Monday, May 29, 2023

Hello Stranger by Katherine Center

Sadie Montogmery has had good breaks and bad breaks in her life, but as a struggling artist, all she needs is one lucky break. Things seem to be going her way when she lands one of the coveted finalist spots in a portrait competition. It happens to coincide with a surgery she needs to have. Minor, they say. Less than a week in the hospital they say. Nothing about you will change, they say. Upon recovery, it begins to dawn on Sadie that she can see everything around her, but she can no longer see faces.

Temporary, they say. Lots of people deal with this, they say. As she struggles to cope—and hang onto her artistic dreams—she finds solace in her fourteen-year-old dog, Peanut. Thankfully, she can still see animal faces. When Peanut gets sick, she rushes him to the emergency vet nearby. That’s when she meets veterinarian Dr. Addison. And she’s pleasantly surprised when he asks her on a date. But she doesn't want anyone to know about her face blindness. Least of all Joe, her obnoxious neighbor who always wears a bowling jacket and seems to know everyone in the building. He’s always there at the most embarrassing but convenient times, and soon, they develop a sort of friendship. But could it be something more?

As Sadie tries to save her career, confront her haunting past, and handle falling in love with two different guys she realizes that happiness can be found in the places—and people— you least expect.

Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Expected publication July 11, 2023
by St. Martin's Press

Audiobook, 10 hours, 15 minutes
by Macmillan Audio
4/5 stars

I  discovered Katherine Center's books after reading The Bodyguard last year. Since then, I've been slowly working my way through her back-list. However, Hello Stranger, which is set to release on July 11, 2023, isn't on that list. Luckily, I was able to obtain an advanced audiobook copy, and boy was it a treat!

The story follows Sadie, who's in desperate need of a break. But just when she thinks she's getting one, something unexpected happens that sends her life on a completely different path. I found the book to be both fun and educational, as I even had to Google "acute prosopagnosia" (face perception blindness) to fully understand what was going on (unlike Sadie).

Hello Stranger is a touching story about a woman still dealing with her mother's passing and her new step-family, giving off some serious Cinderella vibes. While the middle of the book was a bit slow, the last quarter was enjoyable as everything came together. I  loved the ending, it surprised me in ways I didn't anticipate. It's always a joy when an author can keep me on my toes.

Overall, Hello Stranger is a well-written and entertaining story about family, grief, and trusting oneself. I highly recommend both the author and the book.

My thanks to St. Martins Press for the digital arc and Macmillan Audio for the audio arc in exchange for an honest review, all via Netgalley.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

The Great Escape by Paul Brickhill

One of the most famous true stories from the last war, The GREAT ESCAPE tells how more than six hundred men in a German prisoner-of-war camp worked together to achieve an extraordinary break-out. Every night for a year they dug tunnels, and those who weren't digging forged passports, drew maps, faked weapons and tailored German uniforms and civilian clothes to wear once they had escaped. All of this was conducted under the very noses of their prison guards. When the right night came, the actual escape itself was timed to the split second - but of course, not everything went according to plan...

 Audible Audio
7 hours, 36 minutes
Published June 19, 2009 
by Blackstone Audio, Inc.
5/5 stars

Over the years, I have watched bits and pieces of this movie, The Great Escape, since it is one of my husband's favorites. It has an all star cast, some good musical vibes, and tells the story of some brave POWs in World War II. There were some crazy scenarios played out as these prisoners tunnelled 30 feet deep and over 200 feet to escape. There were other things that took place - obtaining authentic passes and identification cards, travel vouchers and even clothing and accessories to make these men blend into society. It’s an entertaining movie, but unbeknown to me this is based on a true story.

Written in 1950 by one of the prisoners, Paul Brickhill, an Australian pilot, he told the story of what actually happened. And it is pretty darn close to the movie which makes this story all the more compelling.

