Tuesday, January 31, 2023

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman,

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.

Hardcover, 337 pages
Audiobook, 9 hours, 12 minutes 
Published July 15, 2014
 by Atria Books
5/5 stars

I am definitely a mood reader, and this book is a testament to that. I first started reading it when it was released back in 2015, but set it aside because I felt it was a bit too grumpy. Recently, however, I watched the movie adaptation of A Man Called Ove and loved it, so I figured it was time to revisit the novel.

A Man Called Ove is one of my favourite reads of 2023. It is a beautiful novel by Fredrik Backman and was his debut, that sets the bar pretty high for his subsequent books.

A Man Called Ove is the story of a 59-year-old recent widow. He is angry and intolerant of other people's stupidity, and isn't afraid to call them idiots when they don't follow the rules he tries to enforce. When a new family moves in across the street, things slowly start to change for Ove, and what follows is a madcap story that had me laughing out loud, feeling Ove's pain as he goes back in time, and learning of his relationship with his wife. This is an incredibly well-written story that will tug at your heartstrings, make you shed a few tears of joy and sadness, but ultimately leave you with a warm feeling in your heart. 

I am now reading the author's backlist, and I have already read the Beartown trilogy, which has two of my favourite reads of 2022.  Be on the lookout next month for a review of Anxious People.

This book was part of my 2023 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge (#9.)

Monday, January 30, 2023

How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix

Your past and your family can haunt you like nothing else… 

Every childhood home is haunted, and each of us are possessed by our parents.

When their parents die at the tail end of the coronavirus pandemic, Louise and Mark Joyner are devastated but nothing can prepare them for how bad things are about to get. The two siblings are almost totally estranged, and couldn’t be more different. Now, however, they don’t have a choice but to get along. The virus has passed, and both of them are facing bank accounts ravaged by the economic meltdown. Their one asset? Their childhood home. They need to get it on the market as soon as possible because they need the money. Yet before her parents died they taped newspaper over the mirrors and nailed shut the attic door.

Sometimes we feel like puppets, controlled by our upbringing and our genes. Sometimes we feel like our parents treat us like toys, or playthings, or even dolls. The past can ground us, teach us, and keep us safe. It can also trap us, and bind us, and suffocate the life out of us. As disturbing events stack up in the house, Louise and Mark have to learn that sometimes the only way to break away from the past, sometimes the only way to sell a haunted house, is to burn it all down.

Hardcover, 419 pages 
Published January 17, 2023 
by Berkley
4/5 stars

I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book, as horror isn't a genre I usually read, but the cover  grabbed my attention and I just followed my instinct and purchased it.

Louise returns to her hometown after the sudden passing of her parents. She hasn't spoken to her brother in years, and their first encounter reveals that they are not on good terms. What follows is an intriguing read as they navigate through their grief, reminiscing on the past, reopening old wounds, and dealing with their parents' estate. It isn't a huge estate, but it is filled with memories of a childhood that was far from average. I won't say much more about that, but suffice it to say that I will never look at certain childhood toys the same way again.

How to Sell a Haunted House is my first read by author Grady Hendrix, and I was immediately captivated by his writing style, character development, bantering and a story with its many intricate layers and puzzle pieces. It is a story of family, grief, the past, and correcting wrongs, which also includes acknowledging them and finally being brave enough to take action.

Classified as a horror story, I must say that, although there were some creepy aspects to the story, I wasn't as scared as I thought I would be. There were funny  moments and the sibling bantering was spot on.  I'm glad I followed my instinct and grabbed this one.

This  book is part of my 2023 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge (#10, woohoo!!)

Sunday, January 29, 2023

The King's Mercy by Lori Benton

For readers of Sara Donati and Diana Gabaldon, this epic historical romance tells of fateful love between an indentured Scotsman and a daughter of the 18th century colonial south.

When captured rebel Scotsman Alex MacKinnon is granted the king's mercy--exile to the Colony of North Carolina--he's indentured to Englishman Edmund Carey as a blacksmith.

 Against his will Alex is drawn into the struggles of Carey's slaves--and those of his stepdaughter, Joanna Carey. A mistress with a servant's heart, Joanna is expected to wed her father's overseer, Phineas Reeves, but finds herself drawn instead to the new blacksmith. 

As their unlikely relationship deepens, successive tragedies strike the Careys. When blame falls unfairly upon Alex he flees to the distant mountains where he encounters Reverend Pauling, itinerate preacher and friend of the Careys, now a prisoner of the Cherokees. 

Haunted by his abandoning of Joanna, Alex tries to settle into life with the Cherokees, until circumstances thwart yet another attempt to forge his freedom and he's faced with the choice that's long hounded him: continue down his rebellious path or embrace the faith of a man like Pauling, whose freedom in Christ no man can steal. But the price of such mercy is total surrender, and perhaps Alex's very life.

Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published June 4, 2019
by WaterBrook & Multnomah
3.5/5 stars

Set in the 18th century, The King's Mercy follows the story of Alex, an indentured servant, and Joanna, the stepdaughter of his owner, in North Carolina. The blurb outlines the story, though it may be a bit too detailed.

The King's Mercy is a captivating tale that paints a vivid picture of the past and life on the plantation. The storyline kept me engaged, though it lacked the gripping intensity I usually look for. There was a sense of mystery, exploration, and reconciliation throughout the book. This is Christian fiction, and the ending was fitting, neat, and tidy.

This is my second Lori Benton book, and her meticulous research  and passion for this story is evident.  The author notes highlight her motivation from the book of Philemon and Paul's request.

