Book Reviews · Recommendations

Winter at the Beach (Moonlight Harbor, 2) by Sheila Roberts

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Winter at the Beach
(Moonlight Harbor, 2)
By: Sheila Roberts

Published: October 2018
Published by: MIRA
Format Read: Paperback
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Holiday Story

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis

USA TODAY bestselling author Sheila Roberts takes readers on a wintry trip to the harbor in her latest holiday novel…

The town of Moonlight Harbor needs to convince tourists that the beach is still the place to be—even when the sunshine goes south for the winter. Jenna Jones, new proprietor of The Driftwood Inn, has the perfect idea: a holiday festival called Seaside with Santa.

Jenna is happy to throw herself into planning the event. With all the decorating, preparation and extra reservations at the inn because of the festival—and with two wonderful but very different men hoping to claim more of her time and her heart—Jenna is busy. Busy, but happy. Even with her troublesome ex in the picture, life feels as close to perfect as she’s ever known.

Until the weather turns her festival into a farce. Suddenly Mother Nature is not only raining on Jenna’s parade, the old bat’s trying to blow the floats and their princesses out to sea. Soon everyone is without power and the road out of town is blocked. And Jenna has a full motel.

After the generator conks out, she’s not so sure she and her guests will make it through to the New Year in one piece. But with a little pulling together and a lot of holiday spirit, everyone might find that life—and Christmas—is always good at the beach.

My Thoughts

The Holiday season is fast approaching, in this second installment of Sheila Roberts Moonlight Harbor series. In desperate need to bring more guests to her Inn, during the off season, Jenna comes up with an idea for another festival.

It was nice to be reunited with the characters in the small town of Moonlight Harbor, picking up only a couple of months after book one left off. With Christmas fast approaching, Jenna presents the towns business people with the idea of hosting a Seaside with Santa festival which would include; a Santa Claus parade, vendors on the pier and contests. Naturally they think her idea is brilliant and set to work making the arrangements.

This was a cute story, although predictable. My favourite character Aunt Edie, is the heart of this series and anyone would be lucky to be stranded in her home. Reading about all the delicious food she would make, made me long for the holiday season. And readers can try out some of the tasty treats for themselves with the inclusion of several recipes at the back of the book.

Unfortunately, I liked the main character Jenna less in book two than I did in the first installment. It was as if she was the first person to ever suggest Christmas festivities. Her so-called “love triangle” was so uneventful that it became boring when it was mentioned over and over again. However there were some sweet moments and the novel did keep my attention.

Winter at the Beach was a quick and cozy holiday novel that I would recommend to those who enjoy stories in the Hallmark style.

Additional Notes

Moonlight Harbor Series by Sheila Roberts

1. Welcome to Moonlight Harbor

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Book Reviews · Recommendations

Mini Audio Book Reviews: August-September 2019

Today I am sharing my quick thoughts on the audiobooks I listened to during the months of August and September.

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It’s Not What It Looks Like
By: Molly Burke
Narrated by: Molly Burke
Published: August 2019
Published by: Audible Original
Genre: Memoir
Format Read: Audiobook, Audible
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

Listening Length: 3 hours and 5 minutes

In an audiobook like none you’ve ever heard before, blind YouTube star Molly Burke speaks with authenticity and candor about being a purple-haired, pink-loving fashion and makeup lover in a seeing world.

Diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, Burke has been legally blind since age five, and became completely sightless as a teenager. Here, she tackles the preconceived notions we have around blindness, her struggles with bullying and anxiety, inclusivity, how she built her successful influencer business (with over 1.8 million followers), and what it’s really like to travel the globe with her service dog, Gallop, now that everyone has an emotional support animal. (Hint: Really hard!)

This is a beautifully voiced, honest, and rousing journey of a young woman who has made it her mission to make us see her and the disability community in a totally new way.

