Today is Juneteenth. What is Juneteenth, you ask? Good question. I’m a 38 year old Caucasian women of Dutch descent and just heard about Juneteenth on social media this week. 38. Years. Old. and I knew nothing about a holiday that reflects on an important aspect of Black history, when Union Soldiers arrived in Texas with the news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. I probably can’t do justice in explaining all the details of significance, so I’m going to tell you to Google (or, click here) and then ponder what it would be like to find out you were emancipated 2 1/2 years before you were told. Two. and. a. half. years. I’ll never clearly be able to understand or relate. Lord knows, we’ve come a long way since then, but in all honesty, I don’t think we’ve come nearly far enough. There’s still a lot of hate and inequality in this world and that needs to change. We need to do better. We need love. We need hope. We need people to speak up and speak out and stand up for their friends and neighbours.
This post isn’t actually a history lesson, or a conversation on civil rights, but a book review. Seriously. I requested “The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones” more than three months ago. I downloaded the ARC in February. A few days ago, I decided Young Adult fiction might be the right tonic to get out of a reading slump as *sometimes* (but not always) YA fiction can be a little lighter or less complex. As this title was released this week, I thought I’d give it a go. I was mistaken in thinking it might be light (although there were shimmers of brightness throughout) or less complex. I’ll be purchasing the book for re-reads this weekend.
The novel throws you back to 1955, where you’ll land in small-town Alabama. The narrator is Ethan Harper, a biracial child who’s had some trouble at school and is sent to live with his white Aunt and Uncle in a community that is anything but tolerant. He’s befriended by the strange and lovable oddball title-character, Juniper Jones. Juniper has decided that the summer of ’55 will be the most epic ever, and doesn’t really give her new accomplice a choice but to join her, and their adventures are recounted in beautiful, immersive writing.
There is a lightness and hope that is weaved throughout their summer, but also a heaviness and complexity that comes with the illumination of racial tensions and the wrong-mindedness of the era. You cannot help but to fall in love with Juniper and feel a tenderhearted affection towards her. On the other hand, your heart will break for Ethan over and over again – you’ll want to draw him into a protective bubble and shelter him from the hatred he encounters while wanting to bash some sense into his adversaries. This book will swallow you whole, chew you up, spit you out, and leave you with big emotions to process, but it also brings to light some very unfortunate aspects of history, while balancing the strength and value of true friendship.
The author weaves some unexpected moments in and you’ll be gasping for air as you bawl your eyes out more than once. It’s one of the most heartrendingly beautiful books I’ve ever read. It’s recommended for 12 & up (grades 7 – 9) and the author, Daven McQueen, acknowledges that difficult subjects are broached and offensive terminology is used. While I would recommend it unabashedly, if you have a particularly sensitive tween/teen, you may want to read it first, and then use it as a platform for conversation afterwards. For myself, it was a 5 star read for sure and most definitely one of, if not my most, favourite books of 2020.
My thanks to the author and publisher for the complimentary title via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
Published by: Wattpad Books Publication Date: June 16, 2020
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
For those who haven’t looked at a North American calendar in sometime, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. A day of romance and wooing and overpriced flowers and gifts to say “I love you!”
My husband and I no longer “really” celebrate Valentine’s Day. Sometimes we’ll order in (but that’s not an unusual occurrence around here) or I’ll try to make a special dinner for my guys (it usually fails.) I prefer my dashes of romance between the pages of a book and leaving the real life “I love yous” to a shout while dashing out the door or with help folding the laundry. I’m not a relationship expert, but it works for us and we’ve been married 15 years so why mess with it. I’ll appreciate that love even more if I’m given some alone time to jump into that romance novel.
A few days ago I picked up “A Simple Wedding” by Leigh Duncan. It’s published by Hallmark which means you probably don’t even need to keep reading my thoughts. (Please do.)
It’s set in “Heart’s Landing” – an east coast wedding destination. (This should also tell you plenty.) It’s dripping with sappiness. (My phone just tried to autocorrect sappiness to happiness and I mean, it’s not wrong.)
And yet… all sappiness aside, I loved it. Fluffy and sweet, easy to read, likeable characters, charming setting, and just enough of a twist on the typical Hallmark romance to make it interesting – interesting enough that I’ll be looking for other titles in the Hearts Landing series.
