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: Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon

I’ve really been enjoying thrillers lately – something about trying to figure things out while biting my nails in anticipation and sitting on the edge of my seat only to be blindsided has really worked as an escape mechanism. Plus, there’s usually a whole lot of mess in a thriller, which leaves me feeling happily complacent with my mundane and normal life – no skeletons falling out of closets, figuratively or literally. When I read the blurb for Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon I thought it fit the bill perfectly, being touted as a psychological thriller. With the author being a fellow Ontario resident, I couldn’t pass it up.

From the Publisher:
In Hannah Mary McKinnon’s psychological thriller, SISTER DEAR (MIRA Trade; May 26, 2020; $17.99), the obsession of Single White Female meets the insidiousness of You, in a twisted fable about the ease of letting in those who wish us harm, and that mistake’s dire consequences.

The day he dies, Eleanor Hardwicke discovers her father – the only person who has ever loved her – is not her father. Instead, her biological father is a wealthy Portland businessman who wants nothing to do with her and to continue his life as if she doesn’t exist. That isn’t going to work for Eleanor.

Eleanor decides to settle the score. So, she befriends his daughter Victoria, her perfect, beautiful, carefree half-sister who has gotten all of life’s advantages while Eleanor has gotten none.

As she grows closer to Victoria, Eleanor’s obsession begins to deepen. Maybe she can have the life she wants, Victoria’s life, if only she can get close enough. 

My Thoughts:
As you first dive into this title, it feels a bit depressing – there’s a lot of drama, wallowing, and a bleakness that doesn’t lend you to actually like Eleanor at first, despite the hard knocks she’s been handed, although you do pity her to some degree. The thriller element is a bit of a slow burn – there’s a build up to it and then *BAM*, it’ll hit you out of nowhere, cut you off, slam you into a wall, and you’ll seriously wonder where the heck it came from. You may grow apathetic during the build up and that’s where it will catch you off guard. This aspect alone was truly worth the wait.

This novel had dysfunction, some adult themes, but you won’t be able to help yourself from getting sucked into the characters’ issues despite your initial dislike and eventually you’ll be rooting for them. It’s not a fast paced read, so I did miss that edge-of-the-seat feeling I often look for in a thriller, but again, that’s where I was blindsided so it worked. It feels a lot like women’s fiction throughout the novel – relationships, family issues, etc. with a dose of feel good thrown in – and that curve ball out of left field comes sailing in and you realise it may not having the happy ending you anticipated. I leave you with this – I enjoyed this novel and felt a little sucker-punched with the twist. Well done, McKinnon, well done.

About the Author:
Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing, and is now the author of The Neighbors and Her Secret Son. She lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is delighted by her twenty-second commute.

Social Links:

SISTER DEAR
Author: Hannah Mary McKinnon
ISBN: 9780778309550
Publication Date: May 26, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books

Buy Links: 

Blog Tour & Book Review: The Summer Set by Aimee Agresti












A few years ago we had plans to take a road trip to the Berkshires. Instead, an incredible deal on a vacation rental led us to Cape Cod instead. Massachusetts does something for this Canadian girl who appreciates the rich history, varied landscapes, and wicked accents. I’d go back and explore a different part of that State every summer if I could, and one day, we’ll find ourselves deep in the Berkshires. When I saw that Aimee Agresti’s newly released title, The Summer Set, was set in one of the places my heart longs to explore, and I was asked if I’d like to read and review it, I was in!

FROM THE PUBLISHER:
With a setting inspired by the real-life Williamstown Theatre Festival in the Berkshires where stars like Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lauren Graham, and Chris Pine have performed, THE SUMMER SET (Graydon House Books; May 12; $17.99) is a salacious rom-com, beach read perfect for Broadway nerds and Hollywood gossips alike.

Charlie Savoy was once Hollywood’s hottest A-lister. Now, ten years later, she’s pushing forty, exiled from the film world back at the summer Shakespeare theater in the Berkshires that launched her career—and where her first love, Nick, is the artistic director.

It’s not exactly her first choice. But as parts are cast and rehearsals begin, Charlie is surprised to find herself thriving: bonding with celebrity actors, forging unexpected new friendships, and even reigniting her spark with Nick despite their complicated history.

Until Charlie’s old rival, Hollywood’s current “It Girl,” is brought on set, threatening to undo everything she’s been working towards. As the drama amps up both on the stage and behind the curtains, Charlie must put on one heck of a show to fight for the second chance she deserves in her career and in love.

