Friday, June 30, 2023

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

Athena Liu is a literary darling and June Hayward is literally nobody.

White lies
When Athena dies in a freak accident, June steals her unpublished manuscript and publishes it as her own under the ambiguous name Juniper Song.

Dark humour
But as evidence threatens June’s stolen success, she will discover exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves.

Deadly consequences…
What happens next is entirely everyone else’s fault.

With its totally immersive first-person voice, Yellowface grapples with questions of diversity, racism, and cultural appropriation, as well as the terrifying alienation of social media. R.F. Kuang’s novel is timely, razor-sharp, and eminently readable.

Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 16, 2023
 by William Morrow Paperbacks
3/5 stars

I jumped into this book as soon as I finished Babel, which I found to be an entertaining read. One of the things that attracted me to Yellowface was an author interview where she talked about what a fun book this was to write, that it's a funny, satire driven story giving readers a glimpse into the publishing world.

There is a lot going on in Yellowface, aside from the fact that the authorship of  the book June Hayworth published is brought into question. It also deals with diversity, and racism. As well as how social media has influenced and affected those that are questioned.

For me I was hooked right away. It starts with a bang, giving me an authentic look at June and how that book in question came to be.  But then it sort of peters off, at least for me it did. I wasn’t a huge fan of June/Juniper. I found she didn’t have too many redeeming qualities that made me root for her. There are some that say this is satire, so I was expecting some thing humorous, but I didn’t get that. Also, a lot of the story is internal thoughts of June which overtime got to be a bit much.The storyline was good, the look into the publishing industry was enlightening, and how social media people hide behind their posts, saying things they wouldn’t if it was face-to-face.

The ending took me by surprise, it wasn’t what I anticipated though honestly I didn't know what to expect. But for me, it didn’t really work. All in all a quick read.

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

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Weyward by Emilia Hart

I am a Weyward, and wild inside.

2019: Under cover of darkness, Kate flees London for ramshackle Weyward Cottage, inherited from a great aunt she barely remembers. With its tumbling ivy and overgrown garden, the cottage is worlds away from the abusive partner who tormented Kate. But she begins to suspect that her great aunt had a secret. One that lurks in the bones of the cottage, hidden ever since the witch-hunts of the 17th century.

1619: Altha is awaiting trial for the murder of a local farmer who was stampeded to death by his herd. As a girl, Altha’s mother taught her their magic, a kind not rooted in spell casting but in a deep knowledge of the natural world. But unusual women have always been deemed dangerous, and as the evidence for witchcraft is set out against Altha, she knows it will take all of her powers to maintain her freedom.

1942: As World War II rages, Violet is trapped in her family's grand, crumbling estate. Straitjacketed by societal convention, she longs for the robust education her brother receives––and for her mother, long deceased, who was rumored to have gone mad before her death. The only traces Violet has of her are a locket bearing the initial W and the word weyward scratched into the baseboard of her bedroom.

Weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries, Emilia Hart's Weyward is an enthralling novel of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world.

Hardcover, 329 pages
Published March 7, 2023
 by St. Martin's Press
4/5 stars

I was attracted to this book by its intriguing cover. Once I read it, everything just fit together.

I’m not always a fan of three way timelines. Sorry, could just be my age and attention span that sometimes I find it overwhelming. But here it worked nicely.

There’s a central theme to Weyward, which begins in the year 1619.  A young woman is accused of witchcraft, jumping to 1942 there is a teen being raised by her father. And finally 2019 (thankfully before the pandemic) as Kate flees an abusive marriage to Weyward cottage.

I won’t go into detail of what transpires through these three timelines, but suffice to say that I liked each of these women. Their stories were unique, they were tested in ways that were heartbreaking, sad and pulled each of them out of their comfort zones.

Wayward is a story of family, the past and strength. The timelines connected with a touch of supernatural elements and nature. It was well written and detailed the strength of three young women across five centuries.

This book was my March 2023 book of the month pick and is part of my 2023 reading off my shelf challenge

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Babel: An Arcane History by R.F. Kuang

From award-winning author R. F. Kuang comes Babel, a historical fantasy epic that grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of language and translation as the dominating tool of the British Empire

Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.

1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation—also known as Babel. The tower and its students are the world's center for translation and, more importantly, magic. Silver-working—the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation using enchanted silver bars—has made the British unparalleled in power, as the arcane craft serves the Empire's quest for colonization.