Quick Thoughts

I came across Molly Burke’s It’s Not What It Looks Like, when perusing Audible one day. I had not heard of the YouTube star and motivational speaker before, but was instantly intrigued by her story. Despite her medical problems and struggle with mental health, this was quite an upbeat and optimistic memoir. I especially found it interesting learning about the process of obtaining a service dog. I would highly recommend It’s Not What It Looks Like to those who enjoy memoirs. This would also be a great book for young people and their parents who may be struggling with health problems.

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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
By: Deborah Moggach
Narrated by: Nina Wadia
Published: February 2012
Published by: W.F. Howes
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Format Read: Audiobook, Audible App.
Rating: 3/5

Synopsis:

When Ravi Kapoor, an over-worked London doctor, is driven beyond endurance by his disgusting and difficult father-in-law, he asks his wife: ‘Can’t we just send him away somewhere?

Somewhere far, far away.’ His prayer seems to have been answered when his entrepreneurial cousin, Sonny, sets up a retirement home, recreating a lost corner of England in a converted guesthouse in Bangalore. Travel and set-up are inexpensive, staff willing and plentiful – and the British pensioners can enjoy the hot weather and take mango juice with their gin.

These Foolish Things is a brilliant comedy of manners, mixing acute observation with a deeper message about how different cultures cope in the modern world…

Quick Thoughts

A few years ago I saw the movie adaptation of Deborah Moggach’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and absolutely loved it. I was happy to have found the audio version on Audible and was eager to find out if I loved the book as much. Like in the movie, it compares the British culture to that of the Indian, in a way that was both humorous and touching. I enjoyed reading of these comparisons and found the differences to be quite fascinating. Unfortunately, however I didn’t love the book as much as the film, as I had a hard time keeping track of the numerous characters. Still I think it is a good representation of how the older generations are affected by the modern world and I would recommend to those interested in learning about different cultures.


Book Reviews · Recommendations

A Family of Strangers by Emilie Richards

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A Family of Strangers
By: Emilie Richards

Published: June 2019
Published by: Kindle Edition
Format Read: ARC, Net Galley, eBook, Kindle App
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery

Rating: 3.5/5

NOTE: I was sent a copy of A Family of Strangers by Emilie Richards from the publisher, via Net Galley, in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

Could a lifetime of memories…be a lifetime of lies?

All her life Ryan Gracey watched her perfect older sister from afar. Knowing she could never top Wendy’s achievements, she didn’t even try. Instead Ryan forged her own path while her family barely seemed to notice.

Now Wendy shares two little girls with her perfect husband while Ryan mourns the man she lost after a nearly fatal mistake in judgment. The sisters’ choices have taken them in different directions, which is why Ryan is stunned when Wendy calls, begging for her help. There’s been a murder—and Wendy believes she’ll be wrongfully accused.

While Wendy lays low, Ryan moves back to their hometown to care for the nieces she hardly knows. The sleuthing skills she’s refined as a true-crime podcaster quickly rise to the surface as she digs for answers with the help of an unexpected ally. Yet the trail of clues Wendy’s left behind lead to nothing but questions. Blood may be thicker than water, but what does Ryan owe a sister who, with every revelation, becomes more and more a stranger?

Is Wendy, who always seemed so perfect, just a perfect liar—or worse?

-Goodreads

My Thoughts

What would you do if your sibling was in trouble and turned to you for help, no questions asked? What if you learned that your loved one wasn’t the person you thought you were? That is exactly what happens to Ryan Gracey, the main character in Emilie Richards novel A Family of Strangers.

Although I found this story to be predictable, reading as the mystery of Ryan’s sister Wendy unfolded, kept my attention.

What fascinated me the most was Ryan’s podcast Out in the Cold and how she explored unsolved crimes. I wish that this would have played more into the overall story. In fact I think that this would have made for an interesting premise for a book on its own. Instead her sluthing skills, she gained in her career assisted her in uncovering the truth behind Wendy’s disappearance.

