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Monday, October 19, 2020

Review: Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters by Emily Carpenter

The bestselling author of Burying the Honeysuckle Girls returns to uncover a faith healer’s elusive and haunted past.

Dove Jarrod was a renowned evangelist and faith healer. Only her granddaughter, Eve Candler, knows that Dove was a con artist. In the eight years since Dove’s death, Eve has maintained Dove’s charitable foundation—and her lies. But just as a documentary team wraps up a shoot about the miracle worker, Eve is assaulted by a vengeful stranger intent on exposing what could be Dove’s darkest secret: murder…

Tuscaloosa, 1934: a wily young orphan escapes the psychiatric hospital where she was born. When she joins the itinerant inspirational duo the Hawthorn Sisters, the road ahead is one of stirring new possibilities. And with an obsessive predator on her trail, one of untold dangers. For a young girl to survive, desperate choices must be made.

Now, to protect her family, Eve will join forces with the investigative filmmaker and one of Dove’s friends, risking everything to unravel the truth behind the accusations against her grandmother. But will the truth set her free or set her world on fire? 

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: October 20th 2020
by Lake Union Publishing
3.5/5 stars

The Weight of Lies was my introduction to Emily Carpenter, an intriguing mystery that kept me glues to the pages.

Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters is a dual time period story about Dove Jarrod and her granddaughter Eve.  There is a lot going on, Dove escaping from an asylum and her journey to become a famous faith healer.  It's the family secrets that face exposure that forces Eve to uncover the truth before damage can be done.

I really enjoyed the historical setting, it was during the 1930's that Dove's story begins.  There are revival meetings in the south that added charm but at times I was overwhelmed with the large cast of characters. The past story line was my favourite, there was a little bit of mystery, southern charm and an era with its faith healers that interested me, I would have loved for the whole book to take place in 1934.

It wasn't until afterwards that I realised this is the sequel to The Honeysuckle Girls (which I haven't read). Though Revival worked as a stand along I do wonder if I knew more about Dove if it would have impacted this read.

Revival of the Hawthorn Sisters releases today and available for purchase.

My thanks to Lake Union Publishing (via Netgalley) for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Review: The Spoon Stealer by Lesley Crewe

Born into a basket of clean sheets—ruining a perfectly good load of laundry—Emmeline never quite fit in on her family's rural Nova Scotian farm.

After suffering multiple losses in the First World War, her family became so heavy with grief, toxicity, and mental illness that Emmeline felt their weight smothering her. And so, she fled across the Atlantic and built her life in England. Now she is retired and living in a small coastal town with her best friend, Vera, an excellent conversationalist. Vera is also a small white dog, and so Emmeline is making an effort to talk to more humans. When she joins a memoir-writing course at the library, her classmates don't know what to make of her. Funny, loud, and with a riveting memoir, she charms the lot. As her past unfolds for her audience, friendships form, a bonus in a rather lonely life. She even shares with them her third-biggest secret: she has liberated hundreds of spoons over her lifetime—from the local library, Cary Grant, Winston Churchill. She is a compulsive spoon stealer.


When Emmeline unexpectedly inherits the farm she grew up on, she knows she needs to leave her new friends and go see the farm and what remains of her family one last time. She arrives like a tornado in their lives, an off-kilter Mary Poppins bossing everyone around and getting quite a lot wrong. But with her generosity and hard-earned wisdom, she gets an awful lot right too. A pinball ricocheting between people, offending and inspiring in equal measure, Emmeline, in her final years, believes that a spoonful—perhaps several spoonfuls—of kindness can set to rights the family so broken by loss and secrecy.

The Spoon Stealer is a classic Crewe book: full of humour, family secrets, women's friendship, lovable animals, and immense heart. 

Kindle Edition
Published September 30th 2020 
by Vagrant Press
4/5 stars

This book comes highly recommended from a number of sources and sometimes that’s not always a good thing, expectations are elevated.

The location drew me right in, a Canadian setting by a new-to-me Canadian author, that’s bonus points right off the bat. It wasn’t hard to like Emmeline, the story opens with her attending a memoir writing class. The Spoon Stealer is her story told in dual time periods. Making new friends is a bonus from this class that highlights how important having good friends is.

The year is 1968, it’s a lot of living for someone born in 1896. The author doesn’t hold back in all the challenges Emmeline faced, heartbreaking at times to read. However, the author has a knack for making me smile at some of her antics and dealing with family.

