Friday, December 22, 2023

The Women by Kristin Hannah

The missing. The forgotten. The brave… The women.

From master storyteller Kristin Hannah, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Nightingale and The Four Winds, comes the story of a turbulent, transformative era in America: the 1960s. The Women is that rarest of novels—at once an intimate portrait of a woman coming of age in a dangerous time and an epic tale of a nation divided by war and broken by politics, of a generation both fueled by dreams and lost on the battlefield.

“Women can be heroes, too.”

When twenty-year-old nursing student Frances “Frankie” McGrath hears these unexpected words, it is a revelation. Raised on idyllic Coronado Island and sheltered by her conservative parents, she has always prided herself on doing the right thing, being a good girl. But in 1965 the world is changing, and she suddenly imagines a different choice for her life. When her brother ships out to serve in Vietnam, she impulsively joins the Army Nurse Corps and follows his path.

As green and inexperienced as the men sent to Vietnam to fight, Frankie is overwhelmed by the chaos and destruction of war, as well as the unexpected trauma of coming home to a changed and politically divided America.

The Women is the story of one woman gone to war, but it shines a light on the story of all women who put themselves in harm’s way to help others. Women whose sacrifice and commitment to their country has all too often been forgotten. A novel of searing insight and lyric beauty, The Women is a profoundly emotional, richly drawn story with a memorable heroine whose extraordinary idealism and courage under fire define a generation.

Kindle Edition, 480 pages
Expected publication February 6, 2024
 by St. Martin's Press
5/5 stars

My love for Kristin Hannah's writing is what made me read The Women, Vietnam is not a place I visit in my HF reading. I am very glad I read this book, it was an eye-opener to say the least.

Frankie is a naïve 20-year-old raised with privilege, an impulsive decision sent her to nursing school and then she enlisted in the army. The author didn’t hold back on what transpired in the war, from the brutal conditions, the violence as well as the friendships that develop.

I was very thankful that the publisher gave me a digital arc along with the audio book. I found myself listening to the audio following along on my Kindle - it wasn't the type of story that I multitasked with but sat and absorbed it. The story was compelling and gripping.

I'll confess that there were times I have visions of Mash (the tv series) in my brain, but with more primitive conditions. It’s after Frankie comes home that the story becomes more heartbreaking and emotional. It’s during a time when PTSD was not really a thing and the fact that nurses were not considered Vietnam vets, making any type of help unavailable to her.

I’m also thankful also that my copy included the author notes with the authors inspiration, her numerous sources, and her strong desire to get this story out.

The Women is a well written strong historical story, it is a story of friendship, heartache and family along with addiction and longing. I think Kristin Hannah’s best book to date. One that will stay with me for a long while.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press and Macmillan Audio for advanced copies.  The Women releases on Feb 6, 2024.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Bad Move by Linwood Barclay

In the too-quiet town of Oakwood, only the lucky die of boredom... and new homeowner Zack Walker isn’t feeling lucky. Whoever said the burbs were boring will think twice after reading Linwood Barclay’s hilarious debut mystery, in which Dad learns the hard way that he doesn’t always know best.

Zack wouldn’t blame you for thinking he’s safety-obsessed. True, he masterminded a plot to trade his family’s exciting city lifestyle for one of suburban tranquillity. True, even after this strategic move, Zack still has issues with family members who forget their keys in the front door, leave their cars unlocked, or park their backpacks at the top of the stairs — where you could kill yourself tripping over them. Just ask his wife, Sarah, or his teenage kids, Paul and Angie, who endure their share of lectures.

Zack knows that he needs to chill out and assume the best for once — but we know what happens to those who assume.

When Zack realizes their two-faced developer sent a petty thief to fix their leaky shower, he starts fighting hard to ignore the fact that Oakwood isn’t the crime-free paradise he was hoping for. But his brief state of denial comes to an abrupt end when, during a walk by the creek, he stumbles across a dead body. Even more shocking, Zack actually knows who the victim is — and who might want him dead.

With a killer roaming around their neighborhood and Zack’s overactive imagination in overdrive, he’s sure things can’t get any worse. But then another local is murdered — and Zack’s paranoid tendencies get him implicated in the crime. While his wife is trying to remember why she married him in the first place, and his kids are considering whether it’s time to have him committed, Zack decides there’s only one thing he can do. To protect his family — and avoid being busted for a crime he didn’t commit — he’s going to have to override his safety-first instincts, tap into his delusions of machismo, and track down the killer himself.

Mass Market Paperback, 387 pages
Published April 26, 2005
 by Bantam
4/5 stars

Since Linwood Barclay has become an auto read for me I have gone back to the beginning with his debut, Bad Move, which is also the first book in a four part series. Oh my this is unlike any Barclay book I have ever read before.

Thoroughly entertaining, comical with mystery and mayhem Bad Move is told from the pov of an overly cautious husband/dad/disgruntled homeowner. When I say overly cautious I mean paranoid about safely and mindful how his family isn't all that concerned about safety.  Especially when Zack moves the family to a 'safe' neighborhood which as it turns out isn't all that safe.

It’s an impulsive move, to teach his wife a lesson, that sends Zach on a path of bad decision making. And what a path it is. Even though Zack is rather annoying and over the top I was in need of a palate cleanser in my reading life and this fit the bill nicely. It was a twisty read with a wide range of personalities and a twisty ending I didn't see coming at all.

Will I continue with this series?  Absolutely, Bad Guys is already included in my January vacation plans.

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

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Counting the Cost by Jill Duggar

For the first time, discover the unedited truth about the Duggars, the traditional Christian family that captivated the nation on TLC’s hit show 19 Kids and Counting. Jill Duggar and her husband Derick are finally ready to share their story, revealing the secrets, manipulation, and intimidation behind the show that remained hidden from their fans.

Jill and Derick knew a normal life wasn’t possible for them. As a star on the popular TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting, Jill grew up in front of viewers who were fascinated by her family’s way of life. She was the responsible, second daughter of Jim Bob and Michelle’s nineteen kids; always with a baby on her hip and happy to wear the modest ankle-length dresses with throat-high necklines. She didn’t protest the strict model of patriarchy that her family followed, which declares that men are superior, that women are expected to be wives and mothers and are discouraged from attaining a higher education, and that parental authority over their children continues well into adulthood, even once they are married.

But as Jill got older, married Derick, and they embarked on their own lives, the red flags became too obvious to ignore.

For as long as they could, Jill and Derick tried to be obedient family members—they weren’t willing to rock the boat. But now they’re raising a family of their own, and they’re done with the secrets. Thanks to time, tears, therapy, and blessings from God, they have the strength to share their journey. Theirs is a remarkable story of the power of the truth and is a moving example of how to find healing through honesty.

Audiobook, 7 hours 7 minutes
Published September 12, 2023 
by Simon Schuster Audio
4/5 stars

Although I don't usually read a lot of nonfiction, especially memoirs about celebrities, I found myself drawn to "Counting the Cost" by Jill Duggar. Jill is one of the older children from the TLC show "19 Kids and Counting." I decided to listen to the audiobook version, which was narrated by the author herself.