Although A Family of Strangers wasn’t as thrilling as I hoped, I would still recommend it to fans of the mystery genre.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Mini Contemporary Reviews: April-May 2019

Today I would like to share with you two reviews of contemporary books, that I read during the months of April and May.

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Me Before You
By: Jojo Moyes


Published: December 2012
Published by: Penguin Books
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:


The beloved New York Times bestseller—with more than five million copies sold—by the author of One Plus One and The Girl You Left Behind

They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A Love Story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

-Goodreads

Quick Thoughts

Me Before You is a beautiful story of the relationship between a man whose life has been forever altered and the women who is hired to assist him. This book made me cry, smile and laugh. I couldn’t put it down. Yes it’s subject matter is quite controversial, however I felt that the author did a good job of presenting both sides of the debate. I would highly recommend Jojo Moyes Me Before You to fans of contemporary fiction and books that have been adapted to film.

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Welcome to Moonlight Harbor
(Moonlight Harbor, Book 1)
By: Sheila Roberts

Published: April 2018
Published by: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romace
Format Read: Library Book, Paperback
Rating: 3/5

Synopsis


USA TODAY bestselling author Sheila Roberts returns with a brand-new series set on the charming Washington coast

Once happily married, Jenna Jones is about to turn forty, and this year for her birthday—lucky her—she’s getting a divorce. She’s barely able to support herself and her teenage daughter, but now her deadbeat artist ex is hitting her up for spousal support…and then spending it on his “other” woman.

Still, as her mother always says, every storm brings a rainbow. And when she gets a very unexpected gift from her great-aunt Edie, things seem to be taking a turn for the better. Aging Aunt Edie is finding it difficult to keep up her business running The Driftwood Inn, so she invites Jenna to come live with her and run the place. It looks like Jenna’s financial problems are solved!

Or not. The town is a little more run-down than Jenna remembers, but that’s nothing compared to the ramshackle state of The Driftwood Inn. Aunt Edie is confident they can return it to its former glory, though Jenna feels like she’s jumped from the proverbial frying pan into the beach fire.

But who knows? With the help of her new friends and a couple of handsome citizens, perhaps that rainbow is on the horizon after all. Because, no matter what, life is always good at the beach.

Featuring all the warmth, romance and trademark humor of Sheila Roberts’s writing, this new series will delight longtime fans and welcome a generation of new readers.

Goodreads

Quick Thoughts

Welcome to Moonlight Harbor kicks off Sheila Roberts series of the same name and follows a woman and her daughter starting over after a messy divorce. I am always drawn to stories that feature some sort of renovation and the aspect I enjoyed the most in this book was the refurbishing of the Driftwood Inn. Although it had its cheesy moments and some that made
me roll my eyes, it was a cute story with a light hint of romance. It also featured a colorful cast of characters and encompassed the small town atmosphere. I am interested to see where the author will take this series in her further releases. Welcome to Moonlight Harbor would make for an enjoyable beach read, that I would recommend to fans of contemporary fiction.

Book Reviews

California Girls by Susan Mallery

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California Girls
By: Susan Mallery

Published: February 2019
Published by: MIRA
Format Read: ARC, eBook, Kindle
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Rating: 2.5/5

NOTE: I was sent a copy of California Girls by Susan Mallery, from the publisher, via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis


The California sunshine’s not quite so bright for three sisters who get dumped in the same week…

Finola, a popular LA morning show host, is famously upbeat until she’s blindsided on live TV by news that her husband is sleeping with a young pop sensation who has set their affair to music. While avoiding the tabloids and pretending she’s just fine, she’s crumbling inside, desperate for him to come to his senses and for life to go back to normal.

Zennie’s breakup is no big loss. Although the world insists she pair up, she’d rather be surfing. So agreeing to be the surrogate for her best friend is a no-brainer—after all, she has an available womb and no other attachments to worry about. Except…when everyone else, including her big sister, thinks she’s making a huge mistake, being pregnant is a lot lonelier—and more complicated—than she imagined.

