Monday, April 8, 2024

The Hike by Lucy Clarke


Leaving behind their everyday lives, four friends hike out into the beautiful Norwegian wild – nothing between them and the mountain peak but forest, sea and sharp blue sky.


But there’s a darker side to the wilderness. A woman went missing here one year ago, scarring the mountain with suspicion and unanswered questions.

Now, the friends are hiking into the heart of the mystery. And waiting on the trail is someone who’d do anything to keep their secrets buried – and to stop the group walking away alive . . .

Paperback, 378 pages
Published April 27, 2023
 by HarperCollins
3.5/5 stars

The Hike is the story of four women, friends who embark on an annual retreat. This time it’s the Scandinavian wilderness, to escape their lives and reconnect with each other. As well as enjoy nature as they have never experienced before. What they got was so much more then they bargained for.

Each woman comes with a different story. They are in different situations in life, for some there is invisible pain and hurt, secrets kept from each other and themselves that are slowly revealed during this hike.  But it's also the mystery and danger of the unknown once these women feel the danger of the environment and mankind. Ultimately fearing for their lives, they stumble across a secret hidden for years and those that wish to keep it hidden.

I did a hybrid read (audio and book), which helped me zip through this read.  It was atmospheric, mysterious, a nice blend of women's fiction and suspense.  This is my first Lucy Clarke read, I will be checking out her backlist.

This book was part of my 2024 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge

Saturday, April 6, 2024

No One Can Know by Kate Alice Marshall

The author of What Lies in the Woods returns with a novel about three sisters, two murders, and too many secrets to count.

Emma hasn't told her husband much about her past. He knows her parents are dead and she hasn't spoken to her sisters in years. Then they lose their apartment, her husband gets laid off, and Emma discovers she's pregnant―right as the bank account slips into the red.

That's when Emma confesses that she has one more asset: her parents' house, which she owns jointly with her estranged sisters. They can't sell it, but they can live in it. But returning home means that Emma is forced to reveal her secrets to her husband: that the house is not a run-down farmhouse but a stately mansion, and that her parents died there.

Were murdered.

And that some people say Emma did it.

Emma and her sisters have never spoken about what really happened that night. Now, her return to the house may lure her sisters back, but it will also crack open family and small-town secrets lots of people don’t want revealed. As Emma struggles to reconnect with her old family and hold together her new one, she begins to realize that the things they have left unspoken all these years have put them in danger again.

Hardcover, 336 pages
Published January 23, 2023
by Flatiron Books
2.5/5 stars

This is one of those books that came to my attention through social media buzz. After reading the blurb, about three sisters recently orphaned after the murder of their parents, I was intrigued.

It’s been many years since Emma‘s parents were brutally murdered, and there has been no arrest. In this case she is suspect number one. Due to financial circumstances Emma and her husband move back into the family home that was abandoned since the murders.  It is here that she reconnects with her estranged sisters. While the town believes her to be the murderer, there’s definitely someone who does not want her there.

Told from the point of view of the three sisters both in the present and the past. There were times that I found this book disjointed and the many red herrings were somewhat overwhelming. The past POV‘s would never really indicate whether the past was the day of the murders or something further back, which was jarring.

As for the mystery and what happened that night many years ago, it wasn't till the last third of book that things picked up.  I was genuinely curious as to the outcome but having never really connected with the sisters put a damper on things.  Yes there were twists and a surprise ending which made up for the slow burn.

This book was part of my 2024 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge

Friday, April 5, 2024

Iscariot: A Novel of Judas by Tosca Lee

In Jesus, Judas believes he has found the One—a miracle-worker. The promised Messiah and future king of the Jews, destined to overthrow Roman rule. Galvanized, Judas joins the Nazarene’s followers, ready to enact the change he has waited for all his life.

But Judas’ vision of a nation free from Roman rule is crushed by the inexplicable actions of the Nazarene himself, who will not bow to social or religious convention—who seems in the end to even turn against his own people. At last, Judas must confront the fact that the master he loves is not the liberator he hoped for, but a man bent on a drastically different agenda.

Iscariot is the story of Judas—from his tumultuous childhood and tenuous entry into a career and family life as a devout Jew, to a man known to the world as the betrayer of Jesus. But even more, it is a singular and surprising view into the life of Jesus himself that forces us all to reexamine everything we thought we knew about the most famous—and infamous—religious icons in history.

Paperback, 368 pages
Published January 7, 2014
by Howard Books
4/5 stars

This was a recent selection from our church book club. The timing was perfect with Easter on the horizon. It is also my first time reading a Tosca Lee book.

Iscariot is the story of what could have been Judas Iscariot's life, the man who betrayed Jesus that ultimately sent him to the cross. With only a handful of verses in the Bible that talk about Judas, it doesn’t give any information into his family background, what drove him to do what he did and finally drove him to take his own life?

Authentic to the times and history of the year it wasn’t hard to get immersed in the setting. My biggest take away from this story is something the author mentioned in her notes at the end.  That is that we don’t know everyone's story, we don't know their inner struggles, their past so maybe have some compassion.  She painted a very plausible and believable story of Juda's life, but truly we will never know.

I listen to the audiobook via hoopla which is approximately 9 hours long

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Heartless Hunter by Kristen Ciccarelli

A steamy game of cat and mouse between witch and witch-hunter, played out against a backdrop of opulence, secrets, and bloody history.

On the night Rune’s life changed forever, blood ran in the streets. Now, in the aftermath of a devastating revolution, witches have been diminished from powerful rulers to outcasts ruthlessly hunted due to their waning magic, and Rune must hide what she is.

Spending her days pretending to be nothing more than a vapid young socialite, Rune spends her nights as the Crimson Moth, a witch vigilante who rescues her kind from being purged. When a rescue goes wrong, she decides to throw the witch hunters off her scent and gain the intel she desperately needs by courting the handsome Gideon Sharpe - a notorious and unforgiving witch hunter loyal to the revolution - who she can't help but find herself falling for.

Gideon loathes the decadence and superficiality Rune represents, but when he learns the Crimson Moth has been using Rune’s merchant ships to smuggle renegade witches out of the republic, he inserts himself into her social circles by pretending to court her right back. He soon realizes that beneath her beauty and shallow façade, is someone fiercely intelligent and tender who feels like his perfect match. Except, what if she’s the very villain he’s been hunting?

Kristen Ciccarelli’s Heartless Hunter is the thrilling start to a romantic fantasy duology where the only thing more treacherous than being a falling in love.