This book was truly eye-opening. Even though I had never watched the show, I was aware of it, especially in recent years due to the charges against Jill's older brother, Josh.

Hats off to Jill for bearing her soul and giving us a glimpse into what life was like when the whole world is pretty much watching your every move. I did not realize the role that Bill Gothard and IBLP played in their lives. I am familiar with him and could never get past him being an expert on marriage, and child rearing when he himself is a single man. But apparently lots of people do .

Jill Duggad, now married with a couple children, speaks of her growth and maturity as she begins to question the actions of her parents, which is mostly geared towards her father. His reactions are disheartening to hear, from the whole situation with Josh and how the finances are/were handled. For a book that comes in just under 300 pages with the audio around the seven hour mark it does pack a punch, and made for an interesting and enlightening read.

Both the ebook and audio were obtained through CloudLibrary.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

The Unmaking of June Farrow by Adrienne Young

A woman risks everything to end her family’s centuries-old curse, solve her mother’s disappearance, and find love in this mesmerizing novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Spells for Forgetting.

In the small mountain town of Jasper, North Carolina, June Farrow is waiting for fate to find her. The Farrow women are known for their thriving flower farm—and the mysterious curse that has plagued their family line. The whole town remembers the madness that led to Susanna Farrow’s disappearance, leaving June to be raised by her grandmother and haunted by rumors.

It’s been a year since June started seeing and hearing things that weren’t there. Faint wind chimes, a voice calling her name, and a mysterious door appearing out of nowhere—the signs of what June always knew was coming. But June is determined to end the curse once and for all, even if she must sacrifice finding love and having a family of her own.

After her grandmother’s death, June discovers a series of cryptic clues regarding her mother’s decades-old disappearance, except they only lead to more questions. But could the door she once assumed was a hallucination be the answer she’s been searching for? The next time it appears, June realizes she can touch it and walk past the threshold. And when she does, she embarks on a journey that will not only change both the past and the future, but also uncover the lingering mysteries of her small town and entangle her heart in an epic star-crossed love.

With The Unmaking of June Farrow, Adrienne Young delivers a brilliant novel of romance, mystery, and a touch of the impossible—a story you will never forget.

Hardover, 320 pages
Published October 17, 2023 
by Delacorte Press
4/5 stars

I went into this book with a little bit of trepidation, between the positive hype on social media along with the fact that the author's, previous book, Spells for Forgetting wasn’t a favourite of mine. In this her latest release, I am happy to say that it was a captivating read and ticked off many boxes of my favourite things bookish.

The Unmaking of June Farrow is a story of a 34 year-old woman that has just lost her grandmother. Her grandmother raised her since she was six months old after being abandoned by her mother. There are many things in this book that enjoyed - the mystery, the supernatural and some characters/relationships that were strong and well developed. The storyline itself was intricate, well thought out and executed, even though at times I had to stop and think.

All in all a very entertaining read where I found myself reading the last half in one day.

My copy was obtained through my November block of the month and part of my 2023 reading off my shelf challenge

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

The Mystery Guest by Nita Prose

When an acclaimed author dies at the Regency Grand Hotel, it's up to a fastidious maid to uncover the truth, no matter how dirty—in a standalone novel featuring Molly Gray, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Maid, a Good Morning America Book Club Pick.

Molly Gray is not like anyone else. With her flair for cleaning and proper etiquette, she has risen through the ranks of the glorious five-star Regency Grand Hotel to become the esteemed Head Maid. But just as her life reaches a pinnacle state of perfection, her world is turned upside down when J.D. Grimthorpe, the world-renowned mystery author, drops dead— very dead —on the hotel’s tea room floor.

When Detective Stark, Molly's old foe, investigates the author’s unexpected demise, it becomes clear that this death was murder most foul. Suspects abound, and everyone wants to who killed J.D. Grimthorpe? Was it Lily, the new Maid-in-Training? Or was it Serena, the author’s secretary? Could Mr. Preston, the hotel’s beloved doorman, be hiding something? And is Molly really as innocent as she seems?

As the case threatens the hotel’s pristine reputation, Molly knows she alone holds the key to unlocking the killer's identity. But that key is buried deep in her past—because long ago, she knew J.D. Grimthorpe. Molly begins to comb her memory for clues, revisiting her childhood and the mysterious Grimthorpe mansion where she and her dearly departed Gran once worked side by side. With the entire hotel under investigation, Molly must solve the mystery post-haste. If there's one thing Molly knows for sure, it's that dirty secrets don't stay buried forever...

Paperback, 304 pages
Published November 28, 2023
 by Penguin Canada
4.5/5 stars

Molly has returned, three years later, as head Maid at the Regency Grand Hotel.

This was a fun sequel to The Maid. It had some of Molly‘s background and her growing up years with Gran that were intricately woven into this story. Beginning with the murder of renowned author, J.D. Grimthrope and where Molly meets again Detective Stark. Was it natural causes or foul play? Thus begins this story

For me, it was Molly's story that took center stage with the murder being nicely in the background, but not too far back. With a more personal glimpse into her past, with some of the obstacles she faced and overcame along with what makes her tick made this an enjoyable and entertaining room. The ending was fitting with lots of loose ends tied up neatly.

 I would love to see Molly again in another story, but I would also like to see what else the author can come up with.

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

Sunday, December 10, 2023

This Spells Love by Kate Robb

A young woman tries to heal her heartbreak by casting a spell to erase her ex from her past, but she wakes up in an alternate reality where she’s lost more than she wished for in this witty, whimsical friends-to-lovers debut.

What if one little wish changed everything?

When Gemma gets dumped by her long-term boyfriend, she reacts the way any reasonable twenty-eight-year-old would: by getting drunk with her sister, kooky aunt, and best friend, Dax. After one too many margaritas, they decide to perform a love- cleansing spell, which promises to erase Gemma’s ex from her memory. They follow all the instructions, including a platonic kiss from Dax to seal the deal.

When Gemma wakes up, she realizes that this silly spell has worked. Not only does it seem that she never dated her ex, but the rest of her life is completely unrecognizable. The worst part: Dax has no idea who she is.

To reverse the spell and get back to her old life, Gemma must convince her once-best-friend-now-near-stranger to kiss her. But as she carries out her plans, she finds herself falling for him—hard. Soon, Gemma begins to wonder whether she even wants to go back to the way things once were. What if Dax was The One all along?

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published December 5, 2023
 by Dial Press Trade Paperback
3/5 stars

This Spells Love is a book that I wanted to love. It is by a Canadian author with a Canadian setting that I am very familiar with. The book started off great with a little bit of magic and a nice blend of characters, Gemma the recently jilted, her sister, and an aunt who dabbles in magically spells. Gemma wants to forget the four years she spent with Stuart. She wishes that they never happened and after one too many margaritas her wish comes true, but with repercussions she never anticipated. Now she has one month to correct it.

There were parts in the beginning that I really struggled with, but once I hit the 60% mark it picked up and I finished it in one sitting. I think my only problem was parts in the first half were a bit disjointed, too convenient and the Insta love didn’t feel authentic. I was hoping for more of a magical feel as the blurb hint to, but alas, the magic played a small part.

