Monday, October 3, 2022

Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult & Jennifer Finney Boylan

A soul-stirring novel about what we choose to keep from our past, and what we choose to leave behind.

Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over. Her picture-perfect life—living in Boston, married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, raising a beautiful son, Asher—was upended when her husband revealed a darker side. She never imagined she would end up back in her sleepy New Hampshire hometown, living in the house she grew up in, and taking over her father's beekeeping business.

Lily Campanello is familiar with do-overs, too. When she and her mom relocate to Adams, New Hampshire, for her final year of high school, they both hope it will be a fresh start.

And for just a short while, these new beginnings are exactly what Olivia and Lily need. Their paths cross when Asher falls for the new girl in school, and Lily can’t help but fall for him, too. With Ash, she feels happy for the first time. Yet at times, she wonders if she can she trust him completely . . .

Then one day, Olivia receives a phone call: Lily is dead, and Asher is being questioned by the police. Olivia is adamant that her son is innocent. But she would be lying if she didn’t acknowledge the flashes of his father’s temper in him, and as the case against him unfolds, she realizes he’s hidden more than he’s shared with her.

Mad Honey is a riveting novel of suspense, an unforgettable love story, and a moving and powerful exploration of the secrets we keep and the risks we take in order to become ourselves.

Kindle Edition, 464 pages
Expected publication: October 4th 2022
by Random House CA
3.5/5 stars

Be forewarned that I am going against the majority in my thoughts on this book, which is really disappointing since I wanted to love Mad Honey and I sure love this UK cover.

Jodi Picoult is joined by Jennifer Finney Boylan and after reading the notes at the conclusion from both  told of the unique way this story came to be and how many years in the making it was.

Mad Honey is told from the POVs of Olivia, single mom to Asher and keeper of bees. The other is Lily, girlfriend of Asher.  When I started reading, I was entranced and captivated right away, the setting was unique with the inclusion of bees and their habits, I received an educational lesson throughout the story. The sudden passing of Lily is when things slowed down and the past had to be revisited. But things started to slow down, and even when the twist came (which totally took  me my surprise) it was the slow pace that took over which also slowed my reading down.  The mystery started to drag, and the way the story jumped from present day to past memories felt jarring at times.

Known for her twists the first one totally caught me off guard, but honestly, it wasn’t enough to redeem how I was starting to feel. The story drag for the last half, and even the conclusion was underwhelming it left me with some unanswered questions, anticipating a little more.

It's hard to say exactly what this story is about without revealing spoilers, but suffice to say Mad Honey is a story of fresh starts, young love, acceptance and family.

White this isn't a favourite read I will continue going through Picoult's back list.

My thanks to Random House CA and Netgalley for a digital arc in exchange for a honest review.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

Florence Day is the ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, and she has a problem—after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love. It’s as good as dead.

When her new editor, a too-handsome mountain of a man, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. But then she gets a phone call she never wanted to receive, and she must return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father.

For ten years, she’s run from the town that never understood her, and even though she misses the sound of a warm Southern night and her eccentric, loving family and their funeral parlor, she can’t bring herself to stay. Even with her father gone, it feels like nothing in this town has changed. And she hates it.

Until she finds a ghost standing at the funeral parlor’s front door, just as broad and infuriatingly handsome as ever, and he’s just as confused about why he’s there as she is.

Romance is most certainly dead... but so is her new editor, and his unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories.

A disillusioned millennial ghostwriter who, quite literally, has some ghosts of her own, has to find her way back home in this sparkling adult debut from national bestselling author Ashley Poston.

Paperback, 368 pages
Published June 28th 2022
 by Berkley
4.5/5 stars

Ashley Posten is not a new author to me. I have previously read her YA book, Among the Beasts & Briars, and loved it and honestly it wasn’t till I was partway through this book that I made the connection.

The Dead Romantics is a story about Florence Day, told from her POV. A ghost writer for a famous author she doesn’t just have writers block, she has romance block after a terrible break up. What follows is her return to the home she left, well, not exactly left, but was practically driven out of 10 years previous as word of her ability to converse with ghosts, was met with mockery, amongst other things.

The Dead Romantics is a book about relationships, about grief and healing past hurts. And there are ghosts which just blends in perfectly with the family business of a funeral home. What transpires is a heartwarming ghosty romance that was entertaining and fun to read. It was unique and I’m so happy I went into this story blind.

