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Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Secrets of Our House by Rea Frey

A thrilling domestic drama set against the power of the wilderness, Secrets of Our House is a deeply-felt novel of long-held secrets and the strength of family.

Desi is the mastermind behind her dream getaway house. Nestled high into the mountains of North Carolina, it is a sleek place, a luxurious place, a dark place.

A place full of secrets.

Secrets about the man she longs for, a man who is not her husband. Secrets about the roots of her family that must never, ever, see the light of day. When Desi and her family arrive from Chicago to spend the summer in the mountains, the seeds for the tumultuous months to follow are planted--her marriage on the rocks, not knowing which way they'll go. Her seventeen year-old daughter Jules, falling in love for the first time with a local boy--and forging a new path that will take her to uncharted places. And Carter--a man Desi knew long ago, before she expunged him from her life for good.

All hurtling toward events none of them can undo.

Engaging, propulsive, and with a dramatic, heart-pounding final act, Secrets of Our House is a dazzling novel, richly-drawn, that shows no matter how hard outside forces may shake you, the bonds of family are stronger than the harshest winds.

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Expected publication date: February 8, 2022
by St. Martin's Press
2.5/5 stars

This book is labelled as mystery/thriller and women's fiction however I would say it lacks the mystery thriller part and is more a family drama

Mom, Desi is a force to be reckoned with. I couldn’t connect or feel any empathy, she was selfish, overbearing and impulsive. Treads I found odd give her successful career.

It’s through her POV and that of her 17 year old daughter, Jules that this story is told.

As you can surmise from my rating I struggled with this story. The atmospheric feel was nice in terms of the outdoors, scenery and fresh air. However I found it repetitive as Desi pines for a lost love, at the same time trying to save her marriage.

Jules story had a bit more feeling, a conflicted teen but there were just to many inconsistencies that threw me off. Parts that didn’t make sense - you can hop over to Goodreads where more is hidden behind the spoiler button.

The ending didn’t satisfy me, it was long and drawn out plus I didn’t feel any real closure. Parts didn’t feel authentic and a little over the top. Suffice to say this book would make a great book club read just for the many topics to discuss.

Secrets of Our House is a slow burn family drama that I found predictable about secrets, each person has one. At times traumatic and contrived.

All this being said, there are a lot of 4/5 star ratings so it could just me a me thing.  I have heard great things about the author's debut Not Her Daughter, which was one of the reasons I requested this one.  I will read it in time (you should see my TBR pile, kinda scary).

My thanks to at Martin's Press (via NetGalley) for a digital arc in exchange for a honest review.









Tuesday, December 14, 2021

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.

Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.

Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.

  • Hardcover, 372 pages
  • PublishedAugust 9, 2021
  •  by Delacorte Press
  • 3/5 stars

 

A Lesson In Vengeance was part of my August 2021 Owlcrate box.  The cover is gorgeous and the edges sprayed so it makes a nice sound when I turned the pages.

This is one of those books that I am left pondering my thoughts.  On the one hand I was genuine curious about this story and how things would turn out. With it's Gothic setting, it had that dark ghosty vibe. Felicity was as interesting character with a past that set the stage for what I hoped to be interesting read.  Oh and yea there are the Dalloway Five from way back when.  Intriguing right?

The first part was a slower pace, getting to know everyone (well honestly there weren't that many to get to know, a smallish cast of characters), get the feel of the land and feel Felicity's emotional fragility.  

The last 1/3 was fast paced, it finished with a twist and a bang but that middle part just dragged and felt one dimensional. The lack of adults and a support cast was felt by this reader, it didn't feel authentic.  It wasn't as dark as I thought and the dark Gothic vibe just didn't pan out for me.

This book was part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.







Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Everything We Didn't Say by Nicole Baart

From the author of Little Broken Things, a “race-to-the-finish family drama” (People) following a mother who must confront the dark summer that changed her life forever in order to reclaim the daughter she left behind.

Juniper Baker had just graduated from high school and was deep in the throes of a summer romance when Cal and Beth Murphy, a childless couple who lived on a neighboring farm, were brutally murdered. When her younger brother became the prime suspect, June’s world collapsed and everything she loved that summer fell away. She left, promising never to return to tiny Jericho, Iowa.

Until now. Officially, she’s back in town to help an ill friend manage the local library. But really, she’s returned to repair her relationship with her teenage daughter, who’s been raised by Juniper’s mother and stepfather since birth—and to solve the infamous Murphy murders once and for all. She knows the key to both lies in the darkest secret of that long-ago summer night, one that’s haunted her for nearly fifteen years.

As history begins to repeat itself and a dogged local true crime podcaster starts delving into the murders, the race to the truth puts past and present on a dangerous collision course. Juniper lands back in an all-too-familiar place with the answers to everything finally in her sights, but this time it’s her daughter’s life that hangs in the balance. Will revealing what really happened mean a fresh start? Or will the truth destroy everything Juniper loves for a second time? Baart once again brilliantly weaves mystery into family drama in this expertly-crafted novel for fans of Lisa Jewell and Megan Miranda.

Paperback, 368 pages
Published November 2, 2021
 by Atria Books
4/5 stars

Nicole Baart is a new author to me, it's not for lack of desire because I do have a number of her books on my tbr shelf.  I've loaned them out and they come back with rave reviews but also with comments like 'heartbreaking' or 'an emotional' read.  Which then makes me a little hesitate.   I was surprised to see this mystery/suspense book and anxiously awaited for my turn at the library - I was #1 on the hold list, lucky me!

This was an entertaining read. I enjoyed the mystery, lots of clues, finger pointing but still I couldn't quite grasp what happened.  With the story weaving back and forth from past to present made from me taking my own advice and reading just one more chapter.

The characters really made this story, they were flawed, some unlikable and others suspicious. There are those keeping secrets while Juniper tries to unravel them.  The ending was not what I expected but it totally worked.

My introduction to Nicole Baart was a success, can't wait to read more.

My copy obtained from my local public library.









Sunday, December 5, 2021

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

It’s November 1991. George H. W. Bush is in the White House, Nirvana's in the tape deck, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.

Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father. Or so he says. Like the Hitchcock heroine she’s named after, Charlie has her doubts. There’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t seem to want Charlie to see inside the car’s trunk. As they travel an empty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly worried Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s suspicion merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse played out on night-shrouded roads and in neon-lit parking lots, during an age when the only call for help can be made on a pay phone and in a place where there's nowhere to run. In order to win, Charlie must do one thing - survive the night.

