Thursday, 17 October 2019

Three Days Missing


Author: Kimberly Belle
Genre: Suspense
Type: e-book
Source: Personal copy
Publisher: Park Row
First Published: June 26, 2018
Opening Lines: My phone is already buzzing with work email as I rush Ethan through his morning routine. Get up. Get Dressed. For the love of God, brush your teeth and hair.

Book Description from GoodReads: When a child goes missing, two mothers’ lives collide in a shocking way in this suspenseful novel from the bestselling author of The Marriage Lie.

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: the call that comes in the middle of the night.

When Kat Jenkins awakens to the police on her doorstep, her greatest fear is realized. Her nine-year-old son, Ethan, is missing—vanished from the cabin where he’d been on an overnight field trip with his class. Shocked and distraught, Kat rushes to the campground where he was last seen. But she’s too late; the authorities have returned from their search empty-handed after losing Ethan’s trail in the mountain forest.

Another mother from the school, Stef Huntington, seems like she has it all: money, prominence in the community, a popular son and a loving husband. She hardly knows Kat, except for the vicious gossip that swirls around Kat’s traumatic past. But as the police investigation unfolds, Ethan’s disappearance will have earth-shattering consequences in Stef’s own life—and the paths of these two mothers are about to cross in ways no one could have anticipated.

Racing against the clock, their desperate search for answers begins—one where the greatest danger could lie behind the everyday smiles of those they trust the most.


My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: A missing child is one of a parent's worst nightmares. In Three Days Missing, Kimberly Belle dives deep into the emotions, tensions and mystery surrounding Ethan, an eight-year-old boy who goes missing on a school trip.

The story is told from the perspectives of Kat, Ethan's mom and Stephanie, the mayor's wife and the mother of Ethan's school bully. Between the POVs of these two women, the reader is taken on a sometimes emotional and often tension-filled journey as they desperately try to find Ethan. 

While the pacing is quick, I appreciated that Belle gave readers time to get to know the main characters who are both strong women and mothers but from very different socioeconomic and family situations. I figured out the big twist before the end, but Belle's writing and the relationships of the characters kept me reading until I reached the satisfying conclusion. 

This is my first Kimberly Belle book, but it won't be my last. I enjoyed this fast-paced domestic thriller which felt like it had a bit more meat on its bones as it addresses bigger issues (divorce, bullying, domestic abuse ...), provides well-drawn main characters and was a compelling read from start to finish. 

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

The Birth House


Author: Ami McKay
Genre: Historical Fiction, Canadian
Type: Mass Market Paperback
Source: Reading What I Own
Publisher: Vintage Canada
First Published: 2006
Opening Lines: My house stands at the edge of the earth. Together, the house and I have held strong against the churning tides of Fundy. Two sisters, stubborn in our bones.

Book Description from GoodReadsThe Birth House is the story of Dora Rare, the first daughter to be born in five generations of the Rare family. As a child in an isolated village in Nova Scotia, she is drawn to Miss Babineau, an outspoken Acadian midwife with a gift for healing and a kitchen filled with herbs and folk remedies. During the turbulent years of World War I, Dora becomes the midwife's apprentice. Together, they help the women of Scots Bay through infertility, difficult labors, breech births, unwanted pregnancies and even unfulfilling sex lives.

When Gilbert Thomas, a brash medical doctor, comes to Scots Bay with promises of fast, painless childbirth, some of the women begin to question Miss Babineau's methods - and after Miss Babineau's death, Dora is left to carry on alone. In the face of fierce opposition, she must summon all of her strength to protect the birthing traditions and wisdom that have been passed down to her.

Filled with details that are as compelling as they are surprising-childbirth in the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion, the prescribing of vibratory treatments to cure hysteria and a mysterious elixir called Beaver Brew- The Birth House is an unforgettable tale of the struggles women have faced to maintain control over their own bodies and to keep the best parts of tradition alive in the world of modern medicine.


My Rating: 3.5 stars

My Review: In an attempt to read the many, MANY books that I own (both paper and digital) I decided to pick up The Birth House by Ami McKay which has been on my bookshelf for many years. I know. Tragic.