For Robin, Oxford is a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge obeys power, and as a Chinese boy raised in Britain, Robin realizes serving Babel means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress, Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to stopping imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide . . .

Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence?

Hardcover, 544 pages
First published August 23, 2022
by Harper Voyager
4.5/5 stars

Babel was our family June book club read. We spent 4 weeks slowly reading and honestly that was way too much time, even though I lost some of the momentum we still had some great discussions.

For all of us this was our introduction to RF Kuang, the cover and YouTube word of month sealed our pick.

We all agreed that the author brought her extensive knowledge of language and colonial history to bear in this deeply engrossing and unsettling historical fantasy. In this world language has power and silver can harness meanings lost in translation, and Britain will stop at nothing to control this alternate imagining of the Industrial Revolution. 

It’s not a time period I read often but this was an entertaining read. Great when we discussed each part, speculated what would happen next and marvelled at the author’s talent. This is a big book, its a commitment yes, but when you have likable characters, an intricate plot and some mystery, it's isn't hard to get lost in the pages.

I will definitely be reading more by Kuang, in fact I am almost finished her latest Yellowface.

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

Monday, June 26, 2023

North of Nowhere by Allison Brennan

New York Times bestseller Allison Brennan’s latest standalone is an unputdownable race to the dramatic finish.

After five years in hiding from their murderous father, the day Kristen and Ryan McIntyre have been dreading has arrived: Boyd McIntyre, head of a Los Angeles crime family, has at last tracked his kids to a small Montana town and is minutes away from kidnapping them. They barely escape in a small plane, but gunfire hits the fuel line. The pilot, a man who has been raising them as his own, manages to crash land in the middle of the Montana wilderness. The siblings hike deep into the woods, searching desperately for safety—unaware of the severity of the approaching storm.

Boyd’s sister Ruby left Los Angeles for the Army years ago, cutting off contact in order to help keep her niece and nephew safe and free from the horrors of the McIntyre clan. So when she gets an emergency call that the plane has gone down with the kids inside, she drops everything to try save them.

As the storm builds, Ruby isn’t the only person looking for them. Boyd has hired an expert tracker to find and bring them home. And rancher Nick Lorenzo, who knows these mountains better than anyone and doesn’t understand why the kids are running, is on their trail too.

But there is a greater threat to Kristen and Ryan out there. More volatile than the incoming blizzard, more dangerous than the family they ran from or the natural predators they could encounter. Who finds them first could determine if they live or die. . .

Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Expected publication August 8, 2023
 by Minotaur Books
4/5 stars

This is my first time reading an Allison Brennan book, North of Nowhere releases on August 8, I was lucky enough to be granted both a digital and audio arc from the publishers.

The story begins at a breakneck pace and doesn't let up for the over 350 pages. We follow Kristen, Ryan and Tony as they flee from Kristen and Ryan's father, who they've been hiding from for the past five years.  It is a cat and mouse chase through a snowstorm involving a plane, ATVs, and snowmobiles in the mountains.  It doesn't take long to realize that they're not just being chased by their father but by someone else entirely.

The plot is multi-layered and expertly weaves back in time to reveal a complex story about a powerful mafia type family. There are plenty of red herrings and unreliable characters that kept me guessing. The story is told from a wide lens, but the focus is on Kristen, her aunt Ruby, and the local sheriff.

North of Nowhere is a well-written and engaging story that I found to put down.  The audiobook definitely helped me get through it faster, but I enjoyed listening (the narrator did a great job). It's a story of family, even when one is not blood related, revenge and strength.  Very entertaining, I will be on the lookout for more books by Allison Brennan.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press and Macmillan Audio (via Netgalley) for advanced copies in exchange for honest review.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Everyone Here is Lying by Shari Lapena

Welcome to Stanhope! A safe neighborhood. A place for families.

William Wooler is a family man, on the surface. But he's been having an affair, an affair that ended horribly this afternoon at a motel up the road. So when he returns to his house, devastated and angry, to find his difficult nine-year-old daughter, Avery, unexpectedly home from school, William loses his temper.

Hours later, Avery's family declares her missing.