Now that I have gotten used to her slow burn historical stories, I will definitely read more.  My thanks to WaterBrook for a digital copy.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Ghost 19 by Simone St. James

A woman moves to a town where she becomes obsessed with watching the lives of her neighbors while stuck in a house that refuses to let her leave in this first ever short story from the New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Cold Cases.

Is there something wrong with Ginette Cox? It’s what everyone seems to think. When a doctor suggests that what she might need is less excitement, she packs up and moves from New York City to a house in suburban NY: 19 Howard Ave.

The town offers Ginette little in the way of entertainment in 1959, but at least she has interesting neighbors. Whether it’s the little girl with her doll or the couple and their mother-in-law, Ginette watches them from her window and makes up names and stories for them.

But it’s not all peaceful in suburbia. Ginette finds it hard to sleep in her new house. There are strange and scary noises coming from the basement, and she is trapped, either by a ghost or her own madness.

But when Ginette starts to think a murder has taken place and a mysterious man starts making terrifying appearances outside her window, it’s clear she must deal with whatever isn’t allowing her to escape this house…

Kindle Edition, 80 pages
Published January 3, 2023
 by Berkley
3.5/5 stars

This is a short story by Simone St James, one of my favourite authors.

It follows Ginette, a woman who never leaves her home but instead spends her time observing her neighbours. She also hears strange noises and speculates about the goings-on in her neighbourhood, one can't help but wonder if she is being visited by ghosts or if she is going a little mad. 

Although this is a trope that I have read too much about, I was still intrigued and entertained by this story. It packs a lot of unexplainable happenings and wild imagination into a short story. While I don't read a lot of short stories this was a fun one

I purchased the Kindle version when it became available on January 3, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a quick and entertaining read.

Friday, January 27, 2023

The Witches by Roald Dahl

"One child a week is fifty-two a year. Squish them and squiggle them and make them disappear."

This is a story about REAL WITCHES.

Real witches dress in ordinary clothes, have ordinary jobs and look very much like ordinary people.

But they are far from ORDINARY . . .

The Grand High Witch, leader of all the witches, has a plan to make each and every child disappear.

That is, unless one boy and his grandmother can stop her . . .

Paperback, 360 pages
Published January 1, 2020 
(first published Oct 27 1983)
by Puffin
4/5 stars

I can honestly say that this is the first time I have read a Roald Dahl book, and I think I am looking forward to watching the movie adaptation. 

The cover of the book I read was zany and intriguing, and the illustrations within it only served to breath life into this story.

The plot follows an eight-year-old boy who has recently lost his parents and is now living with his grandmother in Norway. He embarks on a wild and wacky adventure, discovering a world where real witches exist and have a motto of 'squish them and squiggle them and make them disappear'. That is children they are talking about.

This was a fun read that had a nice balance of fun and scary. It was heartwarming story watching the relationship between the grandmamma and grandson develop.

I'll be reading more Dahl stories.

This book was part of my 2023 Reading off my Shelf Challenge (#8)

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz

The Plot meets Please Join Us in this psychological suspense 
debut about a young author at an exclusive
writer’s retreat that descends into a nightmare.

Alex has all but given up on her dreams of becoming a published author when she receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: attend an exclusive, month-long writing retreat at the estate of feminist horror writer Roza Vallo. Even the knowledge that Wren, her former best friend and current rival, is attending doesn’t dampen her excitement.

But when the attendees arrive, Roza drops a bombshell—they must all complete an entire novel from scratch during the next month, and the author of the best one will receive a life-changing seven-figure publishing deal. Determined to win this seemingly impossible contest, Alex buckles down and tries to ignore the strange happenings at the estate, including Roza’s erratic behavior, Wren’s cruel mind games, and the alleged haunting of the mansion itself. But when one of the writers vanishes during a snowstorm, Alex realizes that something very sinister is afoot. With the clock running out, she’s desperate to discover the truth and save herself.

A claustrophobic and propulsive thriller exploring the dark side of friendships and fame, The Writing Retreat is the unputdownable debut novel from a compelling new talent.

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Expected publication February 21, 2023
 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books
2.5/5 stars

Alex has been struggling with writer's block for the past year, ever since a dramatic split with her best friend, and now, the two of them will be spending a whole month together at a writing retreat in the middle of nowhere. Told from Alex's point of view, the story starts off strong, giving readers a feel for the characters' personalities, insecurities, and what drove them apart. Along with three other women, they embark on a regimented writing retreat with strict deadlines, complex characters, and a host who is not only eccentric but also quite peculiar.

At first, the story grabbed me, but then at the halfway point, it seemed to take an unexpected and somewhat odd direction. Despite the many five-star reviews this book has received, I found the storyline to be convoluted, over-the-top, and with portions that were not necessary at all. As I read on, my interest waned, and sadly, the ending did not work for me.

My thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1) by Sarah J. Maas

Feyre's survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price ...

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre's presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever. 

Paperback, 432 pages
Published January 1st 2016
 by Bloomsbury Childrens
4/5 stars

One of my reading goals this year is to complete some of the series I've started, which has me rereading the first book in the A Court of Thorns & Roses series. This is one of those series that gets bigger and better with each book (book 2 is a reread also.) I decided to challenge myself by stepping outside of my comfort zone a few years back, reading a different genre - YA fantasy - which I'm still new to, but was swayed by the positive reviews on social media.

