Saturday, January 30, 2021

Audio Review: Alone Against the North: An Expedition into the Unknown by Adam Shoalts

The age of exploration is not over.

When Adam Shoalts ventured into the largest unexplored wilderness on the planet, he hoped to set foot where no one had ever gone before. What he discovered surprised even him.

Shoalts was no stranger to the wilderness. He had hacked his way through jungles and swamp, had stared down polar bears and climbed mountains. But one spot on the map called out to him irresistibly: the Hudson Bay Lowlands, a trackless expanse of muskeg and lonely rivers, caribou and wolf—an Amazon of the north, parts of which to this day remain unexplored.

Cutting through this forbidding landscape is a river no explorer, trapper, or canoeist had left any record of paddling. It was this river that Shoalts was obsessively determined to explore.

It took him several attempts, and years of research. But finally, alone, he found the headwaters of the mysterious river. He believed he had discovered what he had set out to find. But the adventure had just begun. Unexpected dangers awaited him downstream.

Gripping and often poetic, Alone Against the North is a classic adventure story of single-minded obsession, physical hardship, and the restless sense of wonder that every explorer has in common.

But what does exploration mean in an age when satellite imagery of even the remotest corner of the planet is available to anyone with a phone? Is there anything left to explore?

What Shoalts discovered as he paddled downriver was a series of unmapped waterfalls that could easily have killed him. Just as astonishing was the media reaction when he got back to civilization. He was crowned “Canada’s Indiana Jones” and appeared on morning television. He was feted by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and congratulated by the Governor General. People were enthralled by Shoalts’s proof that the world is bigger than we think.

Shoalts’s story makes it clear that the world can become known only by getting out of our cars and armchairs, and setting out into the unknown, where every step is different from the one before, and something you may never have imagined lies around the next curve in the river.

Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 10th 2016 
Narrated by: Adam Shoalts
Length: 8 hrs and 10 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 10-08-19
by Penguin Canada
3/5 stars

One of my goals for this year is to read books off my shelf and to read more nonfiction , which is where Alone Against the North comes in.  Both nonfiction and off my shelf and for this I did a combination of read and listen to the audiobook.  The other thing that attracted me is the author is local for me and I want/like to support local.

I try really hard not to read reviews prior to reading the book but in this instance somehow I accidentally saw some of the reviews that gave me pause.  There are so many mixed reviews and though it didn't sway me from listening I did go in with an open mind.  First off the author is the narrator of the audio and from that it wasn't hard to detect his passion for not just this story and this adventure (for lack of a better word) but his love of the outdoors. While talking about his journey Shoalts goes back in time and does a lot of name dropped of past explorers with their accomplishments and discoveries - nice touch.

Alone Against the North was an interesting read, I think it's one that will appeal to those interested in the outdoors. Personally I would have loved to see more pictures or even more maps to get a better feel of the location. There were times I felt it dragged a little and I questioned some the of the decisions made in regards to travelling companions, equipment and even going solo. I'm no expert on the great outdoors but living with die hard canoeists (I even went on a canoe trip last summer) had us in awe at some of the situations Adam found himself in.

All in all a book that has me itching for summer, a river, a campsite, cooking over a fire and a good book.

This book is part of my 2021 Reading of my Shelf Challenge.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Review: Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

When Billie Jo is just fourteen she must endure heart-wrenching ordeals that no child should have to face. The quiet strength she displays while dealing with unspeakable loss is as surprising as it is inspiring.

Written in free verse, this award-winning story is set in the heart of the Great Depression. It chronicles Oklahoma's staggering dust storms, and the environmental--and emotional--turmoil they leave in their path. An unforgettable tribute to hope and inner strength.

Hardcover, 227 pages
Published January 1st 1997

 by Scholastic Inc
3.5/5 stars

I'm jumping back on the bandwagon in 2021 to continue on my quest to read the John Newbery Medal winners.  Next year 2022 will mark the 100th anniversary of this award and I've got some catching up to do.  So far I have managed 18 reads with Out of the Dust being #19 and was the winner in 1998.

This book was written in diary format by 14 year old Billie Jo and geared for the middle grade reader.  I loved the writing style, it drew me right into the setting, it wasn't hard to visualise the dust, the dryness and the despair. Definitely gave a clear picture of life in the dust bowl and it wasn't pretty.  I actually found the book to be rather depressing and felt so sorry for this young girl.

