Monday, January 31, 2022

A Very Perry Christmas by Marie Landry

Gwen's Christmas with the Perrys is turning into a holiday to remember...for all the wrong reasons.

Hot chocolate by the fire. Christmas carols. Stolen kisses in the snow. When Gwen's boyfriend Evan invites her to spend Christmas with his family, she pictures a perfect Hallmark holiday scene, complete with all the happy sighs and swoons.

But between Evan's brother who schedules the family’s every move, his sister who’s never met a mirror she didn’t like, and the amorous newlyweds who flaunt their sexcapades, Gwen finds herself dodging the Perrys like it's her job. The more Evan's family brings their own brand of chaos to Christmas, the more Gwen wonders if she's in over her head, and if the Christmas of her dreams is going to turn into a nightmare.

Paperback, 111 pages
Published November 16, 2020 
3.5/5 stars

This was a book causing a lot of buzz over on IG as was the sequel A Very Perry Wedding.  

It isn't a huge book, a quick read that wasn't exactly what I expected.  I kinda thought it would be more on the lines of a rom/com but rather it had drama and some over bearing characters.  That being said it was still a fun read as Gwen meets the family with all their quirks, however, one can feel the tension in the air.

A Very Perry Christmas is a story of dysfunctional siblings set in Ontario with the snow and Christmas tree farms.  The setting was quaint, one can almost hear the jingle bells. 

All in all a story with Hallmark Movie feel.

This book was part of my 2022 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge - #6.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Audio Review: Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill,

Based on a true story, "The Book of Negroes" tells the story of Aminata, a young girl abducted from her village in Mali aged 11 in 1755, and who, after a deathly journey on a slave ship where she witnesses the brutal repression of a slave revolt, is sold to a plantation owner in South Carolina, who rapes her. 

She is brought to New York, where she escapes her owner, and finds herself helping the British by recording all the freed slaves on the British side in the Revolutionary War in The Book of Negroes (a real historical document that can be found today at the National Archives at Kew).Aminata is sent to Nova Scotia to start a new life, but finds more hostility, oppression and tragedy. 

Separated from her one true love, and suffering the unimaginable loss of both her children who are taken away from her, she eventually joins a group of freed slaves on a harrowing odyssey back to Africa, and ends up in London as a living icon for Wilberforce and the other Abolitionists. "The Book of Negroes" is a page turning narrative that manages to use Aminata's heart-rending personal story to bring to life a harrowing chapter in our history. 

Audiobook, 15 hours, 46 minutes
Narrator: Adenrele Ojo 
Published 2007 by Books on Tape
4/5 stars

I am so glad that I went the audio route with this book.  It is such a captivating story that I would have struggled to read it when I could listen doing chores and such.

This book isn't for the faint of heart, it is a gritty and heartbreaking story.  The narrator, Adenrele Ojo did a great job of bringing this book to life. I was put in the various locations and felt a whole range of emotions.  She couldn't have done that without an intricately written story that spans years and settings.  

Beginning in 1755, Aminata's village is set upon changing the direction of her young life.  Forced to grow up before her time she endures so much through the years.  The author doesn't hold back with vivid descriptions of this heart wretching time in history. Coming in at almost 500 pages the reader witnesses her life as she travels across countries ending up in London.  It's been a year since I listening to this book, parts have stayed with me.

This is my first Lawrence Hill book by another Canadian author, I will definitely be on the lookout for more.

This book is part of my audiobook library from Audible.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber

A new series about love, curses, and the lengths that people will go to for happily ever after.

Evangeline Fox was raised in her beloved father’s curiosity shop, where she grew up on legends about immortals, like the tragic Prince of Hearts. She knows his powers are mythic, his kiss is worth dying for, and that bargains with him rarely end well.