Audiobook, 9 hours, 1 minute
Published June 29, 2021 by Penguin Audio
4/5 stars

Riley Sager is one author that I have managed to read all his back list after loving The Last Time I Lied and Home Before Dark.  

Image my surprise when Survive the Night was first released that it would end up in my dnf pile.  I just couldn't grasp the scenario of the opening chapters and gave up.  But one not to be defeated too quickly, and after reading a review on Instagram (from bettys_book_club) valid points were made on how to look at this book.  The biggest thing was the era and then to think movies like Scream and Halloween, characters (usually girls) that do the opposite of common sense. You know those girls you scream at on TV telling them to stop and basically hide.  Kinda like Charlie here who gets in a car with a complete stranger after her best friend is murdered...you get the picture, right? Well that worked!

I did end up going the audio book route for my second attempt, and I think between an open mind and great reader I really enjoyed this book.  The reader was Savannah Gilmore, one of my favourites.  The book took off for me, I actually finished in a matter of days which for me these days says something.

There was suspense, suspicion, not a huge cast of characters but enough.  It was mysterious along with a few hiccups along the way.  As in Riley fashion there are twists I didn't see coming but also a couple I figured out.  But all in all a fast paced entertaining listen in a format I highly recommend.

Audiobook was obtained from my local public library via Overdrive.





Friday, December 3, 2021

The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

A woman receives an unexpected visitor during a deadly snowstorm in this chilling thriller from New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf

She thought she was alone…

True crime writer Wylie Lark doesn’t mind being snowed in at the isolated farmhouse where she’s retreated to write her new book. A cozy fire, complete silence. It would be perfect, if not for the fact that decades earlier, at this very house, two people were murdered in cold blood and a girl disappeared without a trace.

As the storm worsens, Wylie finds herself trapped inside the house, haunted by the secrets contained within its walls—haunted by secrets of her own. Then she discovers a small child in the snow just outside. After bringing the child inside for warmth and safety, she begins to search for answers. But soon it becomes clear that the farmhouse isn’t as isolated as she thought, and someone is willing to do anything to find them.

Kindle Edition, 352 pages 
Expected publication January 25, 2022 
by Park Row
4/5 stars

For me Heather Gudenkauf is synonymous with intense physiological mysteries that keep me guessing.  Such was the case with The Overnight Guest, which releases 1-25-22.  This book gave off vibes that made me glad when insomnia hit I wasn't home alone - a snow storm would have really freaked me right out.

The Overnight Guest is a wonderful mystery that kept me guessing until things finally clicked into place. I expected a layered story from a number of POVs and through different time periods.  That's exactly what I got.

Atmospheric with flawed and mysterious characters that drew at my heartstrings.  Fast paced/slow paced I was anxious to unravel the mystery myself, some parts I was able to but not all of them.  That's what I love about reading a Gudenkauf book, keeps me on my toes.

Thank you to Park Row books for a digital advanced copy in exchange for a honest review.


Sunday, November 28, 2021

Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan

Paperback, 276 pages
Published October 19, 2021 by
Harper Muse
*****
5/5 stars

Sometimes fairy stories may say best what's to be said.
C. S. Lewis

Once Upon a Wardrobe is a beautifully written story that is perfect for this time of the year.  It's magical, meaningful and so captivating.  I'm a hard nut to crack when it comes to shedding a tear or two from a book but this one did it for me.

I'm so glad that I followed my gut instinct when it came to pre ordering this one - though now I regret not grabbing the hardcover vs paperback.  I went into this book blind, other than knowing it was about a wardrobe and Narnia.  I got way more than I expected, the writing flowed smoothly at a great pace.  The characters were real and I loved it.  I can definitely see myself reading this one again.

If you only read one Christmas book a year make it this one but truly you can read it anytime of the year.

This book was part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


From the bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis comes another beautiful story inspired by C. S. Lewis’s ability to change the world and captivate hearts—including those of a terminally ill boy and his logic-driven sister.

Megs Devonshire is brilliant with numbers and equations, on a scholarship at Oxford with dreams of solving the greatest mysteries of physics.

But equations haven’t been able to solve her biggest problem: her brother George, whom she adores, has a failing heart. It has been failing for all eight years of his life. When George is given a copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and begs her to find out where Narnia came from, there’s no way she can refuse.

And so Megs moves completely out of her comfort zone, imploring the author and famous tutor of English Literature to give her the answers her brother so desires. What she receives instead is more stories . . . stories of Jack Lewis’s life, which she takes home to George.

Meg keeps trying to impose her trusty logic on the stories, but she slowly comes to realize that lists never answer the biggest questions. The gift she thought she was giving George turns out to be the one he was giving her: hope.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth

Stephen Aston is getting married again. The only problem is, he's still married to his first wife, even though she is in a care facility for dementia. But he'll take care of that easily, by divorcing her--even if his adult daughters protest.

Tully and Rachel Aston look upon Heather as nothing but an interloper. Heather is the same age as Rachel and even younger than Tully. Clearly she's a golddigger and after their father's money. Heather has secrets that she's keeping close, and reasons of her own for wanting to marry Stephen.

With their mother unable to speak for herself, Tully and Rachel are determined to get to the truth about their family's secrets, the new wife closing in, and who their father really is. But will getting to the truth unleash the most dangerous impulses...in all of them?

Kindle Edition, 352 pages 
First published October 26, 2021
by St. Martin's Press
3/5 stars

I have been a die hard Sally Hepworth fan since her first book, The Secret of Midwives was first released.  

Hepworth knows how to grab this reader's attention.  That opening chapter had me itching to read more and unravel what was going on.  With alternating POV it shows a family with lots of secrets.  Though I couldn't really connect with these women I did get to know them.  There were twists and turns, numerous times I thought I knew what was going on only to be foiled again.

I wouldn't call this a thrilled but rather a domestic drama.  Women with issues and to be honest I get the root of these issues for 2 of them but not the other - maybe I missed something important but I don't think so.

The Younger Wife is a story of relationships, tons of gaslighting and over coming.   I don't expect my books to have a happy ending all the time but I do like a solid conclusion that leaves me feeling satisfied and unfortunately this one didn't.  In fact I would have giving this book 4 stars and maybe even more but I feel cheated and let down (for so many reasons that I can't go into).