Coming in at 227 pages it was a quick read (thankfully), especially with the verse format.  It spans 2 years of heartache, loneliness and dust. But here is the thing, it was beautifully written.  

“The way I see it, hard times aren't only about money,
or drought,
or dust.
Hard times are about losing spirit,
and hope,
and what happens when dreams dry up.”


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Review: The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

From the outside, everyone might think Fern and Rose are as close as twin sisters can be: Rose is the responsible one and Fern is the quirky one. But the sisters are devoted to one another and Rose has always been Fern's protector from the time they were small.

Fern needed protecting because their mother was a true sociopath who hid her true nature from the world, and only Rose could see it. Fern always saw the good in everyone. Years ago, Fern did something very, very bad. And Rose has never told a soul. When Fern decides to help her sister achieve her heart's desire of having a baby, Rose realizes with growing horror that Fern might make choices that can only have a terrible outcome. What Rose doesn't realize is that Fern is growing more and more aware of the secrets Rose, herself, is keeping. And that their mother might have the last word after all. 

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: April 13th 2021
by St. Martin's Press
4.5/5 stars

Everyone has a dark side.

Lately I have been accidently and sometimes on purpose reading books with a bookish bent so I'll get this out of the way first.  With one sister a librarian I loved all the literary references - from the library setting, references to books that I've read, ones in my tbr pile and others that made it to said pile.  Australia has some wonderful authors that are hard to come by in North American and I enjoyed the plugs for them.  Don't get me wrong this book isn't a walking advertisement but a fun glimpse into the inter workings and whats on the mind of a librarian.

Sally Hepworh also has a bent towards relationships and family which continues here.  Twin sisters, Fern and Rose alternately tell the story reverting at times to the past and the horrific events that moulded them into who they are today.

I loved the mystery that kept me on my toes.  I felt the injustices and slights directed at those who were deemed 'different'. And I tensed at what I foresaw, having to read faster and eventually with one eye closed as the last pages drew near - surely I'm not the only one who just barely peeks because you know whats going to happen but don't want to watch but you know you have to?

I've been reading Sally Hepworth since her first book, The Secrets of Midwives and haven't looked back.  This book doesn't release in North America until April, 2021 and available for preorder now.  Also since it's out to the rest of the work no, The Book Depository has it available for purchase.

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

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Review: Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

The story of the heart can never be unwritten.

Macy Sorensen is settling into an ambitious if emotionally tepid routine: work hard as a new pediatrics resident, plan her wedding to an older, financially secure man, keep her head down and heart tucked away.

But when she runs into Elliot Petropoulos—the first and only love of her life—the careful bubble she’s constructed begins to dissolve. Once upon a time, Elliot was Macy’s entire world—growing from her gangly bookish friend into the man who coaxed her heart open again after the loss of her mother...only to break it on the very night he declared his love for her.

Told in alternating timelines between Then and Now, teenage Elliot and Macy grow from friends to much more—spending weekends and lazy summers together in a house outside of San Francisco devouring books, sharing favorite words, and talking through their growing pains and triumphs. As adults, they have become strangers to one another until their chance reunion. Although their memories are obscured by the agony of what happened that night so many years ago, Elliot will come to understand the truth behind Macy’s decade-long silence, and will have to overcome the past and himself to revive her faith in the possibility of an all-consuming love.

Love, loss, friendship, and the betrayals of the past all collide in this first fiction novel from New York Times and #1 international bestselling author Christina Lauren (Autoboyography, Dating You / Hating You).

Paperback, 426 pages
Published April 10th 2018 
by Gallery Books
4.5/5 stars

Relatively new to the writing duo Christina Lauren, it was In a Holidaze that has me going through their back list.  Love & Other Words was the one recommended by my friends on IG.

I was drawn into this book immediately.  Told from present day Macy and then as 13 year old Macy - this story progresses as the friendship between her and Elliot develops.

