5 Books I’m Recommending Right Now

I have been ever so slowly making my way through my NetGalley shelf.  While I am absolutely thrilled with the generosity of the publishers in granting my requests, I may overestimate my reading capacity when they all seem to be approved at once.  

These are titles that I’m received as Advanced Readers Copies that I am recommending for various readings.  I’m including a few different genres and a note that they are not all new releases because I am that far behind.

Also, they weren’t all books that I’d necessarily “rave about” or read again, but are titles I belive have inherent entertainment or educational value – so perhaps not 5 star reads, but books I enjoyed for one reason or another and wouldn’t have regretted if I had purchased.

5 Books I’m Recommending Right Now:

The Beach House by Jenny Hale is a heartwarming summer romance.  This was a quick read, but would be perfect for tucking into your beach bag.  Bonus points for a beautiful cover. From Bookouture – June 9, 2021.

Silence In The Library by Katherine Schellman is an engaging historical romance (and in exciting news, there is more Lily Adler to come!) This is the second book in the series and I have truly enjoyed both books. The writing works for me and I like the characters. From Crooked Lane Books – July 13, 2021.


No Days Off by Max Domi – I didn’t love the hockey references and in fact, my eyes may have glazed over at times (but I am admittedly not a sports girl!) – so I obviously didn’t read it from the fandom perspective. I did appreciate Domi’s transparency in sharing his journey to the NHL while attempting to balance Type 1 and celiac disease without giving up on his dreams.  I couldn’t relate to all of the “perks” he has had in learning to manage his diagnosis, but I could relate to much of his experience and feelings. (Side note, I apologize for the things I’ve said when high or low!) I recommend as inspiring non-fiction that encourages you to keep on going or for anyone interested in an accurately descriptive glimpse of what living with Type 1 can be like. As an extra bonus, a portion of proceeds of the sales has been donated to the JDRF.  From Simon & Schuster Canada – October 29, 2019


Trisha’s Kitchen by Trisha Yearwood – this cookbook is rife with some good ol’ comfort food recipes. I want to order a copy for my collection but don’t think I could cook from it every day without gaining a zillion pounds.  They are “accessible” recipes for the most part containing nothing too exotic and a lot of pantry basics, presented with a down home twist and glimpses into the Yearwood/Brooks home.  From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – September 28, 2021


In The Mirror, A Peacock Danced by Justine Bothwick was a descriptive dual-timeline historical novel about a woman’s journey to find herself, set amidst lush backgrounds of early 20th-century India and the slightly greyer background of mid 20th-century England. it was a slow paced but enthralling read. From Agora Books – June 24, 2021

My thanks to each of the publishers for the complimentary reads.  I’ve listed the release dates and publishers.  As you can see, some are readily available, some may need a pre-order, or even re-order.  If you’ve read any of these titles, let me know which ones in the comments! And as always, share your thoughts.

Mid-Year Update

You’d think in a world where we’re forced to slow down and stay at home, things would be easier for an extroverted introvert. Unfortunately, I feel likes it’s been harder to juggle things adequately while still maintaining healthy boundaries between work, home, health, parenting, and play. I recognize that my struggles haven’t been as heavy in some areas as others have experienced but also recognize that we’re all juggling our own plates – some of us better than others. In any case and all political discussion aside, I’m thrilled that we’re heading back into some of our normal activities even if I roll my eyes at some of what’s going on.

One of the big changes I’ve made recently has been avoiding certain social media platforms. If something doesn’t build you up or better you in some way in a world heavy with distractions, I’m all for pruning it out. I’ve found some outlets that are working better for me and having fun with my contributions.

A big celebration for us this month is the 8th grade graduation of our youngest. He’s been making do with a very strange school year and has missed out on many rites of passage compared to his brother’s experience. I think we have to hand it to students across Ontario – they’re remarkable. In our case, the boys have played the hands they’ve been dealt, but J. in particular has worked with commitment and responsibility and graduated his elementary school journey as an honours student with an academic award in mathematics and a community-sponsored award for perseverance. How on earth have they gone from being little chubby babies to high school students in the blink of an eye? I’m so proud of both of them.

Kevin and I also celebrated this month – seventeen years of wedded wonder. (Snicker, snicker…) We treated ourselves with a weekend getaway to Niagara Falls with a newly renovated room at the Sheraton Fallsview with a -you guessed it – view of the Falls. It also had a Juliette “balcony” and two queen beds. Best sleep I’ve had in months and the days were filled with nothing exciting – books, walks, naps, food – absolute bliss.

All in all, not much ever seems to change and yet everything seems to be constantly changing. I continue to read as my decompression strategy. I hope I’m imparting my kids with life skills and foundations for success. (NOT always without complaints, I might add.) I work. I feel. I hope I learn. And I continue to wonder how everyone always seems to have it all together.

Overall, I cannot believe we’re halfway through 2021 and I know we have some more changes on the horizon. I look forward to this with equal parts dread and excitement and possibly a big part of me that would comfortably settle for staus quo. Can we just press pause for a moment?!?

