Book Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

It’s the May long weekend here in our tiny corner of the world. The weather is finally cooperating for outdoor book binges. We had a birthday party yesterday and I have this weird thing about parents judging my housekeeping skills, so we cleaned like mad before the 12 year old boys showed up to make a mess again. Thankfully, clean-up was a breeze so today lent itself to indulgent backyard gazebo time with a rosé lemonade (meh) and a book (amazing!)

I’ve had The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek on my to-read pile for months. I’ve put it off, and put it off, and put it off… until I decided to give it a go last night. I made it to chapter 13 (when I should have been sleeping but we all know I’ll give up sleep for a good book.) The wee hours of the morning finally got to me, so I put it down knowing I’d have the afternoon to while away in 1930’s Kentucky hill country. Oh. My. Word. Why didn’t I read this book sooner?!?

Why didn’t I read this book sooner?!?

From the first paragraphs, this title is evocative and transports you to another time and place. It’s rife with folklore, superstition, and old home remedies – balanced with an honest and colourful depiction of a difficult era and landscape. Inspired by the historical and truly remarkable Kentucky Pack Horse library service and gentle-hearted blue-skinned people of Kentucky, Kim Michele Richardson weaves a poignant and heart-wrenching telling of poverty, misogyny, racial prejudice, and poverty. Through it all, books bind humble souls together – feeding the mind when the land won’t yield food and families are dying of starvation.

I don’t want to share any spoilers so I’ll leave you with this: pick up a copy of this book, book off a chunk of free-time, and dive right in! You’ll find yourself invested – infuriated with the wrongness of so many situations, in tears because of the heartache and loss, and absolutely in love with the Book Lady, Cussy, and the family she builds through the care and gifts for her patrons. Honestly, one of the best books I’ve read in awhile!

This complimentary title was provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: May 7, 2019

Book Review: The View from Alameda Island by Robyn Carr

I’d like to preface this review by saying that Robyn Carr is one of my favourite contemporary women’s fiction authors. She’s pretty spectacular and there’s something about the way she pieces her words together that is easy to read and relatable. I know I’m not alone in this opinion as she’s a #1 New York Times Bestselling Author – she knows what works. In fact, so many people love her, that one of her beloved series, Virgin River, has been picked up for a Netflix series production. I’ve been looking forward to this book since I first started hearing about it as an anticipated release.

The View from Alameda Island is set for publication tomorrow (April 30, 2019) and it will pop up everywhere – grocery stores, bookstores, airports, libraries, etc. Here is the tagline description from the publisher:

A poignant and powerful story about how one woman’s best intentions lead to the worst of situations, and how love helps her to heal and ultimately triumph.”

Now, I read this last week so my thoughts aren’t entirely fresh, but I was, honestly, underwhelmed. I found it a bit slow to start and it just wasn’t my favourite of Ms. Carr’s stories. That being said, the further in I read, the more I enjoyed it. It was, as described, poignant – it touched on emotional abuse, physical abuse, divorce, strained family relationships, new beginnings, healing, and gentle romance.

Overall, I did enjoy the book – it was true to previous works in perhaps an overly formulaic way – as mentioned, not entirely my favourite. Maybe it was the fact that I read it after a very gripping novel or was a bit over-stressed last week -a bit of an it’s not you, it’s me situation?

As much as the primary characters carry the plot (and I did admire their strength and tenacity), I actually wanted to read more about some of the secondary characters and their development. (Perhaps written that way as a potential series???) I do not advise against reading this novel – in fact, I’d say give it a try – it has heart and soul and happily ever after – but it doesn’t get a definitive must-read recommendation from me (and I feel terrible actually saying that…) Sorry, Ms. Carr – I still love you! My opinions aside, I’m sure it will still pop up on best sellers lists and will be a great summer read. (PS – avoid if language and romantic scenes aren’t your thing…. I know some of my friends on here are cautious with content!)

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts expressed are my own.

Published by: Harlequin Mira
Publication Date: April 30, 2019

Book Review: The Family Secret by Terry Lynn Thomas

I am a huge fan of historical fiction relating to WWII – books along the lines of The Nightingale or Lilac Girls hold a little corner of my heart. I am sure this stemmed from my childhood readings of The Hiding Place or even one of my favourite titles as a teen, Vienna Prelude. This genre sheds light on a terrible time in our recent history, but somehow softens the delivery a bit while still gripping emotions as we recognize how absolutely horrible it was to live through that dark time.