A little unbelievable at times, but it’s fiction… and contemporary, enchanting romance at that. The whole premise is that a successful personal assistant is planning a wedding for her famous cousin while not divulging she’s not the actual bride. Through the absolute ridiculous requests and the truth coming to light, I feel that even though our heroine is sweet as pie, everyone was entitled to a meltdown and they all just rolled with it.
Is this a 5-star literary masterpiece? Not even a little bit close. Is it a feel good impractical reminder that romance isn’t dead? Absolutely. Will it leave you craving decadent cupcakes and small town friends? Yes. It’s a quick and easy read that will warm your heart and tempt your tastebuds. Watch for this title to hit shelves on March 10th!
My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
While historical fiction and women’s fiction seem to be my regular go-to’s when it comes to genres I enjoy, every once in awhile I enjoy pulling out a heart-pounding, fast-paced thriller or suspense. I’m excited to say that Harlequin hooked me up and I’ve recently had the chance to read The Third to Die, the highly anticipated first book in Allison Brennan’s new series. This title hits shelves on February 4th. All the Buy Links and author information will be posted way down below if you’re interested in pre-ordering a copy for yourself – and if you’re a fan of this genre, you’ll want to pick up a copy.
From the Publisher:
New York Times bestselling author and gifted storyteller Allison Brennan’s new standalone thriller features a troubled female police detective and an ambitious FBI special agent who wind up at the center of a ticking-clock investigation into a diabolical serial killer.
Brennan’s novel will launch a book-a-year series featuring a fabulous cast of recurring characters. It’s the story of a troubled female police detective and an ambitious FBI special agent who wind up at the center of a ticking-clock investigation into a diabolical serial killer; and the bond they forge in this crucible sets the stage for the future books in the series.
Detective Kara Quinn is visiting her hometown of Liberty Lake, Washington, after being placed on administrative leave by the LAPD, when she comes upon the mutilated body of a young nurse during an early morning jog. The manner of death is clearly ritualistic; she calls it in. Meanwhile back in DC, special agent in charge Mattias Costa is meticulously staffing his newly-minted Mobile Response Team. One of his first recruits is the brilliant FBI forensic psychologist Catherine Jones. When word reaches Matt that the Washington state murder appears to be the work of the Triple Killer–it will be the first case for the MRT. Jones has done the only profile on this serial killer, but she is reluctant to join the unit, still shaken by the death of her sister a year ago under circumstances for which she holds herself responsible. But only she holds the key to understanding the killer’s obsessive pattern–three murder victims, three deep slashes a piece, each three days apart, each series beginning on a March 3rd–3/3, then a three-year hiatus before he strikes again.
This time they have a chance to stop him before he claims another victim strikes, but only if they can figure out who he is and where is is hiding.
About the Author:
Allison Brennan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of three dozen thrillers and numerous short stories. She was nominated for Best Paperback Original Thriller by International Thriller Writers, has had multiple nominations and two Daphne du Maurier Awards, and is a five-time RITA finalist for Best Romantic Suspense. Allison believes life is too short to be bored, so she had five kids. Allison and her family live in Arizona. Visit her at allisonbrennan.com
Ms. Brennan is an award winning author for a reason – simply put, she knows what she’s doing. This book was fast-paced and had my heart-pounding. Twists and turns will keep you on your toes in anticipation. She gets inside the mind of a psychopath so well, but also paints a picturesque view of the surrounding landscapes. Her heroes are brilliant, damaged, and likeable and the whole package will keep you engrossed until the very last page. The Third to Die is the very ideal of a page-turning, nail-biting, read-it-all-in-one-sitting-don’t-talk-to-me type of novel – suspenseful, intense, and entertaining!
For my more discriminating friends, I’ll leave you with this caution: reader discretion is advised for violence, mature situations, and strong language. This is not a tip-toe through the tulips, neat and tidy, no rough edges fiction. It’s dark and gritty as the plot is all about stopping the lowest dregs of humanity.
There are so many things I love about The Forgotten HomeChild 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.
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.
We are midway into December and it’s only 2 more weeks or so until Christmas. I think it’s safe to say that holiday reading and recommendations are in full swing – unless you’re like me and can curl up with a Christmas novel in the middle of July. Sun, rain, snow – I don’t care what the weather looks like outside or what the calendar says, there’s something delightful in the feel-good formula that most holiday-themed tales will deliver.