Harlequin Summer Beach Reads Blog Tour: The Summer Seekers by Sarah Morgan

I’m presenting the second title I’m reviewing for the Harlequin Summer 2021 Beach Reads Blog Tour today and it was a perfect beach read or backyard book. Today is the last day in the tour for Sarah Morgan’s newest release, The Summer Seekers. It is aptly named as it’s a quintessential summer read!

Book Summary:

Get swept into a summer of sunshine, soul-searching and shameless matchmaking with this delightfully bighearted road-trip adventure by USA TODAY bestselling author Sarah Morgan!

Kathleen is eighty years old. After she has a run-in with an intruder, her daughter wants her to move into a residential home. But she’s not having any of it. What she craves—what she needs—is adventure.

Liza is drowning in the daily stress of family life. The last thing she needs is her mother jetting off on a wild holiday, making Liza long for a solo summer of her own.

Martha is having a quarter-life crisis. Unemployed, unloved and uninspired, she just can’t get her life together. But she knows something has to change.

When Martha sees Kathleen’s advertisement for a driver and companion to share an epic road trip across America with, she decides this job might be the answer to her prayers. She’s not the world’s best driver, but anything has to be better than living with her parents. And traveling with a stranger? No problem. Anyway, how much trouble can one eighty-year-old woman be?

As these women embark on the journey of a lifetime, they all discover it’s never too late to start over…

My Thoughts:

The Summer Seekers is an absolutely delightful lighthearted novel with charming characters full of humour and heart. Don’t let the lightheartedness fool you though, there are some deeper issues addressed while the characters tackle growth, trust, and tinges of regret. It is a sweet, feel-good read and most readers will find it relatable to some degree as it presents the challenges and joys of family, friendships, and the standards we and society place on ourselves. It’s a good reminder to put aside the critical voices, personal fears, and over-commitment and prioritize a life lived freely of the weight of unreasonable expectations. If this doesn’t make you want to pack your bags and head cross country (or to the nearest coast) to soul-search and live a vivacious life, I’m not sure what will! Just be sure to make some new friends and cherish the old ones along the way!

Recommended for: fans of contemporary women’s fiction and romance

THE SUMMER SEEKERS
Author: Sarah Morgan
ISBN: 9781335180926
Publication Date: 5/18/2021
Publisher: HQN Books

My thanks to the publisher for the gifted ARC. Opinions expressed are my own.

Blog Tour & Excerpt: The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff

While I would typically share a review in my stop on a blog tour, I opted to share an excerpt this time around. Thank you to Park Row Books for the complimentary advanced review copy of The Woman with the Blue Star, the latest release from Pam Jenoff, published earlier this month. It is spectacular and I would recommend for fans of Pam Jenoff, obviously, but also for anyone who enjoys WWII historical fiction. It was unique enough to stand out among a very saturated market. (I mean those of us who enjoy this genre can’t quite get our fill!) It is a remarkable tale that you won’t be able to put down as you fall in love with Sadie and Ella in a tale of extraordinary courage from ordinary women brought together in volatile circumstances.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris comes a riveting tale of courage and unlikely friendship during World War II.

1942. Sadie Gault is eighteen and living with her parents in the Kraków Ghetto during World War II. When the Nazis liquidate the ghetto, Sadie and her pregnant mother are forced to seek refuge in the perilous tunnels beneath the city. One day Sadie looks up through a grate and sees a girl about her own age buying flowers.

Ella Stepanek is an affluent Polish girl living a life of relative ease with her stepmother, who has developed close alliances with the occupying Germans. While on an errand in the market, she catches a glimpse of something moving beneath a grate in the street. Upon closer inspection, she realizes it’s a girl hiding.

Ella begins to aid Sadie and the two become close, but as the dangers of the war worsen, their lives are set on a collision course that will test them in the face of overwhelming odds. Inspired by incredible true stories, The Woman with the Blue Star is an unforgettable testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary strength of the human will to survive.


EXCERPT:

Sadie

Kraków, PolandMarch 1942

Everything changed the day they came for the children.

I was supposed to have been in the attic crawl space of the three-story building we shared with a dozen other families in the ghetto. Mama helped me hide there each morning before she set out to join the factory work detail, leaving me with a fresh bucket as a toilet and a stern admonishment not to leave. But I grew cold and restless alone in the tiny, frigid space where I couldn’t run or move or even stand straight. The minutes stretched silently, broken only by a scratching—unseen children, years younger than me, stowed on the other side of the wall. They were kept separate from one another without space to run and play. They sent each other messages by tapping and scratching, though, like a kind of improvised Morse code. Sometimes, in my boredom, I joined in, too.

“Freedom is where you find it,” my father often said when I complained. Papa had a way of seeing the world exactly as he wanted. “The greatest prison is in our mind.” It was easy for him to say. Though he manual ghetto labor was a far cry from his professional work as an accountant before the war, at least he was out and about each day, seeing other people. Not cooped up like me. I had scarcely left our apartment building since we were forced to move six months earlier from our apartment in the Jewish Quarter near the city center to the Podgórze neighborhood where the ghetto had been established on the southern bank of the river. I wanted a normal life, my life, free to run beyond the walls of the ghetto to all of the places I had once known and taken for granted. I imagined taking the tram to the shops on the Rynek or to the kino to see a film, exploring the ancient grassy mounds on the outskirts of the city. I wished that at least my best friend, Stefania, was one of the others hidden nearby. Instead, she lived in a separate apartment on the other side of the ghetto designated for the families of the Jewish police.

