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

Book Review: Secrets at Cedar Cabin by Colleen Coble

While a warm and fuzzy historical romance will always be my first pick for escapism when it comes to books, a close second is a fast-paced thriller or mystery and Colleen Coble always delivers in that genre. I’ve read a number of her titles in the past and find them enthralling and still manage to sleep at night. Win-win.

Drama & Suspense With A Good Dose of Romance

Secrets at Cedar Cabin is the third release in the Lavender Tides series and I read it as a standalone a few weeks ago without any issue. (I’m a little behind in posting my reviews… life has been a little hectic lately. Reading is a must. Reviewing was shelved.) This contemporary novel is rife with drama and suspense while focusing on human trafficking and the sex trade.

Of course, romance is entwined with all the excitement and the good guys win in the end. (If only real life were so tidy.) The whirlwind mystery left me guessing until (almost) the end. Likeable, flawed characters. Family secrets. Descriptive settings. Some kick-butt scenes. It has it all.

Coble is a Christian author and as such, her books are clean as far as content, but theme’s are still adult. I don’t find the faith aspect overdone, but appreciate the struggles and humanity of the characters. Easy to read and not too graphic – but still intriguing and sometimes infuriating – it was an entertaining book overall.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from ThomasNelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Publication Date: 22 Jan 2019 
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Book Review: The Sugar Smart Cookbook for Kids

I have to curb my impulse to purchase cookbooks and magazines featuring delicious looking recipes. I don’t have the space in our small home to properly store the hordes of food-related gadgets and books that I could easily adopt. Gratefully, I didn’t feel guilty about this one as it was complimentary via NetGalley… and I was provided with a digital copy.

The quick and straightforward dishes from The Sugar Smart Cookbook for Kids by Georgia Varozza will have you plating familiar food in no time – with no strange ingredients and less added sugar. Our big win? Pear and Cheddar Crisp.

Written in a neighbourly way with well-categorized listings, this cookbook is not overwhelming, but it also may not wow you. I’m a very visual person when it comes to cooking – some photos may have jazzed things up. It’s a good basic resource for standard kid-friendly meals with a healthier twist and a strong encouragement to switch out highly processed foods for whole grains and made from scratch meals.

The one disqualifier that I will post here that was not included in my Goodreads review is that I find healthy and nutritious very subjective. Overall, these are fairly healthy recipes… if you’re okay with higher fat, you’re not vegetarian, you aren’t avoiding gluten or dairy, etc. You may have to make some swaps to make it work for your family, but it’s a start and if you don’t know where to start and rely heavily on convenience foods, this may be a good one for you. I didn’t find it overwhelmingly different than many of the recipes we’re already using.

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

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Publication Date: March 5, 2019

Book Review: The Hope of Azure Springs by Rachel Fordham

Delightful, emotionally-charged historical fiction

The Hope of Azure Springs is an amazing debut title by author Rachel Fordham that I was pleasantly surprised by. Christian fiction can at times be dry as dust, but this novel surpassed all my expectations! It contained elements of romance, danger, mystery, and small-town charm.

Set in historical Iowa, our plain-Jane heroine is an orphan train sibling who shows remarkable strength and resilience. Of course, her personal experiences have left a mark on her, but she is just absolutely charming. I don’t want to elaborate too much because I don’t want to spoil the book, predictable as elements of it may be.

Our hero is the town sheriff and of course, depicted as being absolutely swoon-worthy. He has his own personal history to deal with and current obstacles that he has to overcome. He’s stoic, handsome, stubborn, and sometimes oblivious, but also good-hearted and courageous.

The depth of the story is in the lesson of beauty being in the eye of the beholder, to acknowledge that attractiveness is more than skin deep, to see beyond a charming face to the heart that lies beneath. The story also beautifully chronicled a tale of loss, self-worth, family, friendship, healing, and hope. I was moved to tears by the eloquence with which certain passages were written. This was a well-paced novel that I did not want to put down (and may have stayed up way too late reading.)

A 4.5-star rating for sure. This is a definite recommended read for anyone who enjoys squeaky clean historical romance. A delightful escape from the grey skies of February.

I was provided with a copy of this publication via NetGalley with thanks to the publisher and/or author. All opinions are my own.

Publisher: Revell Publication Date: July 3, 2018

Book Review: Summer by the Tides – Denise Hunter

I have received quite a few new titles to read this week via NetGalley… and an actual, physical book straight from the publisher that I’ll be reviewing as part of a blog tour in March. (Eeek! That excites me…) I have posted a number of reviews on Goodreads of the titles I’ve read, and have a few extras to post in the upcoming days. Check them out and many others on my profile here: brownlin81. Today, I’ll quickly share my thoughts on a new title by an author I generally enjoy – Summer by the Tides, by Denise Hunter.

