Book Review: Storing Up Trouble by Jen Turano

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

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

A Delightful Whirlwind of Enjoyment

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review: The Forgotten Home Childby Genevieve Graham

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

Emotionally Moving

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published by: Simon & Schuster Canada

Book Review: The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear

Read with Caution – Gripping and Evocative

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

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

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

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

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

Published by: Barbour Books (Barbour Publishing Inc.)

Publication Date: March 1, 2020

Book Review: 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 Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay

…(a) descriptive and endearing narrative on the struggles of life and treasures of friendship

I am so far behind in my NetGalley book reviews… but I’ve been choosing sleep instead of reading in an effort to improve my health. The sacrifice has not yet been worth it – just sayin’.

One of the books I completed a some days ago and thought deserving of a full-fledged review was “The Printed Letter Bookshop.” It’s a Thomas Nelson title – so fairly wholesome, although the characters definitely have their issues. It focuses on a determined young lawyer who inherits her aunt’s bookshop, and the two local women who assist in the shop – a divorcee, and a do-it-all mom.

Through personality clashes, obvious character flaws, family secrets, and a good deal of “searching” I would classify this as a novel of growth, with a dash of sweet romance. It was probably a pleasure to read because of the main feature – the charming little bookshop – a delight for readers who dream of an actual day-to-day connection with books (i.e. me…) just inhaling the scent and discovering new pieces of printed wonder. It’s a testament to the impact one individual can make. It’s a story of hope and new beginnings.

I’ve not read Katherine Reay before this NetGalley copy provided in exchange for my opinion, but I have most definitely added other titles to my to-read list. This was a delightful, easy-to-read, descriptive and endearing narrative on the struggles of life and treasures of friendship. This title was published May 14th – so go pick up a copy from your local independent bookseller (or Amazon if all else fails…)

Book Review: The House of Hardie by Anne Melville

Every once in a while, you dive into a book that really makes you think the author has a handle on their genre. My contact at Agora Books reached out to me and offered The House of Hardie by Anne Melville as a suggested read in response to some of my requests and reviews to their agency. She was spot on – I loved this book!

Two families from two classes. Four siblings with four dreams. Fate versus destiny...
In this dramatic Victorian saga, can love and passion overcome power and ambition? Not a new question posed in fiction, but done very well in this case.

The House of Hardie was first published in 1987 and is the first in the Hardie Family series. Agora has re-published this title posthumously. Author Anne Melville, in fact a pseudonym for Margaret Edith Newman, born in 1926 in Middlesex.

Before writing, she worked a variety of jobs including teaching in Egypt, editing a children’s magazine in London, and advising the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Twickenham. She published her first novel as Margaret Newman, a mystery novel entitled Murder to Music.

Newman continued publishing novels until her death in 1998, under a variety of pseudonyms and encompassing multiple genres. As Anne Melville, she focused on historical novels. Over the course of her career she published fifty-five novels.

As to the novel itself, it addresses the obstacles of romance between the merchant class and the Ton, the barriers set upon women with unrealistic expectations and limitations, it explores romance and adventure and the ties that bind us to family (and the bonds that are even greater.)

It was a well-written saga of a tale with an engaging plot and well-developed characters – especially the well-rounded, strong female leads. I mentioned in my Instagram post yesterday that it was “Historical fiction done right!”

My thanks to Agora Books for the complimentary copy via Netgalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Published: May 2, 2019 (get it in store now!)
Publisher: Agora Books