Book Talk Friday: Two Great Reads

I read some great books in April. Two of those came in the form of ARCs (Advanced Reader Copy) from Netgalley and I loved them both! Every Summer After by Carley Fortune and When It Falls Apart by Catherine Bybee.

Every Summer After by Carley Fortune

Published: Penguin Random House (May 10, 2022)

Categories: Women’s Fiction / Contemporary Romance / Canadian Author / Canadian Setting /

The Blurb:

Six summers to fall in love. One moment to fall apart. A weekend to get it right.
 
They say you can never go home again, and for Persephone Fraser, ever since she made the biggest mistake of her life a decade ago, that has felt too true. Instead of glittering summers on the lakeshore of her childhood, she spends them in a stylish apartment in the city, going out with friends, and keeping everyone a safe distance from her heart.

Until she receives the call that sends her racing back to Barry’s Bay and into the orbit of Sam Florek—the man she never thought she’d have to live without.

For six summers, through hazy afternoons on the water and warm summer nights working in his family’s restaurant and curling up together with books—medical textbooks for him and work-in-progress horror short stories for her—Percy and Sam had been inseparable. Eventually that friendship turned into something breathtakingly more, before it fell spectacularly apart.

When Percy returns to the lake for Sam’s mother’s funeral, their connection is as undeniable as it had always been. But until Percy can confront the decisions she made and the years she’s spent punishing herself for them, they’ll never know whether their love might be bigger than the biggest mistakes of their past. 

My Thoughts:

Every Summer After is Carley Fortune’s debut novel. It starts with the present then takes us back to summers in Barry’s Bay, Ontario. It’s no secret that I LOVE a Canadian setting, and there’s nothing better than summer in Canada. On Persephone Fraser’s first day at the lake, she meets the boy next door, Sam Florek.

Best friends and summer neighbours, Persephone and Sam lead separate lives during the school year. But during the summers they are inseparable, spending days an idyllic summer bubble. Until the reality of college and adulting sets in and decisions are made that can’t be undone. Twelve years later they meet again.

Whether you still dream of your first love, or have moved on and left it in the past, this book will speak to you. All the looks back will resonate. You’ll fall in love with Persephone and Sam and Barry’s Bay. I wish I could read it again for the first time. Highly recommend!

Bonus Book: When It all Falls Apart by Catherine Bybee

When It All Falls Apart by Catherine Bybee

Published: Montlake (Amazon Publishing) (June 21, 2022)

Categories: Contemporary Romance / Romance / Single Dad / Family Romance /

The Blurb:

A bittersweet romance about the power of love in the face of heartbreak and loss.

Brooke Turner has always had a complicated relationship with her father. But when his health takes a turn for the worse, she drops everything to care for him. He’s her dad, after all, and he needs her. What Brooke doesn’t anticipate is the unraveling of her long-term relationship and a cross-country move to San Diego’s Little Italy.

Luca D’Angelo is the oldest of three children and a single father to a young daughter. When his mother rents the top floor of their house to Brooke, he’s angry. Who is this beautiful stranger with no ties to the neighborhood? Can she be trusted in such close proximity to his family?

As Luca learns of Brooke’s difficult journey with her ailing father, his heart softens. And Brooke, who witnesses Luca’s struggle as a single parent, develops feelings for him too. But when it all falls apart, will love heal their wounded hearts?

My Thoughts:

This is my first time reading Catherine Bybee and it definitely won’t be my last. The first book in the D’Angelo series, When It All Falls Apart takes place in Little Italy in San Diego. There is enough heart, family and Italian food in this book to satisfy everyone. There is the relationship with Brooke and Luca, of course. But’s it’s also about what happens when relationships with parents are not only hard but heartbreaking. There is no such thing as the perfect family. It’s also true that family leaves scars that are hard to heal.

I loved the dialogue. I loved the setting. Who can resist a loud Italian family? But I also appreciated the honest look at what happens when it all falls apart. I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read the next one in the series. Definitely recommend.

Until next time…

Who else is looking forward to summer? I’d love some summer reading suggestions! Bonus points if they have a Canadian setting.

Book Talk Friday: Letters Across The Sea

I love talking about books and I love sharing books with you that I’ve loved reading. Genevieve Graham is a favourite author of mine and I would be delighted to recommend Letters Across the Sea to anyone who is looking for a read this cloudy Friday.