The story focuses around Dora, a rural midwife in 1920's Nova Scotia. The story includes some Canadian historical details which I found interesting as well as a look into the limited rights women possessed regarding issues that affected their own bodies. Sadly, some of these issues are still being discussed today. These issues got my emotions riled up, particularly how some women treated each other and how medical doctors trivialized women's health issues as merely 'hysteria'. At least their cure for the purported hysteria put a smile on the patients' faces.

This was more of a quiet, slower paced read. I'm glad I read it and I enjoyed it but it doesn't quite get the five star treatment. I liked its focus on women but the story is predictable and a couple of the characters (Dora's husband and the doctor) were simply drawn as the cliched villains of the story with no redeeming qualities. A bit more depth to those characters would have added greatly to the story.

This well-known and highly acclaimed book features some great themes for readers to discuss - religion versus science, abortion, limitations of women's rights - making it a wonderful pick for a book club. I'm glad I finally read it.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

The Family Upstairs



Author: Lisa Jewell
Genre: Suspense
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Atria Books
First Published: November 5, 2019
Opening Lines: It would be inaccurate to say that my childhood was normal before they came. It was far from normal, but it felt normal because it was all I'd known. It's only now, with decades of hindsight, that I can see how odd it was.

Book Description from GoodReadsBe careful who you let in.

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

In The Family Upstairs, the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) brings us the can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.


My Rating: 4.5 stars

My Review: Lisa Jewell is one of my all-time favourite authors. When she has a book out, I'll be reading it. 'Nuff said. Her latest book, The Family Upstairs is a delightfully sinister psychological thriller with a bit of a gothic vibe that kept me glued to its pages.

The story occurs in two different time frames and is told using three different points of view (and short chapters) which keeps the tension high and the page turning quick. The pieces of the story surrounding a dysfunctional family, their posh manor house and their guests, gradually come together as the mystery of what happened to the manor's earlier occupants unfolds for the reader.  

There are a lot of characters, but Jewell gives them distinct voices and an impressive amount of depth. This is distinctly darker than Jewell's previous books but just as gripping and I enjoyed the clever twists and even the disturbing feel. While I'm not a fan of open-ended stories, the loose ends in this book didn't bother me as much as I would have expected. 

Overall, this was a wonderfully gripping, slightly ominous, twisted family drama. Without divulging the plot (you're just going to have to pick up a copy), I'll just say that this is another must-read book by Lisa Jewell.  

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Atria Books for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

The Patient


Author: Steena Holmes
Genre: Suspense, Canadian
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
First Published: October 15, 2019
Opening Lines: Thursday August 15 - How do I admit this? Disclose that I've held this secret out of fear?

Book Description from GoodReads: A therapist must face her own worst fear—one of her patients is a serial killer.

Danielle Rycroft suspects someone close to her has a dark secret. In the confidential setting of therapy, her patients share their anxieties and fears. Now, with a string of murders in town putting her on edge, Danielle’s own worries come close to eclipsing her patients’. In each case, the pattern is the same: parents killed while their children sleep blissfully unaware in their beds. Her best friend, Detective Tami Sloan, is the only person she has confided in.

Danielle believes that there’s still a secret one patient has yet to share. But which one? Behind a familiar face is a stranger who’ll do anything to hide their worst compulsions. The anxiety brings Danielle to her own therapist’s office, seeking counsel and comfort. But what is she willing to risk, and how much closer must she get, to stop them?


My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers, you’ll want to pick up The Patient by Canadian author, Steena Holmes. After a series of brutal murders plagues a small town, psychologist Dani Rycroft begins to suspect that one of her clients may be a serial killer. As the truth begins to surface, and the paranoia and fear of the small-town residents rise, readers are taken on a tension-filled ride that will leave them questioning the motives of multiple characters.  

As an avid suspense reader, I did figure out 'whodunnit' fairly early on but I still enjoyed seeing how things panned out.
This darker read is a departure for the Kincardine, Ontario native who typically writes lighter fare. But with her well-crafted plot and strong character development, Holmes proves she can hold her own in the popular thriller genre by providing her audience with a non-stop, deliciously chilling suspense novel that will keep them riveted until the shocking and satisfying ending.