Would I call this 'chick lit'?  I suppose so or maybe women's fiction but either way I enjoyed reading this book, from the writing that kept me immersed to a connection with a 13 yo, who lost so much at such a young age, to watching her grow into a young woman and what happened when everything changed - yea I didn't see that one coming. Coming in over 400 pages, some parts in the middle might have dragged on a little but I was too invested to let it bother me.

Love & Other Words is a coming of age story with its bookish charms - what's your favourite word? what are you reading and a cozy 'closet' that any bookworm would love regardless of age.  It was a pleasure to read and will be one to recommend. There is some mature content but nothing to take away from the story.

My copy was obtained from the local public library.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Review: The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray

An epic saga from New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Dray based on the true story of an extraordinary castle in the heart of France and the remarkable women bound by its legacy in three of humanity's darkest hours

Most castles are protected by powerful men. This one by women...

A founding mother...
1774. Gently-bred noblewoman Adrienne Lafayette becomes her husband's political partner in the fight for American independence. But when their idealism sparks revolution in France and the guillotine threatens everything she holds dear, Adrienne must choose to renounce the complicated man she loves, or risk her life for a legacy that will inspire generations to come.

A daring visionary...
1914. Glittering New York socialite Beatrice Astor Chanler is a force of nature, daunted by nothing--not her humble beginnings, her crumbling marriage, or the outbreak of war. But after witnessing the devastation in France and delivering war-relief over dangerous seas, Beatrice takes on the challenge of a lifetime: convincing America to fight for what's right.

A reluctant resistor...
1940. French school-teacher and aspiring artist Marthe Simone has an orphan's self-reliance and wants nothing to do with war. But as the realities of Nazi occupation transform her life in the isolated castle where she came of age, she makes a discovery that calls into question who she is, and more importantly, who she is willing to become.

Intricately woven and beautifully told, The Women of Chateau Lafayette is a sweeping novel about duty and hope, love and courage, and the strength we find from standing together in honor of those who came before us.

Kindle Edition, 576 pages
Expected publication: March 30th 2021
by Berkley Publishing Group
4.5/5 stars

Stephanie Dray is one of my go-to authors, first introduced to with her Cleopatra's Daughter Series I quickly recognized her to be an author with a great respect for history.

The Women of Chateau Lafayette is an epic saga coming in at 576 pages that tells the story of 3 women set during three different wars with the common thread of a Chateau. Although I found Marthe's story a little slow at the beginning it didn't take long until I was absorbed in each of these narratives.  Each of these women were unique but all were flawed, determined and authentic. They had a story to tell of heartache, compassion and love.

As usual I was drawn to the past (1774) story, mainly because my knowledge of Lafayette is limited to the musical Hamilton, I loved hearing his story through his wife Adrienne - but it was really her story.  Getting to know them made the connecting thread all the more meaningful.

The book concludes with some wonderful author notes that I found just as interesting.  It's evident that author spent a lot of  time researching which showed in her writing.

Stephanie Dray is an author I highly recommend as is The Women of Chateau Lafayette, which hits bookstore March 30th and available for preorder now.

My thanks to  Berkley Publishing (via Netgalley) for this digital ARC 
in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Audio Review: The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Some stories live forever...

Sage Singer is a baker. She works through the night, preparing the day’s breads and pastries, trying to escape a reality of loneliness, bad memories, and the shadow of her mother’s death. When Josef Weber, an elderly man in Sage’s grief support group, begins stopping by the bakery, they strike up an unlikely friendship. Despite their differences, they see in each other the hidden scars that others can’t.

Everything changes on the day that Josef confesses a long-buried and shameful secret—one that nobody else in town would ever suspect—and asks Sage for an extraordinary favor. If she says yes, she faces not only moral repercussions, but potentially legal ones as well. With her own identity suddenly challenged, and the integrity of the closest friend she’s ever had clouded, Sage begins to question the assumptions and expectations she’s made about her life and her family. When does a moral choice become a moral imperative? And where does one draw the line between punishment and justice, forgiveness and mercy?

In this searingly honest novel, Jodi Picoult gracefully explores the lengths we will go in order to protect our families and to keep the past from dictating the future

Paperback, 480 pages
Audiobook, 18 hrs, 13 mins
Published November 5th 2013 
by Atria/Emily Bestler Books
4.5/5 stars

I haven't read a Jodi Picoult book since My Sister's Keeper, many years ago.  I remember the twist and wasn't in a hurry to try again.  It was when my favourite blogger Laurie (aka TheBakingBookworm) gave this one 5 stars that resolve slowly ebbed away.