Letters Across the Sea by Genevieve Graham

Published: Simon & Schuster (April 27, 2021)

Length: 384 pages

Categories: Fiction / Romance / Historical / Strong Romantic Elements / Canadian History / 20th Century / Canadian Author

The Blurb:

If you’re reading this letter, that means I’m dead. I had obviously hoped to see you again, to explain in person, but fate had other plans.

1933

At eighteen years old, Molly Ryan dreams of becoming a journalist, but instead she spends her days working any job she can to help her family through the Depression crippling her city. The one bright spot in her life is watching baseball with her best friend, Hannah Dreyfus, and sneaking glances at Hannah’s handsome older brother, Max.

But as the summer unfolds, more and more of Hitler’s hateful ideas cross the sea and “Swastika Clubs” and “No Jews Allowed” signs spring up around Toronto, a city already simmering with mass unemployment, protests, and unrest. When tensions between the Irish and Jewish communities erupt in a riot one smouldering day in August, Molly and Max are caught in the middle, with devastating consequences for both their families.

1939

Six years later, the Depression has eased and Molly is a reporter at her local paper. But a new war is on the horizon, putting everyone she cares about most in peril. As letters trickle in from overseas, Molly is forced to confront what happened all those years ago, but is it too late to make things right?

From the desperate streets of Toronto to the embattled shores of Hong Kong, Letters Across the Sea is a poignant novel about the enduring power of love to cross dangerous divides even in the darkest of times—from the #1 bestselling author of The Forgotten Home Child.

My Thoughts:

Genevieve Graham’s books are always the perfect combination of character and plot tied to true historical events. Letters Across the Sea gives us a glimpse of life in Toronto in 1933. The Depression has devastated the economy. In the years leading up to World War II poverty, discontent and racism are rampant. Molly Ryan’s life is forever changed on the night of the Christie Pits Riot in August of 1933.

Molly Ryan possesses some the qualities I admire most. She is steadfast, resilient and loyal. She survives with her ideals intact while doing what she needs to do to feed her family and help her community. As Depression begins to ease, Molly leaves behind what might have been and lands her dream job as a reporter. Then war breaks out and Molly is once again on the brink of loosing those closest to her.

As a Jewish man, Max Dreyfus is well acquainted with racism. As Hitler’s hateful fanaticism reaches Canadian shores, he can’t stay silent, he must step up and do something. After the Christie Pits Riot, Max leaves Toronto and Molly behind to become a doctor. Max is as steadfast and loyal as Molly. He’s also a kind, compassionate, and strives to do the right thing. Which I think are admirable qualities in a hero.

When Max returns home, his experience in the horrific Battle of Hong Kong and as a returning prisoner of war brings him into contact with Molly, who is determined to tell the stories of returning prisoners of war from Hong Kong. The past catches up with both of them and they are forced to confront it.

Letters Across the Sea is emotional and compelling. The characters are strong and well-developed. The plot grabs your attention and keeps it. The pacing is perfect. The romance sweet. Highly recommend.

Genevieve Graham has a new book out this April.

Bluebird: A Novel : Graham, Genevieve: Amazon.ca: Books

Until next time…

Who else enjoys Genevieve Graham’s books? Or drop a note in the comments and tell me what you’re reading?

Book Talk Friday: Bombshell by Sarah MacLean

I love talking about books, but I especially love talking about books and authors who are favourites of mine. Sarah MacLean is an auto buy author for me and Bombshell is her newest release.

Bombshell: Hell’s Belles, Book 1 by Sara MacLean

Published: Harper Collins, August 24, 2021

Length: 400 pages

Categories: Romance / Historical Romance / Victorian Romance /

The Blurb:

After years of living as London’s brightest scandal, Lady Sesily Talbot has embraced the reputation and the freedom that comes with the title. No one looks twice when she lures a gentleman into the dark gardens beyond a Mayfair ballroom…and no one realizes those trysts are not what they seem.

No one, that is, but Caleb Calhoun, who has spent years trying not to notice his best friend’s beautiful, brash, brilliant sister. If you ask him, he’s been a saint about it, considering the way she looks at him…and the way she talks to him…and the way she’d felt in his arms during their one ill-advised kiss. 

Except someone has to keep Sesily from tumbling into trouble during her dangerous late-night escapades, and maybe close proximity is exactly what Caleb needs to get this infuriating, outrageous woman out of his system. But now Caleb is the one in trouble, because he’s fast realizing that Sesily isn’t for forgetting…she’s forever. And forever isn’t something he can risk.

