Book Review: Autumn Skies by Denise Hunter

The third and final novel in the Bluebell Inn series, Autumn Skies is an absolutely wonderful conclusion to a beautifully written contemporary family saga. Three siblings renovate and run the Bluebell Inn to commemorate their parents, each novel devoting itself to one love story at a time. My review of the first title, Lake Season, can be found here.

Continuing the family story while tying up the loose ends as the Bennetts look to the future, we encounter Grace’s romance in this last installment. Engaging and heartwarming, Denise Hunter knows her audience and creates dynamic characters that you love. There is an innocence or winsomeness to Hunter’s writing that is appealing, and yet her characters and storylines have a depth to them – scars and doubts and obstacles that all must be dealt with for any healthy relationships to occur – especially as truths are exposed that make heartache a very real possibility. Set in a picturesque small town that you’ll want to visit, this is another winner for Ms. Hunter, I’m sure.

Released October 20th, you should be able to find this title at your favourite local bookseller or through the usual online distributors. If not – request it and the other titles in the series and find a quiet spot to get lost in their charm!

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

Publication Date: October 20, 2020
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 9780785222804



Blog Tour & Book Review: The Forgotten Sister by Nicola Cornick

I have had some disappointing reads lately that have just been “blah” and left me in a bit of a reading slump. I haven’t been quick to pick up any new NetGalley titles because I’ve been leery of feeling disappointed and not quite knowing how to weave my thoughts into constructive criticism – which is the whole premise of the program. When a reminder popped up that I was to post as part of the Harlequin 2020 Fall Reads Historical Fiction blog tour for Nicola Cornick’s newest title, The Forgotten Sister, I realised I had procrastinated long enough and it was time to jump into something new. It took me a day to read and it was easy-going – no drudgery involved. What a relief!

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

In the tradition of the spellbinding historical novels of Philippa Gregory and Kate Morton comes a stunning story based on a real-life Tudor mystery, of a curse that echoes through the centuries and shapes two women’s destinies…

1560: Amy Robsart is trapped in a loveless marriage to Robert Dudley, a member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Surrounded by enemies and with nowhere left to turn, Amy hatches a desperate scheme to escape—one with devastating consequences that will echo through the centuries…

Present Day: When Lizzie Kingdom is forced to withdraw from the public eye in a blaze of scandal, it seems her life is over. But she’s about to encounter a young man, Johnny Robsart, whose fate will interlace with hers in the most unexpected of ways. For Johnny is certain that Lizzie is linked to a terrible secret dating back to Tudor times. If Lizzie is brave enough to go in search of the truth, then what she discovers will change the course of their lives forever.

MY THOUGHTS:

This was a well-crafted easy-to-read novel. During the opening scenes, I had some doubts about compatibility, but kept reading and was pleasantly entertained. I shouldn’t have doubted, as I’ve read and enjoyed Cornick’s work before. I pondered the relevance of the title at times but that too resolved itself to my satisfaction. This is a fanciful work of fiction with some extrasensory elements. I don’t typically travel to the Tudor period in my historical reading, so was unfamiliar with some of the key characters. The author’s note at the end made it even more interesting to me!

I was able to read the book throughout one day (without neglecting my family!) I was entertained, my curiosity was piqued, and the plot caught me by surprise. Overall I would recommend The Forgotten Sister as it held (without taking away from the merits of Cornick herself as an author) a Susanna Kearsley-esque appeal. Released today, you should be able to pick up a copy from your favourite local bookseller or any of the usual online retailers

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

USA Today bestselling author Nicola Cornick has written over thirty historical romances for Harlequin and HQN Books. She has been nominated twice for a RWA RITA Award and twice for the UK RNA Award. She works as a historian and guide in a seventeenth century house. In 2006 she was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Ruskin College, Oxford, where she wrote her dissertation on heroes.

THE FORGOTTEN SISTER 
Author: Nicola Cornick 
ISBN: 9781525809958
Publication Date: November 10, 2020
Publisher: Graydon House Books 

Book Review: What They Meant for Evil

It has been more than a year since I first read Rebecca Deng’s beautiful autobiography, What They Meant for Evil. My Facebook post from October 2019 reflects my eagerness to share this title with the world. “I was given an advanced copy of this book, but didn’t get around to reading it until Saturday night. Once I started, I could not put it down. It is a remarkable account of a “Lost Girl” from Sudan and all she survived before (and after) being accepted as a refugee. Her faith was unshakeable and her story an inspiration. As one of my kids complained their turkey was cold, I shared a little bit of Rebecca’s story to remind them of how truly blessed we are. I will be ordering a copy for myself so if you want to borrow it, let me know!”