Other Steena Holmes books I recommend: The Forgotten Ones

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to the publisher for providing me a digital copy, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Twice in a Blue Moon


Author: Christina Lauren
Genre: Romance
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Gallery Books
First Published: Oct 22, 2019
Opening Lines: June - 14 years ago: Nana turned to inspect the hotel room. Behind her, the curtains drifted closed with a whisper.

Book Description from GoodReads: From the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners and the “delectable, moving” (Entertainment Weekly) My Favorite Half-Night Stand comes a modern love story about what happens when your first love reenters your life when you least expect it…

Sam Brandis was Tate Jones’s first: Her first love. Her first everything. Including her first heartbreak.

During a whirlwind two-week vacation abroad, Sam and Tate fell for each other in only the way that first loves do: sharing all of their hopes, dreams, and deepest secrets along the way. Sam was the first, and only, person that Tate—the long-lost daughter of one of the world’s biggest film stars—ever revealed her identity to. So when it became clear her trust was misplaced, her world shattered for good.

Fourteen years later, Tate, now an up-and-coming actress, only thinks about her first love every once in a blue moon. When she steps onto the set of her first big break, he’s the last person she expects to see. Yet here Sam is, the same charming, confident man she knew, but even more alluring than she remembered. Forced to confront the man who betrayed her, Tate must ask herself if it’s possible to do the wrong thing for the right reason… and whether “once in a lifetime” can come around twice.

With Christina Lauren’s signature “beautifully written and remarkably compelling” (Sarah J. Maas, New York Times bestselling author) prose and perfect for fans of Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner, Twice in a Blue Moon is an unforgettable and moving novel of young love and second chances.


My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: Quick the heels of their previous book, The Unhoneymooners, writing duo Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings (aka Christina Lauren), are back with a new romance about second chances. I simply adored The Unhoneymooners - I loved its wit, charming romance and sassier love scenes.

Before starting this book, I knew that it would have a different feel. But even knowing that, this book didn't quite hit me like I had expected. I liked it but won't be getting all gushy about it. The tone has a subdued, sadder vibe to it with a distinctly YA feel for the first half as readers get to know a younger Sam and Tate and their Insta-Love. But I never quite bought in to their bond and found Tate hard to like and Sam's character not developed enough. That feeling transferred into the last half of the book when I struggled to feel the chemistry between them many years later.

There was also an opportunity in the plot that was surprisingly not resolved (for me at least). I had soooo wanted Tate to hold her own against someone who had wronged her in multiple ways, but nothing happened. No big 'stand up for herself and call him/her on it' kind of situation and that was a bit of a letdown.

Overall, this was a good, lighter read but makes me long for the authors' swoony and sassy romances with great tension. There are some sweet moments if readers are patient, but I found the plot predictable and it left me wanting just a bit more. While this wasn't a favourite of mine from this duo, I continue to look forward to their Rom-Com centred stories in the future.



Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Gallery Books for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Sunday, 6 October 2019

The Arrangement


Author: Robyn Harding
Genre: Suspense, Canadian
Type: Trade Paperback
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Gallery Books
First Published: August 6, 2019

Book Description from GoodReadsNatalie, a young art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not go online and find a sugar daddy—a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates, and even give her a monthly allowance? Lots of girls do it, Nat learns. All that’s required is to look pretty and hang on his every word. Sexual favours are optional.

Though more than thirty years her senior, Gabe, a handsome corporate finance attorney, seems like the perfect candidate, and within a month, they are madly in love. At least, Nat is…Gabe already has a family, whom he has no intention of leaving.

So when he abruptly ends things, Nat can’t let go. She begins drinking heavily and stalking him: watching him at work, spying on his wife, even befriending his daughter, who is not much younger than she is. But Gabe’s not about to let his sugar baby destroy his perfect life. What was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception, obsession, and, when a body is found near Gabe’s posh Upper East Side apartment, murder.


My Rating: 4.5 stars

My Review: I'm an avid reader of suspense so I sometimes feel like I've seen it all. It takes a lot to impress me. The Arrangement impressed me and took over my life for two days (the sign of an awesome read).