Engrossing and Intriguing

I recently finished The Family Secret by Terry Lynn Thomas. It’s the second title in the Cat Carlisle series. It was easy to read as a standalone, but I think you would understand more of the characters’ histories if you read the first novel, The Silent Woman (which I have not yet read.) I was vaguely expecting this to be more along the lines of the titles mentioned above, and was surprised when it actually was a bit more mysterious and focused on an investigator and his romantic interest, in their small town escape from London. Rather than being the main backdrop for the events and going-ons, the war actually loomed distantly on the horizon, influencing decisions (i.e. evacuating from London.) (This surprise is all on me – it was definitely touted as historical mystery.)

All that said, I was not disappointed in this read. It was well-written and colourfully descriptive. Characters were developed enough that even though you were invested in their doings, you didn’t necessarily love them. Spoiled teens, entitled adults, nosy neighbours… you’ll find them all. The plot – the actual mystery – was engrossing and intriguing, the character backgrounds giving them a bit more depth, and I loved the dramatic climax.

Overall, while it wasn’t what I was expecting, I was pleased I picked it up. It was historical fiction set in an era I enjoy reading about – just from a different perspective than I typically enjoy. A good solid 3-star (I liked it) rating from me.

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

Publisher: HQ Digital
Publication Date: March 1, 2019

Book Review: The Bradford Sisters Romance

One day about a month ago I worried that I might run out of books to read. This convinced me that a trial of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited was in order. Now, keeping in mind that this is not my only source of reading material, I may have borrowed 4 titles total and one remains unread. It’s good in theory, but I think I need to pare down my to-be-read pile significantly before it’s something I will consider on a permanent basis.

One huge plus from this trial was the finding of Christy-award winning author Becky Wade’s series “The Bradford Sisters.” I’ve read books 1 (True to You – Nora) & 2 (Falling for You – Willow) and eagerly await Britt’s story. This series is delightful – it’s contemporary Christian romance, but it’s not cheesy or preachy. It’s all about real (fictional) characters in real (fictional) situations dealing with real emotions and struggles in life and faith – the kind of people you want to hang out with in real life, because they’re so, you know, real….

True to You | Bradford Sisters Romance |
Book 1 | Becky Wade

That being said, the sisters’ lives come across as remarkably pristine and fairy-tale-ish at first glance. They’re wealthy, they’re beautiful, they come from a well-respected family and every opportunity has been handed to them on a golden platter, or so it would seem. They’re enjoying more privilege than most of us will encounter in a lifetime. However, first impressions aren’t always accurate and as Wade digs deeper into their lives, you realise that they’ve encountered their share of struggle and heartache.

The stories are filled with some awesome supporting characters, fascinating adventure and mystery, snippets of humour, and the much-beloved romance. This trio of tales – although I’ve only read the first two, are fantastic and perfect for fans of Rachel Hauck or even Debbie Macomber or other inspirational authors who know their romance. I can’t wait for the third installment – Sweet On You – coming out April 30th. (Hint: It’s available for pre-order now!)

A Boy, A Book, and A Little Bit of Heartbreak

My youngest son, 11, claims to not enjoy reading, but when he finally sits down with a book, he gets lost in the pages. He’s still been reading “No Better Friend“, a biographical story by Robert Weintraub, for a school project. In short, it’s “the extraordinary tale of friendship and survival between a man and a dog in World War II.”

When we were looking for a biography, he had two requirements:

1. There had to be a dog in the story

2. It couldn’t die.

He approved the description from Amazon so we bought the book. He heard the word “survival” and reason failed – I’m not actually sure how he believed a dog that was alive in the early ’40s would still be here today. He’s been so gripped by this one, that he didn’t see the end coming.

He was sent off to do some reading and I knew he was in the last chapters. All of a sudden he storms out of his room yelling “Doggo died!”. Now at first I had a moment of panic because our old smelly beast had been hiding in his bedroom with him, but no, that impression was cleared up immediately when the smelly beast followed him out.

My bewildered mind was still trying to process the situation when a book came sailing past my head and said boy plopped himself into a chair in the corner and burst into tears. I’m now befuddled and slightly amused.

He’s experienced his first heartbreak at the hands of a book. I wanted to wrap him in a great big bear hug while my shoulders silently shook with laughter and a stray tear found it’s way onto my cheek. We tried to discuss the story and pull apart his feelings, but he needed to let his tears wash some of the pain away. He now understands why I sometimes cry when I read.

He understands the wonder of the word on page and how we can become enmeshed and entangled in a world not our own. To say this book had an emotional impact is an understatement. In our case, he was so highly engaged in the true story of Judy (Doggo) and Frank (the British Radarman) that his young heart was bruised with the loss of a friend. (Mama was just happy that he learned about some of the atrocities of WWII and life as a POW.)

In my books, any story that can evoke such genuine feeling is a win. Not only did it capture the tale of loyalty and friendship of the characters, it spurred loyalty in the reader – a spirited 11-year-old boy. That, my friends, is a well-written story – well-written, indeed!

