Sunday, February 27, 2022

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever.

Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud—because it is long past time to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own—including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them... and what they will leave behind.

Paperback, 384 pages 
Audiobook 11 hours, 5 minutes
Published June 1, 2021 
by Doubleday Canada
4/5 stars

This is my first time reading a Taylor Jenkin Reid book, she was all the buzz on IG when this book was first released. I went with the audiobook format after reading a few chapters of the paperback.  I found the audio easier to listen to and to be honest its one of those books where I don't think I would have enjoyed it as much if I read it.

The story is set in 2 different timelines, one being 1983 as a family of 4 siblings get ready for the big part. But it flashes back into time to the 60's as we learn how the family came to be only 4 siblings.

The author really put me in the era for both of them, I felt the celebrity vibes and the struggles these kids went through living on the coast.

Malibu Rising is a well written story about a dysfunctional family with scandal, heartache, privilege and sacrifice.  The narrator of the audio is Julia Whalen, she does a great job bringing the story to life.  While I am not usually a big fan of celebrity stories, this one worked for me (thanks to the audio format).

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming

When an inventor brings home an old racing car and rebuilds it, the family gets more than they counted on--because the car has some hidden talents of her own. The family's jaunt to France gets the children kidnapped and involved in a counterfeiting it going to take a very unusual automobile to save them?

Hardcover, 155 pages
January 1, 1964
by Scholastic US
4/5 stars

I might be the only only one on the planet that has never seen the movie let alone read the book. Went in totally blind. My copy was a Mother's Day gift from son #1, good choice Matt!

We all know Ian Fleming of the James Bond fame, yes they were books first. This book however is his only children's story.

Not knowing what to expect made this all the more fun to read. It's quick with some interesting illustrations. The story was magical, funny and entertaining.

Not sure there is much more to add to this review. I will probably watch the movie, but will do with the  grandkids are around.

This book was part of my 2022 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge (#11)

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

The Forgotten Highlander: An Incredible WWII Story of Survival in the Pacific by Alistair Urquhart

Alistair Urquhart was among the Gordon Highlanders captured by the Japanese in Singapore during World War II.

 He not only survived 750 days in the jungle working as a slave on the notorious “death railway” and the bridge on the River Kwai, but he was subsequently taken prisoner on one of the Japanese “hellships” which was later torpedoed, killing nearly everyone on board—but not Urquhart. He spent five days adrift on a raft in the South China Sea before being rescued by a Japanese whaling ship. He was then taken to Japan and forced to work in a mine near Nagasaki. Two months later he was struck by the blast from the atomic bomb—dropped just ten miles away. In late August 1945, now a barely-living skeleton, he was freed by the American Navy and was able to bathe for the first time in three and a half years.

This is the extraordinary story of a young man, conscripted at nineteen, who survived not just one but three separate encounters with death—encounters which killed nearly all his comrades. Silent for over fifty years, this is Urquhart’s extraordinary, moving, and inspirational tale as an ex-POW.

Paperback, 320 pages
First published March 4, 2010
 by Skyhorse
4/5 stars

This was a very difficult book to read.  When reading historical fiction as a novel it can be graphic and some of the elements toned down, therefore not portrayed accurately in terms of how bad things really were but in this book the author doesn't hold anything back when he describes his experiences during World War 2.

Alistair Urquhart is only 18 when he steps into the war effect, eventually being sent to Singapore and captured by the Japanese.  He endures so much that  it was hard to read at times. I had to stop reading a couple times but I honestly felt I owed it to the author and the thousands of others to read this story and realise what they went through.  This is a part of the war that I was totally unfamiliar with, suffice to say that I will never watch the movie The Bridge of the River Kwai (a romancized version so far from the truth).  I learning about the Death Railway,  Hellfire Pass and the names of officers on par with concentration camp officers.