Feyre is a teen who supports her family after they fall from the high life and must fend for themselves. It's a mistake that changes everything for Feyre, as she finds herself in a world divided between humans and fairy-tale-like creatures. It has a Beauty and the Beast feel to it.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. The characters were likeable, though I didn't always agree with their decisions, and the plot was complex and intriguing. I felt like I was right there in the setting with all the mystical and fantasy elements. I also surprised myself with what I forget from my first read.  Looking forward to Feb when I begin the next book, A Court of Mist and Fury.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

The Winners (Beartown #3) by Fredrik Backman

The long-awaited conclusion to the beloved New York Times bestselling and “engrossing” (People) Beartown series—which inspired an HBO series of the same name—follows the small hockey town’s residents as they grapple with change, pain, hope, and redemption.

Two years have passed since the events that no one wants to think about. Everyone has tried to move on, but there’s something about this place that prevents it. The residents continue to grapple with life’s big questions: What is a family? What is a community? And what, if anything, are we willing to sacrifice in order to protect them?

As the locals of Beartown struggle to overcome the past, great change is on the horizon. Someone is coming home after a long time away. Someone will be laid to rest. Someone will fall in love, someone will try to fix their marriage, and someone will do anything to save their children. Someone will submit to hate, someone will fight, and someone will grab a gun and walk towards the ice rink.

So what are the residents of Beartown willing to sacrifice for their home?


Paperback, 688 pages

Published September 27th 2022
by Simon & Schuster CA
5/5 stars

The Winners is Book 3 in Fredrik Backman's Beartown series. Although Books 1 and 2 continue right after each other, there is a two-year gap between them and The Winners. However, it doesn't take long for Backman to fill in those gaps and write an emotionally compelling finale. Even five months after reading the final pages, I still vividly remember the story.

When The Winners was released, I had the privilege of attending an author event. It was one of my favourite events, with Backman baring his soul as he talked about his writing, the emotional impact it had on him, and how it affected his personal life. This made the story even more fascinating.

The Winners is a story about community, family, and invisible hurts. It is wonderfully written and hard to put down. Because of the book's mass size, I did a combo read and audio. I highly recommend both options; the story is so good that the time just flies by. The audiobook is 21 hours and 22 minutes long, and it is a worthy investment of time.

This is a series I can see myself rereading but for the time being I will get caught up on the author's backlist.

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of... lucky.

Paperback, 400 pages
Published May 14th 2019 
by Gallery Books
5/5 stars

I am definitely a mood reader, and when I tried this book a couple of years ago, it was a DNF within the first 10%. However, this time I finished it in a day and a half, which was made easier by being on holidays.

Told from the point of view of someone who considers themselves to be unlucky in most aspects of life, the story follows Olive when her twin sister is unable to take her honeymoon and she goes in her place, accompanied by the groom's brother - her arch enemy. What follows is a zany story that had me laughing out loud and unable to put the book down.

The Unhoneymooners is a story of love, family, and self-discovery. It had all the elements of a great rom/com - the romance, the funny moments, the banter and the charm that I love in a good rom/com.

I am so glad that I gave this book a second chance, I needed to since Christina Lauren has become an auto-read author and have been slowly making my way through her back list.

This book was part of my 2023 reading off my shelf challenge

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Ban This Book by Alan Gratz

An inspiring tale of a fourth-grader who fights back when her favorite book is banned from the school library--by starting her own illegal locker library!

It all started the day Amy Anne Ollinger tried to check out her favorite book in the whole world, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, from the school library. That's when Mrs. Jones, the librarian, told her the bad news: her favorite book was banned! All because a classmate's mom thought the book wasn't appropriate for kids to read.

Amy Anne decides to fight back by starting a secret banned books library out of her locker. Soon, she finds herself on the front line of an unexpected battle over book banning, censorship, and who has the right to decide what she and her fellow students can read.

Reminiscent of the classic novel Frindle by Andrew Clements for its inspiring message, Ban This Book is a love letter to the written word and its power to give kids a voice.

Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 1st 2018 
by Starscape Paperback
5/5 stars

What a delightful book to read! I'm so glad I impulsively purchased it after seeing on Instagram. Just looking at the cover, I knew it had to be on my shelf.

When Amy Anne Ollinger's favourite book is taken out of her school library's circulation, she is devastated. But when she discovers the reason why it has been banned, she is determined to do something about it. With the help of her newfound friends, Amy embarks on a mission to create a secret library amongst the students, which quickly spirals into something much bigger than they ever anticipated.

Ban This Book is a story of friendship, courage, and finding one's voice. It is an inspiring tale of standing up for what you believe in, both at school and at home.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was full of references to other books, which made me break my book buying ban and purchase a few of the titles mentioned. The writing was captivating and the story was highly entertaining. I would definitely recommend it, not just to my grandchildren nut everyone.

The book was part of my 2023 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge #5

Monday, January 16, 2023

Last Liar Standing by Danielle M. Wong

Vonny Kwan wakes up in a Nevada hospital, the victim of a hit-and-run accident she doesn’t remember. As she struggles to recover from her injuries, she learns that she also has no memory of the past nine years, including her marriage and what she was even doing in the West.

While she’s still reeling from the shock of her amnesia, two detectives visit and inform her that her husband, John, was recently murdered. As more information comes to light, Vonny grows increasingly suspicious of everyone around her.

Vonny realizes she must piece together the last decade to uncover the truth. The missing chunk of time holds secrets about the person she became, the mysterious man she fell for, and the life she never wanted.

Paperback, 300 pages
Published June 21st 2022
by RedAdept Publishing
2.5/5 stars

This book has been labelled a suspenseful thriller by the majority of people who have read it, awarding it 4 and 5 stars. Despite this, I'm not feeling that vibe, so I'm going against the majority yet again.