The story focuses around the 'arrangement' made between Nat, a poor, young art student in desperate need of money and Gabe a wealthy man willing to pay for her companionship … and possibly more. When the lines between their original arrangement become blurred things get oh-so-messy, tense and totally captivating. Normally, I don't enjoy books where I don't like the main characters, but Harding has written such well-developed main characters that I found myself waffling between hating and sympathizing with both Gabe and Natalie.

This is a dark domestic thriller about revenge, love and how easy it can occasionally slip into obsession. It is filled with great twists and short chapters that will have readers lying to themselves saying they'll put the book down after the next chapter (hint: no, you won't). While I found the ending a bit weaker than I had hoped, I still recommend this highly engrossing story about deceit, obsession and the lengths people will go when they're desperate.

Friday, 4 October 2019

The Widow of Rose House


Author: Diana Biller
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: St Martin's Press
First Published: October 8, 2019
Opening Lines: Alva Penrose Renssaelaer Webster had been inside Delmonico's for nine seconds before Mrs. Henry Biddington asked the maître d'hôtel to throw her out.

Book Description from GoodReads: A young widow restores a dilapidated mansion with the assistance of a charming, eccentric genius, only to find the house is full of dangerous secrets in this effervescent Gilded Age debut novel

It's 1875, and Alva Webster has perfected her stiff upper lip after three years of being pilloried in the presses of two continents over fleeing her abusive husband. Now his sudden death allows her to return to New York to make a fresh start, restoring Liefdehuis, a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion, and hopefully her reputation at the same time. However, fresh starts aren't as easy as they seem, as Alva discovers when stories of a haunting at Liefdehuis begin to reach her. But Alva doesn't believe in ghosts. So when the eccentric and brilliant professor, Samuel Moore, appears and informs her that he can get to the bottom of the mystery that surrounds Liefdehuis, she turns him down flat. She doesn't need any more complications in her life―especially not a handsome, convention-flouting, scandal-raising one like Sam.

Unfortunately, though Alva is loath to admit it, Sam, a pioneer in electric lighting and a member of the nationally-adored Moore family of scientists, is the only one who can help. Together, the two delve into the tragic secrets wreathing Alva's new home while Sam attempts to unlock Alva's history―and her heart.

Set during the Gilded Age in New York City, The Widow of Rose House is a gorgeous debut by Diana Biller, with a darkly Victorian Gothic flair and an intrepid and resilient American heroine guaranteed to delight readers.


My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: My interest for this book was piqued by just a few words: dilapidated mansion, widow and Gilded Age. That's all it took to snag me.

The story started off strong with some humorous banter, an absent-minded gent and a delightfully creepy old house. But the story soon ventured into 'less haunted mansion' and 'more bodice ripper romance' with a detailed and quite lengthy sex scene that felt a little out of place. My interest wavered soon afterward as the focus became muddled and there was a distracting disparity with how the characters spoke and the time frame the story was set. I began to skim pages in earnest at the halfway mark. It just wasn't holding my attention. 

But there is an interesting array of characters. While I can't say I connected with Alva, I liked Sam and absolutely loved his family. The Moores are a delightfully eclectic, intelligent, chaotic and nerdy bunch. I was surprised they weren't used more. 

In addition to the historical romance and haunted mansion, a paranormal aspect is included but it appears quite late in the book and is wrapped up rather suddenly. I think I would have warmed to this paranormal aspect if it had been explained more clearly to the reader and given more page time. 

Overall, I give kudos to this debut author for an interesting premise, a story that is a mix of genres and an interesting group of secondary characters. It was a good read but not as compelling as I had hoped. 

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Beyond a Reasonable Stout


Author: Ellie Alexander
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Type: e-book
Series: #3 in the Sloan Krause craft beer mystery series
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Minotaur Books
First Published: Oct 1, 2019
Opening Lines: "Can you hear that?" I asked Garrett as I dumped a box of fresh Chinook hops into the shiny stainless-steel fermenting tank.

Book Description from GoodReads: Amateur sleuth Sloan Krause delves into the murderous political world in another delightful mystery from popular cozy writer Ellie Alexander.