The Spoon Stealer is a story of relationships, good and bad, perseverance and the significance of the simple spoon. Lighthearted with serious undertones that mesh together nicely. Emmeline’s friend Vera stole the show for me, great addition that added that extra sparkle to this book.

The only thing I struggled with was the length especially towards the end, it was just a tad long winded but I totally get the direction the author was going.

My thanks to Nimbus Press, via Netgalley for an advanced copy in exchange for honest review.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Review: The Paris Children by Gloria Goldreich

Inspired by the true story of one woman's fight to survive during the 20th century's darkest hour.

Paris, 1935. A dark shadow falls over Europe as Adolf Hitler's regime gains momentum, leaving the city of Paris on the brink of occupation. Young Madeleine Levy—granddaughter of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish World War I hero—steps bravely into a new wave of resistance and becomes the guardian of lost children.

When Madeleine meets a small girl in a tattered coat with the hollow look of one forced to live a nightmare—a young Jewish refugee from Germany named Anna—she knows that she cannot stand idly by. Paris is full of children like Anna—frightened and starving, innocent casualties of a war barely begun. Madeleine offers them comfort and strength while working with other members of the resistance to smuggle them into safer territories. But as the Paris she loves is transformed into a theater of tension and hatred, many people are tempted to abandon the cause—and the country. And amidst the impending horror and doubt, Madeleine's relationship with Claude, a young Jewish Resistance fighter, as passionate about saving vulnerable children as she is, deepens. With a questionable future ahead of them, all Madeleine can do is continue fighting and hope that her spirit—and the nation's—won't be broken.

A remarkable, paranoramic novel, The Paris Children is a story of love and tragedy that illuminates the power of hope and courage in the face of adversity.

Kindle Edition
Published September 1st 2020
by Sourcebooks
3/5 stars

 The Paris Children is inspired by real historical events and that’s one of the reasons I enjoy this genre so much. Madeleine Levy is the granddaughter of a WW1 hero who happens to be Jewish. Once the 2nd World War hits hero or not this family is now a target by the SS.

This was an interesting story and more on the tell side verses show. Written in 3rd person there were aspects I enjoyed - courage, family, dedication and love but ultimately I found the details a little much. The slower pace also slowed my reading down and I found it hard to connect with the characters.

That being said I enjoyed the historical aspect, learning about this family I was unfamiliar with has me googling and educating myself a little more. The author definitely did her homework in the research department.

My thanks to the publisher, Sourcebooks, for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Review: Borrowed Life by Kerry Anne King

From the Amazon Charts bestselling author of Whisper Me This comes an emotional and sharply witty novel about how life’s unexpected detours can ultimately bring you home.

For twenty-six years Liz has perfectly played the part of Mrs. Thomas Lightsey, exemplary pastor’s wife and mother. But maintaining appearances for the congregation and catering to her demanding husband takes a toll, and she’s lost herself in meeting the expectations of others. When Thomas suddenly dies, Liz feels shock, grief, and, to her surprise, the siren song of freedom. Dare she dream of a life to call her own?

Despite the resistance of her daughter, Abigail, to even the smallest changes, Liz lands a role at the community theater. Inspired by new friends and the character she plays, she explores life’s possibilities, including an unexpected—and steamy—relationship with her leading man.

........ can Liz find a way to rebuild her dream life one more time?

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published September 22nd 2020
by Lake Union
4/5 stars

This is my second book by Kerry Anne King, I loved Whisper Me This last year.

A Borrowed Life is a story of relationships, whether husband/wife, mom/daughter and between friends -old and new. It’s about self discovery after years and years of living in the shadow of someone who is suppose to be a partner not a dictator.

Liz suddenly finds herself a widow, adjusting to a world of opportunities if she chooses to grasp all she has missed over the years. To follow long abandoned dreams and take risks. I liked Liz, she was real and honestly she could be anyone.  There were times I felt like we were back in the 50’s with the life she was forced to live.

Kerry Anne King again wrote an emotional story that had me feeling a wide range of emotions, from disbelief and anger to hopeful and compassionate.

You might not notice but I didn’t include the whole blurb up there. Anything that is mentioned and happens at the 60% mark is just a spoiler IMHO.

If you’re looking for a book to curl up with and read in a couple sitting I recommend giving Kerry Anne King a try.

My thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Review: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Everyone's invited. Everyone's a suspect.