We listen to this audiobook on a recent road trip, though the audiobook comes in at 7 1/2 hours, the time flew by.  Paul Rickman was methodical in his attention to detail, how this group were able to make such a large tunnel so deep in the ground, how the forgeries took place and all the things that I mentioned above.

The Great Escape, well entertaining is a story of courage and resilience, but also sad and heartbreaking. Brickhill researched the last part meticulously to find out what exactly happened to those that got out.  Definitely an audio I recommend.

I obtained the audiobook through Audible, it was a free read with my account.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Crow Mary by Kathleen Grissom

The New York Times bestselling author of the “touching” ( The Boston Globe ) book club classics The Kitchen House and the “emotionally rewarding” ( Booklist ) Glory Over Everything returns with a sweeping saga inspired by the true story of Crow Mary—an indigenous woman torn between two worlds in 19th-century North America.

In 1872, sixteen-year-old Goes First, a Crow Native woman, marries Abe Farwell, a white fur trader. He gives her the name Mary, and they set off on the long trip to his trading post in the Cypress Hills of Saskatchewan, Canada. Along the way, she finds a fast friend in a Métis named Jeannie; makes a lifelong enemy in a wolfer named Stiller; and despite learning a dark secret of Farwell’s past, falls in love with her husband.

The winter trading season passes peacefully. Then, on the eve of their return to Montana, a group of drunken whiskey traders slaughters forty Nakota—despite Farwell’s efforts to stop them. Mary, hiding from the hail of bullets, sees the murderers, including Stiller, take five Nakota women back to their fort. She begs Farwell to save them, and when he refuses, Mary takes two guns, creeps into the fort, and saves the women from certain death. Thus, she sets off a whirlwind of colliding cultures that brings out the worst and best in the cast of unforgettable characters and pushes the love between Farwell and Crow Mary to the breaking point.

From an author with a “stirring and uplifting” (David R. Gillham, New York Times bestselling author) voice, Crow Mary sweeps across decades and the landscape of the upper West and Canada, showcasing the beauty of the natural world, while at the same time probing the intimacies of a marriage and one woman’s heart.

Hardcover, 368 pages
Expected publication June 6, 2023 
by Atria Books
4.5/5 stars

I love HF when it’s based on real people from the past. Such is the case with this book.

It's 1872 when  16 year old, Goes First marries Abe Farwell. One is a Crow Native woman, and the other a white fur trader. What follows is Mary‘s journey (her name was changed) to Saskatchewan. Its at their trading post where everything changes. Told from her point of you, she tells what her life is like, from her strong friendship with a Métis woman, to her marriage, and of obstacles and tragedies she faces along the way. Yes I did Google Crow Mary and love how the author stayed true to history.

Crow Mary is a sad piece of Canadian history along with the repercussions that follows Mary and Abe. It’s a past that doesn’t let go many, many snows later. What’s happens to the Crow people is sad, I felt many emotions reading the last half of this book.

The author notes tells how the author has been researching Crow Mary’s story since 2000, it definitely shows in her writing. So glad I read this, it’s a story that will stay with me.

Crow Mary hits bookshelves on June 6th.

My thanks to Atria Books (via NetGalley) for a digital arc in exchange for a honest review.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Happy Place by Emily Henry

Harriet and Wyn have been the perfect couple since they met in college—they go together like salt and pepper, honey and tea, lobster and rolls. Except, now—for reasons they’re still not discussing—they don’t.

They broke up six months ago. And still haven’t told their best friends.

Which is how they find themselves sharing the largest bedroom at the Maine cottage that has been their friend group’s yearly getaway for the last decade. Their annual respite from the world, where for one vibrant, blue week they leave behind their daily lives; have copious amounts of cheese, wine, and seafood; and soak up the salty coastal air with the people who understand them most.