It wasn’t boredom or loneliness that had driven me from my hiding place this time, though, but hunger. I had always had a big appetite and this morning’s breakfast ration had been a half slice of bread, even less than usual. Mama had offered me her portion, but I knew she needed her strength for the long day ahead on the labor detail.

As the morning wore on in my hiding place, my empty belly had begun to ache. Visions pushed into my mind uninvited of the foods we ate before the war: rich mushroom soup and savory borscht, and pierogi, the plump, rich dumplings my grandmother used to make. By midmorning, I felt so weak from hunger that I had ventured out of my hiding place and down to the shared kitchen on the ground floor, which was really nothing more than a lone working stove burner and a sink that dripped tepid brown water. I didn’t go to take food—even if there had been any, I would never steal. Rather, I wanted to see if there were any crumbs left in the cupboard and to fill my stomach with a glass of water.

I stayed in the kitchen longer than I should, reading the dog-eared copy of the book I’d brought with me. The thing I detested most about my hiding place in the attic was the fact that it was too dark for reading. I had always loved to read and Papa had carried as many books as he could from our apartment to the ghetto, over the protests of my mother, who said we needed the space in our bags for clothes and food. It was my father who had nurtured my love of learning and encouraged my dream of studying medicine at Jagiellonian University before the German laws made that impossible, first by banning Jews and later by closing the university altogether. Even in the ghetto at the end of his long, hard days of labor, Papa loved to teach and discuss ideas with me. He had somehow found me a new book a few days earlier, too, The Count of Monte Cristo. But the hiding place in the attic was too dark for me to read and there was scarcely any time in the evening before curfew and lights-out. Just a bit longer, I told myself, turning the page in the kitchen. A few minutes wouldn’t matter at all.

I had just finished licking the dirty bread knife when I heard heavy tires screeching, followed by barking voices. I froze, nearly dropping my book. The SS and Gestapo were outside, flanked by the vile Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst, Jewish Ghetto Police, who did their bidding. It was an aktion, the sudden unannounced arrest of large groups of Jews to be taken from the ghetto to camps. The very reason I was meant to be hiding in the first place. I raced from the kitchen, across the hall and up the stairs. From below came a great crash as the front door to the apartment building splintered and the police burst through. There was no way I could make it back to the attic in time.

Instead, I raced to our third-floor apartment. My heart pounded as I looked around desperately, wishing for an armoire or other cabinet suitable for hiding in the tiny room, which was nearly bare except for a dresser and bed. There were other places, I knew, like the fake plaster wall one of the other families had constructed in the adjacent building not a week earlier. That was too far away now, impossible to reach. My eyes focused on the large steamer trunk stowed at the foot of my parents’ bed. Mama had shown me how to hide there once shortly after we first moved to the ghetto. We practiced it like a game, Mama opening the trunk so that I could climb in before she closed the lid.

The trunk was a terrible hiding place, exposed and in the middle of the room. But there was simply nowhere else. I had to try. I raced over to the bed and climbed into the trunk, then closed the lid with effort. I thanked heavens that I was tiny like Mama. I had always hated being so petite, which made me look a solid two years younger than I actually was. Now it seemed a blessing, as did the sad fact that the months of meager ghetto rations had made me thinner. I still fit in the trunk.

When we had rehearsed, we had envisioned Mama putting a blanket or some clothes over the top of the trunk. Of course, I couldn’t do that myself. So the trunk sat unmasked for anyone who walked into the room to see and open. I curled into a tiny ball and wrapped my arms around myself, feeling the white armband with the blue star on my sleeve that all Jews were required to wear.

There came a great crashing from the next building, the sound of plaster being hewn by a hammer or ax. The police had found the hiding place behind the wall, given away by the too-fresh paint. An unfamiliar cry rang out as a child was found and dragged from his hiding place. If I had gone there, I would have been caught as well.

Someone neared the door to the apartment and flung it open. My heart seized. I could hear breathing, feel eyes searching the room. I’m sorry, Mama, I thought, feeling her reproach for having left the attic. I braced myself for discovery. Would they go easier on me if I came out and gave myself up? The footsteps grew fainter as the German continued down the hall, stopping before each door, searching.

The war had come to Kraków one warm fall day two and a half years earlier when the air-raid sirens rang out for the first time and sent the playing children scurrying from the street. Life got hard before it got bad. Food disappeared and we waited in long lines for the most basic supplies. Once there was no bread for a whole week.

Then about a year ago, upon orders from the General Government, Jews teemed into Kraków by the thousands from the small towns and villages, dazed and carrying their belongings on their backs. At first I wondered how they would all find places to stay in Kazimierz, the already cramped Jewish Quarter of the city. But the new arrivals were forced to live by decree in a crowded section of the industrial Podgórze district on the far side of the river that had been cordoned off with a high wall. Mama worked with the Gmina, the local Jewish community organization, to help them resettle, and we often had friends of friends over for a meal when they first arrived, before they went to the ghetto for good. They told stories from their hometowns too awful to believe and Mama shooed me from the room so I would not hear.

