Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Review: Under the Southern Sky by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Two childhood friends discover that love—and family—can be found in unconventional ways in this timely, moving novel from the USA TODAY bestselling author of the “beautifully Southern, evocative Peachtree Bluff series” (Kristin Harmel, internationally bestselling author of The Winemaker’s Wife).

Amelia Buxton, a dedicated journalist and a recent divorcĂ©e, never expected that uncovering the biggest story of her career would become deeply personal. But when she discovers that a cluster of embryos belonging to her childhood friend Parker and his late wife Greer have been deemed “abandoned,” she’s put in the unenviable position of telling Parker—and dredging up old wounds in the process.

Parker has been unable to move forward since the loss of his beloved wife three years ago. He has all but forgotten about the frozen embryos, but once Amelia reveals her discovery, he knows that if he ever wants to get a part of Greer back, he’ll need to accept his fate as a single father and find a surrogate.

Each dealing with their own private griefs, Parker and Amelia slowly begin to find solace in one another as they navigate an uncertain future against the backdrop of the pristine waters of their childhood home, Buxton Beach. The journey of self-discovery leads them to an unforgettable and life-changing lesson: Family—the one you’re born into and the one you choose—is always closer than you think.

From “the next major voice in Southern fiction” (Elin Hilderbrand, #1 New York Times bestselling author), Under the Southern Sky is a fresh and unforgettable exploration of love, friendship, and the unbreakable ties that bind.

Kindle Edition
Published April 20th 2021
by Gallery Books
4.5/5 stars

I've wanted to read this book since the Facebook Group, The Friends & Fiction Book Club started during the first lockdown (we are on #3 at the moment). Five authors who get together to chat books with guest authors.  I was familiar with some of the authors but those I wasn't, I wanted to read.  Which brings me to Kristy Woodson Harvey.

Under the Southern Sky recently released and my big question was was this going to live up to all the hype I've seen on social media.  The answer for me is a resounding yes it did.  I did a combination read and audiobook.  I recommend both.  With 2 major POVs and 2 smaller parts, the audio had a different voice for each one - I love that.  It sets the tone and gives each character a voice that matched their personality.  

The story was unique with characters that were authentic.  It had a nice balance between a lighter tone and then more serious for the emotional parts.  There are some serious topics - grief and fertility, both of which were handled with respect and heart.

Under the Southern Sky is a story of love and loss, family and friends, and self discovery. Definitely one I recommend.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Review: Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

Reena Manji doesn’t love her career, her single status, and most of all, her family inserting themselves into every detail of her life. But when caring for her precious sourdough starters, Reena can drown it all out. At least until her father moves his newest employee across the hall--with hopes that Reena will marry him.

But Nadim’s not like the other Muslim bachelors-du-jour that her parents have dug up. If the Captain America body and the British accent weren’t enough, the man appears to love eating her bread creations as much as she loves making them. She sure as hell would never marry a man who works for her father, but friendship with a neighbor is okay, right? And when Reena’s career takes a nosedive, Nadim happily agrees to fake an engagement so they can enter a couples video cooking contest to win the artisan bread course of her dreams.

As cooking at home together brings them closer, things turn physical, but Reena isn’t worried. She knows Nadim is keeping secrets, but it’s fine— secrets are always on the menu where her family is concerned. And her heart is protected… she’s not marrying the man. But even secrets kept for self preservation have a way of getting out, especially when meddling parents and gossiping families are involved.

Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 2nd 2021 
by Forever
5/5 stars

I totally went into this book blind.  It was part of a group read I wanted to take part in, plus Accidentally Engaged is written by a Canadian author with a Canadian setting - bonus points there.

I loved the diversity, seeing into different ethic groups with family dynamics different from mine. Suffice to say I loved this book, worth all 5 stars for the character development, for a story that I found unique with its many layers and an interesting cast of characters.  I smiled, laughed and felt sad throughout this read.  Oh and ya the desire to bake bread was at an all time high.

Accidentally Engaged is a wonderful book that I highly recommend by a new to me author - yup I am searching her backlist.