Unfortunately, my advanced order from Amazon was cancelled and I’ve not yet looked into a new source. Officially released September 8, 2020, I strongly recommend this title for anyone who would like to expand their worldview as it provides a remarkable firsthand account of a historical atrocity that we only heard about on the news.

From the Publisher:

One of the first unaccompanied refugee children to enter the United States in 2000, after South Sudan’s second civil war took the lives of most of her family, Rebecca’s story begins in the late 1980s when, at the age of four, her village was attacked and she had to escape. What They Meant for Evil is the account of that unimaginable journey. With the candor and purity of a child, Rebecca recalls how she endured fleeing from gunfire, suffering through hunger and strength-sapping illnesses, dodging life-threatening predators-lions, snakes, crocodiles, and soldiers alike-that dogged her footsteps, and grappling with a war that stole her childhood.

Her story is a lyrical, captivating portrait of a child hurled into wartime, and how through divine intervention, she came to America and found a new life full of joy, hope, and redemption.


Deng’s writing is descriptive and beautiful, painting a brightly woven tapestry of heartbreak, sorrow, hope, and healing. I don’t know how anyone could read it without being moved by her story – her strength, her brokenness, her light, her voice. Candid and captivating, she doesn’t shy away from the darkness encountered in her journey, but leads you carefully by the hand as you take every step with her. Rebecca Deng is a beacon of purpose and peace as she shares her incredible history without bitterness.

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. I will be purchasing when I can locate a supplier in Canada. If you have any leads, please tip me off in the comments.

Harlequin 2020 Fall Reads Blog Tour – Women’s Fiction & Romance – Rescue You by Elysia Whisler

There’s something about reading in fall – maybe it’s the opportunity to get really cozy with a warm blanket and a hot drink while immersing yourself in an even cozier read. If you follow the publishing industry at all, you’ll know there’s some highly anticipated books hitting the market this time of year. One of those titles, Elysia Whisler’s Rescue You, is being released next week (October 27, to be exact.) My thanks to the team at Harlequin Trade Publishing for providing an advanced readers copy for review as part of the 2020 Fall Reads Blog Tour featuring Women’s Fiction & Romance.

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

She needs a fresh start. He’s got scars that haven’t healed. With the help of some rescue dogs, they’ll discover that everyone deserves a chance at happiness.

After a year of heartbreak and loss, the only thing keeping Constance afloat is the dog rescue she works at with her sister, Sunny. Desperate for a change, Constance impulsively joins a new gym, even though it seems impossibly hard, and despite the gym’s prickly owner.

Rhett Santos keeps his gym as a refuge for his former-military brothers and to sweat out his own issues. He’s ready to let the funny redhead join, but unprepared for the way she wiggles past his hard-won defenses.

When their dog rescue is threatened, the sisters fight to protect it. And they need all the help
they can get. As Rhett and Constance slowly open up to each other, they’ll find that no one is
past rescuing; what they need is the right person—or dog—to save them.

MY THOUGHTS:

This title was really immersive, as in, I’m more of a cuddle on the couch type of person than a let’s get sweaty and run 5 miles before we bench-press our bodyweight type of person, but I found myself wanting to hit the nearest CrossFit facility after stopping at the local animal shelter to adopt a puppy. The author brought her environment to life in an engaging and appealing way.

The characters were smashing* in a kick-butt, no nonsense regard. Constance was sweet and sassy, strong and protective – a down-to-earth woman with a very low tolerance for bull from anyone. Rhett is damaged but kind and also, ridiculously fit. I particularly appreciated some of Constance’s realizations regarding her own self-image, workouts, etc. She needed some healing and I think she found that. Beyond that, the story has layers – the primary heartwarming love story, the sisters’ relationship, a dog rescue, and a secondary romance. All the layers mesh together to create this easy-to-read, give-you-all-the-feels, about-what-you’d-expect contemporary romantic women’s fiction. It wasn’t anything spectacularly “out there”, but was warm, stirring, engaging – exactly what you want for a fall weekend read. (*I didn’t know what word to use here… use your imagination.)