Suddenly Stanhope doesn't feel so safe. And William isn't the only one on his street who's hiding a lie. As witnesses come forward with information that may or may not be true, Avery's neighbors become increasingly unhinged.

Who took Avery Wooler?

Nothing will prepare you for the truth.

Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Expected publication July 25, 2023
 by Penguin Random House Canada
4.5/5 stars

Canadian author, Shari Lapena is one of my auto reads.  She writes domestic stories that make one wonder who is watching.  Such is the case with Everyone Here Is Lying.

Avery Wooler is only 9 years old when she disappeared without a trace.  Is her father really responsible?  This was a fast paced read that takes place over a relatively short period of time.  It grabbed me right away and I had a hard time letting go.  With nice shortish chapters it was easy to read JustOneMoreChapter (pun intended).

Everyone Here is Lying has a number of different POV, it didn't take long to keep everyone straight.  Lots of red herrings, unreliable characters and actually not too many that I even liked.  The story was twisty with a plot and subplots that kept me guessing.  Did I figure it out 🤐

If you want to a captivating suspenseful read, then be on the lookout July 25th for this one.

My thanks to Penguin Random House CA (via Netgalley) for a digital arc in exchange for honest review.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

The Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer

Years ago, a reclusive mega-bestselling children’s author quit writing under mysterious circumstances. Suddenly he resurfaces with a brand-new book and a one-of-a-kind competition, offering a prize that will change the winner’s life in this absorbing and whimsical novel.

Make a wish. . . .

Lucy Hart knows better than anyone what it’s like to grow up without parents who loved her. In a childhood marked by neglect and loneliness, Lucy found her solace in books, namely the Clock Island series by Jack Masterson. Now a twenty-six-year-old teacher’s aide, she is able to share her love of reading with bright, young students, especially seven-year-old Christopher Lamb, who was left orphaned after the tragic death of his parents. Lucy would give anything to adopt Christopher, but even the idea of becoming a family seems like an impossible dream without proper funds and stability.

But be careful what you wish for. . . .

Just when Lucy is about to give up, Jack Masterson announces he’s finally written a new book. Even better, he’s holding a contest at his home on the real Clock Island, and Lucy is one of the four lucky contestants chosen to compete to win the one and only copy.

For Lucy, the chance of winning the most sought-after book in the world means everything to her and Christopher. But first she must contend with ruthless book collectors, wily opponents, and the distractingly handsome (and grumpy) Hugo Reese, the illustrator of the Clock Island books. Meanwhile, Jack “the Mastermind” Masterson is plotting the ultimate twist ending that could change all their lives forever.

. . . You might just get it.

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published May 30, 2023
 by Ballantine Books
5/5 stars

This was my June book of the month pick, which I read in less than 48 hours.

This is Meg Shaffer's debut novel and my goodness not only is she off to a great start but she has also set the bar high for each subsequence book. It’s not often that I read a book that fast so that tells you how I felt.

The Wishing Game is about wishes, it has a magical feel, and it revolves around childrens author Jack Masterson who turned into a recluse 6 years ago.

Lucy Hart is only 26 years old, a kindergarten teachers aide with a strong connection to a seven-year-old parentless boy. She would love to adopt him, to be his mom.  Not only a daunting prospect about according to officials its an impossible task for her to even think about achieving.

There are many aspects about this book that I enjoyed. Between the literary theme, which is always a plus for bookworms.  The magical vibes of Clock Island where Lucy and three other competitors are drawn. To win the grand prize they compete against each other with riddles being theme. The prize will change everyone lives and there is only one winner with no 2nd or 3rd place prizes.

The Wishing Game is a story of wishes, confronting fears and stepping out of ones comfort zones. It's also about family and what makes a family.  

There are no negatives for me in this story, definitely a book I will be recommending.

This book was part of my 2023 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge #43

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez

A novel of terrible first impressions, hilarious second chances, and the joy in finding your perfect match.

Dr. Briana Ortiz’s life is seriously flatlining. Her divorce is just about finalized, her brother’s running out of time to find a kidney donor, and that promotion she wants? Oh, that’s probably going to the new man-doctor who’s already registering eighty-friggin’-seven on Briana’s “pain in my ass” scale. But just when all systems are set to hate, Dr. Jacob Maddox completely flips the game . . . by sending Briana a letter.