My Thoughts:

Who can resist a book in which a group of women are intent on setting right some of the wrongs committed against other women. Enter Sesily Talbot, who, along with three of her friends, spend their nights making sure the worst of the very privileged men of their acquaintance pay for their crimes. Sesily doesn’t care about her less than pristine reputation. Then again, she doesn’t have to, she’s rich in her own right. But she’s very much attracted to a man, who cares about his own. With good reason. He can’t afford for others to know too much about him. Or his past. That doesn’t stop Caleb from admiring, and very much wanting, Sesily Talbot, who also makes him want to yank his hair out one strand at a time.

What can I say? This is a bombshell of a book! Well developed characters, plenty of heat, beautiful writing, creative world building, as always. MacLean pulls back the curtain of privilege and aristocracy to show us the dark side of an age where the patriarchy reigned and infuses it with light, laughter, and bar brawls. Sesily is a force to be reckoned with and Caleb is the perfect foil to aid her in her schemes and desires.

Sarah MacLean and romance critic Jen Prokop host Fated Mates, a fantastic romance novel podcast. Their latest episode talks about the top ten books that got them through 2021. Give it a listen and add some great books to your to-be-read pile.

I’ll be back next week with a list of my favourite books from 2021.

Until then…

What favourite reads got you through the mess and chaos of 2021?

Book Talk Friday: The Golden Couple

More thoughts on books. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen.

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Published: St. Martin’s Press

Available: March 8, 2022

Length: 320 pages

Categories: Fiction / Psychological Thriller / Domestic Suspense / Suspense

The Blurb:

If Avery Chambers can’t fix you in 10 sessions, she won’t take you on as a client. Her successes are phenomenal–she helps people overcome everything from domineering parents to assault–and almost absorb the emptiness she sometimes feels since her husband’s death.

Marissa and Mathew Bishop seem like the golden couple–until Marissa cheats. She wants to repair things, both because she loves her husband and for the sake of their 8-year-old son. After a friend forwards an article about Avery, Marissa takes a chance on this maverick therapist, who lost her license due to controversial methods.

When the Bishops glide through Avery’s door and Marissa reveals her infidelity, all three are set on a collision course. Because the biggest secrets in the room are still hidden, and it’s no longer simply a marriage that’s in danger.

My Thoughts:

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a domestic suspense story but I really enjoyed The Wife Between Us and I couldn’t wait for all the twists and turns this writing duo was sure to provide. I wasn’t disappointed. The story revolves around a marriage in trouble and an unconventional therapist. Few things are what they seem and a teetering tower of lies holds it all together.

Avery Chambers, a discredited therapist, promises to fix a client’s problem in ten sessions. Then the Bishops hire her to fix their marriage. She begins to change her mind once she gets to know them. They say all the right things but they have no interest in telling the truth. They reveal just enough of it to cover up the things they don’t want to be discovered. And Avery has other threats and problems to worry about. Somehow it all comes together in the end in with a bang.

This story makes very compelling reading. I couldn’t put it down.

Writing duos always fascinate me. I’m not sure how they do it. My approach is all over the place and I can’t imagine coherently explaining my thoughts well enough to co-author anything. Apparently, that wasn’t the problem for an interesting writing pairing about to release a book next Tuesday.

I’ll be reading this book. I won’t be able to resist the hype. The combination of Louise Penny and Hillary Rodham Clinton is to fascinating to resist and premise for State of Terror is very tempting.

Until next time…

I find domestic suspense, which often revolves around unreliable narrators and what is true and what is not, interesting reading. Having said that, I haven’t read one in awhile. What are your thoughts? I would love some Canadian author and Canadian setting recommendations.

Book Talk Friday: Hana Khan Carries On

Where I talk about books I’ve read and enjoyed. Especially if they’re written by a Canadian and set in Canada. This week I’m sharing my thoughts on Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin.

Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin

Published: HarperAvenue 04/06/2021

Length: 368 pages

Categories: Fiction / Contemporary Romance / RomCom / Canadian Author / Canadian Canadian

The Blurb:

From the author of Ayesha at Last comes a sparkling new rom-com for fans of “You’ve Got Mail,” set in two competing halal restaurants

Sales are slow at Three Sisters Biryani Poutine, the only halal restaurant in the close-knit Golden Crescent neighbourhood. Hana waitresses there part time, but what she really wants is to tell stories on the radio. If she can just outshine her fellow intern at the city radio station, she may have a chance at landing a job. In the meantime, Hana pours her thoughts and dreams into a podcast, where she forms a lively relationship with one of her listeners. But soon she’ll need all the support she can get: a new competing restaurant, a more upscale halal place, is about to open in the Golden Crescent, threatening Three Sisters.