Hardcover, 416 pages
Published February 20, 2024
by Wednesday Books
5/5 stars

This is my first time reading Canadian author, Kirsten Ciccarelli and to follow an old cliché it will not be my last.

The Heartless Hunter is a story told from two points of view, Rune and Gideon. One a witch and the other witch hunter, both take their roles very seriously, driven by the past.

The beginning of a duology, I thoroughly enjoyed this read. I found the characters real and easy to get to know. The world building was easy to follow, yet intricate. Hidden in plain sight Rune works to help witches escape as they are hunted and put to death. There was mystery, suspense and twists - oh yea twists that caught me totally off guard. And of course some romance.  Definitely a book I recommend

Before I finish lets just sit and look at that cover!  It's actually one of the things that drew me to pick this as my BOTM pick (Feb I think). How gorgeous is it!!  Book 2 doesn't come out till Feb 2025, I foresee a reread in the new year.

This book was part of my 2024 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.  

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The Celestial Wife by Leslie Howard

A young fundamentalist Mormon girl facing a forced marriage escapes her strict, polygamist community and comes of age in the tumultuous 1960s in this captivating novel inspired by shockingly true events.

Keep sweet no matter what, 
for this is the way to be lifted up
Keep sweet with every breath, 
for it is a matter of life or death

1964. Fifteen-year-old Daisy Shoemaker dreams of life beyond her small, isolated fundamentalist Mormon community of Redemption on the Canada—US border—despite Bishop Thorsen’s warning that the outside world is full of sin. According to the Principle, the only way to enter the celestial kingdom is through plural marriage. While the boys are taught to work in the lucrative sawmill that supports their enclave, Daisy and her best friend, Brighten, are instructed to keep sweet and wait for Placement—the day the bishop will choose a husband for them. But Daisy wants to be more than a sister-wife and a mother. So when she is placed with a man forty years her senior, she makes the daring decision to flee Redemption.

Years later, Daisy has a job and a group of trustworthy friends. Emboldened by the ideas of the feminist and counterculture movements, she is freer than she has ever been…until Brighten reaches out with a cry for help and Daisy’s past comes hurtling back. But to save the women she left behind, Daisy must risk her newfound independence and return to Redemption, where hellfire surely awaits.

For readers of Emma Cline’s The Girls and Ami McKay’s The Virgin Cure comes an arresting coming-of-age novel about a fearless young girl’s fight for freedom at a time of great historic change.

Paperback, 368 pages
Expected publication  April 9, 2024
by Simon & Schuster
4/5 stars

This is my second time reading a Leslie Howard novel. She is from British Columbia and her stories take place there with a historical setting - at least the 2 that I have read.

Taking place in the 1960s The Celestial Wife is the story of a community of fundamental latter-day saints that is loosely based on a real place. Daisy is 15-years-old and has grown up in the small isolated community near the Canadian/US border. She longs for more out of life, however, the strict rules make that seem an impossibility. What follows is her fleeing the community and beginning life a new, but she is always looking over her shoulder for fear of being captured and sent back.

This was a very interesting read. I was captivated with the story and yes, when I finished I did a fair amount of googling, which just made the story all the more heartbreaking.  It's a slow burn but well worth the read.  Entertaining and so very enlightening to a part of Canada's history but still being practiced.  The book finishes with author notes and places to learn more about this sect.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster CA for a print ARC in exchange for honest review.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Murder Road by Simone St. James

A young couple find themselves haunted by a string of gruesome murders committed along an old deserted road in this terrifying new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Cold Cases .

July 1995. April and Eddie have taken a wrong turn. They’re looking for the small resort town where they plan to spend their honeymoon. When they spot what appears to a lone hitchhiker along the deserted road, they stop to help. But not long after the hitchiker gets into their car, they see the blood seeping from her jacket and a truck barreling down Atticus Line after them.

When the hitchhiker dies at the local hospital, April and Eddie find themselves in the crosshairs of the Coldlake Falls police. Unexplained murders have been happening along Atticus Line for years and the cops finally have two witnesses who easily become their only suspects. As April and Eddie start to dig into the history of the town and that horrible stretch of road to clear their names, they soon learn that there is something supernatural at work, something that could not only tear the town and its dark secrets apart, but take April and Eddie down with it all.

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published March 5, 2024
 by Berkley
4/5 stars

Simone St. James became an auto-read for me after The Broken Girls. I have enjoyed every book I have read since and am slowly making my way through her back list. Murder Road is her latest which was released a few weeks ago

The beginning started out strong, it had the creepy vibe with its dark secluded road, mysterious happenings and a small town buried in secrets. The mystery was compelling and the main characters were shrouded in secrets of the past.

Murder Road has an interesting plot and as a story unravels it takes on some true St. James characteristics that I’ve come to know and expect in her books. There were the twists and turns she is good at. April and Eddie felt a bit flat at times and I would have loved more Rose and the sisters to had some more sass.

Well, this might not be my favorite of her books, it was entertaining and kept me guessing.

This book was part of my 2024 reading off my shelf challenge. It was also my March BOTM pic.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

The House on Biscayne Bay by Chanel Cleeton

As death stalks a gothic mansion in Miami, the lives of two women intertwine as the past and present collide in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton’s atmospheric new novel.

With the Great War finally behind them, thousands of civilians and business moguls alike flock to South Florida with their sights set on making a fortune. When wealthy industrialist Robert Barnes and his wife, Anna, build Marbrisa, a glamorous estate on Biscayne Bay, they become the toast of the newly burgeoning society. Anna and Robert appear to have it all, but in a town like Miami, appearances can be deceiving, and one scandal can change everything.

Years later following the tragic death of her parents in Havana, Carmen Acosta journeys to Marbrisa, the grand home of her estranged older sister, Carolina, and her husband, Asher Wyatt. On the surface, the gilded estate looks like paradise, but Carmen quickly learns that nothing at Marbrisa is as it seems. The house has a treacherous legacy, and Carmen’s own life is soon in jeopardy . . . unless she can unravel the secrets buried beneath the mansion’s facade and stop history from repeating itself.

Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Expected publication April 9, 2024
by Berkley
4/5 stars

The House in Biscayne Bay is a dual time-period story which begins in 1918.  The construction of Marbrisa was a gift to Anna, a time of healing after the Great War. Jumping to 1940 there is yet again tragedy. Marbrisa is more than a house, but a mansion set to impress the locals.