Only this year, Harriet and Wyn are lying through their teeth while trying not to notice how desperately they still want each other. Because the cottage is for sale and this is the last week they’ll all have together in this place. They can’t stand to break their friends’ hearts, and so they’ll play their parts. Harriet will be the driven surgical resident who never starts a fight, and Wyn will be the laid-back charmer who never lets the cracks show. It’s a flawless plan (if you look at it from a great distance and through a pair of sunscreen-smeared sunglasses). After years of being in love, how hard can it be to fake it for one week… in front of those who know you best?

A couple who broke up months ago make a pact to pretend to still be together for their annual weeklong vacation with their best friends in this glittering and wise new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Emily Henry.

Hardcover, 385 pages
Published April 25, 2023
 by Berkley
2.5/5 stars

This was one of my highly anticipated books of 2023. While I have not read all of Emily Henry’s previous works I did love her last one Book Lovers.

As with her other books, I was expecting a rom/com and sadly that is not what I got.  I loved the setting, the blurb and the friendships but, not wanting to sound too harsh, instead this felt like a bunch of 30 year olds acting like teenagers. With a good chitchat everything would have been out in the open. This trope isn’t always a favourite of mine but when done well it does work. For me it was the repetitiveness and characters I couldn’t feel any empathy for. I wanted some fun bantering and laugh out loud scenes,  it just didn’t happen.

This book was less about the rom and com and more about insecurity, family dynamics and even unfulfilled expectations. The last part did pick up (and even highlighted some valid points) but by that point I finished off with the audiobook (perfect timing for my CloudLibrary hold to become available).

But please take my feelings with a grain of salt, the vast majority loved this read. Even though I didn’t I will read Emily Henry again - People We Meet on Vacation soonish.

This book was part of my 2023 reviewing off my shelf challenge and is book number 39

Sunday, May 21, 2023

I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells

John Wayne Cleaver is dangerous, and he knows it.

He's spent his life doing his best not to live up to his potential.

He's obsessed with serial killers, but really doesn't want to become one. So for his own sake, and the safety of those around him, he lives by rigid rules he's written for himself, practicing normal life as if it were a private religion that could save him from damnation.

Dead bodies are normal to John. He likes them, actually. They don't demand or expect the empathy he's unable to offer. Perhaps that's what gives him the objectivity to recognize that there's something different about the body the police have just found behind the Wash-n-Dry Laundromat---and to appreciate what that difference means.

Now, for the first time, John has to confront a danger outside himself, a threat he can't control, a menace to everything and everyone he would love, if only he could.

Dan Wells' debut novel is the first volume of a trilogy that will keep you awake and then haunt your dreams.

Paperback, 271 pages
Published March 30, 2010 
by Tor Books
3/5 stars

This is Dan Wells debut, I grabbed this book after doing a Masterclass with him at SIWC.

John Wayne Cleaver is only a teenager, but he is obsessed with serial killers, to the point where he thinks if he does not control himself he will be one also. He is smart, clever, and a thinker. He lives upstairs over a mortuary that is owned by his family. When a serial killer shows up in town he is more than obsessed with what is going on.

I Am Not a Serial Killer was well written, atmospheric and the author was spot on in his characterisation of John. The story itself was gripping, that is until a certain point where the big twist came. Those that are familiar with Dan Wells might already know what that twister is and for me, it took me completely by surprise.  I actually had to set the book down for a bit to wrap my head around whether I even wanted to continue reading. I did end up continuing the last half in audiobook format.  While I didn't like this twist I was genuinely curious as to how everything would play out.

In the end it was an ok read with a fitting conclusion.

This is the first book in a trilogy, John Cleaver Series. Will I continue? I’m not sure, time will tell.

This book was part of my 2023 reading off my shelf challenge and is book number 37.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Reunion by Lauraine Snelling

Keira Johnston, a 50-year-old mother of two grown sons, believes she lives a good Christian life without secrets--until she discovers a life-jarring fact her late mother kept hidden all her life. Kiera was born out of wedlock, and the man she had always known as her father had adopted her as an infant.

