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.

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?

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?

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!

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!

The Bounty of August

August is my birthday month. Wave back if you’re also a Leo. Also true, I don’t read my horoscope. So, I don’t really know much about being a Leo…

I do know that August brings a fullness to the air that signals the end of summer. Flower pots are bursting with colour and gardens are producing. I don’t have a garden but I have a couple of vegetables planted amongst the flowers.

Fresh garden tomatoes are one of my very favourite things. This time of year always reminds me of growing up on a farm and harvest season, both in the field and in the garden.

And it’s all because of the bees.

We have leafcutter bees helping us out in our yard. The pre-built Pine Solitary Bee Barn (with Nesting Block & Larvae) is from Backyard Pollinator, a company that operates out of Imperial Saskatchewan. Jed and Kathy Williams are the sole owners of their alfalfa seed and leafcutter bee operation. 

Our daughter got the kit from her brother and sister-in-law for Christmas. We stored the bees in our garage fridge for the rest of the winter. Our son came in the middle of June to hang the house outside. We’ve had fun watching them go in and out. Leafcutter bees are great non-aggressive pollinators and the last image is proof the leafcutter bees are busy in our yard. You can tell by the careful cutouts in the leaves.

Many of the holes are now plugged, which means the bees have laid their larvea and filled the holes with leaves. At the end of summer we’ll take the nesting block out and put it in a cool spot until next summer.

Book Recommendation:

This is a great book full of inspiration and recommendations of the fabulous places this province has to offer locals and eager visitors.

Shortlisted for a 2021 Taste Canada Award and four 2021 Saskatchewan Book Awards

A robust and inspiring travel companion for both local and visiting food-lovers alike that reveals the stories, inspiration, and friendly faces of the people who craft great food in Saskatchewan.

From the province’s southern grain fields to its northern boreal forests, from its city markets to its small-town diners, Saskatchewan is the humble heartland of some of the nation’s most delicious food.

Author Jenn Sharp and photographer Richard Marjan spent four months travelling Saskatchewan, chatting at market stalls, in kitchens, bottling sheds, and stockrooms. Flat Out Delicious is the culmination of interviews with small-scale farmers and city gardeners, beekeepers and chocolatiers, ranchers, chefs, and winemakers. Together they tell the story of Saskatchewan’s unique food systems.

The journey is organized into seven regions (including a chapter each for restaurant hotbeds Regina and Saskatoon), with essays that delve deeper—into traditional Indigenous moose hunts, wild rice farming in the remote north, and berry picking in the south. There are profiles of over 150 artisans, along with detailed maps, travel tips, and stunning photography, making the book the ideal companion for a road trip that involves plenty of stopping to eat along the way.

You’ll meet a lettuce-grower who left a career in the city, and the small-town grad who worked his way up in the Saskatoon restaurant world; couples who are the first in their families to raise livestock, alongside new generations maintaining century-old operations. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or are Saskatchewan born and bred, prepare to be surprised by the abundance of personalities and culinary experiences to be found here in the land of living skies.

Until next time…

Are you a gardener? Do you love farmers markets? And all the beautiful food that this time of year produces?

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?

Book Talk Sunday: Ayesha At Last

Sundays seem like a good time to talk about the books I’ve read! I don’t give ratings, or stars, or gold crowns. Just offering a few of my thoughts. This week I’m talking about Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin.

Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Published: Harper Collins Canada, June 2018

Length: 352 pages

Categories: Fiction / Romance / Humour / Contemporary / RomCom / Canadian Setting

Blurb:

Pride and Prejudice with a modern twist

AYESHA SHAMSI has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.

When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and his family; and the truth she realizes about herself. But Khalid is also wrestling with what he believes and what he wants. And he just can’t get this beautiful, outspoken woman out of his mind.

My Thoughts:

Ayesha Shamsi has no time for a relationship, and even less interest in an arranged marriage. She’s busy adulting, putting aside her passion, and accepting a job that will allow her to repay her uncle and aunt for the financial and emotional support her family received since immigrating to Canada. Her younger cousin is on a different path. One slightly more self-absorbed and flightier. Ayesha is enlisted to encourage Hafsa to make a success of her latest career adventure. Hafsa is busy collecting marriage proposals. Enter ultra conservative Khalid, who becomes engaged to Hafsa, sort of…

I loved everything about this modern Pride and Prejudice retelling set in a Muslim community in Toronto. It’s full of interesting and complex characters who bring the setting to life. The main characters, Ayesha and Khalid have very differing views on arranged marriages and I wondered how the author would bring these two together. I knew very little of how arranged marriages look in contemporary times. But the book is full of relationships, both past and present, that give insight into all the different ways people find each other.