Australian author Sally Hepworth will continue to be a go to author for me.  I did love the acknowledgements and the seeds that planted this book.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press (via Netgalley) for an advanced digital copy in exchange for a honest review.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins

Falling in love is the ultimate payback in this delightful romcom about an interior designer who teams up with a mysterious architect at her firm to get revenge on her ex the only way she knows how: by building a spite house next door

They say living well is the best revenge. But sometimes, spreading the misery seems a whole lot more satisfying. That’s interior designer Dani Porter’s justification for buying the vacant lot next to her ex-fiancĂ©’s house…the house they were supposed to live in together, before he cheated on her with their Realtor. Dani plans to build a vacation rental that will a) mess with his view and his peace of mind and b) prove that Dani is not someone to be stepped on. Welcome to project Spite House.

That plan quickly becomes complicated when Dani is forced to team up with Wyatt Montego, the handsome, haughty architect at her firm, and the only person available to draw up blueprints. Wyatt is terse and stern, the kind of man who eats his sandwich with a knife and fork. But as they spend time together on- and off-site, Dani glimpses something deeper beneath that hard veneer, something surprising, vulnerable, and real. And the closer she gets to her goal, the more she wonders if winning revenge could mean losing something infinitely sweeter…

Kindle, 320 pages
Expected publication January 4, 2022
 by Graydon House
3/5 stars

I love a good rom/com! Take the com away leaving a romance novel just isn't my thing.  I love a funny story with some quirky characters, a plot that branches off making the story authentic and an ending that is believable.

Love at First Spite started off great, paint balling in a wedding dress was a great setting and had me anticipating some laughs.  Can you feel the 'but' coming? Yup here it is.

But, I was glad for a quick read.  I loved Mia and Iris along with a couple large dogs but I couldn't connect with Dani.  For someone so smart her level of spite just didn't match, it came off as immature and rather expensive.  After a while the story just flattened out and kinda lacked the com in rom/com.

That being said, I did like the ending (somewhat) in the sense it wasn't what I expected. This would appeal to those that like a good quick beach read.

My thanks to Graydon House (via Netgalley) for this digital ARC in exchange for a honest review. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan by Lisa Ireland

'Elderly. Is that how the world sees me? A helpless little old lady? If only they knew. I allow myself a small smirk.'

When Shirley Sullivan signs her 83-year-old husband, Frank, out of the Sunset Lodge Nursing Home, she has no intention of bringing him back.

For fifty-seven years the couple has shared love, happiness and heartbreak. And while Frank may not know who his wife is these days, he knows he wants to go home. Back to the beach where they met in the early 1960s . . .

So Shirley enacts an elaborate plan to evade the authorities – and their furious daughter, Fiona – to give Frank the holiday he’d always dreamed of.

And, in doing so, perhaps Shirley can make amends for a lifelong guilty secret . . . 

Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 28th 2020 
by Penguin Random House Australia
3/5 stars

This is my first time reading Lisa Ireland, she came highly recommended in my quest to discover Australian authors that we don't see much of in Canada.

This is a dual time period story where eventually the 2 storylines mesh.  The younger Shirley pales in comparison to the older version.  Her journey of self discovery, in the 1960/70s I might add, was also a journey for myself as I watched the era play out. It's a time period I grew up in and could appreciate what was going on.  Feminism was becoming a thing in Australia as it was in North America.  Women wanted a voice and began to stand up for their rights.

The older Shirley was confident, protective of Frank.  While their adventure was interesting over time it was a bit repetitive and honestly I struggled to pick the book up at times.  But that being said I genuinely wanted to know the ending.

Another struggle I had was the fact I couldn't picture the younger/growing up Shirley with the older Shirley. The older one is gutsy, for her age she tackled electronics and educated herself while stepping away from her comfort zone, determination will do that.  But I just couldn't see the 2 being the same person.

So the ending...I wish I could say more but suffice to say I wasn't a huge fan of it.  You can pop on over to Goodreads for more insight but it will be hidden behind that spoiler button.  It would make for a great book club discussion.

All in all an okay read with some funny and heartbreaking scenes.

This book was part of my 21 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon

Eagerly anticipated by her legions of fans, this sixth novel in Diana Gabaldon's bestselling Outlander saga is a masterpiece of historical fiction from one of the most popular authors of our time.

Since the initial publication of Outlander fifteen years ago, Diana Gabaldon's New York Times–bestselling saga has won the hearts of readers the world over -- and sold more than twelve million books. Now, A Breath of Snow and Ashes continues the extraordinary story of 18th-century Scotsman Jamie Fraser and his 20th-century wife, Claire.

The year is 1772, and on the eve of the American Revolution, the long fuse of rebellion has already been lit. Men lie dead in the streets of Boston, and in the backwoods of North Carolina, isolated cabins burn in the forest.

With chaos brewing, the governor calls upon Jamie Fraser to unite the backcountry and safeguard the colony for King and Crown. But from his wife Jamie knows that three years hence the shot heard round the world will be fired, and the result will be independence -- with those loyal to the King either dead or in exile. And there is also the matter of a tiny clipping from The Wilmington Gazette, dated 1776, which reports Jamie's death, along with his kin. For once, he hopes, his time-traveling family may be wrong about the future.

Mass Market Paperback, 1410 pages 
Audiobook, 57 hours, 48 minutes
Published September 7, 2006  
by Arrow
4.5/5 stars

I put off reading this book because of memories to do with book 5 in this popular series. It wasn't a favorite and I struggled just to finish.

A Breath of Snow and Ashes had what I loved in books 1 and 3 (both were awesome). Given the size there were many subplots that kept me reading - actually listening since I went that route.  I enjoyed the action and mayhem, the mystery and suspense.  There was closure and new beginnings.

All in all a great listen with lots to look forward to in An Echo in the Bone.

Will I  start right away? probably not, maybe the new year.

This book was part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge


Friday, November 12, 2021

You Have a Match by Emma Lord

A NEW LOVE, A SECRET SISTER, AND A SUMMER SHE'LL NEVER FORGET.

FROM THE BELOVED AUTHOR OF 'TWEET CUTE' COMES EMMA LORD'S 'YOU HAVE A MATCH', A HILARIOUS AND HEARTFELT NOVEL OF ROMANCE, SISTERHOOD, AND FRIENDSHIP. . .

When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie. . .although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.

But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.

When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents - especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.

The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby's growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.

But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.


Audiobook, 9 hours
Published January 12, 2021 
by Macmillan Audio
4/5 stars

This was a fun audio book.  A YA summer read which I listened to earlier in the year.  It had the makings of the perfect beach read - friends, summer camp and family drama.