All in all This Spells Love was a cute and quick read that redeemed itself in the last half.

This book was part of my 2023 reading off my shelf challenge (#91). My copy was obtained through my November book of the month.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

The Armor of Light by Ken Follett

The long-awaited sequel to A Column of Fire, The Armor of Light, heralds a new dawn for Kingsbridge, England, where progress clashes with tradition, class struggles push into every part of society, and war in Europe engulfs the entire continent and beyond.

The Spinning Jenny was invented in 1770, and with that, a new era of manufacturing and industry changed lives everywhere within a generation. A world filled with unrest wrestles for control over this new world order: A mother’s husband is killed in a work accident due to negligence; a young woman fights to fund her school for impoverished children; a well-intentioned young man unexpectedly inherits a failing business; one man ruthlessly protects his wealth no matter the cost, all the while war cries are heard from France, as Napoleon sets forth a violent master plan to become emperor of the world. As institutions are challenged and toppled in unprecedented fashion, ripples of change ricochet through our characters’ lives as they are left to reckon with the future and a world they must rebuild from the ashes of war.

Over thirty years ago, Ken Follett published his most popular novel, The Pillars of the Earth. Now, with this electrifying addition to the Kingsbridge series we are plunged into the battlefield between compassion and greed, love and hate, progress and tradition. It is through each character that we are given a new perspective to the seismic shifts that shook the world in nineteenth-century Europe.

Hardcover, 737 pages
Published September 26, 2023
 by Viking
3.5/5 stars

This is part of The Pillar of the Earth Series, I am not sure which one. Ever since the prequel came out I see different numbers on it. But suffice to say, each book is separated by a couple hundred years so truly they can work as a standalone .

It's 1770 in the now familiar Kingsbridge when this story begins.  It spans the beginning of the industrial age, Napoleons revolution all the way through to 1815. I wanted to love this book as much as I did Pillars and it’s prequel, The Evening and the Morning, two books I thoroughly enjoyed. They captured the  start of Kingsbridge with the historical aspects and gave an interesting account of what life was like. The Armor of Light, while it was rich in history, I found it slow moving with characters that didn’t really appeal to me like in the other two. At times the detailed descriptions of various machines, i.e. the Spinning Jenny were a bit long-winded

With a little help of the audiobook, via CloudLibrary I was able to finish this almost 800 page brick. The same reader as Pillars again did a great job with the narration.

All in all in entertaining read, not my favorite, but still it broadened my horizon as to the industrial age and England’s war with France.

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

Friday, December 1, 2023

She's Not Sorry by Mary Kubica

An ICU nurse accidentally uncovers a patient’s frightening past in this chilling thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of Local Woman Missing and Just the Nicest Couple.

Meghan Michaels is trying to find balance between being a single mom to a teenage daughter and working as a full time nurse. While on duty at the hospital one day, a patient named Caitlin arrives in a coma with a traumatic brain injury, having jumped from a bridge and plunging over twenty feet to the train tracks below.

But when a witness comes forward with shocking details about the fall, it calls everything they know into question. Was Caitlin pushed and if so, by whom and why?

Meghan has always tried to stay emotionally detached from her patients, but this time, she mistakenly lets herself get too close until she’s deeply entangled in Caitlin’s and her family’s lives. Only when it’s too late, does she realize that she and her daughter could be the next victims.

Kindle Edition, 329 pages
Expected publication April 2, 2024
 by Park Row
3/5 stars

Local Woman Missing remains one of my all-time favorite Mary Kubica books. However, I have to admit that She's Not Sorry didn't quite live up to the hype for me.

Around 39% into the book, I seriously considered abandoning ship. The pace was painfully slow, and the writing failed to captivate me as much as I had hoped. Thankfully, things did start to pick up after the halfway point, but by then, I had already developed a dislike for the characters, and the plot holes were becoming increasingly irritating. And let's not forget about the twist – (because there is always a twist) while it felt somewhat familiar (reminded me of another book), the execution just didn't have the impact I was expecting.

She's Not Sorry isn't the kind of book that you can breeze through, thanks to its lengthy chapters. The ending felt rushed, predictable, and ultimately unsatisfying. I don't mean to sound too harsh, but it's safe to say that this isn't my favorite Mary Kubica book. However, I couldn't help but be curious about the ending, even if it was just to confirm my suspicions.

There are so many rave reviews,  please take mine with a grain of salt.

My thanks to Park Row Books for a digital ARC in exchange for honest review.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros

“The first year is when some of us lose our lives. The second year is when the rest of us lose our humanity.” —Xaden Riorson

Everyone expected Violet Sorrengail to die during her first year at Basgiath War College—Violet included. But Threshing was only the first impossible test meant to weed out the weak-willed, the unworthy, and the unlucky.

Now the real training begins, and Violet’s already wondering how she’ll get through. It’s not just that it’s grueling and maliciously brutal, or even that it’s designed to stretch the riders’ capacity for pain beyond endurance. It’s the new vice commandant, who’s made it his personal mission to teach Violet exactly how powerless she is–unless she betrays the man she loves.

Although Violet’s body might be weaker and frailer than everyone else’s, she still has her wits—and a will of iron. And leadership is forgetting the most important lesson Basgiath has taught her: Dragon riders make their own rules.

But a determination to survive won’t be enough this year.

Because Violet knows the real secret hidden for centuries at Basgiath War College—and nothing, not even dragon fire, may be enough to save them in the end.

Hardcover, 623 pages
Published November 7, 2023
 by Entangled: Red Tower Books
3/5 stars

Please be advised, an unpopular opinion lies ahead.

I confess, I didn't love this book as much as I did Fourth Wing. In fact, I barely liked it. The only reason I trudged through this colossal tome was because I was genuinely curious about the ending. So, let's start with the ending. Yes, it did deliver an unexpected twist. Will it be enough to keep me invested in this series? Only time will tell.

Now, why didn't this book earn a five-star rating from me? Well, for starters, I found it to be slow-moving and often found myself bored, struggling to pick it up. Thankfully, the audio version was available through CloudLibrary, which proved to be a tremendous help.

I couldn't help but notice that Violet's character seemed to regress in maturity with her constant bickering with Xaden and her repeated displays of distrust. On the other hand, I yearned for more of Andarna, a snarky adolescent dragon with an attitude, I think it would have added a great deal to the story.

Additionally, I found the writing to be choppy, filled with excessive filler content. It would have been wonderful to have more backstory for the supporting cast, especially considering there are three more books to come in this series.

While there were a couple of twists, one of which I anticipated, so there was no surprise there, I couldn't help but wonder if the rush to publish this book so soon after Fourth Wing affected its quality, resulting in repetitive elements.

In conclusion, this book fell short of my expectations and the ensuing hype.

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

Thursday, November 23, 2023

The Porcelain Maker by Sarah Freethy

Two lovers caught at the crossroads of history.
A daughter's search for the truth.