I'm glad I went the audio route here.  Told with multipe POVs the narrative followed like wise.  I knew The Storyteller would be an emotional read but honestly I didn't know what to expect as the story progressed.  Already burdened by guilt and grief Sage is placed in an unimaginable situation that gives rise to the question, what would you do?  For some it might be a clear cut answer but for others not so much.

The Storyteller is a thought provoking story, at times hard to read, it was written with feeling and compassion. It's actually hard to say too much without giving parts of the story away.  Suffice to say its a story that will stay with me for a while 

The way the book is divided wasn't my favourite, there is no going back and forth in time but rather one big backstory.  I would have rather had the breaks between the past and present just to regroup (emotionally). The ending was good, with usual Picoult twists that fit nicely.

The audio was from my personal library at Audible. 



Saturday, January 16, 2021

Audio Review: Firefly Lane (Firefly Lane #1) by Kristin Hannah

From the New York Times bestselling author of On Mystic Lake comes a powerful novel of love, loss, and the magic of friendship. . . .

In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all---beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable.

So begins Kristin Hannah’s magnificent new novel. Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives.

From the beginning, Tully is desperate to prove her worth to the world. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she longs to be loved unconditionally. In the glittering, big-hair era of the eighties, she looks to men to fill the void in her soul. But in the buttoned-down nineties, it is television news that captivates her. She will follow her own blind ambition to New York and around the globe, finding fame and success . . . and loneliness.

Kate knows early on that her life will be nothing special. Throughout college, she pretends to be driven by a need for success, but all she really wants is to fall in love and have children and live an ordinary life. In her own quiet way, Kate is as driven as Tully. What she doesn’t know is how being a wife and mother will change her . . . how she’ll lose sight of who she once was, and what she once wanted. And how much she’ll envy her famous best friend. . . .

For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship---jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.

Firefly Lane is for anyone who ever drank Boone’s Farm apple wine while listening to Abba or Fleetwood Mac. More than a coming-of-age novel, it’s the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices. It’s about promises and secrets and betrayals. And ultimately, about the one person who really, truly knows you---and knows what has the power to hurt you . . . and heal you. Firefly Lane is a story you’ll never forget . . . one you’ll want to pass on to your best friend.

Narrated by: Susan Ericksen
Series: Girls of Firefly Lane, Book 1
Length: 17 hrs and 54 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 04-29-08
3/5 stars

I have read some of Kristin Hannah's latest books, The NightingaleThe Great Alone and Winter Garden, her latest Four Winds has already been preordered.  These all are historical which is my favorite genre.  Slowly making my way through her backlist I grabbed Firefly Lane because it comes out next month on Netflix and I took that as opportunity to read the book first, we all know the book is always better, right?

It's 1974 when Kate and Tully are only in grade 8, not friends yet.  The author did a great job with the first part of this book.  I loved getting to know both these girls, learning who they are, where they came from and how they finally become friends.  Personality wise they are opposites but once the friendship is sealed its sealed.  From there the story continued and I liked watching them grow up and develop into strong young women - it wasn't always an easy path.

I loved the era, it's the same time I grew up in.  It was like a walk down memory lane with the music, news events and even books read.  I could relate to what these girls went through in terms of a career vs staying at home, dating and relationships.

I know that I'm going against popular opinion but I struggled about half way through this book. The pace slowed down, personalities changed and things didn't add much to the story. Coming in at almost 500 pages (depending  what format you read), that's a lot of pages and my attention just started to wean.  

Sorry if this a spoiler but the blurb talks about a big betrayal, I kept waiting for it. It ended up coming too late and was predictable. At that point I was not as invested as I should have been.  Maybe if the author took off 100 pages it might have worked better for me.

All in all the book started as a 4 and slowly went downhill, round off to a 3.  There is a sequel to this book, Fly Away.  Given my feelings for some of the main players I'll most likely pass.  Kristin Hannah's new book,  Four Winds releases next month and I am looking forward to reading it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Review: The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

April 18, 1906: A massive earthquake rocks San Francisco just before daybreak, igniting a devouring inferno. Lives are lost, lives are shattered, but some rise from the ashes forever changed.