It was mysterious in how the sisters were separated.  Family drama which goes back to the previous comment.  Friends with secrets, a famous influencer after the best picture (and smoothie) whether it be to catch the sunrise or perfect beach shot.  Along with the antics of summer camp - hiking, getting lost and much more.

The characters were typical teenagers doing typical teenager things. The story was unveiled step by step to a nice ending.

Like I said a fun read that I'm sure works as well in formats other than an audiobook.

My copy was obtained via Overdrive through my local public library.




Wednesday, November 10, 2021

For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing

Teddy Crutcher has won Teacher of the Year at the esteemed Belmont Academy, home to the best and brightest.

He says his wife couldn't be more proud—though no one has seen her in a while.

Teddy really can’t be bothered with the death of a school parent that’s looking more and more like murder or the student digging a little too deep into Teddy’s personal life. His main focus is on pushing these kids to their full academic potential.

All he wants is for his colleagues—and the endlessly meddlesome parents—to stay out of his way.

It's really too bad that sometimes excellence can come at such a high cost.

USA Today bestselling author Samantha Downing is back with her latest sneaky thriller set at a prestigious private school—complete with interfering parents, overeager students, and one teacher who just wants to teach them all a lesson…

 Hardcover, 373 pages
Published July 20, 2021
 by Berkley
4/5 stars

Samantha Downing had me at He Started It - what a ride that was.  Needless to say I was anxious to read this her latest.  I'm a little behind with my reviews, I read this one shortly after release.

For me this was an audio read.  Told from a number of POV it kept me on my toes.  Unexpected things happened, ones that took me by surprise and left me pondering what truly was going on.  There is a wide cast of characters  but were each unique (flawed) so not hard to keep track of.

The setting is a private school meaning entitlement and superior attitudes.  The short chapters made this a fast paced story but honestly I had to keep reading just to find out what the heck was going on. I won't say what happens but suffice to say that even the characters were caught off guard.  Lots of twists and turns keep me guessing right up till a satisfying end.

Thanks Samantha Downing for an another awesome read, I can't wait to dive in My Lovely Wife.

This audiobook was obtained via Overdrive through my local public library.

Monday, November 8, 2021

T he Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis

Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue, returns with a tantalizing novel about the secrets, betrayal, and murder within one of New York City’s most impressive Gilded Age mansions.

Eight months since losing her mother in the Spanish flu outbreak of 1919, twenty-one-year-old Lillian Carter’s life has completely fallen apart. For the past six years, under the moniker Angelica, Lillian was one of the most sought-after artists’ models in New York City, with statues based on her figure gracing landmarks from the Plaza Hotel to the Brooklyn Bridge. But with her mother gone, a grieving Lillian is rudderless and desperate—the work has dried up and a looming scandal has left her entirely without a safe haven. So when she stumbles upon an employment opportunity at the Frick mansion—a building that, ironically, bears her own visage—Lillian jumps at the chance. But the longer she works as a private secretary to the imperious and demanding Helen Frick, the daughter and heiress of industrialist and art patron Henry Clay Frick, the more deeply her life gets intertwined with that of the family—pulling her into a tangled web of romantic trysts, stolen jewels, and family drama that runs so deep, the stakes just may be life or death.

Nearly fifty years later, mod English model Veronica Weber has her own chance to make her career—and with it, earn the money she needs to support her family back home—within the walls of the former Frick residence, now converted into one of New York City’s most impressive museums. But when she—along with a charming intern/budding art curator named Joshua—is dismissed from the Vogue shoot taking place at the Frick Collection, she chances upon a series of hidden messages in the museum: messages that will lead her and Joshua on a hunt that could not only solve Veronica’s financial woes, but could finally reveal the truth behind a decades-old murder in the infamous Frick family.

 Kindle Edition, 368 pages,
Expected publication January 25, 2022  
by Dutton (Penguin Group)
4/5 stars

Fiona Davis is an author I have managed to have (almost) kept current with.  Her debut The Address is my favourite.  She has a knack for blending history with fiction nicely,  writing an intriguing story.

What I enjoyed about The Magnolia Palace is learning about the Frick family, yes they are real.  I will confess to googling the family, the art collection and seeing the mansion.  My desire to visit New York City again and visit  Frick Collection is piqued.

Now as to the book, it was a lovely read.  There was mystery, determination and family drama. The characters are real, flawed and each one unique.  While the past time period plays centre stage the current day (well 1966) wrapped up the story nicely.

The author notes at the end were that finishing touch I enjoy.  What's fact vs fiction, the motivation for this book as well as the authors thoughts are what this reader likes at the conclusion. 

My thanks to Dutton Books (via Netgalley) for this digital arc in exchange for an honest review.  Look for The Magnolia Palace January 25th, 2022 - it is available for preorder now.


Saturday, November 6, 2021

My Darling Husband by Kimberly Belle

Bestselling author of DEAR WIFE and THE MARRIAGE LIE, Kimberly Belle returns with her most heart-pounding thriler to date, as a masked home invader reveals the cracks in a marriage.

Everyone is about to know what her husband isn’t telling her…


Jade and Cam Lasky are by all accounts a happily married couple with two adorable kids, a spacious home and a rapidly growing restaurant business. But their world is tipped upside down when Jade is confronted by a masked home invader. As Cam scrambles to gather the ransom money, Jade starts to wonder if they’re as financially secure as their lifestyle suggests, and what other secrets her husband is keeping from her.

Cam may be a good father, a celebrity chef and a darling husband, but there’s another side he’s kept hidden from Jade that has put their family in danger. Unbeknownst to Cam and Jade, the home invader has been watching them and is about to turn their family secrets into a public scandal.

With riveting twists and a breakneck pace, My Darling Husband is an utterly compelling thriller that once again showcases Kimberly Belle's exceptional talent for domestic suspense.

Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Expected publication December 28, 2021
by Park Row
3.5/5 stars

Kimberly Belle's new book releases Dec 28th.  Again she has delivered a domestic rollercoaster ride of a story.

Taking place over a matter of hours most of the story takes place inside the home of Jade and Cam.  Told from both POV was necessary to get the full story.

My Darling Husband is fast paced in the sense of timing, I however found it dragged a little just because I struggled to connect  with the story.  Knowing some of the background didn't really endear me to Cam nor Jade which in turn, of course did not help.  The story itself was interesting enough but suffice to say this isn't one of my favourite Bell books.  I appreciated the ending but I didn't feel the suspense that was promised.

That being said with all the 4/5 star reviews out there it could just be me.  You judge.  My favourite Kimberly Belle books are The Ones We Trust, The Marriage Lie and Three Days Missing (read that one in a day).

