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.

Appetizers and 80s Movies

We like to keep things interesting. So, this spring and summer season, we decided Friday nights will dinner (in the form of appetizers) followed by an 80s movie.

We started with Flashdance. And a charcuterie board. Yummy!

Believe it or not, this 80s girl had never watched Flashdance. But like every other 80s girl, I owned a version of the grey iconic oversized, falling-off-the-shoulder sweatshirt. You know the one.

Spoiler Alerts Head.

So the plot.

This movie is an 80s era Cinderella tale. Parentless, eighteen year old Alex lives on her own, works two jobs, and dreams of being a prima ballerina. She has no formal training but she’s incredibly talented and dances at night as an exotic dancer at a bar/nightclub. When she’s not dancing, she working her day job as a welder. She also rides her bike all over Pittsburgh. Of course, she falls for her divorced boss, who’s also somewhat young, and very handsome. And successful. Most of the non-dancing scenes follow their budding relationship.

Does it stand the test of time?

The music is awesome. The cinematography is fantastic. The dancing is fabulous. Kind of like a music video. Because, hello, 80s. Other than that, it’s what happens when a man tries to write a romance headlining a strong female character. We end up with a teenager sleeping with her boss. Said boss also secures her the coveted dance audition behind her back. Takes his ex-wife to a function instead of her. But don’t worry it didn’t mean anything, please don’t be mad at me. Here, look, we’ll have more sex and everything will be okay.

Warning; Also includes racial slurs and exploitation of women.

This whole idea of watching retro movies, besides loving the 80s, was inspired by one of my favourite podcasts.

I Hate It But I Love It

Hateful optimists and loving pessimists Kat Angus and Jocelyn Geddie break down movies and TV shows that they totally despise… but also really adore at the same time.

Warning: If you don’t care for swear words this is not the podcast for you! But it’s also funny, smart, and talks about pop culture in a way that’s brilliant and appealing.

Until next time…

Any favourite, and easy, appetizer suggestions? Movie recommendations? I’d love to hear them!

Develop Your Playful Side

Every December I pick a word for the upcoming year. Except for 2021, which I skipped. Which likely explains my choice for 2022. DREAM. Of possibilities. Both fantastical and ordinary. Chasing the dream, not in a busy, get it done kind of way, but a whimsical exploration. To play and paint and stargaze. Purely for the joy and entertainment of it all.

This is me on a long ago trip to Vancouver gazing out over the water while on a dinner cruise. Can staring off into space considered a hobby? If so, it’s a favourite of mine. Always dreaming up stories.

The longer this pandemic drags on, the harder it is to take time away from the overwhelming amount of statistics, the constant updates, the frustration, and the worry. Now it’s winter and getting through the next couple of months seems rather a daunting task. There’s not much I can do about the pandemic, other than getting my booster, washing my hands, social distancing, and wearing my mask, or the long winter months ahead, but I can dream. I can add joy and playfulness into each day.

Somewhere along the way play turns into something immature and unwelcome as we get older. But 2022 is going to be my time to practice taking a break from reality, to remember to play and laugh. I will remember it’s okay to be silly for a few minutes each day and that adults need recess, too.

The Benefits of Play:

Define What Play Means to You:

Let your imagination go. What is something you’ve always dreamed of doing, but didn’t pursue? Be aware of your energy levels. We’re all drained right now. It’s okay to start small. Be an amateur. Make mistakes. Try something new. Rekindle an old hobby. Do what’s right for you.

It can focus on creativity, like crafting, doodling, knitting. Maybe exercise is your fun thing. Seriously, the belly dancing class I took way back when was a complete hoot. Go for a hike. Try pickle ball. Maybe self examination brings you joy. I know it does to me: journaling, yoga, meditation. Music is key for a lot of people. Try karaoke, or learn a new instrument, take a voice class (even if you think you can’t sing). Socialize. It doesn’t have to be a big group. Maybe it’s scheduling date night. Go axe throwing. Take in a dance class. Go to a poetry reading. But keep it safe.

Make it Happen:

  • Clear your schedule. Set aside a block of time, big or small, to be silly and have some fun.
  • Turn off your phone, TV, and other devices. You can do it.
  • Give yourself permission to do whatever you want. This is your time to dance like no one’s watching. Or to be still and sit and dream.

Until next time…

Live laugh play. Here’s to a playful 2022! What do you do to take a break from life?

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?

October and Fall Television Favourites

The sun is setting earlier and rising later. Kind of like me. I love Octobers, especially if they are as beautiful and warm as this month has been. October also gives me an excuse to use one of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite books, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

We’re thinking of cancelling of our cable television package and are experimenting with streaming our favourite shows, which are few and far between these days. Like, good grief, another NCIS show? How do we feel about the return of CSI: Las Vegas? How is Survivor still on the air? Anyone else feeling like there’s nothing to watch on TV? Or am I in a funk? A deep, deep funk. Admittedly, that due to this never ending pandemic. But still…

There are a few bright spots, of course. I’m liking La Brea. Still enjoying The Rookie and The Equalizer. And Bob Hearts Abishola is always a delight. There’s also some great Canadian programming out there right now. And it doesn’t get enough attention.

My Three Favourite Canadian Television Shows

Family Law

Family Law is my new favourite television program this fall. Family dysfunction at its best. And who doesn’t love Victor Garber. The series is part legal procedural, part family dramedy, created by Susin Nielsen. It’s family dysfunction at its best and the chemistry between the characters is fabulous. I was fortunate enough to meet Susin Nielsen at The Saskatchewan Festival of Words in 2019. The talent that comes to this festival is off the charts. I highly recommend attending. And I definitely recommend Nielsen’s books!