Meanwhile, Keira's beloved 17-year-old niece, Kirsten, has just discovered an unwanted pregnancy. Her boyfriend, Jose, is bound for college and Kirsten does not know what to do. As the family comes together for a reunion, Keira and Kirsten struggle with their fractured pasts and jumbled present. Will truth and honesty be the catalysts that allow the entire family to find peace?

Inspired by events in Lauraine Snelling's own life, REUNION is the author's finest novel to date.

Paperback, 322 pages
Published July 17, 2012
 by FaithWords

Audiobook, 9 hours, 39 minutes
Hachette Audio
3/5 stars

Reunion is the story of the Sorenson’s. A family planning a reunion after the death of the patriarch. As daughter Keira and her sister in law, Leah, clean up and prepare secrets are uncovered that sends Keira’s orderly life turned upside down.

But for Leah her family is sent reeling with the news of an unexpected pregnancy.

I’m conflicted in my feelings. While I appreciated the faith these families had I also questioned their actions and thoughts. Some just seemed out of place for this pastor and his wife. The unwed daughter was who I connected with, her struggle was real and handled authentically.

I listened to the audiobook and wasn’t a fan of the reader, her voice wasn't sympathetic and didn’t evoke any real emotions. The book was repetitive with lots of woe is me vibes and a tad too long. All in all an ok read, maybe one I would have dnf if it wasn’t a book club pick.

I appreciated the author notes at the end along with her thoughts and real life experience.

My copy was obtained through my public library.

Friday, May 19, 2023

The House of Eve by Sadeqa Johnson

From the award-winning author of Yellow Wife, a daring and redemptive novel set in 1950s Philadelphia and Washington, DC, that explores what it means to be a woman and a mother, and how much one is willing to sacrifice to achieve her greatest goal.

1950s Philadelphia: fifteen-year-old Ruby Pearsall is on track to becoming the first in her family to attend college, in spite of having a mother more interested in keeping a man than raising a daughter. But a taboo love affair threatens to pull her back down into the poverty and desperation that has been passed on to her like a birthright.

Eleanor Quarles arrives in Washington, DC, with ambition and secrets. When she meets the handsome William Pride at Howard University, they fall madly in love. But William hails from one of DC’s elite wealthy Black families, and his par­ents don’t let just anyone into their fold. Eleanor hopes that a baby will make her finally feel at home in William’s family and grant her the life she’s been searching for. But having a baby—and fitting in—is easier said than done.

With their stories colliding in the most unexpected of ways, Ruby and Eleanor will both make decisions that shape the trajectory of their lives.

 Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 7, 2023
 by Simon & Schuster Canada
4/5 stars

The author's previous book, Yellow Wife was one of my favorites from 2021, I eagerly awaited her new one The House of Eve.

Told from the POV of 15 year old Ruby who's working hard to be the first person in her family to attend college.  Along with Eleanor who has just started university in Washington. Since both women are teens one would think it’s a YA story but it definitely has an adult feel to it. 

Even though both of these teens come from totally different backgrounds and social classes they do have the same struggles. Each centres around the consequences of actions that society does not approve of and the struggles they face working through them.

The House of Eve is a story about race, prejudice and parts of history that have left a mark.  Namely the Catholic churches home for unwed mothers. It was well written, an authentic story where this reader felt what these young women went though (losses, but also hope and possibilities for the future).

Well, I didn’t love this as much as I did Yellow Wife it was still a well researched story that highlights important historical facts.

This book was part of my 2023 Reading off My Shelf Challenge and is book number 35.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

The Last Word by Taylor Adams

After posting a negative book review, a woman living in a remote location begins to wonder if the author is a little touchy—or very, very dangerous—in this pulse-pounding novel of psychological suspense and terror from the critically acclaimed author of No Exit and Hairpin Bridge.

Emma Carpenter lives in isolation with her golden retriever Laika, house-sitting an old beachfront home on the rainy Washington coast. Her only human contact is her enigmatic old neighbor, Deek, and (via text) the house’s owner, Jules.