The story starts off with Vonny on the run from something unknown, but she is involved in a hit and run accident that lands her in the hospital. When she wakes up, she can't remember the past decade of her life - how she ended up clear across the country, estranged from her best friend, married, and then recently widowed when her husband is murdered. It seems like amnesia stories are a thing these days, as there have been a lot of them.

What didn't work for me was the slow burn. As Vonny goes home to San Francisco, her actions seem unnatural, repetitive, and somethings just don't make sense. There were a number of red herrings and suspicious characters, but it was the slow pace that I just could not get past.

This book is filled with short chapters, which made it easy to pick up and read a chapter here and there. However, I was not as captivated and enthralled with the story as I had hoped to be. It wasn't until the last 80% of the book that things started to really pick up and the pieces of the puzzle started to fit, but it was a little too late for my feelings to change.

This book was part of my 2023 reading off my shelf challenge and is book #4. 


Sunday, January 15, 2023

The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth

Get ready for a thrilling, addictive novel about marriage, betrayal, and the secrets that push us to the edge in Sally Hepworth's The Soulmate.

There’s a cottage on a cliff. Gabe and Pippa’s dream home in a sleepy coastal town. But their perfect house hides something sinister. The tall cliffs have become a popular spot for people to end their lives. Night after night Gabe comes to their rescue, literally talking them off the ledge. Until he doesn’t.

When Pippa discovers Gabe knew the victim, the questions spiral...Did the victim jump? Was she pushed?

And would Gabe, the love of Pippa’s life, her soulmate...lie? As the perfect facade of their marriage begins to crack, the deepest and darkest secrets begin to unravel. 

Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Expected publication: April 4th 2023 
by St. Martin’s Press
4/5 stars

Released in Australia last fall, Sally Hepworth's new book does not release in North America until April 4, 2023. This book starts with a bang when a woman is pushed/fell/juumped off a cliff behind the home of Pippa and Gabe. As the story unfolds, secrets are revealed, and it becomes clear that there is more than meets the eye.

I went into this book blind, which always makes for a more intriguing read. I was not disappointed with this domestic suspense mystery as it deals with many complex subjects that I will not reveal here (spoiler.)

Told from two different points of view. One is current day Pippa as she recalls her life with Gabe, her soulmate, how they met, and the story of their relationship is revealed. The other is from the woman who met her demise on that cliff, which was a unique viewpoint that gave a wider view as to what was going on.

The Soulmate is a story of family, past hurts, and secrets. It was intricately woven with some surprises along the way. It also had an unexpected ending that kept me on my toes. Hats off to Sally Hepworth for crafting such an engaging and captivating read.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press via NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

From the #1 bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere, comes one of the most highly anticipated books of the year – the inspiring new novel about a mother’s unbreakable love in a world consumed by fear.

Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his loving but broken father, a former linguist who now shelves books in a university library. Bird knows to not ask too many questions, stand out too much, or stray too far. For a decade, their lives have been governed by laws written to preserve “American culture” in the wake of years of economic instability and violence. To keep the peace and restore prosperity, the authorities are now allowed to relocate children of dissidents, especially those of Asian origin, and libraries have been forced to remove books seen as unpatriotic—including the work of Bird’s mother, Margaret, a Chinese American poet who left the family when he was nine years old.

Bird has grown up disavowing his mother and her poems; he doesn’t know her work or what happened to her, and he knows he shouldn’t wonder. But when he receives a mysterious letter containing only a cryptic drawing, he is pulled into a quest to find her. His journey will take him back to the many folktales she poured into his head as a child, through the ranks of an underground network of librarians, into the lives of the children who have been taken, and finally to New York City, where a new act of defiance may be the beginning of much-needed change.

Our Missing Hearts is an old story made new, of the ways supposedly civilized communities can ignore the most searing injustice. It’s a story about the power—and limitations—of art to create change, the lessons and legacies we pass on to our children, and how any of us can survive a broken world with our hearts intact. 

Hardcover, 335 pages
Published October 4th 2022
 by Penguin Press
3/5 stars

This is my first time reading a Celeste Ng book, and it's another case of being swayed by social media; sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.

Our Missing Hearts begins with a 12-year-old boy named Bird, and I wanted to love this book because apparently everybody else did. I tried hard, switching over to the audiobook at the halfway mark.The first part was intriguing; there was lots of the unknown, and I was curious as to the why and how of what was going on. Once the point of view changed from Bird to his mother, things slowed down. My questions weren't really answered in a way that made me understand everything that was going on, and so my enjoyment waned.

Our Missing Hearts is more a telling story rather than showing, its about a boy searching for answers and a mom he is desperate to find. It was an okay read that didn't pack the same punch for me that others felt.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Just The Nicest Couple by Mary Kubica

A husband’s disappearance inextricably links two couples in this twisty thriller from New York Times bestselling author Mary Kubica

Two couples, two close friends, one missing husband…

Jake Hayes is missing. This much is certain. At first, his wife, Nina, thinks he is blowing off steam at a friend’s house after their heated fight the night before. But then a day goes by. Two days. Five. And Jake is still nowhere to be found.

Lily Scott, Nina’s friend and coworker, thinks she may have been the last to see Jake before he went missing. After Lily confesses everything to her husband, Christian, the two decide that nobody can find out what happened leading up to Jake’s disappearance, especially not Nina. But Nina is out there looking for her husband, and she won’t stop until the truth is discovered.

Queen of suspense Mary Kubica delivers a high-octane, edge-of-your-seat thriller filled with delicious lies and shocking betrayals, and shows how even the deepest secrets will always find a way to the surface.

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published on Jan 10, 2023 
by Park Row Books
3/5 stars

I was eagerly anticipating Mary Kubica's latest book, Just the Nicest Couple, as I had thoroughly enjoyed her previous work, Local Woman Missing. 