When her mysterious aunt and her teenage cousin arrive from India for a surprise visit, they draw Hana into a long-buried family secret. A hate-motivated attack on their neighbourhood complicates the situation further, as does Hana’s growing attraction for Aydin, the young owner of the rival restaurant—who might not be a complete stranger after all.

As life on the Golden Crescent unravels, Hana must learn to use her voice, draw on the strength of her community and decide what her future should be.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. If you loved You’ve Got Mail, you’ll find many familiar parallels in this book. I loved the main characters, Hana and Aydin. Both passionate about their chosen paths, both equally invested in succeeding. There’s also plenty of colourful secondary characters to love too. All set in a vibrant neighbourhood in Toronto that comes alive because of the people trying to maintain and protect a sense of community.

There are plenty of rom-com moments that made me smile and gave me all the feels. But there are other moments. Ones that bring attention to the despicable acts of hatred and Islamophobia that continue to happen across this country. How Jalaluddin weaves together a story full of resilience, hope, and the power of love (all kinds) is the real magic of this book.

Uzma Jalaluddin is fast becoming a favourite author of mine. I’ve shared my thoughts on Ayesha at Last in this Book Talk post.

The other good news is that Hana Khan Carries On is being adapted into film by Mindy Kaling and Amazon Studios.

Jalaluddin is also contributing columnist the Toronto Star and her column is called Samosas and Maple Syrup.

Until next time…

Who loved Who’s Got Mail? Is Megan Ryan and Tom Hanks on of your favourite rom-com pairings? If not, who is?

Book Talk Friday: The Christie Affair

Heading into the weekend and sharing thoughts on books I’ve read. This week it’s The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont. I was lucky enough to receive a ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) from Netgalley for review.

The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont

Published: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: 02/01/2022

Length: 320 Pages

Catagories: Fiction / Women’s Fiction / Mystery / Agatha Christie Disappearance / Inspired by True Events

The Blurb:

n 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days. Only I know the truth of her disappearance.

I’m no Hercule Poirot.

I’m her husband’s mistress.

Agatha Christie’s world is one of glamorous society parties, country house weekends, and growing literary fame.

Nan O’Dea’s world is something very different. Her attempts to escape a tough London upbringing during the Great War led to a life in Ireland marred by a hidden tragedy.

After fighting her way back to England, she’s set her sights on Agatha. Because Agatha Christie has something Nan wants. And it’s not just her husband.

Despite their differences, the two women will become the most unlikely of allies. And during the mysterious eleven days that Agatha goes missing, they will unravel a dark secret that only Nan holds the key to . . .

My Thoughts:

I’m probably one of the only people who hadn’t realized Agatha Christie infamously disappeared early on in her career or that no one knows what happened during those eleven days. This book details one of many possibilities. While the title suggests it’s about the Christies, but it’s really a fictional account of Archie Christie’s mistress, Nan O’Dea, her involvement with the Christie family, and is an intriguing take on might have happened.

There are definitely many unexpected twists and turns in this book that spans Nan’s life from young girl, her life during the 1st World War, until she becomes involved with Archie Christie. It’s an interesting look at life pre and post WWI and the insecurities women faced during that uncertain time. I admired Nan, even though I didn’t much like her. The same goes for Agatha Christie’s character. I definitely wasn’t a fan of her husband.

But, though the concept was entertaining, I couldn’t get past the narrative style which often led to confusion. It was the first person narrative intrusion in scenes that Nan could know nothing of that put me off and pulled me out of the story. Having said that, what bugs one reader will entertain another. This book will definitely be worth checking out when it becomes available in early 2022.

Until next time…

Are you an Agatha Christie fan? Did you, unlike me, know she’d infamously gone missing? Maybe you’re a mystery bluff? What are some of your favourites?

Book Talk Friday: Fire In The Stars

Where I talk about books I’ve read and enjoyed. Especially if they’re written by a Canadian and set in Canada. This week I’m talking about Fire in the Stars: An Amanda Doucette Mystery by Barbara Fradkin.