It's the dead season in Leavenworth, Washington. The throngs of Oktoberfest crowds have headed home, and the charming Bavarian streets are quiet and calm--momentarily. Villagers use the reprieve to drink in the crisp fall mountain air and prepare for the upcoming winter light festival. Soon the German-inspired shops and restaurants will be aglow with thousands of twinkling lights. Visitors will return to the northern Cascades to drink warm mulled cider and peruse the holiday markets. Brewer, Sloan Krause and her partner in crime Garrett Strong are using the slowdown to stock up on a new line of their signature craft beers at Nitro. They're experimenting with a hoppy holiday pine and a chocolate hazelnut stout. The small brewery is alive with delicious scents and bubbling batches of brew.

Sloan is in her element. She loves the creativity and lowkey atmosphere at Nitro. Only that is soon threatened by the incumbent city councilmember Kristopher Cooper. Kristopher is running for re-election on a platform of making Leavenworth dry. Everyone in beertopia is fuming. Leavenworth's economy relies on keeping the kegs flowing. Kristopher wants to banish beer, a policy that might just bankrupt the entire village. However, Kristopher turns up dead days before election night. Sloan quickly realizes that his murder isn't the work of a stranger. Friends, family, and every other business owner had a motive to kill him, including none other than April Ablin, Leavenworth's self-described ambassador of all things German. Sloan finds herself defending April and trying to sleuth out a killer amongst a group of familiar faces.


My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: This is the third book in the Sloan Krause cozy series. Over the past couple of weeks, I've enjoyed the first two books in the series which, like many cozies, provides the reader with the requisite quaint setting, small town feel and a light mystery. The books also give readers interesting tidbits on the world of craft brewing.

This was an entertaining, lighter mystery. There are a few red herrings but the hints to the identity of the culprit were fairly obvious making the ending less surprisingly than expected. Still enjoyable, just not shocking. The beer info and, particularly, the mystery of Sloan's murky past are what have kept me coming back to this series but the plot about Sloan's unknown past is beginning to feel dragged out. My interest is still piqued but I'm hoping to quench my thirst for closure to that part of the story.

Overall, this is an entertaining addition to this light mystery series that is a perfect pick as we begin to get in the spirit of Oktoberfest (at least in my neck of the woods). 

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of this title, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Things You Save in a Fire


Author: Katherine Center
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 320
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: St Martin's Press
First Published: August 13, 2019
Opening Lines: The night I became the youngest person - and the only female ever- to win the Austin Fire Department's valor award, I got propositioned by my partner.

Book Description from GoodReadsCassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she's seen her fair share of them, and she's excellent at dealing with other people's tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to uproot her life and move to Boston, it's an emergency of a kind Cassie never anticipated.

The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie's old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren't exactly thrilled to have a "lady" on the crew, even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the handsome rookie, who doesn't seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can't think about that. Because she doesn't fall in love. And because of the advice her old captain gave her: don't date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping...but will she jeopardize her place in a career where she's worked so hard to be taken seriously?

Katherine Center's Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt, affecting novel about life, love, and the true meaning of courage.


My Rating: 3.5 stars

My Review: Things You Save In A Fire is a story about a female firefighter. The plot has a strong romantic feel to it but also has some mystery and family drama as it touches on bigger issues such as the power of forgiveness, healing, change and relationships.

I enjoyed that the story focuses on Cassie, a strong and determined female firefighter who is good at what she does and has a righteous streak that she isn't afraid to share. I also liked witnessing Cassie's ups and downs when she transfers to a staunchly male-dominated firehouse as its first female firefighter.

This is a feel-good kind of read that maintains a lighter feel and was more predictable than I had expected. I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes of life at a firehouse as well as the touching family moments as Cassie battles with the long process of forgiveness. But the focus is clearly on the romance. It was sweet but Cassie's about-face regarding love was a little jarring and their dialogue often felt a too saccharine for my tastes. But I'm a romantic cynic, folks, so take that comment with a grain of salt.

Overall, this is a heartwarming story which is a perfect pick for readers who enjoy a lighter read that wraps up nicely at the end but still gives readers romance, touching family scenes and a glimpse into the world of firefighting through the eyes of a female firefighter. 

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