Never the tallest, thinnest or prettiest sister, Ali is used to being overlooked, but when her fiancé sends his disapproving brother to call off the wedding, it’s a new low. And yet Daniel continues to turn up “for support,” making Ali wonder if maybe—for once—someone sees her in a way no one ever has.

But side by side by side, these sisters will start over and rebuild their lives with all the affection, charm and laugh-out-loud humor that is classic Susan Mallery.

-Goodreads

My Thoughts

Susan Mallery’s California Girls is a contemporary fiction that follows three sisters, who all get dumped by their men on the same week. All the bases are covered here: one sister was married, another was engaged to be married and another was dating. Anyone who has ever been through a breakup will find something to relate to in California Girls.

I went into this book looking forward to a quick, heartwarming story about the bond between sisters. After reading the synopsis, I thought that they would really rally around each other to recover from their individual heartbreaks. Even though there were moments where they briefly came together, I felt that there was such a distance between each character. Although this was to be expected considering their upbringing with self-centered parents, it brought a different reading experience than I anticipated.

There were aspects from each sister’s story that I enjoyed including: behind the scenes in the television industry with Finola, Ali’s character development and Zennie’s friendship with Bernie. However I found the climax of events to be incredibly predictable.

Unhealthy diet, eating habits and body image were depicted in a way that I found problematic as it felt as if they were being justified instead of discouraged.

California Girls did keep my attention and had moments that were enjoyable, however I wasn’t able to connect with the characters and the plot as I hoped I would.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Mini 5 Star Historical Fiction Reviews: March 2019

I was fortunate enough to read two books that I rated 5 stars during the month of march. Both of these books were historical fiction. Here are my quick thoughts.

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The Gilded Years
By Karin Tanabe

Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Synopsis:

Passing meets The House of Mirth in this “utterly captivating” (Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author of The Kitchen House) historical novel based on the true story of Anita Hemmings, the first black student to attend Vassar, who successfully passed as white—until she let herself grow too attached to the wrong person.

My Thoughts: The setting of Karin Tanabe’s The Gilded Years was of great interest to me as I am really drawn to books set in New York (state or city) during this time period. Life for young women in college, during a time when very few had the opportunity was fascinating. However it was the importance of Anita Hemmings story that really captivated me. Not only did she make strides during a time of women’s suffrage, but in the civil rights of her own people as well. The Gilded Age would make for a great book club selection as it will open many opportunities for discussion.

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To the Farthest Shores
By: Elizabeth Camden

Read by: Angela Brazil
Synopsis:
It has been six years since army nurse Jenny Bennett’s heart was broken by a dashing naval officer. Now Lieutenant Ryan Gallagher has abruptly reappeared in her life at the Presidio army base but refuses to discuss the inexplicable behavior that destroyed their happiness. Ryan is in an impossible situation. One of the few men in the world qualified to carry out a daring assignment, he accepted a government mission overseas that caused his reputation to be destroyed and broke the heart of the only woman he ever loved. Honor bound never to reveal where he had been during those six years, he can’t tell Jenny the truth or it will endanger an ongoing mission and put thousands of lives at risk. Although Ryan thinks he may have finally found a solution, he can’t pull it off on his own. Loyalty to her country compels Jenny to help, but she never could have imagined the intrigue she and Ryan will have to face or the lengths to which they will have to go to succeed.

My Thoughts: I was pleasantly surprised as to how much I enjoyed Elizabeth Camden’s To The Farthest Shores. There are many different aspects to this story that some may find overwhelming, but I enjoyed each part. The characters were very diverse with very detailed histories including a strong female lead. I was especially intrigued by the comparisons between the American and Japanese cultures. Angela Brazil was a wonderful and optimistic narrator for this audiobook and I hope to listen to more from her in the future. I would highly recommend To the Farthest Shores to fans of Christian historical fiction.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Sky Above Us (Sunrise at Normandy, #2) by Sarah Sundin

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The Sky Above Us
(Sunrise at Normandy, #2)
By: Sarah Sundin

Published: February 2019
Published By: Fleming H. Revell Company
Format Read: ARC, NetGalley, eBook, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Romance, Series

Rating: 4/5

I was sent a copy of The Sky Above Us (Sunrise at Normandy, #2) by Sarah Sundin, from the publisher via Netgalley, in exchange for a honest review.

