Book Review: The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones by Daven McQueen

Today is Juneteenth. What is Juneteenth, you ask? Good question. I’m a 38 year old Caucasian women of Dutch descent and just heard about Juneteenth on social media this week. 38. Years. Old. and I knew nothing about a holiday that reflects on an important aspect of Black history, when Union Soldiers arrived in Texas with the news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. I probably can’t do justice in explaining all the details of significance, so I’m going to tell you to Google (or, click here) and then ponder what it would be like to find out you were emancipated 2 1/2 years before you were told. Two. and. a. half. years. I’ll never clearly be able to understand or relate. Lord knows, we’ve come a long way since then, but in all honesty, I don’t think we’ve come nearly far enough. There’s still a lot of hate and inequality in this world and that needs to change. We need to do better. We need love. We need hope. We need people to speak up and speak out and stand up for their friends and neighbours.

One of the most heartrendingly beautiful books I’ve ever read

This post isn’t actually a history lesson, or a conversation on civil rights, but a book review. Seriously. I requested “The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones” more than three months ago. I downloaded the ARC in February. A few days ago, I decided Young Adult fiction might be the right tonic to get out of a reading slump as *sometimes* (but not always) YA fiction can be a little lighter or less complex. As this title was released this week, I thought I’d give it a go. I was mistaken in thinking it might be light (although there were shimmers of brightness throughout) or less complex. I’ll be purchasing the book for re-reads this weekend.

The novel throws you back to 1955, where you’ll land in small-town Alabama. The narrator is Ethan Harper, a biracial child who’s had some trouble at school and is sent to live with his white Aunt and Uncle in a community that is anything but tolerant. He’s befriended by the strange and lovable oddball title-character, Juniper Jones. Juniper has decided that the summer of ’55 will be the most epic ever, and doesn’t really give her new accomplice a choice but to join her, and their adventures are recounted in beautiful, immersive writing.

There is a lightness and hope that is weaved throughout their summer, but also a heaviness and complexity that comes with the illumination of racial tensions and the wrong-mindedness of the era. You cannot help but to fall in love with Juniper and feel a tenderhearted affection towards her. On the other hand, your heart will break for Ethan over and over again – you’ll want to draw him into a protective bubble and shelter him from the hatred he encounters while wanting to bash some sense into his adversaries. This book will swallow you whole, chew you up, spit you out, and leave you with big emotions to process, but it also brings to light some very unfortunate aspects of history, while balancing the strength and value of true friendship.

The author weaves some unexpected moments in and you’ll be gasping for air as you bawl your eyes out more than once. It’s one of the most heartrendingly beautiful books I’ve ever read. It’s recommended for 12 & up (grades 7 – 9) and the author, Daven McQueen, acknowledges that difficult subjects are broached and offensive terminology is used. While I would recommend it unabashedly, if you have a particularly sensitive tween/teen, you may want to read it first, and then use it as a platform for conversation afterwards. For myself, it was a 5 star read for sure and most definitely one of, if not my most, favourite books of 2020.

My thanks to the author and publisher for the complimentary title via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Published by: Wattpad Books
Publication Date: June 16, 2020

Book Review: Storing Up Trouble by Jen Turano

This will be a pretty quick review – no small talk before I jump right in. This is mostly because I finished this title last night and want to share my thoughts “fresh.”

Bethany House approved my NetGalley request for Jen Turano’s upcoming novel, Storing Up Trouble. It’s the third installment in the American Heiresses series, but can very easily be read as a standalone. (I know this because I’ve not read the previous titles but most definitely will be adding them to my to-be-read list!)

A Delightful Whirlwind of Enjoyment

Turano is known for her humour and inspirational stories and this title does not disappoint on that front. If it were a person, I’d describe it as that loud, sweet, somewhat chaotic friend that brings liveliness and occasional puzzlement in every encounter. It’s a delightful whirlwind of enjoyment!

With a blend of adventure, snicker-inducing scenarios and dialogue, danger, oddball characters, and sweet romance this book is a fast-paced get-ready-for-a-ride work of art. It also manages to romp through the very pivotal history of suffrage and worker’s rights in North America in a delicate balance of important facts and quirky situations.

As it is inspirational fiction, faith and purpose play a foundational role in the overall story. It is a clean, sassy, sweet work of historical romance. Overall, I can do nothing but recommend this title. My only complaint is that I binged my way through it and now I feel a little lonely.

