Book Review - Jingle All the Way by Debbie Macomber

Christmas wouldn’t be the same for me without a Debbie Macomber holiday book. This year, Debbie has released Jingle All the Way that teaches us to take a step back from our everyday lives, and re-evaluate what is most important. I requested this book from my local library and was very happy to learn they had purchased a copy.

Everly Lancaster has built a strong online real estate business in Chicago. She has put all her energy into this business, sacrificing relationships and time with her family in Indiana as a result. She even worked through Christmas last year, missing all the usual festive celebrations. Her business partner sees what the stress of not taking a break has done to Emily and instructs her to take the month off. Everly is reluctant to take a break, but finally agrees when the partner instructs his niece working in the office to book Everly on a luxury cruise to a beach location.

The luxury cruise turns out to be a cruise down the Amazon on a small ship without luxuries. Having arrived late to the cruise, she has no idea what she’s in for until the ship has set sail. In fact, she requests the ship return to port but it is too late. The ships’s Naturalist Asher tries to reassure her that she’ll have a great time and she notices the other guests are excited to be on this cruise. Resolving to make the best of it, she settles in for the cruise. But after only a few hours on the ship she realizes that she was bitten by an insect on the way to the ship which causes her to be feverish and ill for the next five days. Asher notes she looks ill and spends much of the next few days looking after her. They spend time each day getting to know one another. Finally recovered and enjoying the cruise, Everly begins to examine what she truly values. What she doesn’t know, is Asher is about to do the very same thing.

I enjoyed this book and appreciate the messaging in the story. There are some humorous moments in the book as well as some important facts about the Amazon’s nature and ecology. The characters are well developed and the book kept me engaged. Simply said, it is a cozy holiday romance that accomplishes what it sets out to do - entertain the reader.

I listened to the audiobook version of this book which was narrated by Therese Plummer who does a good job of providing a voice to this lovely story. I listened to the book at my usual 1.25x speed which I found to be perfect. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a holiday read.

My rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️/5.


Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella

Happy Publication Day to Sophie Kinsella!   Most known for her Shopaholic series, her books are full of interesting characters, humour and romance. Love Your Life was no exception.

Ava is a young woman who thinks that love should be found meeting someone in person and not using a variety of apps and algorithms. She’s a woman who has a lot of ideas which she starts, but has a problem with completing. When she has an opportunity to attend a remote writer’s retreat in Italy, she sees this as a way of completing the novel she is determined to write.

At the retreat, the attendees are told that they are not to communicate about themselves and to keep their lives (and names) from the outside world separate. During the retreat, Ava “Aria” meets Matt “Dutch” and the two end up having a whirlwind vacation romance. What they didn’t expect was that they both lived in London and could continue this romance back in the real world. Would they feel the same about one another once they truly got to know each other?

I really enjoyed this book. Ava and Matt’s holiday romance was truly romantic and I felt myself swooning. Once they returned home to their separate households, (both very unique), and their diverse and quirky set of friends, the flavour of the book changed to humour. I really appreciated that there were so many well-developed characters (I can see this group with their own sit-com). The book was engaging throughout and I loved the twists to the story which kept me wanting to read more. This is not only a great romantic comedy - it is also a story of the personal growth we experience as a byproduct of relationships.

Thanks to Netgalley and Penguin Random House Canada for the ARC of this book in exchange for the honest review provided here.

My rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️/5.

Book Review - Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy

It’s October and the peak of thriller season! I was looking for a new thriller and had read some great reviews for this book. This psychological thriller was everything I hoped it would be and more.

Dr Sam Statler and his wife Dr Annie Potter are newlyweds who have recently moved from New York City to Sam’s hometown in upstate New York in order to be closer to his institutionalized mother. The move was easier for Sam than it was Annie who was well established in her own career as a professor on the path to tenure. Sam, a psychotherapist, was ready for a change in his career and had recently opened a private practice in his downstairs office. He was quite content with his new practice but completely unaware that his conversations with patients could be heard through a vent elsewhere in the house. While several patient’s issues are overheard, the favourite of the listener is Charlie, a young french girl full of flirtation. One late afternoon as a storm approaches, Sam is requested to meet with her outside of normal business hours which he agrees to. When he doesn’t return home as expected, he becomes a missing person’s case leaving Annie desperate to find him.

There are several twists and surprises in this story and I thoroughly enjoyed each one. As is the case in many psychological thrillers, a traumatic childhood and unresolved issues come into play. Reminiscent of Stephen King’s book Misery, the story is captivating and engaging. The character development intensifies and is cleverly used within the story. I was satisfied with the climax and ending of the book.

I listened to the audiobook edition of the book which I thoroughly enjoyed. Val Toomey, George Newburn, Marin Ireland and Joel Fromkin were well cast as the narrators of this book, each providing a very entertaining performance. I listened to the audiobook at 1.3x speed (my normal) and found this to be the perfect pacing. I’d recommend the audiobook for those who appreciate books in this format.

My rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️/5.

Thanks to and Harper Audio for the ALC of this book in exchange for the honest review provided here.