Synopsis


Numbed by grief and harboring shameful secrets, Lt. Adler Paxton ships to England with the US 357th Fighter Group in 1943. Determined to become an ace pilot, Adler battles the German Luftwaffe in treacherous dogfights in the skies over France as the Allies struggle for control of the air before the D-day invasion.

Violet Lindstrom wanted to be a missionary, but for now she serves in the American Red Cross, where she arranges entertainment for the men of the 357th in the Aeroclub on base and sets up programs for local children. Drawn to the mysterious Adler, she enlists his help with her work and urges him to reconnect with his family after a long estrangement.

Despite himself, Adler finds his defenses crumbling when it comes to Violet. But D-day draws near. And secrets can’t stay buried forever.

Bestselling author Sarah Sundin returns readers to the shores of Normandy, this time in the air, as the second Paxton brother prepares to face the past–and the most fearsome battle of his life.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

The Sky Above Us is the second installment in Sarah Sundin’s series that follows the Paxton family. Tragedy sends them all their separate ways, however the impending Normandy invasion finds the three brothers fighting for their country in different branches of the American armed forces. This installment follows middle brother Adler and an American Red Cross worker named Violet.

Once again I was impressed by the authors knowledge of the invasion as well as the armed forces and Red Cross. I found the American relations with their British hosts to be especially interesting to me.

Adler was a more complex character than Violet. He had a tragic past that he was trying to avoid. I found his attitude in the early pages of this book to be terrible. Violet was more dull in comparison and I often found myself annoyed by her contradicting emotions. I didn’t enjoy their romance as much as I did with the couple in the first book. However they both showed good character growth.

Although I enjoyed The Sea Before Us, more than The Sky Above Us, I still loved the setting as well as learning about the Normandy Invasion from an Air Force perspective. I look forward to reading the third installment in the Sunrise at Normandy series, which is due to be released next year.

Book Reviews · Uncategorized

The Tea House on Mulberry Street by Sharon Owens

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The Tea House on Mulberry Street
By: Sharon Owens
Narrated by: Caroline Winterson

Published: February 2005
Published by: Listen & Live Audio
Format Read: Audio book, Library book, Libby App
Genre: Women’s Fiction

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis

Muldoon’s Tea Rooms, beloved for the cozy atmosphere and luscious desserts, has started looking a bit outdated — and the same could be said about the proprietors, Penny and Daniel Stanley. After seventeen years, their marriage has started to fade and wear a little thin, even as their old shop bustles with the energy of the customers who seek refuge from their particular dilemmas: Housewife Sadie Smith comes to escape her diet and her husband’s stick-thin mistress. Struggling artist Brenda Brown sits and pens love letters to the actor Nicolas Cage. And Clare Fitzgerald returns after twenty years abroad to search for a long-lost someone. Behind the cherry cheesecakes, vanilla ice creams, and chocolate cappuccinos are the stirrings of a revolution that will define lives, heal troubled hearts, and rock the very foundation of the humble teahouse. And through it all, Penny and Daniel manage to discover what truly matters in life and love.

-Goodreads

My Thoughts

Set in 1999, Belfast; The Tea House on Mullberry Street follows the owners and customers of a small cafe. I was instantly reminded of a Maeve Binchy novel, what with a group of unrelated people with one common connection. This connection was the theme of the story and followed how each character dealt with their individual situations. 


It took some time for me to get into the story, but once the plot began to move along, I enjoyed it well enough. 