One day, she reads a poorly written—but gruesome—horror novel by the author H. G. Kane, and posts a one-star review that drags her into an online argument with none other than the author himself. Soon after, disturbing incidents start to occur at night. To Emma, this can’t just be a coincidence. It was strange enough for this author to bicker with her online about a lousy review; could he be stalking her, too?

As Emma digs into Kane’s life and work, she learns he has published sixteen other novels, all similarly sadistic tales of stalking and murder. But who is he? How did he find her? And what else is he capable of?

Hardcover, 340 pages
Published April 25, 2023
 by William Morrow
4.5 stars

This is my first time reading a Taylor Adams book. Because of the bookish theme I made it my May book of the month pick.

The Last Word was an addicting, convoluted story that I read in record time. It’s a story of Emma Carpenter,  house-sitting at a deserted beachfront home on the coast of Washington. She spends her time reading and avoiding the past, the past that she is running away from. The revealing of this past is slowly dispersed throughout.

After reading one particular bad horror novel, Emma leaves a one star review which grabs the attention of the author, needlessly to say he isn't a happy camper. What follows is the author tracking her down and thus begins a game of cat and mouse with dire consequences. If it wasn’t such a deadly game, it could almost be comical as every cliché in horror movies plays out. But the thing is it worked here and I had trouble putting this book down.

I will definetly read more Taylor Adams books, but need to let my nerves calm down a bit.

This book was part of my 2023 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge #36

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

The Drowning Woman by Robyn Harding

The bestselling author of The Party returns with a deliciously twisted story of friendship, retribution, and betrayal about a homeless woman fleeing a dangerous past—and the wealthy society wife she saves from drowning, who pulls her into a dark web of secrets and lies.

Lee Gulliver never thought she’d find herself living on the streets—no one ever does—but when her restaurant fails, and she falls deeper into debt, she leaves her old life behind with nothing but her clothes and her Toyota Corolla. In Seattle, she parks in a secluded spot by the beach to lay low and plan her next move—until early one morning, she sees a sobbing woman throw herself into the ocean. Lee hauls the woman back to the surface, but instead of appreciation, she is met with fury. The drowning woman, Hazel, tells her that she wanted to die, that she’s trapped in a toxic, abusive marriage, that she’s a prisoner in her own home. Lee has thwarted her one chance to escape her life.

Out of options, Hazel retreats to her gilded cage, and Lee thinks she’s seen the last of her, until her unexpected return the next morning. Bonded by disparate but difficult circumstances, the women soon strike up a close and unlikely friendship. And then one day, Hazel makes a shocking request: she wants Lee to help her disappear. It’ll be easy, Hazel assures her, but Lee soon learns that nothing is as it seems, and that Hazel may not be the friend Lee thought she was.

 Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Expected publication
June 13, 2023 
by Grand Central Publishing
4/5 stars

Releasing in just under a month, The Drowning Woman is Robyn Harding‘s new suspense thriller.

Told from a number of different points of view. this story is shrouded in mystery revolving around two women. Lee, having escaped for the past finds herself in Seattle, living out of her vehicle . Then there is Hazel the very well to do unhappy wife. The story takes off when one woman tries to end her life while the other rescues her.

This was an addicting read. I found myself connecting more with Lee versus Hazel, maybe because of her down and out status or Hazel was just a bit too snooty. But these two women become friends, share confidences and make plans.  And we all know what happens to the best laid plans.

The Drowning Women was a intricately woven suspenseful read, there were lots of twists and turns that I did not anticipate. It had an ending I enjoyed even if I did guess at it. So all in all very entertaining read.

My thanks to Grand Central Publishing (via NetGalley) for a digital arc in exchange for a honest review.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Good Intentions Collection #4 The Road Home by Kristin Harmel

A mother makes a heartbreaking choice in this unforgettable story about devotion and sacrifice in World War II–era France by the New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Lost Names . 