I have read a number of books by this author that usually have a Cuba setting while there is history in Cuba the setting is Miami Beach with it tropical landscape and lifestyle of the well-to-do.

This was enjoyable read as one time period connects to the other. I was captivated with the mystery and what connected these two places.  The Gothic feel from both era's was felt with the sinister house and its secrets.  While I anticipated the ending it was an entertaining read.

My thanks to Berkley (via NetGalley) for a digital arc exchange for a honest review

Monday, March 25, 2024

Kill for Me, Kill for You by Steve Cavanagh

One dark evening on New York City’s Upper West Side, two strangers meet by chance. Over drinks, Amanda and Wendy realize they have much in common, especially loneliness and an intense desire for revenge against the men who destroyed their families. As they talk into the night, they come up with the perfect if you kill for me, I’ll kill for you.

In another part of the city, Ruth is home alone when the beautiful brownstone she shares with her husband, Scott, is invaded. She’s attacked by a man with piercing blue eyes, who disappears into the night. Will she ever be able to feel safe again while the blue-eyed stranger is out there?

Hardcover, 340 pages
Published March 19, 2024
 by Atria Books
4.5/5 stars

Newly released, this book is loosely based on the book Strangers on a Train, the author has rewritten a suspense thriller that kept me glued to the pages.

As two women meet in a bar, both having been affected by tragic loss, they make a pack to help each other out. There is much I could say about each of these women, but I feel it would give too much of the story away. Suffice to say, they are both hurting by the loss of loved ones without getting closure through police/the justice system and decide to take matters into their own hands. Told mostly from Amanda‘s point of view along with a few others. It is mysterious, suspenseful and one I read in a matter of 24 hours.

This was such a well written book, there were with many red herrings, twist and an ending that got me totally off-guard. It does have a trope that isn't a favorite of mine but it did work very nicely here.

Steve Cavanagh is a new-to-me-author, will definitely be looking up his backlist.

This book was part of my 2024 Reading Off My Shelf challenge and my March BOTM pick.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

O Rugged Land of Gold by Martha Martin

My thoughts come before the blurb this time.  Mainly because I can't find a blurb on line, the book is out of print, apparently hard to find.  My copy has been sitting on my shelf for many a year.

I need to stop feeling guilty about giving something a 3-star review. Three stars mean I liked it, even if I didn't love it. I found  O Rugged Land of Gold to be an interesting story, which is probably why I bought it at some point in time.  The book is about a woman stranded in the harsh Alaskan winter, which lasts much longer than what I'm used to and likely brutal in terms of snow, wind and darkness.

Based on a true story this book and written in the 1940’s while taking place in the 1920’s. It's written in journal format, which I enjoyed, but I wish there were added dates included to give a better sense of the passage of time.

This is a story of survival and determination. Martha stayed focused on reuniting with her husband and son, as well as the child she is carrying. That's what keeps her going.

I think adding maps and illustrations would have made the story even more captivation.  It would have been nice to visualize where she was and the conditions she endured.

This book was part of my 2024 reading off my shelf challenge

Hardcover, 225 pages
Published January 1, 1953
 by MacMillan
3/5 stars

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

The Stranger At Black Lake by Christina McDonald

Secrets, murder and revenge converge in this gripping prequel to Amazon charts bestselling thriller, These Still Black Waters, about a young Jess Lambert drawn into a deadly cat-and-mouse game. Because old ghosts often have old scores to settle.

Jess Lambert and her husband, Mac, have just moved to Black Lake, looking for a quieter, more peaceful life. Until one morning Jess befriends a stranger—beautiful and glamorous Annie Parker—who’s also just moved to town.

Only a few hours later, Jess finds Annie wandering naked and in shock along the lake. And at Annie’s house she encounters a gruesome scene that shows a violent attack. But then Annie disappears.

As Jess is pulled deeper into the mystery of what happened to Annie, she learns about the house’s chilling past. And she begins to who was Annie really? Is she a witness, murderer, victim?

But it’s dangerous hunting down old ghosts. And Jess becomes increasingly unsure if she’s the hunter, or the prey. Who is the stranger at Black Lake?

Kindle, 125 pages
Expected publication March 19, 2024
by Intrigue Ink Publishing
4/5 stars

I’ve been eyeing Christina McDonald ever since I grabbed These Still Black Waters which is the first book in this series as a Kindle deal. This, The Stranger at Black Lake is the prequel where Jess Lambert is introduced to Black Lake.

For Jess Lambert this was her fresh start in a new place that is tainted by murder, someone she thought was a new friend and a dark past to this town. Coming in at 125 pages, it was long enough to get the vibes of Black Lake, to connect with Jess, the town and ultimately a new series to start and author to follow.

Told with two distinct points of view rounded this out nicely between the past and present coming together.  There is the mystery, creepiness and tension all nicely put together, along with the desire to see what happens next in Jess's life.

There are two books in this series, though book 2 releases in July (What Lies in Darkness.)

My thanks to Intrigue Ink Publishing (via Netgalley) for a digital arc in exchange for a honest review. 

Saturday, March 16, 2024

The Improbable Meet-Cute Series

Short stories are a recent like for me.  The past 2 months I have read this series which includes works by some of my favorite authors and some new-to-me ones.

They are available on Kindle Unlimited or else for a low cost.  

(4.5/5 stars)  

On February 14, an accidental email to a stranger opens the door to an unexpected relationship in a captivating short story by the New York Times bestselling authors of The Unhoneymooners.

One typo, and a boy and girl connect by chance. Wishing each other a happy Valentine’s Day isn’t the end. In fact, it becomes a friendly annual tradition—with rules: no pics, no real names, nothing too personal. As years pass, the rules for their email “dates” are breaking, and they’re sharing more than they imagined—including the urge to ask…what if we actually met? 
(4.5/5 stars)

They’re falling in love, yet they’ve never met. Maybe fate can intervene in a heartwarming “what-if” short story about new beginnings by the New York Times bestselling author of Yours Truly.

Holly is dealing with the impending death of her grandmother and still reeling from a bad breakup. One bright spot: a Valentine’s Day card on Holly’s windshield—even if it wasn’t meant for her. An amusing mistake soon turns into a lovely exchange of anonymous notes, little acts of kindness, and a growing affection between two strangers. What happens when one of them has to say goodbye?

(4/5 stars)

For a hopeful and hopeless romantic, it’s love at first sight—with a little twist.