Several months after the ghetto was created, we were ordered to move there as well. When Papa told me, I couldn’t believe it. We were not refugees, but residents of Kraków; we had lived in our apartment on Meiselsa Street my entire life. It was the perfect location: on the edge of the Jewish Quarter but easy walking distance to the sights and sounds of the city center and close enough to Papa’s office on Stradomska Street that he could come home for lunch. Our apartment was above an adjacent café where a pianist played every evening. Sometimes the music spilled over and Papa would whirl Mama around the kitchen to the faint strains. But according to the orders, Jews were Jews. One day. One suitcase each. And the world I had known my entire life disappeared forever.

I peered out of the thin slit opening of the trunk, trying to see across the tiny room I shared with my parents. We were lucky, I knew, to have a whole room to ourselves, a privilege we had been given because my father was a labor foreman. Others were forced to share an apartment, often two or three families together. Still, the space felt cramped compared to our real home. We were ever on top of one another, the sights and sounds and smells of daily living magnified.

“Kinder, raus!” the police called over and over again now as they patrolled the halls. Children, out. It was not the first time the Germans had come for children during the day, knowing that their parents would be at work.

But I was no longer a child. I was eighteen and might have joined the work details like others my age and some several years younger. I could see them lining up for roll call each morning before trudging to one of the factories. And I wanted to work, even though I could tell from the slow, painful way my father now walked, stooped like an old man, and how Mama’s hands were split and bleeding that it was hard and awful. Work meant a chance to get out and see and talk to people. My hiding was a subject of much debate between my parents. Papa thought I should work. Labor cards were highly prized in the ghetto. Workers were valued and less likely to be deported to one of the camps. But Mama, who seldom fought my father on anything, had forbidden it. “She doesn’t look her age. The work is too hard. She is safest out of sight.” I wondered as I hid now, about to be discovered at any second, if she would still think she was right.

The building finally went silent, the last of the awful footsteps receding. Still I didn’t move. That was one of the ways they trapped people who were hiding, by pretending to go away and lying in wait when they came out. I remained motionless, not daring to leave my hiding place. My limbs ached, then went numb. I had no idea how much time had passed. Through the slit, I could see that the room had grown dimmer, as if the sun had lowered a bit.

Sometime later, there were footsteps again, this time a shuffling sound as the laborers trudged back silent and exhausted from their day. I tried to uncurl myself from the trunk. But my muscles were stiff and sore and my movements slow. Before I could get out, the door to our apartment flung open and someone ran into the room with steps light and fluttering. “Sadie!” It was Mama, sounding hysterical.

“Jestem tutaj,” I called. I am here. Now that she was home, she could help me untangle myself and get out. But my voice was muffled by the trunk. When I tried to undo the latch, it stuck.

Mama raced from the room back into the corridor. I could hear her open the door to the attic, then run up the stairs, still searching for me. “Sadie!” she called. Then, “My child, my child,” over and over again as she searched but did not find me, her voice rising to a shriek. She thought I was gone.

“Mama!” I yelled. She was too far away to hear me, though, and her own cries were too loud. Desperately, I struggled once more to free myself from the trunk without success. Mama raced back into the room, still wailing. I heard the scraping sound of a window opening and felt a whoosh of cold air. At last I threw myself against the lid of the trunk, slamming my shoulder so hard it throbbed. The latch sprang open.

I broke free and stood up quickly. “Mama?” She was standing in the oddest position, with one foot on the window ledge, her willowy frame silhouetted against the frigid twilight sky. “What are you doing?” For a second, I thought she was looking for me outside. But her face was twisted with grief and pain. I knew then why Mama was on the window ledge. She assumed I had been taken along with the other children. And she didn’t want to live. If I hadn’t freed myself from the trunk in time, Mama would have jumped. I was her only child, her whole world. She was prepared to kill herself before she would go on without me.

A chill ran through me as I sprinted toward her. “I’m here, I’m here.” She wobbled unsteadily on the window ledge and I grabbed her arm to stop her from falling. Remorse ripped through me. I always wanted to please her, to bring that hard-won smile to her beautiful face. Now I had caused her so much pain she’d almost done the unthinkable.

“I was so worried,” she said after I’d helped her down and closed the window. As if that explained everything. “You weren’t in the attic.”

“But, Mama, I hid where you told me to.” I gestured to the trunk. “The other place, remember? Why didn’t you look for me there?”

Mama looked puzzled. “I didn’t think you would fit anymore.” There was a pause and then we both began laughing, the sound scratchy and out of place in the pitiful room. For a few seconds, it was like we were back in our old apartment on Meiselsa Street and none of this had happened at all. If we could still laugh, surely things would be all right. I clung to this last improbable thought like a life preserver at sea.

But a cry echoed through the building, then another, silencing our laughter. It was the mothers of the other children who had been taken by the police. There came a thud outside. I started for the window, but my mother blocked me. “Look away,” she ordered. It was too late. I glimpsed Helga Kolberg, who lived down the hall, lying motionless in the coal-tinged snow on the pavement below, her limbs cast at odd angles and skirt splayed around her like a fan. She had realized her children were gone and, like Mama, she didn’t want to live without them. I wondered whether jumping was a shared instinct, or if they had discussed it, a kind of suicide pact in case their worst nightmares came true.