Marie Vachon experiences firsthand the devastation of the German invasion when she takes in a Jewish refugee named Josiane. A loving, if temporary, home for the displaced child. A second chance at motherhood for Marie. After three years, an inseparable bond is created. It’s one that leads Marie and Josiane to an inevitable but surprising reckoning that calls into question what motherhood means—and where it ends. Kristin Harmel’s The Road Home is part of Good Intentions , a riveting collection of stories about the instincts, fears, and fierce love inherent in motherhood from award-winning, bestselling authors. Read or listen to each in a single sitting.

Kindle Edition, 42 pages
Published April 27, 2023
 by Amazon Original Stories
4.5/5 stars

The Road Home is a short story that is part of the Good Intentions Collection (#4). I don’t believe these need to be read in order. I’m not usually a short story fan, but lately I have been. 

This is the story of Marie Vachon during World War II in France. Three years ago she took in a homeless two year old girl. A Jewish girl whose mother was taken by the Germans.  The bond between these two is extremely strong. But the war has ended and the child’s mother has survived and wants her daughter.

What follows is an emotional story about a mom, who was given a second chance of motherhood.  You see years ago her son was killed in the early parts of the war.

The Road Home is a well written story about motherhood, grief and second chances.  It is available on Kindle Unlimited.  I plan on continuing with these stories, to date there are 7 stories from different authors in different time periods and locations.  Am I a fan of the covers?  Not really, it was the author that drew my attention.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

The New Mother by Nora Murphy

From Nora Murphy, author of The Favor, The New Mother is both relatable and nerve-wracking, sympathetic and bone-chilling—a fresh new twist on motherhood and murder in suburbia.

Isolated. Lonely. Tired. It's hard being The New Mother. Sometimes it's murder.

Nothing is simple about being a new mom alone in a new house, especially when your baby is collicky. Natalie Fanning loves her son unconditionally, but being a mother was not all she wanted to be.

Enter Paul, the neighbor.

Paul provides the lifeline she needs in what feels like the most desperate of times. When Paul is helping with Oliver, calmed by his reassuring, steady presence, Nat feels like she can finally rest.

But Paul wants something in return. It’s no coincidence that he has befriended Nat—she is the perfect pawn for his own plan. Will Nat wake up in time to see it?

Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Expected publication May 30, 2023
 by Minotaur Books
3/5 stars

This is such a hard book for me to review. I thoroughly enjoyed the author's, previous book The Favour and jumped into this one expecting another addictive suspense read. But I didn’t get those vibes until the last 60%. To be honest, I almost gave up at 40% but since other reviews mentioned the action started later, I persevered. Also I was gifted both the audio and digital arcs and did listen to the last 40% in one go.

So what did I struggle with? The pacing was very slow and also very repetitive, but given the subject matter and reading the author notes at the end, kind of softened my view of how I felt. Does that make sense?

The New Mother is the story of Natalie, a professional attorney, highly educated, but this new, living creature named Oliver is now totally dependent on her. He doesn’t sleep so mom doesn't either, he cries all the time and she is at her wits end. Also, Nat believes she is the only one who can take care of Oliver properly, because she read that in a book or two, which then alienates her from family

Then there is Paul the neighbour, who is totally unreliable as a character but as Natalie’s new friend, he is someone she has come to lean on and trust. What follows is a twisty story that would have worked better for me if the last 40% was spread out a bit more and some of the repetitive detail was toned down.

The New Mother is a twisty story with a mystery as well as some serious subject matter for new moms. There should be trigger warnings for some which I won't mention but given the subject matter it should be obvious.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press and Macmillian Audio for an early copy in exchange for a honest review.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson

#1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson brings us deeper into the Cosmere universe with a rollicking, riveting tale that will appeal to fans of The Princess Bride.

The only life Tress has known on her island home in an emerald-green ocean has been a simple one, with the simple pleasures of collecting cups brought by sailors from faraway lands and listening to stories told by her friend Charlie. But when his father takes him on a voyage to find a bride and disaster strikes, Tress must stow away on a ship and seek the Sorceress of the deadly Midnight Sea.

