Book Review: The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

Does anyone else compile novels in their head as they fall asleep? Just me? The first lines are what get me. I often come up with a spectacular first chapter draft that I’m sure I’ll remember the next morning and much like an incredible dream, the details tend to be pretty fuzzy upon awakening. If I’m not compiling fiction in my head, I’m compiling blog posts. The unpublished, unedited, mostly forgotten versions of posts that fill the archive of my mind are overflowing the file drawers and spilling onto the floor.

Earlier this year, much like the fashion of our day to day routines changing by the week, I thought it would be fun to try something new – audiobooks. I’ve downloaded two – one a Christmas gift, and one a NetGalley selection. To say I’m a bit, umm, unfocused is greatly underselling how much this format is not suited to my disciplines. However, I will say I think I could come up with a way to make it work. I’m not ready to give up on audiobooks yet.

If you’re a follower of best selling fiction and news from the fiction world, I’m sure you’ve heard of The Rose Code by best-selling author, Kate Quinn. The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Huntress and The Alice Network returns with another heart-stopping World War II story of three female code breakers at Bletchley Park and the spy they must root out after the war is over. It was published March 9th and has spent some time on recommended reading lists and best seller lists alike. You can’t go onto a bookstore’s website or browse their featured selections without seeing it because it’s just that good. This work of magnificent fiction is the audiobook I requested through NetGalley.

The audiobook is narrated by a delightfully accented woman by the name of Saskia Maarleveld. She reads bewitchingly, bringing emotion and colour to the listener. Unfortunately for me, she is also mesmerizing and as I listened, I fell into a mindless complacency, easily allowing the narration to become just background noise to the tasks around me. When I did intentionally focus, I found I was straining to stay abreast of the details of the story while I interpreted the British accent. This is not a criticism of Maarleveld or the novel. Both were enjoyable (more on that…) but rather, a sad commentary on my own failings as an active listener. (My husband and coworkers would most likely agree that I have many shortcomings in this regard.)

So I did what any sensible person would do when they haven’t listened to their advanced copy before publication date… I ordered the paperback version with deckle edge. This book is, well, weighty. My arms would get tired while reading in bed. It smacked my face more than once with quite a bit of heft. I turned into this weird hybrid reader, listening at times while doing dishes or driving, and than skimming to catch up in my print copy before tucking away a few chapters in the print version. The paperback, however, wasn’t portable enough for me, so I also purchased an e-book to read on my phone or my Kindle. It is quite possible I lost my place more than once having so many versions in my hands.

But I needed access to this novel, because the story was so well done, so intriguing, so consuming that I couldn’t put it down. It was by no means a quick read, but it was epic and heartfelt. It is a remarkable work of historical fiction and will be one of my top picks for 2021, if not of all time. I am traditionally a fan of heroic WWII sagas, but I enjoyed that this didn’t put us on the frontlines or in the shoes of those living through an invasion, but brought us behind the scenes, so to speak, and into the heart of valiant warriors in their own right. I found it to be an absolutely fascinating masterpiece that brought me to laughter, tears, and frustration. It will be worth a re-read one day, and in all honestly, I’m having a difficult time leaving Bletchley Park behind.



My thanks to HarperAudio for the advanced listener copy via NetGalley. It was truly appreciated.

Book Review & Blog Tour: Tell No Lies by Allison Brennan

Way back in January of last year, I had the opportunity to preview a copy of Allison Brennan’s The Third to Die. You can find my blog post here. It was the first in her book-a-year Quinn & Costa series. While I don’t remember the plot in it’s entirety, I remember it as a knock out thriller with twists and turns and heart pounding action. Last week, I finished up my review copy of the second title in the series, Tell No Lies, and I think it was even better than the first!

FROM THE PUBLISHER:
New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan’s newest thriller again features an edgy young female LAPD detective and an ambitious special agent, both part of a mobile FBI unit that is brought in to investigate the unsolved murder of a college activist and its alleged ties to high stakes crime in the desert Southwest.

Something mysterious is killing the wildlife in the desert hills just south of Tucson, Arizona. When Emma Perez, a college-intern-turned activist, sets out to collect her own evidence, she too ends up dead. Local law enforcement seems slow to get involved. That’s when the mobile FBI unit goes undercover to infiltrate the town and the copper refinery located there in search of possible leads. Costa and Quinn find themselves scouring the desolate landscape that keeps on giving up clues to something much darker—greed, child trafficking, other killings. As the body count continues to add up, it’s clear they have stumbled on more than they bargained for. Now they must figure out who is at the heart of this mayhem and stop them before more innocent lives are lost.

Brennan’s latest novel brims with complex characters and an ever-twisting plotline, a compelling thriller that delivers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
ALLISON BRENNAN is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of over thirty novels. She has been nominated for Best Paperback Original Thriller by International Thriller Writers and the Daphne du Maurier Award. A former consultant in the California State Legislature, Allison lives in Arizona with her husband, five kids and assorted pets.

