Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Winter Sister by Megan Collins

The Winter Sister
By: Megan Collins
Narrated by: Rebekkah Ross

Book Cover

Published: February 2019
Published by: Simon & Schuster Audio
Format Read: Audiobook, Audible
Genre: Mystery

Rating: 3.5/5

Note: I was sent a copy of Megan Collins The Winter Garden, from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. This is my review of the audio book.

Synopsis

In this spellbinding and suspenseful debut, a young woman haunted by the past returns home to care for her ailing mother and begins to dig deeper into her sister’s unsolved murder.

Sixteen years ago, Sylvie’s sister Persephone never came home. Out too late with the boyfriend she was forbidden to see, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found—and years later, her murder remains unsolved.

In the present day, Sylvie returns home to care for her estranged mother, Annie, as she undergoes treatment for cancer. Prone to unexplained “Dark Days” even before Persephone’s death, Annie’s once-close bond with Sylvie dissolved in the weeks after their loss, making for an uncomfortable reunion all these years later. Worse, Persephone’s former boyfriend, Ben, is now a nurse at the cancer center where Annie is being treated. Sylvie’s always believed Ben was responsible for the murder—but she carries her own guilt about that night, guilt that traps her in the past while the world goes on around her.

As she navigates the complicated relationship with her mother, Sylvie begins to uncover the secrets that fill their house—and what really happened the night Persephone died. As it turns out, the truth really will set you free, once you can bear to look at it.

The Winter Sister is a mesmerizing portrayal of the complex bond between sisters, between mothers and daughters alike, and forces us to ask ourselves—how well do we really know the people we love most?

My Thoughts

Megan Collins debut novel follows a woman who reluctantly returns to her hometown to care for her ailing mother, meanwhile the death of her older sister, years before still haunts and riddles her with grief. Can she get to the bottom of what really happened on that winter night?

The relationships in this book were as cold as its title. The way the characters spoke to each other was terrible and set an uncomfortable tone to all their interactions. The narrator especially did a great job of portraying the mother as a miserable and unfeeling person.

I enjoyed the pacing of this novel and while I did like the mystery, I didn’t find it as thrilling or suspenseful as I anticipated.

Although I was able to predict the outcome, it was a good read that I would recommend to fans of the genre.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Mother/Daughter Buddy Read 1: Secrets of the Lighthouse

Growing up reading was a big part of my childhood. In fact I would say that my love for books came from both of my parents, although my reading taste is more similar to that of my Mom’s. One of our favourite things to do together is to share and talk about books.

While unpacking my numerous boxes of books I discovered that I had two copies of Santa Montefiore’s Secrets of the Lighthouse. I gave one copy to my mom and kept the other for myself. We decided to both read it at the same time and so we officially did our first Mother/Daughter buddy read.

Secrets of the Lighthouse
By: Santa Montefiore

Book Cover

Published: January 2013
Published by: Simon Schuster
Format Read: Hardcover
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis

Ellen Trawton is running away from it all—quite literally. She is due to get married to a man she doesn’t love, her job is dragging her down, and her interfering mother is getting on her nerves. So she escapes to the one place she know her mother won’t follow her—to her aunt’s house in rural Ireland. Once there, she uncovers a dark family secret—and a future she never knew she might have.

Meanwhile, Caitlin Macausland is mourning the future she can never have. She died tragically in what the village thinks is suspicious circumstances, and now she is stuck in a limbo, unable to move on.

And between the two of them is an old lighthouse—the scene of so much tragedy. Can each woman find the peace she so desperately longs for? And can they find the way to live again?

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Secrets of the Lighthouse follows Ellen Trawton, a privileged woman who runs away to Ireland and discovers a family she didn’t know she had. Meanwhile the rural seaside town she escapes to is defined by family loyalty and tradition.