A big shout out to the IG reading community for highly recommending this one which had me grabbing it. My only beef is why I waited so long to crack it open.

This book was part of my 2022 Reading off my Shelf Challenge

Monday, September 26, 2022

The White Hare by Jane Johnson

In the far west of Cornwall lies the White Valley, which cuts deeply through bluebell woods down to the sea at White Cove. The valley has a long and bloody history, laced with folklore, and in it sits a house above the beach that has lain neglected since the war. It comes with a reputation and a strange atmosphere, which is why mother and daughter Magdalena and Mila manage to acquire it so cheaply in the fateful summer of 1954.

Magda has grand plans to restore the house to its former glory as a venue for glittering parties, where the rich and celebrated gathered for cocktails and for bracing walks along the coast. Her grown daughter, Mila, just wants to escape the scandal in her past and make a safe and happy home for her little girl, Janey, a solitary, precocious child blessed with a vivid imagination, much of which she pours into stories about her magical plush toy, Rabbit.

But Janey’s rabbit isn’t the only magical being around. Legend has it that an enchanted white hare may be seen running through the woods. Is it an ill omen or a blessing? As Mila, her mother, and her young daughter adjust to life in this mysterious place, they will have to reckon with their own pasts and with the secrets that have been haunting the White Valley for decades. 

Paperback, 400 pages
Expected publication: October 4th 2022 
by Simon Schuster
3/5 stars

This is my second book by Jane Johnson, I loved her last one, The SeaGate.  Her covers are an attention grabber with the mystical vibes that showcase a house on the moors with a story to tell.

The White Hare is told from the POV of Mila who along with her young daughter Jane and cranky mother Magda relocate to Cornwall.  Its a time of transition and a fresh start.

This got off to a good start with the eerie country side, mysterious rabbit/hare, a house that people are afraid of and an interesting cast of characters.  As the renovations begin of this manor so starts accidents, things disappearing and there is a chill in the air that promises a story with a supernatural vibe.  I was sucked in and felt those vibes.  

While there were things I enjoyed, I wanted to know more about Magda and what made her so darn miserable as well as more about the mysterious Jack. And while those thoughts are answered it wasn't till very late in the story.  In fact I found after the first 1/4 things just flatted out.

The White Hare is a story of relationships, secrets of the past and mystical vibes. A unique plot that is intricately woven, it was atmospheric with supernatural vibes. But with the slow moving plot and underwhelming conclusion this book didn’t wow me like The Seagate did.

My thanks to Simon & Schurster CA for a print ARC in exchange for a honest review.

Friday, September 23, 2022

The Green Dress (True Colors #6) by Liz Tolsma

Based on Strange, But True, History

True, riveting stories of American criminal activity are explored through a unique stories of historical romantic suspense. Collect them all and be inspired by the hope that always finds its way even in the darkest of times.

In Boston, 1886, Harriet Peters commissions Sarah Jane Robinson to make her a new dress. Both widows are struggling to make ends meet, and they strike up a quick friendship. Harriet feels sorry for Sarah Jane, who has suffered so much loss in her life. But Harriet’s friend, Dr. Michael Wheaton, has concerns that death seems to follow Sarah Jane in mysterious ways Still, Harriet can’t imagine any deceit in her friend, who she comforts through the deaths of her daughter and nephew. Will Harriet’s trusting nature lead to her own demise as a persistent stomachache starts to plague her?

Kindle Edition, 239 pages
Published June 1st 2020
by Barbour Books
3.5/5 stars

The Green Dress is book 6 in the True Colours Series, it is a series that takes real (and sometimes unheard of) historical events and turns them into a historical fiction story.  They aren't long books, which given the theme of some is fine. Right now there are approximately 12 books in the series and so far I have only read The Pink Bonnet, which after finishing that heartbreaking story made me pause in this series. Each book is a standalone so they can be read in any order and they are also written by a variety of Christian authors.

The Green Dress is the story of Harriet Peters, taking place in 1882 Boston. Her best friend has died suddenly and what follows is a story of her family and a mysterious illness that appears to be following them.

Given that this is based on fact makes the story all the more sad and horrendous. What follows was an entertaining read as I watched Harriet not just on a journey to figure out what was going on but also one that showed her commitment, strength and determination. Though I kinda figured out what was going on, it was the why and other bits that surprised me.  Harriet's faith journey also followed her through this process with a touch of romance.

