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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Audio Review: The Orphan Collector by Ellen Marie Wiseman

In the fall of 1918, thirteen-year-old German immigrant Pia Lange longs to be far from Philadelphia’s overcrowded slums and the anti-immigrant sentiment that compelled her father to enlist in the U.S. Army. But as her city celebrates the end of war, an even more urgent threat arrives: the Spanish flu. Funeral crepe and quarantine signs appear on doors as victims drop dead in the streets and desperate survivors wear white masks to ward off illness. When food runs out in the cramped tenement she calls home, Pia must venture alone into the quarantined city in search of supplies, leaving her baby brothers behind.

Bernice Groves has become lost in grief and bitterness since her baby died from the Spanish flu. Watching Pia leave her brothers alone, Bernice makes a shocking, life-altering decision. It becomes her sinister mission to tear families apart when they’re at their most vulnerable, planning to transform the city’s orphans and immigrant children into what she feels are “true Americans.”

Waking in a makeshift hospital days after collapsing in the street, Pia is frantic to return home. Instead, she is taken to St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum – the first step in a long and arduous journey. As Bernice plots to keep the truth hidden at any cost in the months and years that follow, Pia must confront her own shame and fear, risking everything to see justice – and love – triumph at last. Powerful, harrowing, and ultimately exultant, The Orphan Collector is a story of love, resilience, and the lengths we will go to protect those who need us most.

Paperback, 304 pages
Audiobook, 15 hours, 51 minutes
Published July 28th 2020
 by Kensington Publishing Corp.
4/5 stars

I went the audio version for one main reason- I anticipated the emotional impact this book would have on me and knew time was lacking for a proper sitdown read. I knew once started I'd need to finish. That being said I didn’t read the blurb but judging from comments on social media and the title I got a feeling of what was to come.

The audio, which comes in at 15 plus hours fit perfectly into my plans for the week, - I was painting, painting and a little more painting. My gut instinct was that once I started I would need to finish, which is exactly what happened.

The Orphan Collector begins in 1918 and the Spanish flu has broken out, kinda fit right in with the world today minus social media. I connected right away with Pia. The author put me right there, I felt the emotional and physical struggles she was going through. I should add that she is only 13 years old. The story was told through her eyes as well as Bernice. I didn’t like her much even though lost in her own grief is no excuse for what she does.  Both are authentic characters.

I won’t go into the events that transpired, I went in blind and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Suffice to say this is a captivating story, heartbreaking and sad. Remember it’s based around history and through nurse Bernice is fictional I am sure things similar could have happened.

Ellen Marie Wiseman is a new author for me, I like her pose and ability to draw me in with a unique story set during a time of turmoil. Her knowledge of the era is evident. The Orphan Collector is a well written book that has me searching for the authors backlist.

My audio copy was through  Scribd.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Review: Girls of Brackenhill by Kate Moretti

Haunted by her sister’s disappearance, a troubled woman becomes consumed by past secrets in this gripping thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Year.

When Hannah Maloney’s aunt dies in a car accident, she returns to her family’s castle in the Catskills and the epicenter of a childhood trauma: her sister’s unsolved disappearance. It’s been seventeen years, and though desperate to start a new life with her fiancĂ©, Hannah is compelled to question the events of her last summer at Brackenhill.

When a human bone is found near the estate, Hannah is convinced it belongs to her long-lost sister. She launches her own investigation into that magical summer that ended in a nightmare. As strange happenings plague the castle, Hannah uncovers disturbing details about the past and startling realizations about her own repressed childhood memories.

Fueled by guilt over her sister’s vanishing, Hannah becomes obsessed with discovering what happened all those years ago, but by the time Hannah realizes some mysteries are best left buried, it’s too late to stop digging. Overwhelmed by what she has exposed, Hannah isn’t sure her new life can survive her old ghosts.

Kindle Edition, 330 pages
Expected publication: November 1st 2020
 by Thomas & Mercer
3/5 stars

This book had a great premise- a missing sister, creepy castle and an unexpected death. Perfect for this time of year.

It started out with a bang and even the first couple of chapters kept up the momentum. It was atmospheric and the writing kept that feeling throughout, that being said there were aspects that left me wondering - like the basement. The castle setting had more of an English feel to me vs in US, but whatever.

Hannah was an unreliable narrator, she told the story with flash backs as her relationship with her sister is revealed.  I couldn’t connect to her, her behaviour was too flighty, impulsive and didn’t always jive with her thoughts. Her relationship and treatment with her fiancĂ© was odd and I felt sorry for him. .

All in all I kept reading because I was genuinely curious about what happened in the past. But there were scenes that left me confused (one I think I've blocked from memory) and situations unrealistic. The pacing slowed down and to be honest the ending left me somewhat confused with unanswered questions.

Girls of Brackenhill releases Nov 1st.  My thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Review: The Arctic Fury: A Novel by Greer Macallister

A dozen women join a secret 1850's Arctic expedition—and a sensational murder trial unfolds when some of them don't come back.

Eccentric Lady Jane Franklin makes an outlandish offer to adventurer Virginia Reeve: take a dozen women, trek into the Arctic, and find her husband's lost expedition. Four parties have failed to find him, and Lady Franklin wants a radical new approach: put the women in charge.