My Mom and I have both read Santa Montefiore in the past. While we both enjoyed The Girl in the Castle, I did find it to be drawn out. Thankfully I did not find this novel to be this way. We found the descriptions of the small Irish village to be beautiful and the reading experience was made even more enjoyable by being able to discuss it as we read along.

There is a supernatural element to this storyline that I was unsure of at first. However in the end I thought that the author presented it in a way that was thought provoking.

My Mom and I both recommend Secrets of the Lighthouse by Santa Montefiore to fans of contemporary fiction, with a pinch of magical realism. We both look forward to reading more from this author and sharing more buddy reads in the future.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Anna’s Crossing (Amish Beginnings, 1) by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Anna’s Crossing
(Amish Beginnings, 1)
By: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Book Cover

Published: February 2015
Published by: Revell
Format Read: eBook, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis

When Anna König first meets Bairn, the Scottish ship carpenter of the Charming Nancy, their encounter is anything but pleasant. Anna is on the ship only to ensure the safe arrival of her loved ones to the New World. Hardened by years of living at sea, Bairn resents toting these naïve farmers–dubbed “Peculiars” by deckhands–across the ocean. As delays, storms, illness, and diminishing provisions afflict crew and passengers alike, Bairn finds himself drawn to Anna’s serene nature. For her part, Anna can’t seem to stay below deck and far away from the aloof ship’s carpenter, despite warnings.

When an act of sacrifice leaves Anna in a perilous situation, Bairn discovers he may not have left his faith as firmly in the past as he thought. But has the revelation come too late?

Amish fiction favorite Suzanne Woods Fisher brings her fans back to the beginning of Amish life in America with this fascinating glimpse into the first ocean crossing as seen through the eyes of a devout young woman and an irreverent man. Blending the worlds of Amish and historical fiction, Fisher is sure to delight her longtime fans even as she attracts new ones with her superb and always surprise-filled writing.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

In this series, Suzanne Woods Fisher chronicles the journey early Amish settlers took to the New World in the 1730’s. Readers follow a young woman named Anna, who travels with members of her community aboard a ship called “Charming Nancy” bound for Pennsylvania. As the only person in their group who spoke English, Anna acts as translator finding herself often dealing with Bairn, the ships carpenter and third in command.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is one of my favourite Amish fiction writers; a genre I have cherished reading in recent years. While I have read many historical fiction books in the Christian genre, this is the first I’ve read that follows this particular group.

I was interested in learning how the Amish faith differed in this time period, compared to other more commonly practiced religions. Along with their fellow Mennonite passengers they were known as “the peculiars”. The Amish of the 1700’s stood out in appearance, much like they do today sporting different beards and prayer caps. Although the author wrote of their peaceful and giving nature, I didn’t feel that their was much of a comparison told.

I have come to realize that most fiction in this genre centers around faith being tested. Usually one character is a strong believer, while the other struggles with it. Anna’s Crossing is no different, so I did find the story to be predictable, but I am happy to say that I still appreciated the message it tells.

I highly recommend Suzanne Woods Fisher’s Anna’s Crossing. I am looking forward to reading more about the early Amish settlers and how they began to plant their roots in the New World.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
By: Dawnie Walton

Book Cover

Published: March 2021
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Format Read: eBook, Kindle, ARC, NetGalley
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5

NOTE: I was sent a copy of The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton, from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

A poignant fictional oral history of the beloved rock ‘n’ roll duo who shot to fame in the 1970s New York, and the dark, fraught secret that lies at the peak of their stardom.

Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can’t imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job—despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar’s amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records.

In early seventies New York City, just as she’s finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal’s bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth.

Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo’s most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything.

Provocative and chilling, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev features a backup chorus of unforgettable voices, a heroine the likes of which we’ve not seen in storytelling, and a daring structure, and introduces a bold new voice in contemporary fiction.

My Thoughts

Like many other readers, I was intrigued to read The Final Revival of Opal and Nev, after seeing it being compared to Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Like that book, Dawnie Walton tells this story in an interview format. However where Daisy Jones and the Six focuses on emotional lyrics, Opal and Nev explores more of a social justice point of view.