The Great Canadian Baking Show

I enjoy watching baking shows a lot more than actually baking. Who’s with me? I don’t know how these amateur bakers stay so composed under pressure. I’d crumble like, well, crumble.

Jann

For when you need a laugh. Jann Arden is not scared to poke fun at herself. On the show, she plays an unapologetic, self-centred, aging singer songwriter who’s career is on the cusp of obscurity. It’s so funny. And poignant. And she’s surrounded by a super talented cast.

What I’m reading:

Print: Gutter Child by Jael Richardson. A dystopian story about a girl who must overcome the dictates of a harsh regime and find a life and freedom.

Audio: A Treacherous Curse: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery, Book 3, written by Deanna Raybourn and narrated by Angele Masters. Still loving this series! Both the story and the narrator. Also, waiting for these two to finally sleep together is killing me.

Until next time…

What’s everyone watching these days? Any new shows you would recommend? Any favourite old shows you rewatch? I need suggestions!

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?

September Musings

September always feels like the start of the new year, rather than January. I love the return to routine after going this way and that way and packing in as much summer goodness as I can into July and August. September is a time to get back at it, whatever your ‘it’ is. Even though we’re in the midst of the 4th wave of this pandemic, and there is a federal election looming, and we’re all tired and frustrated (possibly angry), September is a time to set things back to rights.

My house is relatively organized except for two rooms, my office and the basement bedroom. Oh, and one very large cupboard that is full of memories. My wedding dress is in there. My childhood memories are stored in there. Our children’s memories. This cupboard is packed with all the feels. There is also a tent. I don’t know why.

Reorganizing is a priority right now because we are about to begin renovating the upstairs of our house which was built in the 70s. Very little has changed on our top floor during that time. Removal of wallpaper and painting of bedrooms. Goodbye blue carpet and ugly wallpaper. Have I mentioned that there was either wallpaper or a wallpaper border on every wall of our house. There are also hanging snowflake lights in our bedroom. And a mirrored wall.

Getting everything ready means purging some things that should have gone long ago. Not only the dated decor, but the other stuff. Things that I’ve tucked away and haven’t dealt with. Which makes me wonder why I’m hanging onto certain things. I’m asking myself who will want it? Our children are busy accumulating their own stuff and filling their own nooks and crannies with things that are special and important to them.

I found the article, The psychology of clutter: Why we hold onto ‘stuff’—and what that may be teaching our kids, gave me some insight into why I’m hanging onto an endless amount of craft supplies. I mean I might find a use for them some day, right? Probably not. Why have I held onto it. The answer is guilt. And it will come as a surprise to no one that guilt is not a good reason to hold onto something.

This article was also helpful: 10 Ways to Get Rid of Sentimental Clutter.

I’m relieved to say I’ve made a dent in things. And excited to welcome in the new. Like vinyl plank flooring, soothing spa colours. Fresh, modern, accompanied by less of everything.

What I’m reading:

Print: Bombshell (Hell’s Belle, Book 1) by Sarah MacLean. Finishing the very last few pages of Sesily and Caleb’s story. Sooo good! Definitely recommend.

eBook: Just started an ARC of The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen coming out in early 2022. I’m fascinated by writing duos. And this book is off to a great start!

Audio: A Perilous Undertaking, A Veronica Speedwell Mystery, Book 2, written by Deanna Raybourn and narrated by Angele Masters. LOVING this series! Both the story and the narrator.

Until next time…

Who else thinks of September has the true beginning of the year?

Hold the Pumpkin Spice, Please.

Is there a bigger transition than August to September? It seems like one day it’s summer and the next day someone waves the checkered flag and, that’s it, summer’s in the rearview mirror. The race to claim as much sun and leisure time as possible is over. As much as I love September and settling back into a routine, I’m not ready to exchange the heat and blooms of summer for pumpkin spice everything.

But Fall, like taxes, is inevitable, but far more enjoyable when you wrap your head around the idea.

Here are three things I will be embracing this fall. Okay, there’s four things in this photo, but books are a given.

The Release App: In the midst of the 4th wave of this pandemic and it’s more important than ever for me to take care of my mental health. The stress is real. Tempers are high and patience is waning. The Release App is part of my daily routine. I discovered the Release App when attending an art and mindfulness class. Trina Markusson provided tips on mindfulness and how to stay in the present moment. Meditation takes practice but it’s benefits are far reaching.

My LumberJill Apparel Rundle Wrap: This is the best cozy outdoor/indoor blanket/wrap ever. Great for all seasons. This Made in Canada brand is based in Alberta and all their products are produced in a factory in Edmonton as well as by local home-based seamstresses. This blanket is the best! I love the colour, but they have others. I love the simple mechanics of the design and how much coverage I get without tripping over the length.

Lemon Love Tea from Cuppa T’: Because every season should involve tea. And this particular tea smells like lemon meringue pie. It’s like holding onto a bit of summer.

What I’m reading:

Print: Bombshell (Hell’s Belle, Book 1) by Sarah MacLean. She’s one of my favourite authors and this book is exactly what I need right now.

eBook: I have two ARCs (Advance Readers Copies) ready to go but haven’t decided which to read first yet. But excited about both of them!

Audio: A Curious Beginning, A Veronica Speedwell Mystery, written by Deanna Raybourn and narrated by Angele Masters. Oh my gosh, SO GOOD!

Until next time…

What are your Fall necessities? Or drop a comment telling me what you’re reading!