But when Evangeline learns that the love of her life is about to marry another, she becomes desperate enough to offer the Prince of Hearts whatever he wants in exchange for his help to stop the wedding. The prince only asks for three kisses. But after Evangeline’s first promised kiss, she learns that the Prince of Hearts wants far more from her than she’s pledged. And he has plans for Evangeline that will either end in the greatest happily ever after, or the most exquisite tragedy…

Hardcover, 432 pages
Published September 28, 2021
 by Flatiron Books
5/5 stars

“She didn't make being alone seem lonely as Evangeline had always feared. She made it seem like an adventure, as if every moment were the start of a story with endless possibilities.”

Once Upon a Broken Heart had me with the title and cover, I'm so glad I followed my gut instinct and pre-ordered to get this exclusive cover.  It far exceeded my expectations and I can't wait for the sequel.

There are a number of things I really enjoyed about this book.  The fairy talish vibes were felt throughout this book and for me it didn't mimic other fairy tales - though others might see similarities, I didn't.  The intricate magic system wasn't hard to follow for this non fantasy reader but rather its detail gave off the ancient vibes of fairy tales of old. 

The characters were authentic, unique and so interesting.  I heard there were some familiar faces from the author's previous series (guess who just broke her book buying ban), but that didn't hamper the story, if anything it just made me want to read more Garber books. 

"...leaving her alone with a new shipment of oddities that included a fountain pen with a curious label:  For finding dreams that don't exist yet."  

The writing style and the plot, with its surprising twists and turns had me enjoying this read.  I didn't rush but savoured the journey. This is a story about lost love, family, secrets and trying to decipher who is trustworthy.  Definitely worth the 5 stars, I can't wait to reread before the sequel comes out in Sept.

This book was part of my 2022 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge (book #9).  

Monday, January 24, 2022

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

Where do you see yourself in five years?

When Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Kohan is asked this question at the most important interview of her career, she has a meticulously crafted answer at the ready. Later, after nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend's marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan.

But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.

After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, at the brink of midnight, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than merely a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. That nonsense is only charming coming from free-spirited types, like her lifelong best friend, Bella. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.

That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision.

Brimming with joy and heartbreak, In Five Years is an unforgettable love story that reminds us of the power of loyalty, friendship, and the unpredictable nature of destiny.

Hardcover, 255 pages 
Published March 10, 2020
 by Atria Books
4/5 stars

I'm really glad that I went with the audiobook for this read.  Coming in at 256 pages or just over 6 hours in the audio made for a relatively quick read/listen.  To be honest I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it as much if I had read the book.

Dannie is a very driven person, bother professionally and in life.  She knows what she wants and goes after it. She has the perfect fiance, the perfect apartment and job, and her best friend is the total opposite in both personality and traits. But waking up 5 years later and spending a relatively short period of time there impacts the next 5 years for Dannie.

I can't say that I connected with Dannie, she was a little overbearing but the story line was interesting and took a turn that I didn't expect. With the last part being quite emotional.  

In Five Years is story of relationships, change and healing. I would not call this romance or a rom/com but rather woman's fiction showcasing self discovery. It pulls at the heart strings so keep the kleenex handy.

My print copy obtained from public library with audio via Scribd.

Friday, January 21, 2022

The Kindred Spirits Supper Club by Amy E. Reichert

Jobless and forced home to Wisconsin, journalist Sabrina Monroe can tolerate reunions with frenemies and kisses from old boyfriends, but not the literal ghosts that greet her in this heartwarming tale of the power of love and connection from acclaimed author Amy E. Reichert.

For Sabrina Monroe, moving back home to the Wisconsin Dells–the self-described Waterpark Capital of the World–means returning to the Monroe family curse: the women in her family can see spirits who come to them for help with unfinished business. But Sabrina’s always redirected the needy spirits to her mom, who’s much better suited for the job. The one exception has always been Molly, a bubbly rom-com loving ghost, who stuck by Sabrina’s side all through her lonely childhood.

