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?

Quick Time Away In July

At the beginning of July we decided to take a mini vacay and spend three nights in a geodesic dome overlooking the north shore of Buffalo Pound Lake in southern Saskatchewan. It’s easy to sense of history that echoes along the shores of the lake, across the water, and into the valley where First Nation peoples have resided for millennia. Today the valley is home to First Nations, small towns, farmers and ranchers, and cottagers.

It’s so peaceful and relaxing here. The sunsets are amazing. We call Saskatchewan the Land of Living Skies for a reason. They are spectacular.

The domes have a lovely rustic feel. There is a small kitchenette, minus a stove as cooking isn’t allowed inside the dome, but there is a fridge, sink, and countertop area. It comes with dishes and cutlery, other cooking necessities, as well as a gas barbecue. There is a bistro table and chair set and, most importantly, a bathroom with a shower. We stayed in one of the family domes which include a king bed and two double mattress in the loft area. The bed, with its Endy mattress and luxury linens, was SOOOOO comfy! And the view from it is amazing.

As comfortable and cozy as the domes are on the inside, the outside area is still in need of some landscaping. Aside from the view, which was wonderful, the ground was rocky and uneven and there is no shade and little privacy. But the area is under development and I hope some of these issues will be addressed in the coming seasons. In fact, a couple of very comfy Adirondack chairs where delivered to each of the family domes while we were there.

Of course, I read a great book! Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin. I loved this book and a Sunday Book Talk review will show up some up in the next while!

**Buffalo Pound Lake is found on Treaty Four land, the traditional territories of the  nêhiyawak (nay-hi-yuh-wuk, Cree), Anihšināpēk (uh-nish-i-naa-payk, Saulteaux), Dakota, Lakota, Nakoda, and the homeland of the Métis/Michif Nation. **

Until next time…

Do you have any vacation plans for the summer? Staycation plans?

Book Talk Sunday: An Image in the Lake by Gail Bowen

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 taking An Image in the Lake by Gail Bowen, which is an ARC (Advance Reader’s Copy).

An Image in the Lake: A Joanne Kilbourn Mystery by Gail Bowen

Published:  ECW Press, September 7, 2021

Length: 350 pages

Categories: Mystery / Cozy Mystery / Women Sleuths / Amateur Sleuths / Canadian Setting

Blurb:

A dark secret threatens the future of the Shreve family

It’s August 24 and Joanne Shreve and her husband, Zack, are savoring the last lazy days of summer and looking forward to the birth of a new grandchild; involvement in the campaign of Ali Janvier, a gifted politician with a solid chance of becoming the province’s next premier; and the debut of Sisters and Strangers, the six-part series Joanne co-wrote that focuses on her early life. The series is the flagship of a new slate of programming, and MediaNation is counting on a big return. Joanne and Zack’s stake in the series’s success is personal. Their daughter, Taylor, is in a relationship with one of the show’s stars, and Vale Frazier is already like family to them.

It seems the “season of mist and mellow fruitfulness” will be a bountiful one for the Shreves. But when a charismatic young woman wearing a grief amulet that contains a lock of her dead brother’s hair and a dark secret becomes part of their lives, the success of Sisters and Strangers and the future of Taylor and Vale’s relationship are jeopardized, and only Joanne and Zack can put an end to the threat.

My Thoughts:

Joanne Shreve and her husband Zack are enjoying the last days of summer, determined to spend more time together and less time at work. But strange things are happening at MediaNation. They are about to air the line-up of fall programs which includes Sisters and Strangers, a six-part series co-written by Joanne about her early life. Then people start to disappear. Joanne and Zack are drawn into the search for answers when information comes to light about a group of four young people who are prepared to break the law in their quest to get to the top.

An Image in the Lake is classic Gail Bowen. Plenty of colourful and familiar faces show up, and we catch up with Joanne’s children and grandchildren. The meandering twists and turns that make Bowen one of Canada’s best mystery writers lead us on a slow but dark and entertaining path to the truth. Joanne (Kilbourn) Shreve is one of my favourite fictional characters. There is a calmness and a self-assuredness about her that is immensely appealing. After reading this book, I can tell you she is a lot for forgiving then I am. She’s also a wonderful example of a woman in her fifties who lives life to the fullest. Her life is never perfect but it’s always compelling.

I really enjoyed this book. And always love a Canadian setting. We need more of those. I would definitely recommend it.

An Image in the Lake is set in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada! My home city. I love reading books set in Regina. Regina is also a great city to visit with lots of fun activities and opportunities to offer visitors!

Check out Must Do Canada for other traveling Canada inspiration!

Until next time…

Have you read any great mysteries lately? Or any of Gail Bowen’s other books in her Joanne Kilbourn series?