Rosie Whittaker and her sister are up for some Galentine’s pampering at a day spa. Getting locked inside a flotation tank is so Rosie. Enter a firefighter hero determined to pry this luckless pearl out of her high-tech shell. All Rosie has to go on is a dreamy voice and a flirty sense of humor. Remain calm, Rosie. This could be what you’ve been waiting for. Is this the man she’s waited for her whole life?

(2/5 stars)

It takes nothing less than a fateful natural disaster to throw two opposites together in a ground-shakingly charming short story by the New York Times bestselling author of Drunk on Love.

This Valentine’s Day, Daisy Murray has her heart set on binge-watching rom-coms. Instead, an earthquake traps her inside a bakery with its impossibly rude and insufferably handsome owner and head baker. They already have a history: she’s always smiled, he’s always scowled. Where better to finally get to know each other than amid the disaster? Then again, they have no choice. Besides, it could have its sweet, undeniable, and unpredictable perks.

(4/5 stars)

Every person she kisses finds their true love, and it’s never her—until now, in this funny and magically romantic short story by the New York Times bestselling author of The Dead Romantics.

Audrey Love is cursed to be the person before you find your soulmate, the girl you dump for your true love. So when her best friend disappears hours before his Valentine’s Day wedding, Audrey fears that she did the unthinkable and kissed him at last night’s bachelor party. With help from the best man, she retraces her steps to find the missing groom and, with any luck, a true love of her own.

Ashley Poston’s With Any Luck is part of The Improbable Meet-Cute, irresistibly romantic stories about finding love when and where you least expect it. They can be read or listened to in one sitting. Let’s make a date of it.

(3/5 stars)

Valentine’s Day becomes a Roman holiday for a princess in disguise in a dizzyingly romantic short story about making wishes come true by the USA Today bestselling author of The Chemistry of Love.

Princess Ilaria has had it up to her tiara with the paparazzi, her own wild reputation, and the public eye. Trading places with her assistant, Ilaria wants just one blissfully ordinary weekend. Then a handsome photographer with a sexy Scottish burr offers to be her guide. Sparks fly, but how long can they last? Ilaria’s secret has to come out—and it could ruin a perfectly serendipitous romance.

Sariah Wilson’s Royal Valentine is part of The Improbable Meet-Cute, irresistibly romantic stories about finding love when and where you least expect it. They can be read or listened to in one sitting. Let’s make a date of it

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Listen for the Lie by Amy Tintera

What if you thought you murdered your best friend? And if everyone else thought so too? And what if the truth doesn't matter?

After Lucy is found wandering the streets, covered in her best friend Savvy’s blood, everyone thinks she is a murderer. Lucy and Savvy were the golden girls of their small Texas town: pretty, smart, and enviable. Lucy married a dream guy with a big ring and an even bigger new home. Savvy was the social butterfly loved by all, and if you believe the rumors, especially popular with the men in town. It’s been years since that horrible night, a night Lucy can’t remember anything about, and she has since moved to LA and started a new life.

But now the phenomenally huge hit true crime podcast "Listen for the Lie," and its too-good looking host Ben Owens, have decided to investigate Savvy’s murder for the show’s second season. Lucy is forced to return to the place she vowed never to set foot in again to solve her friend’s murder, even if she is the one that did it.

Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 5, 2024 
by Macmillan USA
4.5/5 stars

Listen for the Lie is exactly what I did. Because obviously someone was lying.

This is the author's adult debut and my first time reading her. Recommended on social media, and honestly that FOMO had me doing an impulse purchase. I was not disappointed, I was hooked as soon as I read that first chapter.  Between the author's writing style, the mystery and that touch of humor it was hard to put this read down.

Listen to the Lies listen is a twisty turny story told from Lucy's point of view, which includes her thoughts, memories and what ifs. There were lots of red herrings that had me changing my mind as to what actually happened, and I was taken off guard by the ending. Definitely a captivating story that kept me guessing till the end.

If you haven’t been sucked in by the hype, believe me, it is real.

This book was part of my 2024 reading off my shelf challenge

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

The Berlin Letters by Katherine Reay

Near the end of the Cold War, a CIA code breaker discovers a symbol she recognizes from her childhood, which launches her across the world to the heart of Berlin just before the wall comes tumbling down. 

November 1989 —After finding a secret cache of letters with intelligence buried in the text, CIA cryptographer Luisa Voekler learns that not only is her father alive but he is languishing in an East German Stasi jail. After piecing together the letters with a series of articles her grandfather saved, Luisa seeks out journalists Bran Bishop and Daniel Rudd. They send her to the CIA, to Andrew Cademan—her boss. Luisa confronts Cademan and learns that nothing is a coincidence, but he will not help her free her father. So she takes matters into her own hands, empties her bank account, and flies to West Berlin. 

As the adrenaline wears off and she recognizes she has no idea how to proceed, Luisa is both relieved and surprised when a friend shows up with contacts and a rudimentary plan to sneak her across the wall. Alternating storylines between Luisa and her father, The Berlin Letters shows the tumultuous early days of the wall, bringing Berlin, the epicenter of the Cold War, to life while also sharing one family’s journey through secrets, lies, and division to love, freedom, and reconciliation.

Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 5, 2024
 by Harper Muse
5/5 stars

Katherine Reay is a new author for me, after reading this one I have gone on to explore her backlist, and have already polished one off. I guess you could say that is an indication of how I felt about her writing.

The Berlin Wall went up in 1961, I have memories of it being demolished in 1989, but  with no inkling about the Cold War and what that wall really truly stood for. This book was an eye-opener as it takes place the day the wall went up and ends when the wall goes down. It is told with two timelines involving the same family. Not only was it a lesson in History, but showed the political and emotional sides of what transpired. Suffice to say, I really enjoyed reading this book, the characters were real, the situations authentic, the resilience and determination of individuals with showcased.

I read this last month and for some reason posting my review was delayed. I highly recommend this to historical fiction lovers that like something off the beat in track.

My thanks to Harper Muse for a print arc in exchange for a honest review.

Monday, March 11, 2024

The Black Crescent by Jane Johnson

A captivating historical novel set in post-war Casablanca about a young man marked by djinns who must decide where his loyalties lie as the fight for Moroccan independence erupts.

Hamou Badi is born in a village in the Anti-Atlas Mountains with the markings of the zouhry on his hands. In Morocco, the zouhry is a figure of legend, a child of both humans and djinns, capable of finding treasure, lost objects, and even water in the worst of droughts. But when young Hamou finds the body of a murdered woman, his life is forever changed.