The Green Dress released in June 2020 and is part of my Reading Off My Kindle Challenge

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The Lost Girls of Willowbrook by Ellen Marie Wiseman

Girl, Interrupted meets American Horror Story in 1970s Staten Island, in the evocative new book from the New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan Collector. 

Fact, fiction, and urban legend blend in this haunting story about a young woman mistakenly imprisoned at Willowbrook State School, the real-life institution later shuttered for its horrendous abuses.

Sage Winters always knew her sister was a little different even though they were identical twins. They loved the same things and shared a deep understanding, but Rosemary—awake to every emotion, easily moved to joy or tears—seemed to need more protection from the world.

Six years after Rosemary’s death from pneumonia, Sage, now sixteen, still misses her deeply. Their mother perished in a car crash, and Sage’s stepfather, Alan, resents being burdened by a responsibility he never wanted. Yet despite living as near strangers in their Staten Island apartment, Sage is stunned to discover that Alan has kept a shocking secret: Rosemary didn’t die. She was committed to Willowbrook State School and has lingered there until just a few days ago, when she went missing.

Sage knows little about Willowbrook. It’s always been a place shrouded by rumor and mystery. A place local parents threaten to send misbehaving kids. With no idea what to expect, Sage secretly sets out for Willowbrook, determined to find Rosemary. What she learns, once she steps through its doors and is mistakenly believed to be her sister, will change her life in ways she never could imagined . . . 

Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 30th 2022
by Kensington Publishing
3.5/5 stars

This is my second book by Ellen Marie Wiseman, The Orphan Collector was my first which takes place during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic and one I enjoyed.

The first half of this book was taken up with visuals of Willowbrook, the treatment and behaviour of not just the patients but the stuff as well. It was hard to read it times, depressing and anger inducing

As for the story itself I struggled to connect with Sage but still it was an interesting story with the mystery of her sister that led to so many discoveries. It wasn’t until the last third of the book where things really took off with some twists and a satisfying ending.  They were parts that had me suspending my belief maybe just a tad too much but at the risk of spoilers I will not mention them.

Willowbrook started out as a read but after a bit I switched over to the audio (thank you Scribd).   The descriptive nature worked better as an audiobook for me.  And yes I did go to YouTube and watched Geraldo Rivera’s expose what was going on at Willowbrook, it was truly heartbreaking.

The Lost Girls of Willowbrook is a mystery story based on a real place.  There is family drama, grief and heartache.  It shows a dark time in US history that affected the most vulnerable in the worst way possible.  Not only did I watch the Rivera but I was sucked down a deep hole to watch how changes were made, it took a bit and my heart breaks for those involved.

This book was part of my 2022 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge

Monday, September 19, 2022

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world. 

Paperback, 432 pages
Published 2016 
by Simon and Schuster
4.5/5 stars

Being Canadian I know all about the hype around hockey, and even the junior tournaments are a big thing. What I wasn't expecting with Beartown was the direction this book would turn and ultimately mimic current events.

Going into this book knowing it was the first in a trilogy made much more sense as so many characters were introduced thereby producing a relatively slow plot for the first half. The slower pace made it easier to get to know the characters, their drive and ambitions along with the importance of hockey in this town called Beartown.

I am a new reader of Fredrik Backman, his writing style takes a bit of getting used to. I alternated with the audiobook because once I got to a certain place I had to keep on reading. The twist came, the emotions flowed, not just on the pages but within myself. And I was anxious to see what would happen.

Beartown is the story of family dynamics, obsession, friendships and power. I am glad that I have book 2 in this series, Us Against You that I can read before book 3, The Winners is released at the end of this month.  I guess you could say that I am really late to this party, but I am glad to have arrived.

This book is part of my 2022 reading off my shelf challenge (#63) and I purchased it in anticipation of an author event next month here in southern Ontario

Friday, September 16, 2022

Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak

“I loved it." —Stephen King

From Jason Rekulak, Edgar-nominated author of The Impossible Fortress, comes a wildly inventive spin on the classic horror story in Hidden Pictures, a supernatural thriller about a woman working as a nanny for a young boy with strange and disturbing secrets.

Fresh out of rehab, Mallory Quinn takes a job as a babysitter for Ted and Caroline Maxwell. She is to look after their five-year-old son, Teddy.

Mallory immediately loves it. She has her own living space, goes out for nightly runs, and has the stability she craves. And she sincerely bonds with Teddy, a sweet, shy boy who is never without his sketchbook and pencil. His drawings are the usual fare: trees, rabbits, balloons. But one day, he draws something different: a man in a forest, dragging a woman’s lifeless body.