Book Review - Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis

Rarely do I read a contemporary romance novel and rate it as a five star read, so when I do you will know it is something special.

Emmie Blue is a charming thirty year old woman who has overcome many hardships in her life. She has a father which she has never known, and a mother who she has had limited contact with since she was fourteen. She has recently come out of a relationship which was difficult in itself, but also required her to move from her own place to renting a room at the home of an older woman. Luckily she has her friends Rosie and Fox, who work with Emmie at the hotel, and her best friend Lucas who is affectionately known as balloon boy.

Emmie first met Lucas when she was sixteen. She had released a balloon with a note only to have it found over 100 miles away by Lucas. The two initially became pen pals, but eventually grew to a relationship between two best friends. As the years passed, Emmie began visiting Lucas and his family frequently. Emmie has secretly always had romantic feelings for Lucas but neither pursued this kind of relationship. As Emmie’s thirtieth birthday approaches, Lucas calls and asks Emmie to come to France for the weekend as he has something important to ask her. Emmie feels that Lucas may be asking her to marry him. Instead, he announces his upcoming wedding to someone else, and that he wants Emmie to be his “Best Woman”.

The story is told in two time frames - then and now. While there are sad moments in this story, there are just as many moments of joy. It is a story of friendship, kindness, and love. The character development is excellent - I really felt I knew Emmie well. Indeed, I was rooting for Emmie to have the life she so desired and deserved. I loved her relationships with those around her - she is never unkind or insensitive. She was particularly compassionate with her landlord, a quality that really provided an outlet for Emmie to shine. I highly recommend this book to those who want to read a lovely piece of fiction.

I listened to the audiobook version which I borrowed from my local library. Katy Sobey is perfectly cast to narrate this book and provides a sweet, youthful and articulate voice to Emmie. If you are an audiobook lover, I would recommend this version which provides an additional level of enjoyment to an already amazing book.

My rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️/5.

Book Review of Royal by Danielle Steel

It’s been several years since I read my last Danielle Steel novel, so when I noticed my library had the audiobook of Royal, I thought it was time to revisit her work.

The book begins in the summer of 1943 when the Royal family sends their youngest daughter, Charlotte, to live in the country with a noble family for the remainder of her seventeenth year. Her true identity was concealed from all but the Earl and Countess she was staying with, including their son Henry and another young female boarder Lucy. She begins a love affair with Henry who is waiting for his eighteenth birthday to enlist and fight in the war. Sadly, this love is short-lived as numerous tragedies occur and baby Annie is left orphaned. Lucy, who lost both her parents, has fallen in love with the baby and decides she will raise her as her own. Lucy marries, has twin sons, and life goes on. She does not disclose to anyone for twenty years who Annie actually is. Finally, on her deathbed, Lucy tells her husband the secret of Annie’s identity. He is told of a series of letters which confirms this and where they have been hidden. How will Annie and the Royal family react to this news? Will Annie be accepted as one of their own?

I enjoyed this fast-paced book which encompasses the story of three unique women. The character development was good and the women were all likeable. I appreciated the similarities between Charlotte and Annie, including a love of horses. I disagreed with Lucy raising Annie as her own, and wonder if she would have ever told Annie had she not gotten sick. I also feel that there were parts of the story that were unbelievable, including a physician not noticing that a woman who claims she’s already had one baby was indeed having her first (there are physical changes which are tell tale signs). Having said that, it was an entertaining read and I would recommend it to fans of this genre.

My rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️/5.

7 Thrillers to Add to Your Hallowe'en TBR

 Hi everyone!  If you're looking for some great Thrillers to add to your Hallowe'en To Be Read list, look no further!  Here's my chilling recommendations.

The Nothing Man refers to the name of a book written by Eve, an author whose entire family was murdered by a serial killer in Cork, Ireland two decades ago. The killer is called The Nothing Man because he has not left any clues or evidence, and twenty years later the case is considered to be cold. The recently published book has been discovered by security guard Jim, who has a keen interest in the case. He is riveted not only from the author’s words, but because he himself is The Nothing Man.

Molly Clarke is a woman trying to survive after the death of her youngest daughter five years ago. This tragedy is compounded by the fact that Molly ran over her in a horrible accident. The guilt she lives with is beyond imagination and her life has never been the same since that time. Sadly, her relationships with the rest of the family are severely strained as they blame her for this inevitable accident. Her husband doesn’t speak to her, and her daughter Nic has been kicked out of school. Molly makes the effort every two weeks to watch her son play football - something he doesn’t understand given it’s a three hour drive each way. It’s during one of those trips that Molly runs out of gas in the midst of a hurricane on her way home. She is given a ride by a man and his daughter who happened to be driving by. But Molly doesn’t return home after the hurricane. Is she fleeing the family who no longer love and respect her or has something more nefarious happened to Molly? 