Published by Bethany House. Publication Date: May 5, 2020

My thanks for the complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: Eternity Springs: Tucker – Blog Tour

It’s a beautiful crisp, cold, blue sky, leap year day! The sun is shining, the snow is past our knees, and we’re getting things done… but eventually, energy will wane, the sunshine will fade to darkness, and we’ll feel the chill of winter’s icy fingertips. What’s a girl to do? Curl up with a hot cup of tea and sassy new release.

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Emily March comes the second book in the Eternity Springs: The McBrides of Texas trilogy, TUCKER (St. Martin’s Paperbacks, February 25, 2020, $7.99 – that’s $10.88 on Amazon.ca for the paperback). Two business owners come head-to-head in a feud with tulle and grit in this passionate story. This tale shows that even when life changes from the stress of a military career to working next to a wedding planner, love always finds a way to begin, even if it was never thought possible.

Meet Gillian Thacker. Her business: Bliss Bridal Salon. Her passion: Weddings. Her own wedding: It’s complicated. Life isn’t turning out like she’d planned. The last thing she wants is for a real-life hero to ride to her rescue, but an unexpected event puts her entire future in Redemption, Texas, at risk. So what’s a broken-hearted bridal expert to do? Maybe a new set of survival skills is exactly what she needs…

Tucker McBride has been proud to call himself a U.S. Army Ranger. But now that his days of service are over, he’s decided to put his expertise to use by founding a wilderness skills training school. He sets up shop in Redemption, next to Bliss Bridal, and so begins life: Part Two. Marriage has been pretty low on his agenda, but as soon as he meets Gillian, Tucker can’t help but contemplate the ultimate challenge: Convincing the reluctant bride to take his hand and leap into the adventure of a lifetime . . . until death do them part.

MY THOUGHTS

This was a fast-paced guilty pleasure type of read. Lots of chemistry, heat, and generally likable characters. It’s a small-town romance, infused with humour and tension – an opposites attract tale of reluctant romance. I haven’t read any other titles in this series and yet it worked well as a standalone. Great for fans of contemporary romance with a good dash of sizzle. Give it a pass if you are looking for something rated “G.” It has a 4.3 star average on Goodreads so people are definitely enjoying this one as a cozy, quirky, cheeky read.

My thanks to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for the opportunity to dive into an Advanced Readers Copy and share my thoughts with you during release week!

AUTHOR BIO

Emily March, Author

Emily March is the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels, including the critically acclaimed Eternity Springs series. Publishers Weekly calls March a “master of delightful banter,” and her heartwarming, emotionally charged stories have been named to Best of the Year lists by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Romance Writers of America.

A graduate of Texas A&M University, Emily is an avid fan of Aggie sports and her recipe for jalapeño relish has made her a tailgating legend.

BUY LINKS

In Canada:
Amazon.ca: https://read.amazon.ca/kp/embed?asin=B07SCTC5Q3&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_.5OwEbM4NMRAC
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/eternity-springs-the-mcbrides-of-texas-1

Elsewhere:
Macmillan: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250314932
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1250314933?tag=macmillan-20
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/eternity-springs-emily-march/1132730238;jsessionid=9CB8E792D66DAE517D48FA46AF244A7C.prodny_store01-atgap02?ean=9781250314932#/
Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/product/9781250314932?AID=42121&PID=7992675&cjevent=0a0b322d393511ea828c00f10a24060e
Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781250314932?aff=macmillan
Powell’s: https://www.powells.com/book/eternity-springs-the-mcbrides-of-texas-tucker-9781250314932?partnerid=33241

Book Review & Blog Tour: The Third to Die by Allison Brennan

While historical fiction and women’s fiction seem to be my regular go-to’s when it comes to genres I enjoy, every once in awhile I enjoy pulling out a heart-pounding, fast-paced thriller or suspense. I’m excited to say that Harlequin hooked me up and I’ve recently had the chance to read The Third to Die, the highly anticipated first book in Allison Brennan’s new series. This title hits shelves on February 4th. All the Buy Links and author information will be posted way down below if you’re interested in pre-ordering a copy for yourself – and if you’re a fan of this genre, you’ll want to pick up a copy.

From the Publisher:

New York Times bestselling author and gifted storyteller Allison Brennan’s new standalone thriller features a troubled female police detective and an ambitious FBI special agent who wind up at the center of a ticking-clock investigation into a diabolical serial killer.