A year later, Virginia stands trial for murder. Survivors of the expedition willing to publicly support her sit in the front row. There are only five. What happened out there on the ice?

Set against the unforgiving backdrop of one of the world's most inhospitable locations, USA Today bestselling author Greer Macallister uses the true story of Lady Jane Franklin's tireless attempts to find her husband's lost expedition as a jumping-off point to spin a tale of bravely, intrigue, perseverance and hope.

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: December 1st 2020
by Sourcebooks Landmark
3/5 stars

The Arctic Fury had me with that cover.   I got the chills just looking at it and I'm coveting that jacket/cape - looks like the perfect thing for the location. From the blurb I found it hard to imagine a dozen women (or anyone for that matter) braving the Arctic elements in search of Franklin.

It's the mid 1850's when Victoria is approached and takes on the challenge to discover the fate of the Franklin exhibition.  I had hoped this was based on fact but alas, while there were multiple searches made for the crew this isn't one of them.  

Told with a dual narrative that are not too far apart, time wise.  The journey is told mostly via Victoria but also a few snippets from a couple of the other women - that I liked and wished for more, just to connect and really get to know the different personalities on board.  That being said there is a large cast of characters to keep track of. The interaction I was hoping for didn't happen till later on and for me that might have been a little too late to get a true picture of the relationships.

The other narrative was the murder trial and Victoria's incarceration.  That was a little slow moving and repetitive in terms of accommodations and also frustrating to read, so hats off to the author for creating that kind of emotion in this reader.

Greer Macallister created an atmosphere story that reflected the times, from the streets of Boston, paddling the lakes, the cold of the north and finally back to Boston.  The Arctic Fury was an interesting concept which will appeal to readers that like something off the beaten path.

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



Thursday, October 22, 2020

Review: The Woman Outside My Door by Rachel Ryan

 From an unforgettable new voice in suspense fiction, The Woman Outside My Door is a thrilling page-turner about a young mother who can’t shake the feeling that her son’s “imaginary” friend is putting him in very real danger, and she will stop at nothing to keep him safe—perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell and Mary Kubica.


All children have imaginary friends, Georgina tells herself. It’s perfectly normal, and they all grow out of it in the end. But when her seven-year-old son, Cody, tells her about New Granny, the new friend he’s met in the park, Georgina is instantly suspicious. Something—call it maternal instinct—tells her he isn’t making it up.

But maybe Georgina is losing her mind. It wouldn’t be the first time, after all. And with her own mother’s recent death leaving her bereft and trying to cope with life as a busy working mom, it’s no wonder she’s feeling paranoid that Cody has invented a “New Granny” to replace his beloved grandmother.

Her husband, Bren, becomes the voice of reason, assuring Georgina that it’s just a game, the product of their son’s overactive imagination. But what if Cody’s imaginary friend is not so imaginary after all?

Kindle, 288 pages
Expected publication: November 24th 2020 
by Simon & Schuster Canada
3/5 stars

It's always fun discovering a new author, especially when highly recommended by some of my favourite authors.

The first half of The Woman Outside My Door might have been slow but it was interesting as Cody begins talking about his New Granny six months following the death of his real one. Things were a little repetitive for that first half, which I took as the stage being set for the last half. 

There was lots of gas lighting and red herrings going on that paved the way for different outcomes. Everyone was suspicious in my eyes. Was Georgina losing it? Or was Cody, though he seemed older than his seven years. The husband was just bland and untrustworthy. Perfect setting, right? 

Things changed about 52% and I finished that day, needing to find out if my suspicions were correct. Were they? The fun part, for this reader, is playing sleuth, unravelling the clues and seeing if I can solve the mystery before the big reveal.  Didn't happen here,  hop on over to my Goodreads review and see my thoughts hidden by the spoiler button

This is the authors debut and while I wasn’t thrilled with the endings execution she did write an engaging story that had me genuinely curious to what was going on.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster CA (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy in exchange for honest review.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Review: The River (River #1) by Michael Neale

"You were made for The River . . ."

Gabriel Clarke is mysteriously drawn to The River, a ribbon of frothy white water carving its way through steep canyons high in the Colorado Rockies. The rushing waters beckon him to experience freedom and adventure.

But something holds him back--the memory of the terrible event he witnessed on The River when he was just five years old--something no child should ever see.

Chains of fear and resentment imprison Gabriel, keeping him from discovering the treasures of The River. He remains trapped, afraid to take hold of the life awaiting him.

When he returns to The River after years away, his heart knows he is finally home. His destiny is within reach. Claiming that destiny will be the hardest--and bravest--thing he has ever done.

Kindle Edition, 296 pages
Published September 18th 2012
 by Thomas Nelson
3/5 stars

I found this buried deep on my kindle.  It was a quick read and I loved that the blurb didn't give too much of the story away.

Beginning when Gabriel is only 5 years old and progresses till he is an adult. The River is his journey of self discovery, it's about coming to terms and understanding the past. 

Like I said it was a quick read that I found lacking in depth and felt rather flat as did Gabriel's character.  The story moves fairly quickly not leaving a lot of time to connect or appreciate all he goes through. It kinda felt like a short story but longer.  The scenery was nice, made me crave summer and spending time in the outdoors.

Deemed Christian Fiction it didn't touch on anything on that front, maybe the second book -  Into the Canyon, does.

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