My thanks to Harlequin (via Netgalley) for a digital arc in exchange for a honest review.


Friday, November 5, 2021

Creep by Jennifer Hillier

Pulsing with the dark obsession of Radiohead’s song “Creep,” this taut thriller—Jennifer Hillier’s superb debut—rockets from its seductive opening to a heartpounding climax not easily forgotten.

If he can’t have her . . .

Dr. Sheila Tao is a professor of psychology. An expert in human behavior. And when she began an affair with sexy, charming graduate student Ethan Wolfe, she knew she was playing with fire. Consumed by lust when they were together, riddled with guilt when they weren’t, she knows the three-month fling with her teaching assistant has to end. After all, she’s finally engaged to a kind and loving investment banker who adores her, and she’s taking control of her life. But when she attempts to end the affair, Ethan Wolfe won’t let her walk away.

. . . no one else can.

Ethan has plans for Sheila, plans that involve posting a sex video that would surely get her fired and destroy her prestigious career. Plans to make her pay for rejecting him. And as she attempts to counter his every threatening move without her colleagues or her fiancĂ© discovering her most intimate secrets, a shattering crime rocks Puget Sound State University: a female student, a star athlete, is found stabbed to death. Someone is raising the stakes of violence, sex, and blackmail . . . and before she knows it, Sheila is caught in a terrifying cat-and-mouse game with the lover she couldn’t resist—who is now the monster who won’t let her go.

 Kindle Edition, 432 pages
First published July 5, 2011 
by Gallery Books
4/5 stars 

If Jennifer Hillier wasn't already in my auto read list, Creep clinched it.  This was her debut?

Contrary to what the title feels like this book was not as creepy as anticipated.  It wasn't until closer to the end when I learned how it originated.  But rather Creep is a suspense mystery that kept me on my toes.

Coming in at 432 pages it isn't a small book but action packed with the depth of character and twists that made the pages fly by.  Creep messes with the mind as Sheila tries to control a situation her lust got her into.  Beware who you get involved with, could turn around and bite you...well you know where.

Creep is a well written story with a complicated plot and many layers. The characters are unreliable rounding out this book nicely. Definitely an author and book I recommend.

Creep is part of my Kindle library, originally purchased as a Kindle deal.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez

Scarborough is a low-income, culturally diverse neighborhood east of Toronto, the fourth largest city in North America; like many inner city communities, it suffers under the weight of poverty, drugs, crime, and urban blight. Scarborough the novel employs a multitude of voices to tell the story of a tight-knit neighborhood under fire: among them, Victor, a black artist harassed by the police; Winsum, a West Indian restaurant owner struggling to keep it together; and Hina, a Muslim school worker who witnesses first-hand the impact of poverty on education.

And then there are the three kids who work to rise above a system that consistently fails them: Bing, a gay Filipino boy who lives under the shadow of his father's mental illness; Sylvie, Bing's best friend, a Native girl whose family struggles to find a permanent home to live in; and Laura, whose history of neglect by her mother is destined to repeat itself with her father.

Scarborough offers a raw yet empathetic glimpse into a troubled community that locates its dignity in unexpected places: a neighborhood that refuses to be undone.

Catherine Hernandez is a queer theatre practitioner and writer who has lived in Scarborough off and on for most of her life. Her plays Singkil and Kilt Pins were published by Playwrights Canada Press, and her children's book M is for Mustache: A Pride ABC Book was published by Flamingo Rampant. She is the Artistic Director of Sulong Theatre for women of color.

Kindle, 272 pages
Published May 22nd 2017
by Arsenal Pulp Press
2.5/5 stars

Scarborough was another read from our Family Blessings Book Club.  Picked by son #1, for various reasons, one being the close proximity from Toronto and some kind of connection through his MFA program.

Four of us read this and 3 kinda felt the same way I did.  That this was a hard book to read, it was a hard on a number of different levels.

1.  If I lived in Scarborough I would be offended that my hometown was portrayed in this manner.  Yes I get there are bad sections to every city but this comes across like the whole city is a mess.

2.  There were too many characters, just when I got them all straight the author throws in some more.  At first I attributed my confusion to my age but alas the younger crowd felt the same way - one even made up a spread sheet.

3. There were a number of POV which kinda reflects my previous point. Also I found some didn't really add to the story other than to portray the despair of the area. Some scenes repeated as told from a different POV.

I struggled to figure out what genre this book fits into.  Not literary or genre fiction other than maybe book club fiction (is that a thing?) because it would make for a lot of  discussions.

I am all for trying new avenues to read and I can't fault the author when I read outside my usual area.  But with this book I struggled to find the purpose of the story.  The ending left me frustrated and sad. 

Scarborough is a story with multiple stories lines, its raw and descriptive . As I understand there is a film in the making, I am curious to see how that turns out.

My copy was obtained through Scribd.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah

Sweetbitter meets The Nightingale in this page-turning novel about a woman who returns to her family’s ancestral vineyard in Burgundy and unexpectedly uncovers a lost diary, an unknown relative, and a secret her family has been keeping since World War II.

To become one of only a few hundred certified wine experts in the world, Kate must pass the notoriously difficult Master of Wine examination. She’s failed twice before; her third attempt will be her last chance. Suddenly finding herself without a job and with the test a few months away, she travels to Burgundy to spend the fall at the vineyard estate that has belonged to her family for generations. There she can bolster her shaky knowledge of Burgundian vintages and reconnect with her cousin Nico and his wife, Heather, who now oversee day-to-day management of the grapes. The one person Kate hopes to avoid is Jean-Luc, a talented young winemaker and her first love.

At the vineyard house, Kate is eager to help her cousin clean out the enormous basement that is filled with generations of discarded and forgotten belongings. Deep inside the cellar, behind a large armoire, she discovers a hidden room containing a cot, some Resistance pamphlets, and an enormous cache of valuable wine. Piqued by the secret space, Kate begins to dig into her family’s history—a search that takes her back to the dark days of World War II and introduces her to a relative she never knew existed, a great–half aunt who was a teenager during the Nazi occupation.

As she learns more about her family, the line between resistance and collaboration blurs, driving Kate to find the answers to two crucial questions: Who, exactly, did her family aid during the difficult years of the war? And what happened to six valuable bottles of wine that seem to be missing from the cellar’s collection?

 Paperback, 384 pages
Published June 19, 2018 
by William Morrow
4.5/5 stars

This book has been on my radar ever since theBakingBookworm gave it 5 stars (when that happens I take notice).