My father raced into the room then. Neither Mama nor I said a word, but I could tell from his unusually grim expression that he already knew about the aktion and what had happened to the other families. He simply walked over and wrapped his enormous arms around both of us, hugging us tighter than usual.

As we sat, silent and still, I looked up at my parents. Mama was a striking beauty—thin and graceful, with white-blond hair the color of a Nordic princess’. She looked nothing like the other Jewish women and I had heard whispers more than once that she didn’t come from here. She might have walked away from the ghetto and lived as a non-Jew if it wasn’t for us. But I was built like Papa, with the dark, curly hair and olive skin that made the fact that we were Jews undeniable. My father looked like the laborer the Germans had made him in the ghetto, broad-shouldered and ready to lift great pipes or slabs of concrete. In fact, he was an accountant—or had been until it became illegal for his firm to employ him anymore. I always wanted to please Mama, but it was Papa who was my ally, keeper of secrets and weaver of dreams, who stayed up too late whispering secrets in the dark and had roamed the city with me, hunting for treasure. I moved closer now, trying to lose myself in the safety of his embrace.

Still, Papa’s arms could offer little shelter from the fact that everything was changing. The ghetto, despite its awful conditions, had once seemed relatively safe. We were living among Jews and the Germans had even appointed a Jewish council, the Judenrat, to run our daily affairs. Perhaps if we laid low and did as we were told, Papa said more than once, the Germans would leave us alone inside these walls until the war was over. That had been the hope. But after today, I wasn’t so sure. I looked around the apartment, seized with equal parts disgust and fear. In the beginning, I had not wanted to be here; now I was terrified we would be forced to leave.

“We have to do something,” Mama burst out, her voice a pitch higher than usual as it echoed my unspoken thoughts.

“I’ll take her tomorrow and register her for a work permit,” Papa said. This time Mama did not argue. Before the war, being a child had been a good thing. But now being useful and able to work was the only thing that might save us.

Mama was talking about more than a work visa, though. “They are going to come again and next time we won’t be so lucky.” She did not bother to hold back her words for my benefit now. I nodded in silent agreement. Things were changing, a voice inside me said. We could not stay here forever.

“It will be okay, kochana,” Papa soothed. How could he possibly say that? But Mama laid her head on his shoulder, seeming to trust him as she always had. I wanted to believe it, too. “I will think of something. At least,” Papa added as we huddled close, “we are all still together.” The words echoed through the room, equal parts promise and prayer.

Excerpted from The Woman With the Blue Star @ 2021 by Pam Jenoff, used with permission by Park Row Books.


The Woman with the Blue Star
Pam Jenoff
On Sale Date: May 4, 2021
9780778389385, 0778389383
Trade Paperback
$17.99 USD, $22.99 CAD
Fiction / Historical / Jewish
336 pages

Blog Tour & Book Review: The Clover Girls by Viola Shipman

I first requested The Clover Girls by Viola Shipman directly through NetGalley when I first saw it because of my appreciation of Shipman’s novel that I reviewed previously, The Heirloom Garden. I had already read my digital ARC (advanced readers copy) via NetGalley when the publisher invited me to join the Summer 2021 Beach Reads Blog Tour and it was one of the titles available. Because I have a tendency to ramble, the short version is that this was a delightful book and if you’re a fan of heartwarming women’s fiction, you’ll want to pick up a copy for yourself.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

As comforting and familiar as a favorite sweater, Viola Shipman’s novels never fail to deliver a heartfelt story of friendship and familty, encapsulating summer memories in every page. Fans of Dorthea Benton Frank and Nancy Thayer will love this new story about three childhood friends approaching middle age, determined to rediscover the dreams that made them special as campers in 1985.

Elizabeth, Veronica, Rachel and Emily met at Camp Birchwood as girls in 1985, where they called themselves The Clover Girls (after their cabin name). The years following that magical summer pulled them in very different directions and, now approaching middle age, the women are facing new challenges: the inevitable physical changes that come with aging, feeling invisible to society, disinterested husbands, surley teens, and losing their sense of self.

Then, Elizabeth, Veronica and Rachel each receive a letter from Emily – she has cancer and, knowing it’s terminal, reaches out to the girls who were her best friends once upon a time and implores them to reunite at Camp Birchwood to scatter her ashes. When the three meet at the property for the first time in what feels like a lifetime, another letter from Emily awaits, explaining that she has purchased the abandoned camp, and now it belongs to them – at Emily’s urging, they must spend a week together remembering the dreams they’d put aside, and find a way to become the women they always swore they’d grow up to be. Through flashbacks to their youthful summer, we see the four friends then and now, rebuilding their lives, flipping a middle finger to society’s disdain for aging women, and with a renewed purpose to find themselves again.