Germany, 1929: Under the dazzling lights of Berlin, two people are drawn together: Max, a Jewish architect, and Bettina, a beautiful and celebrated German avant-garde artist. But their bright beginning is soon dimmed by the rising threat of Nazism. In time, Max is arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Dachau where only his talent at making exquisite porcelain figures stands between him and death. Everything Bettina has done up until now has been meticulously planned to try to save Max. She would rather die than live another moment without him—but can one moment last a lifetime?

America, 1993. Bettina’s daughter Clara embarks on a journey to trace her roots and discover the identity of her father, a secret her mother has kept from her for reasons she’s never understood. As Clara starts piecing the puzzle together, we are transported back in time, where life is lived on a razor’s edge, and deception and death lurk around every corner.

Kindle Edition, 416 pages
Expected publication November 7, 2023
by St. Martin's Press
Audiobook, 11 hours 12 minutes
by Macmillain Audio
4/5 stars

The Porcelain Maker is a dual time period story that revolves around an unknown part of WW2 history that was new for this reader.  I was lucky to get both the digital arc in audio and kindle format - I love being a hybrid reader.  Both worked nicely, the reader for the audio was stellar bringing this story to life.

The past story begins in 1929 giving the history of Bertie and Max's relationship and what transpired until they meet again in Dachau concentrate camp.  In Dachau there is a porcelain factory where this  story gets its inspiration.

Jump ahead to 1993 as Bertie's daughter seeks to trace her roots and find out who her father really is.

The Porcelain Marker is an intriguing story that was well written, mysterious and heart breaking, given the time period how could it be anything but.  Definitely a good fit for those HF readers who like something different.

I love the author notes, I miss them especially in a story like this.  It would have been great to know the author's inspiration and what was fact vs fiction.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press and Macmillain Audio for advanced copies in exchange for a honest review.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Murder Uncorked by Maddie Day

Raise a glass to Cece Barton, a widowed single mom and recent L.A. transplant to California wine country, who suddenly finds herself at the center of a murder investigation in this sparkling new mystery series from Agatha Award–winning and national bestselling author Maddie Day.

As the manager of Vino y Vida Wine Bar in Colinas, Cecelia “Cece” Barton’s first Alexander Valley harvest is a whirlwind of activity. Her twin sister, Allie Halstead, who owns a nearby Victorian bed & breakfast, is accustomed to the hustle and bustle of peak tourist season. But Cece barely has a moment to enjoy her new home in between worrying about her estranged college-age daughter, juggling her responsibilities at the bar, and navigating the sticky politics of the local wine association. Just when it seems things can’t grow any more intense, Colinas is rocked by a murder within the wine community . . . and Cece is identified as a possible suspect!

With her reputation and her livelihood on the line—and the Sonoma County deputy sheriff breathing down her neck—Cece has no choice but to open up her own murder investigation. Tensions are already high in the valley, as a massive wildfire creeps toward Colinas, threatening homes, vineyards, and the vital tourist trade. And now, with a murderer on the loose, and Cece’s sleuthing exposing the valley’s bitterest old rivalries and secret new alliances, Colinas feels ready to pop! But with Allie’s help, Cece is determined to catch the killer and clear her name before everything she’s worked so hard for goes up in flames . .

Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 24, 2023
 by ‎ Kensington Cozies
3.5/5 stars

This is my first time reading a Maddie Day book. While cozy mysteries are really not ones that I divulge into that often I was intrigued by the idea of a new series and a new to me author. Plus the MC  is the manager of wine bar, how could one go wrong with that.

CeCe Barton has moved to the wine country to be closer to her twin sister, and to start a new job as manager of a wine bar in Sonoma county. After witnessing an altercation in her bar, one of the men involved has been murdered, and CeCe is now one of the suspects

As she sets out to find out what happen her journey reveals some of the secrets in this town. This is a fun and quick read. Getting to know CeCe and her sister along with this town was a great setting. Also the start of a new series called Barton mystery.  Though this is the beginning there were times throughout this read that I felt I was missing something in terms of things that happened in her past, they made me feel I should know what was going on and that this was not book one

All in all a fun read that will appeal to those that love cozy mysteries. 

My thanks to Kensington Cozies for a print arc in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, November 17, 2023

By the Light of Fireflies by Jenni L. Walsh

Sybil Ludington believes in the legend of fireflies—they appear when you need them most. But it's not until her family is thrust into the dangers of the Revolutionary War, and into George Washington's spy ring, that Sybil experiences firefly magic for herself—guiding her through the darkness, empowering her to figure out who she's supposed to be and how strong she really is—as she delivers her imperative message and warns against a British attack.

is the captivating tale of a young girl's journey as a daughter, a sister, a friend, a spy, and eventually a war hero, completing a midnight ride that cements her place in history as the "female Paul Revere."

Hardcover, 188 pages
Published November 2, 2021 
by Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
4/5 stars

Jenni L. Walsh has returned again with another middle grade  historical fiction story. I love it when authors take little known historical tidbits and showcases them. Those heroes of the past that did not get the recognition they deserved.

This is a story about Sybil Ludington and her midnight horse ride to warn of impending attacks from loyalist upon her family.

This was a fun read, as it not only told the story of life on a farm, but the time period as well and the dangers that were a foot during the revolutionary war. I love the inclusion of fireflies and that cover!

This would make a great addition in classrooms to learn of a forgotten hero that did a very heroic deed.

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Molly's Letter by Jennifer Donnelly

New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jennifer Donnelly returns to the unforgettable world of her beloved first novel, The Tea Rose . 

It’s the summer of 1891, New York City, in the early days of Fiona Finnegan’s marriage to Nicholas Soames. Though their marriage is an unconventional one and the wounds of the past are not fully healed, the two best friends are happy together, consumed with chasing their dreams and building a better life for themselves and their loved ones. 

When Fiona senses a quiet love blossoming between her widowed uncle, Michael Finnegan, and his neighbor, Mary Munro, she’s thrilled and hopes that Michael will soon propose to Mary. 

But one night, at a family supper, a surprise announcement tears these hopes asunder. 

Will Mary be lost to a determined suitor? Or will Fiona and Nick find a way to unite two souls who belong together but are held apart by grief, pride, and too many words left unspoken?

 Molly’s Letter is a love letter to family, friends, and the bonds that outlast loss, pain, and sometimes, even life itself. 

Molly’s Letter is the first in a series of novella-length stories written straight from the heart by Jennifer Donnelly for readers of her Tea Rose saga. Each one is inspired by – and set within – the epic world of The Tea Rose , The Winter Rose, and The Wild Rose .

Paperback, 128 pages
Published September 23, 2023
 by Wild Rumpus, LLC
4/5 stars

I started reading Jennifer Donnelly with her YA books and progressed to The Tea Rose Saga. All the books that I’ve read are historical and some of my favorites

Molly's Letter is set in the world of The Tea Rose saga, taking place in 1891. Molly is the recently departed wife of Fiona‘s uncle Michael, she leaves behind a young daughter also. This is a story of family and friends, love and loss, and new beginning. It’s a story of the past reaching through grief and heartache to give one’s heart another chance.

Well this was a quick read, coming in at 119 pages, it packs a punch and has me yearning to get back and possibly do a reread of Fiona’s story.