This book isn't for the faint of heart, its sad while maddening, heartbreaking while showing the resilience of the human spirit and while triumphant in the end it came with the cost of both physical and emotional scars - how could it not. It's a book that will stay with me.

This book was part of my 2022 Reaidng Off My Shelf Challenge (#8) and also the January selection for out Family Blessings Book Club.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes a deeply moving novel about the resilience of the human spirit in a moment of crisis.

Diana O’Toole is perfectly on track. She will be married by thirty, done having kids by thirty-five, and move out to the New York City suburbs, all while climbing the professional ladder in the cutthroat art auction world. She’s not engaged just yet, but she knows her boyfriend, Finn, a surgical resident, is about to propose on their romantic getaway to the Galápagos—days before her thirtieth birthday. Right on time.

But then a virus that felt worlds away has appeared in the city, and on the eve of their departure, Finn breaks the news: It’s all hands on deck at the hospital. He has to stay behind. You should still go, he assures her, since it would be a shame for all of their nonrefundable trip to go to waste. And so, reluctantly, she goes.

Almost immediately, Diana’s dream vacation goes awry. The whole island is now under quarantine, and she is stranded until the borders reopen. Completely isolated, she must venture beyond her comfort zone. Slowly, she carves out a connection with a local family when a teenager with a secret opens up to Diana, despite her father’s suspicion of outsiders.

Diana finds herself examining her relationships, her choices, and herself—and wondering if when she goes home, she too will have evolved into someone completely different.

Hardcover, 310 pages
Published November 30, 2021
 by Ballantine Books
4.5/5 stars

I read this book last month and glad I did - timing and content wise, as it appears we might, just might be closer to the end of this pandemic and for some any reminders might take this book off the table. Which is sad, it’s a really good book.

This is my 3rd Jodi Picoult book and yet again she took me by surprise with a twist that totally worked. She is known for her twists and this was a doozie . The author notes are a must read, not just for her motivation but for the personal experiences and testimonies.

I loved the time spent in the Galapagos, visualising this lush island preserved by nature, the way of life, customs and the people. Back in NYC it’s totally different as Covid hits and we see the horrible side of the pandemic. Also vivid and sad.

Since parts of the story aren’t mentioned the blurb I will steer away also. Wish You Were Here is a story that makes one think, it’s well written and while some parts might not appear necessary it did reflect who Diana is.

As I’m slowly making my way through her back list (My Sister’s Keeper and The Storyteller so far). I appreciate all the research that goes into her books which reflects in her writing.

This book was part of my 2022 Reading off my shelf challenge (#2)

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron

Darkness blooms in bestselling author Kalynn Bayron's new contemporary fantasy about a girl with a unique and deadly power.

Briseis has a gift: she can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch.

When Briseis's aunt dies and wills her a dilapidated estate in rural New York, Bri and her parents decide to leave Brooklyn behind for the summer. Hopefully there, surrounded by plants and flowers, Bri will finally learn to control her gift. But their new home is sinister in ways they could never have imagined--it comes with a specific set of instructions, an old-school apothecary, and a walled garden filled with the deadliest botanicals in the world that can only be entered by those who share Bri's unique family lineage.

When strangers begin to arrive on their doorstep, asking for tinctures and elixirs, Bri learns she has a surprising talent for creating them. One of the visitors is Marie, a mysterious young woman who Bri befriends, only to find that Marie is keeping dark secrets about the history of the estate and its surrounding community. There is more to Bri's sudden inheritance than she could have imagined, and she is determined to uncover it . . . until a nefarious group comes after her in search of a rare and dangerous immortality elixir. Up against a centuries-old curse and the deadliest plant on earth, Bri must harness her gift to protect herself and her family.

From the bestselling author of Cinderella Is Dead comes another inspiring and deeply compelling story about a young woman with the power to conquer the dark forces descending around her.