Jack and Anna are each investigating the murder of a woman in a muddy, forested location in Blackdown - a town in which both grew up in. The town is a quiet one and one not familiar with murder cases. The woman murdered is known to both Jack and Anna. Anna was befriended by Rachel in school, while Jack has very recently had a sexual relationship with her - a piece of information he isn’t about to disclose to anyone. As the investigation progresses, both Anna and Jack begin to experience unusual events in their day to day lives. Anna sees things appearing in her bedroom that weren’t there when she went to sleep. Jack notices mud on his boots in his car which had been clean. In flashes from the past, Anna’s life as a teenager in a new school is slowly revealed. The result is a twisty, tale of horror which has the reader unable to decipher what, if anything, is the truth. 

Claire Cook is married to Rory, a powerful well off man from a successful family whose about to announce his run for senate. To the outside world, the couple has it all - success, money and a perfect marriage. In reality, Claire is a victim of domestic violence and wants to escape this life and start fresh. She develops a well-orchestrated plan to leave him during one of her upcoming trips, but a last minute decision by Rory to change these plans puts her in grave danger.  

At the airport, on her way to her Rory-delegated destination of Puerto Rico, she meets another woman, Eva, who desperately wants to get away from her current situation. The two women decide to exchange flights - Eva will take the flight to Puerto Rico and Claire will be taking the flight to Oakland. Each is taking the belongings of the other. When Claire lands in California, she learns that the flight that she was supposed to be on went down off the coast of Florida. Claire takes this an opportunity to assume the identity of Eva. Will this prove to be a good decision? 

Tabitha is reintroduced to Connor when he enters the restaurant she is working in. She has never forgotten the romance they shared as teens and still feels the physical attraction to him. But she knows he’s married to Nina, twenty years Connor’s senior and a very wealthy woman. There’s evidence of that in many of the magazines and newspapers she reads. When he requests to see her after her shift, she can’t help herself and agrees. The two begin an affair, and meet frequently. He tells her that she is the true love of his life, but that the pre-marital contract between he and his wife precludes him from leaving the marriage at this time. Then Nina is found dead in her own pool, the night of a large party at their estate. Tabitha has crashed the party to speak with Connor who isn’t returning her calls. There is a lot of mystery behind Nina’s death. Did Nina commit suicide as the medical examiner suggests, or was she actually murdered? 

I’m going to start right off by saying this is one of my top reads so far in 2020. The story surrounds three college friends - Mackenzie, Robin and Lily who now twenty years later are living in the same perfect neighbourhood. On the outside, these women have perfect lives. Two of them are presently married with children. However, as the book reveals, not everything is as perfect as it seems. Told from the point of view of all three women, we learn that secrets, disloyalties and deceptions from the past and present are sometimes stronger than the bonds of friendship. 

The book tells a provocative story of a pharmaceutical company who has developed a drug said to help couples suffering from infertility to become pregnant more easily. There are physicians who work with the company are seeing patients looking for a miracle. What these physicians aren’t telling their patients before starting treatment is that in some cases patients will have an allergic reaction which causes them to be permanently sterile. There is no opportunity for patients to give informed consent. These patients sign a form, but there is no discussion of this allergic reaction life-changing side effect. Simply put, this is completely unethical practice and certainly not out of the scope of reality. 

So there you have it!  7 thrillers that will keep you highly entertained through the long nights ahead.  Have you read any of these books?  Are there others you recommend?  

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Meet me in London by Georgia Toffolo

In an absolutely charming read, Georgia Toffolo writes a book that highlights the ability to find romance where you least expect it. 

Victoria Scott is a fledgling clothes designer who loves all things vintage. She dreams of the day she can open her own boutique. Victoria has also suffered a tragedy which impacts her dreams of finding someone to share her life with.

Oliver Russell is coordinating the opening of his family’s new London department store. As the son of a workaholic father who is suffering health issues, Oliver’s life has taken him in a direction he really didn’t intend it to. Furthermore, his mother is pushing Oliver to bring his new girlfriend to meet the family. The problem is, Oliver only said he had a girlfriend to get his mother off his back in an earlier conversation. What he needs most right now is to find a woman who can satisfy his mother’s desires and get him back to the task of preparing for the opening of the store.

When Oliver meets Victoria he suggests a deal: if Victoria pretends to be his girlfriend for his mother’s sake at the store’s opening, he will provide space for Victoria to display her designing skills. It sounds like a no-lose proposition! Victoria agrees. After all, what harm could this bring? But as we all know relationships grow and change - could their relationship be based on more than just business?

I really enjoyed this book. It was engaging and sweet and reminiscent of a modern-day fairy tale.  While some would say it’s predictable, it simply did not matter. The characters were well-developed and very likeable. I appreciated the relationships that Victoria develops with Oliver’s parents and the obvious conflict she felt in portraying herself as Oliver’s girlfriend. While the book is set at Christmas time, it could easily be read at any point in the year.

I listened to the audiobook edition of this enchanting book which was narrated by the author herself. Her voice is so sweet-sounding and youthful it felt perfect for Victoria’s character. She is expressive and articulate, such that my Canadian ear could clearly understand the narrative. I’d recommend the audiobook edition to those that appreciate this format.

Thanks to Netgalley and HarperCollins audio for the ARC of this book in exchange for the honest review provided here.

My rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️/5.

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