Tuesday, 28 July 2020

The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Earlier this spring, I had fun reading The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. If you missed it, you can read my review here. The duo is back this summer with the sequel, The Heir Affair.

After their scandal-filled wedding, Nick and Bex go into hiding; however, unexpected events bring them back to London where they are confronted with an angry queen, the paparazzi, hurt feelings, and a healthy dose of family secrets.

The Heir Affair has a different flavour than The Royal We as the romance of Nick and Bex is not the main focus of the novel, though, I think I enjoyed it even more. It is a perfect escapist read, and I could not put it down.

There continues to be so much of Will and Kate's history woven into the novel, and Eleanor is much more likeable! I love the normalcy with which mental health is integrated, and I found everything about this book deeply satisfying by the end.

You do need to read The Royal We before you pick up The Heir Affair; however, I promise you will enjoy them. This pair of books is the perfect, dishy royal distraction we all need this summer.


Disclaimer - I received a complimentary copy of this book from Grand Central Publishing for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngzoi Adichie

"Racism should never have happened and so you don't get a cookie for reducing it." Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

If you haven't yet had the pleasure of reading one of Adichie's books, please let me introduce you to a deeply gifted writer. Her narratives are masterful. They engaging and warm and, Americanah especially, will encourage you to think about perspectives that are possibly different from your own.

Americanah is a novel with many facets. A simple plot overview could say this is the story of Ifemelu and Obinze, young friends who fall for each other in Nigeria and are pulled apart as their lives head towards different futures. Ifemelu in the US and Obinze in the UK. Looking deeper, the reader will find subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) explorations on racism, immigration, identity, love, and home.

I find that Adichie's novels cannot be read quickly. It is almost as if they demand that the reader slow down and pay close attention to the messages being shared. The keenly observant truths woven into Americanah about Western life will sit with me for some time to come.

Now is absolutely the right time to pick up a copy of this book, and I encourage you to listen to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reading parts of Americanah here. If you have already read Americanah, I also highly recommend Half of a Yellow Sun and any of her non-fiction work.


Tuesday, 14 July 2020

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

The Friend Zone is a debut contemporary romance novel by Abby Jimenez that tells the story of Kristen and Josh. As the maid of honour and best man, these two are working together to plan their best friends' wedding.

Kristen keeps a secret. Due to a medical condition, children will never be in her future. Josh, on the other hand, has always dreamed of a large family. Kristen tries to keep Josh at arm's length, but as their attraction grows, this becomes ever more challenging.

Kristen is sassy and honest, and I loved the banter between her and Josh. These two have such fun chemistry, and they are both easy to like.

I will say, I was not prepared for the ending! I won't spoil anything, but I think it is important to know that there is some heavy stuff before they reach their HEA. Keep a Kleenex nearby ;)

Women who struggle with uterine fibroids may see themselves in Kristen's story, and it is interesting to read the author's note where she talks about her real life friend who inspired Kristen's character.

I will definitely pick up the author's next book, The Happily Ever After PlaylistThe Friend Zone is a standalone novel, but I have to find out what happens next in the series!


Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this novel from Hachette Book Group Canada for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton

"The day we stop fighting for others is the day we might as well pack it all up and go home."

Chanel Cleeton has a gift for being able to seamlessly immerse her readers into a new time and place. This was true of Next Year in Havana, and it continues to be true for her newest release, The Last Train to Key West.

Set over Labor Day weekend in 1935, the lives of three women will intersect during the most powerful hurricane the area has ever seen.

This novel is told in three perspectives. Key West is all Helen has ever known, but she dreams of escape for herself, and for her unborn baby. Mirta arrives in the Keys on her honeymoon and is adjusting to her arranged marriage. She knows little of her husband but senses a growing attraction between them. Elizabeth arrives in Key West searching for her brother, a WWI veteran working in the camps nearby. She hopes that finding him may help save her once-wealthy family after the Wall Street crash of 1929. As the dangerous hurricane approaches, who will find what they are looking for in the end? 

I flew through The Last Train to Key West and finished it in two days. Chanel Cleeton writes strong women and characters that are easy to care for. Both the infamous Labor Day hurricane of 1935 and the dismissive treatment of WWI veterans were well-researched, and I learned quite a bit about both of these heartbreaking historical moments as a result. I love historical fiction that has an escapist story while simultaneously teaching me about a new time and place.

