Friday 27 January 2023

The Bookshop of Secrets

Finished January 22
The Bookshop of Secrets by Mollie Rushmeyer

This novel is set in present day but is influenced by events of the past. Hope Sparrow arrives in the small town of Wanishin Falls, Minnesota looking to collect the books her mother left her when she died. They were held by a friend of her mother's for safekeeping, but Hope has discovered the friend passed away and thus followed the trail to the friend's hometown. The books are part of what Hope has come in search of, but she also remembers childhood stories of treasure and wonders what truth there is to them. 
When she arrives at the bookshop, Dusty Jackets, she finds the owners Ulysses and Margaret Barrick unable to locate her books quickly, partly due to the onset of dementia in one of them, and she agrees to stay and help for a place to stay and some payment while they search. With a timeline of two months set, Hope finds herself getting to know the people of the town, and exploring not only her own past, but also her future. Her dreams of owning a combination food and book truck are shared and begin to become real, but she has to decide whether her life will keep her running as she has or whether she can deal with her past and build a future that includes others. 
There are other young people here also stuck in their own ways, with expectations and baggage from others defining their present. From the bookshop owners' grandson Ronan to cafe manager Kat, to troubled teenager Tate Morgan, they are all finding their place in the world and looking for community. There is an underlying Christian theme to book that doesn't overpower the plot but plays a role in guiding it. 
I enjoyed the story, the book elements and the message of forgiveness and optimism that it held. 

Monday 23 January 2023

We Came Here to Shine

Finished January 21
We Came Here to Shine by Susie Orman Schnall

This novel takes place in the summer of 1939 during the World's Fair and follows two young women. Vivi is an actress who is signed on contract to WorldWide Films, a Hollywood studio. She is supposed to be starting her first starring role when she is told that instead she will be on loan to the producers of the Aquacade, a swimming entertainment show happening at the World's Fair in New York. She will be replacing their lead female who was recently injured. Vivi is originally from New York, but left after a rift with her family. She is disappointed, and even more surprised when she finds how little time she has to learn her routine. Dealing with a mixture of reactions from the rest of the cast, she tries her best to find her feet while also finding that the past will come back in a big way. 
Maxine (Max) Roth is a journalism student at NYU who has high hopes for her summer placement at the end of her junior year. She's received high marks on all her articles and hopes that she will get the position at the New York Times. Instead she gets a spot at Today at the Fair, a daily newspaper that is run from and covers the World's Fair. Not only that, but her classmate Charlie, also at Today at the Fair, will be the one writing all the articles as the man in charge doesn't believe women belong in journalism. Max will be writing the event list for each day instead. Max hopes to win a contest over the summer, but she needs an article to enter it. 
As Max fights for her right to write, and Vivi throws herself into practice, they've each been keeping their head down, focusing on their work. On an evening when both take a break to experience the fair, they run into each other and find themselves becoming fast friends despite their differences. 
There is a lot of research that went into this story to give a sense of the Fair and its going ons, and the author used a lot of this historical information to make the story come alive. The two young women are both ambitious in their own way, and both learn what truly drives them during this time. The author brings in issues of patriarchy, harassment, and social mores as well. 
An enjoyable read that also enlightened me about a historical event I knew little about. 

The Suite Spot

Finished January 14
The Suite Spot by Trish Doller

I enjoyed her novel Float Plan, so when I saw there was a companion novel featuring the sister of the main character from Float Plan, I knew I wanted to read it. Rachel is very different from her sister Anna. She is kind of in a rut. She has a young child, and while she isn't exactly in a relationship with the father of her daughter Maisie anymore, she also feels like she won't ever find someone that she really cares about. She has a degree in hospitality and works as a night reception manager at a luxury Miami Beach hotel, hoping to move to a day job when her daughter starts school. But when a guest becomes aggressive and Rachel doesn't succumb, she finds herself looking for a new position. 
Getting a lead on a position at a new hotel in Ohio is a lucky break, and she finds its location surprisingly attractive. The hotel isn't open yet though, although the brewery is starting to create beers. Rachel finds the owner, Mason, nice but sometimes distracted, and when she learns of his loss, she feels for him. 
As Rachel begins to find her feet in her new role, and learn about her new community, she also has issues arising from back in Florida. 
There is lots to like here, from body positive messages, to book clubs, to the fun of hotel design, I liked not only the two main characters, but many of the secondary characters as well. Definitely another good read from this author. 