Likeable leads, hope, and healing
in a charming contemporary setting.

Reminiscent of Robyn Carr or Susan Mallery, this novel was an enjoyable tale set in an oceanside town where sisters spent memorable moments as a family in their childhoods. Rife with heartache, betrayal, love, and mistrust, our heroine and hero find true love and broken family ties are mended by the final chapter. With spunky supporting characters (I loved the grandmother) and likeable, well-rounded leads, this was a clean and enjoyable novel of second chances, hope, and healing in a contemporary, charming setting.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Published by: Thomas Nelson; Publication date: May 21, 2019

Book Review: Apple Island Wife by Fiona Stocker

Final rating: 4 stars from me!

I dove into the pages of Apple Island Wife this weekend, hoping the memoirs of a woman making a new home for her family in rural Tanzania would distract me from our frigid Canadian winter. (It was adorable how she described how some individuals might consider Tanzania cold.)

This charming tale was a delightful telling of growth and discovery, stories of everyday life in a new setting, interspersed with droll humour. The account was amusing and educational (being from the North American corner of the world, there were some terms I was unfamiliar with!) While I enjoyed many of the aspects of the presentation, Fiona’s recounted insights into her husband’s interests (and her decided lack of interest in said pursuits) truly amused me – I too will never understand the appeal of a tractor pull or farm auction, no matter how many we attended as children.

Her colourful characterizations of the animals – pet, herd, and pest – as well as the lively description of her neighbours and the land were vividly well done. I could at once envision myself in the midst of the scenes she described. Wallabies, huntsman spiders, and snakes, oh my!

The chapters were not presented in a linear fashion. While I understood the general timeline as a whole, there was a part of me that wondered how old the children were, how many months or years had passed, or whether an incident happened before another if it was not explicitly presented in the writing.

It was relatable for any woman who has ever made a decision and questioned whether they were truly equipped for the change. She found the right balance in presenting how many of us struggle with wanting to be more than a mother or housewife and I was delighted with her term of domestic Chief Executive Officer. She acknowledge her strengths and her weakness with a balance of humility and humour.

Overall, this is a book that I highly recommend for a little glimpse into someone making a home for themselves in a strange-to-them environ. Settle in with a cuppa in a comfy chair – you’ll feel like your about to listen in while a close friend recounts amusing anecdotes of everyday life or the reminiscing of your favourite auntie. It was an intimate glimpse into the Stocker family’s venture into farm life and I, for one, cannot wait to read more.

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley courtesy of the author and/or publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Published by Unbound Digital; Publication Date – December 4, 2018

#AppleIslandWife #NetGalley

Book Review: The Happiness Project by Pippa James

Have you ever noticed that women need each other, but especially mothers need someone on their team?  Have you noticed that sometimes other moms can be just horrible in their judgement and criticism?  Have you ever felt convinced you were messing up your kids irreparably? Wondered if you’re slowly poisoning them because they won’t eat a darn vegetable despite your best efforts?  Wanted to crash on your best friend’s couch in yoga pants with tears because it seems like you do everything at home, and at work, and at school?  If you can relate to any of those questions… you’ll relate to my latest read. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and/or author through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
My first read of 2019 and a new-to-me author: Pippa JamesThe Happiness Project was a charming glimpse into the life of three mothers as they make a list of New Years Resolutions together.  Being a mother myself, I found I could relate to all of the women at times. I could sympathize with their worries of failure, the desire to not be judged less-than, and the questioning of their parenting choices.  Each woman’s personality was well-developed – and with that, of course, was the fact that you may love them at times and detest them at times, and some days they were just off – much like real life. 
The storyline meandered nicely.  It wasn’t too slow, it wasn’t too fast – just a nice walk through their lives, culminating happily (which I will admit made me want to go join a fun run.)  A great fictional reminder – at times humorous, often heartfelt – that as women and mothers we need to find our tribes and back them up.  It was a pleasant read, but may have been more gripping if I had read Pippa’s “I Will Survive” first. However, it definitely can be read as a stand-alone novel – easy enough to figure out. 
Caution for those who do not approve of swearing in their novels as one of the characters had a rougher vocabulary than the others.  I did not find this detracting as it seamlessly fit with her cheekiness as a whole. A timely plot considering the new year that’ll make you want to grab your best mummy friends and share the love.
Published by Bookouture;  Publication Date February 12, 2019