Then, Teddy’s artwork becomes increasingly sinister, and his stick figures quickly evolve into lifelike sketches well beyond the ability of any five-year-old. Mallory begins to wonder if these are glimpses of a long-unsolved murder, perhaps relayed by a supernatural force.

Knowing just how crazy it all sounds, Mallory nevertheless sets out to decipher the images and save Teddy before it’s too late.

Paperback, 384 pages
Published May 10th 2022
 by Flatiron Books
4.5/5 stars

You could say I went into this book semi-blind. I knew it had something to do with drawings from a young child but it was really the cover that drew me in and this new to me author.

I wasn’t expecting such a well written captivating read, it didn’t take me long to get immersed in the story which I read over the space of a couple days.

Mallory isn’t sure what she is in for when she starts a babysitting gig for the summer. It sounds idyllic with it's large house with all the amenities, big property, a swimming pool and even her own private cottage at the back of the property. But what she gets is more sinister, creepy and mysterious. The story was well written with enough tension and suspense making it a hard book to put down. The conclusion took me by surprise and totally worked. I loved it.

Hidden Pictures is the story of family, addiction, starting over, standing up, trying to fit in and taking a leap of faith.  There are supernatural elements that totally worked. I am new to this author and will be checking out his backlist.  

Hidden Pictures was also wonderfully illustrated by Will Staehle and Doogie Horner, that was definitely needed to grasp this story.

This book was part of my 2022 reading off my shelf challenge #64

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Win (Windsor Horne Lockwood III #1) by Harlan Coben

From a #1 New York Times bestselling author comes this thrilling story that shows what happens when a dead man's secrets fall into the hands of vigilante antihero—drawing him down a dangerous road.

Over twenty years ago, the heiress Patricia Lockwood was abducted during a robbery of her family's estate, then locked inside an isolated cabin for months. Patricia escaped, but so did her captors — and the items stolen from her family were never recovered.

Until now. On the Upper West Side, a recluse is found murdered in his penthouse apartment, alongside two objects of note: a stolen Vermeer painting and a leather suitcase bearing the initials WHL3. For the first time in years, the authorities have a lead — not only on Patricia's kidnapping, but also on another FBI cold case — with the suitcase and painting both pointing them toward one man.

Windsor Horne Lockwood III — or Win, as his few friends call him — doesn't know how his suitcase and his family's stolen painting ended up with a dead man. But his interest is piqued, especially when the FBI tells him that the man who kidnapped his cousin was also behind an act of domestic terrorism — and that the conspirators may still be at large. The two cases have baffled the FBI for decades, but Win has three things the FBI doesn't: a personal connection to the case; an ungodly fortune; and his own unique brand of justice. 

Hardcover, 375 pages
Audiobook, 10 hrs, 35 minutes
Published March 16th 2021 
by Grand Central Publishing
4/5 stars

I am a relatively new Harlan Coban fan, I thoroughly enjoyed his books The Boy From the Woods and  The Match. When I started reading Win there were familiar names and mannerisms from my two previous reads, which has me itching to read more of his books. That being said this is the beginning of a new series.

This ended up being an audio read for me, I did start reading it but felt the narrators voice reflected the character and made for a very enjoyable listen. Steve Weber was the narrator.

Win a.k.a. Windsor Horne Lockwood III, is a mysterious character with loads of money, not much of a conscience and thinks himself smarter than most. What follows is an intriguing story that involves the past that his family would like to forget, with old wounds, old mysteries and family strife. This tightly woven story was suspenseful with some witty banter to relief tension at the opportune moments. 

 I already have a copy of  Deal Breaker, the beginning of the Myron Bolitar Series which also features Win, but in no way do you have to read it first.  

I won this book from Grand Central Publishing back when it was first released.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

The Matchmaker's Gift by Lynda Cohen Loigman

From Lynda Cohen Loigman, the bestselling author of The Two-Family House and The Wartime Sisters, comes a heartwarming story of two extraordinary women from two different eras who defy expectations to utilize their unique gift of seeing soulmates in the most unexpected places in The Matchmaker's Gift.

Is finding true love a calling or a curse?