Brennan’s novel will launch a book-a-year series featuring a fabulous cast of recurring characters. It’s the story of a troubled female police detective and an ambitious FBI special agent who wind up at the center of a ticking-clock investigation into a diabolical serial killer; and the bond they forge in this crucible sets the stage for the future books in the series.

Detective Kara Quinn is visiting her hometown of Liberty Lake, Washington, after being placed
on administrative leave by the LAPD, when she comes upon the mutilated body of a young
nurse during an early morning jog. The manner of death is clearly ritualistic; she calls it in.
Meanwhile back in DC, special agent in charge Mattias Costa is meticulously staffing his
newly-minted Mobile Response Team. One of his first recruits is the brilliant FBI forensic
psychologist Catherine Jones. When word reaches Matt that the Washington state murder
appears to be the work of the Triple Killer–it will be the first case for the MRT. Jones has done
the only profile on this serial killer, but she is reluctant to join the unit, still shaken by the death
of her sister a year ago under circumstances for which she holds herself responsible. But only
she holds the key to understanding the killer’s obsessive pattern–three murder victims, three
deep slashes a piece, each three days apart, each series beginning on a March 3rd–3/3, then a
three-year hiatus before he strikes again.

This time they have a chance to stop him before he claims another victim strikes, but only if they
can figure out who he is and where is is hiding.

About the Author:

Allison Brennan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of three dozen thrillers and numerous short stories. She was nominated for Best Paperback Original Thriller by International Thriller Writers, has had multiple nominations and two Daphne
du Maurier Awards, and is a five-time RITA finalist for Best Romantic Suspense. Allison believes life is too short to be bored, so she had five kids. Allison and her family live in Arizona. Visit her at allisonbrennan.com

Social links for the author include:
Facebook: @AllisonBrennan
Twitter: @Allison_Brennan
Instagram: @abwrites
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/52527.Allison_Brennan

My Thoughts:

Ms. Brennan is an award winning author for a reason – simply put, she knows what she’s doing. This book was fast-paced and had my heart-pounding. Twists and turns will keep you on your toes in anticipation. She gets inside the mind of a psychopath so well, but also paints a picturesque view of the surrounding landscapes. Her heroes are brilliant, damaged, and likeable and the whole package will keep you engrossed until the very last page. The Third to Die is the very ideal of a page-turning, nail-biting, read-it-all-in-one-sitting-don’t-talk-to-me type of novel – suspenseful, intense, and entertaining!

For my more discriminating friends, I’ll leave you with this caution: reader discretion is advised for violence, mature situations, and strong language. This is not a tip-toe through the tulips, neat and tidy, no rough edges fiction. It’s dark and gritty as the plot is all about stopping the lowest dregs of humanity.

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0778309444/httpwwwalli0f-20
Amazon (Canada): https://www.amazon.ca/Third-Die-Allison-Brennan-ebook/dp/B07S4BCQMJ/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+third+to+die&qid=1580228085&sr=8-1
Barnes & Noble:
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-third-to-die-allison-brennan/1131669020;jsessionid=C1
F1BD4B1DE6C665460E505FA5022816.prodny_store02-atgap03?ean=9780778309444

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780778309444
Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/product/9780778309444
AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-third-to-die/id1464894471
Google Play:
https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Allison_Brennan_The_Third_to_Die?id=0sWZDwAA
QBAJ


Book Review: The Forgotten Home Childby Genevieve Graham

There are so many things I love about The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham. If I had a Must-Read in 2020 list, this would be the second title on it. (The first place holder hasn’t been reviewed yet because it doesn’t publish until late summer, but it is worthy of first place.) Maybe I need a Must-Read Fiction in 2020 list and this could go straight to the very top. It was that good by my recommendation.

Emotionally Moving

First thing I love about this one? The genre. Historical fiction will always hold a special place in my reader’s heart. Always. This novel is based on factual history, but the plot and characters are make-believe. It’s the type of historical fiction that made me do some very light research because I had no idea this had happened (and it left me feeling bereft and heartbroken on behalf of the children who left their homes, and even more so for those who were mistreated in what should have been a better life.)

Two, I love this title because it showcases an important piece of Canadian history, is set in Canada (and the UK), with recognizable destinations and landscapes and was written by a Canadian author. Score for familiarity.