Reader discretion advised for occasional language and not-graphic adult scenes (that you can definitely skip over if you choose.) While I enjoyed the novel, I wouldn’t be comfortable lending it to a 12 year old.

Watch for this title to hit all your favourite retailers next Tuesday! Available from the usual spots online for preorder or ask your local bookseller to bring it in.

RESCUE YOU
Author: Elysia Whisler
ISBN: 9780778310082
Publication Date: October 27, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books

Book Review: Take The Lead by Shelley Shepard Gray

Readers familiar with Shelley Shepard Gray may know she’s a top notch writer when it comes to inspirational contemporary fiction set among the Amish.  I will admit that while no doubt well-written, those novels appeal to a very niche market and just aren’t for me.  When I was first introduced to the Bridgeport Social Club series, I quickly realised that I was guilty of pigeonholeing the author without cause.  Her contemporary women’s fiction is enjoyable reading.  If you’re familiar with Bridgeport, some of the characters and landmarks in The Dance With Me series will seem recognizable. 

I read the first title, Shall We Dance, in fall of 2019 and gave it a warm review.  Last month, I eagerly read an advanced readers copy of the second title in the series, Take The Lead, and was not disappointed in the least.  It continued along familiar lines with charming characters and a heartwarming celebration of family. While part of a series, it could easily be read as a stand alone title.

Growing up in foster care, Officer Traci Lucky had a rough start to life, but things are looking up now that she’s found a place in Bridgeport with two sisters she never knew she had. One night while on the job Traci finds Gwen, a pregnant teen caught up in a dangerous world of drugs, and takes her straight to the hospital. There Traci encounters the oh-so-charming Dr. Matt Rossi, who surprises Traci with his compassion—and his movie-star good looks.

A busy ob-gyn with a huge, meddling Italian family, Matt Rossi hasn’t had much time for love in his life. All that changes when he meets the beautiful Officer Lucky. He’s intrigued by her strength and the kind heart she tries to hide beneath her tough exterior.

When Matt confides that he needs to learn to waltz for his brother’s wedding, Traci reveals that her sister happens to be a ballroom dance teacher. Next thing they know, Matt and Traci are juggling busy careers, helping young Gwen with her pregnancy and personal safety, and learning to waltz together. But when Gwen’s escalating problems threaten to put all of them in danger, they wonder if they’ll ever find time for a little romance too.

The characters are flawed but charismatic and, as a girl with absolutely no rhythm, I enjoy the beauty of how dance is portrayed. The chemistry is spot on as is the drama. The novel presents a complex balance of romance, peril, and emotion with an engaging, easy-to-read appeal. I look forward to the final book to see how the sisters continue on their path to happily ever after.

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy via NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.

Publication Date: September 8, 2020 Publisher: Blackstone Publishing ISBN: 9781982658557

Book Review: Acceptable Risk by Lynette Eason

Way, way back when the summer sun kissed our skin, the trees were green, and I wasn’t working (the beginning of August, to be exact), Revell released the second title in the Danger Never Sleeps Series by Lynette Eason. I read the first title, Collateral Damage, even earlier in the year and found it gripping – unfortunately, I don’t think I ever got around to a review.

When the newest title, Acceptable Risk, became available on NetGalley, I knew I needed to get my hands on a copy! Without giving away too much of the storyline, the series is lauded as {clean} romantic suspense. Each title is packed with intrigue, twists, turns, conspiracies, and cover ups that just keep coming – these are non-stop fast-paced works of fiction. Beyond that though, the character-work is superb. Flawed, courageous characters lead the charge for justice and truth and along the way, find some romance.

Sarah Denning is a military journalist with the Army in the Middle East when her convoy is attacked and she’s taken hostage. When former Army Ranger Gavin Black is asked by his old unit commander–Sarah’s imposing father–to plan an extremely risky rescue, he reluctantly agrees and successfully executes it.

Back in the US, Sarah is livid when she’s discharged on a false psychiatric evaluation and vows to return to the Army. Until she learns of her brother’s suicide. Unable to believe her brother would do such a thing, she puts her plans on hold and enlists Gavin to help her discover the truth. What they uncover may be the biggest story of Sarah’s career – if she can survive long enough to write it.