This is the first book in a series of novella for readers of the saga, I can’t wait to see what comes next.

My thanks to the author, Jennifer Donnelly, for gifting me with a copy of this book, my opinions are entirely my own.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Holly by Stephen King

Holly Gibney, one of Stephen King’s most compelling and ingeniously resourceful characters, returns in this thrilling novel to solve the gruesome truth behind multiple disappearances in a midwestern town.

“Sometimes the universe throws you a rope.” — BILL HODGES

Stephen King’s Holly marks the triumphant return of beloved King character Holly Gibney. Readers have witnessed Holly’s gradual transformation from a shy (but also brave and ethical) recluse in Mr. Mercedes to Bill Hodges’s partner in Finders Keepers to a full-fledged, smart, and occasionally tough private detective in The Outsider. In King’s new novel, Holly is on her own, and up against a pair of unimaginably depraved and brilliantly disguised adversaries.

When Penny Dahl calls the Finders Keepers detective agency hoping for help locating her missing daughter, Holly is reluctant to accept the case. Her partner, Pete, has Covid. Her (very complicated) mother has just died. And Holly is meant to be on leave. But something in Penny Dahl’s desperate voice makes it impossible for Holly to turn her down.

Mere blocks from where Bonnie Dahl disappeared live Professors Rodney and Emily Harris. They are the picture of bourgeois respectability: married octogenarians, devoted to each other, and semi-retired lifelong academics. But they are harboring an unholy secret in the basement of their well-kept, book-lined home, one that may be related to Bonnie’s disappearance. And it will prove nearly impossible to discover what they are up to: they are savvy, they are patient, and they are ruthless.

Holly must summon all her formidable talents to outthink and outmaneuver the shockingly twisted professors in this chilling new masterwork from Stephen King.

Hardcover, 449 pages
Published September 5, 2023
 by Scribner
4/5 stars

Stephen King is a hit or miss author for me. Some of his earliest works I really enjoyed, Misery, Pet Cemetery, Cujo, and Carrie, along with his Mr. Mercedes series. Some of his later works just didn’t float my boat. When Holly was released, I really did not pay much attention to it, but once I heard that Holly stood for Holly Gibney from the Mr. Mercedes series, I immediately ran out and bought the book. If you’ve read this series, then you know what I’m talking about, Holly was one of my favourite characters and in this book she is again joined with sidekicks, Jerome, Barbara, and Pete.

Holly is a book that you really need to pay attention to in terms of timeline. Well part of it is current it does jump back-and-forth within the same year, personally I feel it is a better read than trying to keep up in the audio version.

People disappear over the years with no explanation or closure. When a recent disappearance has a mother searching for her daughter, she enlists the help of Holly Gibney to find out what happened. What follows is a twisted story that was intricately woven and pieced together. It was addicting and entertaining to watch all these puzzle pieces fit together. I really enjoyed this book though  some of the subject matter is disturbing, which isn’t surprising given Stephen King‘s reputation.

Coming in at about 450 pages, it could have been shorter if King eased up on his political views, pandemic opinions, in terms of vaccinations/masks, which can be a turn off no matter what side of the fence you sit on. For that reason I am giving this a four out of five just because over that big span of pages I was tired of some of the repetition.

If you haven’t read the Mr. Mercedes series you will do fine with this as a standalone. However, I highly recommend going back and reading it because it is a very good series and gives you more of a background into Holly’s life her family and upbringing, which does play a part in the story paragraph

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

Thursday, October 26, 2023

All’s Fair in Love and Christmas by Sarah Monzon

Two workplace rivals. One festive competition. And a romance that upends it all.

Every December two things are guaranteed for graphic designer Mackenzie Graham--Christmas celebrations and the annual promotion at her workplace. Those two things are by no means mutually exclusive. In fact, the better an employee is at harnessing the Christmas spirit, the more likely they'll win the new job. With her social anxiety, Mackenzie never thought she'd be a contender in her company's holiday competition, so how exactly has she found herself dueling her workplace crush with wrapping paper tubes and using tinsel as her weapon of choice for a much-needed raise?

Jeremy Fletcher's life is meticulously planned out, including how to win this year's promotion at work. Not only will the new position fulfill some of his career goals, but as a single guardian to his twin niece and nephew, he needs the salary increase to support his family. Jeremy has barely noticed Mackenzie Graham around the office, but now that she's his rival, he can't stop thinking about her. Her quirkiness intrigues him, and he's afraid that if he can't get his head on straight, the promotion isn't the only thing he'll end up losing to Mackenzie.

"Inspirational rom-com readers are going to love this one." --BETHANY TURNER, bestselling author of The Do-Over

Papaerback, 256 pages
Published September 5, 2023 
by Bethany House Publishers
4/5 stars

This was my first time reading a Sarah Monzon. It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve added Christmas stories to my fall reading schedule. This year I am aiming for one a month for rest of the year.

All's Fair in Love and Christmas is a story about a young woman named McKenzie. She suffers from social anxiety. Add Jeremy who is the opposite has every intention of winning a promotion that both are vying for.

This was a fun read and great for getting into the Christmas spirit. Touching on various Christmas traditions, along with some humor and some romance this story also centered around faith.

Like I said, this is a new author for me I enjoyed her writing style, how they characters were authentic, both had issues that were real and relatable that made this story all the more endearing.

I am a hard cell when it comes to rom/com in general but this Christmas rom/com ticked off all the boxes for me with the added dimension of faith playing a central part. Definitely an author I will be on the lookout for future reads.

My thanks to Graf-Martin Communications for a print copy in exchange for a honest review.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Keeper of the Light by Diane Chamberlain

To her husband, Annie O'Neill is the perfect wife and mother. To her rival, she is an obsession.

Dr. Olivia Simon is on duty in the emergency room of North Carolina's Outer Banks Hospital when a gunshot victim is brought in. Midway through the desperate effort to save the young woman's life, Olivia realizes who she is—Annie O'Neill. The woman Olivia's husband, Paul, is in love with.

 When Annie dies on the operating table, she leaves behind three other victims. Alec O'Neill, who thought he had the perfect marriage. Paul, whose fixation on Annie is unshakeable. And Olivia, who is desperate to understand the woman who destroyed her marriage. 

Now they must struggle with the unanswered questions about who Annie really was. And the secrets she kept hidden so well. 

‘Fans of Jodi Picoult will delight in this finely tuned family drama, with beautifully drawn characters and a string of twists that will keep you guessing right up to the end.' – Stylist

Kindle Edition, 508 pages
First published March 1, 1992
Audiobook,  14 hours, 21 minutes
Released Sept 9, 2014
by Tantor Audio
3/5 stars

I have been a Diane Chamberlain fan since reading The Midwife's Confession way back in 2012 and have managed to read most new releases since. The Keeper of the Lighthouse was originally published way back in 1992 and the 1st in a trilogy of the same name.