Haunted by this unsolved murder and driven by the desire to do good in the world, Hamou leaves his village for Casablanca to become an officer of the law under the French Protectorate.

But Casablanca is not the shining beacon of modernity he was expecting. The forcible exile of Morocco’s sultan by the French sparks a nationalist uprising led by violent dissident groups, none so fearsome as the Black Crescent. Torn between his heritage and his employers, Hamou will be caught in the crossfire.

The lines between right and wrong, past and future, the old world and the new, are not as clear as the magical lines on his palms. And as the danger grows, Hamou is forced to choose between all he knows and all he loves.

Paperback, 400 pages
Published March 5, 2024
 by Simon & Schuster
3.5/5 stars

Author notes are a favorite way to end a read, especially when it comes to historical fiction.  Such is the case here.  I did not know the family ties Jane Johnson has to Morocco and her motivation for writing this book. "I love to learn when I write fiction, and I hope readers will enjoy learning alongside me."

The Black Crescent is a descriptive read of Morocco in the 1950s. Beginning as Hamou discovers the body of a murdered woman this story that comes full circle many, many, many years later. The fight for independence is violent, citizens turn against each other and Hamou has decisions to make.

The Black Crescent was an informative read with its vivid images of what Casablanca went through, the lifestyle and loyalty. It is well researched, definitely showing the authors passion for the story.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for a print arc in exchange for a honest review. 
It is now available in all formats

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Becoming Madam Secretary by Stephanie Dray

She took on titans, battled generals, and changed the world as we know it…

New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Dray returns with a captivating and dramatic new novel about an American heroine Frances Perkins.

Raised on tales of her revolutionary ancestors, Frances Perkins arrives in New York City at the turn of the century, armed with her trusty parasol and an unyielding determination to make a difference.

When she’s not working with children in the crowded tenements in Hell’s Kitchen, Frances throws herself into the social scene in Greenwich Village, befriending an eclectic group of politicians, artists, and activists, including the millionaire socialite Mary Harriman Rumsey, the flirtatious budding author Sinclair Lewis, and the brilliant but troubled reformer Paul Wilson, with whom she falls deeply in love.

But when Frances meets a young lawyer named Franklin Delano Roosevelt at a tea dance, sparks fly in all the wrong directions. She thinks he’s a rich, arrogant dilettante who gets by on a handsome face and a famous name. He thinks she’s a priggish bluestocking and insufferable do-gooder. Neither knows it yet, but over the next twenty years, they will form a historic partnership that will carry them both to the White House.

Frances is destined to rise in a political world dominated by men, facing down the Great Depression as FDR’s most trusted lieutenant—even as she struggles to balance the demands of a public career with marriage and motherhood. And when vicious political attacks mount and personal tragedies threaten to derail her ambitions, she must decide what she’s willing to do—and what she’s willing to sacrifice—to save a nation.

Kindle Edition, 544 pages
Expected publication March 12, 2024 
by Berkley
4.5/5 stars

Stephanie Dray is one author that I have managed to stay current with, from her earlier books about Cleopatra‘s daughter to strong women in US history, she has kept me entertained and educated. Francis Perkins is not someone I am familiar with so I went in somewhat blind and was pleasantly intrigued and captivated with this remarkable woman.

Spanning most of Perkins life she is portrayed as a force to be reckoned with.  Her drive, compassion and determination for change is well written in this epic sized book. Dray's passion and researched is evident in a story about a woman in politics is something unheard of in that time period.

Becoming Madame Secretary is a story of relationships, that between Perkins and FDR, her husband and daughter, her friend Mary and her country. The author notes were detailed, welcomed and finished this book off nicely.

My thanks to Berkley for a digital arc in exchange for a honest review

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Up from Dust: Martha's Story by Heather Kaufman

No stranger to adversity, Martha of Bethany is a woman of dust, undone and unseen in her hurt and loss. After her mother's untimely death, the responsibility for raising her siblings—Lazarus and Mary—lies heavily on her shoulders. She finds solace in a new friendship and the beginnings of first love, but her father's disapproval and unforeseen hardship leave Martha broken and guarded.

Twelve years later, when her friend's husband contracts a severe disease, they send for the new rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth. Martha recognizes the miraculous Healer from a story she heard many years ago, and the life-changing encounter reawakens Martha's hardened heart, even as she faces an unknown future.

With impeccable research and a keen eye for detail, Heather Kaufman delivers a moving narrative of Martha's life in this hopeful story of love, loss, and the promise of redemption.

Paperback, 352 pages
Published January 23, 2024 
by Bethany House Publishers
4/5 stars

Heather Kaufman is a new to me author, Up From Dust is the first book in the Women of the Way series.

I enjoy reading Christian fiction and am relatively new to biblical fiction, Up From Dust tells the story of Martha, along with her siblings, Mary and Lazarus. It's an interesting tale that focuses on Mary’s experiences of love and loss as well as her relationship with family and friends.  It's an authentic glimpse into the times while remaining faithful to Scripture. 

It was a well-written story that offers a possible scenario for the siblings and their dynamics, while focuses mainly on Mary.  One of my biggest takeaways is that each of us has a story.  We don't know Martha's story before Jesus entered her life.  We don't know her past and what shaped her, just like we don't know the stories of those around us.  Everyone has a unique story.

I'm looking forward to where this series will go next, along with checking out the author's backlist.

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

Friday, March 1, 2024

One Puzzling Afternoon by Emily Critchley

A mystery she can't remember. A friend she can't forget.

I kept your secret Lucy. I've kept it for more than sixty years . . .

It is 1951, and at number six Sycamore Street fifteen-year-old Edie Green is lonely. Living alone with her eccentric mother - who conducts seances for the local Ludthorpe community - she is desperate for something to shake her from her dull, isolated life.

When the popular, pretty Lucy Theddle befriends Edie, she thinks all her troubles are over. But Lucy has a secret, one Edie is not certain she should keep . . .

Then Lucy goes missing.

2018. Edie is eighty-four and still living in Ludthorpe. When one day she glimpses Lucy Theddle, still looking the same as she did at fifteen, her family write it off as one of her many mix ups. There's a lot Edie gets confused about these days. A lot she finds difficult to remember. But what she does know is this: she must find out what happened to Lucy, all those years ago . . .