The blurb sounds like such an intriguing story, missing husband, friends with secrets and a search for the truth.  It started off strong, but quickly shifted to a slow-paced mystery, not the thriller I anticipated.  There were a few twists and odd characters but ultimately the red herrings, lack of tension, and somewhat predictable ending left me feeling disappointed. 

I am still willing to give Mary Kubica another chance, this being my 2nd read of hers.  Fingers crossed this is just a one off.

My thanks to Park Row Books for providing me with a digital ARC (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

One year ago, Isabelle Drake's life changed forever: her toddler son, Mason, was taken out of his crib in the middle of the night while she and her husband were asleep in the next room. With little evidence and few leads for the police to chase, the case quickly went cold. However, Isabelle cannot rest until Mason is returned to her—literally.

Except for the occasional catnap or small blackout where she loses track of time, she hasn’t slept in a year.

Isabelle's entire existence now revolves around finding him, but she knows she can’t go on this way forever. In hopes of jarring loose a new witness or buried clue, she agrees to be interviewed by a true-crime podcaster—but his interest in Isabelle's past makes her nervous. His incessant questioning paired with her severe insomnia has brought up uncomfortable memories from her own childhood, making Isabelle start to doubt her recollection of the night of Mason’s disappearance, as well as second-guess who she can trust... including herself. But she is determined to figure out the truth no matter where it leads. 

Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: January 10th 2023
 by Minotaur Books
3.5/5 stars

 It's every parent's worst nightmare: the disappearance of a child, especially when it happens in the middle of the night while they are in the next room. The guilt and frustration that Isabelle has felt for the past year must have been unbearable.

I went into this psychological thriller expecting to be captivated, given the theme and the involvement of a child. However, the story moved slowly, jumping between timelines as Isabella tells her story, making her an unreliable narrator. As she struggles with lack of sleep, memories of the past, and hallucinations, she is left to face this trying time alone, with no one to support her.

Things picked up for me near the 3/4 mark, where the action happened, but it was a little too late. Although I didn't anticipate the conclusion, I had my suspicions.

All the Dangerous Things is a story of grief, guilt, and a mother's desperate attempt to find out what happened to her son without losing her sanity.

Released today, All the Dangerous Things is available in many different formats. I obtained my copy through my Book of the Month subscription for December.

Monday, January 9, 2023

We Are the Light by Matthew Quick


Lucas Goodgame lives in Majestic, Pennsylvania, a quaint suburb that has been torn apart by a recent tragedy. Everyone in Majestic sees Lucas as a hero—everyone, that is, except Lucas himself. Insisting that his deceased wife, Darcy, visits him every night in the form of an angel, Lucas spends his time writing letters to his former Jungian analyst, Karl. It is only when Eli, an eighteen-year-old young man whom the community has ostracized, begins camping out in Lucas’s backyard that an unlikely alliance takes shape and the two embark on a journey to heal their neighbors and, most important, themselves.

From Matthew Quick, the New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook, We Are the Light is an unforgettable novel about the quicksand of grief and the daily miracle of love. The humorous, soul-baring story of Lucas Goodgame offers an antidote to toxic masculinity and celebrates the healing power of art. In this tale that will stay with you long after the final page is turned, Quick reminds us that guardian angels are all around us—sometimes in the forms we least expect. 

Hardcover, 256 pages
Published November 1st 2022 
by Avid Reader Press / Simon Schuster
4/5 stars

This was my first Book of the Month pick (welcome to Canada BOTM), and I went in completely blind.  The cover is enticing, the buzz was positive, so how could I say no.

Told through a series of letters written by a man named Marcus, the story slowly reveals the life he has lived since a tragedy occurred the previous year. Marcus sends letters to his former analyst as he grapples with his grief and guilt. 

Enter 18-year-old Eli, who begins camping out in Marcus's backyard, and together they embark on a journey of healing.

This book is difficult to review; it wasn't until the end that I fully understood the story and the journey Marcus was on. But it wasn't just his journey of healing, but that of so many others. This book is a powerful exploration of the healing process, and how it can be achieved through the support of others.

I'm glad I grabbed this book, it's one that will stay with me for awhile.

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

Sunday, January 8, 2023

The Personal Assistant by Kimberly Belle

USA TODAY bestselling author Kimberly Belle returns with a deeply addictive thriller exploring the dark side of the digital world when a mommy-blogger’s assistant goes missing.

When Alex first began posting unscripted family moments and motivational messages online, she had no intention of becoming an influencer. Overnight it seemed she’d amassed a huge following, and her hobby became a full-time job—one that was impossible to manage without her sharp-as-a-tack personal assistant, AC.

But all the good-will of her followers turns toxic when one controversial post goes viral in the worst possible way. Alex reaches out to AC for damage control, but her assistant has gone silent. This young woman Alex trusted with all her secrets, who had access to her personal information and front row seats to the pressure points in her marriage and family life, is now missing and the police are looking to Alex and her husband for answers. As Alex digs into AC’s identity – and a woman is found murdered – she’ll find the greatest threat isn’t online, but in her own living room.

Written in alternating perspectives between Alex, her husband, and the mysterious AC, this juicy cat and mouse story will keep you guessing till the very end. 

Audiobook, 10 hours, 12 minutes
Paperback, 352 pages
Published November 29th 2022
 by Park Row
4/5 stars

Kimberly Belle has been go to author for me, and one of the few that I have managed to stay on top of, having read all of her books. Also, I met her once, which was a real treat.

This was an audio read for me, I’m glad I went that way managing to finish it off in just one day while Christmas preparations were underway. 