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

Friday, April 23, 2021

Review: A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson

New York Times bestselling author Mary Lawson, acclaimed for digging into the wilderness of the human heart, is back after almost a decade with a fresh and timely novel that is different in subject but just as emotional and atmospheric as her beloved earlier work.

A Town Called Solace--the brilliant and emotionally radiant new novel from Mary Lawson, her first in nearly a decade--opens on a family in crisis: rebellious teenager Rose been missing for weeks with no word, and Rose's younger sister, the feisty and fierce Clara, keeps a daily vigil at the living-room window, hoping for her sibling's return.

Enter thirtyish Liam Kane, newly divorced, newly unemployed, newly arrived in this small northern town, where he promptly moves into the house next door--watched suspiciously by astonished and dismayed Clara, whose elderly friend, Mrs. Orchard, owns that home. Around the time of Rose's disappearance, Mrs. Orchard was sent for a short stay in hospital, and Clara promised to keep an eye on the house and its remaining occupant, Mrs. Orchard's cat, Moses. As the novel unfolds, so does the mystery of what has transpired between Mrs Orchard and the newly arrived stranger.

Told through three distinct, compelling points of view--Clara's, Mrs. Orchard's, and Liam Kane's--the novel cuts back and forth among these unforgettable characters to uncover the layers of grief, remorse, and love that connect families, both the ones we're born into and the ones we choose. A Town Called Solace is a masterful, suspenseful and deeply humane novel by one of our great storytellers. 

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 16th 2021
 by Knopf Canada
3.5/5 stars

My March SweedReads Box contained this book.  A new author for me along with another Canadian setting - bonus points!

A short and sweet review.  This book is told with 3 distinct voices which covers many generations.  I enjoyed the small town setting, a place where everyone knows everyone.  I liked getting to know each of the characters., Clara as she comes to terms with her missing sister and never gives up hope. The history of Liam and Mrs. Orchard was vivid and an emotional part of the book, but I still struggled for a takeaway. I wanted to love this book and maybe because my expectations were high this ended up being an ok read for me.    I know I am totally going against the flow with my thoughts, so I take that as a 'its me not the book'.

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

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Audio Review: The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

Steeped in history and filled with heart-wrenching twists, The Stolen Marriage is an emotionally captivating novel of secrets, betrayals, prejudice, and forgiveness. It showcases Diane Chamberlain at the top of her talent.

One mistake, one fateful night, and Tess DeMello’s life is changed forever.

It is 1944. Pregnant, alone, and riddled with guilt, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly gives up her budding career as a nurse and ends her engagement to the love of her life, unable to live a lie. Instead, she turns to the baby’s father for help and agrees to marry him, moving to the small, rural town of Hickory, North Carolina. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows her no affection. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.

The people of Hickory love and respect Henry but see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain. When one of the town’s golden girls dies in a terrible accident, everyone holds Tess responsible. But Henry keeps his secrets even closer now, though it seems that everyone knows something about him that Tess does not.

When a sudden polio epidemic strikes Hickory, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess knows she is needed and defies Henry’s wishes to begin working at there. Through this work, she begins to find purpose and meaning. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle the truth behind her husband’s mysterious behavior and find the love—and the life—she was meant to have? 

Hardcover, 376 pages
Published October 3rd 2017
 by St. Martin's Press
3.5/5 stars

Diane Chamberlain had me at The Midwife's Confession and I haven't looked back.  This is my 7th book and I still have a ways to go with her backlist.  Her books are usually 4/5 stars, which is why she is an auto read author.  Somehow I missed The Stolen Marriage and grabbed the audio when it was a deal over at Chirp.

This one has the historical aspect that I love.  The polio epidemic of 1945 was new for me, I found it not just educational but heartbreaking as well.  The treatment and isolation for that time seems so primitive now, thank goodness for the advancements made.

Tess's story was interesting enough serving as a set up for the last half of the book.  It wasn't as captivating as I'd hoped or come to expect in a Chamberlain book.  Whether listening verse reading played a part I am not sure.  I found the story slow moving and while Henry's actions were mysterious some parts were predictable.