Sophie Whalen is a young Irish immigrant so desperate to get out of a New York tenement that she answers a mail-order bride ad and agrees to marry a man she knows nothing about. San Francisco widower Martin Hocking proves to be as aloof as he is mesmerizingly handsome. Sophie quickly develops deep affection for Kat, Martin's silent five-year-old daughter, but Martin's odd behavior leaves her with the uneasy feeling that something about her newfound situation isn't right.

Then one early-spring evening, a stranger at the door sets in motion a transforming chain of events. Sophie discovers hidden ties to two other women. The first, pretty and pregnant, is standing on her doorstep. The second is hundreds of miles away in the American Southwest, grieving the loss of everything she once loved.

The fates of these three women intertwine on the eve of the devastating earthquake, thrusting them onto a perilous journey that will test their resiliency and resolve and, ultimately, their belief that love can overcome fear.

From the acclaimed author of The Last Year of the War and As Bright as Heaven comes a gripping novel about the bonds of friendship and mother love, and the power of female solidarity. 

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: February 2nd 2021
by Berkley Publishing Group
4/5 stars

I love reading historical fiction off the beaten track, and Susan Meissner's new book fits that bill nicely. Though actually one of my first books of this year the earthquake of 1906 played a background roll.  With The Nature of Fragile Things it plays centre stage.

This story begins a few years before the earthquake when Sophie marry s a man she met just hours before the wedding and becomes mother to Kat.  Sounds intriguing right?  Why would she do that, why would he mail order a bride? So many secrets.  

As usual Susan Meissner did not disappoint, though I will say this book had a different tone then others I have read. A gentle introduction and pacing brought the era to life. I knew very little about the magnitude of this earthquake and was shocked by what I read of the destruction that took place. This book was mysterious as both Sophie and Martin kept their past to themselves, even young Kat didn't share much.  It kept me intrigued.

The Nature of Fragile Things is a story of deception, love and friendship. One that drew me in as I connected with the characters and was kept on my toes as the story played out nicely.   Definitely a book and author I recommend.

I was excited when I heard this book was coming and very thankful to the fine folks at Berkley for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.  The Nature of Fragile Things releases on Feb. 2, 2021 and available for preorder now.  

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Review: Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson

“Wholly engrossing, exquisitely researched, and so timely. Sadeqa Johnson brings a fresh telling to a story we think we already know, making it beautifully relatable and human. Riveting and suspenseful, I highly recommend this novel.” —Kathleen Grissom New York Times Bestselling author of The Kitchen House

This harrowing story follows an enslaved woman forced to barter love and freedom while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia.

Born on a plantation in Charles City Virginia, Pheby Delores Brown has lived a privileged life. Shielded by her mother’s position as the plantation’s medicine woman, and cherished by the Master’s sister, she is set apart from the others on the plantation, belonging to neither world.

Freedom on her eighteenth birthday has been promised to her, but instead of the idyllic life she imagined with her true love, Essex Henry, Pheby is forced to leave the only home she has ever known and unexpectedly finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous “Devil’s Half-Acre,” a jail where the enslaved are broken, tortured, and sold every day in Richmond, Virginia. There Pheby is exposed not just to her Jailor’s cruelty but also to his contradictions. To survive Pheby will have to outwit him but soon faces the ultimate sacrifice.

Paperback, 277 pages
Expected publication: January 12th 2021
 by Simon & Schuster
4/5 stars

New to me author Sadeqa Johnson packs a lot of punch in these 277 pages of Yellow Wife.  This is my first time in what feels like ages to be reading US historical fiction about slavery and what those of color endured.

Just shy of her 18 years, Pheby has been promised her freedom papers but then everything changes and not in a good way.  Pheby told her story beginning with promise, love and hope that changed to despair and heartache.  Needless to say it was a emotional read and honesty given the time period how could it not be.  It was a horrible time in history.

The last few pages of this book contained author notes (a must for HF imho) where the author talked of her inspiration and research.  While the characters were fictional they do revolve around a real jail set on 1/2 an acre where the circumstances were drawn from.  Sometimes hard to read the author didn't always hold back it to what took place. The characters were authentic and it wasn't hard to feel for them.