Hardcover, 370 pages
Published January 1, 2021 
by Bloomsbury
5/5 stars

I finished reading The Poison Heart this morning and I miss Bri already. I got those vibes at about the half way mark that told there would be a sequel, thankfully it releases this June (preordered already). 

I connect with Bri right away, a teen with no friends, who craves friends and just being a regular teen. But she isn’t a regular teen given the special connection she has with plants. A unique concept that has anything that grows in soil responding to her emotions.

Moving away to a house she inherited is the fresh start she craves, as does her parents. With so many secrets hiding in this place it feels like home until it doesn’t.

The Poison Heart is a story of finding one’s self, of fitting in and finding you knitch. It’s a well written story that drew me right in with vivid descriptions, interesting characters, some Greek mythology and those supernatural elements. Definitely will be recommending this one.

This book was part of my 2022 reading off my shelf challenge (#10) and obtained from Owlcrate (July 2021 box)

Monday, February 14, 2022

Meet Me in the Margins by Melissa Ferguson

You’ve Got Mail meets The Proposal—this romance is one for the books.

Savannah Cade’s dreams are coming true. The Claire Donovan, editor-in-chief of the most successful romance imprint in the country, has requested to see the manuscript Savannah’s been secretly writing while working as editor herself—except at her publishing house, the philosophy is only highbrow works are worth printing and commercial fiction, particularly romance, should be reserved for the lowest level of Dante’s inferno. But when Savannah drops her manuscript during a staff meeting and nearly exposes herself to the whole company—including William Pennington, new publisher and son of the romance-despising CEO herself—she races to hide her manuscript in the secret turret room of the old Victorian office.

When she returns, she’s dismayed to discover that someone has not only been in her hidden nook but has written notes in the margins—quite critical ones. But when Claire’s own reaction turns out to be nearly identical to the scribbled remarks, and worse, Claire announces that Savannah has six weeks to resubmit before she retires, Savannah finds herself forced to seek the help of the shadowy editor after all.

As their notes back and forth start to fill up the pages, however, Savannah finds him not just becoming pivotal to her work but her life. There’s no doubt about it. She’s falling for her mystery editor. If she only knew who he was.

Kindle, 336 pages
Expected publication February 15, 2022
 by Thomas Nelson
3/5 stars

This book grabbed my attention with its setting in the publishing world, when the subject is bookish I am all in.

Meet Me in the Margins is a light romance told from Savannah's POV.  It was fun at times with juvenile behaviour, a few laughs and even a little mystery (who is this mystery person). The inner works of the field was interesting with its while range of characters.

This is my first time reading a Melissa Ferguson book, she incorporated some fun things, a hidden room (though why is an arc room hidden? shouldn't it be in use to get those books into readers hands?), a mysterious new boss and a weird family. While it didn't have the depth that I love it was a nice fit between some heavy WW2 stories.  The ending was somewhat predictable but I was left with a few questions still.

All in all a quick read with a few laughs. 

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

Sunday, February 13, 2022

It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover

Sometimes it is the one who loves you who hurts you the most.

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up—she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan—her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

Scribd Audio, 11 hours, 11 minutes
Narrator - Olivia Song
Published August 2, 2016 
 by Simon and Schuster Audio
4.5/5 stars

I didn't really know what to expect with this book.  Colleen Hoover has been the buzz over on Instagram these days, sometimes the buzz can be overwhelming and other times makes me curious.  I read Verity a few years back and really enjoyed it.  Part of me thought this might be something along the same lines but boy was I mistaken.

The first part was your typical romance with a little bit of com in there.  But then it wasn't and went in a direction I didn't expect at all.  I listened to the last 5 hours in one day, it was that captivating. The blurb doesn't give anything away about what happens and I loved that.  Now I really can't say anything either (spoiler!) and while it does pack a punch it should come with possible trigger warnings.

It Ends With Us is a story of love, sacrifice and strength.  It is well written, captivating and heartbreaking at the same time.  There is strong message that rings loud and true from Lily, after reading the author notes made this all the more compelling.  So glad I allowed the buzz to push me to grab the audiobook.

