The Lost Man, by Jane Harper

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Jane Harper is one of those writers who SO many people are talking about right now. I have had so many positive recommendations about her first novel, The Dry… and although I never read it, when I saw that she came out with a new one this January, I put it on hold at the library. Knowing what I had heard about her first couple novels, I thought, I’m going to take a chance and read The Lost Man.

Set in the Outback of Australia, the Bright family lives hundreds of miles away from their neighbours. To get supplies, to town, or help, it’s a long drive. The three boys that grew up on the family farm, are now grown, and have spread out a bit in space, but also in their relationships. When Bub and Nathan find their brother, Cameron, face down dead at the infamous stockman’s grace, they are shocked. It seems as if Cameron, who grew up knowing the dangers of the Outback, had forgotten how to survive and succumbed to it. But when little tiny signs start pointing to the fact that he may have been murdered, the secrets of the town, and the family start spilling out.

Even though this novel is getting some high praise, I liked it… but didn’t love it. But, just because it wasn’t my favourite, does not mean a thing. The average Goodreads rating on The Lost Man is a 4.3/5, so this could very well be the next great book you pick up! What I can appreciate about this novel is the mysterious, family drama element. Jane Harper has written an atmospheric, suspenseful novel. I will say that the twist at the end, I was not expecting. My only wish would be that the novel had a little more drive behind the plot throughout.

Jane Harper has expertly planted a reader right in the middle of the Outback. You can see the dirt, and feel the heat penetrating through the pages of her novel. And the fact that the family is learning these secrets about Cameron after he has died, is kind of disturbing, but super thrilling. I’m just glad this isn’t my family!!

That’s all for today, happy reading!

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The Gown, by Jennifer Robson

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I can actually say that I’ve read every one of Jennifer Robson’s novels. I was obsessed with her series called The Great War, which featured three novels. She writes historical fiction, which I love, but she’s also from Toronto, Canada… so that makes me want to champion her even more. I adored this novel, and feel like I connected with it on such a personal level.

The Gown is a fictional account of the real story behind Princess Elizabeth’s (now the Queen) much anticipated wedding gown. It’s post-war in 1947 London, England, and the country is feeling the aftershocks of the debt the country is now in. With rations on food, fuel, and even fabric, this wedding brought many mixed feelings for the people of England. Ann, a prized embroiderer at Hartnell, survived war, unlike many people around her. Ann’s work becomes her life, and when she’s introduced to the newest, and highly skilled embroiderer at Hartnell, Miriam, she decides to try to develop a friendship. Miriam is a French, Jewish emigrant who also survived the war, unlike the rest of her family. Keeping the secret of her past heritage, and her harrowing experience in Ravensbruck, she works her way to the top of the embroidery team at Hartnells. Then, when news breaks that the Princess is engaged and choses Hartnell’s to make the gown, the two, along with the rest of the team, work long days until the day arrives. Flash forward to 2016, Heather (Ann’s granddaughter) is gifted a box with her name on it when her Nan, Ann, has passed away. Heather is shocked to find embroidery samples, and pictures of Nan and her friend, Miriam. From here, Heather embarks on a journey to find out the truth of her grandmother’s unknown, and exciting past.

Let me start off by saying, there are just so many reasons I loved this novel. First of all, the Royals just fascinate me. Whether it’s as far back as Henry the VIII, and his many wives, or the most recent Royal Wedding… I’m so there. But, as fascinating as the Royals are, Jennifer Robson has executed a novel which gives you a “behind the scenes” look at the making of the gown. She told the story of the women who made the gown, and these were stories that never told. Ann, and Miriam, were such beautiful characters, who were deeply affected by the War. The secrets that they held inside were the thing that bonded them, although they never really told each other. Eventually, many years later, Heather puts them altogether. Jennifer Robson actually had the opportunity to interview a seamstress that worked on the gown to help her construct this story.

Lastly, the relationship between Heather and her Nan was such a special one. Even though they had a strong relationship, Nan (aka, Ann) had never told Heather about her incredible past and how she ended up in Canada. This relationship made me really grateful for the one my Gramma Lisa and I have. Over the years, my Gramma has told me so many wonderful stories to me about her own past. I love hearing about her childhood, teenager years, and becoming a wife, and a mother… and so much more!

What’s special about this novel is the obvious of it being a fascinating time in history… but I think on a deeper level it reminds you to be curious about the past. To ask questions, and to learn about your families history. I think everyone seems to think that their life isn’t all that interesting, but I find when you start talking to people their lives I find them so intriguing.

Anywho, enough of me gushing. Go read this novel!

Winter Garden, by Kristin Hannah

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This book has been sitting on my bookshelf for a long time. I had clients, and close friends, both recommend Winter Garden to me… but the cover just looked so cheesy that I was definitely judged the contents! So when yet another close person to me in my life said, you need to read Winter Garden, I picked it up finally.

Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard, while the other traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. The one thing that these two sisters have in common is an unbreakable bond with their father, and an almost non-existent relationship with their mother. But when their father falls ill, Meredith and Nina find themselves having to comfort their cold, and distant mother, Anya. As children, the only connection they had with Anya was the unfinished Russian fairy tale she told the girls at night. When their father is dying, he requests one last wish… that Anya tells the whole tale. This begins a curiosity in the girls, who find out that the fairytale, is actually the real life events of Anya in war-torn Leningrad during WW2.  Between the fairytale, and the bonding with their mother, Meredith and Nina discover the harrowing story of their mother’s life before they were in it.

Okay, so be patient with this novel in the first 100 pages. I wasn’t completely hooked until I realized the fairytale was actually Anya’s real life story. But when things really started to unwind, I found I was unable to put it down! I ripped through the last 200 pages in one day.

This was a WW2 history which I wasn’t aware. Learning the St.Petersburg was actually called Leningrad when Stalin was in power was completely new to me. What’s incredible about this story is it’s just the story of a woman and her experience getting through the war. You realize how much could be lost in just a few short years. Then once the war was over, you are expected to live on. How does one do this? How do you just start over? These are the questions that you are asking yourself this whole novel.

Seeing the sisters develop a stronger relationship with their mother was probably the most rewarding part of this novel. You see just how hiding a part of your past can truly affect the people around you. As a mother, I think we want to protect our children from the bad things that happened to us, or the bad things that we had done to other people. But when we open up and become vulnerable, it lets your children know that we are all just humans trying live.

We women make choices for others, not for ourselves, and when we are mothers, we…bear what we must for our children. You will protect them. It will hurt you; it will hurt them. Your job is to hide that your heart is breaking and do what they need you to do.

If you are a lover of historical fiction, and complex family relationships… then this is the perfect novel for you. Because of the large amount of WW2 fiction being produced nowadays, it’s always refreshing to hear a story that you’ve never heard before.

Anywho, that’s all for now. Happy reading, friends!

Waiting for Eden, by Elliot Ackerman

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While in one of my deep, dark rabbit holes of lurking Instagram one evening, I saw two ladies whose book taste I really trust had posted about Waiting for Eden. They had both said similar things in that it’s a small novel, that will give you all the feelings. So yes, I put it on hold at my library and it came in days later.

Eden Malcom is in a hospital bed, stuck in a body that is no longer recognizable, and even worse he is imprisoned in his own mind unconscious. He will never be the same, and never get to see friend and fellow soldier who didn’t survive the attack in a war-torn country. His wife, Mary, spends her days on the couch waiting for him to wake up, and torn between who she should be with, Eden or their daughter. When Mary makes the hard decision to go home for Christmas, she gets a call that Eden has gained consciousness. He begins to try to communicate to the nurses, his wife, and to his friend who has died. You learn the couples troubled past, through love, loyalty, and acceptance.

Holy smokes, this is a little novel, coming in at 192 pages with small pages, but as sparse as it may look to a reader, it packs a big punch. The telling of this story is so important, for me it created so many feelings of empathy. You sit infront of your television, or computer, and have probably all heard the stories of the lives that soldiers have lost. You think of they families, and you have all the feelings. Then what happens, is you get up and go on with your day, and forget about it. This story makes you crawl into the skin of the family who has been deeply affected by the atrocities of war.

What Waiting for Eden isn’t, is… is a happy book. It will leave you feeling a little shattered. You learn the past of their relationship is rocky, but you see a wife who rallies to be by her husband’s side. It’s so moving, and sad. But very necessary.

The author, Elliot Ackerman, has served 5 tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and is the recipient of the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart. I can’t help but wonder how much of this novel has been written as a way for him to deal the the terrible things he’s seen, heard, and experienced.

Stay warm, friends, and I hope you are curled up under a blanket with a book that you don’t want to stop reading 🙂

The Proposal, Jasmine Guillory

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Okay, confession time… I would have said a couple books back that I don’t waste my time reading “chick-lit”. But this book is more than that!! After reading The Kiss Quotient, it was recommended to me that I pick up The Proposal… so I did!! Oh my goodness. If I didn’t have a household of people pulling me in every direction, I would have sat down, and devoured this whole book in a sitting. It was SO. DAMN. GOOD!!!

Deciding to spend your life together shouldn’t be a surprise.

When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Said actor boyfriend is a complete fool, whom Nik had no intention of anything other than sex. So when he proposes, her genuine shock and NO floors him and the whole crowd at the Dodgers game.

At the game with his sister, Carlos comes to Nik’s rescue and whisks her away from a camera crew by pretending to know her. Well, let’s just say from here the two can’t stop thinking about each other… Each not wanting anything serious the two embark on an rebound, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them gets realized the feelings are a little more serious!!