 Amid the spore oceans where pirates abound, can Tress leave her simple life behind and make her own place sailing a sea where a single drop of water can mean instant death?

Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 4, 2023 
by Tor Books
4.5/5 stars

Do you ever laid eyes on a book cover and just known that you had to read it? That's exactly what happened to me when I saw Tress of the Emerald Sea.  The cover was stunning, the author was well-known (though I had never read his work before), and 3 of my sons are fans.  I pre-ordered it immediately and it ended up becoming a family read.

The story follows Tress, a  young woman living on an island washing windows. She is in love with her good friend Charlie, but suddenly his father takes him away, never to be seen again. Tress embarks on a journey to seek out the Sorceress of the Midnight Sea to rescue her true love. What she doesn’t bargain for is stowing away on a ship and the many obstacles on the way.

I really enjoyed this book. I liked Tress. I liked her fortitude, courage and stamina. There are other characters in this book that left their mark, Hook the rat, Sally, and Fort to name a few.  With a whimsical voice fans of Sanderson's previous novels will find easter eggs along the way along with a narrator familiar in the Cosmere books.

The blurb says that those that liked The Princess Bride will enjoy this book. Confession time I’ve never  read The Princess Bride or seen the movie so that doesn’t really mean much to me.  Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed this read and look forward to the next 3 books in Sanderson's Secret Novels Series. 

It's worth noting that this Kickstarter project broke the record for the most funds Kickstarted in Publishing, with over $20M within just 72 hours and a total of over $41M in total. Impressive to say the least.

This book was part of my 2023 Reading Of My Shelf Challenge (#33).

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

The Remarkable Rescue at Milkweed Meadow by Elaine Dimopoulos

This timeless early middle-grade adventure about friendship and community will charm animal-loving fans of The Tale of Despereaux and Clarice the Brave. Illustrated by Caldecott winner Doug Salati.

Butternut lives in the burrows of Milkweed Meadow with her nine rabbit brothers and sisters. Together they practice strategies for survival and tell stories. With disastrous scenarios blooming in her mind, Butternut embraces the lesson of her families’ stick to your own rabbit-kind. But after befriending an incorrigible robin and a wounded deer, Butternut begins to question what she has been taught.

When the three friends discover other animals in crisis, Butternut must decide whether she can help, rally her friends and family, and be as brave as the heroes in the stories she tells.

Beautiful and arresting black-and-white illustrations bring the animals to life in this heartwarming story about friendship, community, and doing what is right.

“With the confidence of a maestro, Elaine Dimopoulos breathes vigor and beauty into a tale of a brave and thoughtful young rabbit . . . A chorus of woodland cheer for such a remarkable rescue."
—Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Cress Watercress

Kindle Edition, 198 pages
Expected publication
May 16, 2023
 by Charlesbridge
3.5/5 stars

This was a cute story reminding me of Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. A family of rabbits learning and knowing the dangers of the outside world. Told from the pov of Butternut, he tells of his life. When he befriends of robin and then a wounded deer he sets in motion things that puts his family and others in danger.

This wasn’t a long story, 192 pages. There were a smattering of sketched illustrations (I would have loved to see more) and vivid descriptions . Geared for the middle grade reader it’s a story of friendship, adventure and family. There are lessons to be learned and some interesting nature facts to gleen.

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

Friday, May 5, 2023

The Collected Regrets of Clover by Mikki Brammer

Mikki Brammer's The Collected Regrets of Clover is a big-hearted and life-affirming debut about a death doula who, in caring for others at the end of their life, has forgotten how to live her own, for readers of The Midnight Library.

What’s the point of giving someone a beautiful death if you can’t give yourself a beautiful life?