I wish I could say that I loved this book as much as I have her previous books, but sadly there were just some things that didn’t sit well for me. I should say that this was an audio read coming at over 14 hours and the print copy is 512 pages.  For me that’s a big book and I felt it was just way too long.  I'll take into account the start of a series usually lays some ground work for the rest of the series.  Suffice to say I’m glad I went the audio route.

lt was a twisty triangle with multiple sides that started off good but as the story unfolded there were parts that got off to a bit of a rocky start for me, it wasn’t until after the first third that some of the twists started happening.  The story itself was well written, the different emotions from a failed marriage to death of a spouse was well done but....I can't quite put my finger on what felt off for me but this wasn't a favorite Chamberlain read.  I will continue with the series, Kiss River is next - it's an old NG arc that fell through the cracks.

My audiobook was obtained through Scribd.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Lady Tan's Circle of Women by Lisa See

The latest historical novel from bestselling author Lisa See, inspired by the true story of a woman physician from 15th-century China.

According to Confucius, "an educated woman is a worthless woman," but Tan Yunxian—born into an elite family, yet haunted by death, separations, and loneliness—is being raised by her grandparents to be of use. Her grandmother is one of only a handful of female doctors in China, and she teaches Yunxian the pillars of Chinese medicine, the Four Examinations—looking, listening, touching, and asking—something a man can never do with a female patient.

From a young age, Yunxian learns about women's illnesses, many of which relate to childbearing, alongside a young midwife-in-training, Meiling. The two girls find fast friendship and a mutual purpose—despite the prohibition that a doctor should never touch blood while a midwife comes in frequent contact with it—and they vow to be forever friends, sharing in each other's joys and struggles. No mud, no lotus, they tell themselves: from adversity beauty can bloom.

But when Yunxian is sent into an arranged marriage, her mother-in-law forbids her from seeing Meiling and from helping the women and girls in the household. Yunxian is to act like a proper wife—embroider bound-foot slippers, pluck instruments, recite poetry, give birth to sons, and stay forever within the walls of the family compound, the Garden of Fragrant Delights.

How might a woman like Yunxian break free of these traditions, go on to treat women and girls from every level of society, and lead a life of such importance that many of her remedies are still used five centuries later? How might the power of friendship support or complicate these efforts? Lady Tan's Circle of Women is a captivating story of women helping other women. It is also a triumphant reimagining of the life of a woman who was remarkable in the Ming dynasty and would be considered remarkable today.

Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 6, 2023
 by Simon & Schuster
3.5/5 stars

This is only my third Lisa See book, but already she is synonymous with rich historical stories and women ahead of their time, as well as taking place in China. Such is the case again here with Lady Tan's Circle of Women.

Set in the 1500s this is the story of a young woman with a strong desire and talent to become a doctor. But given the timeframe, we already know that is something that is not just frowned upon but rare. What follows is Tan's life as a wife, mother, daughter in law and friend to many.  

Told from the POV of Yunxian, she recalls the past while telling her story.  It was a learning experience as the Chinese culture plays out in a male dominated world.  See's attention to detail has me trying hard to forget some things I learned - ie feet binding being one example.  This story itself showed a woman ahead of her time, it was well written with Lisa See's usual flair for picking themes revolting around history.  There was family dynamics, traditions with a touch of mystery.  An entertaining read.

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

Monday, October 16, 2023

A Twisted Love Story by Samantha Downing

From the bestselling author of My Lovely Wife comes a reckless, delicious thriller about a young couple that gives a whole new meaning to the dangers of modern dating.

Wes and Ivy are madly in love. They've never felt anything like it. It's the kind of romance people write stories about.

But what kind of story?

Because when it's good, it's great. Flowers. Grand gestures. Deep meaningful conversations where the whole world disappears.

When it's bad, it's really bad. Vengeful fights. Damaged property. Arrest warrants.

But their vicious cycle of catastrophic breakups and head-over-heels reconnections needs to end fast. Because suddenly, Wes and Ivy have a common enemy--and she's a detective.

There's something Wes and Ivy never talk about--in good times or bad. The night of their worst breakup, when one of them took things too far, and someone ended up dead.

If they can stick together, they can survive anything--even the tightening net of a police investigation.

Because one more breakup might just be their last…

Hardcover, 390 pages
Published July 18, 2023
 by Berkley
4/5 stars

Ever since reading He Started It, Samantha Downing has become one of my go to authors. She writes books that are kind of zany with a good mystery/suspense theme.  Judging by the title of this her latest, A Twisted Love Story, I was anxious to dive in.

West and Ivy are apparently madly in love, but given their actions throughout this book, one really has to question that. It actually reminded me of a scene from Mr. and Mrs. Smith as they tried to kill each other off. But there’s more to the story than meet the eye.

Released this past July I am so surprised at it’s rating on Goodreads, I found this to be a highly entertaining and addictive read. No matter how much I didn’t like each of the characters I was sucked right in. The cat and mouse game through the years showed how their relationship worked, to the onlooker one can just shake their heads and wonder why they are even together. Love Story is a book about a toxic relationship that borders on the side of abusive and unbelievable. If you read the blurb above and let your imagination go to the unthinkable, that is what this is. As for the ending, it was fitting, but not as satisfying as I had hoped, you will have to read the book to see why.

My copy was obtained through my public library.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Sleeping Dogs Lie by Samantha Downing

From the internationally best-selling author of My Lovely Wife and He Started It comes a twisted, entertaining novella about a dog walker swept into a criminal investigation when her client winds up dead.

Shelby works as a dog walker in Northern California, and she’s just finished up her biweekly trip to the park with a husky named Pluto. When she brings him back to his house, she finds his owner—Todd Burke, a well-known local businessman and founder of an organic supplements company—dead on the bathroom floor. As a detective interviews Shelby, a medical examiner inspects the body, and more cops search Todd’s home, it becomes clear that the victim’s life was less picture-perfect than his clean-cut persona might lead you to believe.

Kobo Edition
Published March 15, 2022
 by Berkley
4/5 stars

This is a novella written by one of my favourite authors, Samantha Downing.  For awhile it was only available on Audible, but recently it is available for download on kindle/kobo. What I love about Samantha Downing is that she doesn’t shy away from unique stories with twists, a bit of comedy and of course, always mayhem.

Sleeping Dogs Lie is the story of dogwalker Shelby who discovers a body after taking Pluto, a husky for his walk. Along with Shelby is a detective who is trying to solve this case.

This was a fun, well written, and addicting read. I was caught up in the criminal investigation myself and love the direction this story took. It was comical at times, deceptive and kept me on my toes. The ending...ya that was good.

The audio book comes in just over two hours. Well worth the listen or read

My digital copy was obtained through CloudLibrary

Friday, October 13, 2023

The Connellys of County Down by Tracey Lange

When Tara Connelly is released from prison after serving eighteen months on a drug charge, she knows rebuilding her life at thirty years old won’t be easy. With no money and no prospects, she returns home to live with her siblings, who are both busy with their own problems. Her brother, a single dad, struggles with the ongoing effects of a brain injury he sustained years ago, and her sister’s fragile facade of calm and order is cracking under the burden of big secrets. Life becomes even more complicated when the cop who put her in prison keeps showing up unannounced, leaving Tara to wonder what he wants from her now.