Harlequin is hosting a Holiday Blog Tour that began December 1st and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. They were kind enough to offer a number of titles to choose from and my selections were CHRISTMAS IN SILVER SPRINGS by Brenda Novak, A WEDDING IN DECEMBER by Sarah Morgan, COMING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS by RaeAnne Thayne. Read on for a quick synopsis of each title and my own thoughts post-binge.
Christmas In Silver Springs by Brenda Novak
Come home to Silver Springs for the holidays, where broken hearts learn to love again…together.
So much for forever. When Harper Devlin’s rock star husband ditches her on his way to the top, she takes her two daughters to her sister’s place in Silver Springs for the holidays, hoping family can heal her broken heart. But comfort comes in unexpected places when she crosses paths with local Tobias Richardson.
The moment Tobias spots Harper, he recognizes a sadness he knows all too well. After spending thirteen years in prison paying for his regretful past, Tobias is ready to make amends, and maybe helping Harper is the way to do it. But offering her a shoulder to cry on ignites a powerful attraction and a desire neither saw coming.
Fearing her reaction, Tobias doesn’t reveal his checkered past. He’s falling hard, and if Harper finds out, he’ll lose her for good, especially because her famous ex is now trying to win her back. Secrets have a way of coming out, but maybe this Christmas will bring Tobias the forgiveness—and the love—he deserves.
I liked the characters – even, ashamedly, the bad guy ex-husband who made so many mistakes. Separation and divorce are never easy, I would imagine, and everyone is going to handle it a little different. As in each of Novak’s novels, she did an excellent job with charisma, emotions, and character tension. Her stories also typically have a bit of steamy heat that you can read through or skip past if you desire. Overall, a 7 out of 10 mistletoes – it was quick and easy, but I didn’t quite find the Christmas “heart” I was hoping for, even though there was, of course, romance and growth all set at Christmas. It just didn’t leave me ready to decorate my tree. That being said, it was an overall enjoyable contemporary romance – Harlequin knows what works.
Publication Date: October 29, 2019 Publisher: MIRA BOOKS Available now from all major booksellers. Recommended for: sitting by a fire, tucked into a stocking, winter passenger commuting
A Wedding In December by Sarah Morgan
This funny, charming and heartwarming new Christmas novel is USA TODAY bestselling author Sarah Morgan at her festive best!
In the snowy perfection of Aspen, the White family gathers for youngest daughter Rosie’s whirlwind Christmas wedding. First to arrive are the bride’s parents, Maggie and Nick. Their daughter’s marriage is a milestone they are determined to celebrate wholeheartedly, but theyare hiding a huge secret of their own: they are on the brink of divorce. After living apart for the last six months, the last thing they need is to be trapped together in an irresistibly romantic winter wonderland. Rosie’s older sister, Katie, is also dreading the wedding. Worried that impulsive, sweet-hearted Rosie is making a mistake, Katie is determined to save her sister from herself! If only the irritatingly good-looking best man, Jordan, would stop interfering with her plans… Bride-to-be Rosie loves her fiancé but is having serious second thoughts. Except everyone has arrived—how can she tell them she’s not sure? As the big day gets closer, and emotions run even higher, this is one White family Christmas none of them will ever forget!
First, this novel had me laughing on multiple occasions. The lies we tell can get us into some seriously interesting situations and this family has some issues (don’t we all!) I also don’t mean that in a bad way – they all just wanted to protect each other so badly that things, frankly, often went badly. There was a lot to unwrap in this one as it wasn’t just a quick romance – it had some depth and layers to it. Gorgeous setting and great characters that I loved at times and wanted to throw into a snowbank at others. Some heat and lots of romance and so much poor communication. Overall, 8 out of 10 mistletoes – it had more of the heart I was looking for in a novel set over the holidays without being overly sweet like a gingerbread latte with too many pumps of syrup. Bonus points for the gorgeous cover design!
Publication Date: September 24, 2019 Publisher: HQN Books Available now from all major booksellers. Recommended for: a weekend snowed in, reading way past your bedtime, tucked into a gift bag with some cozy socks and fancy hot chocolate for the romance lover in your life
Coming Home for Christmas by RaeAnne Thayne
Hearts are lighter and wishes burn a little brighter at Christmas…
Elizabeth Hamilton has been lost. Trapped in a tangle of postpartum depression and grief after the death of her beloved parents, she couldn’t quite see the way back to her husband and their two beautiful kids…until a car accident stole away her memories and changed her life. And when she finally remembered the sound of little Cassie’s laugh, the baby powder smell of Bridger and the feel of her husband’s hand in hers, Elizabeth worried that they’d moved on without her. That she’d missed too much. That perhaps she wasn’t the right mother for her kids or wife for Luke, no matter how much she loved them.
But now, seven years later, Luke finds her in a nearby town and brings Elizabeth back home to the family she loves, just in time for Christmas. And being reunited with Luke and her children is better than anything Elizabeth could have imagined. As they all trim the tree and bake cookies,making new holiday memories, Elizabeth and Luke are drawn ever closer. Can the hurt of the past seven years be healed over the course of one Christmas season and bring the Hamiltons the gift of a new beginning?
Admittedly, this was my favourite of the three. It had ALL the heart, some mystery, romance, and the expected feel-goods you look for in a novel touted as a Christmas story. Is it mind-shattering, literary genius? No – but the talented Thayne serves up love, joy, hope, and cheer in a pretty little package that will make you sigh with glee as you get to the very last page. It touches on some heart-breaking real-life issues and I was thrilled with the way it all turned out in the end. New beginnings, indeed. 10 out of 10 mistletoes for this one. It just captured all the essence and magic of a cozy Christmas romance for me. This novel is part of the Haven Point Series but can definitely be read as a standalone – I have only read some of the previous titles and was still enthralled without feeling lost.
Publication Date: September 24, 2019 Publisher: HQN Books Available now from all major booksellers. Recommended for: reading in a bubble bath with no kids banging on the door, curling up on the sofa with a warm tea and cuddly blanket, wrapped under the tree for your romance-lover with her beverage of choice and box of her favourite chocolate (why can’t I find Guylian anywhere anymore?!?)
My thanks to my friends at Harlequin for the chance to dive into these charming holiday reads! My heart feels warm and fuzzy after these ones.
I am not a big fan of non-fiction. It can be so dreary and difficult to read. Give me fairy tales and love stories and make-believe any day. This is a review on a work very relevant to today. It is most definitely not fiction.
“But Lindsey, if you don’t enjoy non-fiction why would you request such a title?”
I asked myself the same question many times over the last few months. In fact, I downloaded the advanced copy of this book on April 12th. It was published May 9th. I reluctantly dug in this weekend.
The answer to the question above? Sheer curiosity. I am so glad I indulged this whim. “Code Name: Lise” highlights the remarkable life of Odette Sansom, Britain’s most highly decorated WWII spy. A true story loaded with facts regarding an incredible woman. There was no drudgery involved in the reading.
While based on first-hand accounts, the author did a remarkable job of bringing factual information into a beautiful and exciting tale that will leave you in awe of the mission and the exploits and the incredible courage and humanity of a very normal woman. Perhaps not normal – Odette was almost unbelievably amazing – but normal, in that she was a wife and mother who just wanted to contribute something bigger than herself. Loftis presented her story richly and with colour, weaving a beautiful narrative through a terrible time in our history.
With Remembrance Day observed here in Canada today, I’m particularly glad I dove into this one. The timely reflection on the absolute sacrifice and suffering of people serving their country for a greater purpose at absolute cost to themselves was significant. The book was easy to read, yet painful, and evoked great emotion.
I would highly recommend this for anyone who has an interest in general WWII history and for those who enjoy fiction along these lines with romance and bravery (i.e. fans of The Nightingale.) Once you get into it, Code Name: Lise reads like fiction while being entirely based on fact. Incredible.
My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a complimentary digital copy of this title for review. All opinions are my own. (Seriously. Go pick up a copy of this book!)
“The first story in a brand-new series, Lake Season invites readers to the Bluebell Inn in a small North Carolina town where a lost letter, a chance for new love, and old secrets beckon.“
Family, relationships, secrets, struggles, life, love, loss – Lake Season by Denise Hunter has it all. With her characteristic charm, Hunter has developed this novel – to be released next Tuesday – beautifully. It’s an endearing first title in a new series (hooray!) that hits all the points.
The characters, the plot, the setting (oh my – the setting!) all meld into this sweet tale with elements of mistaken identities, romance, and small town life. Another definite recommended read – sure to be a success for Ms. Hunter and Thomas Nelson.
I read it in a single sitting and missed too much sleep, but it was worth it. Likeable, flawed characters and a familiar story done slightly differently, all I can say is if you’re a fan of contemporary Christian fiction, you’ll want to pick it up a copy next week and block off a chunk of time to cozy up with this one!
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
If you’re looking for a book to get lost in, I’d highly recommend the new releaseThe Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland. Touted as “…a wholly original, charismatic, and uplifting novel that no reader will soon forget.” Spot on. Released on October 29th by St. Martin’s Press, I was privileged enough to be provided with an Advance Reading Copy, that once again, I finished up just after publication. (Too many books, too little time…)
My thoughts on this novel are generally positive – it wreaked havoc on my emotions making me laugh, cry, and generally content. It provides a gripping fictional account of a heart transplant survivor who needs to learn how to live again. It tackles the frailties of being a patient staring death in the face, the emotional repercussions of survival, and the nuances of relationships after a literal life-changing event -sussing out the events life and love, family and friends. It’s the telling of Ailsa’s journey to ordinary after an extraordinary experience.
It’s clever and charming with a streak of no BS and I absolutely loved all the characters. Each one has flaws, personality, and something to love. The novel as a whole is both uneasy and affecting. You will feel everything Ailsa feels. The author has done a remarkable job of taking a serious issue and making it lighthearted, yet impactful.
Reader discretion advised for: language (it’s not all squeaky clean) and a couple other elements. I could definitely look beyond them in the greater scope of the novel – maybe not necessary, but they were just little blips on my radar thinking that others in my book-reading network are pickier than I might be.
Overall, this one didn’t follow my typical formula and perhaps isn’t even something I would have picked up off a library shelf. That said, it was a definite win and I’m glad I took a chance when requesting it for a preread. Delightful from cover-to-cover.
I was provided with a complimentary early digital version via NetGalley with my thanks to the publisher and author. All opinions are my own.
Happy Sunday! Our weekend has been CRAAAAAZY busy and I haven’t had as much time to read as I would have liked, but I did finish a few great titles last week that I’ll be sharing with you over the next few days between work, parenthood, and life in general.
Back in July, my friends at Agora Books reached out to ask whether I would like to read the second book in the Hardie Family Series by Anne Melville (pseudonym for Margaret Edith Newman), originally published in the late 80’s/early 90’s. (I reviewed the first title, The House of Hardie, here.) Of course, I enthusiastically accepted the offer and downloaded a complimentary e-galley of The Daughter of Hardie. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm found itself tucked into a dark and dusty corner and I just got around to reading it despite a publication date of August 15th. Yikes!
Here is the publisher’s description, touting this title as “a poignant and moving Victorian saga.“
Grace Hardie has grown up in a sweeping estate on the outskirts of Oxford. But her life has been a far cry from a fairytale. Ailing and asthmatic as a child, she never really found her place – not with her brothers, not with any friends – always on the outside. And when tragedy strikes twice in the same day, Grace’s world, and her place in it, is turned upside down. Ungainly and lonely at sixteen, could the bloom of first love be the guiding light she needs? Or is the history of The House of Hardie bound to repeat itself? As class once again threatens to tear the family apart, so too does the Great War: sweeping away this budding romance before it’s had a chance to begin. Through heartbreak and betrayal, longing and loss, Grace Hardie must adapt to this changing world and struggle to find her own way.
My thoughts on this title in a nutshell is that it was even better than the first! The centralised storyline revolving around Grace was charming. As with the previous novel, it is not a quick-paced, fast-moving adventure – it’s more of a slow walk through the woods on a perfect autumn day… or akin to catching up with friends while enjoying a tea on your couch in your comfies. It was wholesome and warm and engaging.
The strong female character(s) once again take shine dominantly, challenging societal norms and the expectations of family. Tragedy and triumph escort you through a lifetime, and you may find yourself annoyed by some of the secondary characters (leads from the first – some questionable decision making arose.) The Daughter of Hardie is an absolutely enjoyable way to while away a few lazy (winsome) evenings and I highly recommend. It’s available now to purchase!
My thanks to the publisher for sharing this delightfully empowering tale via NetGalley.