While this isn't my favourite Diane Chamberlain book she remains an auto read and author I recommend.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Review: The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier

A rash of grisly serial murders plagued Seattle until the infamous "Beacon Hill Butcher" was finally hunted down and killed by police chief Edward Shank in 1985. Now, some thirty years later, Shank, retired and widowed, is giving up his large rambling Victorian house to his grandson Matt, whom he helped raise.

Settling back into his childhood home and doing some renovations in the backyard to make the house feel like his own, Matt, a young up-and-coming chef and restaurateur, stumbles upon a locked crate he’s never seen before. Curious, he picks the padlock and makes a discovery so gruesome it will forever haunt him… Faced with this deep dark family secret, Matt must decide whether to keep what he knows buried in the past, go to the police, or take matters into his own hands.

Meanwhile Matt’s girlfriend, Sam, has always suspected that her mother was murdered by the Beacon Hill Butcher—two years after the supposed Butcher was gunned down. As she pursues leads that will prove her right, Sam heads right into the path of Matt’s terrible secret. 

Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published July 15th 2014
 by Gallery Books
3.5/5 stars

This is Canadian author, Jennifer Hillier's 3rd book.  I've read a number of her recent releases and am continuing on my journey to read her backlist.

This was an audio read (via Scribd), coming in at almost 10 hours.  The Butcher is high up there on the creepy factor - even the cover screams creep.  But knowing who the killer is right from the beginning is a new one for me.  At first I wasn't impressed with that knowledge but as the story progressed and knowing that fact just made the story all the more intriguing.  There are a nice variety of characters with unique and personalities that rounded this story out nicely. The various relationships and interconnections added to the suspense.

As for the mystery, what can I say other then it was totally whacked (see blurb above) and I mean that in a good way.  There were twists and turns, some I saw coming and others not so much.  I found excuses to continue listening just to see the outcome.

The Butcher is a book that can be gruesome at times with a mature subject matter.  I don't recommend for the squeamish as it's rather dark and disturbing.  I'm glad that I went the audio route, though I did find the voice of Matt a tad annoying (whiny actually) and I don't think that was the author's intend.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Review: The Last Thing He Told Me: A Novel by Laura Dave

We all have stories we never tell.
Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her.

Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers: Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.

As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered; as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss; as a US Marshal and FBI agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.

Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth, together. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they are also building a new future. One neither Hannah nor Bailey could have anticipated. 

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Expected publication: May 4th 2021
by Simon & Schuster CA
4.5/5 stars

This was my first time reading a Laura Drake book, what can I say other than that I will definitely be on the lookout for more.

The Last Thing He Told Me was a quick read  (about a day & a half), quick in the fact I struggled to put it down. The story picked up right away and with nice sized chapters it was easy for just one more chapter (pun intended).

The writing flowed nicely, the characters were real and I loved the dialogue - how it defined the relationships and the characters. There was more to this story then meets the eye, there were layers and mystery, I was reading clues and wondering if it's a clue or not. I liked the ending for lots of reasons (sorry spoiler if I said more).

Definitely a book I highly recommend.  Look for it on bookshelves May 4th.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster Ca (via Netgalley) for a digital arc in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Review: Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan

It was called "The Titanic of the South." The luxury steamship sank in 1838 with Savannah's elite on board; through time, their fates were forgotten--until the wreck was found, and now their story is finally being told in this breathtaking novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis.

When Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop is asked to guest-curate a new museum collection focusing on artifacts recovered from the steamship Pulaski, she's shocked. The ship sank after a boiler explosion in 1838, and the wreckage was just discovered, 180 years later. Everly can't resist the opportunity to try to solve some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the devastating night of its sinking.

Everly's research leads her to the astounding history of a family of eleven who boarded the Pulaski together, and the extraordinary stories of two women from this family: a known survivor, Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth, who was never found, along with her child. These aristocratic women were part of Savannah's society, but when the ship exploded, each was faced with difficult and heartbreaking decisions.