And it’s a really good letter. Like the kind that proves that Jacob isn’t actually Satan. Worse, he might be this fantastically funny and subversively likeable guy who’s terrible at first impressions. Because suddenly he and Bri are exchanging letters, sharing lunch dates in her “sob closet,” and discussing the merits of freakishly tiny horses. But when Jacob decides to give Briana the best gift imaginable—a kidney for her brother—she wonders just how she can resist this quietly sexy new doctor . . . especially when he calls in a favor she can’t refuse.

Paperback, 416 pages
Published April 11, 2023
 by Forever
4/5 stars

Yours Truly is the sequel to Part of Your World, though honestly, it works fine as I stand alone. But you really should read it, one of my favourites.

Part of Your World was my first read by Abby Jimenez, and I absolutely loved it. Being a new fan of rom/coms, I will confess that I am a hard sell . I love laugh out loud scenes, good banter, and a romance that is realistic and not that lust at first sight stuff.

Yours Truly is told from two points of view.  Dr. Brianne Ortiz is an ER doctor, her life is full of ups and downs - being the midst of a divorce after her husband has taken over with someone who used to be Brianna‘s best friend, a promotion at work that she really wants and her brothers failing health as he awaits a kidney transplant.

The second POV is from a new doctor at work, Dr. Jacob Maddox, who Brianna feels is a competitor for the job that she wants. He has social anxiety and his first meeting with Bri was rather rough and for a while it gets rougher.

This was a fun read., Yes, they were laugh out loud scenes, and I loved the easy banter that I have come to expect from this author. Through twists and turns they enter into a fake relationship and without going into too many details, it was entertaining to witness, it had what I love in a rom/com.  

On a serious side it was authentic in how Abby wrote the kidney transplant part.  The author note's are a must read to really get the motivation and personal side of the author. For me I usually cringe when I read books about transplants since it is somewhat of a trigger for me.  Having experienced first hand a loved one who has been on the transplant list (that seemed to never ending) to the emotional part of waiting, I felt that was portrayed perfectly here.

Like I said, this is only my second Abby Jimenez book, I have already purchased her previous trilogy to read soon.

This book was part of my 2023 Reading off my Shelf Challenge.

Monday, June 12, 2023

The Bellwoods Game by Celia Krampien

Perfect for fans of Small Spaces and Doll Bones , this spooky, highly illustrated middle grade novel follows a girl who hopes to fix her outcast status through a game in the haunted woods, only to discover that some legends shouldn’t be played with.

Everyone knows Fall Hollow is haunted. It has been ever since Abigail Snook went into the woods many years ago, never to be seen again. Since then, it’s tradition for the sixth graders at Beckett Elementary to play the Bellwoods Game on Halloween night. Three kids are chosen to go into the woods. Whoever rings the bell there wins the game and saves the town for another year, but if Abigail’s ghost captures the players first, the spirit is let loose to wreak havoc on Fall Hollow—or so the story goes.

Now that it’s Bailee’s year to play, she can finally find out what really happens. And legend has it the game’s winner gets a wish. Maybe, just maybe, if Bailee wins, she can go back to the way things used to be before her grandma got sick and everyone at school started hating her. But when the night begins, everything the kids thought they knew about the game—and each other—is challenged. One thing’s for something sinister is at play…waiting for them all in the woods.

Kindle Edition, 317 pages
Expected publication July 18, 2023
 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
3.5/5 stars

This is my first time reading a book by Celia Krampien. While preparing this review, I discovered that she is a Canadian author, who resides not far from me, which just further enhances the fact that Canada has a lot of talent in the literary field.

It was the cover that drew me to this story and my love for middle grade fiction, I love the longer stories with depth of character and adventure.

In The Bellwoods Game, Bailee is a sixth grader who is set on completing a task that will rid the town of bad luck for a year. It follows the legend of Abigail Snook, who went into the woods and was never seen from again.

The Bellwoods Game is a story with supernatural elements, adventure in the outdoors, friendships and misunderstandings.  There are 3 that go into the woods, they are taking on a journey that brings about revealed secrets, trust and healing of old wounds. But there is also strange obstacles in the way.