“And as hard as this choice is, we break the pattern before the pattern breaks us.”

Monday, February 7, 2022

Courage, My Love by Kristin Beck

When the Nazi occupation of Rome begins, two courageous young women are plunged deep into the Italian Resistance to fight for their freedom in this captivating debut novel.

Rome, 1943

Lucia Colombo has had her doubts about fascism for years, but as a single mother in an increasingly unstable country, politics are for other people--she needs to focus on keeping herself and her son alive. Then the Italian government falls and the German occupation begins, and suddenly, Lucia finds that complacency is no longer an option.

Francesca Gallo has always been aware of injustice and suffering. A polio survivor who lost her father when he was arrested for his anti-fascist politics, she came to Rome with her fiancé to start a new life. But when the Germans invade and her fiancé is taken by the Nazis, Francesca decides she has only one option: to fight back.

As Lucia and Francesca are pulled deeper into the struggle against the Nazi occupation, both women learn to resist alongside the partisans to drive the Germans from Rome. But as winter sets in, the occupation tightens its grip on the city, and the resistance is in constant danger.

In the darkest days, Francesca and Lucia face their pasts, find the courage to love, and maintain hope for a future that is finally free.

Kindle Edition, 380 pages 
Published April 13, 2021
 by Berkley
3.5/5 stars

With all the WW2 books on the market it was nice to find one with an Italian setting, there are so many that take place in France, Poland or UK..  It's 1943 and the war is in full bloom.

Dual POV is a favourite of mine, getting to see the story from 2 sides.  Lucia and Francesca did not know each other as the book began and though I they have similar in personalities their narratives brought a nice perspective into the resistance and the role women played.  It was a gripping read, watching as the Italy falls to the Germans.  

Courage, My Love is a story of love - between mom and child, love and loss, and the courage to carry on.  It's about duty to country and family and when to say enough is enough. Yes an emotional read and that cover speaks volumes.

This book released last year and available now.

My thanks to Berkley for a digital copy (via Netgalley).

Sunday, February 6, 2022

The Riviera House by Natasha Lester

The New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Secret weaves a lush and engrossing novel of World War II inspired by a true story and perfect for fans of Kate Quinn and Pam Jenoff.
Paris, 1939: The Nazis think Éliane can't understand German. They’re wrong. They think she’s merely cataloging art in a Louvre museum and unaware they’re stealing national treasures for their private collections. They have no idea she’s carefully decoding their notes and smuggling information to the Resistance. But Éliane is playing a dangerous game. Does she dare trust the man she once loved with her secrets, or will he only betray her once again? She has no way to know for certain . . . until a trip to a stunning home on the French Riviera brings a whole new level of peril.

Present Day: Wanting to forget the tragedy that has left her life in shambles, Remy Lang heads to a home she’s mysteriously inherited on the Riviera. While working on her vintage fashion business, she discovers a catalog of the artworks stolen during World War II and is shocked to see a painting that hung on her childhood bedroom wall. Who is her family, really? And does the Riviera house hold more secrets than Remy is ready to face?

Natasha Lester brilliantly explores the impossible choices ordinary people faced every day during extraordinary circumstances, weaving fact with fiction and celebrating women who push the boundaries of their time.

Paperback, 480 pages
PublishedAugust 31, 2021
by Forever
4.5/5 stars

Natasha Lester is a new to me author.  I have her previous book, The Paris Orphan in my vast tbr pile but jumped into this her latest.

Part of the reason I hesitated reading another WW2 book was being offered something new and different.  With the current day story this was more than another WW2 story but rather a journey of grief and healing.  It was authentic, heart felt and just took this book to another level.

I enjoyed the past story, Eliane is a strong character with character and determination.  I was reminded of The Monuments Men but from another perspective.  Not being a big lover of art I was able to feel Eliane's passion and drive to safeguard these precious pieces, though it comes with a steep cost.