Her personal life starts looking up when Ray, the new local restaurateur, invites Sabrina to his supper club, where he flirts with her over his famous Brandy Old-Fashioneds. He’s charming and handsome, but Sabrina tells herself she doesn’t have time for romance–she needs to focus on finding a job. Except the longer she’s in the Dells, the harder it is to resist her feelings for Ray. Who can turn down a cute guy with a fondness for rescue dogs and an obsession with perfecting his fried cheese curds recipe?

When the Dells starts to feel like home for the first time and with Ray in her corner, Sabrina begins to realize that she can make a difference and help others wherever she is.

 Kindle Edition, 350 pages,
Published April 20, 2021
 by Berkley
4/5 stars

Do you every feel timing plays a role in your enjoyment of certain books?  I was given this arc about a year ago from the fine folks at Berkley.  At the time I tried to read before publication, its the norm when receiving an arc.  But I couldn't get past the opening chapters.  I have tried it a few times since and viola last month it worked!

The KSSC is more than a story about seeing ghosts (though I wish they were more predominate). It's the story of finding oneself and acceptance. Sabrina is forced to move back home after losing her job. While home is a safe place for her the outside world contains an old boyfriend and his new fiance (also Sabrina's new boss).  Let the fun begin.

This was a fun read, especially when Ray comes into the picture.  Can Sabrina overcome her past with Molly, that ghost from the past - literally? Find purpose and contentment?  Guess you will have to read the book to find out.

My thanks to Berkley (via Netgalley) for a digital copy of this book in exchange for a honest review.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

New Kid by Jerry Craft

 A graphic novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real.

Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.

As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?

Hardcover, 256 pages

Published February 5, 2019 
by Quill Tree Books
4/5 stars

I don't read graphic novels often but the ones that I have tend to pack a punch.  New Kid is the 2020 John Newbery Medal Winner, amongst other awards. 

This middle grade novel is one year in the life of Jordan Banks. Sent to a posh private school where he really doesn't want to go.  It is a witty and authentic look at the struggles Jordan faces as he adapts and tries to fit in.  There are a small number of minorities also attending RADS (Riverdale Academy Day School) where prejudices are showcased, both classmates and faculty.

New Kid is a well written novel, with great illustrations. With its targeted younger audience this is a poignant story opening the door for discussion and awareness.

This book is part of my 2022 Reading Off My Shelf challenge (#3) and also my reading John Newbery Medal Winners Challenge.

Monday, January 17, 2022

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

From debut author Stacy Willingham comes a masterfully done, lyrical thriller, certain to be the launch of an amazing career. A Flicker in the Dark is eerily compelling to the very last page.

When Chloe Davis was twelve, six teenage girls went missing in her small Louisiana town. By the end of the summer, Chloe’s father had been arrested as a serial killer and promptly put in prison. Chloe and the rest of her family were left to grapple with the truth and try to move forward while dealing with the aftermath.

Now 20 years later, Chloe is a psychologist in private practice in Baton Rouge and getting ready for her wedding. She finally has a fragile grasp on the happiness she’s worked so hard to get. Sometimes, though, she feels as out of control of her own life as the troubled teens who are her patients. And then a local teenage girl goes missing, and then another, and that terrifying summer comes crashing back. Is she paranoid, and seeing parallels that aren't really there, or for the second time in her life, is she about to unmask a killer?

In a debut novel that has already been optioned for a limited series by actress Emma Stone and sold to a dozen countries around the world, Stacy Willingham has created an unforgettable character in a spellbinding thriller that will appeal equally to fans of Gillian Flynn and Karin Slaughter.

Kindle Edition, 368 pages 
Expected publicationJanuary 11, 2022 
by Minotaur Books
4/5 stars

A Flicker in the Dark is a thriller by debut author Stacy Willingham, it's a book that grabbed my attention initially with its cover - one can almost feel the creep factor.

With a unique POV - the daughter of a serial killer. While sympathetic to her plight and all she and the family went through 20 years ago she was an unreliable character.   An reliable character is good, it leaves me wondering and at times second guessing my predictions. 