I enjoyed my reading time, though geared for young readers part of me wonders if it might be a bit overwhelming, scary for some younger ones or those a little bit sensitive. Coming in over 300 pages it is a nice size with some wonderful illustrations along the way.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster CA, via NetGalley, for a digital arc in exchange for a honest review.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Only the Beautiful by Susan Meissner

A heartrending story about a young mother’s fight to keep her daughter, and the winds of fortune that tear them apart by the New York Times bestselling author of The Nature of Fragile Things and The Last Year of the War.

California, 1938—When she loses her parents in an accident, sixteen-year-old Rosanne is taken in by the owners of the vineyard where she has lived her whole life as the vinedresser’s daughter. She moves into Celine and Truman Calvert’s spacious house with a secret, however—Rosie sees colors when she hears sound. She promised her mother she’d never reveal her little-understood ability to anyone, but the weight of her isolation and grief prove too much for her. Driven by her loneliness she not only breaks the vow to her mother, but in a desperate moment lets down her guard and ends up pregnant. Banished by the Calverts, Rosanne believes she is bound for a home for unwed mothers, and having lost her family she treasures her pregnancy as the chance for a future one. But she soon finds out she is not going to a home of any kind, but to a place far worse than anything she could have imagined.

Austria, 1947—After witnessing firsthand Adolf Hitler’s brutal pursuit of hereditary purity—especially with regard to “different children”—Helen Calvert, Truman's sister, is ready to return to America for good. But when she arrives at her brother’s peaceful vineyard after decades working abroad, she is shocked to learn what really happened nine years earlier to the vinedresser’s daughter, a girl whom Helen had long ago befriended. In her determination to find Rosanne, Helen discovers that while the war had been won in Europe, there are still terrifying battles to be fought at home.

Hardcover, 400 pages
Published April 18, 2023 
by Berkley
4/5 stars

Susan Meissner‘s latest book released this past April. Coming in at 400 pages, it's story about a 16 year old girl named Rosanne.

Beginning in 1938, Rosanne is taken in by the Calvert's after the death of her parents in an automobile accident . What transpires in the following years is sad as she deals with her grief and loneliness. After being banished by the Calvert's, her life takes a turn that was undeserving and heartbreaking.

Jump to 1947 when Helen Calvert returns to America after spending many years in Austria, seeing firsthand Hitler’s relentless pursuit of a purified nation.

This was a slow story at times, but it was also educational in the things that Rosanne went through. Only the Beautiful is a well written and researched story about a terrible part of US history. Susan Missner is one of my go to authors and again she did not disappoint. Even a month after I finished it has stayed with me.

If you are a fan of historical fiction based on fact, and have not tried this I highly recommend her.

My copy was obtained through my local public library.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

True North Heists by Andrew Kaufman

True North Heists tells the tales of some of the most outlandish capers ever committed on Canadian soil. Acting legend Colm Feore (Bon Cop Bad Cop, Trudeau) dramatically weaves together “in the moment” storytelling with interviews with those with deep knowledge of the heists themselves, including law enforcement officers, writers and the criminals themselves. All capped off with a soundscape designed to keep the listener on the edge of their seat.

Audible Audio
Published October 13, 2020 
by Audible Originals
4/5 stars

This is a free Audible Original that we listened to on a recent road trip. Ten different stories that take place in Canada spanning over the century. 

Each of these 10 stories are true, committed in Canada, some are somewhat unbelievable and all unfamiliar. Each segment lasts about 20 to 30 minutes. They were voiced it an entertaining manner and kept us occupied while we are driving.

Colm Feore is the narrator who did a stellar job. I’m not really a huge non-fiction fan but I do like learning some Canadian history, even if it is of the criminal nature.

Friday, June 9, 2023

The Paris Daughter by Kristin Harmel

From the bestselling author of The Book of Lost Names comes a gripping historical novel about two mothers who must make unthinkable choices in the face of the Nazi occupation.

Paris, 1939: Young mothers Elise and Juliette become fast friends the day they meet in the beautiful Bois de Boulogne. Though there is a shadow of war creeping across Europe, neither woman suspects that their lives are about to irrevocably change.

When Elise becomes a target of the German occupation, she entrusts Juliette with the most precious thing in her life—her young daughter, playmate to Juliette’s own little girl. But nowhere is safe in war, not even a quiet little bookshop like Juliette’s Librairie des Rêves, and, when a bomb falls on their neighborhood, Juliette’s world is destroyed along with it.