I liked the ending but I did crave for more.  I would have loved for the story to have continued for a little bit longer.  All in all a great read by an author that I will be on the lookout for her backlist.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for a print ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Audio Review: The Wild Rose (The Tea Rose #3) by Jennifer Donnelly

The third book in the sweeping, multi-generational saga that began with The Tea Rose, The Wild Rose is a "lush story of epic proportions" (Romantic Times Book Review).

The Wild Rose is a part of the sweeping, multi-generational saga that began with The Tea Rose and continued with The Winter Rose. It is London, 1914. World War I looms on the horizon, women are fighting for the right to vote, and explorers are pushing the limits of endurance in the most forbidding corners of the earth. Into this volatile time, Jennifer Donnelly places her vivid and memorable characters: Willa Alden, a passionate mountain climber who lost her leg while summiting Kilimanjaro with Seamus Finnegan, and who will never forgive him for saving her life; Seamus Finnegan, a polar explorer who tries to forget Willa as he marries a beautiful young schoolteacher back home in England; Max von Brandt, a handsome German sophisticate who courts high society women, but has a secret agenda in wartime London.

Many other beloved characters from The Winter Rose continue their adventures in The Wild Rose as well. With myriad twists and turns, thrilling cliffhangers, and fabulous period detail and atmosphere, The Wild Rose provides a highly satisfying conclusion to an unforgettable trilogy.

Paperback, 640 pages
Published September 1st 2009 
Audiobook  24 hours, 33 minutes
by Hachette Books
2.5/5 stars

I really enjoyed the first two books in this The Tea Rose Series. They both had plots and characters that grabbed me but sadly The Wild Rose did not invoke those same feelings. 

I am going to go against the grain here because I really struggled to finish this one.  I'm glad I went the audio route because it would have been a DNF otherwise.  It wasn't the writing, Jennifer Donnelly is a favourite of mine.  Her YA historical fiction books - Revolution, A Northern Light and These Shallow Graves are ones I recommend and loan out of my library often.  Even those not daunted by the size The Tea Rose is a great story to get lost in the pages of - its 675 pages long.

So what happened here?  Right from the beginning Willa just got on my nerves with Seamus quickly following suit - that kinda set the tone.  Now I get not liking characters in books, this was different and I can't quite put my finger on why.

The story was long, with somewhat of a soap opera feel and was just way too long (yea I said that twice).  I will say the author hit the time period spot on, her research and historical knowledge shined through.  Some of the characters/actions just didn't do it for me this time around.

Audiobook from my personal library via Audible.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Review: A Heart So Fierce and Broken (Cursebreakers #2) by Brigid Kemmerer

Find the heir, win the crown.

The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.

Win the crown, save the kingdom.

Rumored to be the heir, Grey has been on the run since he destroyed Lilith. He has no desire to challenge Rhen--until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?

The heart-pounding, compulsively readable saga continues as loyalties are tested and new love blooms in a kingdom on the brink of war.

In the sequel to New York Times bestselling A Curse So Dark and Lonely, Brigid Kemmerer returns to the world of Emberfall in a lush fantasy where friends become foes and love blooms in the darkest of places.

Paperback, 445 pages
Published January 7th 2020 
by Bloomsbury YA
4/5 stars

Following A Curse So Dark & Lonely, this is no. 2 in the Cursebreakers Series - a Beauty & the Beast retelling that I loved.

Getting off to a slow start it didn't take long for the adventures to begin.  Grey was one of my favourites, I was looking forward to hearing his story.  Rhen and Harper aren't central here, well they are because the story revolves around them but this is Grey's story.  A few new characters are introduced that just added that little bit extra that this story needed.  It's been a year since I read A Curse and this picked up right where it left off.  A few memory refreshers and away it went.  

As for the story, like I said a little slow on the up take but once things started it kept a nice pace.  I really didn't have an idea what was going to happen, especially given the history between Rhen and Grey.  With Karis Luran in the picture anything can happen.  A few nasty scenes that showed what Grey was up against has me intrigued as to what happens next.

The fitting conclusion has left the door open for book 3, A Vow So Bold & Deadly which releases in a couple weeks.