Book Review: The Noble Guardian by Michelle Griep


Taciturn & Tender –
Adventurous Historical Christian Romance

If you are looking for historical Christian fiction brimming with the characterization of a taciturn, valiant hero and a lively, generous heroine, while courting danger around every bend and the demonstration of courage in the face of disappointments, Michelle Griep’s The Noble Guardian has it all! Adventure. History. Romance. The third in The Bow Street Runners series, it’s easy to read as a standalone (but having read this title, I’ll definitely be adding the first two titles to my to-be-read stack.)

Griep has a wonderful way with words and kindly shares some of her historical research aspects with her readers at the back of the book. I have no remarks on the aspect of historical accuracy, because I’m generally reading the genre for the escape, not the realism. I’m guessing based on the facts she shared, most aspects were pretty spot-on.

Back to the story itself… two bruised individuals, an adorable cherub of a child, and well-shaped secondary characters shine. At 32o pages in the paperback format, it’s not a short book, but it’s quite the tale of longing, revenge, and as mentioned previously, danger (almost ridiculous amounts of danger, to be honest. I mean it’s fiction, but life just kept throwing one curveball after another – which of course they handled with fortitude and style.) They faced seemingly insurmountable hurdles while trying to navigate their futures and escape the wounds of their pasts while racing cross-country through Regency England.

Romance was sweetly threaded throughout and, of course, love triumphs all. One of my favourite quotes from the book was just before the half-way point, when the Captain (our hero!) insists Abby (our heroine) is more valuable than she realises and calls her a gem. *sigh* (I’d quote the exact line but my copy was uncorrected and I don’t want to get it wrong!) Honestly, coming from such a sullen man and in the early stages of their alliance it was really quite the tender and endearing scene (with a typical touch of gruffness from a pensive man.) The story was liberally sprinkled with references to faith and the characters’ development of conviction and hope. As they lean on each other, they each find safety – both physically and emotionally – as they become the family they’ve always needed.

I truly enjoyed this spin on my go-to genre and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a heartwarming historical tale of hope and redemption. You can pre-order your copy now through all major booksellers. It’s a 4.5 star for me!

I was provided with a complimentary Advanced Reader Copy of this title through NetGalley with thanks to the publisher and author. All opinions expressed are my own.

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

Book Review: The Remarkable Inventions of Walter Mortinson by Quinn Sosna-Spear

The one benefit to not feeling quite myself is the need to rest, and what better way to rest than with a good book or two or three while tucked into bed in a quiet (or not-so-quiet) house – without the guilt of tasks remaining undone. Doctor’s orders and all that. One of the titles I dove into was “The Remarkable Inventions of Walter Mortinson” by Quinn Sosna-Spear. I’ll admit that one of the reasons I requested this book, besides my quest to encourage a love of reading in my youngest (I’ve given up on the oldest), was the eye-catching artwork design on the cover of this tween-novel. (PS, click the link for the author’s website – it’s gorgeous!)

Beautiful Cover Art –
Riveting & Imaginative Children’s Fiction

This magical debut novel targeted for the Middle School sector was released today! It is a well-written story with elements of mystery, adventure, family, friendship, acceptance, love, loss, and healing. Set in an incredibly fantastical land with enchantingly descriptive elements and people, the writing is engaging enough to capture the attention of the pickiest young reader while remaining sophisticated enough to appeal to grown up readers who enjoy a touch of whimsy.

The plot follows the road trip-style adventure of two tweens who embark on their journey for two very different, personal reasons. The riveting escapade is balanced with colourful scenery, elements of humour, and personal introspection. I was both charmed and surprised. I loved the quirky odd characters and wish we had the opportunity to get to know them a little better. The ending caught me by surprise and left me a little bereft, yet touched – not because it was poorly written, but because I was so engaged with the tale.

This title was a page turner, for sure! We’ll be adding a hard copy of this novel to our shelves at home and I can only hope that it will be as big a hit with my boys as it was for me. A recommended read for any tween or adult readers who enjoy imaginative and extraordinarily curious fiction along the lines of Neil Gaiman or Roald Dahl.

I received a complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Publication Date: April 2, 2019
Published by: Simon & Schuster Canada / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Book Review: The Little Vintage Carousel by the Sea by Jaimie Admans

It’s been one bumpy week. I haven’t been feeling great which has translated into not sleeping great which has translated into dull migraines on top of not feeling great. To cap it off, it’s the busiest week of the year with one of my clients. Unfortunately, it’s also a week that we packed a ton of extra stuff into and while I want to do the things, there is the exhausted introverted part of me that’s had enough and wants to huddle up with some good books all weekend and do nothing – and I mean nothing – but read – like from now until Sunday night bed time. Is it the end of the world? No. Do others have it worse? Of course.