More than a year later, with the war finally ending, Elise returns to reunite with her daughter, only to find her friend’s bookstore reduced to rubble—and Juliette nowhere to be found. What happened to her daughter in those last, terrible moments? Juliette has seemingly vanished without a trace, taking all the answers with her. Elise’s desperate search leads her to New York—and to Juliette—one final, fateful time.

Kindle Edition, 380 pages
Published June 6, 2023 
by Gallery Books
4/5 stars

Released just a few days ago The Paris Daughter is Kristin Harmel‘s latest. It is a dual time period story that begins in Paris at the onset of World War II. Then it jumps to 1960 both in Paris and New York. 

It was an accidental meeting for young mothers, Elise and Juliette in 1939 that has them becoming good friends. Years later, Elise through circumstances not her own fault she is separated from her young daughter.  Juliette takes young Mathilde in, while Elise goes into hiding.

The Paris Daughter is a story of friendship, relationships between mother and daughter and loss. It is a well written story that highlights a mothers love, the repercussions of the war that just don’t want to let go even many, many years later, and the grief that goes with it. I enjoyed this book, the author was spot on in her portrayal of what these two women went through, of the trust and betrayals, and how the author stayed true to real historical events which took place not just in Paris but in the US as well. While the ending might have been somewhat predictable.I liked the journey getting there.

I haven't read many Harmel books, but will be checking out her backlist.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster CA, along with NetGalley for a digital arc and exchange for a Honest review.

Monday, June 5, 2023

The Radcliffe Ladies’ Reading Club by Julia Bryan Thomas

For readers of Martha Hall Kelly and Beatriz Williams comes poignant historical fiction that reminds us that literature has the power to speaks to everyone uniquely — but also to draw us together.

Massachusetts, 1954. With bags packed alongside her heavy heart, Alice Campbell escaped halfway across the country and found herself in front of a derelict building tucked among the cobblestone streets of Cambridge. She turns it into the enchanting bookshop of her dreams, knowing firsthand the power of books to comfort the brokenhearted.

The Cambridge Bookshop soon becomes a haven for Tess, Caroline, Evie, and Merritt, who are all navigating the struggles of being newly independent college women in a world that seems to want to keep them in the kitchen. But when a member of the group finds herself shattered, everything they know about themselves will be called into question.

From the author of For Those Who Are Lost comes an extraordinary love letter to books and friendship, a story that is at once heart-wrenching, strengthening, and inspiring.

Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Expected publication June 6, 2023
 by Sourcebooks Landmark
4/5 stars

I went into this book blind, meaning when I requested it from NetGalley it sounded like something I would enjoy, and by the time I read it last week I had totally forgotten what it was about. Which is a great way to read, imho.

Alice is the owner of the book shop having recently relocated to Boston from Chicago. She starts a book club that garnish the attention of Tess, a Radcliffe student.  Tess in turn convinces her roommate, Caroline and fellow classmates to join. The bookclub part was a nice touch.  I have never read any of the books that were featured but am curious now, given that I was a fly on the wall listening to the discussions.  Suffice to say I have since added them all to my TBR.

This story takes place in the 1950s, a time when women pursuing higher education was uncommon. Most women were expected to focus on getting married and starting a family. But then there are these four older teens, each with their own unique backgrounds, personalities, and goals.

The Radcliffe Ladies' Reading Club is a well written coming of age story that was true to the times. It's about friendship, status and pulled at the heartstrings.  It would make a great book club read - lots of themes to discuss. This is my first time reading a Julie Bryan Thomas book, I will be on the lookout for more of her books.

My thanks to the publisher via NetGalley for a digital art and exchange for a honest review. This book releases tomorrow.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

(Survivor Diaries) Lost! by Terry Lynn Johnson

A high-stakes survival series perfect for fans of the I Survived series and Hatchet.

Stay calm. Stay smart. Survive.

An ancient myth about a statue leads eleven-year-old Carter and twelve-year-old Anna down a trail deep into the Costa Rican jungle. They get turned around, then chased by howler monkeys. Carter and Anna try to find their way back to the familiar path, but the tangle of vines and trees all look the same. They are . . . lost!

With seventeen years of hands-on experience and training in remote areas, survival expert Terry Lynn Johnson ( Ice Dogs; Sled Dog School ) creates on-the-edge-of-your-seat storytelling featuring real skills to prepare kids for surviving a disaster. This book includes tips from the Canadian Red Cross on how to make your own survival kit. After reading this book, you'll be better prepared for surviving a real-life disaster.