This is a moving and powerful exploration of what women will do to endure in the face of tragedy, the role fate plays, and the myriad ways we survive the surviving. 

Hardcover, 432 pages
Published March 9th 2021 
by Berkley
4.5/5 stars

Surviving Savannah was one of my highly anticipated books of 2021.  I can't really explain other then between the author, THAT cover and the historical story this was a preorder for me.  My instincts were correct.

Even though this was a slower paced story I found it captivating.  I love reading pieces of history that I'm unfamiliar with, which was the case with the Pulaski sinking.  One might think being only 30 miles off the coast isn't that far but it's 1838 with no way to call for help.  Told between Lilly and Augusta a vivid picture was painted of what could have happened along with the physical and emotional trauma that went with it.  There were times I questioned the pace but in the end I understood and appreciated looking at the whole picture when I finished the book.

Present day is the story of Everly, and while the blurb doesn't give much of the story away (thank you publisher) she under takes a journey during her research.  I loved the historical part, learning more about Savannah in both the past and present day.  Its a place that has been bumped up higher on my bucket list. Suffice to say I really enjoyed reading this book.  It wasn't one I rushed through but savored the writing and getting to know some wonderful characters and places to visit.

"You know," he said finally, "not everyone who survives trauma becomes a better person.  The idea that surviving brings everyone to a new and better place is a lie told by people who need the world to make sense."

The book ended with some wonderful author notes and a chapter on resources and facts which I found informative and sent me off to google on a quest for pictures.

This book was part of my 2021 Reading off my Shelf Challenge.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Review: Letters Across the Sea by Genevieve Graham

Inspired by a little-known chapter of World War II history, a young Protestant girl and her Jewish neighbour are caught up in the terrible wave of hate sweeping the globe on the eve of war in this powerful love story from the #1 bestselling author of The Forgotten Home Child.

I’m writing to say goodbye…
With all my love,

Summer 1933

At eighteen, Molly Ryan feels as though she is always looking for work to help her family through the Great Depression crippling her city. The one bright spot in her life is playing baseball with her best friend, Hannah Dreyfus, and sneaking glances at Hannah’s handsome older brother, Max. Molly knows that her Irish Protestant parents disapprove of her spending so much time with their Jewish neighbours, and she also sees the signs that say “No Jews Allowed” outside Toronto’s stores and parks. But unlike many of the city’s residents, Molly doesn’t blame Hannah and Max for the mass unemployment and unrest—they’re her beloved childhood friends.

As more of Hitler’s hateful ideas cross the sea, tensions between the two families and their communities rise, spilling over one smouldering day in August when a local “Swastika Club” unfurls a huge white banner bearing the Nazi symbol at a baseball game. A riot erupts, throwing Molly and Max together and sparking a secret they must keep from everyone they love.

When Max enlists to fight overseas, their love is put to the ultimate test, the letters between them a tenuous bond. By war’s end, both of their families will be scarred by painful betrayal as devastating truths come to light.

Perfect for readers of The Daughter’s Tale and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Letters Across the Sea is a poignant novel about the enduring power of love to cross dangerous divides even in the darkest of times. 

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: April 27th 2021
by Simon & Schuster Canada
4.5/5 stars

One of the things I love about reading a Genevieve Graham book is that her love of history shines through, especially when it deals with Canadian history.  She was raised in Toronto and chose to bring to life some unflattering pieces of its past.  I knew nothing of Christie Pit and the anti Semitic behaviour during the Great Depression was just so sad to read about.

Most WW2 books don't talk much about the involvement of Canadian troops but here I learned about the Battle of Hong Kong and it wasn't a pretty picture. How is that not taught in Canadian schools?

With two time periods we watch Molly Ryan grow up during tumultuous times, especially as friends and family take a stand, sadly at times against each other. As war breaks out there are parts of Canada's involvement  that I learned about - it's great that Molly is a journalist. 

Letters Across the Sea is a well researched and written story, it's emotional, the characters are genuine and the plot kept my attention.  There is heartache and guilt but a midst that is also kindness and compassion.  Definitely an author and book I highly recommend. 