Alex is a well-known Instagram Influencer whose world explodes after waking to find a post that has gone viral. A post that she does not remember writing. It’s not a good post and the repercussions are felt not just by her, but by her family as well. What follows is a twisted story that went in a direction I didn’t anticipate, keeping my attention.

Oh and her assistant AC is missing, which adds a new dimension to the story. The story alternates with various POVS, it’s kept my mind rolling with all the possibilities, trying to figure out what was going on.

The Personal Assistant is a multi-layered story, even though I had a tiny inkling as to what was going on, and I was correct on one point, I was still kept on my toes scratching my head as to the why's and how’s and enjoying the ride. I’m glad I went the audio route because it’s a long wait at the library for a print copy.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Just Haven't Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens

From the New York Times bestselling author of This Time Next Year comes a heartwarming and hilarious tale that asks: What if you pick up the wrong suitcase in an airport, only to fall head over heels for its unseen owner?

Laura's business trip to the Channel Islands isn't exactly off to a great start. After unceremoniously dumping everything in her bag in front of the most attractive man she's ever seen in real life, she arrives at her hotel only to realize she's grabbed the wrong suitcase from the airport. Her only consolation? The irresistibly appealing contents of the case: a copy of her favorite book; piano music; and a rugged, heavy knit fisherman sweater only a Ryan Gosling lookalike could pull off. The owner of this suitcase is Laura's dream man--she's sure of it. Now, all she has to do is find him.

The mix-up seems written in the stars. After all, what are the odds that she'd find The One on the same remote island where her mom and dad had first fallen in love, especially as she sets out to write an article about their epic romance? Commissioning surly cab driver Ted to ferry her around seems like her best bet in both tracking down the mystery suitcase owner and retracing her parents' footsteps. And if beneath Ted's gruffness lies a wit that makes their cab rides strangely entertaining, so much the better. But as Laura's long-lost luggage soulmate proves difficult to find--and as she realizes that the love story she's held on a pedestal all her life might not have been that perfect--she'll have to rethink her whole outlook on love to discover what she really wants. 

Paperback, 371 pages
Published November 9th 2021 
by G.P. Putnam's Sons
3.5/5 stars

I finished reading this book way back in September, and just realised I have never posted my review. Back when it was released, there was a big buzz on Instagram and me being me I grabbed a copy and waited for the buzz to die down before digging in.

Laura has a job that shares stories, love stories of couples and how they met, it is romanticized and entertaining. She still hasn’t met Mr. Right, but what follows as she takes a business trip to the Channel Islands sets in motion something that would make an interesting episode on her show.

This was a fun read. It was comical at times, a little cringe worthy at other times, maybe a tad predictable, but it was still a fun read with a gorgeous setting, and some interesting characters. What starts off as a luggage mixup at the airport causes Laura to assumes this is her soulmate and that destiny is taking place. She begins fantasying and convincing herself that this is her guy.

Just Haven’t Met You Yet was a fun read, I did both read and audiobook listen. It was an emotional journey for Laura, though at times, it slowed down, there was nice banter, which is always great in a rom/com, there were secrets of the past brought to light which made Laura's journey of self-discovery more poignant.

All in all and fun and entertaining read.

This book was part of my 2022 reading off my shelf challenge

Friday, January 6, 2023

Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese

Isobel Gamble is a young seamstress carrying generations of secrets when she sets sail from Scotland in the early 1800s with her husband, Edward. An apothecary who has fallen under the spell of opium, his pile of debts have forced them to flee Edinburgh for a fresh start in the New World. But only days after they've arrived in Salem, Edward abruptly joins a departing ship as a medic––leaving Isobel penniless and alone in a strange country, forced to make her way by any means possible.

When she meets a young Nathaniel Hawthorne, the two are instantly drawn to each other: he is a man haunted by his ancestors, who sent innocent women to the gallows––while she is an unusually gifted needleworker, troubled by her own strange talents. As the weeks pass and Edward's safe return grows increasingly unlikely, Nathaniel and Isobel grow closer and closer. Together, they are a muse and a dark storyteller; the enchanter and the enchanted. But which is which?

In this sensuous and hypnotizing tale, a young immigrant woman grapples with our country's complicated past, and learns that America's ideas of freedom and liberty often fall short of their promise. Interwoven with Isobel and Nathaniel's story is a vivid interrogation of who gets to be a "real" American in the first half of the 19th century, a depiction of the early days of the Underground Railroad in New England, and atmospheric interstitials that capture the long history of "unusual" women being accused of witchcraft. Meticulously researched yet evocatively imagined, Hester is a timeless tale of art, ambition, and desire that examines the roots of female creative power and the men who try to shut it down.

A vivid reimagining of the woman who inspired Hester Prynne, the tragic heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and a journey into the enduring legacy of New England's witchcraft trials.
Paperback, 336 pages
Published Oct 4, 2022 by
St. Martin's Press
4/5 stars

I was drawn to this book because of its reference to Nathaniel Hawthorn’s The Scarlet Letter. And no I have not read it but I want to and maybe now that I’ve gotten a glimpse into his possible motivation have moved it up higher up on my tbr pile.

It is the early 1800’s when young Hester sails from Scotland to America. She had an interesting upbringing with a history that goes back to 1662 with relatives named as witches. Her mother instilled a love of needlework which came with an unique ability. Once she arrives in Salem, husband in tow, her life changes after meeting Hawthorn.

Hester was an entertaining read, it was well written with accuracy to history and life style of that time period. Her determination to be independent from a husband far away is a journey for Hester with consequences.

This is not the author's first book, I will definitely be looking up her backlist.