Three, I loved the voice of this writer so much. It was so easy to read, engaging and emotional. I read some early feedback from others that felt certain aspects were sugarcoated – there are some mature, graphic situations (not graphic in actual content, graphic in theme). The author chooses to gloss over them (i.e. rape was not called rape) but I took the liberty of assuming this had more to do with keeping with the era than the author choosing to belittle such horrible events. She paints a highly illustrative struggle of the children in their new situations and also casts a fair light on the flaws in what should have been an excellent program. On the flip side, there is a balance in acknowledging that not all the children ended up in abusive positions and their lives were better for it.

This novel addresses chasms between classes, the heartbreak of stigma, the darkness of an era not far behind us. It’s presented in the retelling by a nonagenerian who has kept her history a secret until a fateful occurence sparks some questions from her family.

Overall, I found The Forgotten Home Child to be one of my all-time favourite reads. It was emotionally moving and enlightening. I am in awe of the resilience of the characters and saddened by this aspect of our history. It hits shelves on March 3rd so make a preorder or on publication day pick up a copy for yourself and let me know if you agree or disagree with my take.

I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this title courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Published by: Simon & Schuster Canada

Book Review: The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear

Read with Caution – Gripping and Evocative

I feel compelled to admit that I’m not sure I will find the proper words for this particular review. The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear was a riveting, emotional work of fiction that took a very close look at the Harpe brothers and their crimes from the perspective of an acquaintance of one of their wives/victims. It is part of the True Colors series by Barbour about historical, American crime. Most of the titles I’ve read to date have characters expressing a strong faith-based element or struggling to find their faith as they live through a connection to these true crimes.

Going into this one, I had no idea who the Harpe brothers even were. Let me tell you… they were pure evil, serial killers, sadists, degenerate criminals. They were evil incarnate. If you’re like me, having no previous knowledge of their crimes or terror inflicted on families and travellers in late 1700s Tennessee and surrounding areas, this book was a disturbing introduction to these less-than-upstanding characters of American history. The author does address the difficulty in walking the fine line between the gruesome telling of their crimes and doing justice to the historic, factual events and honoring the victims while still presenting a “wholesome” piece of Christian fiction. Not an easy task…

This novel is graphic and grisly and dark. On the other hand, it has moments of hopefulness, healing, and romance. McNear balances it well so the darkness doesn’t overwhelm the tale – and yet darkness is the body of the unfortunate events depicted – it leaves a stain or heaviness behind.

It’s quite difficult to explain my reaction to this one. It was intense. The novel is very well-written and you may cry more than once – at least I did. It was gripping and evocative. I highly recommend it, but I recommend it with a bright strobing word of caution. You may feel a little banged up upon completion, especially if you’re a sensitive soul. The “true crime” aspect makes it difficult to process and will have you questioning how humanity can be so broken.

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Published by: Barbour Books (Barbour Publishing Inc.)

Publication Date: March 1, 2020

Book Review: One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow

Lyrical & Haunting

I was privileged to received an advance copy of One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow, a historical novel by Olivia Hawker that was published last week.

Publisher’s Description:

From the bestselling author of The Ragged Edge of Night comes a powerful and poetic novel of survival and sacrifice on the American frontier.

Wyoming, 1876. For as long as they have lived on the frontier, the Bemis and Webber families have relied on each other. With no other settlers for miles, it is a matter of survival. But when Ernest Bemis finds his wife, Cora, in a compromising situation with their neighbor, he doesn’t think of survival. In one impulsive moment, a man is dead, Ernest is off to prison, and the women left behind are divided by rage and remorse.

Losing her husband to Cora’s indiscretion is another hardship for stoic Nettie Mae. But as a brutal Wyoming winter bears down, Cora and Nettie Mae have no choice but to come together as one family—to share the duties of working the land and raising their children. There’s Nettie Mae’s son, Clyde—no longer a boy, but not yet a man—who must navigate the road to adulthood without a father to guide him, and Cora’s daughter, Beulah, who is as wild and untamable as her prairie home.

Bound by the uncommon threads in their lives and the challenges that lie ahead, Cora and Nettie Mae begin to forge an unexpected sisterhood. But when a love blossoms between Clyde and Beulah, bonds are once again tested, and these two resilient women must finally decide whether they can learn to trust each other—or else risk losing everything they hold dear.

My Thoughts:

This novel was lyrical and haunting from the very first line. It’s a story of loss and ruin, family and friendship. It’s strange and melodic and quite possibly the best novel I’ve read this year. I’m not sure I could be nearly as strong as any of the characters and the way they adapted and forged forever ties despite hardships and necessity.