Paperback, 350 pages
Published October 3, 2023
by Sourcebooks
4.5/5 stars

This is not just a story about a missing teen. It’s the story of Edie, her confusion and cloudy brain, it's the memories of what happened to Lucy and it's a slow burn but well worth the read.

Maybe because I’ve experienced dementia in a loved one that this resonated more for me, it felt so real. Yes this was slow paced but given my connection with Edie I was totally captivated.

Weaving the past with the present, the disappearance of Lucy is slowly drawn out. The 1951 timeline was a coming of age story highlighting a friendship and family dysfunctions.

One Puzzling Afternoon was beautifully written, it showed the side of aging for both the elder and their family. It’s a story of friendship and a wonderfully debut. It’s a story that has stayed with me a month after reading. It's one I higher recommend.

This book was part of my 2024 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge which I received through my OnceUponABookClub box.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Darling Girls by Sally Hepworth

SISTERS, SECRETS, LOVE, AND MURDER... Sally Hepworth’s new novel has it all.

For as long as they can remember, Jessica, Norah, and Alicia have been told how lucky they are. As young girls they were rescued from family tragedies and raised by a loving foster mother, Miss Fairchild, on an idyllic farming estate and given an elusive second chance at a happy family life.

But their childhood wasn’t the fairy tale everyone thinks it was. Miss Fairchild had rules. Miss Fairchild could be unpredictable. And Miss Fairchild was never, ever to be crossed. In a moment of desperation, the three broke away from Miss Fairchild and thought they were free. Even though they never saw her again, she was always somewhere in the shadows of their minds. When a body is discovered under the home they grew up in, the foster sisters find themselves thrust into the spotlight as key witnesses. Or are they prime suspects?

A thrilling page-turner of sisterhood, secrets, love, and murder by New York Times bestselling author Sally Hepworth.

Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Expected publication April 23, 2024
 by St. Martin's Press
3.5/5 stars

Reviewing this book is a bit tricky for me. I've been a fan of Sally Hepworth since her first book, but I've had mixed feelings about some of her later works. So, I never really know what to expect. However, I finished this book in just a day and a half, which says a lot about how I felt about it. I was genuinely intrigued by the mystery and couldn't wait to see how it all played out.

I quickly connected with the three young girls, especially enjoying the backstory more than the present-day plot. Norah (with an h) was my favorite along with her three dogs. They added a nice touch of humor, although given the serious subject matter feels somewhat insensitive of me.

The story is told from the perspectives of each in both the past and present, with an additional mysterious narrative from an unknown character. While this added an interesting element, I did find the story to be a bit long-winded at times. As the book wrapped up, I had to suspend my disbelief and rethink some earlier parts, which left me feeling a bit disappointed with the ending.

Overall, this book touches on some sensitive topics that may require trigger warnings for some readers. However, to say what they are would feel like spoilers.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press for a digital ARC in exchange for a honest review.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Everyone Is Watching by Heather Gudenkauf

The Best Friend. 
The Confidant. 
The Senator. 
The Boyfriend. 
The Executive.

Five contestants have been chosen to compete for ten million dollars on the game show One Lucky Winner. The catch? None of them knows what (or who) to expect, and it will be live streamed all over the world. Completely secluded in an estate in Northern California, with strict instructions not to leave the property and zero contact with the outside world, the competitors start to feel a little too isolated.

When long-kept secrets begin to rise to the surface, the contestants realize this is no longer just a reality show—someone is out for blood. And the game can’t end until the world knows who the contestants really are…

Kindle Edition, 316 pages
Expected publication March 26, 2024
by Park Row
4/5 stars

This is unlike any Heather Gudenkauf book I have ever read and I've read all but one of hers.  Yes she is an auto read for me.

Imagine given the chance to win $10 million in the space of two weeks! The cost is higher than the five contestants ever imagined on this Survivor like reality show. The challenges are unimaginable, dangerous and quite revealing. Five strangers, a host with her own agenda, the creator who is secretive all made this an addictive read.

Told from a number of povs this was intense and easy to keep track of the different characters.  I had to suspend my belief many times but alas I still could not look away or put this book down. I just had to know the what, where, why and how everything was going to fit together. As the secrets are slowly revealed, the connections made it ended in an explosive conclusion that happened rather quickly.

Heather Gudenkauf has yet to disappoint, be sure to check this one out come March 26th or better yet preorder it.

My thanks to Park Row for a e-arc in exchange for a honest review.

Monday, February 5, 2024

The Manor House by Gilly Macmillan

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Nanny and What She Knew comes the terrifying story of what can happen after all your dreams come true.

 Be careful what you wish for...

Childhood sweethearts Nicole and Tom are a normal, loving couple—until a massive lottery win changes their lives overnight. Soon they’ve moved into a custom-built state-of-the-art Glass Barn on the stunning grounds of Lancaut Manor in Gloucestershire. They have fancy cars, expensive hobbies, and an exclusive lifestyle they never could have imagined. But this dream world quickly turns into a nightmare when Tom is found dead in the swimming pool. Nicole is devastated. Tom was her rock. And their beautiful barn —with all its smart features that never seem to work for her—is beginning to feel very lonely. But she’s not entirely by herself out there in the country. There’s a nice young couple who live in the Manor itself along with their middle-aged housekeeper who has the Coach House. And an old friend of Tom’s from school has turned up to help her get through her grief. But big money can bring big problems and big threats. Was Tom’s death a tragic accident, or was it something worse? And is her life in danger as well? Nicole’s beginning to feel like a little fish in a big glass bowl. Surrounded by piranhas.

Paperback, 336 pages
Published November 7, 2023
 by William Morrow
4/5 stars

I was fortunate enough to attend an author event with Gilly Macmillan during her Canadian tour following the release of The Manor House

From the first pages I pulled right in as Nicole makes the shocking discovery of her husband Tom floating lifelessly in the pool.  Nicole and Tom, recent lottery winners, seemed destined for a bright future until tragedy struck.

What follows is s story told from many POVs, it wasn't hard to keep straight as each was uniquely flawed though compelling and not really that likeable.  I found myself particularly drawn to Tom's perspective, seeing what actually happened that morning.  This was a story filled with red herrings, twists and revenge.  I was kept on my toes and actually read the last half in one day, the suspense was real folks.  My only reason for stopping with 4 stars is that I found parts of the ending, while satisfying, to be rushed to the point of being unbelievable.