The present day was a story that tore at my heart as I felt the heartache of Remy.  Her journey felt authentic as she struggled to carry on with life when her loved ones didn't.

The Riviera House is an emotional read, it's about sacrifice, grief, a mothers love and how far one goes to protect themselves and those they love.

Like I said my first Nastasha Lester book, I'll definitely be back for more.

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

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

The Next Ship Home: A Novel of Ellis Island by Heather Webb

Ellis Island, 1902: Two women band together to hold America to its promise: "Give me your tired, your poor..."

Ellis Island, 1902. Francesca arrives on the shores of America, her sights set on a better life than the one she left in Italy. That same day, aspiring linguist Alma reports to her first day of work at the immigrant processing center. Ellis, though, is not the refuge it first appears thanks to President Roosevelt's attempts to deter crime. Francesca and Alma will have to rely on each other to escape its corruption and claim the American dreams they were promised.

A thoughtful historical inspired by true events, this novel probes America's history of prejudice and exclusion—when entry at Ellis Island promised a better life but often delivered something drastically different, immigrants needed strength, resilience, and friendship to fight for their futures.

Kindle, 432 pages
Expected publication February 8, 2022 
by Sourcebooks Landmark
3.5/5 stars

I really enjoy reading HF for the history lesson and a realistic story.  It's Ellis Island in 1902 when The Next Ship Home takes place.

Francesca, an Italian immigrant and Alma, German background, are similar in age and personalities.  Where one runs from her past the other stays put.  Both wanting something better for they lives and actually just wanting a say in their future. As Francesca arrives on US soil she is greeted with heartache and turmoil.  Becoming friends with Alma changes everything and even more so as tension between different immigrant groups threaten their relationship.  Add in rumours of corruption on the island.

The Next Ship Home is a story of new beginnings, self discovery and standing tall.  While this might not be my favorite Heather Webb book - I've read each of her books, I enjoyed learning more about Ellis Island and appreciated the author notes at the end.  

My thanks to Sourcebooks for a digital arc in exchange for a honest review.

The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben

Thirty years ago, Wilde was found as a boy living feral in the woods, with no memory of his past. Now an adult, he still doesn't know where he comes from, and another child has gone missing.

No one seems to take Naomi Pine's disappearance seriously, not even her father-with one exception. Hester Crimstein, a television criminal attorney, knows through her grandson that Naomi was relentlessly bullied at school. Hester asks Wilde-with whom she shares a tragic connection-to use his unique skills to help find Naomi.

Wilde can't ignore an outcast in trouble, but in order to find Naomi he must venture back into the community where he has never fit in, a place where the powerful are protected even when they harbor secrets that could destroy the lives of millions . . . secrets that Wilde must uncover before it's too late.

Hardcover ,371 pages 
First published March 17, 2020
by Grand Central Publishing
4.5/5 stars

I'm new to Harlan Coben books.  Grand Central Publishing graciously sent me The Match for review, which happens to be the sequel to this book and releases March 15th.  So here I am.

I wasn't sure what to expect given the title and not reading the blurb. But suffice to say this book grabbed me right from the beginnings.

Told from a couple different view points I got to know Hester, a feisty tv lawyer, grandmother/widow and a hoot.  I loved her, her one liners and bantering made me smile and want to read more about her (apparently she is in a Coben series as well - make room tbr pile.)  Wilde, the little boy lost in the woods is now an adult.  Driven, secretive, a survivalist and caring all at the same time.

Throw in a missing teen or two, some suspicious individuals, political intrigue made this layered story a pleasure to read.  Though political stuff isn't really my thing this one wasn't hard to follow.

The Boy from the Woods is a mystery with family drama, great characters a plot that kept me guessing along with the anticipation of seeing these guys in The Match (review coming tomorrow).

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