Beulah, one of the central characters, is an odd one, and yet absolutely beautiful in her head-in-the-clouds and oneness with the earth. She “communicates” with the earth, with the harvest, with the animals, with those who have passed – and that sounds so creepy and wrong – but it’s actually done very well. Maybe “aware” is a better word than “communicates” – she’s hyperaware and connected with everything around her.

Overall, I can guarantee this will not be everyone’s cup of tea. The pace of the prose is meandering. The style of writing is unique. The story itself, however, is brimming with feelings and evocative imagery. I absolutely loved it.

My thanks to the publisher for a complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: October 8, 2019

Book Review: Strands of Truth by Coleen Coble

There are certain authors that you read and you know – with a great deal of certainty – that you’re bound to enjoy the storyline. Coleen Coble is one of those authors for me – she has a formula for mystery and thriller with a dash of romance that works.

I was given the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Strands of Truth before publication (it came out yesterday!) I, not surprisingly, enjoyed it. Strong characters, the right amount of dangerous tension, and a storyline that was easy to follow, but left you wondering just a little.

My only two complaints, as they were, is that I feel like, blink, and all the preexisting tension between our lead characters disappeared and they fell, a little unbelievably, in love.

Secondly, I wanted to know a bit more about the research… and not just the byssus. I wanted a little more “meat” to some of the important, heavily referenced details.

Now, those complaints vocalized, I will say that I found this absolutely enjoyable to read. I enjoyed how everything was all neatly wrapped up. I enjoyed the secondary characters and the story arc as a whole.

As the publisher touts, “Suspense, romance, and generational secrets meld in this engrossing new novel from USA TODAY bestselling author Colleen Coble.” I can’t say that I disagree. Tension and promise were balanced nicely providing a fast-paced easy-to-read seaside escape.

I received a complimentary copy of this title with thanks to the publisher, Thomas Nelson, via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: Summer at Firefly Beach by Jenny Hale

A long, long time ago I was given this title, Summer at Firefly Beach by Jenny Hale, for advanced read and review. It was released June 17th and I just didn’t get around to reading it.

This morning I woke at the crack of stupid (before Kev’s alarm even went off) and when I say woke… I mean there wasn’t a chance of falling asleep again so I picked up my tablet and thought this sounded like a great read.

I was not disappointed – it hit all the notes I enjoy in a romance by the sea. Angst, family, pain, friendship, discovery, and, of course, love. I enjoyed the balance of general life relationships (friends, family) and the romance itself.

We’re aspects of the book unrealistic? Absolutely… but for an easy-to-digest escape it was perfect. I laughed. I cried. I cheered. I passed a few perfectly delightful hours and now want to escape to a quaint hideaway beach town myself.

If you’re looking for something light and engaging to toss in your beach tote this summer, this is it! Uplifting and charming – sweet as can be.

Published by Bookouture. I received a complimentary uncorrected advance reader copy via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Pink Bonnet by Liz Tolsma

The Pink Bonnet is the second title I’ve read in the True Colors series – historical novels of real American crimes. I’ve enjoyed this series because I’ve actually learned about certain parts of history that I had no clue about. In fact, I just received an email inviting me to review a third title in the series.

Tolsma’s tale revolves around the battle between a widowed mother and Georgia Tann, the head of the Tennessee Children’s Home and child trafficker. Her gang stole more than 5,000 babies and adopted them our for profit on the black market.

This is not the first retelling of the historical events (I think I might be the only one who hasn’t yet read Lisa Wingate’s “Before We Were Yours.” I promise it’s been on my to-be-read pile for some time.) It was, however, enjoyable to read in a suspenseful, I really-hope-it-turns-out type of tale. The sweet romance element added a little extra something to the drama and hopeless expectation, underdog vs. corruption focus of the story.

Tolsma presents a likeable story marked with a clear picture of horrendous events. As a mother, I found it difficult to read at times. It was “clean” in language, romance, etc.

It was a good book. It piqued my interest in the Tennessee Children’s Home scandal. It was easy to read… but even though I enjoyed it, it felt like it was missing just little something – it’s a three-star rating from me – not bad at all, but not rave-worthy either. We’ll call it a good way to pass by a quiet afternoon.

Published by: Barbour Publishing, Inc.
Publication date: June 1, 2019

I was provided with a copy of this book via the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.