All in all, an addicting read that was hard to put down, it kept me guessing trying to connect the dots.

This book was part of my 2024 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

A Grave Robbery by Deanna Raybourn

Veronica and Stoker discover that not all fairy tales have happy endings, and some end in murder, in this latest historical mystery from New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award–nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

Lord Rosemorran has purchased a wax figure of a beautiful reclining woman and asks Stoker to incorporate a clockwork mechanism to give the Rosemorran Collection its own Sleeping Beauty in the style of Madame Tussaud’s. But when Stoker goes to cut the mannequin open to insert the mechanism, he makes a gruesome discovery: this is no wax figure. The mannequin is the beautifully preserved body of a young woman who was once very much alive. But who would do such a dreadful thing, and why?

Sleuthing out the answer to this question sets Veronica and Stoker on their wildest adventure yet. From the underground laboratories of scientists experimenting with electricity to resurrect the dead in the vein of Frankenstein to the traveling show where Stoker once toured as an attraction, the gaslit atmosphere of London in October is the perfect setting for this investigation into the unknown. Through it all, the intrepid pair is always one step behind the latest villain—a man who has killed once and will stop at nothing to recover the body of the woman he loved. Will they unmask him in time to save his next victim? Or will they become the latest figures to be immortalized in his collection of horrors?

Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Expected publication March 12, 2024
 by Berkley

One of my highly anticipated books of 2024 is this Deanna Raybourn's 9th installment in her Veronica Speedwell series.

Thrust into another murder mystery Veronica and Stoker search for who their Venus is and what happened 15 years ago. Yes that’s a long time in the past. The plot was unique, if a tad far fetched, but entertaining in true Veronica and Stoker fashion. There was the easy banter that is always fun along with some zany escapades and unsavory characters. Yes there is a monkey that has taken up residence also.

It is great getting back together with these two. However while it wasn't favorite, there just seemed to be something missing, but I can’t quite place my finger on what it was, or maybe my belief was suspended too much. But all in all still one of my favorite series, can’t wait to see what this duo is up to next.

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

Friday, February 2, 2024

The Griffin's Egg by Cole Poindexter

Lost in a wild West Virginia forest, Phoebe Gray's world is upended when she finds an irritable goblin named Gnish-Gnash. She’s stumbled into Lerch Hollow, a place of magic and mystery where trolls lurk in shadows and mermaids sway with the tide.

The young adventurer soon finds herself caught up in a race against time; the Dark Mistress Lucinda is on the hunt for the last Griffin's egg, for its power will make her unstoppable. It is up to Phoebe to protect the egg while discovering the secrets of her own magical connection to the mysterious wizard Thatcher.

With Gnish at her side and her grandfather’s old cloak on her back, Phoebe must protect this enchanted world from destruction.

Audiobook, 4 hours 52 minutes
January 15, 2024 
by The Wild Rose Press
3.5/5 stars

The Griffin's Egg released last month and I was lucky to have obtained the e-audio from the publisher. Judging by the cover and the content, having the print copy in front of me with some wonderful illustrations would have made this all the more enjoyable.

Following the story of the 10-year-old Phoebe as she loses her way while walking through the woods. Upon meeting a strange creature, she is drawn into a magical world with all kinds of different magical characters leading her on an adventure that ends where she least expects it.

This was a fun read or listen coming in just shy of five hours, I had to pay attention to her journey but the reader did a great job with the story. The Griffin's Egg is a story of family, doing what’s right and adventure. I will definitely be on the lookout for more books by Cole Poindexter.

My thanks to Wild Rose Press for this audio arc in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Not the Worst Friend in the World by Anne Rellihan

Can Lou Bennett keep a secret? She’ll do just about anything to prove herself to her new friend—and the best friend she betrayed—in this debut novel that is a modern-day Harriet the Spy with high emotional stakes.

It’s the thirty-fourth day of sixth grade at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School in Missouri, and eleven-year-old Lou wishes she could rewind time.

Lou wants to go back to the ninth day of sixth grade—the day before she fought with her best friend Francie and said the terrible, horrible things she can’t unsay. Or better yet, she would go back to fifth grade when Francie was still the Old Francie.

Then the new girl, Cece Clark-Duncan, passes Lou a mysterious note. It says she was kidnapped. (!) If Lou can help Cece, maybe she can prove she’s not the world’s worst friend.

But as observant Lou uncovers the complicated truth about Cece’s family, she starts to panic. Can she help Cece without hurting her? Or will Lou end up losing another friend instead?

Anchored by an outstanding voice and a page-turning mystery, this remarkable debut novel honors the powerful middle school friendships that can both break and heal a tender eleven-year-old heart. Perfect for fans of Fish in a Tree and My Jasper June.

Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Expected publication February 6, 2024
 by Holiday House
3.5/5 stars

I have never read Harriet the Spy, but apparently this is a modern day retelling of it. Eleven year old Lou went a bit too far one day and has become friendless in the sixth grade. Can she go back and write the wrongs or just live with what she did?

This was a fun read about the joys of childhood friendships. Especially when a new girl enters the scene bringing with her mysterious notes, a mysterious past and seeking Lou's help. Can she redeem herself with her new friend? Time will tell.

Since I’ve never read Harriet the Spy, I can’t vouch for the similarities, but suffice to say, this was a fun read with the emotional impact any 11-year-old would feel after being alienated from her best friend and ridiculed by the rest of her class. Yes the mystery of this new girl is slowly uncovered leading to a story that highlights the value of family, friends and community.

Not the Worst Friend in the World is Anne Rellihan's debut novel, I will be on the lookout for more.

Thanks her Holiday House (via Netgalley) digital arc in exchange for a honest review.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Virgins by Diana Gabaldon

A young Jamie Fraser learns what it really means to become a man in this Outlander prequel novella. 

Mourning the death of his father and gravely injured at the hands of the English, Jamie Fraser finds himself running with a band of mercenaries in the French countryside, where he reconnects with his old friend Ian Murray. 

Both are nursing wounds; both have good reason to stay out of Scotland; and both are still virgins, despite several opportunities to remedy that deplorable situation with ladies of easy virtue. But Jamie’s love life becomes infinitely more complicated—and dangerous—when fate brings the young men into the service of Dr. Hasdi, a Jewish gentleman who hires them to escort two priceless treasures to Paris. One is an old Torah; the other is the doctor’s beautiful daughter, Rebekah, destined for an arranged marriage. 