I felt an immediate connection to Ayesha, much like I did with Elizabeth Bennett. And Khalid was a challenge at the beginning, much like Mr. Darcy. So, it shouldn’t be surprising to say Khalid turned out to be one of my favourite romance heroes. But before that happened, I had to work through some perceived misconceptions of how I thought arranged marriages work and what the power dynamic looks like within an arranged marriage.

This book is full of humour and witty, charming dialogue. The plot is perfect. The writing is rich and generous and the author managed to make me laugh while also tugging on my heartstrings. Highly recommend!

I can’t wait to read Uzma Jalaluddin’s new book, Hana Khan Carries On available now.

Until next time…

What’s everyone else reading? Anyone have another Pride and Prejudice retelling recommendation?

Baking Show Goodness

We’re all looking for a reprieve from pandemic fatigue as we wait for vaccines and for spring to continue doing its thing. The robins are back! I’ve also gotten my first vaccine shot. So, there is a light at the end of this very long tunnel.

Baking shows have taken my mind off pandemic life these last weeks. I’m not sure why as I’m not a baker. More of a dabbler with an interest in expanding my repertoire. But, really, I think I love these shows because it’s easier to watch someone else bake really complicated, beautiful things. than make them myself

Three of my favourite baking shows:

The Great Canadian Baking Show

The Great Canadian Baking Show and Bertie Diaz help the world get happy -  MyGayToronto

Ten amateur bakers compete for, get this, a fancy cake plate. Seriously, CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) give the winner some cash! Everyone is nice to each other. I love that. I’m not here for any intense cut-throat competition Chef Canada type stuff. I’m watching because I want to learn a couple of things, see pretty cakes and to be inspired. And, let’s be honest, for judge Bruno Feldeisen. He’s so adorable.

The Great Chocolate Showdown

Great Chocolate Showdown - YouTube

Hello, chocolate! Lots and lots of chocolate from milk, dark, white, ruby and gold. Ten home bakers compete for $50,000! Also, is anyone else fascinated with the way judges taste things? The judges in this show range from itty bitty nibbles to a good fork full. Also, they have a teaching segment which I appreciate. I’m pretty sure I can now temper chocolate. But probably not.

The Spring Baking Championship

Spring Baking Championship | Food Network

Eleven contestants compete for $25,000. This show combines a mix of professional bakers with a couple of home bakers thrown into the mix. I always route for the amateur bakers brave enough to go up against the professionals.

Until next time…

Do you watch baking shows? Cooking shows? Grilling shows? Which one is your favourite?

Fall on the Prairies

It’s October and the temperatures and cooling down. I’m enjoying the moment and the last of the fall days. Being able to be outside these last four months has been a lifesaver. Hopefully, October will see lots of backyard fires, blankets and cups of tea under the Big Dipper and the North Star.

Fall is raking leaves, blowing out sprinklers, cleaning out flower pots. I love fall, but it can be short in this part of the world. Winter is on the horizon. I even ordered a new winter coat yesterday. I’m determined to spend more time outside this winter.

Somehow fall also means organizing to me. Watching The Home Edit on Netflix was timely incentive. I’ve tackled the storage area in the basement and gotten rid of the first of the things that need to be recycled or taken to the dump and put together a donation pile.

But I still had time to read some books!

My Thoughts On:

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Just when you think you have nothing left to lose, they come for your dreams.

Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden – but what they don’t know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.

I’m one of those people that love to read dystopian books, even in the midst of a pandemic. I LOVED this book. There is a reason this book has won or been shortlisted for many awards. Though The Marrow Thieves is a young adult book, it’s also a book for all ages. Set in a near future ravaged by pollution and climate change. it’s the story of group of Indigenous companions who struggle to make their way north while being hunted for their marrow, their very essence, by white people who have lost the ability to dream and their humanity.

Each member of the tight knit group of characters has a coming-to story, a harrowing tale of what they survived before they found the group. By witnessing their stories, we learn how the destruction of the world began and what lengths people will go to save their way of life. Both the hunted and the hunter. A talented writer, Cherie Dimaline has a way with words. With storytelling. With craft.

It is gripping, and bleak, and enlightening. But hopeful. Dark, but somehow full of colour.

“‘Dreams get caught in the webs woven in your bones. That’s where they live, in that marrow there.’”

Miig, The Marrow Thieves

Until next time…

Do you like to organize your spaces? Have you watched The Home Edit? Or read The Marrow Thieves? What did you think?