Where do I start?? How about the diversity in the characters… Nik is a successful black woman, Carlos is a super hot paediatrician, Nik’s friends include a lesbian, and a chunky Korean cupcake maven… I just loved the cast! What was so great about this book was there were no dull moments, it rolled along so well that at one point I realized I had reading 150 pages in a sitting… and that never happens! There was also a really background plot of Nik dealing with some past negative relationship stuff… she even joined a women’s self-defence class to help her overcome some of her self-doubt. In this day in age, Nik’s character is just the bomb. She’s a strong female presence, who finally decides that letting a man see the real vulnerable her doesn’t make her any less of the woman she’s worked on becoming.

Reading two well-written, extremely fun, “chick-lit” novels recently has taught me that when I previously judged the genre, I was knocking it before I tried it. I will now be opening up my mind to books that are in this genre. I think that there is a time and place for every book IF it’s well-written!!! I love to read diverse novels, with complex characters, and big issues. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be super fun. This book makes you remember that feeling when you were a kid, curled up around a book and hoping that no one interrupts you!

Until next time, stay warm & keep reading!

The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang

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Having been placed in the “romance” genre, The Kiss Quotient, is a book I normally wouldn’t pick up. Upon hearing two of my fav authors Roxane Gay, and Taylor Jenkins Reid sing high praises about Helen Hoang’s writing, I decided…. okay, maybe this book is worth giving a shot. This book is reminiscent of The Rosie Project, and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine… so if you enjoyed those ones, this one is worth picking up.

Meet Stella Lane, a 3o year old econometrician. She loves her work intensely, but dating is just really not her thing. The little fact that Stella has Asperger’s, makes dating seem more difficult. She hates kissing, speaks the whole, blunt, truth, and has quite a bit of anxiety on the whole process. So she does the logical thing, and hires a male escort, Michael Phan. He’s gorgeous, and martial artist, and is also willing to work with Stella’s plan to teach her how to date… and a couple more things. It’s doesn’t take long for Stella to realize that Michael may be her new obsession, and she starts to think that the feelings are being reciprocated. Here’s where the story gets really interested!

All the things that make you different make you perfect.

I just loved this book! I ripped through it in three days, and literally took it everywhere. The couch, the treadmill, the appointments, the lunch break, it was everywhere I was. Helen Hoang wrote a novel that is a modern re-telling, of Pretty Woman, with a twist. She has served up a novel that is a really fun story, with also some great writing. Without giving anything away, there are some pretty steamy scenes in this book. So if you are not a fan of that, you could possibly flip through or maybe it’s not the book for you.

In the Author’s Note, Hoang tells us that her daughter’s teacher had suggested the fact that she may have Asperger’s. Hoang was not convinced, but started really researching the subject as any parent would. What she found out was really interesting, Autism is represented differently in girls than with boys. She found out that she had a lot of the tendenacies that would lend to herself having Asperger’s. And at age 34 years old, Helen Hoang was diagnosed with Autism, and her daughter may very well be too. SO, long story short, she wrote a fantastic book with a wonderful heroine who really seems to tell the experience so truthfully.

Okay, so if you need a book to get you back into reading, want a book to read in a weekend, or just love great books…. put this book on hold at the library or go get it at your bookstore. It’s a great novel, and now I’m DYING to read Helen Hoang’s next one. It’s the second one in the series called The Bride Test. But wait for it… it’s not out until May 7th 2019. Seriously?!?! I’m dying!

Until next time, happy reading.

Midnight Blue, by Simone van der Vlugt

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You know that saying… “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”. Well in this case, please do. This cover is just gorgeous, and my picture doesn’t even do it justice. It has tiny flecks of gold that sparkle in the sunlight, and every time I look at this cover I smile. I stumbled upon this book in Hunter Street Books, when I saw the beautiful Delft blue pottery resemblance, my dutch roots just had to buy it.

Set in 1654 in the Netherlands, this novel follows Catrin, who after the suspicious death of her husband she decides to move from her hometown. She runs away to Amsterdam in hopes to escape her past, and follow her dreams of opening her own business of painting pottery. Eventually Catrin ends up in Delft, where she has started to work at a place where she makes pottery. On a whim she decides to paint a plate with a beautiful blue pattern. She was inspired to do so upon seeing the Chinese vases, and thought she would give it a shot… and so began the Delft pottery.

Along with this historical timeline, Catrin’s story is quite a tumultuous one. Being widowed, and dealing with infant loss, her storyline is pretty inspiring. She’s a firecracker. What I really loved about this story was that it weaved in famous artists such as Rembrant, Vermeer, and Fabritius, and also true events, such as the plague, and the Delft Explosion. I love it when a novel teaches me something about a time in history that I hadn’t known before.

I’ve visited Delft numerous times, and I had know idea that there was a massive explosive there! I found this part so interesting, and wish I had of known this history before I visited… but there is always time to go back!! I just have to convince my Gramma to come with me to translate 🙂

If you like historical fiction, with a little bit of thrilling action, you will probably like this book as much as I did! I found it really easy to read, despite it being a translation… which can be at sometimes hard stories for me to read. I also found the pace of it really great. It moved along enough that I wanted to keep turning the pages, but I also wanted to look up little historical details.

That’s all on this one, and if you have read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Until next time, happy reading!