From the day she watched her kindergarten teacher drop dead during a dramatic telling of Peter Rabbit, Clover Brooks has felt a stronger connection with the dying than she has with the living. After the beloved grandfather who raised her dies alone while she is traveling, Clover becomes a death doula in New York City, dedicating her life to ushering people peacefully through their end-of-life process.

Clover spends so much time with the dying that she has no life of her own, until the final wishes of a feisty old woman send Clover on a trip across the country to uncover a forgotten love story––and perhaps, her own happy ending. As she finds herself struggling to navigate the uncharted roads of romance and friendship, Clover is forced to examine what she really wants, and whether she’ll have the courage to go after it.

Probing, clever, and hopeful, The Collected Regrets of Clover turns the normally taboo subject of death into a reason to celebrate life.

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Expected publication May 9, 2023
 by St. Martin's Press
3.5/5 stars

This was a combination of book/audiobook thanks to the publishers.
Grief is just love looking for a place to settle.
This book has a unique theme, a death doula. I am vaguely familiar with that term, but finding it in a modern setting was something I didn’t expect.

A slow paced story, I mostly listened to the audiobook since it wasn't until the last third that things started to really grab my attention.

Clover is an interesting character, she has demons of the past which is reflected in her lifestyle.  Given her chosen occupation one would thing this would be a depressing and gloomy story.  But it isn't, I found it heartwarming that those without family or friends had someone with them in the end. 

There were parts of the story that just didn't resonate with me, aside from the slow pace.  Though she grew up sheltered, for someone who has traveled the world by herself and given her job I found her to be somewhat immature in both action and her thought life.  However, the audiobook is very well done, and without it, I might have given up on the book.

Overall, The Collected Regrets of Clover is a unique and heartwarming story that will appeal to many readers. While it may not have been my cup of tea, others have given it a higher rating, so it's worth checking out. The book is set to release next week, so keep an eye out for it.

My thanks to both Macmillan Audio and St. Martins Press for advanced copies in exchange for a honest review.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Independence by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

India, 1947. In a rural village in Bengal live three sisters, daughters of a well-respected doctor.

Priya: intelligent and idealistic, resolved to follow in her father's footsteps and become a doctor, though society frowns on it.

Deepa: the beauty, determined to make a marriage that will bring her family joy and status.

Jamini: devout, sharp-eyed, and a talented quiltmaker, with deeper passions than she reveals.

Theirs is a home of love and safety, a refuge from the violent events taking shape in the nation. Then their father is killed during a riot, and even their neighbors turn against them, bringing the events of their country closer to home.

As Priya determinedly pursues her career goal, Deepa falls deeply in love with a Muslim, causing her to break with her family. And Jamini attempts to hold her family together, even as she secretly longs for her sister's fiancé.

When the partition of India is officially decided, a drastic--and dangerous--change is in the air. India is now for Hindus, Pakistan for Muslims. The sisters find themselves separated from one another, each on different paths. They fear for what will happen to not just themselves, but each other.

Hardcover, 288 pages
Published January 17, 2023 
by William Morrow
5/5 stars

How gorgeous is that cover, there is so much said in that picture without words needed.
“The year is 1947. It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.”
Independence is the story of three sisters.  The year is 1947 when the British basically walked out the front door on India leaving the Hindus and Muslims to fend for themselves.  The result is that Pakistan and Bangladesh were born.  But it was a far cry from an easy transition.

Told from the povs of three sister, each sister with distinct personalities, goals and strengths. But they also have secrets, which I won't get into. If you don't know the history of what happened in 1947 then this is a great book to read.  It is rich in history but also full of heartache. Right now I don't feel this review will adequately express my feelings for this book.

Independence is a very well written historical story surrounded by fact.  It's a story of family, country and the lengths one will go for those they love.  I listened to part of this in audio format, the reader did an awesome job.  

This is my first time reading a Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, she has set the bar high as I hope to read more.   If you are a HF fan or just want a gripping story about 3 women facing challenges and the bonds that connect them, then this is the book for you.

This book was part of my 2023 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge (#34)