The Lost Vintage is a dual time period story with the past story through a series of diary entries - which I always enjoy.

Current day it's 2015 as Kate travels to visit her cousin in Vichy, France.  Secrets of the past begin to surface as she helps clear out a long neglected basement. I love this idea and always wish I could discover treasures hidden away.

In 1942 family history plays out with resistance groups, family drama and betrayal.

Ann Mah is a new to me author, I enjoyed her writing style, she drew me in right away with characters I cared about.  Also with a plot that was well written and captivating, the story contained wined, friendship, family resistance and past hurts. All the makings of a great book.

I was able to grab the audio book and did a combo read and listen.  I highly recommend both formats. The audio book is just under 12 hours with Saskia Maarleveld doing the reading - she is a favourite and has read a number of great books.

This book was part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.



Sunday, October 31, 2021

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

Hardcover, 449 pages
Published by November 17, 2020
 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
3.5/5 stars

First off, look at that cover! I love it. The gold is raised and my copy signed by the new to me author.

This was a combo audio and book read.  I seem to be doing that a lot this year and its kinda fun.

 I loved the sounds of a Romeo and Juliet retelling.  It's also the first book in a series, knowing that ahead of time made it easy to prepare for some unfinished business and little more of the stage being set for the sequel.

It's 1926 and Shanghai literally felt like a war zone.  Add in some supernatural elements and you've got a  unique story.

While I didn't feel the Romeo and Juliet vibe until closer to the end I definitely felt the era and location.  It was dark, atmospheric and complex as different gangs battle for control. The tension was felt and the plot intricate.

Both Juliette and Roma are strong characters, pressured by family to do the right thing.  The monster element might have been a bit over the top (just my opinion), but needed to further the plot line.

Like I said at the beginning this book set the stage for Our Violent End which releases in just a few weeks.  I've already preordered and look forward to another gorgeous cover on my shelf.

This book was part of an Owlcrate Book Box and part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.





Saturday, October 30, 2021

A Warrior's Heart by Misty M. Beller

Brielle Durand is a key defender and hunter for her people's peace-loving French settlement in the Canadian mountains. When a foreigner wanders too near to their secret homes, she has no choice but to disarm and capture him. She won't allow another massacre like the one that killed her mother a dozen years before. But now, what to do with this man who looks at her in a strange way?

Evan MacManus was on assignment to find among the caves the mineral pitchblende that might help America win the War of 1812. Despite being taken prisoner, Evan is determined to complete his mission. But when that assignment becomes at odds with his growing appreciation of the villagers and Brielle, does he follow through on the promise he's made to his government or take a risk on the path his heart tells him is right? Either choice will spell death for someone.

Paperback, 320 pages, Paperback
August 31, 2021
 by Bethany House Publishers
3.5/5 stars

Misty M. Beller is a new to me author, which is the reason I jumped at the chance to review this book.  Also with a Canadian setting in the mountains just made it all the more enticing.

I loved the idea of a settlement hidden in the mountains away from the world. I wasn't sure what to expect but with the opening scene I envisioned an action paced story.  While there was action, suspicion and betrayal this a slow paced story about 2 individuals with past hurts making it difficult to trust.

A Warrior's Heart is the first book in the Brides of Laurent Series (how many books I am not sure). This is more a story of relationships verse action, though that could change as the series progresses.  I usually find the first book sets the stage for what comes next.  I loved the setting, the characters and how this group of people overcame to protect themselves and establish a community.

How much is based on fact remains to be seen, I would have loved some author notes at the end to give more information.  All in all a nice story and a series will be continue to read - no release date yet for book 2.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."





Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain

A community’s past sins rise to the surface in New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain’s The Last House on the Street when two women, a generation apart, find themselves bound by tragedy and an unsolved, decades-old mystery.

1965

Growing up in the well-to-do town of Round Hill, North Carolina, Ellie Hockley was raised to be a certain type of proper Southern lady. Enrolled in college and all but engaged to a bank manager, Ellie isn’t as committed to her expected future as her family believes. She’s chosen to spend her summer break as a volunteer helping to register black voters. But as Ellie follows her ideals fighting for the civil rights of the marginalized, her scandalized parents scorn her efforts, and her neighbors reveal their prejudices. And when she loses her heart to a fellow volunteer, Ellie discovers the frightening true nature of the people living in Round Hill.

2010

Architect Kayla Carter and her husband designed a beautiful house for themselves in Round Hill’s new development, Shadow Ridge Estates. It was supposed to be a home where they could raise their three-year-old daughter and grow old together. Instead, it’s the place where Kayla’s husband died in an accident—a fact known to a mysterious woman who warns Kayla against moving in. The woods and lake behind the property are reputed to be haunted, and the new home has been targeted by vandals leaving threatening notes. And Kayla’s neighbor Ellie Hockley is harboring long buried secrets about the dark history of the land where her house was built.

Two women. Two stories. Both on a collision course with the truth--no matter what that truth may bring to light--in Diane Chamberlain's riveting, powerful novel about the search for justice.

Kindle Edition, 352 pages 
Expected publication January 11, 2022
by St. Martin's Press
4.5/5 stars

It was so nice to jump into a new Diane Chamberlain book. The Last House on the Street takes place in 1965 South Carolina with repercussions felt in 2015.

I loved this time period, it's one I don't read often and this book was a definite eye opener. As usual I was drawn to the past story (history geek), I was educated with the SCOPE program and the workings of it.  The author vividly showed the prejudices that were front and centre.  Ellie has a mind of her own and determination to go against her family's wishes that places her where she never imagined.

The Last House is a well written historical story with authentic characters and setting.  It's a story about forbidden love and family, mysterious, it showcases injustices and the ties that bind the past to the present.

I have yet to be disappointed with a Chamberlain book, while I am slowly making my way through her back-list I highly recommend this book...The Midwife's Confession was great also.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press (via Netgalley) for a digital arc in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The Sister's Tale by Beth Powning

A novel of orphans and widows, terror and hope, and the relationships that hold us together when things fall apart.

With murder dominating the news, the respected wife of a New Brunswick sea captain is drawn into the case of a British home child whose bad luck has turned worse. Mortified that she must purchase the girl in a pauper auction to save her from the lechery of wealthy townsmen, Josephine Galloway finds herself suddenly the proprietor of a boarding house kept afloat by the sweat and tears of a curious and not completely compatible collection of women, including this English teenager, Flora Salford. Flora's place in her new family cannot be complete until she rescues the missing person in her life, the only one who understands the trials she has come through and fresh horrors met since they were separated years before.