While I don’t think that the music this unlikely pair would have released would have been my cup of tea, I could definitely appreciate how they would have made an impression with their originality. Opal especially was a strong character, although she wasn’t perfect. I liked how she became a leader for those who were seen as different and not accepted by society.

Author Dawnie Walton did not shy away from tackling difficult topics including; feminism and racial injustices. I would recommend it to readers who are looking for an impactful book that explores those topics.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

After You (Me Before You, 2) by Jojo Moyes

After You
(Me Before You, 2)
By: Jojo Moyes

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Published: December 2016
Published by: Penguin Group
Format Read: Paperback
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Series

Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis

The sequel to Me Before You, which is now a major motion picture.”We all lose what we love at some point, but in her poignant, funny way, Moyes reminds us that even if it’s not always happy, there is an ever after.” —Miami Herald

“You’re going to feel uncomfortable in your new world for a bit. But I hope you feel a bit exhilarated too. Live boldly. Push yourself. Don’t settle. Just live well. Just live. Love, Will.”

How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?

Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.

Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding–the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future. . . .

For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await. 

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

I enjoyed this story of moving on after tragedy. Lou’s family brought a touch of humor to the sad situation and Ambulance Sam was a great love interest. However I found the plot moved along slowly, which I should have expected as the first book was written in the same vein. I wonder if this is just the style of Jojo Moyes’ writing?

I highly advise readers to read Me Before You, first before picking up this sequel, as it will spoil the outcome of the first book. I would recommend After You to fans of the contemporary romance genre.

Challenges · Currently Reading · Recommendations · Wrap-ups

Monthly Wrap-up: February 2021

Total Books Read in February: 3
Total Books Read in 2021: 7

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Verity
By: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
Rating: 5/5

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Buried Deep
By: Margot Hunt

Genre: Audio book, Short Story, Mystery
Rating: 5/5

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After You
By: Jojo Moyes

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Series
Rating: 3.5/5

The Stats

Total Number of Books Read: 3
Total Number of Fiction: 3
Total Number of Non-Fiction: 0
Total Books Sent for Review: 0
Total Books Read from My Shelves: 3
Total Library Books Read: 0

Formats Read

Physical Books: 1
eBooks:
 1
Audio Books: 
1

Currently Reading

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Book Reviews · Character Spotlight · Recommendations

The Number of Love (The Codebreakers 1) by Roseanna M. White

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The Number of Love
(The Codebreakers, 1)
By: Roseanna M. White

Published: June 2019
Published by: Bethany House Publishers
Format Read: eBook, ARC, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3.5/5

NOTE: I was sent a copy of The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White, from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

Three years into the Great War, England’s greatest asset is their intelligence network—field agents risking their lives to gather information, and codebreakers able to crack every German telegram. Margot De Wilde thrives in the environment of the secretive Room 40, where she spends her days deciphering intercepted messages. But when her world is turned upside down by an unexpected loss, for the first time in her life numbers aren’t enough.

Drake Elton returns wounded from the field, followed by an enemy that just won’t give up. He’s smitten quickly by the too-intelligent Margot, but how to convince a girl who lives entirely in her mind that sometimes life’s answers lie in the heart?

Amidst biological warfare, encrypted letters, and a German spy who wants to destroy not just them, but others they love, Margot and Drake will have to work together to save them all from the very secrets that brought them together.

Source: Goodsreads

My Thoughts

The Number of Love is the first book in a new series by Roseanna M White, called The Codebreakers. Fans of this Christian fiction author may already be familiar with some of the characters in this book from her previous series Shadows Over England.

I was attracted to the synopsis of The Number of Love at the mention of intelligence working to decipher enemy codes. I have previously learned about code breakers in World War II and was eager to learn about their World War I counterparts.

