Book Review: The Painted Castle by Kristy Cambron

The Painted Castle by Kristy Cambron is the latest in the Lost Castle series. You may have read my review for the previous book, Castle on the Rise, here, back in January. I mentioned in that review that: “The modern characters weren’t as well developed (in my opinion), but it was a colourful novel…” Same goes for this one! 

That being said, I loved this book. It was even better than the second. It spans three eras and includes art, love, loss, mystery, war, and follows the stories of three women whose lives intertwine across time. If I had to pick a favourite timeline, I would say WWII countryside England… or would it be the Victorian Era portion where women of the upper class were under-estimated for any talents aside from needlepoint? I couldn’t choose. Even with my statement above regarding the modern characters, the contemporary storyline was still intriguing and enjoyable. The women are strong. Their stories are moving.

I love watching the threads unravel through the back and forth of the stories and then ultimately weave back into a beautiful tale of secrets and triumphs in a beautiful historical castle.

“I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.”

I would recommend this entire series for those who enjoy a poignant, heartwarming read with a strong dose of mystery to untangle. Pre-order your copy of this title so you have it on hand for its Tuesday release!

Published by: Thomas Nelson Fiction
Publication Date: October 15, 2019

Book Review: The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets by Molly Fader

Here’s a throwback to a new title that was published July 16th. It’s been sitting on my digital to-be-read shelf since, oh, June 5th. How’s that for procrastination? The worst part of this confession is the knowledge that there are books that have been sitting there much longer. A girl only has so much time to read. (Seriously, if I could just do this for a living, that would be good, mmmkay?)

The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets piqued my interest when I first requested it – family secrets are always an interesting read – but then it languished. Wasn’t quite what I wanted to pick up, until over the last weekend, I did. This is another “Why did I wait so long????” titles. It was an excellent!

This family is dysfunctional and has a lot of healing to do. BUT…. they’re also still bound by incredible bonds of love. It’s a tale of shattered dreams, forgiveness, and healing and the ties that bind us through good and bad. Perhaps not entirely unique in it’s plotline – I had strong inklings of what happened in the past and where we were headed in the present, but there was just enough mystery to leave me waiting for the reveal. As a parent, it hit home. As a sister, it hit home. As a daughter, it hit home.

I would recommend for those who are fans of women’s fiction along the lines of Susan Wiggs, Luanne Rice, or Robyn Carr. It’s layered with nuances of family relationships and community. A great immersive read!

My thanks to the publisher, Harlequin – Graydon House, for providing an advanced copy to read (even if I did procrastinate! It was worth it.) A complimentary copy was granted to me via NetGalley. As always, opinions are my own.

Book Review: Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

First off… it’s publication day for the novel, Things You Save in a Fire. Congrats to the best-selling author, Katherine Center, for all the acclaim surrounding this title. It’s been recognized as an August 2019 Indie Next selection and an August 2019 LibraryReads selection. It’s been met with great reader reviews.

This title is heartwarming and has some heat. It’s romantic, but in a sparks are flying amidst a tale of a woman who’s fighting to be one of the guys, dealing with trauma, and coming to grips with broken parental relationships. Strong woman, personal obstacles, big emotions.

Cassie is a strong woman with some emotional baggage that has left her stunted when it comes to personal relationships. Trying to make it in a man’s world as a ore-than apable firefighter, she’s transferred after an incident and must find her roots all over again. Along the way, she has to decide it love is worth the risk.

It’s comedic, it’s sad, it’s endearing. It’s exciting. Heat warning in effect… it won’t be everyone’s idea of a good read, but I found it well-balanced.

I loved my early review copy and will be adding other titles by this author to my to be read pile.

My thanks to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for the digital advance via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Not My Daughter by Kate Hewitt

In my last book review, I believe I mentioned that I’ve not been reading as much in exchange for some actual rest. This in turn means that I haven’t been reading as much… but I started the recently-published Not My Daughter by Kate Hewitt late last week and finally wrapped it up last night. In a very basic understatement, it was an amazing book.

Reminding me of my appreciation for Jodi Picoult’s novels, this is an emotional depiction of parenthood, family, friendship, love, life, and loss. While the characters weren’t always likeable, they were very real. As a couple struggles with infertility, this heart-wrenching novel explores raw struggles and the sacrifices we make for those we love. In an emotionally charged presentation, Hewitt challenges the reader as relationships are tested and decisions are made as a longed-for, much-loved child faces a terrible diagnosis.