Caroline Winterson was a great narrator who did justice to the different dialects.


I would recommend it to those who enjoy women’s fiction, like Maeve Binchy. 

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Shattered (Alaskan Courage, #2) by Dani Pettrey

Shattered
(Alaskan Courage, #2)
By Dani Pettrey

Published: February 2013
Published by: Bethany House
Format Read: eBook, Library Book, Libby App
Genre: Suspense, Christian Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Mystery

Rating: 4/5
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Synopsis

Piper McKenna couldn’t be more thrilled that her prodigal brother, Reef, has returned to Yancey, Alaska, after five years. But her happiness is short-lived when Reef appears at her house covered in blood. A fellow snowboarder has been killed–but despite the evidence, Reef swears he’s innocent. And Piper believes him.

Deputy Landon Grainger loves the McKennas like family, but he’s also sworn to find the truth. Piper is frustrated with his need for facts over faith, but he knows those closest to you have the power to deceive you the most. With his sheriff pushing for a quick conviction, some unexpected leads complicate the investigation, and pursuing the truth may mean risking Landon’s career.

With Piper waging her own search, the two head deep into Canada’s rugged backcountry–and unexpected complications. Not only does their long friendship seem to be turning into something more, but this dangerous case is becoming deadlier with each step.

My Thoughts

In 2015 I read and loved the first book in Dani Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage series; Submerged. So naturally I was highly anticipating book 2; Shattered. As with book 1, I was hooked on this story from the start.

Shattered was a fast paced Christian suspense that focused on the death of a professional snowboarder and a family trying to prove their brother’s innocence. I enjoyed the adventure Piper and Landon went on to solve the mystery.

Unfortunately I didn’t love Piper as a main character, like I did with the couple from Submerged. Her need for adventure and her curiosity overshadowed the real reason why they were investigating. In fact her brother Reef (the main suspect) played a very small role in the story.

Although Shattered wasn’t as action packed as the first installment, I would still recommend it. I would suggest that readers begin with Submerged as it better explores the family’s history. I look forward to reading the next book in the Alaskan Courage series.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Lightkeeper’s Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol

 

The Lightkeeper’s Daughters
By Jean E. Pendziwol

Published: July 2017
Published by: Harper
Format Read: eBook, Library Book, Libby App
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Contemporary

Rating: 5/5
♥♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

Though her mind is still sharp, Elizabeth’s eyes have failed. No longer able to linger over her beloved books or gaze at the paintings that move her spirit, she fills the void with music and memories of her family—a past that suddenly becomes all too present when her late father’s journals are found amid the ruins of an old shipwreck.

With the help of Morgan, a delinquent teenager performing community service, Elizabeth goes through the diaries, a journey through time that brings the two women closer together. Entry by entry, these unlikely friends are drawn deep into a world far removed from their own—to Porphyry Island on Lake Superior, where Elizabeth’s father manned the lighthouse seventy years before.

As the words on these musty pages come alive, Elizabeth and Morgan begin to realize that their fates are connected to the isolated island in ways they never dreamed. While the discovery of Morgan’s connection sheds light onto her own family mysteries, the faded pages of the journals hold more questions than answers for Elizabeth, and threaten the very core of who she is.

My Thoughts

Historical fiction, set in a place I’ve visited, with a nautical element: three of my favourite things to read about. Jean E. Pendziwol’s The Lighthouse Keepers Daughters is worthy of a 5 star rating.

It follows an unlikely pair of characters as they revisit the past with the help of the Lighthouse Keepers old log books. This story was the perfect book to read during the fall, as the atmospheric tale set a haunting tone.

The premise initially reminded me of the book Perdita by Hilary Scharper with its dual timeline, lighthouse setting and artistic elements. However I did enjoy this book far more. Other books it has been related to include The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, which I have also read and would agree with.

I would highly recommend The Lighthouse Keepers Daughters by Jean E Pendziwol to fans of Canadian historical fiction.