Reconnecting with characters of Beth Powning's beloved The Sea Captain's Wife, The Sister's Tale is a story of women finding their way, together, through terrible circumstances they could neither predict nor avoid, but will stop at nothing to overcome.
 

Paperback, 328 pages
Published May 25, 2021
 by Knopf Canada
4/5 stars

The Sister's Tale is a vivid picture of life for women in the late 1800's. Women lacked rights and left to the decision making of men, men controlled their lives.  The suffragette movement was just starting.

The characters were a mixed lot that included 2 girls who came from England as part of the Home Child Program.

This was an interesting story, maybe slow at times.  Frustrating in parts where the treatment of women is shown.  Heartbreaking in the treatment of these girls. Encouraging to watch women begin to take a stand.

The Sister's Tale is a journey for the women in this book.  A journey of healing through loss, healing through pain and guilt, healing through injustices and being brave enough to accept, change and take a stand.

Beth Powning is a new to me author.  She is Canadian and with a Canadian setting I was anxious to read this book. I have a couple of her previous books and I look forward to reading more.

This book is part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge #57

Friday, October 22, 2021

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .

Working as a lady's companion, the orphaned heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Life begins to look very bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. Whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to his brooding estate, Manderley, on the Cornish Coast, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding Mrs Danvers . . .

Not since Jane Eyre has a heroine faced such difficulty with the Other Woman. An international bestseller that has never been out of print, Rebecca is the haunting story of a young woman consumed by love and the struggle to find her identity.

  Paperback, 428 pages,
July 16, 2015 by Virago
first published Aug 1, 1936
4.5/5 stars

This book has been in my tbr pile for years.  Recently our Family Book Club drew this title out of the hat and we all hunkered down for a group read. A couple read the book and 2 did an alternate read and listen.  Our feelings were similar.

We enjoyed this read.  Written in 1936 it was labelled as a romance, maybe that is because of the female author and era.  There was romance in the sense of a newly married couple but the story was more mysterious.

Rebecca unfolds nicely, introducing both likeable and unlikable characters - of course some that draw suspicion to themselves, while others that were rather annoying.  Lots of red herrings, an eerie setting and that Gothic feel made this an enjoyable read.

This was my first du Maurier book.  Her writing style was captivating with attention to detail, a well written story.  I look forward to reading more from her.

This book was part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Getaway by Zoje Stage

A cinematic and terrifying new novel from "the master of the psychological thriller" and the bestselling author of Baby Teeth and Wonderland, about three friends who hike into the wilds of the Grand Canyon—only to find it’s not so easy to leave the world behind (Entertainment Weekly).

It was supposed to be the perfect week away . . .

Imogen and Beck, two sisters who couldn't be more different, have been friends with Tilda since high school. Once inseparable, over two decades the women have grown apart. But after Imogen survives a traumatic attack, Beck suggests they all reunite to hike deep into the Grand Canyon’s backcountry. A week away, secluded in nature . . . surely it’s just what they need.

But as the terrain grows tougher, tensions from their shared past bubble up. And when supplies begin to disappear, it becomes clear secrets aren’t the only thing they’re being stalked by. As friendship and survival collide with an unspeakable evil, Getaway becomes another riveting thriller from a growing master of suspense and “a literary horror writer on the rise” (BookPage).


352 pages, Hardcover
Published August 17, 2021
by Mulholland Books
3.5/5 stars

This is another book that grabbed my attention on Instagram.  I love hiking and the thought of going off with a couple friends for some away time, hiking the Grand Canyon sounded awesome.

Of course, things don't go according to plan for Beck, Imogen and Tilda.  Sisters and friend who have grown apart and are together for the first time in years. The first part of the book  included a lot of hiking lingo that might have been interesting for those with no knowledge of the outdoors and all the gear that comes with it.  For me I felt it took some of the story away.

While I didn't feel an emotional connection to these women I was intrigued as to the outcome, how were they going to get out of this mess.  The author painted a vivid picture of the elements and has me wanting to dawn my hiking shoes again.

This book was obtained from my local public library.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox

A feel-good, holiday-themed romantic comedy about identical twins who switch lives in the days leading up to Christmas--perfect for fans of Christina Lauren's In a Holidaze and Josie Silver's One Day in December.

All they want for Christmas is a different life.

When chef Charlie Goodwin gets hit on the head on the L.A. set of her reality baking show, she loses a lot more than consciousness; she also loses her ability to taste and smell--both critical to her success as show judge. Meanwhile, Charlie's identical twin, Cass, is frantically trying to hold her own life together back in their quaint mountain hometown while running the family's bustling bakery and dealing with her ex, who won't get the memo that they're over.

With only days until Christmas, a desperate Charlie asks Cass to do something they haven't done since they were kids: switch places. Looking for her own escape from reality, Cass agrees. But temporarily trading lives proves more complicated than they imagined, especially when rugged firefighter Jake Greenman and gorgeous physician's assistant Miguel Rodriguez are thrown into the mix. Will the twins' identity swap be a recipe for disaster, or does it have all the right ingredients for getting their lives back on track?


Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published - October 5, 2021
 by G.P. Putnam's Sons
3.5/5 stars

I am new to reading Christmas books.  I think because I usually find them along the lines of Hallmark movies which I don't usually watch.  But just after the world blew up I read a rom/com and now find myself reading that genre and loving it.  Being a fan of Maggie Knox (aka Karma Brown and Marissa Stapley) I jumped at the chance to read The Holiday Swap.

The theme is baking, be it the bake shop or tv show, I enjoying the atmosphere.  It had me itching to get in the kitchen and bake. Told from 2 POVS showed how similar these twins are and yet how different. Of course one must suspend your belief and remember that this is Christmas time. It was a fun read, a little slow at times but with a good feel good get ready for the holidays vibe.

The Holiday Swap is somewhat a coming of age story but for adults. It's about self discovery with some comical relief and it has a dog, one can't go wrong when there are pets.

My thanks to Putnam & Sons (viua Netgalley) for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.





Saturday, October 16, 2021

Greenwood by Michael Christie

From the award-winning author of If I Fall, If I Die comes a propulsive, multigenerational family story, in which the unexpected legacies of a remote island off the coast of British Columbia will link the fates of five people over a hundred years. Cloud Atlas meets The Overstory in this ingenious nested-ring epic set against the devastation of the natural world.