Charming & Quirky

I did get sometime in between all the busyness and that’s vital – it keeps me sane. I read a few quick and easy books and this one, The Little Vintage Carousel by the Sea, written by Jaimie Admans, actually had me chuckling out loud on occasion. It’s so far-fetched and the characters are adorably awful. The book is rife with humour and awkwardness – it’s a ridiculous love-at-first sight type of tale – but it works. I was charmed by the entire thing!

Parts of it were repetitive – heavy reliance on references to a classic film and song, certain turns of phrase, internal dialogue, but overall it was exactly what I was looking for – a sweet and easy romance. It was a (mostly) cheery contemporary British love story that begins in London and takes you seaside to an over-the-top little village that you can’t help but want to visit – nosy seniors and all. It wove a historical, mysterious thread through the entire plot that was relevant to the conclusion. The title is available for pre-order now – it would make a great little holiday read. 3.5 stars from me – it wasn’t epic, but I enjoyed it!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher and/or author via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Published by: HQ Digital
Publication Date: April 3, 2019

Life… and a Book Review: The Liar in the Library by Simon Brett

I meal planned this week… and not a single meal went to plan so far. We’re going with it. Monday, Kev brought home samosas that we paired with spring rolls. Last night, he decided to pick up pizza. Tonight, I prepared dinner for 20 teens that I had conveniently thought I didn’t have to do for another few weeks. (Meatball subs using frozen meatballs for the win… I mean, I did heat up the meatballs first.) I have a few meatballs in sauce left… so tomorrow night won’t go according to plan either. Whatever. We have food in our bellies and extra supplies for next week. Not a big deal.

My boys are finally home again and I’m so happy! Do parents feel like this when their kids are my age (30-something…) and decide to pop in for a visit? Do you ever lose the excitement of your kids coming “home” if you haven’t seen them in awhile? Asking for a friend… Just so you know how much they missed me, while I was in the middle row of the van my mom was driving to go visit my niece yesterday, both boys took off their shoes and put their disgusting smelly socked feet in my face. So yeah… I feel loved and cherished.

While the munchkins were gone, I read ALL. THE. BOOKS. (Not really… but I put a good dent in my NetGalley to-be-read pile and have to catch up with all the reviews.) One such title was Simon Brett’s “The Liar in the Library.”

Unwittingly, when I requested the title, I was not aware that it was the 18th book in the Feathering Mystery series. It didn’t make a huge impact – I could figure out who characters were and what was going on without having to dig up 17 previous titles. But really, who starts reading a new series at Book 18? Something about that bothers me… I have my issues.

It was a classic Whodunnit, throwing one of the key protagonists into the spotlight of suspicion. I wasn’t blown away by the mystery or the writing, but it was a cozy piece of crime fiction set in a quaint British seaside community with not entirely loveable characters.

Again… this novel was of those titles that’s just a midpoint rating from me. It was easy to read and a good little escape, but didn’t leave any particular strong feelings or impressions one way or another.

A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Publisher: Black Thorn Books

Publication Date: June 16, 2019

Book Review: Hope on the Inside by Marie Bostwick

I recently completed a book that completely intrigued me – a historical thriller – that left me feeling like I needed a bath when I was done because it was so descriptive in the seedy, unhygienic, poverty-ridden world of late 1700s Sweden setting. Afterwards, I felt a craving for something decadently sweet to read to tilt my scales back to normal.

Marie Bostwick, bestselling author of uplifting historical and contemporary fiction, with a Macomber-esque flavour to her writing, is a new-to-me author. Her heartwarming novel, Hope on the Inside (a play on words), hit completely opposite on the feel-o-meter and left me all warm and fuzzy when I hit the final page. Sweet, sincere, redemptive, inspiring… I could go on-and-on, but this title hit all those boxes.

Decadently Sweet

The synopsis of the story is that our heroine is facing some unexpected challenges in a mid-life crises type of situation. After supporting her husband’s career and subsequently raising her kids, she’s the mom all the neighbourhood kids loved and can tackle any craft like she’s Martha Stewart. Having to find a new employment position, she stumbles upon a chance connection and winds up with a new position teaching a home-ec/craft class at the local women’s prison. Issues, of course, arise, but positivity and perseverance save the day and at the conclusion, everyone is living happily-ever-after.

This was not deep, thought provoking fiction by any means. It was, however, charming and easy-to-read, dare I say even inspiring, despite its triteness. It’s a story that’s been told a million times before, but it had its own unique spin and was quite the enjoyable page-turner.

I was provided with an advance copy of this title via NetGalley with thanks to the publisher and/or author. All opinions expressed are my own.

Publisher: Kensington Books
Publication Date: March 26, 2019