While she works to build a new career and hold her family together, Tara finds a chance at love in a most unlikely place. But when the Connellys’ secrets start to unravel and threaten her future, they all must face their worst fears and come clean, or risk losing each other forever.

The Connellys of County Down is a moving novel about testing the bounds of love and loyalty. It explores the possibility of beginning our lives anew, and reveals the pitfalls of shielding each other from the bitter truth.

Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 1, 2023
 by Celadon Books
4/5 stars

This was my July Book of the Month pick.

Tara Connlley has been released from prison after serving 18 months on a drug charge and is ready to begin her life anew. Problem is no one wants to hire someone with a prison record especially when it's a drug charge. Forced to move in with her siblings creates a whole new set of issues.

The Connelly's of County Down is a story that is ultimately about family, about secrets, and the effect those secrets have on others. This was nice fast paced read, it was a moving story that told of family loyalty and the pitfalls of hiding the truth from those you love. As you can read from the blurb above there is a lot going on within the 288 pages.  It is well written with some twists and turns, some suspense, and even a touch of romance,  

I’m glad I picked this book. I will definitely look out for more by this author.

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

The Legacy of Longdale Manor by Carrie Turansky

In 2012, art historian Gwen Monroe travels to England's Lake District to appraise the paintings and antiques of an old family friend, hoping to prove herself to her prestigious grandfather. While at Longdale Manor, she becomes acquainted with David Bradley--the owner's handsome grandson--who is desperate to save the crumbling estate by turning it into a bed-and-breakfast. When Gwen stumbles upon a one-hundred-year-old journal and an intricately carved shepherd's staff similar to one in a photo of her parents, she uncovers a connection to the father she never knew.

In 1912, after her father's death, Charlotte Harper uncovers a painful family secret she can only confess to her journal. She and her family travel to the Lake District to stay on a sheep farm, hoping eventually to find a home with Charlotte's grandfather at Longdale Manor, but old wounds and bitter regrets make it a difficult challenge. As Charlotte grows closer to shepherd Ian Storey and rebuilds her shattered faith, she must decide whether she will ever trust in love again.

Two women a century apart are taken on a journey to healing, faith, and forgiveness in this heartfelt dual-time Edwardian romance from bestselling author Carrie Turansky.

Paperback, 368 pages
Published September 26, 2023 
by Bethany House Publishers
4/5 stars

I will confess that it was the cover that drew me to this book, along with the secret diary and dual time period story. Both are a couple of my favourite reads.

Taking place first in 2012 as antiques appraiser Gwen travels to Longdale Manor.  It's there that she finds a 100 year old journal, which gives clues that point to a connection to her own past. In 1912 Charlotte begins writing in this journal and tells of her family's painful secrets.

The Legacy of Longdale Manor is a story of two women, a century apart with similar journeys. Each time period has its own secrets, faith journeys, and mystery, as well as some romance. This is my first time reading a Carrie Turansky novel. It’s a well written story about shattered faith and reconciliation, challenges, as well as healing and forgiveness. It was an entertaining, feel good read. I am glad that I took the chance on a new author and will definitely be on the lookout for more of her works.

My thanks to Graf-Martin Communication for a print copy in exchange for a honest review.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Nobel Prize–winning This classic of 20th-century literature chronicles the spiritual evolution of a man living in India at the time of the Buddha—a tale that has inspired generations of readers

Here is a fresh translation of the classic Herman Hesse novel, from Sherab Chödzin Kohn—a gifted translator and longtime student of Buddhism and Eastern philosophy. Kohn invites readers along Siddhartha’s spiritual journey—experiencing his highs and lows, loves and disappointments along the way. We first meet Siddhartha as a privileged brahmin’s son. Handsome, well-loved, and growing increasingly dissatisfied with the life expected of him, he then sets out on his journey, not realizing that he is fulfilling the prophesies proclaimed at his birth. Siddhartha blends in with the world, showing the reader the beauty and intricacies of the mind, nature, and his experiences on the path to enlightenment.

Sherab Chödzin Kohn’s flowing, poetic translation conveys the philosophical and spiritual nuances of Hesse’s text, paying special attention to the qualities of meditative experience. Also included is an extensive introduction by Paul W. Morris that discusses the impact Siddhartha has had on American culture.

Paperback, 144 pages
First published January 1, 1922
Published September 19, 2000 
by Shambhala
3/5 stars

This was our family book club pick over the summer.  It was a short interesting read.  Not usually my type of read but I went with the flow.

I guess this is more a spotlight then a review.  Lots of reviews on Goodreads

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

Thursday, October 5, 2023

What We Kept to Ourselves: A Novel Nancy Jooyoun Kim

The New York Times bestselling author of the Reese’s Book Club pick The Last Story of Mina Lee returns with a timely and surprising new novel about a family’s search for answers following the disappearance of their mother.

1999: The Kim family is struggling to move on after their mother, Sunny, vanished a year ago. Sixty-one-year-old John Kim feels more isolated from his grown children, Anastasia and Ronald, than ever before. But one evening, their fragile lives are further upended when John finds the body of a stranger in the backyard, carrying a letter to Sunny, leaving the family with more questions than ever about the stranger’s history and possible connections to their mother.

1977: Sunny is pregnant and has just moved to Los Angeles from Korea with her aloof and often-absent husband. America is not turning out the way she had dreamed it to be, and the loneliness and isolation are broken only by a fateful encounter at a bus stop. The unexpected connection spans the decades and echoes into the family’s lives in the present as they uncover devastating secrets that put not only everything they thought they knew about their mother but their very lives at risk.

Both a riveting page-turner and moving family story, What We Kept to Ourselves masterfully explores the consequences of secrets between parents and children, hus­bands and wives. It is the story of one unforgettable family’s search for home when all seems lost, and a powerful meditation on identity, migration, and what it means to dream in America.

Paperback, 416 pages
Expected publication October 10, 2023
 by Atria Books
4.5/5 stars

This is my first time reading a Nancy Jooyoun Kim book. Thanks to Simon & Schuster CA for a print ARC.

Beginning in 1999 Koreatown,  Los Angeles at the home of the Kim family. There is a mama, papa, brother and sister, the all-American family, they are anything but. The story weaves back-and-forth in time as the young married couple begins a new life in America 20 years prior. This is the story of their life, struggles, all the while working hard and trying to make this new country feel like a home. Told from a number of different POVs got into the heart of this family.

This was a well written, emotional read. There are many layers that keep the story going.  Aside from a family saga, there is mystery, a bit of suspense, but ultimately it is about those searching for themselves, loneliness, and the struggles facing immigrants in a new country. At times I felt maybe it was a bit too long but I can't really think of what to omit.  Definitely a book I recommend.

What We Kept to Ourselves releases on Oct 10, a book I highly recommend.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

A New Season by Terry Fallis

From beloved and bestselling author Terry Fallis comes a novel unlike any of his others. A thoughtful exploration of aging, loss, family, friendship, and love, all with his trademark humour and heart. 