MY THOUGHTS:
In all honesty, I was blinded by the setting and missed the descriptors like “salacious”, “Broadway nerds” and “Hollywood gossips.” I’m more small-town, feel-good, bit of mystery, hopeless-romantic kind of girl. I’d rather pick up a home and garden magazine than a gossip rag. I couldn’t tell you anything about the latest romantic entanglements on and off screen because I frankly don’t care. Self-proclaimed gossip mavens and theatre buffs and those who enjoy steamy scandal will absolutely love this book – because it’s not bad, it just wasn’t quite my cup of tea. (Although that cover makes me really, really happy!)

That being said, this story is told with a cast of dynamic characters (that you may love or hate at any given moment) in a beautiful setting. The writing is evocative – I could picture every building and feel the refreshing coldness of the lake and hear the laughter and glasses tinkling in the local bar. The pacing is excellent and easy to read. There’s drama, young love, second chances, betrayal, scandal, and more – plus behind-the-scene glimpses into the glamorous and not-so-glamorous world of acting.

Know going in that it’s not all hearts and roses. It’s got some tawdry elements and coarse language that some readers may object to. Final consensus: I enjoyed the young romance, I enjoyed the triumph of the theatre being revived, and I’m glad that two hearts got a successful second chance at true love. (Plus, that cover….) I still want to make a summer escape to the Berkshires.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Aimee Agresti is the author of Campaign Widows and The Gilded Wings trilogy for young adults. A former staff writer for Us Weekly, she penned the magazine’s coffee table book Inside Hollywood. Aimee’s work has also appeared in People, Premiere, DC magazine, Capitol File, the Washington Post, Washingtonian, the Washington City Paper, Boston magazine, Women’s Health and the New York Observer, and she has made countless TV and radio appearances, dishing about celebrities on the likes of Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, E!, The Insider, Extra, VH1, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and HLN. Aimee graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in journalism and lives with her husband and two sons in the Washington, DC, area.

WHERE TO PURCHASE:

ISBN: 9781525823589
Publication Date: May 12, 2020
Publisher: Graydon House Books

Buy Links: 
Harlequin 
Barnes & Noble
Amazon
Books-A-Million
Powell’s

Social Links:
Author Website
Twitter: @AimeeAgresti
Instagram: @aimeeagresti
Facebook: @AimeeAgrestiAuthor
Goodreads

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

Blog Tour: The Secrets of Love Story Bridge by Phaedra Patrick

I’m excited to be sharing my thoughts amidst a bevy of select readers celebrating the recent release of Phaedra Patrick’s charming new book, The Secrets of Love Story Bridge, which hit shelves on April 28th!

From the Publisher:

Fredrik Backman meets The Cactus in THE SECRETS OF LOVE STORY BRIDGE (Park Row Books; April 28, 2020; $25.99 US/$32.50 CAN), in which a cynical single father has a surprise encounter on the famous love lock bridge, sparking a journey of self-discovery that may lead him to a second chance at love.

Single father Mitchell Fisher hates all things romance. He enjoys his job removing padlocks fastened to the famous “love lock” bridges of Upchester city. Only his young daughter, Poppy, knows that behind his disciplined veneer, Mitchell grieves the loss of her mother, Anita.

One fateful day, working on the bridge, Mitchell courageously rescues a woman who falls into the river. He’s surprised to feel a connection to her, but the woman disappears before he learns her name. To Mitchell’s shock, a video of the rescue goes viral, hailing him as “The Hero on the Bridge.” He’s soon notified by the mysterious woman’s sister, Liza, that she has been missing for over a year. However, the only clue to where the woman could have gone is the engraved padlock she left on the bridge.

Mitchell finds himself swept up in Liza’s quest to find her lost sister. Along the way, with help from a sparkling cast of characters, Mitchell’s heart gradually unlocks, and he discovers new beginnings can be found in the unlikeliest places…

My Thoughts:

From the very first page you’ll be invested. Phaedra Patrick weaves a remarkable story that will keep you engaged page after page. From the mystery of the woman in the yellow dress to the juggling act of parenthood after loss, she brings to life in moving way a very complicated tale. Strong notes of grief and sorrow prevail throughout the novel, but are balanced with humour, hope, and healing. Our characters make mistakes – oh so many mistakes – but they also come to realise that in life and in love there is no such thing as perfection.