I’m not a big fan of military themed novels on the whole, for no other reason than it just isn’t my thing – but Eason creates such a fantastic fictional world with each page that you can’t help but be drawn into the drama and the mystery as it unfolds. The layers and risks of each step in the journey are balanced with easy to read dialogue, well-crafted backdrops, and heart-pounding action. The lead characters are complex and each have a rich history that entangles in a strong, gritty, emotional read dealing with difficult, but real, issues such as PTSD, suicide, family tragedy, and reconciliation. I can’t wait to dive into the next title in the series to see where the author takes us next. My recommendation is to get your hands on your own copy of each for yourself!

My thanks to the publisher for a complimentary ARC of this title via NetGalley. Opinions are my own.

Published By: Revell (Baker Publishing Group)
Publication Date: August 4, 2020
ISBN: 9780800729356

Our Hectic Mundane… and A Book Recommendation

It’s a quiet Friday morning in September – it was 3 degrees (Celsius) when I woke up and I can feel in my frozen toes that winter is coming.The boys have headed back to school, but like most people around here, that has meant nothing in terms of routine. As of today, we are officially on our specific schedules which still seems to involve a lot of juggling with varied timetables even though we opted (optimistically) for in person learning. My contract was reestablished and I headed back into the office on a scaled-back schedule.

While I have a few hours to myself (the oldest is only out of the house for 3 hours, every other day) on this dedicated “day off”, I sat down with a Tetley gingerbread tea latte (featuring a combo almond/coconut milk and oat milk froth because I’m eliminating reducing dairy) and realized I have a to-do list, yes, but nowhere and nothing that NEED to be done. If I want to sit in my pajamas all day and read, well, I could do that – guilt-free. (I won’t though, because I don’t think that’s what my body needs today. Yesterday, yes – I worked, I napped, I ate (ugh) cup-o-soup for dinner instead of the veggie stir fry I prepared because I wasn’t feeling up to anything. Not all days are a success on this journey.)

I have been scaling back on my NetGalley reads – the to-be read list is still ridiculously long, but so is my pile of books I’ve actually invested in. I most recently picked up The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri from the fabulous Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge. (It’s one of my favourite independent bookstores – probably my favourite locally!) I’ve been tip-toeing my way through this title because I’m feeling book burnout. It’s an unfortunate state of being. So instead of reading what I “need” to – as I felt I was sometimes missing the pleasure of the read and therefore, perhaps unconsciously skewing my reviews – I opted to read something that grabbed me in the moment.

The Wikipedia summary of this title blandly states: The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a 2019 novel by Christy Lefteri. It deals with the flight of refugees from Aleppo in Syria to Europe during the Syrian Civil War. While a work of fiction, it is based on the author’s experience over two summers volunteering in Athens at a refugee center.

What Wikipedia fails to mention is the passion, heartache, and beauty that has gone into this work. I don’t have a full review for you – I’m only half-way through, but I would, based on reading to date, recommend this title to anyone and everyone. It’s captivating and moving and almost too much for me to read in a binge session. It’s heavy-weighted and I need air in between passages at times, but it’s beautiful. Perhaps my view is a little slanted because as I read, I can’t help but relate the carefully crafted words to the experiences those of my own limited acquaintance have encountered as they lived the plight of the refugee.

So today, I leave you with that recommendation and quick glimpse into our current life. Myself? Well while the dishwasher runs, my toes warm under a blanket on the couch, and the kittens (yes, we adopted two kittens this summer) run amok through the house, I will take a few breaths, enjoy my few hours of freedom, find joy in the sunshine, and peace in our special hectic mundane (which may or may not involve unclogging a shower drain – oh the glamour!)

Book Review: Of Literature & Lattes by Katherine Reay

In a follow up to The Printed Letter Bookshop (reviewed here), comes Katherine Reay’s new release, Of Literature & Lattes. I’m part of a Facebook group that Reay is one of the moderators on and I read A LOT of praise for this title prior to getting my hands on a copy. In full disclosure, I started the draft of this review a couple months ago and just found it dusty and with not much more than the opening sentences. Whoops!

What I remember of this title is that it was worth a blog post – it was sweet with small town charm, a cast of endearing supporting characters, and a heartwarming romance. It was easy to read as a stand alone title, but has some familiarity for those who read The Printed Letter Bookshop. Reay creates an easy-to-read enjoyable “everyday” novel – not that it’s mundane, but the plot lines aren’t completely unbelievable and us normal folk can often relate to the struggles and challenges the characters face. Overall, I’d recommend this one. It’s a cozy, slow paced, easy read that’ll leave you with a happy sigh by the final chapter – second chances for the win!