This book was part of my 2022 Reading Off my shelf challenge. (#74)

Thursday, January 5, 2023

The Change by Kirsten Miller

Big Little Lies meets The Witches of Eastwick—a gloriously entertaining and knife-sharp feminist revenge fantasy about three women whose midlife crisis brings unexpected new powers—putting them on a collision course with the evil that lurks in their wealthy beach town.

In the Long Island oceanfront community of Mattauk, three different women discover that midlife changes bring a whole new type of empowerment…

After Nessa James’s husband dies and her twin daughters leave for college, she’s left all alone in a trim white house not far from the ocean. In the quiet of her late forties, the former nurse begins to hear voices. It doesn’t take long for Nessa to realize that the voices calling out to her belong to the dead—a gift she’s inherited from her grandmother, which comes with special responsibilities.

On the cusp of 50, suave advertising director Harriett Osborne has just witnessed the implosion of her lucrative career and her marriage. She hasn’t left her house in months, and from the outside, it appears as if she and her garden have both gone to seed. But Harriet’s life is far from over—in fact, she’s undergone a stunning and very welcome metamorphosis.

Ambitious former executive Jo Levison has spent thirty long years at war with her body. The free-floating rage and hot flashes that arrive with the beginning of menopause feel like the very last straw—until she realizes she has the ability to channel them, and finally comes into her power.

Guided by voices only Nessa can hear, the trio of women discover a teenage girl whose body was abandoned beside a remote beach. The police have written the victim off as a drug-addicted sex worker, but the women refuse to buy into the official narrative. Their investigation into the girl’s murder leads to more bodies, and to the town’s most exclusive and isolated enclave, a world of stupendous wealth where the rules don’t apply. With their newfound powers, Jo, Nessa, and Harriet will take matters into their own hands…

Paperback, 470 pages
Published May 3rd 2022
by William Morrow Books
5/5 stars

It was a real treat to finish the year 2022 with this fantastic read. I hadn't heard any negative feedback about The Change, so my expectations were quite high. This book had everything I could have wanted in a novel, all neatly packaged in the stories of three remarkable women.

The blurb gave enough information about these three women and didn't bear repeating. But what I can say is that I already miss Nessa, Harriett, and Jo. I was captivated by the strong friendship that developed between them and how they were always there for each other.

The writing grabbed me from the very first few pages. This was my first time reading a Kirsten Miller book, and I was absolutely blown away. The plot was intricately woven, all the puzzle pieces fit neatly into place, and the story was so addicting that I couldn't put it down.

The Change is the story of women empowering women, of friendship and taking a stand that enough is enough. It's definitely a book I will be recommending to everyone I know.

My gut instinct told me to purchase this book, and I'm so glad I finally listened. I'm mad at myself for waiting so long to read it.

This book was part of my 2022 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge, and it was the perfect way to end the year.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer

The New York Times bestselling author of The Warsaw Orphan returns with a gripping novel inspired by the true story of Operation Paperclip: a controversial secret US intelligence program that employed former Nazis after WWII.

Berlin, 1930—When a wave of change sweeps a radical political party to power, Sofie von Meyer Rhodes’s academic husband benefits from the ambitions of its newly elected chancellor. Although Sofie and Jürgen do not share the social views growing popular in Hitler’s Germany, Jürgen’s position with its burgeoning rocket program changes their diminishing fortunes for the better. But as Sofie watches helplessly, her beloved Berlin begins to transform, forcing her to consider what they must sacrifice morally for their young family’s security, and what the price for their neutrality will be.

Twenty years later, Jürgen is one of the many German scientists offered pardons for their part in the war, and taken to America to work for its fledgling space program. For Sofie, this is the chance to exorcise the ghosts that have followed her across the ocean, and make a fresh start in her adopted country. But her neighbors aren’t as welcoming or as understanding as she had hoped. When scandalous rumors about the Rhodes family’s affiliation with Hitler’s regime spreads, idle gossip turns to bitter rage, and the act of violence that results will tear apart Sofie’s community and her family before the truth is finally revealed.

Paperback, 464 pages
Published June 28th 2022 
by Graydon House
5/5 stars

I am definitely late when it comes to reading The German Wife, which came out last summer. Kelly Rimmer has been on my radar set since reading, Truths I Never Told You, which I loved.

Beginning in 1950, Sofie is reunited with her husband, Jurgen in Huntsville, Alabama.  She is met with prejudices because of her German background, and if the rumours are to believed they are a family that supported Hitler. Alternating between her point of view and that of Lizzie brings about an explosive story with many layers.

This is a world war two story with a pov from within the SS that was gripping, heartfelt and definitely a unique setting. The early years for Lizzie are through the depression, the dust bowl, and eventually she is left to her own devices with a brother created an ambitious young woman.

The German Wife was my first read of 2023 and I love that it was a five star read. It was well written, the characters and the storyline were authentic, it was hard to put down and it was evident that the author did a lot of research, especially when you look at the line of history that was involved. I was unfamiliar with what took place within the rocket program, both in Germany and the US and I love learning history and being entertained with some awesome characters.

The German Wife is the story of friendship, family, heartache, and sacrifice. I don’t feel this review does justice to how much I enjoyed reading this book and can’t wait to see what the author comes up with next.

This book is part of my own personal library and book 1 in my 2023 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

One Woman's War by Christine Wells

World War II London: When Victoire "Paddy" Bennett first walks into the Admiralty's Room 39, home to the Intelligence Division, all the bright and lively young woman expects is a secretarial position to the charismatic Commander Ian Fleming. But soon her job is so much more, and when Fleming proposes a daring plot to deceive the Germans about Allied invasion plans he requests the newlywed Paddy's help. She jumps at the chance to work as an agent in the field, even after the operation begins to affect her marriage. But could doing her duty for King and country come at too great a cost?