I did find all the story threads a little distracting at times and the mystery, when revealed, a little ridiculous – a bit too much of a hot mess for my liking… but, I still read the majority of this title in a single session and stayed up way past my bed time because I didn’t want to put it down. We will take a lesson from the author and recognize that something can be fantastic and wonderful without being perfect. Overall, it was highly enjoyable (even though it made me cry!) – not as a light read, but as a heartwarming tale of making it through, scars and all, and the joy of finding those who help us grow and thrive. It’s charming, completely feel-good, and even a little bizarre.

My thanks to the publisher, Park Row (MIRA |Harlequin | Harper Collins), for providing a complimentary copy of this title to read and review. You can purchase for yourself through any of the links below or your favourite local bookseller.

THE SECRETS OF LOVE STORY BRIDGE
Author: Phaedra Patrick
ISBN: 9780778309789
Publication Date: April 28, 2020
Publisher: Park Row Books

Buy Links: 
Harlequin 
Barnes & Noble
Amazon
Amazon.ca
Books-A-Million
Powell’s

Phaedra Patrick is the author of The Library of Lost and Found, Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, which has been published in over twenty countries around the world. She studied art and marketing, and has worked as a stained-glass artist, film festival organizer and communications manager. An award-winning short story writer, she now writes full-time. She lives in Saddleworth, UK, with her husband and son.

Social Links:

Author Website
Twitter: @PhaedraPatrick
Instagram: @PhaedraPatrick
Facebook: @PhaedraPatrick
Goodreads

Blog Tour & Book Review: The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman

While we enjoyed a few days of mild weather at the end of February – well before our days of self-isolation – I itched to get my hands dirty (an urge that generally passes by July.) I had to console myself with the slow-paced delights of The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman (which, by the way, I discovered is a nom de pleume the same time I finished the book.

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

In this heartwarming and feel-good novel filled with echoes of Dorothea Benton Frank, Debbie Macomber and Elizabeth Berg, two women separated by a generation but equally scarred by war find hope, meaning – and each other – through a garden of heirloom flowers.

Iris Maynard lost her husband in World War II, her daughter to loneliness and, finally, her reason to live. Walled off from the world for decades behind a towering fence surrounding her home and gardens, the former botanist has built a new family…of flowers. Iris propagates her own daylilies and roses while tending to an heirloom garden filled with starts – and memories – of her own mother, grandmother, husband and daughter.

When Abby Peterson moves to Grand Haven, Michigan, with her family – a husband traumatized during his service in the Iraq War and a young daughter searching for stability – they find themselves next door to Iris, and are slowly drawn into her reclusive neighbour’s life where, united by loss and a love of flowers, Iris and Abby slowly unearth their secrets to each other. Eventually, the two teach one another that the earth grounds us all, gardens are a grand healer, and as flowers bloom so do our hopes and dreams.

MY THOUGHTS:

While I am, self-admittedly, an emotional reader, this sweet and poignant story pulled each of my heartstrings. Shipman paints a vivid picture of glorious garden splendor, damaged souls, and the healing power of friendship. Scars of war effect a family and a neighbor as they come to grips with new normals and build foundations for a happier future.

Picturesque descriptions of flora, strong female leads, and a fantastic setting (hello, Great Lakes Michigan resort town!) will have you craving cottages, sand dunes, and friends with old souls. The Heirloom Garden flips between eras and character perspective, providing a beautiful depiction of strength and hope through inter-generational storytelling with an emphasis on treasuring memories and heirlooms through love and loss. A remarkably emotion-evoking read that will inspire you to plan a family vacation to Grand Haven.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary Advanced Readers Copy through NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own. This post was created as part of the Harlequin 2020 Spring Reads Blog Tour.

Published by HARLEQUIN – Trade Publishing (U.S. & Canada), Graydon House Imprint.

Publication Date: April 28, 2020

You’ll be able to purchase direct from the publisher, from your favourite local bookseller, or any major retailer where books are sold.

SOCIAL LINKS:
Author Website: https://www.violashipman.com/
TWITTER: @viola_shipman
FB: @authorviolashipman
Insta: @viola_shipman
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14056193.Viola_Shipman

Book Review: Stay with Me by Becky Wade

As we’ve come to love Becky Wade as a leading author of inspirational contemporary fiction, Stay with Me, her soon to be released novel, pulls no punches when it comes to the delivery of a relevant and moving tale. Permeated with real-life struggles, family secrets, and a scintillating romance, this newest title conveys all you would expect and more.