My thanks to Thomas Nelson for a complimentary copy of this title that I received via NetGalley. It was published May 12, 2020 and should be available from your favourite bookseller!

Blog Tour & Book Review: Someone’s Listening by Seraphina Nova Glass

Every once in a while I like to take a break from romance and history and jump into a captivating mystery or thriller. I take it as a personal challenge trying to untangle the threads the author weaves into a twisted, complex puzzle. Of the five titles in the header above, I’ve read two, compliments of the publisher: Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle and Someone’s Listening by Seraphina Nova Glass. I just finished the latter and it was a sinuous, beguiling tale – more on that below.

From the Publisher:

You’re not alone. Someone’s waiting. Someone’s watching…
Someone’s listening.

In SOMEONE’S LISTENING (Graydon House Books; July 28; $16.99) Dr. Faith Finley has everything she’s ever wanted: she’s a renowned psychologist, a radio personality—host of the wildly popular “Someone’s Listening with Dr. Faith Finley”—and a soon-to-be bestselling author. She’s young, beautiful, and married to the perfect man, Liam.

Of course Liam was at Faith’s book launch with her. But after her car crashes on the way home and she’s pulled from the wreckage, nobody can confirm that Liam was with her at the party. The police claim she was alone in car, and they don’t believe her when she says otherwise. Perhaps that’s understandable, given the horrible thing Faith was accused of doing a few weeks ago.

And then the notes start arriving—the ones literally ripped from the pages of Faith’s own self-help book on leaving an abusive relationship. Ones like “Secure your new home. Consider new window and door locks, an alarm system, and steel doors…”

Where is Liam? Is his disappearance connected to the scandal that ruined Faith’s life? Who is sending the notes? Faith’s very life will depend on finding the answers.

My Thoughts:

This tale starts with a back and forth perspective after a terrible accident and sabotaged career. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but this title is so much more than just a missing persons whodunit. I was lulled into complacency through the first half of the novel – it wasn’t particularly “thrilling” at that point, but was needed backstory for the big hits in the last half of the book. The author carefully crafts an adversary with just enough detail to make you think you have it figured out but also with just enough vagueness that you may second guess your conclusions. There are a few red herrings that add layers of mystery to the novel, and the elements of suspense are devised to keep you engaged. The novel was easy to read without any overly disturbing scenes or imagery, but includes one high-stakes, possibly triggering sequence as part of the finale.

Someone’s Listening (ISBN 9781525836749) was released today (July 28) by Graydon House Books and can be purchased at your favourite bookseller including popular online retailers:

Author Bio:
Seraphina Nova Glass is a professor and Playwright-in-Residence at the University of Texas-
Arlington, where she teaches Film Studies and Playwriting. She holds an MFA in playwriting
from Smith College, and has optioned multiple screenplays to Hallmark and Lifetime.
Someone’s Listening is her first novel.

Book Review: The Guardian of Lies by Kate Furnivall

I’ve been *gasp* in a bit of a reading slump lately. There’s been so many things on my to-do list to tackle and when I’ve sat down to read, it’s been hard to ignore the little voice whispering “get up and do things…” So I’ve been a bit more productive lately, but my to-read pile continues to grow. Fortunately, I actually picked up this title months ago and have been eagerly waiting to share my thoughts. I do think it was enticing enough that those niggles of guilt would have been quieted long enough to even read it this week.

The Guardian of Lies is the second title I’ve read by Kate Furnivall. My first experience with her work was The Survivors – a gritty and gripping historical novel – that I reviewed previously. Not as gritty as her previous title, I found The Guardian of Lies to be just as engaging with twists and turns as the heroine finds herself questioning the allegiance of neighbours and family loyalties in Cold War-era France. This title is rife with danger, intrigue, secrets, and betrayal – who can you trust, where can you turn – and a bit of romance to balance the scales.

A fast-paced read, this is not the typical era I indulge in with my historical fiction picks. I wasn’t familiar with many of the incidents or significance of some of the references, but it wasn’t difficult to be immersed in the events or to feel the gravity of the tensions conveyed. It was an atmospheric and captivating novel from start to finish. It opens with heart-pounding action from the very first chapter and finishes along the same veins. The dark and shadowy world of espionage will have you questioning and doubting and surprised at some of the outcomes. Definitely a gripping page-turner that’ll keep you hooked with a well-thought out plot and remarkable characters!

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

Published by: Simon & Schuster Canada
Publication Date: July 2019