Margot De Wilde was a very unique character. I appreciate how the author wrote her as an indispensable asset to Room 40, despite her differences. This book shined a light on how people who may not interact in a way that is considered socially “normal”, or experience feelings like the majority, are indeed worthy of love and friendship. Although her understanding of mathematics went far over my own head, I found the way she interpreted the numbers in her head to be fascinating.

I would highly recommend The Number of Love by Roseanna M White, to fans of Christian historical fiction.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

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The Flatshare
By: Beth O’Leary

Published: May 2019
Published by: Flatiron Books
Format Read: Hardcover
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis

Tiffy and Leon share an apartment. Tiffy and Leon have never met.

After a bad breakup, Tiffy Moore needs a place to live. Fast. And cheap. But the apartments in her budget have her wondering if astonishingly colored mold on the walls counts as art.

Desperation makes her open minded, so she answers an ad for a flatshare. Leon, a night shift worker, will take the apartment during the day, and Tiffy can have it nights and weekends. He’ll only ever be there when she’s at the office. In fact, they’ll never even have to meet.

Tiffy and Leon start writing each other notes – first about what day is garbage day, and politely establishing what leftovers are up for grabs, and the evergreen question of whether the toilet seat should stay up or down. Even though they are opposites, they soon become friends. And then maybe more.

But falling in love with your roommate is probably a terrible idea…especially if you’ve never met.

What if your roommate is your soul mate? A joyful, quirky romantic comedy, Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare is a feel-good novel about finding love in the most unexpected of ways.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

One of the most read releases of 2019 was Beth O’Leary’s debut novel The Flatshare. When I first read the synopsis, I knew I had to read it. The premise of two people who haven’t met sharing a flat and a bed, communicating via notes sounded like a great idea for a contemporary novel.

Tiffy and Leon were interesting characters that I could relate to. Written in dual perspective, Beth O’Leary really gave her characters their own distinct voices. I can understand why some people didn’t like how Leon’s sections were written but I thought it stayed true to his personality.

The story took a very serious turn, that I wasn’t quite expecting, as the tone of the book started in more of a lighter contemporary style. It is for this reason that I advise caution, as it might be a trigger to some people due to the subject matter.

Other aspects of The Flatshare, I enjoyed included how Tiffy and Leon got to know each other and Leon’s relationships with his patients at the hospice.

But for some reason this book didn’t captivate me like I anticipated, nor did it garner a 5 star rating. With so many aspects that I did enjoy, I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps it was the slow pace, or maybe it was the shift in the tone.

Regardless, I would still recommend The Flatshare to fans of slow burn contemporaries.

Book Reviews · Read-a-thons · Recommendations

The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth

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The Mother-in-Law
By: Sally Hepworth

Published: January 2019
Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Format Read: Hardcover
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery

Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis

A twisty, compelling novel about one woman’s complicated relationship with her mother-in-law that ends in murder…

From the moment Lucy met her husband’s mother, Diana, she was kept at arm’s length. Diana was exquisitely polite, and properly friendly, but Lucy knew that she was not what Diana envisioned. But who could fault Diana? She was a pillar of the community, an advocate for social justice who helped female refugees assimilate to their new country. Diana was happily married to Tom, and lived in wedded bliss for decades. Lucy wanted so much to please her new mother-in-law.

That was five years ago.

Now, Diana has been found dead, a suicide note near her body. Diana claims that she no longer wanted to live because of a battle with cancer.

But the autopsy finds no cancer.

The autopsy does find traces of poison and suffocation.

Who could possibly want Diana dead?

Why was her will changed at the eleventh hour to disinherit both of her adult children and their spouses?

With Lucy’s secrets getting deeper and her relationship with her mother-in-law growing more complex as the pages turn, this new novel from Sally Hepworth is sure to add to her growing legion of fans.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

I picked up Sally Hepworth’s The Mother-in-Law, expecting it to be a fast mystery thriller. The cover describes the characters in this book to all have something to hide, so I anticipated suspenseful reveals. In reality, I would categorize this novel as more of a contemporary, family drama. It was however, a quick read and made for a good selection for a read-a-thon.