MY THOUGHTS:
Tell No Lies kept me up way past my bedtime. The deeper I got into the novel, the less I wanted to put it down. I feel it started off a bit slower paced than I anticipated, but quickly picked up speed as the mystery deepened, the danger increased, and the team unravel a myriad of secrets in a small town. Edgy, interesting, and absolutely rife with layers of crimes, you’ll find more than you expected as Costa and Quinn and associates start digging into life in the desert. If you are a fan of crime team thrillers, you’ll love Tell No Lies. It releases March 30th, but you can pre-order now through all major booksellers and your favourite independent bookstores.

I’m leaving my pickier book friends with the same disclosure as last time:
Reader discretion is advised for violence, mature situations, and strong language.  It’s dark and gritty, dealing with some uncomfortable situations as the plot unveils some of the worst of human nature.

My thanks to the publisher, MIRA books, for the complimentary ARC.

Tell No Lies : A Novel 
Allison Brennan
On Sale Date: March 30, 2021
ISBN 9780778331469
Hardcover

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!

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: Before I Called You Mine by Nicole Deese

Every once in a while you’ll find yourself lucky enough to pick up a book that speaks to your very soul in heartrending yet remarkable ways. Before I Called You Mine by Nicole Deese was such a book for me. I started to read it before bed a few nights ago without re-reading the summary and had totally forgotten what it was about. I selected it because the cover led me to mistakenly think it would be an easy, breezy read. I was so far mistaken that I read well into the early hours of the morning, caught half a night’s sleep, and then dove right in again as soon as my other responsibilities were taken care of because it tied a string around my heart and roped me in until the very last page. It was a fend for yourself, kids, type of day.

As for the easy, breezy I was only half right. It was such an easy book to read, but it gripped me too – I cried more than once at the tenuous tightrope of desires that Lauren, the lead, found herself trying to balance on while trying to honour a commitment to her future child while trying to suss out the right choices in life. There was nothing breezy in the subject matter despite the at first glance, lighthearted appeal of the potential romantic interest, Joshua, and the author’s picturesque humourous situations.

Deese did a wonderful job of painting a not-always-rosy picture of the process of adoption and even issues post-adoption, but she also did a wonderful job of infusing the story with a beautiful yearning and deep heart felt love. She broached family dysfunction and forgiveness, loss, grief, acceptance, faith, trust, hope, healing, complications, connection, commitments, and so much more in this touching, emotional read. This inspirational title was poignant and complex and absolutely splendid all the same.

My thanks to Bethany House for providing me with a complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. Opinions expressed are my own.

Published By: Bethany House
Publication Date: March 31, 2020

Book Review: Tasting Grace by Melissa D’Arabian

My routine is looking a little different these days and while I’m not sleeping the day away, I may be sitting in my pajamas. Connection is all being done digitally (because I still don’t like the phone) and sometimes we go for a drive just to get out of the house. Streets are very quiet, many stores are closed, and life just feels uncertain.

One thing that remains is food. My boys seem to be constantly snacking and a trip to the grocery store is something I’m avoiding for health reasons. My husband has been the primary, list in hand shopper, but many times the needed items aren’t in stock yet because people still don’t understand that our food supply chain hasn’t shut down. Regardless, we’re spending time in the kitchen, cooking out of creativity, eating out of boredom, grazing a million times a day because food is there.

I’ll admit that the first reason I selected this title was the cover. The colours stood out and it piqued my interest. Reading more about the content intrigued me even more. Last night, after a meal that was less meal and more snack, I thought I’d dive in, not entirely sure what I’d be reading.

I’ll admit that the author’s name meant nothing to me, although in hindsight I’ve probably seen her one of the random times we’ve binged the Food Network. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read non-fiction but I just kept coming back to this title.

Wow. That’s all I can say (which is obviously untrue as I’m going to say a lot more below.) I read this in one sitting and will be buying a copy to read again, to highlight, to make notes in. I’ll be recommending it to a ton of friends and family members who are about food or passionate about people. That’s how much it spoke to me. My hope is that the tagline reads as true for them by book’s end as it did for me: Discovering the Power of Food to Connect Us to God, One Another, and Ourselves

I’m not entirely sure I interpreted each chapter in the spirit it was given and there were a few statements that made me pause – not in a bad way, but more of a I need to think about this a bit longer. Each chapter includes an invitation at the end, drawing the reader into a real-life application of this refreshed viewpoint on food. I thought of them as little morsels of food for thought – and in all honesty – much of the book itself was food for thought.

Part autobiographical, part motivational inspiration, D’Arabian tackles subjects of acceptance, grief, success, value, identity, connection, and so much more. For such an easy-to-read book, it’s chock full of anecdotes and reflection on a variety of topics relevant to our relationship with food, society, and more. It’s not a follow this diet tome at all, but a gentle encouragement to reshape your connection with food and others.

Throughout, I found myself copying statements that aren’t new, but that hit me with their transparency and how I could relate to them. I felt as if I was having a kitchen conversation with a good natured, down to earth friend.