Fire in the Stars: An Amanda Doucette Mystery by Barbara Fradkin

Published: Dundurn Press, 2016

Length: 328 pages

Categories: Mystery / Amateur Sleuths / Canadian Detectives / Canadian Setting

The Blurb:

After surviving a horrific trauma in Nigeria, international aid worker Amanda Doucette returns to Canada to rebuild her life and her shaken ideals. There, the once-passionate, adventurous woman needs all her strength and ingenuity when a friend and fellow survivor goes missing along with his son.

A trained first-aid and crisis responder, Doucette — always accompanied by her beloved dog Kaylee — joins forces with RCMP officer Chris Tymko to discover the truth about the disappearance. Their search leads them to the Great Northern Peninsula, a rugged landscape of Viking history, icebergs, whales, and fierce ocean storms. Elsewhere, a body gets hauled up in a fisherman’s net, and evidence is mounting of an unsettling connection with Amanda’s search for her friend. Fradkin writes evocatively of the beautiful, often hostile, Newfoundland landscape where Amanda soon finds herself fighting for her very survival.

My Thoughts:

Fire in the Stars is the first book in Fradkin’s Amanda Doucette mystery series. Amanda, an international aid worker, has returned to Canada to recover from the trauma she experienced during her time in Nigeria. She plans a camping holiday in Newfoundland with her friend and former co-worker. When she shows up, she finds he’s gone missing along with his young son. What follows is a search through parts of Newfoundland’s more remote areas with the help of RCMP officer, Chris Tymko.

There are plenty of twists and turns in this book and we get a real sense of the rugged and beautiful province of Newfoundland. Amanda is on a mission to find and help her friend, Phil, before the worst happens. This places her in several precarious situations as she’s always ready to wade into trouble. Almost too ready, as she took more and more chances. Some to the point of folly and against sound advice. The author makes it clear that Amanda was in the habit of making crucial decisions with few resources in her former job. Still…it became a bit frustrating.

There is a lot happening in this book. We are learning who Amanda is, what drives her and the lengths she’s willing to go to protect the people she cares about. Dog lovers will enjoy the antics of Kaylee, Amanda’s faithful canine companion. Amanda and Tim grow close as they search for their friend. And plenty of other secondary and minor characters show up. It’s a complicated plot. Bodies start to turn up and the situation continues to escalate. All the different things at play make for a confusing read at times.

Overall, I think it’s an interesting start to a series that will take Amanda across Canada, which is an intriguing concept. If you’re looking for an interesting Canadian setting, a daring amateur sleuth, and a mystery that isn’t the least bit cozy, I recommend giving the Amanda Doucette series a try.

Here is a map of Newfoundland and Labrador. Fire in the Stars takes place mainly on the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland.

Other books set in Newfoundland.

Until next time…

Have you been to Newfoundland and Labrador? If you have, what is your favourite part of the province? It’s the only Canadian province I haven’t visited but I plan to some day!

Book Talk Friday: Beach Read

Where I talk about books that I’ve read and enjoyed because life is better with books. And summer is definitely better with books!

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Published: Berkley, May 2020

Length: 384 pages

Categories: Women’s Fiction / Romance / Humour / Contemporary Romance

The Blurb:

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.SEE LESS

My Thoughts:

January Andrews is suffering from writer’s block. She’s also broke. Grieving the loss of the father she thought she knew, she ends up in the last place she wants to be, the beach house her father left her. Even worse, she finds herself living next door to her college nemesis, Augustus Everett. Turns out he’s also suffering from writer’s block. When avoiding each other doesn’t work, they strike a deal. She’ll write a literary novel. And he’ll write a romance. And they’ll help each other through the process.

I worry when writers, who are not romance writers, write romance. I worry it won’t be a romance at all but an attempt to ‘elevate’ the genre. I also shy away from romances written in 1st person perspective. Just not my favourite perspective when it comes to romance. So, why did this book work for me? The chemistry between January and Gus is immediate. The dialogue is witty and funny and surprising. The writing is clever. January’s grief and sense of betrayal is heart wrenching. So, is Gus’s. Gus is delightfully swoon worthy in a guy-next-door kind of way. And January is quirky and real and just the right amount of over the top.

Also, this was an audio read for me and I have to say the narrator is amazing. Julia Whelan does a fantastic job. I can’t say enough about the great job she does. It’s the first time I’ve haven’t cringed when a narrator switches from a female to male character or vice a versa. I enjoyed her narration as much as I enjoyed Emily Henry’s writing.

This book is a great look at what happens when our egos fail us and the necessity of grieving. And what it looks like to find your way back and forward. Definitely recommend.

Until next time…

What beach reads have you savoured so far this summer? Any recommendations?