My thanks to Simon & Schuster Ca (via Netgalley) for a digital arc in exchange for a honest review.


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Review: When the Stars Go Dark: A Novel by Paula McLain

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife comes an atmospheric novel of intertwined destinies and heart-wrenching suspense: A detective hiding away from the world. A series of disappearances that reach into her past. Can solving them help her heal?

Anna Hart is a seasoned missing persons detective in San Francisco with far too much knowledge of the darkest side of human nature. When tragedy strikes her personal life, Anna, desperate and numb, flees to the Northern California village of Mendocino to grieve. She lived there as a child with her beloved foster parents, and now she believes it might be the only place left for her. Yet the day she arrives, she learns that a local teenage girl has gone missing.

The crime feels frighteningly reminiscent of the most crucial time in Anna’s childhood, when the unsolved murder of a young girl touched Mendocino and changed the community forever. As past and present collide, Anna realizes that she has been led to this moment. The most difficult lessons of her life have given her insight into how victims come into contact with violent predators. As Anna becomes obsessed with saving the missing girl, she must accept that true courage means getting out of her own way and learning to let others in.

Weaving together actual cases of missing persons, trauma theory, and a hint of the metaphysical, this propulsive and deeply affecting novel tells a story of fate, necessary redemption, and what it takes, when the worst happens, to reclaim our lives—and our faith in one another. 

Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Expected publication: April 13th 2021
 by Ballantine Books
4/5 stars

I've read Paula McLain's The Paris Wife and Circle the Sun and I knew right away that this would be a book totally different from her norm in terms of cadence and subject. Knowing how personal this story is to the author made it all the more compelling.  McLain draws on her own past and bears her soul making for an emotional read.

This is a slow paced, character driven story, dark with a theme that draws on the historical past of the northwest. It's during a horrible time in 1993 surrounding the disappearance of young girls.  At the same time, Anna Hart is reeling from her own tragic past and lands in the middle of a missing person case.

This is a complex story with a  large cast of characters (yea I had to pay attention). Anna is well developed in terms of her emotional journey, she faces her past a midst these missing girl cases.  Though it lagged a little in the middle the ending was fast paced and while I would have liked it to go on for another chapter or two I get what the author did there.  It was still a good ending.

When the Stars Go Dark releases April 13th.  My thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for a digital arc in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Review: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

'Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices... Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?'

A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived, from the internationally bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How To Stop Time.

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig's enchanting novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 20th 2020
 by Canongate Books Ltd.
3.5/5 stars

"She learned that undoing regrets was really a way of making wishes come true."

I am feeling somewhat apprehensive about sharing my thoughts on The Midnight Library. Maybe that's why its taken so long, I read this back in January.  With so so many of my peeps giving this book 5 stars and for some more it they could. I'm here with my 3 1/2 stars, which means in the middle between 'I liked' to 'really liked' and that's still good, right?

This book started off great, I connected with Nora right away as she has one bad day after another until she can't take it anymore.  The concept for the book was unique and I loved the midnight library and what it represented.  How timing, the choices we make and even a change in routine can lead to different outcomes.  Maybe my expectation level was elevated but this book went on and on and on some more. I think that's what got me was the length, even though its really not that long.  I just felt it was repetitive after a while and could have been shorter.

The Midnight Library is a book about regrets and what if's.  For those with depression/suicidal thoughts this could be a trigger.

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

Friday, April 9, 2021

Audio Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

"The Final Girls need you. . . . The Final Girls are tough, everything survivors should be. But the new threat is clever, ominous, even closer than you suspect. You are about to gasp. You might drop the book. You may have to look over your shoulder. But you must keep reading. This is the best book of 2017."—Lisa Gardner, New York Times bestselling author of Find Her

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout's knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media's attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancĂ©, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy's doorstep. Blowing through Quincy's life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa's death come to light, Quincy's life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam's truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

Audiobook, eAudiobook/Unabridged, 
12 hours, 24 minutes
narrators - Erin Bennett and Hillary Huber
Published July 11th 2017 by Penguin Audio
3/5 stars

This is the last Sager book to get me up to date as I eagerly await his new one, Survive the Night (releases in June).  I'll say that reading The Last Time I Lied and Home Before Dark before reading this one was a good thing.  Those two are favourite reads and ones I recommend.  With Final Girls I'm kinda going against the majority by not giving it 5 stars.  To be honest if it wasn't for the audio book I'm not sure I would have continued reading.

