the original work.   A good example that always comes to mind is Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea which presented a very different picture of the character of Bertha Mason from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.  On the other hand, a retelling needs to be recognisably linked to its source material. But if you’re not familiar with the source material, do you get the same value from the retelling? Conversely, if you are familiar with the source material, do you lose focus on the new interpretation because you’re constantly looking for the connections with the original? Although well-written, in the end I was left ambivalent about New Boy.

The action takes place over a single school day giving a sense of a timescale similar to watching the play. The book is divided into five parts – Before School, Morning Recess, Lunch, Afternoon Recess and After School – mirroring the five act structure of Shakespeare’s play. There are also references to acting and performance scattered throughout the book.

Then Dee gave the boy the precious class jump ropes, and they began to laugh, throwing their heads back as if there were no audience but the two of them, performing for each other.’

‘And himself, the new boy, standing still in the midst of these well-worn grooves, playing his part too.’

‘They were like characters in a play who needed an extra scene, a thread to pull them tight.’

In spite of the variation in names, it’s a simple matter to match the children and staff in the book with their equivalent characters in the play. I did find the ‘casting’ of Brabantio (Desdemona’s father in the play) as Mr Brabant, the teacher, slightly puzzling. But perhaps the author had in mind the role of teacher as ‘in loco parentis’.

The setting of the school playground with its petty rivalries and short-lived alliances was interesting. In the main, the characters were believable as eleven year-old children. The exception to this was Ian (who doubles for Iago). He seemed unrealistically wise beyond his years and his ability to manipulate, read others’ intentions and strategize just didn’t ring true for someone of his age.

What the book does very well is convey Osei’s feelings of being an outsider, of being different, of being regarded as something of a novelty and the casual, ‘everyday’ racism he experiences.

‘The kids who were friendly at school but didn’t ask him to their birthday parties even when they had invited the rest of the class….The assumption that he was better at sports because black people just – you know – are, or at dancing, or at committing crimes. The way people talked about Africa as if it were just one country.’

Unfortunately, I feel the children’s – and to some extent, the staff’s – sketchy knowledge of Osei’s cultural background and the fact he’s forced to simplify his name would be recognisable today. I’ve experienced situations in the workplace where people from India or Nigeria have found it easier to ‘anglicise’ their name or adopt a nickname rather than try to get colleagues to pronounce their given name correctly.

Although the book held my interest, in a way I felt it would have worked equally well as a story about difference and racial prejudice without the constraints of following the story of Othello.

I received a review copy courtesy of NetGalley and publishers, Random House UK, in return for an honest review.

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In three words: Thought-provoking, imaginative, intertextual

Try something similar…Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

TracyChevalierAbout the Author

TRACY CHEVALIER is the New York Times bestselling author of eight previous novels, including Girl with a Pearl Earring, which has been translated into 39 languages and made into an Oscar-nominated film. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., she lives in London with her husband and son.

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Throwback Thursday: On the Edge of Sunrise by Cynthia Ripley Miller


Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. It’s designed as an opportunity to share old favourites as well as books that we’ve finally got around to reading that were published over a year ago. If you decide to take part, please link back to It’s Book Talk.

This week’s book is On the Edge of Sunrise (The Long Hair Saga #1) by Cynthia Ripley Miller. I recently read and reviewed the second book in the series – The Quest for the Crown of Thorns – for a blog tour, so I thought I’d share my thoughts about the first book. Having now read both books, I would say that either could be read as standalones but, at the end of the first book, you’re probably going to want to find out what the future holds for many of the characters.

OntheEdgeofSunriseAbout the Book

AD 450. The Roman Empire wanes as the Medieval Age awakens. Attila the Hun and his horde conquer their way across Europe into Gaul. Caught between Rome’s tottering empire and Attila’s threat are the Frankish tribes and their ‘Long-Hair’ chiefs, northern pagans in a Roman Christian world, and a people history will call the Merovingians.

A young widow, Arria longs for a purpose and a challenge. She is as well versed in politics and diplomacy as any man but with special skills of her own… The Emperor Valentinian, determined to gain allies to help stop the Huns, sends a remarkable envoy, a woman, to the Assembly of Warriors in Gaul. Arria will persuade the Franks to stand with Rome against Attila! When barbarian raiders abduct Arria, the Frank blue-eyed warrior, Garic, rescues her. Alarmed by the instant and passionate attraction she feels, Arria is torn between duty and desire. Her arranged betrothal to the ambitious tribune, Drusus, her secret enlistment by Valentinian as a courier to Attila the Hun, and a mysterious riddle – threaten their love and propel them into adventure, intrigue, and Attila’s camp. Rebels in a falling empire, Arria and Garic must find the strength to defy tradition and possess the love prophesied as their destiny!

Format: eBook, Paperback (384 pp.)                    Publisher: Knox Robinson Publishing Published: 23 March 2015                                     Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance

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My Review

The focus of the book is the battlefields of Gaul as the very existence of the Roman Empire is threatened by the marauding hordes of Attila the Hun.  To oppose them, a fragile alliance of Romans and Franks exists, largely on the principle of ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend.’ Against this backdrop, individual struggles for power are played out, plots are made, alliances formed and broken.

The author introduces us to the key characters in the story, some of whose fortunes we will follow in the second book, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns (click here for my review). There’s Arria – recently widowed, accomplished, resourceful, shrewd – determined to fulfil her mission as envoy but aware of the vulnerability of her position, both as a woman and a potentially valuable hostage. There’s Garic – handsome, passionate, brave – attracted to Arria but conscious of the deep divide separating them. There’s Vodamir, Garic’s cousin – cocky, impetuous, loyal – whose daredevil instincts often threaten to place him in danger. There’s Marcella – beautiful, seductive, manipulative – who is seeking to secure a wealthy and powerful patron and who will use all her charms (and we mean all) to get it. Finally, there’s Drusus – handsome, ambitious, possessive and totally ruthless when challenged or threatened.

Passions run high, both on the battlefield and the bedroom. Readers who crave plenty of spice with their historical fiction will be well served (forgive the pun). The author keeps the action moving along apace with many twists and turns. Whilst some of the characters are imagined, many are not and the book makes reference to actual events giving the story an air of authenticity and credibility. It all adds up to a very enjoyable read for lovers of historical fiction who like an element of romance with their history.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author and Sage’s Blog tours in return for an honest and unbiased review.

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In three words: Compelling, action-packed, passionate

Try something similar…Twilight Empress by Faith L Justice (click here for my review)

Cynthia Ripley MillerAbout the Author

Cynthia Ripley Miller is a first generation Italian-American writer with a love for history, languages and books. She has lived, worked, and travelled in Europe, Africa, North America and the Caribbean. As a girl, she often wondered what it would be like to journey through time (she still does), yet knew it could only be through the imagination and words of writers and their stories. Today, she writes to bring the past to life.

She holds two degrees and has taught history and teaches English. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthology Summer Tapestry, at Orchard Press and The Scriptor. A Chanticleer International Chatelaine Award finalist for her novel, On the Edge of Sunrise, she has reviewed for UNRV Roman History, and blogs at Historical Happenings and Oddities: A Distant Focus.

Cynthia has four children and lives with her husband, twin cats, Romulus and Remus, and Jessie, a German Shepherd, in a suburb of Chicago.

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