Hardcover, 112 pages
Published July 3, 2018
 by Clarion Books
4/5 stars

Terry Lynn Johnson is one of my favourite Canadian authors for middle grade stories. She lives up in northern Ontario. I first discovered her through her book Ice Dogs.  Recently, she started a new series called Survivor Diaries where each book focuses on different survival tips in various situations. Lost is all about surviving in the Costa Rican rainforest.

The story follows 12-year-old Anna and 11-year-old Carter as they get lost in the rainforest while on vacation with their family. It's a short read, just over 100 pages, but it's packed with survival skills specific to that area. Plus, it's a great story about the relationship between Anna and Carter, who weren't really friends before they got lost.

As an adult reader, I breezed through the book pretty quickly, but I think it would be a fun one to share with kids. The other books in the series include Overboard, Avalanche  and Dust Storm.

If you're interested in Terry Lynn Johnson's other books, be sure to check out her website for more information. She's a talented writer and does some cool stuff outside of writing too.

This book was part of my 2023 reading off my shelf challenge and it's book number 40.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

Armed with only hazy memories, a woman who long ago witnessed her friend's sudden, mysterious death, and has since spent her life trying to forget, sets out to track down answers. What she uncovers, deep in the woods, is hardly to be believed....

Maya was a high school senior when her best friend, Aubrey, mysteriously dropped dead in front of the enigmatic man named Frank whom they'd been spending time with all summer.

Seven years later, Maya lives in Boston with a loving boyfriend and is kicking the secret addiction that has allowed her to cope with what happened years ago, the gaps in her memories, and the lost time that she can't account for. But her past comes rushing back when she comes across a recent YouTube video in which a young woman suddenly keels over and dies in a diner while sitting across from none other than Frank. Plunged into the trauma that has defined her life, Maya heads to her Berkshires hometown to relive that fateful summer--the influence Frank once had on her and the obsessive jealousy that nearly destroyed her friendship with Aubrey.

At her mother's house, she excavates fragments of her past and notices hidden messages in her deceased Guatemalan father's book that didn't stand out to her earlier. To save herself, she must understand a story written before she was born, but time keeps running out, and soon, all roads are leading back to Frank's cabin....

Utterly unique and captivating, The House in the Pines keeps you guessing about whether we can ever fully confront the past and return home.

Paperback, 336 pages
Published January 3, 2023 
by Dutton
3/5 stars

Ana Reyes has written her debut novel, which revolves around two mysterious deaths.

I have some mixed feelings about this book. While the story and mystery were intriguing, I found it hard to connect with the characters. It took me three weeks to finish, which shows that it didn't fully captivate me. I usually enjoy psychological thrillers with unreliable narrators, which this book has, but I just couldn't get fully absorbed into the story. Some aspects of the book felt unnecessary.

Reese Witherspoon picked this book as her January Book Pick, her choices are hit or miss for me. I'm not sure if it was the hype surrounding the book that made me pick it up or it could have been the eerie cover.

One thing I did like about the story was Maya and Dan's relationship and how the ending brought closure for her. It was satisfying to see her find closure in other aspects of her life as well.

Overall, The House in the Pines was an entertaining read. I ended up finishing it off with the audiobook via CloudLibrary.

This book was part of my 2023 reading off my shelf challenge and is #42.

Friday, June 2, 2023

The Whispers by Ashley Audrain

One morning on Harlow Lane, four families' lives are changed forever.

Whitney Loverly can only sit by her son's hospital bed after he falls from his bedroom window in the middle of the night. She refuses to speak to anyone.

Back at home, the Loverlys' neighbours must reckon with their own roles in the tragedy - their selfless best friends who live across the street, the ambitious Goldsteins who desperately want a family of their own, and the quiet elderly couple who spend their days people watching on the front porch.

But what happens next, when over the course of a week, the hidden and explosive truths that connect these families must come out?

Exploring envy, motherhood and the intuitions that we silence, this is a novel that asks what happens when good people make bad choices.

Kindle Edition, 317 pages
Expected publication June 6, 2023
 by Penguin
4/5 stars

Exciting news, folks! The Whispers is hitting the shelves next week and it's already getting some serious hype. If you loved the author's debut novel, The Push, then you're in for a treat because The Whispers has a similar vibe.