All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?

Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 3rd 2020 
by William Morrow Paperbacks
3.5/5 stars

Sounds like a great time together with friends right? Hummm..when I first started reading I thought to list who was who to whom etc., but it actually wasn’t hard to keep the relationships straight. Aside from each chapter telling who the narrative was coming from I got to know the players.

What can I say, the guests were a superficial group of friends that left me wondering how they could be friends. A mixed bag of personalities which just added to the mystery.

For me this was a slow burn suspense mystery. The setting was cold as well as some personalities and I felt it. There were many red herrings that kept me stumped for the longest time and the ending wasn’t what I expected but it worked with everything clicking into place.

Lucy Foley is a new author for me, The Guest List promises to be another winner, which I already have in my TBR pile.

My copy was part of my '2020 reading off my shelf challenge' and obtained from my Spring Thriller Box by the fine folks at SweetReadsBox


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Review: Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

The author of the “rich, dark, and intricately twisted” (Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author) The Family Upstairs returns with another taut and white-knuckled thriller following a group of people whose lives shockingly intersect when a young woman disappears.

Owen Pick’s life is falling apart.

In his thirties, a virgin, and living in his aunt’s spare bedroom, he has just been suspended from his job as a geography teacher after accusations of sexual misconduct, which he strongly denies. Searching for professional advice online, he is inadvertently sucked into the dark world of incel—involuntary celibate—forums, where he meets the charismatic, mysterious, and sinister Bryn.

Across the street from Owen lives the Fours family, headed by mom Cate, a physiotherapist, and dad Roan, a child psychologist. But the Fours family have a bad feeling about their neighbor Owen. He’s a bit creepy and their teenaged daughter swears he followed her home from the train station one night.

Meanwhile, young Saffyre Maddox spent three years as a patient of Roan Fours. Feeling abandoned when their therapy ends, she searches for other ways to maintain her connection with him, following him in the shadows and learning more than she wanted to know about Roan and his family. Then, on Valentine’s night, Saffyre Maddox disappears—and the last person to see her alive is Owen Pick.

With evocative, vivid, and unputdownable prose and plenty of disturbing twists and turns, Jewell’s latest thriller is another “haunting, atmospheric, stay-up-way-too-late read” (Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author).

Hardcover, 368 pages
Expected publication: October 13th 2020
 by Atria Books
3.5/5 stars

Lisa Jewell has been a go-to author for a number of years. Her books are uniquely themed they are mysterious, suspenseful and keep me guessing.

Invisible Girl released last month in the UK and for us folks in North America it hits bookshelves in a couple of weeks.

I’ll confess that this got off to a slow start for me, I was a little confused with the cast of characters and how they fit together. But really I didn’t need to know the connections right away but just needed to sit back knowing the author would connect the dots.

So there is this family that obviously has secrets. To be honest I found them to be an odd bunch, they just had that vibe. The mom, Cate, is one of the view points. She made me nervous and paranoid.

Then there is the weird guy across the street, Owen Pick he lives with his aunt and yea he is a tad strange also and another POV. There were some things I didn't need to know about,  but alas it was needed for the story (like an online presence called incel - didn't know it was a thing).

Add a 17 year old girl named Saffyre (which is a cool name) and this makes for some interesting dynamics, she is final POV. It was hers that I enjoyed hearing from, as her past comes to light I couldn’t help but have motherly feeling for her. But her actions left me scratching my head at times.

So basically this book is about some odd characters that somehow are connected.
It wasn’t until the last half of the book where I was really invested, that had me doing a marathon read.
I'd call this a darker Lisa Jewell book, I was forewarned back in January when I had the awesome privilege of meeting the author.

While this might not be my favorite Jewell book, that honor goes to Then She Was Gone, though it might change as I continue reading her backlist.

This book was part of my '2020 Reading off my Shelf' Challenge - I was impatient and order via BookDepository.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Audio Review: Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

Overwhelmed by tragedy, a woman desperately tries to save her marriage in award-winning author Jennifer Hillier's Little Secrets, a riveting novel of psychological suspense.

All it takes to unravel a life is one little secret...

Marin had the perfect life. Married to her college sweetheart, she owns a chain of upscale hair salons, and Derek runs his own company. They're admired in their community and are a loving family—until their world falls apart the day their son Sebastian is taken.