This book was part of my 2020 Reading off my Shelf Challenge (book 49)

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Review: Sled Dog School by Terry Lynn Johnson

Eleven-year-old Matthew Misco just wants to fly—or should we say sled—under the radar. Things are hard enough at school with kids making fun of him for his parents' off-the-grid life-style, but life gets much worse when he is assigned a long-term math project: to start his own business. He has to ace this assignment to save his failing grade. But what is he even good at? The only thing he truly loves doing is running his team of dogs.

Funny, heartwarming, and full of the joy of dogs, Sled Dog School is about overcoming adversity, finding your strengths, and your friends, and following your passions.

Hardcover, 208 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 
by HMH Books for Young Readers
4/5 stars

Terry Lynn Johnson is one of my go to authors for outdoor adventure stories for kids (I'm a big kid).  Her books are fun, educational (learning about dogs and sledding) and ones that I wish were around when my boys were younger - but great for the grand kids.

Dog Sled School is about kids that aren't perfect, kids that struggle academically and socially.  When Matt is assigned a school project it forces his hand in a direction he wants to steer clear of. It's an adventure story about friendship, family and learning it's okay to ask for help.  I loved watching the changes in Matt, whether his attitude towards family or friends.

It's a perfect winter read as the snow flies outside while bundled up inside.

The author's website, is a great place to visit.

This book was part of my 2020 Reading of my Shelf Challenge

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Review: The Lost and Found Bookshop (Bella Vista Chronicles ) by Susan Wiggs

In this thought-provoking, wise and emotionally rich novel, New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs explores the meaning of happiness, trust, and faith in oneself as she asks the question, "If you had to start over, what would you do and who would you be?"

There is a book for everything . . .

Somewhere in the vast Library of the Universe, as Natalie thought of it, there was a book that embodied exactly the things she was worrying about.

In the wake of a shocking tragedy, Natalie Harper inherits her mother’s charming but financially strapped bookshop in San Francisco. She also becomes caretaker for her ailing grandfather Andrew, her only living relative—not counting her scoundrel father.

But the gruff, deeply kind Andrew has begun displaying signs of decline. Natalie thinks it’s best to move him to an assisted living facility to ensure the care he needs. To pay for it, she plans to close the bookstore and sell the derelict but valuable building on historic Perdita Street, which is in need of constant fixing. There’s only one problem–Grandpa Andrew owns the building and refuses to sell. Natalie adores her grandfather; she’ll do whatever it takes to make his final years happy. Besides, she loves the store and its books provide welcome solace for her overwhelming grief.

After she moves into the small studio apartment above the shop, Natalie carries out her grandfather’s request and hires contractor Peach Gallagher to do the necessary and ongoing repairs. His young daughter, Dorothy, also becomes a regular at the store, and she and Natalie begin reading together while Peach works.

To Natalie’s surprise, her sorrow begins to dissipate as her life becomes an unexpected journey of new connections, discoveries and revelations, from unearthing artifacts hidden in the bookshop’s walls, to discovering the truth about her family, her future, and her own heart.

Paperback, 355 pages
Published September 17th 2020
by Harper Collins
4/5 stars

  This book wasn't the rom/com I anticipated, to be honest I didn't even reread the blurb from when it arrived in my mailbox - it was on my shelf and that means I want to read it, right?  I think it was the title that drew me to this purchase - anything bookish usually does.

Though the story is told from both Natalie and Andrew the bulk is Natalie.  There were times that the story jumped back in time as both reminisced where I was caught off guard and I had to do a double take but it didn't take long to became so absorbed in the story where that wasn't an issue at all.  
The Lost and Found Bookshop was my introduction to Susan Wiggs and I loved the setting.  A bookstore with lots of charm, history and a roaming cat.  It was an authentic journey of grief and loss, secrets and revelations. With an interesting cast of characters, lots of name/book dropping and a bookshop housed in a building with lots of history that just didn't want to stay hidden. A unique story that flowed nicely and not heavy in the romance department.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and imagine my surprise when I found out this is actually book 3 in the Bella Vista Chronicles - so definitely works as a standalone. That being said I already have the previous books in my TBR pile for 2021.

This book was part of my 2020 Reading off my Shelf Challenge.