Tears streamed down my face as I read the final chapter. As I put my reader down, I turned to my husband and said, “That was a horrible book.” But I didn’t mean it as a negative – I meant it was gut-wrenching, compelling, thought provoking, and just incredible – it grabbed me and didn’t let me go. I definitely recommend.

I was provided with a complimentary uncorrected advanced readers copy from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own. .

Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: May 2, 2019

Book Review: A Forbidden Love

I feel a little sheepish admitting that I procrastinated in reading this title. It was published earlier this month and I like to post my NetGalley reviews while the books are still fresh. So I ‘forced’ myself to read it… and oh my word, I wish I had cracked it open sooner.

Set during the Spanish civil war, which I admittedly knew very little about, A Forbidden Love by Kerry Postle follows the intertwining lives of a number of individuals in a sleepy little Spanish town. They are rocked by the human tragedy that befalls their village when Nationalists bring conflict to their doorsteps.

Descriptive, colourful prose and well-developed characters experience friendship, love, loss, anger, pain, betrayal, hope and more in this historical love story. While the main female lead is admittedly self-absorbed, brash, and impetuous, you can’t help but feel for her loss of innocence in such a terrible situation. She makes unwise choices, lives with the guilt, but ultimately is not responsible for the horrors of war that befall her family and friends. You see her maturity develop as she faces remarkably challenging situations that no one should ever experience.

The author beautifully presented this historical era with emotion and poignancy. I appreciated how she drew attention to atrocities committed against woman by their own countrymen. She honoured their innocence and memory.

Overall, I was truly engrossed once I was a few chapters deep. It’s a stirring account of oppression, corruption, and survival. It may leave you feeling a little raw and vulnerable by the final chapter, but in awe of the bravery and desire to fight for what is right. A tale extraordinarily told that asks if the enemy can be loved and truly forgiven. Pick up a copy for yourself!

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

Publication date: April 2, 2019

Published by: HQ Digital (Harper Collins UK)

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 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

Book Review: The Forgotten Secret

For myself, the mark of a good novel is any novel that draws you in and leaves you feeling emotionally invested by the time you’ve read the last line. I’ve read a few books this week and while they’ve kept boredom at bay, one stood out as a “really, really good book.” It sucked me in, held me captive, and left me feeling like I found a great friend right to the very end… which sounds a little like Stockholm syndrome… but I assure you I mean it all in a positive way.

…a multi-faceted gem!

The Forgotten Secret, written by new-to-me author Kathleen McGurl, was a story that made me say, “Now that’s my kind of book!” It has a 4.22 star (out of 5) rating on Goodreads so I’m obviously not in the minority when it comes to this title. It was oh-so-perfectly suited to my reading needs.

(On a funny side note, my 11-year-old son is sitting on the couch beside me. He’s been reading “No Better Friend” as his choice for a biographical book report. He doesn’t enjoy book reports or forced reading – although he does enjoy reading, but won’t admit it. Anyhow… I digress. While he’s sitting beside me, he glances over and sees the title of my post and asks why I’m writing a book report. I explain how I’m given books to read in exchange for my opinions and that sounded a bit too much like the schoolwork he’s procrastinating about and he just couldn’t understand why I would do this. I feel like an island in this home some days…)

In The Forgotten Secret two seemingly unconnected women in different eras deal with the obstacles life has thrown at them. It’s a novel of their struggles, decades apart, on finding independence, on becoming strong and vibrant versions of themselves. We’re drawn into their stories with unique perspectives and challenges that each have to deal with, sink or swim.

The contemporary heroine, Clare, comes into an inheritance of a ramshackle Irish farmhouse, providing her with the opportunity and means to leave an abusive, manipulative marriage. Our historical heroine, Ellen, struggles with finding her way in love and loyalty as Ireland is torn apart in turmoil and civil unrest. A hidden secret in the farmhouse tie the two women together as they navigate their individual lives. A bridge is built between past and present as Clare researches further into the treasure she’s found.

Ms. McGurl does a wonderful job of negotiating the dual-timeline without leaving the reader lost. She paints vivid, colourful pictures and infuses her novels with real characters and strong emotion. She plucks the purportedly random strings of each story and weaves them all into a heartwarming tale of triumph and courage. Effortlessly, the elements between past and present intersect and we’re left with a multi-faceted gem that brings mystery, friendship, romance, and loyalty to a touching conclusion that may (or may not) have (but definitely did) leave me with tears of longing and joy. 4.5 stars from me!

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

Published by: HQ Digital
Publication Date: March 1, 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