Socialite Friedl Stöttinger is a beautiful Austrian double agent determined to survive in wartime England, which means working for MI-5, investigating fifth column activity among the British elite at parties and nightclubs. But Friedl has a secret--some years before, she agreed to work for German Intelligence and spy on the British. When her intelligence work becomes fraught with danger, she must choose whether to remain loyal to the British and risk torture and execution by the Nazis, or betray thousands of men to their deaths.

Soon, the lives of these two extraordinarily brave women will collide, as each travels down a road of deception and danger leading to one of the greatest battles of World War II. 

Paperback, 354 pages
Published October 4th 2022
 by William Morrow/HarperCollins US
4/5 stars

Christine Wells is a new author for me. I’ve seen her around and know that she is big on historical fiction. This one grab my attention when I saw Miss Moneypenny written on the cover.

One Woman’s War follows the lives of two women through the second world war. One is Paddy, who ends up working with Commander Fleming, Ian Fleming (catch that?). The next is Friedl, an Austrian socialite, who is also the bearer of many secrets.

This was a very interesting strategic story about events of which I have only recently come to know about. It was an operation that saved thousands of  lives and one I won’t say more about because it is not written up in the blurb. But it is a very intriguing and strategic part in the fight against Hitler.

One Woman’s War is a story about two women, independent, determined, and also working for the greater good. It is well written and well researched and one I will recommend to those that enjoy a good historical fiction story, based on fact, and familiar characters.

Big thanks to HarperCollins Canada for a print arc of this book along with my apologies for being behind in my review.

Monday, January 2, 2023

As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh

Salama Kassab was a pharmacy student when the cries for freedom broke out in Syria. She still had her parents and her big brother; she still had her home. She had a normal teenager’s life.

Now Salama volunteers at a hospital in Homs, helping the wounded who flood through the doors daily. Secretly, though, she is desperate to find a way out of her beloved country before her sister-in-law, Layla, gives birth. So desperate, that she has manifested a physical embodiment of her fear in the form of her imagined companion, Khawf, who haunts her every move in an effort to keep her safe.

But even with Khawf pressing her to leave, Salama is torn between her loyalty to her country and her conviction to survive. Salama must contend with bullets and bombs, military assaults, and her shifting sense of morality before she might finally breathe free. And when she crosses paths with the boy she was supposed to meet one fateful day, she starts to doubt her resolve in leaving home at all.

Soon, Salama must learn to see the events around her for what they truly are—not a war, but a revolution—and decide how she, too, will cry for Syria’s freedom. 

Hardcover, 432 pages
Published September 13th 2022 
by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
5/5 stars

This is a book I recently received through the Book of the Month club, of which I am trying really hard to stay on top of, to not create a backlog. 

I'll just say that I don't feel my words can adequately reflect how I feel about this book.  I'm putting a link to the Goodreads page, be sure to check out the author's review (comments), it's the first one. Her words are definitely worth a read and hopefully inspire you to pick this one up.

Told from the POV of 18 year old Salama, showcases the heartbreaking events that took place during the revolution in Syria. What I loved about this story is the author notes and how she used real events to tell Salama's story.  A story that was was raw and at times hard to read, needless to say this is a story that will stay with me for a while.

Salama is an interesting character. Being a teen, only one year of formal education as a Pharmacist is forced into situations she was neither trained for or emotionally ready to handle. This was such a well written story, I had a hard time putting it down.  Her courage to survive in war torn Syria while alone was gripping.  There was many aspects causing a wide range of emotions. 

The other thing is this is Zoulfa Katouh's debut, oh my, can't wait to see wait to see what she writes next.

As Long as the Lemon Trees Grows is an emotional story that is well written, well researched, and showcases human resilience and hope. Hope is what shines through when all appears to be lost.

This book was part of my 2022 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge #90, also my last book of 2022.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

The Yellow Lantern by Angie Dicken

In 1824, Josephine Clayton is considered dead by everyone in her Massachusetts village — especially the doctor she has assisted for several months. Yet, she is still very much alive.

After the doctor’s illegal dealing with his body snatcher to obtain her body, Josephine awakens, positioned as the next corpse for his research. To cover up his crime, the doctor tries to kill her, but Josephine begs to be spared. They strike a deal — Josephine will leave her village and work at a distant cotton mill. All the while, she’ll await her true mission — posing as a mourner to help the body snatcher procure her replacement.

At the mill though, Josephine is praised for her medical remedies among the other female workers, gaining attention from the handsome factory manager, Braham Taylor. Yet, when Braham’s own loved one becomes the prey for the next grave robbing, Josie must make a choice that could put her dark past behind her or steal away the promise of any future at all.

What price will Josie pay for love when her secrets begin to unravel? 

Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Published July 15th 2019
 by Barbour Publishing
3/5 stars

This is book 3 in the True Colors: Historical Stories of American Crime Series.  And no they do not need to be read in order, each is a stand alone.  I have read a number of them and all have left a mark on me in terms of horrific events not talked about much (at least in my circles).

The Yellow Lantern is the story of Josephine and her journey back from the dead, its her role in a ring of body snatchers with her dad as a pawn.

I started this one a couple of times, 3rd time is the charm I suppose.  The historical aspect was interesting enough, I've heard of grave robbers but to be honest this book was more about girls working the cotton mill and Josephine's relationship with those around her.  The other books that I've read in this series were a bit more gritty and captivating.

I'll continue with this series as I find myself learning snippets of history I was unfamiliar with.