Jack McMaster seemingly has it all. A beautiful house, a loving son of many talents (including cooking, which is great news for Jack, if not for his waistline), even a special bond with his buddies in his ball hockey league. But he's also learning to live with loss, leaving a gaping hole in his life--a life that will never be the same as before. Jack passes his days knowing he has the support of his family and his friends, but he can't shake the feeling that his life has gone gray, and that time is slipping by so quickly. 

Then, a short and shocking video from an unexpected source gives him the gumption to make a change and maybe even haul himself out of his melancholia. Inspired by his lifelong fascination with 1920s Paris, Jack finally visits the City of Light, following in the footsteps of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, and wandering the Left Bank.

 Slowly, the colour seeps back into his life, aided by a chance encounter in a café that leads Jack into the art world, and a Paris mystery nearly a century old. Full of sincerity and warmth, A New Season shows us all that sometimes, making a change in your life can save your life.

Paperback, 352 pages
Published August 29, 2023
by McClelland & Stewart
4/5 stars

  A New Season takes place after the pandemic as Jack is still coming to terms with his wife's passing in the early days of covid.  It's like life has stood still the past 3 years or so.  But it isn't until his son shows Jack something that he takes that step, a giant step that is and sets off for Paris.  A trip that has always been in the plans but never fulfilled.

I immediately got Fredrik Bachman vibes with the humor and banter that takes place in the mist of heartache. A New Season is a story of grief, friendship and new beginnings.  It was engaging and the fact Toronto is one of the settings made it all the more endearing. The middle might have dragged a little but I loved where this book went and the story it told.  Friendship plays such a big part which shows the importance of true friends during the good and bad times.

This was my first Terry Fallis book, I had the privilege of attending an event with the release of this book.  He did a great presentation, talking about his inspirations and even how parts are reflected in his own life.  Definitely an author I recommend.

This book was part of my 2023 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge #73

Monday, October 2, 2023

You Make It Feel Like Christmas by Toni Shiloh

Starr Lewis reluctantly returns home for the holidays jobless, single, and not at all prepared to be dragged into her sister's wedding activities--or to witness her sister's marriage to Starr's ex-boyfriend on Christmas Eve. But when her brother's charming best friend, Waylon Emmerson, attends their family Thanksgiving, Starr begins to believe that maybe coming home isn't so bad.

As Starr endures wedding preparations, she takes comfort in Waylon's presence and finds the perfect distraction in helping him keep his late mother's Christmas shop afloat. As the spark between them grows, Starr must decide what she wants out of life--to go back to New York City or to stay and pursue a new dream.

A joyous, heartwarming, and magical holiday romance from Christy Award-winning author Toni Shiloh that will keep you cozy under the twinkling Christmas lights.

Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 5, 2023
by Bethany House Publishers
3.5/5 stars

This was a fun, cozy Christmas read.  Given the size it could even be classified as a novella.  It is also my first time reading a Toni Shiloh book.

You Make It Feel Like Christmas is a story about family and all the drama that goes with it.  Given the size (of book) it would usually be hard to garner the depth to really and truly know the characters and plot.  But I did here.  Starr is unemployed and worried about the future.  Waylon has a job but it isn't going so well. Each has some baggage to deal with.  The perfect match, right?  

This is all things Christmas, aside from the fact it takes place between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Starr's siblings have names like Eve, Noel, Gaby (Gabriel) and Angel.  I can just envision that setting.

Definitely a Hallmark story, full of romance where faith plays a big part.

My thanks to Graf-Martin Communication for a print copy in exchange for honest review.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Fortune by Ellen Won Steil

In this explosive novel about a decades-old mystery, shocking revelations of the past and the secrets of three women will be spilled when a small Midwest town announces a DNA lottery.

One drop of blood for a chance at a multimillion-dollar windfall. Is it a philanthropic gesture from a billionaire widow? Some suspect a darker motive behind the DNA lottery—one tied to the eighteen-year-old mystery of an infant’s unidentified remains that mars the history of idyllic Rosemary Hills, Iowa. Right after the blood lottery is announced, three local women fall under suspicion of knowing something about that night, and their carefully kept secrets threaten to spill out too.

Cleo is a divorced single mom forced to return to her hometown and accept a strange job reading to an invalid recluse; Jemma is a controversial state senator whose reelection campaign and teenage daughter have her on edge; and Alex, a divorce attorney, copes with a crumbling marriage of her own and the suffocating presence of a cold, overbearing mother.

Soon, unimaginable revelations of the past will collide with the present—and not just for Cleo, Jemma, and Alex. In this seemingly ordinary community, they aren’t the only ones with long-buried secrets.

Paperback, 347 pages
Expected publication
October 1, 2023
 by Lake Union Publishing
3.5/5 stars

Releasing in a couple days, this debut author has penned an interesting idea for a book. Mail in DNA testing and all these ancestry family tree searches are still a thing.  

In Fortune there are many layers to this story and while it started out with somewhat of a bang it slowed down for me with the many subplots.  With the introduction of each of these 3 women and those in their lives it was hard at times to keep everyone straight.  I did mange but read at a slower pace then usual. As each of these women slowly go back in time to what happened 18 years ago it revealed a story that I did not expect.

Fortune is a story of secrets, friendship and family.  How the past always catching up with you eventually.  The ending was not one I expected but it was one that worked and concluded this book nicely.

My thanks to Lake Union for a print arc in exchange for a honest review.    

Thursday, September 28, 2023

The Intern by Michele Campbell

A young Harvard law student falls under the spell of a charismatic judge in this timely and thrilling novel about class, ambition, family and murder.

Madison Rivera lands the internship of a lifetime working for Judge Kathryn Conroy. But Madison has a secret that could destroy her career. Her troubled younger brother Danny has been arrested, and Conroy is the judge on his case.

When Danny goes missing after accusing the judge of corruption, Madison’s quest for answers brings her deep into the judge’s glamorous world. Is Kathryn Conroy a mentor, a victim, or a criminal? Is she trying to help Madison or use her as a pawn? And why is somebody trying to kill her?

As the two women circle each other in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game, will they save each other, or will betrayal leave one of them dead?

Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication October 3, 2023 
by St. Martin's Press
Audiobook, 11 hours, 9 minutes
by Macmillan Audio
3.5/5 stars

This is my first time reading a Michele Campbell, it was my Sept BOTM pick and I was lucky enough to get the advanced audio for review.  Bonus for me that I could do a hybrid read.

Madison has always wanted to be a lawyer and idolizes one of her profs who, also happens to be a judge.  When the opportunity to intern in her office arises, well Madison can hardly refuse that offer.  Enter her family problems which takes her down a path least expected.  Everything isn't as it seems.  Soon she is caught up in a cat and mouse game of survival.

The Intern is a twisted story that weaves through time to give the reader a clear picture of what has happened and the whys of what's going on now.  I'm glad for the audio, the reader, Sarah Mollo-Christensen did a great job telling the story and differentiating between the different points of view. There is a lot to take in and keep straight along with some suspending of belief (especially in the legal department).  The ending was fitting and didn't really exceed my expectations. An intriguing read with some suspense and heartache.

My thanks to Macmillan Audio for an advance copy of the audio (in exchange for a honest review) while my print copy was through my BOTM subscription.