The Sweet Promise of June

June with its tentative greens and cool mornings. I love June mornings. With my tea in hand, I take a tour of the yard taking note of how my plants are doing, listening to the birds chatter. We’ve having a heatwave right now, with heat warnings and everything. Which is weird for Saskatchewan this time of year. It’s more the ten degrees above the normal temperature. I sense there is wild weather on the horizon.

Lilacs are another of my favourite things about June. This sweet Sensation Lilac is a new addition to our yard. But as the days stretch longer and longer, other delights are making their presence known. Chicks and hen, sedum (another favourite of mine), and my ornamental alliums. All hardy, zone 3 perennials. Great for prairie gardening.

“The smell of moist earth and lilacs hung in the air like wisps of the past and hints of the future.”

Margaret Millar

June feels like it should be a season of its own and last a little longer before we springboard into summer. Where we rush trying to fit it all in before the seasons turn again.

Reading:

An Image In the Lake by Gail Bowen – ARC (Advance Reader Copy) – ebook. Early impressions: Just happy to be catching up with Joanne and the gang again, and waiting to see who dies. LOL Will follow up later with a review.

Hellion by Bertrice Small – audiobook. Early impressions: or more accurately – middle book of the book (I think). Also known as the point where this book swerves sideways into What The Hell is going on territory. This is my first Bertrice Small book, and…I just don’t know…

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel by Lisa Cron – Print book. Early Impressions: So far, interesting. I’ll be working through the suggestions and exploring the idea for a new series as I read it.

Podcasts:

Fated Mates: A Romance Novel Podcast For romance novel enthusiasts!

What Should I Read Next?: A Book Recommendation Podcast For those looking for reading suggestions!

The Medievalist Podcast: Where The Middle Ages Begin For those, like me, who love nerdy facts about the Middle Ages.

Until next time…

What are you reading to? Or share some of your favourite things to grow? I’m always on the lookout for recommendations!

Love Audiobooks

Escaping our daily worries can be a challenge, especially these days, and it is no secret that reading can be a powerful tool in balancing our mental health. So, don’t let anyone tell you it’s not reading. Listening to audiobooks provides the same benefits as reading print or ebooks. Each of them is a different experience, but each are valuable. Audiobooks are simply a different way to consume content. They offer us an opportunity to fit books into our day in a new way.

Ways I Listen to Audiobooks and Some Suggestions:

I don’t know about you, but I get tired of listening to the latest hit single on the radio for the 100th time, so instead I might listen to something like Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, narrated by Rosamund Pike. Hopefully we’ll be out in our yards and gardens soon. This is one of my favourite times to listen to audiobooks. What better way to pass the time pulling weeds, then listening to something by Nora Roberts, like Northern Lights, narrated by Gary Littman. I’m also clumsy. But I can walk and listen without the fear of getting a concussion. Maybe try a Susanna Kearsley book, like her latest The Winter Sea, narrated by Rosalind Landor. And, these days, when keeping our distance is essential, why not try listening to Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert, narrated by Adjoa Andoh, while shopping for groceries and take the boring out of picking out fruit.

The popularity of audiobooks show there is a real thirst for audio content. And as much as audiobooks are for those of us who love reading, they are also popular who people who don’t love books. Not everyone consumes content in the same way. As much as they are a boon to those of us who can’t read enough, they are essential to people who can’t read print or ebooks.

The video below has some great tips on how to get started with audiobooks!

I’m always about romance novel recommendations! Check out Audiofile Magazine’s Listen To These Five Scandalous Romances. “Judge for yourself if these couples are outrageous, skirting propriety, or simply falling in love on their own terms.” With audiobooks by Mary Balogh, Olivia Dade, Rosie Danan, Carly Phillips, and Hadley Beckett.

My romantic suspense series, Aspen Lake (Backlash, Exposed, and Gone), is available in audiobook. So is my romantic suspense, Off The Grid.

I read all three types of books: print, ebook, and audiobook. I don’t have a preference. I just love reading!

Until next time…

Do you enjoy audiobooks? Do you have a favourite narrator? When do you listen to audiobooks? Or drop a recommendation in the comments!

Costume Changes

When it comes to creating a character’s personal style it’s not only fun but necessary to use imagery to emphasize personality. Style is a very visual representation of a character’s personality. Just as a character’s style can change to enhance the advancement of their character arc. Like us humans out in the real world, characters have their good days and their bad ones, often in extremes. How they dress or put themselves together can help reflect their state of mind.

Besides the obvious fact of characters having to wear clothes and having those clothes be appropriate to the story and setting, there is something to be learned from costume designers who provide that imagery in movies and on television. There are incredible examples of costuming in television right now and I have a couple of absolute favourites.