Even as a child in 1910, Sara Glikman knows her gift: she is a maker of matches and a seeker of soulmates. But among the pushcart-crowded streets of New York’s Lower East Side, Sara’s vocation is dominated by devout older men—men who see a talented female matchmaker as a dangerous threat to their traditions and livelihood. After making matches in secret for more than a decade, Sara must fight to take her rightful place among her peers, and to demand the recognition she deserves.

Two generations later, Sara’s granddaughter, Abby, is a successful Manhattan divorce attorney, representing the city’s wealthiest clients. When her beloved Grandma Sara dies, Abby inherits her collection of handwritten journals recording the details of Sara’s matches. But among the faded volumes, Abby finds more questions than answers. Why did Abby’s grandmother leave this library to her and what did she hope Abby would discover within its pages? Why does the work Abby once found so compelling suddenly feel inconsequential and flawed? Is Abby willing to sacrifice the career she’s worked so hard for in order to keep her grandmother’s mysterious promise to a stranger? And is there really such a thing as love at first sight?

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Expected publication: September 20th 2022
by  St. Martin's Press
Audiobook, 9 hours, 25 minutes
by Macmillan Audio
4/5 stars

I really enjoyed the author‘s previous book The Wartime Sisters and eagerly awaited this one. I didn’t really read much of the blurb or maybe I did when I requested it from NetGalley but I pretty well went in blind.

Told from two points of view with the current story taking place in 1994, which I really appreciated the  lack of electronics and the internet. As young lawyer Abby has a great career ahead of her,  but grieving the loss of her grandmother, Sara, comes with distractions.

The past story begins back in 1910 for a young Sara as her gift of a matchmaker starts to develop. What follows through the years is her life where is avoids this gift and then embraces it to the chagrin of those deemed 'professional' matchmakers.  Her gift is illustrated along with her relationship with family, friends and those obstacles in the way.

I enjoyed the story very much, though I wouldn’t call it a Rom/Com but rather a lighter womans fiction as these two women discover themselves on their individual journey that is not always easy.  

Again I was treated to an enjoyable and entertaining read by this author, it was captivating, entertaining and a pleasure to read.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press for the digital arc and also to McMillan Audio for the audiobook.  This was a wonderful combo read for me.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Something Wilder by Christina Lauren

Growing up the daughter of notorious treasure hunter and absentee father Duke Wilder left Lily without much patience for the profession…or much money in the bank. But Lily is nothing if not resourceful, and now uses Duke’s coveted hand-drawn maps to guide tourists on fake treasure hunts through the red rock canyons of Utah. It pays the bills but doesn’t leave enough to fulfill her dream of buying back the beloved ranch her father sold years ago, and definitely not enough to deal with the sight of the man she once loved walking back into her life with a motley crew of friends ready to hit the trails. Frankly, Lily would like to take him out into the wilderness—and leave him there.

Leo Grady knew mirages were a thing in the desert, but they’d barely left civilization when the silhouette of his greatest regret comes into focus in the flickering light of the campfire. Ready to leave the past behind him, Leo wants nothing more than to reconnect with his first and only love. Unfortunately, Lily Wilder is all business, drawing a clear line in the sand: it’s never going to happen.

But when the trip goes horribly and hilariously wrong, the group wonders if maybe the legend of the hidden treasure wasn’t a gimmick after all. There’s a chance to right the wrongs—of Duke’s past and their own—but only if Leo and Lily can confront their history and work together. Alone under the stars in the isolated and dangerous mazes of the Canyonlands, Leo and Lily must decide whether they’ll risk their lives and hearts on the adventure of a lifetime. 

Paperback 361 pages
Published May 17th 2022
by Gallery Books
4/5 stars

I am relatively new to the writing duo that makes up Christina Lauren. They had me at Love & Other Words and every book since. Going in blind I discovered Something Wilder is somewhat different from those I’ve read, this is their pandemic and with reviews all over the page I proceeded with caution.

Lily lost the love of her life 10 years ago and she doesn’t really know why. What follows is a chance encounter, but can that mend the hurts that both sides feel? Lily was the last person Leo expected see while away on a guys week long treasure hunt. What follows is a somewhat less witty story filled with mystery, deceit and nature.

I enjoyed this book, though it lacked the wit usually associated with a Christina Lauren book it was adventurous with life and death situations, friendships and reconciliation. It was well written with twists and turns both predictable and those not so much. A fun read that highlights the unforgiveness of nature.

This book released many months ago, I feel I’m one of the last to finally read Something Wilder, if you haven’t read this yet don’t let the mixed reviews sway you.

This book was part of my 2022 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge #63