Monday, 30 April 2018

Circe


Author: Madeline Miller
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 394
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Lee Boudreaux Books
First Published: April 10, 2018
First Line: "When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist."

Book Description from GoodReadsIn the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child--not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power--the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.


My Rating: 3/5 stars

My Review: Madeline Miller's Circe is a very hot (I'm talking Helios hot!) commodity for book lovers, and especially fans of her previous book The Song of Achilles. While I unfortunately can't boast about reading Achilles, I was eager to dust off my knowledge of Titans and Greek gods.

Circe, the daughter of the Titan sun god, Helios, is mentioned in quite a few myths but choosing a woman who is banished to an island made her a unique choice for a main character. Not a lot happens to Circe which leaves much of the book relying on other characters (gods, goddesses, heroes) to retell the adventures and exploits they've had or have heard of second and even third-hand.  

The cover is striking, and I figured the knowledge I gained from my Mythology course in university would finally come in handy. I enjoyed getting reacquainted with famous characters but particularly liked the underlying theme of female strength as we witness Circe's transformation to a wiser, stronger and more confident woman.  

But, I can't ignore the fact that this was a hard book to stick with, mainly due to the languid pacing. There were exciting bits (mainly with Scylla, Pasiphae and Daedelus) but overall, the story didn't have enough going on to keep me glued to the pages. Not much happens when you're on an island, usually alone, with a bunch of wild pigs. Just sayin'.

While it didn't quite get to the level of an 'epic' read for me, it was still enjoyable to get wrapped up in the myths and their famous characters. I think this is a good pick for people who enjoy Greek mythology and a slower paced read.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Sometimes I Lie



Author: Alice Feeney
Genre: Suspense
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 258
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Flatiron Books
First Published: March 13, 2018

First Lines: “I’ve always delighted in the free fall between sleep and wakefulness.”

Book Description from GoodReads:
My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it's the truth?


My Rating: 3 stars


My Review:I was drawn to this book because of the premise of the main character being in a coma, the secrets, lies that ensue and the unreliable narrator aspect.  People are buzzing about this book so I added it to my stack.

This is a dark read that has outrageous twists -- slap you in the face, make you wonder if you read it right, kind of twists. But the story in between the twists is a little lackluster, has a choppy feel from jumping back and forth in time (as well as the inclusion of diary entries) and I didn't connect with any characters. They are an unlikable bunch.

I understand why this book is so hyped and talked about. It gets most of its marks from me for the twists (especially the initial twist which I had to stop and wrap my head around). The premise is unique and the twists are supersized but I felt the rest of the story was weakly executed with the ending feeling overly ambiguous. It left me feeling irritated and unsatisfied with more questions than answers ... but not interested enough to spend more time figuring things out.

Overall, Sometimes I Lie is a good read but not one that will stay with me.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

The Summer of Broken Things


Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
Genre: Young Adult
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 387
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
First Published:
First Line: "We need to talk," Dad says.

Book Description from GoodReadsFourteen-year-old Avery Armisted is athletic, rich, and pretty. Sixteen-year-old Kayla Butts is known as “butt-girl” at school. The two girls were friends as little kids, but that’s ancient history now. So it’s a huge surprise when Avery’s father offers to bring Kayla along on a summer trip to Spain. Avery is horrified that her father thinks he can choose her friends—and make her miss soccer camp. Kayla struggles just to imagine leaving the confines of her small town.

But in Spain, the two uncover a secret their families had hidden from both of them their entire lives. Maybe the girls can put aside their differences and work through it together. Or maybe the lies and betrayal will only push them—and their families—farther apart.


My Rating: 3/5 stars (aka 'a good read')

My Review: The Summer of Broken Things is a coming of age/family drama about two very different teen girls who are forced to spend the summer together in Spain.

The descriptions of Spain will transport readers to this beautiful country and I enjoyed that the focus is on the family dynamics instead of teen romance.  The story is told with the alternating points of view of the two teens, Avery and Kayla. These two are like night and day - Avery is the spoiled and trendy, yet sheltered ‘city mouse’ and Kayla  is the lackluster, not as cool ‘country mouse’. 

While the premise was intriguing, the character development was lacking leaving the two girls as one-dimensional characters. And while I liked the family dynamic with a side of mystery, I didn't find the secret that big of a deal unlike the characters who seemed to have over-the-top, long-winded reactions which didn't feel believable and slowed the pace of the book. 

Overall, this was a light, entertaining but the plot was predictable and the characters too clichéd for my liking.  It would probably be a better choice for people who want a light, clean read (no swearing or sex) and would be a good beachy read for readers in middle school to early teens.


Disclaimer: This Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) was generously provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Friday, 20 April 2018

Seven Fallen Feathers


Author: Tanya Talaga
Genre: Nonfiction, Canadian
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 376
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: House of Anansi Press
First Published: September 30, 2017
First Line: "Cultural genocide is the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group."

Book Description from GoodReadsIn 1966, twelve-year-old Chanie Wenjack froze to death on the railway tracks after running away from residential school. An inquest was called and four recommendations were made to prevent another tragedy. None of those recommendations were applied.

More than a quarter of a century later, from 2000 to 2011, seven Indigenous high school students died in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The seven were hundreds of miles away from their families, forced to leave home and live in a foreign and unwelcoming city. Five were found dead in the rivers surrounding Lake Superior, below a sacred Indigenous site. Jordan Wabasse, a gentle boy and star hockey player, disappeared into the minus twenty degrees Celsius night. The body of celebrated artist Norval Morrisseau’s grandson, Kyle, was pulled from a river, as was Curran Strang’s. Robyn Harper died in her boarding-house hallway and Paul Panacheese inexplicably collapsed on his kitchen floor. Reggie Bushie’s death finally prompted an inquest, seven years after the discovery of Jethro Anderson, the first boy whose body was found in the water.

Using a sweeping narrative focusing on the lives of the students, award-winning investigative journalist Tanya Talaga delves into the history of this small northern city that has come to manifest Canada’s long struggle with human rights violations against Indigenous communities.

My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: Seven Fallen Feathers examines the little talked about past and present horrors, abuse and neglect facing the Indigenous peoples of Canada. It also reveals the hubris and inertia of the Canadian government regarding present inequities and the atrocities of past governments as they attempted to eradicate the Indigenous cultures from Canada.

This is a work of nonfiction, but it is as shocking and frightening as anything you'll read in fiction. It is a heartbreaking and shameful part of Canada's past and sadly, continues today. Things are not better for many of our fellow Canadians and through our actions (and particularly inaction), this book brings Canadians to task about our failure as a country to support all Canadians.

As a Canadian I've learned some of the history regarding residential schools but obviously not nearly enough. Talaga throws off the blinders and reveals one of our darkest truths - that our country, for generations, attempted to eradicate Indigenous cultures, even using our respected RCMP to rip children out of the arms of their parents, taking them hundreds and thousands of kilometers away from their family, language and culture to 're-educate' them. In essence, get the 'Indian out of them'. The physical, sexual and emotion abuse that was endured, the eradication of some languages, culture and separation from family, has shaped generations of families.

I was brought to tears several times and readers will be shocked by the actions and inertia of government officials regarding missing and murdered teens. Readers should be shocked by the lack of professionalism by the Thunder Bay police force whose disrespect for Indigenous residents and victims, and blatant failure to follow basic laws was appalling. The fact that some parents request for information was ignored and some found out about their children's deaths via the media, instead of directly from law enforcement or the coroner, is inexcusable and utterly disrespectful.

For the content and Talaga's ability to bring these issues back into the Canadian and world consciousness, I'd give this book five stars. While there is no doubt that meticulous research went into the writing of this book, the writing itself isn't strong and often repetitive and my rating acknowledges that. 

Every Canadian should read this book to have their eyes opened to what has happened and shamefully continues to happen in our own country. Whole communities continue, in 2018, to live without safe drinking water, reasonable services like education, accessible health care and to simply be seen as equals by fellow Canadians. This is the Great White North and never before has the shame of such blatant racism and governmental inertia been so glaringly revealed. We are better than this.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

The Broken Girls


Author: Simone St James
Genre:  Suspense, Supernatural, Canadian
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Berkley
First Published: March 20, 2018
First Line: "Barrons, Vermont - November 1950. The sun vanished below the horizon as the girl crested the rise of Old Barrons Road."

Book Description from GoodReadsVermont, 1950. There's a place for the girls whom no one wants--the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It's called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it's located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming--until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . .

Vermont, 2014. As much as she's tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister's death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister's boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can't shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past--and a voice that won't be silenced. . . .


My Rating: 5 stars (aka You've gotta read this!)


My Review: In The Broken Girls, Canadian author Simone St James, has written a deliciously, dark and eerie novel that is part mystery, part ghost story and a hint of gothic suspense that will have readers looking over their shoulders in case the ghost of Mary Hand is lurking nearby. 

“Mary Hand, Mary Hand, dead and buried under land… Faster, faster. Don’t let her catch you.
She’ll say she wants to be your friend…
Do not let her in again!”

The story is set in a small Vermont town, in two different eras. In 1950, readers are given back stories to four roommates, who are some of the 'broken' girls at the Idlewood School, a school where girls deemed 'troublemakers' by their families were sent away. It is a harsh and lonely place, but the four fifteen year old girls find friendship and strength in each other .... until one of them goes missing.

In 2014, someone has plans to renovate the long abandoned Idlewood school which locals have always thought to be haunted. Fiona, a local journalist, is still troubled by her sister's murder, which occurred on the grounds of Idlewood twenty years before. The impending renovation brings up many feelings and theories about what really happened to her sister. The more Fiona digs into her sister's murder, the deeper she becomes enmeshed in Idlewood's questionable history.

The Broken Girls is a well-written and chilling tale that will keep readers riveted and may have them believing in ghosts by the final pages. With wonderfully placed twists and characters who show the importance and strength of friendship and family bonds, this atmospheric ghostly mystery is filled with secrets in both story lines that finally converge into a spine tingling, yet very satisfying ending.

Disclaimer: This Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) was generously provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Sunday, 15 April 2018

The Good Liar


Author: Catherine McKenzie
Genre: Suspense, Canadian
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
First Published: April 3, 2018
First Line: "I'm late again."

Book Description from GoodReadsCan you hide a secret with the whole world watching?

When an explosion rips apart a Chicago building, the lives of three women are forever altered.

A year later, Cecily is in mourning. She was supposed to be in the building that day. Instead, she stood on the street and witnessed it going down, with her husband and best friend inside. Kate, now living thousands of miles away, fled the disaster and is hoping that her past won’t catch up with her. And Franny, a young woman in search of her birth mother, watched the horror unfold on the morning news, knowing that the woman she was so desperate to reconnect with was in the building.

Now, despite the marks left by the tragedy, they all seem safe. But as its anniversary dominates the media, the memories of that terrifying morning become dangerous triggers. All these women are guarding important secrets. Just how far will they go to keep them?


My Rating: 3 stars (aka 'a good read')

My Review: The Good Liar is based around a fictional, 911-type tragedy set in Chicago that devastates the city. The story is told via the alternating narratives of Cecily, Kate and snippets from the interview that Teo, a documentary maker, has with Franny, a young woman trying to find her birth mother. This tragedy links these three women and as their stories progress, readers see the truth revealed.

This book has good bones - solid premise, emotional situations and part of it is set in the beautiful city of Montreal (I love it when Canadian authors keep their stories in Canada). But the three women were hard to keep straight in the beginning and I can't say I was connected to any of them. Too much time was spent on their daily lives and not enough time spent developing and maintaining the tension.

Overall, The Good Liar is well written and kept my interest, but I was expecting more suspense and a bigger build-up. Readers who like domestic drama with a side of suspense will enjoy this book and the ending will make readers question who really is the Good Liar.


Disclaimer: This Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) was generously provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Friday, 13 April 2018

Force of Nature


Author: Jane Harper
Genre: Suspense
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 326
Series: #2 in the Aaron Falk series
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Flatiron Books
First Published: February 6, 2018
First Lines: "Later, the four remaining women could fully agree on only two things. One: No one saw the bushland swallow up Alice Russell. And two: Alice had a mean streak so sharp it could cut you."

Book Description from GoodReads: Five women go on a hike. Only four return. Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry, asks: How well do you really know the people you work with?

When five colleagues are forced to go on a corporate retreat in the wilderness, they reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking down the muddy path.

But one of the women doesn’t come out of the woods. And each of her companions tells a slightly different story about what happened.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker. In an investigation that takes him deep into isolated forest, Falk discovers secrets lurking in the mountains, and a tangled web of personal and professional friendship, suspicion, and betrayal among the hikers. But did that lead to murder?


My Rating: 3.5 stars

My Review: I wasn't sure what I was in for when I picked up this book because I hadn't read the popular first book in the Aaron Falk series, The Dry. There's just simply not enough hours in the day to read all the books. Instead, I jumped right into this second book in the series because it was available at the library. Carpe librum.

Force of Nature is aptly named and has an eerie, sinister feel where the desolate, merciless wilds of Australia play a major role. When a woman goes missing on a work-related retreat in the bush, everyone is a suspect. Tensions are high, and the lies are flying. Harper gives detailed back stories for the five women (who were an unlikable bunch) but unfortunately (and surprisingly), left Falk as a peripheral character. 

This was a slow burn kind of read that had a more straightforward plot than I was expecting. Harper maintains tension by alternating between what really happened with the five women in the bush and Falk's investigation, but the revelations and resolution of the case weren't as complex or as strong as I had expected.

In the end, I liked the premise, the red herrings (one of which could have been used more) and the tidbits of tension but would have liked more twists and a chance to know the main character better. I still plan to read The Dry at some point to see what all the fuss was about.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Heart Berries


Author: Therese Marie Mailhot
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Canadian
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 160
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Doubleday Canada

First Published: March 13, 2018

First Line: "My story was maltreated".

Book Description from GoodReadsGuileless and refreshingly honest, Terese Mailhot's debut memoir chronicles her struggle to balance the beauty of her Native heritage with the often desperate and chaotic reality of life on the reservation.

Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman's coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in British Columbia. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bipolar II, Terese Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot's mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father--an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist--who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.

Mailhot "trusts the reader to understand that memory isn't exact, but melded to imagination, pain and what we can bring ourselves to accept." Her unique and at times unsettling voice graphically illustrates her mental state. As she writes, she discovers her own true voice, seizes control of her story and, in so doing, re-establishes her connection to her family, to her people and to her place in the world.

My Rating: 2.5 stars

My Review: In this small book, Mailhot, a Canadian Indigenous woman, bravely shares her personal feelings and experiences which are often brutal, bleak and sometimes shocking.

She tells her story with a unique writing style that was like nothing I've ever read. Some phrases were deliciously poetic - the kind that readers will want to write down. Brief, powerful and wonderful. But these tidbits are interspersed within a story that felt disjointed and almost incoherent much of the time. The writing, which was less of a memoir and more of a collection of essays, was like a rambling and unedited stream of consciousness that switched subjects, location and time lines leaving me feeling like I wasn't quite keeping up with her. It just wasn't a style that I enjoyed reading.

I wanted to love this book so much more than I did. I tried, I really did, and I realize that I'm in the minority with my review. While I applaud Mailhot for bravely sharing her deeply personal experiences and thoughts as an Indigenous woman who struggles with mental illness, her identity and loss, her frantic, disjointed method of relaying her thoughts greatly diminished my understanding of her story and my overall enjoyment of this book.

Disclaimer: This Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) was generously provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 


Saturday, 7 April 2018

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda


Author: Becky Albertalli
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 303
Source: Personal Copy
Publisher: Penguin Random House
First Published: April 7, 2015
First Line: "It's a weirdly subtle conversation".

Book Description from GoodReadsSixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.


My Rating: 5 stars


My Review: Admittedly, I'm a little late to the Simon party but better late than never. This is a coming of age story about Simon, a sweet, regular teenager (with a strong Oreo addiction) who happens to be gay. It's just that no one else knows he's gay. When someone threatens to reveal his sexual identity, readers witness his struggle which is poignant and helps solidify the connection between Simon and the reader.  

Simon is an endearing character who is a little awkward, funny and has a great support system. The camaraderie Simon has with his friends is enviable and their reactions to the crappy stuff that life throws at them were believable. He also has a good relationship with his family and I appreciate that Albertalli doesn't relegate parents to the fringes of the story.  As a mom of three teens, I connected with Simon's mom and the changing bond between parents and their almost-adult kids. It's an awkward time for everyone and Albertalli gets that.

She also gives readers food for thought and I think the idea of heterosexuality not being the default or assumed identity for everyone is an important point and would make for great discussion. But, at the heart of the book is a sweet romance that I got all gushy over. So much gush. And, while I enjoyed piecing together the mystery surrounding the identity of Simon's on-line crush, it was Simon's metamorphosis as he figured out who his is, and who he wants to be, that kept me reading. 

This is a coming-of-age story about courage and the excitement and beauty of first love. It has a wonderfully diverse cast; it is funny, heart-warming and relevant. If you love Oreos, sweet romances, witty email banter, likable characters and a story that will make you sigh at the end, then this is the book for you.


Wednesday, 4 April 2018

The Cursed Wife


Author: Pamela Hartshorne
Genre: Historical Suspense
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: MacMillan
First Published: April 19, 2018
First Line: "Outside, a blustery wind is shoving clouds across the sun."

Book Description from GoodReads: The Cursed Wife is a page-turning, psychological thriller set in Elizabethan London, by the author of Time's Echo, Pamela Hartshorne.
Mary is content with her life as wife to Gabriel Thorne, a wealthy merchant in Elizabethan London. She loves her husband and her family, is a kind mistress to the household and is well-respected in the neighbourhood. She does her best to forget that as a small girl she was cursed for causing the death of a vagrant child, a curse that predicts that she will hang. She tells herself that she is safe.