Both Jamie and Ian are instantly drawn to the bride-to-be—but they might be more cautious if they had any idea who they’re truly dealing with.

Kindle Edition, 86 pages
Published April 8, 2016 
by Dell
3/5 stars

I am attempting in 2024 to get caught up with the Outlander series - it's a big task that will involve some rereading and delving into some novellas.  Which is where I catch up with Jamie and Ian in Virgins, #.5 in this series.  In a time before Clare enters the picture.

Taking place just after Jamie has been brutally lashed by Captain Jack Randall and the death of Jamie’s father. He escapes to France where he meets up with Ian Murray.

A quick read coming in at approx. 86 pages (depends which edition you read or listen to).  It was an interesting story as Ian and Jamie work to protect and deliver a bride to her future husband. While it didn’t mesh with the Outlander story it does signify the bond between Jamie and Ian and highlighted reasons why Jamie was on the run.

As true to Diana fashion it might have been a little longer then necessary, not sure I would have continued with the series if this was my introduction though.

Friday, January 12, 2024

Spotlight: Maude Horton's Glorious Revenge by Lizzie Pook

An Arctic expedition. A mysterious death. And the lengths to which one woman will go to avenge her sister

When Maude Horton receives a letter from the British Admiralty informing her of her younger sister’s death, her world is shattered. Bold and daring, Constance had run away from her life in Victorian London two years prior, disguising herself as a boy to board the Makepeace, an expedition vessel bound for the Arctic’s unexplored Northwest Passage. The admiralty claims Constance’s death was a tragic accident, but Maude knows when she is being deceived.

Armed with Constance’s diary from her time at sea and a fiery desire for justice, Maude sets her sights on the Makepeace’s former scientist, Edison Stowe, a greedy and manipulative man whom she suspects had a hand in her sister’s death. When she learns he has a new venture, a travel company that escorts spectators across the country to witness popular public hangings, she decides to join the latest tour, determined to extract the truth from Stowe and avenge her sister—no matter the risk to herself.

From the stark beauty of the Arctic to the teeming streets of Victorian London, Maude Horton’s Glorious Revenge is a mysterious, transportive tale about the unbreakable bond of sisterhood and the things we are driven to do by both love and greed.

Paperback, 336 pages
Expected publication
January 16, 2024
 by Simon & Schuster

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Through the Snow Globe by Annie Rains

It’s a Wonderful Life meets Groundhog Day, as a woman dangerously close to losing it all receives an unexpected Christmas gift that prompts a surprising journey of self-discovery... and another chance at happiness.

What if you could have one more day with someone you lost?

Diana Merriman, a physical therapist, is probably the only person in the small town of Snow Haven, North Carolina, who isn’t looking forward to Christmas. It’s been three weeks since her fiancé Linus was critically injured when a car hit him as he biked home from the toy store he owns and manages. Watching him open his eyes is the only gift she wants, but she can’t help losing a little more hope every day.

But an unexpected visit from a friendly neighbor and finding a snow globe of Snow Haven—a gift Linus had hidden in the closet—the night before Christmas Eve changes things in ways Diana never would have imagined. Because on Christmas Eve Diana wakes up to find that it’s not—Christmas Eve, that is. Instead, it’s somehow December 4 all over again, the day Linus got hurt, and as mystified as Diana is, she immediately starts a plan to save her partner from his fate.

Nothing is that simple, of course. Instead of a single repeat of that day, Diana finds herself in an endless loop of December 4, experiencing every possible variation of events. Along the way, she uncovers startling truths about herself, her relationship, and even her career that illustrate the ways she’s retreated from her life—and in the face of life’s slights and outright blows, from her deepest feelings. Suddenly hope is second only to joy as Diana opens her heart to the people she loves in every way she can.

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 22, 2023
 by Kensington
4/5 stars

This year I vow to read more Christmas stories. In fact, this was my fourth for 2023, which is a record.

Through the Snow Globe is a groundhog day story that packs a punch. It asks the important question -. what if you could have one more day with someone you lost.  Which is what Diana tries to do. But it isn’t just that she wants one more day, she wants to change the past so that they have a lifetime together.

This book would make a great Hallmark Christmas movie. As each time loop progresses Diana continues on a journey self discovery as her fiancé continues to languish in a coma.

Although I am not a huge fan of Groundhog Day type stories, mostly because of the repetitiveness, but because of the season this one worked for me. 

Annie Rains is a new to me author, one I hope to read more of.

This book was part of my 2023 reading off my shelf challenged. 
My copy was obtained through a Once Upon a BookClub book box.

Monday, January 8, 2024

The Grace of Wild Things by Heather Fawcett

An inventive and fantastical reimagining of Anne of Green Gables—with magic and witches!—that explores found family, loss, and the power of a girl's imagination, from the acclaimed author of The Language of Ghosts and The School Between Winter and Fairyland.

Grace has never been good at anything except magic—not that anyone believes her. While other children are adopted from the orphanage, nobody wants Grace. So she decides to make a home for herself by running away and offering herself as an apprentice to the witch in the nearby woods. After all, who better to teach Grace to use her magic? Surely the witch can’t be that bad.

But the witch is that bad—she steals souls for spells and gobbles up hearts. So Grace offers a deal: If she can learn all 100½ spells in the witch’s grimoire, the witch will make Grace her apprentice. But if Grace fails, the witch can take her magic. The witch agrees, and soon an unexpected bond develops between them. But the spells are much harder than Grace expected, and when a monster from the witch’s past threatens the home Grace has built, she may have to sacrifice more than her magic to save it.

Inspired by Anne of Green Gables, this is a magical story of found family, loss, and the power of a girl’s imagination.

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published February 14, 2023
 by Balzer + Bray
4.5/5 stars

I first stumbled upon this book on Instagram, it was the cover that totally caught my eye.   Also I love a good retellings or reimagining of stories.  So, when I found out that it was a magical twist on Anne of Green Gables, I just couldn't resist! 

From the very beginning, this book had me hooked with its whimsical and enchanting vibe. Grace, a runaway from an orphanage, ends up seeking refuge with a witch who lives in a cabin deep in the woods.  She not only manages to convince the witch to let her stay, but they even strike a deal where Grace might just become her apprentice. Of course the road to achieve this is filled with adventure.

What follows over the next nine months is a story of friendship, imagination and family. A fun and entertaining read.

This book was part of my 2024 reading off my shelf challenge. It is also part of my 52 bookclub challenge and prompt number 23 of 52.