MY THOUGHTS:

This novel had some small elements of humour, but mostly it was packed full of heart. Themes of friendship and the resiliency of women in the midst of the demands and unreasonable expectations upon them run deep throughout. If you have ever felt yourself questioning where you’re at in life and wondering how you got there, you’ll probably be able to related on some level to any one of the Clover Girls. Some bittersweet scenes will get the tear ducts working and by the last chapter you’ll feel like you’ve just made some new BFFs and won’t want to leave them behind. Told in dual timeline from multiple narrators, you’ll feel like your at summer camp and (re)experience some childhood angst on one hand, but get caught up in the chippy battered relationships of women who have seemingly outgrown their youthful naivety and find they still need each other. It is truly a pleasure to get caught up in a read as emotional and rewarding as this one.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Viola Shipman is the pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his writing. Rouse is the author of The Summer Cottage, as well as The Charm Bracelet and The Hope Chest which have been translated into more than a dozen languages and become international bestsellers. He lives in Saugatuck, Michigan and Palm Springs, California, and has written for PeopleCoastal LivingGood Housekeeping, and Taste of Home, along with other publications, and is a contributor to All Things Considered.

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy of this title. Opinions are my own.

THE CLOVER GIRLS
Author: Viola Shipman 
ISBN: 9781525896002
Publication Date:  May 18, 2021
Publisher: Graydon House

Blog Tour & Book Review: Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica

Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica sounded intriguing enough when I first heard about it, but I’ll give a warning that as far as psychological thrillers go, this was a bit darker than I’d usually read. It was most definitely *not* a fuzzy, comedic whodunnit. I have been seeing it pop up on social media and in reader emails as we approach publication date with advance praise for the hook factor, but also many comments about it being “dark.”

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

People don’t just disappear without a trace…
Shelby Tebow is the first to go missing. Not long after, Meredith Dickey and her six-year-old daughter, Delilah, vanish just blocks away from where Shelby was last seen, striking fear into their once-peaceful community. Are these incidents connected? After an elusive search that yields more questions than answers, the case eventually goes cold.

Now, eleven years later, Delilah shockingly returns. Everyone wants to know what happened to her, but no one is prepared for what they’ll find…

In this smart and chilling thriller, master of suspense and New York Times bestselling author Mary Kubica takes domestic secrets to a whole new level, showing that some people will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.

MY THOUGHTS:

I almost closed the book within the first chapter. I didn’t like where I thought it was heading but was assured by someone else who read it to keep going. It starts dark, but didn’t stay there in as much as a psychological thriller can. If you read the summary, it involves a missing child and that always makes it iffy for me. This story is, however, twisty. It’s not slow, per se, but not hurried – a lot of detail, but entrancing. As the story unwinds, the mystery doesn’t and I’ll admit that until one key pivotal moment, I sat there going “but what does this have to do with what happened?” It’ll keep you on your toes! There are a ton of content warnings I could give and I don’t think it’s going to be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s okay – it will definitely work for some and be a bit too much for others. (You can head to Goodreads or StoryGraph for some of the highlights on the content warnings.) It’s got a lot going on – this neighbourhood has secrets – and there are some graphic, skin crawling scenes – ick. If that’s not your jam, give it a pass for sure. If you like an intense chilling thriller, pick it up – once I got past my own reservations, I needed to see it through to the end because it really sucked me in!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mary Kubica is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of six novels, including THE GOOD GIRL, PRETTY BABY, DON’T YOU CRY, EVERY LAST LIE, WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT, and THE OTHER MRS. A former high school history teacher, Mary holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children. Her last novel THE OTHER MRS. was an instant New York Times bestseller; is coming soon to Netflix; was a LibraryReads pick for February 2020; praised by the New York Times; and highly recommended by Entertainment Weekly, People, The Week,Marie Claire, Bustle, HelloGiggles, Goodreads, PopSugar, BookRiot, HuffingtonPost, First for Women, Woman’s World, and more. Mary’s novels have been translated into over thirty languages and have sold over two million copies worldwide. She’s been described as “a helluva storyteller,” (Kirkus Reviews) and “a writer of vice-like control,” (Chicago Tribune), and her novels have been praised as “hypnotic” (People) and “thrilling and illuminating” (Los Angeles Times).  LOCAL WOMAN MISSING is her seventh novel.

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary digital ARC. All opinions are my own.

Local Woman Missing
Mary Kubica
On Sale Date: May 18, 2021
ISBN 9780778389446, 0778389448
Hardcover
$27.99 USD, $34.99 CAD
Fiction / Thrillers / Psychological
352 pages

Blog Tour & Book Review: Confessions from the Quilting Circle by Maisey Yates

Once upon a time, I tried to use my sister-in-laws sewing machine to make Halloween costumes for myself and my then boyfriend (now husband.) To put it lightly, it was a disastrous experience. Then in the future, I purchased a basic sewing machine so I could teach myself and well, let’s just say I broke the sewing machine. Hand-sewing is not an improvement – I can sew on a button and darn a small hole, but the thought of creating a quilt seems so ambitiously talented and I envy those who can do fine needlework, despite the fact that once upon a time I could complete a pretty decent cross stitch. My creative talents lie elsewhere, but one day I will pick up a needle and thread again to make something pretty.