A year later, Marin is a shadow of herself. The FBI search has gone cold. The publicity has faded. She and her husband rarely speak. She hires a P.I. to pick up where the police left off, but instead of finding Sebastian, she learns that Derek is having an affair with a younger woman. This discovery sparks Marin back to life. She's lost her son; she's not about to lose her husband, too. Kenzie is an enemy with a face, which means this is a problem Marin can fix.

Permanently.

Audiobook, 9 hours, 40 min
Published April 21st 2020 
by Macmillan Audio 
4/5 stars

Little Secrets is a parents worst nightmare. One second your child’s hand is firmly in yours and the next gone, 480 seconds is all it took. Now 400 plus days later Marin still relives those seconds over and over again.

I’m glad I went with the audio book for this one, Kirsten Potter is the reader who does a great job bringing this book to life.

Little Secrets is a multi layered story told from the POVs of two women. Marin being one, her character shines through with visits to support groups, a PI, work and friends. It’s full of secrets, relationships and deception. I can’t even begin to image what she went through and the author gave a clear picture of her emotional state that was realistic and relatable.

Kenzie is the other POV, the other woman with an agenda that gave this book a clear view of Marin's husband.  What kind of secrets are both these 2 playing at?

I’ve only read one book by Jennifer Hillier, Jars of Hearts (which I really enjoyed). While this one wasn’t as dark it was suspenseful with the twists and turns that kept me guessing and concluded with a satisfying ending.

Definitely a book I recommend to those that love to get lost in an addictive read.



Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Review: Alone in the Woods by Rebecca Behrens

From the author of The Disaster Days comes a thrilling survival story about two former best friends who must work together to stay alive after getting lost in a remote national forest.

Jocelyn and Alex have always been best friends...until they aren't. Jocelyn's not sure what happened, but she hopes the annual joint-family vacation in the isolated north woods will be the perfect spot to rekindle their friendship.

But Alex still isn't herself when they get to the cabin. And Jocelyn reaches a breaking point during a rafting trip that goes horribly wrong. When the girls' tube tears it leaves them stranded and alone. And before they know it, the two are hopelessly lost.

Wearing swimsuits and water shoes and with only the contents of their wet backpack, the girls face threats from the elements. And as they spend days and nights lost in the wilderness, they'll have to overcome their fractured friendship to make it out of the woods alive.

Kindle Edition, 225 pages
Expected publication: October 1st 2020
by Sourcebooks Young Readers
3/5 stars


The story of friendship between Jocelyn (Joss) and Alex (Lexie) and how everything changes over a 2 week separation. Told mostly from Joss’s pov it also jumps back to Alex sharing what happened during those 2 weeks and the rest of the summer before 8th grade.

It was a quick read for me and for the most part I enjoyed myself. Towards the end of their time lost in the woods I’ll admit that it kinda dragged on a little. Joss is somewhat of a nature nerd so the info dumping of animal/nature characteristics matched and I did learn some things. Alex is somewhat of a whiny adolescent and honestly I had a hard time feeling any sympathy for her.

The ending wasn’t what I expected but it worked and to be honest it was a more realistic outcome.

This is my first time reading Rebecca Behrens, I’ve added her to my list of MG authors to be on the lookout for.

Alone in the Woods releases Oct 1st and is available for preorder now.

My thanks to Sourcebooks for an advanced copy (via Netgalley) in the exchange for an honest review.



Monday, September 7, 2020

Review: The Simple Wild (The Simple Wild #1) by K.A. Tucker

 
City girl Calla Fletcher attempts to reconnect with her estranged father, and unwittingly finds herself torn between her desire to return to the bustle of Toronto and a budding relationship with a rugged Alaskan pilot in this masterful new romance from acclaimed author K.A. Tucker.

Calla Fletcher was two when her mother took her and fled the Alaskan wild, unable to handle the isolation of the extreme, rural lifestyle, leaving behind Calla’s father, Wren Fletcher, in the process. Calla never looked back, and at twenty-six, a busy life in Toronto is all she knows. But when her father reaches out to inform her that his days are numbered, Calla knows that it’s time to make the long trip back to the remote frontier town where she was born.

She braves the roaming wildlife, the odd daylight hours, the exorbitant prices, and even the occasional—dear God—outhouse, all for the chance to connect with her father: a man who, despite his many faults, she can’t help but care for. While she struggles to adjust to this new subarctic environment, Jonah—the quiet, brooding, and proud Alaskan pilot who keeps her father’s charter plane company operational—can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. And he’s clearly waiting with one hand on the throttle to fly this city girl back to where she belongs, convinced that she’s too pampered to handle the wild.

