Monday, April 29, 2024

Miss Morgan's Book Brigade by Janet Skeslien Charles

1918: As the Great War rages, Jessie Carson takes a leave of absence from the New York Public Library to work for the American Committee for Devastated France. Founded by millionaire Anne Morgan, this group of international women help rebuild devastated French communities just miles from the front. Upon arrival, Jessie strives to establish something that the French have never seen—children’s libraries. She turns ambulances into bookmobiles and trains the first French female librarians. Then she disappears.

1987: When NYPL librarian and aspiring writer Wendy Peterson stumbles across a passing reference to Jessie Carson in the archives, she becomes consumed with learning her fate. In her obsessive research, she discovers that she and the elusive librarian have more in common than their work at New York’s famed library, but she has no idea their paths will converge in surprising ways across time.

Kindle, 352 pages
Expected publication April 30, 2024
 by Atria Books
3/5 stars

I loved the author's first book, The Paris Library, a story about forgotten women in history. I anticipated the same thing with Miss Morgan's Book Brigade (yea its a mouthful) and that is what I got. 

It’s near the end of the World War 1 when Jessie Carson, a 40-year-old library employee, is accepted by the daughter of JP Morgan into the CARD program. CARD - American Committee for Devastated France.  I have never heard of this program before and was treated to a glimpse of women helping restore France after the war.

There are things I enjoyed about this book, mostly the lesson in the effort of  American, Canadian and Australian women doing their part to restore France.  The library program was used to connect with those left with nothing, the war took more then just the men. It was great to see the importance of reading and how it affected the women in France, who were left alone as a result of the war.

There were also things I struggled with, mostly this was a tell story with a number of info dumps. I had to remind myself many times that this was a 40-year-old woman while her character did not always feel like it. It was slow paced and the timeline for 1987 was sparse though finally at the end everything fit together.

All in all an informative read that I liked.

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

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Twenty-Seven Minutes by Ashley Tate

Phoebe Dean was the most popular girl alive and dead.

For the last ten years, the small, claustrophobic town of West Wilmer has been struggling to understand one thing: Why did it take young Grant Dean twenty-seven minutes to call for help on the fateful night of the car accident that took the life of his beloved sister, Phoebe?

Someone knows what really happened the night Phoebe died. Someone who is ready to tell the truth.

With Phoebe's memorial in just three days, grief, delusion, ambition, and regret tornado together with biting gossip in a town full of people obsessed with a long-gone tragedy with four people at its heart—the caretaker, the secret girlfriend, the missing bad boy, and a former football star. Just kids back then, are forever tied together the fateful rainy night Phoebe died.

Paperback, 360 pages
Published January 23, 2024
 by Doubleday Canada
2.5/5 stars

An intriguing cover with an enticing blurb had me pre-ordering this book.

Twenty-seven minutes is the time that elapsed from when the accident happened until help was called.  So what happened in that space of time? 

It’s been 10 years since that night, with Phoebe's mother still grieving she has planned a memorial to remember her daughter. This book had great potential but I found the multiple POV‘s with similar characters a little confusing. For me the story dragged and felt repetitive.  As for the twists and ending it did catch me off guard but the extremely slow build up took away from that.

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

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa

The moving international sensation about new beginnings, human connection, and the joy of reading.

Hidden in Jimbocho, Tokyo, is a booklover's paradise. On a quiet corner in an old wooden building lies a shop filled with hundreds of second-hand books.

Twenty-five-year-old Takako has never liked reading, although the Morisaki bookshop has been in her family for three generations. It is the pride and joy of her uncle Satoru, who has devoted his life to the bookshop since his wife Momoko left him five years earlier.

When Takako's boyfriend reveals he's marrying someone else, she reluctantly accepts her eccentric uncle's offer to live rent-free in the tiny room above the shop. Hoping to nurse her broken heart in peace, Takako is surprised to encounter new worlds within the stacks of books lining the Morisaki bookshop.

As summer fades to autumn, Satoru and Takako discover they have more in common than they first thought. The Morisaki bookshop has something to teach them both about life, love, and the healing power of books.

Paperback, 150 pages
Published July 4, 2023
 by Harper Perennial
3/5 stars

This was a relatively quick read, coming in at 147 pages, I suppose a bit longer than a short story and possibly the size of a novella. This was the author's debut published in 2009 and has since been translated to English.

Like I said a quick read, the story of a 25-year-old girl as her life takes a change in direction. She is suddenly working at a used bookstore that is owned by an uncle she has not seen in years. What follows is her life, the life of the uncle whose wife has left him five years previous. All this is recap in blurb.

The Morisake bookshop is a story of new beginnings, family dynamics and grief. It was a fun read, nothing spectacular jumped out at me and at times I would have liked more. There is a sequel to this book so maybe at some point in time I will read it and see what Takako is up to.

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The Husbands by Holly Gramazio

When Lauren returns home to her flat in London late one night, she is greeted at the door by her husband, Michael. There’s only one problem—she’s not married. She’s never seen this man before in her life. But according to her friends, her much-improved decor, and the photos on her phone, they’ve been together for years.

As Lauren tries to puzzle out how she could be married to someone she can’t remember meeting, Michael goes to the attic to change a lightbulb and abruptly disappears. In his place, a new man emerges, and a new, slightly altered life re-forms around her. Realizing that her attic is creating an infinite supply of husbands, Lauren confronts the question: If swapping lives is as easy as changing a lightbulb, how do you know you’ve taken the right path? When do you stop trying to do better and start actually living?

Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 2, 2024
by Doubleday Canada
2.5/5 stars

This book was an impulse buy for me, and sometimes those work out and sometimes they don't. It's also a ReadwithJenna pick. Again sometimes these celebrity picks work and sometimes they don't.

Let me warn you, I'm going against the flow with my thoughts on this one. The premise is intriguing - imagine coming home single only to find your husband waiting for you in your flat. And it's set in England, which is one of my favorite settings. But it doesn't take long for Lauren to realize she can exchange her husband by sending him back up to the attic and a new one appears. So many questions arise, like how does this happen and how does one stay sane after going through hundreds of husbands?

The writing was good, and I enjoyed getting to know Lauren and her quirky personality, she was kinda flat though. But after 150 pages I was wondering what the point of the book was. And even after 260 pages, I was left scratching my head. Maybe 352 pages was a bit longish. 

I usually like magical realism books with a touch of sci-fi or supernatural elements, but in this case, the magical attic is never really explained. The ending was sudden and fitting, but not satisfying because I didn't feel like I got a clear takeaway from the story.

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

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.