Now that we’ve cleared up that I’m absolute rubbish when it comes to sewing, I’d like to say that the Ashwood women are much more talented than I am. I received a complimentary e-book version of Maisey Yates’ new release, Confessions from the Quilting Circle, which releases May 4th. It sounded like exactly my kind of book and I happily read it in anticipation of being a part of the publisher’s blog tour. Crafts, secrets, romance? I want to be part of this world!

Book Summary:

The Ashwood women don’t have much in common…except their ability to keep secrets.

When Lark Ashwood’s beloved grandmother dies, she and her sisters discover an unfinished quilt. Finishing it could be the reason Lark’s been looking for to stop running from the past, but is she ever going to be brave enough to share her biggest secret with the people she ought to be closest to?

Hannah can’t believe she’s back in Bear Creek, the tiny town she sacrificed everything to escape from. The plan? Help her sisters renovate her grandmother’s house and leave as fast as humanly possible. Until she comes face-to-face with a man from her past. But getting close to him again might mean confessing what really drove her away…

Stay-at-home mom Avery has built a perfect life, but at a cost. She’ll need all her family around her, and all her strength, to decide if the price of perfection is one she can afford to keep paying.

This summer, the Ashwood women must lean on each other like never before, if they are to stitch their family back together, one truth at a time…


My Thoughts:
This contemporary novel was easy to read with flawed characters, second chances, and a lot of secrets. The parallels between each sister and the journal entries they read were a nice touch in uniting the past with the present. The romantic elements are sweet (and there is some passion!) but they’re almost secondary to the story of the Ashwood family coming to terms with their distant relationships with each other. There’s a lot for each woman to overcome to get to a place of happiness and fulfillment, despite their individual successes (or illusion thereof.)

It was interesting to peel back the layers to see where the fabric of their lives had frayed or torn, leaving them a little unfinished or incomplete. I loved the concept of a united project and the truths and beauty that came out of time spent together creating a work of art in their grandmother’s (mother’s) memory. I quite enjoyed getting to know the characters and unravelling the threads of who they are and where they came from, flaws and all. This title hits bookshelves today – pick up a copy from your favorite independent bookstore or all major book retailers.

My thanks to Harlequin/HarperCollins for the advanced readers copy. All opinions are my own.

Author Bio:
New York Times Bestselling author Maisey Yates lives in rural Oregon with her three children and her husband, whose chiseled jaw and arresting features continue to make her swoon. She feels the epic trek she takes several times a day from her office to her coffee maker is a true example of her pioneer spirit. 

Social Links:
Author Website
Twitter: @maiseyyates
Facebook:@MaiseyYates.Author 
Instagram: @maiseyyates
Goodreads

CONFESSIONS FROM THE QUILTING CIRCLE
Author: Maisey Yates
ISBN: 9781335775856
Publication Date: 5/4/2021
Publisher: HQN Books




Book Recommendation: Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison

This is not going to be a review post as I sometimes find it difficult to review non-fiction and in matters of race, I’m not sure it’s my place to judge a tool. This is, rather, a recommendation for anyone interested in exploring racial reconciliation from a perspective of Christ followers.

I just finished the final chapter of Latasha Morrison’s book, Be the Bridge. In it, she walks us through Biblical steps and examples of repentance and the end goal of racial unity and justice. It’s honest and hopeful and sometimes difficult, as any book that askes us hard questions can be. It contains a lot of food for thought. I found the author used grace and hope throughout each chapter, drawing us along a path of implementation and bridge building.

For myself, I will be ordering a copy for markup and highlighting because I thought it was an effective tool for those of faith interested in racial reconciliation and bridge building. If you have any stirring in your heart but are unsure where to start as an advocate for unity and redemption, I say start here.

If you do pick up a copy, keep reading. Commit to working through the final chapter and asking yourself the questions and engaging in the other exercises. Sit and ponder. Then assess for yourself but don’t give up until you see how Morrison builds to a place of wholeness and unity.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley. Thoughts are my own.

Blog Tour & Book Review: The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman by Julietta Henderson

Last week, The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman by Julietta Henderson was released in North America. I was fortunate enough to be given a complimentary e-book with thanks to Harper Collins. Additionally, I get to be a part of a blog tour touting all the wonders of this amazing book!

I’ve read a few titles lately that have earned a place on my “top reads of 2021” and this is definitely one of them. It has heart and humour and an eclectic cast of characters. I can be an emotional reader, but It isn’t easy to make me laugh out loud and silently sob all in the same chapter, but Norman did. As he deals with grief and chronic illness, Norman, accompanied by his mom and surrogate grandfather, embarks on a whirlwind quest of epic proportions: performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The challenge, besides Norman’s age? He’s not the world’s funniest kid and he’s missing the other half of his comedy duo.

I wanted to envelop Norman in the world’s biggest, most careful hug and I absolutely adored Jax. (We’ve had some encounters with the Jax of this world and I think they’re misjudged and mislabeled.) This novel is irreverent and funny and pulls the heartstrings right to the very end. One of the “perks” for me was the relatability to Sadie as a mother – her internal dialogue, while not entirely relevant to me personally, was familiar enough that I wanted to pull her aside and tell her she’s an excellent mother. She wasn’t perfect, but she loves Norman wholeheartedly.