Jonah is probably right, but Calla is determined to prove him wrong. As time passes, she unexpectedly finds herself forming a bond with the burly pilot. As his undercurrent of disapproval dwindles, it’s replaced by friendship—or perhaps something deeper? But Calla is not in Alaska to stay and Jonah will never leave. It would be foolish of her to kindle a romance, to take the same path her parents tried—and failed at—years ago.

It’s a simple truth that turns out to be not so simple after all.

Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published August 7th 2018
 by Atria Books
5/5 stars

How did I not know about KA Tucker before now?!  A Canadian author from close to home, a slew of books out and it was only through a couple Zoom meetings (put on by the Kitchener Public Library) that had a number of authors recommending this book that had me (finally) reading The Simple Wild.

So if I say that if I could I’d give this book more than 5 stars, would that convey my feelings? It’s difficult to find fault with this story. The character development is spot on, realistic and relatable. It’s a book that made me laugh out loud on many occasions, rereading scenes for an additional smile. I was also stirred to tears numerous times and that's a challenge to make happen.

What made this book for me was the writings. Everything revolves around the writing from character development to plot and that was spot on.  Calla and the gang were, relatable and unique giving a wonderful look at the way of life in rural Alaska as well as the hustle and bustle of Toronto living. There were nice little touches that just added that extra sparkle. It's a book about relationship, fractured from the past and those off to rocky starts - how to mend/build before it's too late.

I'm not sure I can adequately share my feelings for this book without giving even a little bit of the story away. The author made me care for everyone and I was sad to see the book end - well that is until the sequel Wild at Heart arrived in my mailbox.

Definitely a book I highly recommend to...well...everyone.

My copy obtained from the public library via Overdrive - though I can see myself purchasing this for my personal library.


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Review: The Night Portrait: A Novel of World War II and da Vinci's Italy by Laura Morelli

An exciting, dual-timeline historical novel about the creation of one of Leonardo da Vinci's most famous paintings, Portrait of a Lady with an Ermine, and the woman who fought to save it from Nazi destruction during World War II.



Milan, 1492
: When a 16-year old beauty becomes the mistress of the Duke of Milan, she must fight for her place in the palace—and against those who want her out. Soon, she finds herself sitting before Leonardo da Vinci, who wants to ensure his own place in the ducal palace by painting his most ambitious portrait to date.

Munich, World War II: After a modest conservator unwittingly places a priceless Italian Renaissance portrait into the hands of a high-ranking Nazi leader, she risks her life to recover it, working with an American soldier, part of the famed Monuments Men team, to get it back. 

Two women, separated by 500 years, are swept up in the tide of history as one painting stands at the center of their quests for their own destinies.

Paperback, 496 pages
Expected publication: September 8th 2020
 by William Morrow Paperbacks
4.5/5 stars

This is my second book by Laura Morelli, she has written a number of books taking place in Italy - one of my favorite holiday destinations.  These days armchair travel appears to be the norm and this fit the bill nicely.

Yes there are 4 points of view here, it wasn't hard to keep track of, each was unique and interesting.  One just needed to be patient to see how they would intersect.  

In 1939 Edith is placed in a position that goes against everything she believes and struggles throughout the war with her actions. She was authentic, well written showing the control the Nazis had over its citizens.

In 1944 Dominic, a US soldier, has a passion for sketching but sees and experiences heartache that leaves him disillusioned. The Monument Men play a part here and I loved that angle.

Leonardo da Vinci leaves Florence behind journeying to Milan where he is commissioned to paint a portrait that plays center stage. I enjoyed learning of his ambitions which weren’t limited to sculptures and paintings.

Cecilia in 1492 has her dowry wasted away and takes matters into her own hands to avoid the nunnery. Only 16 years old she is driven beyond her years.

There are many layers that don't revolve around the painting that reflect what was taking place in Germany to its citizens, especially those deemed flawed. I loved the number of real historical figures included and yes I did google after I finished. 

The Night Portrait was a refreshing change of scenery for a WW2 book. It's well written, full of passion and rich in history, which again shows the authors passion for the location and art world.

The Night Portrait releases on Sept 8th and is available for preorder. My thanks to both the publisher and author for a print ARC in exchange for an honest review.