Did anyone else binge watch Bridgerton on Netflix as soon as possible? It’s so lavish and decadent and the costuming is an incredible example of what it takes to build a swoon-worthy period drama for television. Lord have mercy, this show!

Bridgerton features approximately 7,500 costume pieces!

The Netflix series Bridgerton costume designer, Ellen Mirojnick, explained to Vogue that “each family and character tells a story through their clothes. Given the sheer number of people on camera, the Bridgerton costume department had to create elaborate outfits complete with headpieces and gloves. Quickly numbering in the thousands, the show had an entire warehouse dedicated to wardrobe and 238 people in the costume department.” 

She also explained why we didn’t see bonnets and the linen dresses authentic to the time period and why the costumes are a contemporary nod to the regency era. I love the fresh approach, the diversity, and the entertaining and witty nod to women in positions of power in an era that worked hard to restrict the advancement of women.

My second favourite is The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. When is the next season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel coming? We need you Midge!

It’s funny, it’s profane, the clothes in this show. Are. The. Best. And how can we not love Midge as she pursues her passion in spite of overwhelming odds.

“Why do women have to pretend to be something that they’re not? Why do we have to pretend to be stupid when we’re not stupid? Why do we have to pretend to be helpless when we’re not helpless? Why do we have to pretend to be sorry when we have nothing to be sorry about? Why do we have to pretend we’re not hungry when we’re hungry?” – Midge Maisel

Donna Zakowska, costumer designer for The Marvelous Mrs. Masiel who’s stunning way with colour says, “These sort of elements really assert the character’s personality. In a way, Midge is a character that never gives in, even if something terrible is going on. It’s always about putting your best foot forward and an optimism that runs in the character.”

I love Midge’s undaunted spirit and her need to speak her mind, to be heard, and stubborn when confronted with a world that means to keep her inside the box it designated for her. And her clothes tell that story. The colour she wears as she goes about her daily life and the black dresses and pearls she wears on stage when she performs her stream of consciousness comedy act. It is, indeed, marvelous.

The following quote is taken from The Secret Lives of Costumes. It’s a great look into the world of costume design.

“I take my cues from the characters and their surroundings as written in the play, as well as from the stylistic choices of the production. In the same way that an actor builds upon the framework of traits and actions of his or her character in the story, I read what the character does and says for clues about what they might wear. I also need to think about how best to reflect a character’s evolution through the development of the story. Sometimes the character is best served by creating contrast between how a character behaves and what he or she looks like.”  Judith Bowden, Canadian Designer

It’s something to think about when creating characters and that it can be much more than adding in interesting bits and quirks. We need to think about style in terms of character development. We all know Eliza Doolittle undergoes a transformation in My Fair Lady. Usually a character’s evolution is not that obvious in terms of wardrobe. Nor is usually as lavish as in Bridgerton or as bold as in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. But using subtle changes can make an impact, too.

Do you love a certain TV character’s style? Have a favorite costume from a movie? Use wardrobe changes as a tool in your own writing?

A Summer Tea Party

Doing summer during a pandemic takes some creative ingenuity. But trust my daughter to come up with a fun activity. A tea party, which proved to be an excellent stay-at-home activity.

Everyone should have tea parties. They are a blast. Hats, ties, special treats, china cups and laughter. That’s a win in a time of anxious uncertainty.

And what a way to engage the imagination. We got very adventurous and made pavlova nests we filled with a lemon curd. I would definitely make these delightful little nests again using the right type of piping bag and decorating tip. Kudos to my sister for doing an amazing job despite the improvised tools. Also, I baked them a smidge too long and they weren’t a nice crisp white. But they tasted delicious. And practice makes better!

Menu decided, we dressed up, donned hats and ties, and sipped from china cups my mom donated for the occasion. We gave ourselves fancy names and thought of as many British words as we could manage.

Until next time…

Who else has had to think outside the box for activities this summer?

Photo of the Week: Summertime

I took a beginners photography class this spring – part in person and part online – because of the Covid. I love taking pictures. I can’t wait to get out there with a camera and take more pictures as I’ve got a black and white project in mind for a very blank wall that needs some creative touches. Also, photography is one of the ways I recharge my creative batteries. And in these uncertain times, that is a must.

This photo won’t be used in any art project, but it is a glimpse of our new backyard patio area where we love spending time. This space used to be a no-man land’s of wasted side/front yard that never saw any use. We’ve reclaimed it as part of our backyard and we couldn’t be happier with the results. And, again, in this new normal we’re adjusting to, this space has seen a lot of use because we simply aren’t out and about as much.

What I’m reading: Child of Mine by Jana Richards

Favourite Podcast of the Moment: Fated Mates: A Romance Novel Podcast with Sarah MacLean and Jen Prokop

Until next time…

Have you created any new spaces for yourself? Or found any safe, new spots to spend time in this summe?