I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but can say without a qualm of hesitance that I absolutely recommend it. Julietta’s writing has a unique rhythm that pulled me in as a reader. Throughout the story, there’s a lot to explore, but if it doesn’t tickle your funny bone or touch your heart, than you might just be made of stone.

About the Book:

Little Miss Sunshine meets Wonder in this delightfully charming, uplifting book club debut about a twelve-year-old would-be comedian who travels across the country to honor his dead best friend’s dream of performing in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe—the only problem being that his friend was the funny one of their duo.

Twelve-year-old would-be comedian Norman has got a lot going on, including a chronic case of psoriasis, a distinct lack of comic timing and a dead best friend. All his life it’s just been him, his single mum Sadie, and Jax, the ‘funny one’ of their comedy duo. So when Jax dies not only is Norman devastated, it’s also the end of the boys’ Five Year Plan to take their comedy act to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe when they turned fifteen.

But Norman decides to honor Jax by performing at the Fringe, on his own. And not when he’s fifteen—but rather in four weeks’ time. But there’s another, far more colossal objective on Norman’s plan that Sadie wasn’t quite ready for: Norman wants to find his father. Eager to do anything that might put a smile on her boy’s face, Sadie resolves to face up to her own messy past and track down the father who doesn’t even know Norman exists, and whose identity Sadie herself isn’t quite sure of.

Thus begins a road trip from Cornwall to Scotland, featuring a mother and son who will live in the reader’s heart for a long time to come.

About the Author:
Julietta Henderson is a full-time writer and comedy fan who splits her time between her home country of Australia and the UK. The Funny Thing about Norman Foreman is Julietta’s first novel.

Social Links:
Website: https://juliettahenderson.com/ 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/juliettajulia1 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/juliettahendersonauthor/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19633416.Julietta_Henderson

The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman
Julietta Henderson
On Sale Date: April 13, 2021
ISBN 9780778331957, 0778331954
Fiction / Humorous / Coming of Age

Book Review: An Earl, The Girl, and A Toddler

If you know me, you probably know that one of my guilty pleasures is historical romance. I want to blame my mother in law, passing along books she has read, but I’m quite certain she just cultivated roots that were already there. I passed many an hour in my teen years silently observing as early settlers fell in love on wagon trains, in the wilderness, or in small western towns thanks to the likes of Janette Oke.

As I’ve matured, my reading list has expanded to other authors and other settings and I like a good Regency romp or Victorian escape – fluff pieces, often, but easy to read and distracting from the laundry baskets piling up around me or the never ending emails flooding my inbox. When I saw An Earl, the Girl, and a Toddler by Vanessa Riley I was intrigued. I jumped in thinking it would, once again, just be a bit of mindless drivel – enjoyable but not impactful. Oh, but how I was mistaken. I should have paid more attention to the publisher’s notes.

Acclaimed author Vanessa Riley infuses the ballroom settings of Regency England with hints of Demerara Island and Jamaican flair in Rogues and Remarkable Women, her series revolving around The Widow’s Grace, a secret society of widows battling society to regain their money and a chance at love everlasting. In this sweeping, swoon-worthy second installment, a shipwrecked woman searches for her memories and becomes entangled with a conflicted nobleman who holds more answers than he realizes…

An OMag.com & Bibliolifestyle Most Anticipated Romance of 2021
PopSugar Best Romance of April
Publishers Weekly Top 10 Romance of Spring 2021

A witty and moving story from the acclaimed author of A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby, about the lengths to which a woman will go for the love of her child…and the love of a man who knows her worth. Breaking with traditional Regency rules and customs, Vanessa Riley pens an unforgettable story perfect for fans of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton, Evie Dunmore, and Eloisa James looking for something fresh and stirring!

One comment I think important to note is that I don’t think the comparison to Bridgerton is fair. Ms. Riley has created a well-crafted world in her own right, worthy of it’s own success. While both series are remarkable, they are not the same, although I can see how fans of the Bridgertons will enjoy the Rogues & Remarkable Women Series – with less, um, heaving bosoms. Both authors are talented and acclaimed.

In reviewing this novel itself, I say there was a depth of emotion and feeling that I didn’t expect. It was full of high stakes drama and flawed but likeable characters. And a ferocity – oh the ferocity and strength – were balanced with heart break, humour, and romance. Motherhood, strong women, unfair societal constraints, prejudice, loss – this title had it all along with danger and daring. What I particularly noted was a lack of ‘skip scenes’ – all the steam was closed door – so no objectionable content for anyone trying to avoid blatant intimacy. (I will note that this is actually one of the complaints I’m seeing from other reviewers – not everyone wants a “clean read” but this novel didn’t need intimate scenes. There was heat and chemistry between the characters but it’s not in-your-face.)

Best of all, in a world where representation matters, Riley delivers a beautiful story with diversity and multi-culturalism as an #OwnVoices author. I enjoyed this title so much that I then went and bought the previous title in the series (but know this title can be read as a standalone) and have flagged Riley as must-read author as I work my way through her backlist. What an enjoyable adventure that will be!

My thanks to Kensington Books for the Advanced Readers Copy via NetGalley. This title will be published April 27th and if you’re a fan of Regency romance, you should probably check it out! While I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, all opinions are my own.