I get unlikable characters and all that but in this case it didn't jive for me. I don't know if I was suppose to like these characters or not but I really didn't. Though Sam felt authentic and her actions fit her personality, it was Quincy that just confused me.  She came across as the careful one, mature, guarded and fiercely protective - her actions and thoughts just didn't make sense for me there, which in turn affected my enjoyment. 

This was a slow paced book that was told with flashbacks as Quincy started to remember what happened.  While I thought it was predictable, it really wasn't. As for the ending, there were some twists that I didn't see coming and it was satisfying.

This might not be my favourite Riley Sager book, I'm still a fan and looking forward to his June release.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Review: Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay

In one of the year's most anticipated debut psychological thrillers, a family made infamous by a true crime documentary is found dead, leaving their surviving son to uncover the truth about their final days.

"They found the bodies on a Tuesday." So begins this twisty and breathtaking novel that traces the fate of the Pine family, a thriller that will both leave you on the edge of your seat and move you to tears.

After a late night of partying, NYU student Matt Pine returns to his dorm room to devastating news: nearly his entire family--his mom, his dad, his little brother and sister--have been found dead from an apparent gas leak while vacationing in Mexico. The local police claim it was an accident, but the FBI and State Department seem far less certain--and they won't tell Matt why.

The tragedy makes headlines everywhere because this isn't the first time the Pine family has been thrust into the media spotlight. Matt's older brother, Danny--currently serving a life sentence for the murder of his teenage girlfriend Charlotte--was the subject of a viral true crime documentary suggesting that Danny was wrongfully convicted. Though the country has rallied behind Danny, Matt holds a secret about his brother that he's never told anyone: the night Charlotte was killed Matt saw something that makes him believe his brother is guilty of the crime.

When Matt returns to his small hometown to bury his parents and siblings, he's faced with a hostile community that was villainized by the documentary, a frenzied media, and memories he'd hoped to leave behind forever. Now, as the deaths in Mexico appear increasingly suspicious and connected to Danny's case, Matt must unearth the truth behind the crime that sent his brother to prison--putting his own life in peril--and forcing him to confront his every last fear.

Told through multiple points-of-view and alternating between past and present, Alex Finlay's Every Last Fear is not only a page-turning thriller, it's also a poignant story about a family managing heartbreak and tragedy, and living through a fame they never wanted.

Paperback, 416 pages
Expected publication: November 30th 2021 
by Minotaur Books
4.5/5 stars

Every Last Fear by new-to-me author Alex Finlay was part of my Thriller Book Box by the fine folks at SweetReadsBookBox.  It's been on my radar for awhile and I dug in shortly after it arrived 

The blurb pretty much summaries what goes on here, I found it to be rather addicting. It is told with multiple points of view with a before/after story-line.  It might sound like a lot is going on (well there is) but the author did a great job of differentiating the chapters and letting the reader know who and when he is telling the story, it flowed nicely.  With the shorter chapters it was perfect for JustOneMoreChapter reading.

Dawning my sleuth cap I kept my eyes open for clues and tried to solve the mystery myself, but alas the author kept me on my toes the whole way through.  

Every Last Fear is a story that is heartbreaking at its core, it is a well written story with twists and turns, flawed characters and unique plot.  This is the author's debut which has me looking forward to whats next.  That being said the author is also writing under a pseudonym which just adds more to the mystery.

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

Monday, April 5, 2021

Review: The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War II by Madeline Martin

Inspired by the true World War II history of the few bookshops to survive the Blitz, The Last Bookshop in London is a timeless story of wartime loss, love and the enduring power of literature.