This was a well written story going back in time to see what happened and how these crimes were committed.  As history begins to repeat itself, opening the door to either a copy cat or maybe, just maybe they got the wrong guy - but he didn't confess, or did he?  I enjoyed this book, the suspense, the clues and the not knowing who to believe.

Hats off to Stacy Willingham for this solid debut, definitely will be on the lookout to see what she comes up with next.

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

Thursday, January 6, 2022

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

When Katy’s mother dies, she is left reeling. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mom, but her best friend and first phone call. She had all the answers and now, when Katy needs her the most, she is gone. To make matters worse, their planned mother-daughter trip of a lifetime looms: two weeks in Positano, the magical town Carol spent the summer right before she met Katy’s father. Katy has been waiting years for Carol to take her, and now she is faced with embarking on the adventure alone.

But as soon as she steps foot on the Amalfi Coast, Katy begins to feel her mother’s spirit. Buoyed by the stunning waters, beautiful cliffsides, delightful residents, and, of course, delectable food, Katy feels herself coming back to life.

And then Carol appears—in the flesh, healthy, sun-tanned, and thirty years old. Katy doesn’t understand what is happening, or how—all she can focus on is that she has somehow, impossibly, gotten her mother back. Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman before her. She is not exactly who Katy imagined she might be, however, and soon Katy must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue.

Kindle, 272 pages
Expected publication March 1, 2022
by Somin & Schuster Canada
4.5/5 stars

This book caught me totally off guard.  I'm not sure if coming off a creepy read that this was what I needed or I just needed to revisit Italy (I love Italy!).  But alas what a great visit it was.  Even though it comes in at 272 pages it does pack a punch.

I loved the location and the visualisation put me right there, from the crystal clear water to the landscape to the food and wine.  I've been to Italy (but not this spot) a couple of times and this brought back so many memories.

Told from the POV of Katy, grieving the death of her mother she embarks on an adventure that was suppose to be the two of them.  Katy questions everything in her life now and decides that she needs this time for herself.  Not know what to expect she gets something so unexpected - the chance to see her mom 30 years ago.  

One Italian Summer is a well written emotional story. It is a story about grief, overcoming and discovering yourself at the same time.  This is my first time reading a Rebecca Serle book, she drew me right in wanting to read just one more chapter (pun intented).  Definitely an author I will read more of.

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

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

 In a boarded-up house on a dead-end street at the edge of the wild Washington woods lives a family of three.

-A teenage girl who isn’t allowed outside, not after last time.
-A man who drinks alone in front of his TV, trying to ignore the gaps in his memory.

-And a house cat who loves napping and reading the Bible.

An unspeakable secret binds them together, but when a new neighbor moves in next door, what is buried out among the birch trees may come back to haunt them all.

Paperback, 333 pages
Published September 28, 2021
by Nightfire
3.5/5 stars

This is my first time reading a Catriona Ward novel.  It was through the world of Instagram that I saw this creepy cover and purchased for my Halloween read - I kinda missed it by a few months.  But better late than never, right?

It was a addicting read in the sense of trying to figure things out.  I'm not the only reader that wants to solve the ending before the author reveals it right?  Didn't happen here.

Told from a number of POV (including the cat) the author clearly showed a messed up individual and those surrounding him.  I did a combo read and audio book, the audio changed voices for the different POV which gave it that creep factor the cover evolves. Between the man, the girl and cat I felt like a deer in the headlights and could not turn away.

The ending was not what I expected at all, so hats off the author for catching me totally off guard. This ending was satisfying and actually authentic. I learned a lot and loved the author notes at the end.

The Last House on Needless Street is a disturbing and at times confusing story (though the confusing part made sense with the ending).  There is tension, abuse (both people and animals) heartache and suspense.  Definitely should come with trigger warnings.  

This book was part of my 2022 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge for the new year and book #1.