For me, so much of this book is about how we find moments to help when we can. What we do for others defines us, so how might we reach out or speak up when it's important? What doors will open when we do?

The Last Train to Key West is available now from your favourite library or bookseller. Enjoy!


Disclaimer - Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy of this book to review. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones by Daven McQueen

It has been heartening to see the bookish community is using its collective voice to lift and celebrate so many BIPOC writers. The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones by Daven McQueen is absolutely one title to add to your growing TBR from Black authors.

Ethan is a biracial teen who has been raised by his white father. After an incident at school, Ethan is sent to live with his white aunt and uncle in the small town of Ellison, Alabama. Set in 1955, Ethan's blackness is the only thing anyone sees when they look at him. It also makes him an easy target.

Enter Juniper Jones. A fiery redhead with an open heart and a passion for life. She is determined to befriend Ethan, so the two of them can plan the best summer of their lives.

It's Ethan and Juniper against the world, and as Ethan is confronted with what it means to be Black in America, Juniper tries to help him find joy, even on the toughest of days.

Ethan and Juniper are easy to love, and though this is a fictitious novel, the reality of the events that transpire rings true. I had so many feelings by the end of this book. It will leave you in tears but also wanting to give it all the stars. I have been looking for YA novels by Black authors to suggest to my students, and I cannot wait to tell them about The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones.

Daven's author's note at the beginning is not to be missed as she shares her intention for this to be a novel where one may find empathy for those who look different or where one may simply feel seen.

The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones is available now from your favourite bookseller or library.


Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this book for review purposes from Wattpad Books. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

The Very Marrow of Our Bones by Christine Higdon

My latest #quarantineread was The Very Marrow of Our Bones by Christine Higdon. This story begins in the late 1960s near Fraser River, British Columbia. Two women from the town, Bette Parsons and Alice McFee, disappear on the same day. Did they run away? Were they murdered? Lulu Parsons thinks she knows why her mother is gone, but she doesn't tell a soul. The silent egg seller, Doris Tenpenny, suspects Alice's husband is involved, but she also doesn't share her secret.

Told over the span of decades, The Very Marrow of Our Bones dives into the question How do hidden secrets change us?

This novel definitely takes its time to reveal itself to the reader. I nearly put it down after the first 75 pages or so; however, I'm so glad I stuck with it as it picks up steadily and I couldn't put it down by the end. Doris' chapters kept me engaged in the beginning, and she remained my favourite character throughout.

This is a heartbreaking story that sensitively navigates abuse and loss. Christine Higdon writes so well that you will feel the pain of these characters, at times, but you also will feel their hope when those moments come. I truly loved the ending. Given that I read this during the pandemic, this story of missing mothers really made me miss my own mom, and she's only a few hours away.

If you were a fan of the books Oprah used to pick for her book club back in the day, you will quite enjoy The Very Marrow of Our Bones. It's been out for a few years, so look for it at your local library or bookstore.


Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this book from ECW Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Friday, 15 May 2020

Dog Diaries: Mission ImPAWsible

Sebastian and I are getting a ton of extra reading time together in quarantine. We finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and this week we sped through Dog Diaries: Mission ImPAWsible by James Patterson and Steven Butler.

I had no idea James Patterson also wrote children's books, and this was such a delight to read! Mission ImPAWsible is the third book in the Dog Diaries series (which is, itself, a spinoff of his Middle School series). Seb and I hadn't read any books from those series before, and Mission ImPAWsible can be read as a standalone. However, we enjoyed it so much, we quickly placed a hold on the earlier books at the library.

Mission ImPAWsible follows the tale (no pun intended!) of Junior as his family plans for a trip to Hollywood. Junior hopes to go with them, but what happens when he is left behind? Junior, along with his neighbourhood puppy pals are in for an adventure.

Told from the perspective of Junior, this book is laugh out loud funny. It has a blend of text and images in the style and reading level of Captain Underpants, Big Nate, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Sebastian enjoyed it a ton! He wanted to make sure I added this warning to my review - do not read the back copy or the synopsis with your children. It spoils a lot of details from the story!

We highly recommend Dog Diaries to young readers. We even loved that a few activity pages, themed to the book, are included in the back!

Dog Diaries: Mission ImPAWsible is out now and available from your favourite bookseller.

Jenn and Seb

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this book from Hachette Book Group Canada for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.