Discovering the truth behind Diana’s death kept me engrossed, but I found the interactions and reactions of the characters throughout to have been strange. It was hard to figure out which character we (as the reader) were supposed to sympathize with, as there were questionable qualities about every single one. I welcomed the Australian setting, as I have read very few books from that country.

My thoughts are conflicted about The Mother-in-Law, even though I couldn’t put it down. I’m interested in reading reviews from other readers to see if they felt the same as I do. I would recommend it to those who enjoy family dramas and I would consider reading more from Sally Hepworth.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Pros vs. Cons Review: A Certain Age (A Certain Age, 1) by Beatriz Williams

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A Certain Age
(A Certain Age, #1)
By Beatriz Williams

Published: June 2016
Published by: William Morrow
Format Read: Hardcover
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance

Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis

The bestselling author of A Hundred Summers brings the Roaring Twenties brilliantly to life in this enchanting and compulsively readable tale of intrigue, romance, and scandal in New York Society, brimming with lush atmosphere, striking characters, and irresistible charm.

As the freedom of the Jazz Age transforms New York City, the iridescent Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue and Southampton, Long Island, has done the unthinkable: she’s fallen in love with her young paramour, Captain Octavian Rofrano, a handsome aviator and hero of the Great War. An intense and deeply honorable man, Octavian is devoted to the beautiful socialite of a certain age and wants to marry her. While times are changing and she does adore the Boy, divorce for a woman of Theresa’s wealth and social standing is out of the question, and there is no need; she has an understanding with Sylvo, her generous and well-respected philanderer husband.

But their relationship subtly shifts when her bachelor brother, Ox, decides to tie the knot with the sweet younger daughter of a newly wealthy inventor. Engaging a longstanding family tradition, Theresa enlists the Boy to act as her brother’s cavalier, presenting the family’s diamond rose ring to Ox’s intended, Miss Sophie Fortescue—and to check into the background of the little-known Fortescue family. When Octavian meets Sophie, he falls under the spell of the pretty ingénue, even as he uncovers a shocking family secret. As the love triangle of Theresa, Octavian, and Sophie progresses, it transforms into a saga of divided loyalties, dangerous revelations, and surprising twists that will lead to a shocking transgression … and eventually force Theresa to make a bittersweet choice.

Full of the glamour, wit and delicious twists that are the hallmarks of Beatriz Williams’ fiction and alternating between Sophie’s spirited voice and Theresa’s vibrant timbre, A Certain Age is a beguiling reinterpretation of Richard Strauss’s comic opera Der Rosenkavalier, set against the sweeping decadence of Gatsby’s New York.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts: Pros vs. Cons

The Pros

  • I was instantly drawn in by the New York City high society plot, set in the 1920s.
  • The inclusion of newspaper columns in the style of a gossip writer reminded me of the Luxe Series by Anna Godbersen, only with an older cast of characters.
  • Theresa and Sophie’s characters were well written and complex. In fact they were each others opposite, which was interesting.
  • Theresa felt very authentic to the time period. From her style to her ideals and language, she was typical for a high society New Yorker of the era.
  • I liked how the quotes by Helen Rowland tied into each chapter.

The Cons

  • Theresa’s story was told in first person, whereas Sophie’s was not. I found this slightly irritating, however in the end I do understand why the author decided to tell the story this way.
  • I was captivated by the premise of the mystery and I thought that A Certain Age would garner 4 stars, however the way it unfolded turned out to be very anti-climatic, in my opinion.

In Conclusion

A Certain Age had a lot of potential, unfortunately it didn’t quite live up to what I thought it would. I do believe that it is worthy of reading and I do plan on giving Beatriz Williams another try.