They come for the trees. It is 2038. As the rest of humanity struggles through the environmental collapse known as the Great Withering, scientist Jake Greenwood is working as an overqualified tour guide on Greenwood Island, a remote oasis of thousand-year-old trees.

Jake had thought the island's connection to her family name just a coincidence, until someone from her past reappears with a book that might give her the family history she's long craved. From here, we gradually move backwards in time to the years before the First World War, encountering along the way the men and women who came before Jake: an injured carpenter facing the possibility of his own death, an eco-warrior trying to atone for the sins of her father's rapacious timber empire, a blind tycoon with a secret he will pay a terrible price to protect, and a Depression-era drifter who saves an abandoned infant from certain death, only to find himself the subject of a country-wide manhunt. At the very centre of the book is a tragedy that will bind the fates of two boys together, setting in motion events whose reverberations we see unfold over generations, as the novel moves forward into the future once more.

A magnificent novel of inheritance, sacrifice, nature, and love that takes its structure from the nested growth rings of a tree, Greenwood spans generations to tell the story of a family living and dying in the shadows cast by its own secrets. With this breathtaking feat of storytelling, Michael Christie masterfully reveals the tangled knot of lies, omissions, and half-truths that exists at the root of every family's origin story. 

Hardcover, 512 pages
Published September 24th 2019
 by McClelland & Stewart
4/5 stars

This book grabbed my attention with the Canadian historical setting.  It comes in at just over 500 pages with a small print. For me it was hard to read which is why I waited for the audio via the library and did a combo read/listen.

Beginning in 2038 then going back in time to reveal an intriguing multi generational family saga that spans the country.  Most of the book takes place on Vancouver Island, its a place I love to visit so it wasn't hard for me to visualize the beautiful trees and feel the setting.  The story itself was well constructed with realistic threads that carefully fused together to create an interesting journey that eventually placed Jake where she ended up.

Greenwood is a well written story of perseverance, conviction and family - not necessarily ones you are born into.  This is my first time reading Michael Christie, will definitely be on the lookout for more.

“What if a family isn't a tree at all? What if it's more like a forest? A collection of individuals, pooling their resources by intertwined roots, sheltering each other from wind and weather and drought... what are families other than fictions? Stories told about a particular cluster of people for a particular reason. And like all stories, families are not born, they're invented. Pieced together from love and lies and nothing else.”

This book is part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.  I received Greenwood from the fine folks at Uniquely Bookish Box.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

House of Glass Hearts by Leila Siddiqui

Maera and her ammi never talk about the Past, a place where they've banished their family's heartache and grief forever. They especially never mention the night Maera's older brother Asad disappeared from her naana's house in Karachi ten years ago. But when her grandfather dies and his derelict greenhouse appears in her backyard from thousands of miles away, Maera is forced to confront the horrors of her grandfather's past. To find out what happened to her brother, she must face the keepers of her family's secrets-the monsters that live inside her grandfather's mysterious house of glass.

Seamlessly blending history with myth, HOUSE OF GLASS HEARTS follows a Pakistani-American teen's ruthless quest to find her missing sibling, even if the truth would reveal her grandfather's devastating secret and tear her family apart. In a narrative that switches between colonial India and present-day America, this ambitious debut explores how the horrors of the past continue to shape the lives of South Asians around the world.

Paperback, 273 pages
Published: September 30, 2021
by Yali Books
3.5/5 stars

I was attracted to this book because of the Pakistani setting.  My son lived there for 4 years and it's where his wife was born.

Told from 2 different POVs it alternated between the present and the past, 1947 to be exact.  It was the backstory that grabbed my attention, while I knew 1947 was when the British left India to their own devices I didn't know about the bloodshed that ensued.  This lead to many discussions with my son and googling lots.  I love it when a book does that.

For me this book got off to a slow start. While I am familiar with the odd Urdu word I found myself looking up the meaning of words and other times I would guess.  Hopefully the finished book will have a glossary.  I also felt that I needed to know some of the history before hand.  The last half kept me captivated in colonial India, more of that would have been nice and a little less of the present day story.

My thanks to Yali Books for a print ARC in exchange for an honest review.  This book has released and available for purchase now in various formats.




Tuesday, September 28, 2021

The Firs t Emma Camille Di Maio

Inspired by true events

1914 - Young bride Emma Koehler dreams of a happy marriage and a simple life with her husband, but her hopes are quickly dashed by Otto’s obsession with his business. Though they become one of the wealthiest couples in the country – a fortune made on beer, mining, and hospitality - Emma is lonely in their stone mansion, unable to have children and unable to keep his attentions at home. When a tragic accident changes everything, Otto presents a new betrayal – and Emma must choose between loyalty and independence in a world that demands convention.

1943 – Mabel Hartley flees Baltimore after the war leaves her broken and alone. She answers the advertisement of a dying woman in San Antonio, with an urgent plea to come write her memoirs. In Emma Koehler, Mabel discovers astounding resilience - a pioneer who weathered personal devastation and navigated her large brewery through the storm of Prohibition. Soon Mabel realizes that Texas holds more for her than this new friendship. Romance blooms even as she’s given up on love, and an unexpected phone call gives her hope that not all goodbyes are final.

The First Emma is a moving story of love, hope, and murder that captures one woman’s journey to make her mark on history and another’s desire to preserve it.


Kindle Edition, 326 pages
Published May 5, 2020
by Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
3.5/5 stars

First off I loved the blurb, in no way does it give the story away with too many details (sometimes spoilers).

As the title implies there is more than one Emma. It may sound daunting with the possibility of confusion but it's not at all.  Told from the POV of the first Emma which begins in her 80's but then goes back in time, we get to hear her story.

For me The First Emma got off to a slow start, especially when Winnipeg was placed in Ontario not Manitoba (copy edit where are you?)  Not a good first impression for this proud Canadian.  Mabel joins the cast and these two women together made a great pair. The unveiling of secrets, desires and heartache come through and given this book is inspired from true events made it all the more interesting. 

I find lately that timing is everything when it comes to books I read.  I was graciously given a digital arc and planned on reviewing back before publication date, which was  May 5th, 2021 but at the time it wasn't a proper fit.  This time it was.  An unknown piece of history with a strong formidable woman.  The newspaper articles closing each chapter gave insight to what transpired in the courts.

This is my first time reading Camille Di Maio and I will be back for more.  I love the unknown pieces of history along with strong women ahead of their time.

Again my thanks to the publisher for a digital arc in exchange for a honest review.