Overall, Tasting Grace provided a unique perspective into food and spirituality. It’s a gentle call to authenticity and connection, written in a captivating tone as it invites conversation, introspection, and most importantly, a call to accepting grace. I’ll be contemplating this further while I attempt the author’s Potato Bacon Torte.

My thanks to WaterBrook & Multnomah for the complimentary copy via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

This title is available through your favourite bookseller now. It published in September 2019. Go pick up a copy for yourself and let’s compare notes.

Book Review: Shall We Dance by Shelley Shepard Gray

I have been holding off on posting any book reviews as I was hoping the time of year would lend itself to deep introspection and worthy thoughts to share. Unfortunately, by the time I tied up all my loose ends before heading out for a warm-climate Christmas break vacation (hello, gulf coast Florida!), my brain was done and I’ve had nothing.

I’ve been taking advantage of the down time and taking time to read. Honestly though? Why not start the New Year with something I love? Spend time with the people and things that make me happy? Enjoy some personal refreshment in the solitude of a good book.

Back a few months ago I had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy of Shall We Dance by Shelley Shepard Gray. It was an enjoyable heart-warming novel that ticked all the boxes. Charming characters, secondary drama, and familiar settings left me with all the feels.

This title will be published January 28th, 2020 – get your copy when it hits the shelves for a comfortable, friendly read. Tagged as “women’s fiction”, you’ll be transported to a beloved, fictional small town crafted by a bestselling author.

My thanks to Blackstone Publishing for the complimentary copy provided via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: The Perfect Love Song by Patti Callahan Henry

I was first introduced to Patti Callahan Henry’s writing through an ARC I won via Goodreads a few years ago called “And Then I Found You.” It earned a 4 star rating from me. Since then, I’ve read a few others and I have “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” sitting on my bookshelf waiting for a weekend when I don’t have ARCs to dig into. When I saw “The Perfect Love Song” was available to request for read and review on NetGalley I jumped on it! The early hype reads “Just in time for Christmas, escape with a perfect love song, a perfect love story, and a perfect dose of holiday magic… Can one song change the course of a life?

I loved the overall idea of this one, but it took me a bit to get into it. I didn’t “click” with the characters or the dialogue. The story as a whole is sweet and magical for the holidays without being so sugary you gag. It touches on themes of home, heartache, belonging, and forgiveness…following your dreams, being true to yourself, honouring commitments… but I didn’t love it. It was “okay” – a way to pass the time and I didn’t dislike it – but it doesn’t make me want to gush. It was an easy read, but not too deep and didn’t grab me by the emotions.

Now, I don’t want to say take my opinion as set-in-stone, cannot be denied truth – this book has a 4-star rating on NetGalley. It obviously had that gush-factor for some people and maybe if I read it in another time, another mood, I’d have been giving it 4-stars as well. However, as it stands, it was just a 3-star for me – a middle of the road novel that didn’t really impact me one way or another. Grab a copy if you want, or borrow a copy from the library, feel good as things are resolved… but I’m not sure it’s a life-changing, delightfully moving read.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a digital advanced copy in exchange for review. All opinions are entirely my own.

Book Review: All Hearts Come Home for Christmas – Various Authors

Heartwarming Christmas Collection

I copied in a few weeks ago to enjoy this collection of Christmas novellas. (Side note: Novellas is a word that I use to annoy my husband. He has bad high school memories over a confrontation with a teacher in relation to this word. Like any good wife, I usually use it in the car when he can’t escape me.)

This collection includes :

Christmas at Falstone Castle · Sarah M. Eden

The Dowager Duchess of Kielder eagerly anticipates spending Christmas with her son and his family. Though their relationship has been strained, the duchess is determined to heal the chasm. Even with the help of the widowed local vicar, her plan will take a Christmas miracle. But during this magical season, anything is possible . . . even two second chances for love.

The Heart of Christmas · Anita Stansfield

When a chance meeting brings together a gentle seamstress and a widowed banker, each lonely soul finds a first hint of hope. As their lives become entwined, it will take Christmas spirit to guide a broken family to love and healing.

’Tis the Season to Be Daring · Esther Hatch

Elizabeth Davenport has had quite enough of the London Season. Determined to evade a parade of unsuitable suitors, she seeks help from the one gentleman who has no regard for Society’s rules. All of Society knows Lord Hawthorne is not interested in marriage, yet he cannot deny Miss Davenport’s unique charm. And as the Christmas season works its magic, their charade begins to feel less like playacting and more like love.

The Christmas Dress · Joanna Barker

Seamstress Nell Addington is thrilled when her childhood friend Jacob Hammond commissions a dress for his sister. But when Nell realizes her feelings for Jacob run far deeper than friendship, an unexpected snowstorm—and some holiday cheer—may convince them both that love is worth fighting for.

Overall, this collection is exactly as presented: heartwarming. Each story has it’s own quirks and themes, all with a historical, seasonal backdrop. There is nothing objectionable in the content – just a bundle of emotion- stirring, feel good reads to get you in a holiday mood. You’ll need some hot chocolate to round out the experience.

Publication Date: September 1, 2019

Publisher: Covenant Communications

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

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