August 1939: London is dismal under the weight of impending war with Germany as Hitler’s forces continue to sweep across Europe. Into this uncertain maelstrom steps Grace Bennett, young and ready for a fresh start in the bustling city streets she’s always dreamed of—and miles away from her troubled past in the countryside.

With aspirations of working at a department store, Grace never imagined she’d wind up employed at Primrose Hill, an offbeat bookshop nestled in the heart of the city—after all, she’s never been much of a reader. Overwhelmed with organizing the cluttered store, she doesn’t have time to read the books she sells. But when one is gifted to her, what starts as an obligation becomes a passion that draws her into the incredible world of literature.

As the Blitz rains down bombs on the city night after night, a devastating attack leaves the libraries and shops of London’s literary center in ruins. Miraculously, Grace’s bookshop survives the firestorm. Through blackouts and air raids, Grace continues running the shop, discovering a newfound comfort in the power of words and storytelling that unites her community in ways she never imagined—a force that triumphs over even the darkest nights of war-torn London.

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Expected publication: April 6th 2021
 by Hanover Square Press
4/5 stars

The Last Bookshop in London is a fictional account of a few surviving bookshops of WW2. It has that coming of age feel that begins on the eve of the war in London.  Friends Grace and Eve arrive as the world is changing drastically and what follows is a journey of self discovery that is filled with heartache, grief and personal growth.  It isn't just Grace's friendship with Viv but developing relationships and how books comfort during a horrible time. I love bookish themed books

This was an enjoyable read with authentic characters that showed a side of the war I don't often read about.  From the air raid sirens, the men fighting and women doing their part I liked getting to know Grace, Mrs. Weatherford and even cranky Mr. Evans.  The author did the research and it showed. The historical part put me there as I witnessed bombings from a street level.

This is my first time reading a Madeline Martin book, I liked her writing style, her attention to detail and drawing me into a story that kept me entertained. Definitely a book and author I recommend, especially to those that love historical fiction.

My thanks to Hanover Square Press (via Netgalley) for a digitial arc in 
exchange for a honest review.


Saturday, April 3, 2021

Review: Rescue at Lake Wild by Terry Lynn Johnson

In this funny and moving animals-in-peril adventure, a twelve-year-old girl and her two best friends determine to rescue two orphaned beaver kits—and soon find themselves trying to solve a local environmental crisis. Perfect for fans of Pax and A Boy Called Bat.

Everyone knows that twelve-year-old Madison “Madi” Lewis is not allowed to bring home any more animals. After she's saved hairless mice, two birds, a rabbit, and a stray tom cat that ended up destroying the front porch, Madi’s parents decide that if they find one more stray animal in the house, she won’t be allowed to meet Jane Goodall at an upcoming gala event.

But when Madi and her two best friends, Aaron and Jack, rescue beaver kits whose mother was killed, they find themselves at the center of a local conspiracy that’s putting the beavers and their habitats in danger. As Madi and her friends race to uncover the threat targeting the beavers, Madi must put her animal whisperer skills to the test in both raising the orphaned beaver kits and staying out of trouble long enough.

Kindle, 208 pages
Published April 27th 2021 
by HMH Books for Young Readers
4/5 stars

Rescue at Lake Wild was a fun read! Terry Lynn Johnson is no stranger to me, I've read a number of her books and love her love of the great outdoors.  Ice Dogs and Dogsled Dreams are my favourites.

This book is the story of 3 friends and a dog named Lid, they find themselves on an adventure over the summer break. Madi isn't a stranger when it comes to rescuing wild animals and sometimes she gets more than she bargained for. She is determined, smart and up for the challenge, anger flairs when injustices are done in the wild.  Her friends Aaron and Jack added that extra comic relief to this story.

Again the writing was spot on.  It was descriptive, informative and I read it in a couple sittings. While its perfect for young readers I quite enjoyed myself. The author's knowledge of baby beavers was evident, it felt natural as Madi used knowledge and instinct to care for them.  It didn't feel like an info dump getting to know the habits and traits of these beaver kits. The ending might have been a tad rushed but still a fitting conclusion.

Rescue at Lake Wild releases on April 27th and available for preorder now.  

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