Tackling tricky issues like the balance of public image and faith, addiction, family secrets, and old wounds, Stay with Me is a poignant and compelling work of contemporary fiction. Well-developed characters, strong emotional ties, dynamic chemistry, and threads of intrigue furnish a well-written novel in a beautiful setting. Sam and Genevieve are soulful and real as the hero and heroine struggling with facades. Both must fight their own demons while learning to heal and trust in this touching gem of inspiration.

Stay with Me will be released on May 5th and is the keystone to what should be an engaging new series (Misty River.) Wade delivers hope and redemption wrapped in a charming and artful package you won’t want to put down. Elements of humour (hello, nod to Goldilocks), a lively romance, and tugs to the heartstrings make this title work for me!

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

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

Book Review: Sunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr

Robyn Carr is one of those writers that I will always invest time in – usually without disappointment. She authored by beloved Virgin River series (that I may not think Netflix did the best job of bringing to screen…) and a number of other titles that I’ve truly enjoyed. In general, what she does works and I find the cadence of her writing truly appeals to me. When I was initially invited to participate in the HarperCollins blog tour celebrating the release of her newest title, Sunrise on Half Moon Bay, I didn’t have to think twice. Of course I was going to participate. I went ahead and downloaded the digital ARC (advance reader’s copy) and then promptly forgot to confirm my participation in the tour. Whoops! Regardless, I’ve read the book and I’m sharing my thoughts.

Set in the stunning coastal town of Half Moon Bay, California, Robyn Carr’s new novel examines the joys of sisterhood and the importance of embracing change.

As always, the characters – whether you like them or not – are real. Real issues, real drama, real feelings. I didn’t love either of the lead characters when I started, but I was interested in their stories, and by the final chapter, they felt like friends (valued despite their flaws!) The voice of this novel, the descriptions, the dialogue, the characters, the setting – speak to the strength within us and the bonds of family. It spoke to triumph in change (or despite change), personal growth and maturity, the treasures of friendships. It didn’t however, truly speak to me.

It was easy to read and typically quick-moving (but not fast-paced, but not mind-boggling) – you don’t have to invest a lot of deep thought or heavy reading sessions to “get it”. It is, at face value, a feel-good, cuddle on the couch, piece of women’s fiction – a great way to pass an evening or two – while offering simple reminders about the value of finding your way and standing up for yourself. There were a few twists, but I wish it had a bit more scenery and perhaps a few more dynamic interactions. It’s not a world-changing piece of literature, but it worked for a Friday night read – a good title to toss in your bag for poolside lounging, sitting in airports, or tucked away on your back deck to escape the kids.

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

Published by: Harlequin / Mira
Publication Date: April 14, 2020 (Available now!)

Book Review: The Happy Camper

As winter loosens it’s grip and spring graces us with sunshine, milder days, and the occasional rain storm, I dream of spending more time outdoors basking in nature, soaking up some vitamin D. Not a camper at heart, I try to enjoy the tenting experience, but inevitably it tends to not be our cup of tea. We’ve discussed getting a trailer or pop up more than once and I’ve even found some dilapidated versions that I’ve tried to unsuccessfully convince Kevin we could overhaul from the frame up. He disagrees.

While cuddling under cozy blankets and ignoring the grey skies we’ve had lately, I was transported to a fun and colourful world via Melody Carlson’s sweet romance, The Happy Camper.

The novel centers on Dillon Michaels, a young workaholic attempting to find her feet again after significant changes in her employment and relationship status. While finding solace at her recently widowed grandfather’s farm, Dillon struggles to amend her relationship with her flaky, but well-meaning mother, and tries to avoid the persistant, unwanted wooing of a past suitor, all while falling in love with a local man whose heart has a history of it’s own that has left some scars.

The quaint small town setting, gentle romance, and healing and growth experienced through an unexpected vintage camper restoration creates a wonderfully charming reader experience. For this reader, it only strengthened my desire to fix up a trailer of my own and create new beginnings in a humble escape much like the star of this story. Sweet and clean, The Happy Camper is a feel-good easy-to-read piece of fiction that will leave you craving summer days!

My thanks to Revell for the complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own. This title is now available to purchase.