But Mary's whole life is based on a lie. She is not the woman her husband believes her to be, and when one rainy day she ventures to Cheapside, the past catches up with her and sets her on a path that leads her to the gibbet and the fulfilment of the curse.


My Rating: 2.5 stars (aka 'just ok')

My Review: The Cursed Wife is touted as an Elizabethan psychological thriller and is my first book by author Pamela Hartshorne. The era was interesting, but I would call this more of a gloomy Historical Fiction read with a titch of suspense and a slight creep factor.

At times, I was engaged in the lives of Cat and Mary, two very different women living in Elizabethan England. But, more often than not, I found the pacing choppy, the writing repetitive (due to Mary and Cat retelling their sides of the same story) and Mary was frustratingly naïve. The reader knows what's going on but much of the book is spent waiting for Mary to finally catch on to what is obviously happening in her own home.

Mary and Cat had a dysfunctional, ruthless, obsessive rivalry. Neither are overly likable at any point in time but at least Cat added some nastiness while Mary just obsessed over her creepy wooden doll and fed into her self-fulfilling prophecy regarding the curse.

I think this book would have been better as a novella. In a shorter format, I think it could have packed more of a punch. Instead, it's a gloomy look at an obsessive and destructive relationship that wasn't suspenseful enough, lacked a strong ending and, unfortunately, won't be a book that stays with me long.


Disclaimer: This Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) was generously provided by the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review. 

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Bellewether


Author: Susanna Kearsley
Genre: Historical Fiction, Canadian
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 414
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada

First Published: April 24, 2018
First Line: "Some houses seem to want to hold their secrets."

Book Description from GoodReadsSome houses seem to want to hold their secrets.

It’s 1759 and the world is at war, pulling the North American colonies of Britain and France into the conflict. The times are complicated, as are the loyalties of many New York merchants who have secretly been trading with the French for years, defying Britain’s colonial laws in a game growing ever more treacherous.

When captured French officers are brought to Long Island to be billeted in private homes on their parole of honour, it upends the lives of the Wilde family—deeply involved in the treasonous trade and already divided by war.

Lydia Wilde, struggling to keep the peace in her fracturing family following her mother’s death, has little time or kindness to spare for her unwanted guests. French-Canadian lieutenant Jean-Philippe de Sabran has little desire to be there. But by the war’s end they’ll both learn love, honour, and duty can form tangled bonds that are not broken easily.

Their doomed romance becomes a local legend, told and re-told through the years until the present day, when conflict of a different kind brings Charley Van Hoek to Long Island to be the new curator of the Wilde House Museum.

Charley doesn’t believe in ghosts. But as she starts to delve into the history of Lydia and her French officer, it becomes clear that the Wilde House holds more than just secrets, and Charley discovers the legend might not have been telling the whole story...or the whole truth.

My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: Bellewether is a blend of historical details, a fantastical element and romance.  It was a quietly compelling read that unearthed new-to-me historical information surrounding the Seven Years War.

What I love the most about Kearsley's books are the historical elements. I can trust that this author, a former museum curator and passionate historian, has done her due diligence about the history behind the story. In Bellewether, she weaves part of her own family's history into this fictional tale that includes real historical figures and important issues, past and present. These issues include slavery, illegal trading, draft dodging, the horrors of Canadian residential schools and the misperceptions different cultures had about each other.

The story is based in two different eras (modern day and late 18th century) and is told by three different characters - Charley, Jean-Phillipe and Lydia. Truth be told, I was more drawn to the modern-day story involving Charley, a museum curator. I had more of a connection with her and enjoyed seeing her piece together the historical mystery surrounding Lydia and Jean-Phillippe, one of the French lieutenants who were captured during the Seven Years War and housed within Lydia's family's home.

Where this book loses some marks for me is with the simplicity of its plot. This is a quiet story that focuses on the relationships of the characters more than an intricate plot. And, while there were some intriguing revelations between the two eras, I wanted a bit more action and opportunity to see the connection between Lydia and Jean-Phillippe.

I enjoyed this book and I'm grateful that Kearsley has brought to light many historical elements that may have been glossed over (or forgotten) from school history classes. Susanna Kearsley is one of my favourite storytellers and her latest book is a sweet romance with a dash of mystery and engaging history that will hopefully leave readers eager to learn more about the era and the issues raised.

Note: I highly recommend reading the author's notes at the end of the book for a better understanding of the characters and historical elements.

Disclaimer: This Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) was generously provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 
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