The story is told from the perspectives of four women who are all at different stages of motherhood and life. But be warned, this book deals with some heavy stuff, so make sure you're ready for it.

One of the moms, Whitney, seems to have it all together, but things take a turn when she ends up at her son's hospital bedside. The story takes place over just a few days, but it jumps back and forth in time to reveal some dark and heartbreaking secrets.

Now, I wouldn't necessarily call this a psychological thriller. It's more like a suspenseful women's fiction story. The neighborhood where the story takes place is full of whispers and secrets, and everyone seems to be watching each other.

I will say that the characters aren't always the most reliable or likable, but that just adds to the suspense. There are plenty of red herrings to keep you guessing, and I found myself unable to put the book down until I knew what had happened.

The ending did feel a bit rushed, but it was still satisfying. I also had to suspend my belief a few times, but overall, this was a really entertaining read. So if you're looking for a gripping story that will keep you on your toes, give The Whispers a try.

My thanks to Penguin Random House CA (via Netgalley) for a digital arc in exchange for honest review.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Excerpt: You Look Beautiful Tonight by L.R. Jones

A secret admirer’s devotion turns deadly in a twisting novel of psychological suspense.

Mia Anderson is an invisible woman. An unremarkable thirty-two-year-old Tennessee librarian, she’s accustomed to disappearing in a crowd, unseen and unheard. Then she receives an anonymous note: You look beautiful today.

It doesn’t stop there. The attentive stranger—a secret admirer named Adam—has plans for Mia. With each new text comes a suggestion for her hair, clothes, or attitude, and for the first time in memory, Mia feels noticed. Slowly, she develops a confidence in herself she’s never had. But Adam has a surprise coming…and Mia finally sees him for who he is and what he’s prepared to do for her. Even kill.

Fearing she could be implicated in the murder, Mia’s forced to turn to the stranger in the shadows watching her every move. Adam’s game of cat and mouse begins with Mia as the prey. In order to survive, she must also become the predator.

Kindle Edition, 347 pages
Expected publication
June 1, 2023 by Thomas & Mercer


Blood seeps through the cream-colored carpet, fading into the thick fibers, and a river of life runneth over and under until death do us part. The same carpet that now absorbs one life and yet hugs my feet and cushions my body. Seconds tick by, eternal seconds, a clock ticking somewhere—loud, heavy, eternal. I try to draw in air, but I can’t catch my breath. My throat is raw, my chest tight.

 Run, I tell myself.

Run, before it’s too late to run.

 I rotate and immediately hit a hard surface—a piece of furniture, I think—banging my leg, pain radiating from my kneecap and down my shin. The room is spinning. The smell of death permeates the air, a scent no one can understand without experiencing it, living it while another person dies inside the horrific stench of it. Death has an energy, too, as contrary as that may sound, almost as if you can feel the grim reaper doing his work with a heavy pull that suffocates you in its existence.

I don’t even know what is happening right now, how I got here, how this became a moment in my uneventful, unremarkable life. I blink the room—an office, a familiar office that once felt safe—into view and round the desk in my path. My heart is thundering in my ears, my breathing now raspy and loud as I make my way across the room and yank the door open. Freedom calls to me, and I stumble into the hallway before me, leaving the door open, sucking in fresh air. Looking left and then right toward the emergency door, I hear it promising safety and an escape from death and all the blood. So much blood.

I run in that direction, pain radiating in my head that I don’t understand, but I push through it, my legs burning with the speed at which I travel, until I reach that blessed door, my hand closing on the long silver handle. The urge to look back behind me is strong, but I resist. Run. Run now. Run hard and fast. Shoving open the door, I burst into the corridor, and the hard steel slams shut behind me. I take one more step and halt with the realization that the smell of blood and death has followed me.

 I look down and lift my hands to find the stains on my skin, gasping with the realization that I’m holding a long, silver letter opener stained with the same shades of red. Memories illuminate the darkness that is my shock. Oh my God. I can’t run away from the killer.

 I am the killer.

 I drop the weapon—and it is a weapon—and a scream rips from my lungs, permeating the air as death had done—then I crumple to the ground and collapse.


Releasing today, You Look Beautiful is available in print, digital and audio.