Wednesday 18 January 2023

Mr. Dickens and His Carol

Finished January 13
Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

This debut novel reaches back into the past and focuses on a real historical figure, Charles Dickens. Silva fictionalizes him, changing aspects of his family and timing of his works, but sticks to the larger facts of his life. Following the less popular publishing of Martin Chuzzlewit, Dickens must fulfill a publishing bargain and create a work to be released for Christmas. Dickens is financially stretched, and with his wife planning a large Christmas celebration including generous gifts, his family members repeatedly asking for loans that are never repaid, and his usual charitable giving, he finds himself with a writer's block as well. 
Dickens finds himself reaching back into his own past, haunting old homes and streets, and looking for a muse. When he finds one, he goes through periods of doubt and indecision as he tries to meet the looming deadline. 
I liked how Dickens was brought to life here. He is a person with flaws like we all are, a man who thrives on compliments of his work, who feels that he has been taken for granted by some, and who must reach deep into himself to find the story that will become one of his most popular books and a seasonal classic. 
We also see, through his wanderings the London of his day, the streets and buildings, the people that populate the streets and that dine in the restaurants, how weather affects the behaviour and mood of the city's inhabitants, and still we get a sense of his comfort with the city and his knowledge of all its areas. 
A very enjoyable read. 

Thursday 12 January 2023

Sari Not Sari

Finished January 12
Sari Not Sari by Sonya Singh

This romance novel is set around entrepreneur Manny Dogra. Manny started her own company after college, building on a skill she realized she had in communication. Her company is called Breakup, and it provides services around ending relationships in a way that makes it easier for both parties to move on. Her team writes emails and letters for the person that hires them, but goes beyond that in helping manage the transition for them as well. 
Manny has recently been named one of California's Top Forty Under Forty CEOs, and is on a professional role. But her personal life isn't going as well. She is engaged to Adam, an architect who is very busy in his work life as well, and they haven't seen much of each other lately. Dates for their wedding have been booked and cancelled repeatedly as work conflicts arose. Adam is the first man that Manny dated after the sudden death of her parents three years ago as a result of a car accident. Manny is an only child, as were both her parents, and they raised her to go after what she wanted and to be an American by assimilating. This means that Manny hasn't had exposure to Indian culture, and as a result of some events in her life, she has begun to realize that she is missing this part of herself and this connection to her parents. 
As she agrees to help a client with a relationship situation, she negotiates an introduction to Indian culture for herself by going to an Indian wedding as his guest. The wedding is a typical Indian wedding, with many days of celebration, and a lot of family participation. As a reader, I learned a lot of terminology and culture along with the character. But I was surprised at how little Manny was supposed to know about Indian traditions prior to this. I'm not Indian and I was aware of many of the things that she was clueless about. Many of the secondary characters lacked depth and were stereotypical examples. There was also no discussion of which part of Indian culture Manny and her host Sammy Patel came from. From looking at other reviews, I see that Patel is a common Gujarati name, so it seems that this is the subgroup depicted here, but the references to Bollywood culture as a monolithic one were misleading. 
The overall message seemed to be that we need to understand where we've come from to really know who we are, and that has some truth to it. There were a few instances in the book where there were examples of exclusion, despite the inclusionary words that the characters professed, and those jarred a bit from the story.
I enjoy learning about other cultures, while being cautious about respecting boundaries, and this book touched on that. There are a lot of emotional scenes here, and the plot moved very quickly, taking place within just a few days, and I was surprised at how quickly the characters changed allegiances, even if those feelings around their previous situations had been percolating for a while.
This is a debut novel from a promising new Canadian voice. I look forward to seeing more from her. 

Monday 9 January 2023

A Rip Through Time

Finished January 8
A Rip Through Time by Kelley Armstrong

This book is the first in a series and one that definitely has me wanting more. 
Mallory Atkinson is a Vancouver homicide detective. As the story begins, she is in Edinburgh at the bedside of her dying grandmother. She takes breaks from time to time to vent her grief through distraction and activity. She goes for coffee or for a run. 
One evening, on a run, she hears a noise that might be someone in distress, and finds herself fighting off an unknown assailant in an alley in Old Town. She loses consciousness and awakens in a bed in a townhouse in New Town. She soon discovers that she is now in the year 1869 and seems to be in the body of a housemaid, Catriona Mitchell. She has no idea how this happened or how to return to her own time. 
As she learns her surroundings, she discovers that she has been lucky in the household that she has ended up in. The master of the house, Duncan Gray, is a trained doctor with a strong interest in forensics and a business as an undertaker. He is also a man of colour, and thus faces discrimination and barriers. The mistress of the household, Isla Ballantyne, his sister is a forthright intelligent woman with a scientific bent of her own. As she finds out more about the real Catriona, she is less impressed. The girl seems to have a criminal mind and bad judgment. 
Mallory, in Catriona's body, soon finds herself drawn into the cases that Duncan, with the help of his friend police detective McCreadie. Not only may she be able to help, it may relate to her own story and time. 
I really enjoyed getting to know Mallory and Isla. The male characters of Duncan and McCreadie are starting to be developed more towards the end of the book, and I look forward to seeing more of them. Mallory is an interesting character, intelligent and curious. She longs to return to her own time, and worries about whether Catriona is in her body, and if so, what havoc she is creating. She can't help but be interested in what is happening where she is though, and trying to learn more and help without creating ripples that may cause things to change in time. 
Definitely a page turner.

Sunday 8 January 2023


Finished January 8
Snitch by Allison van Diepen

This teen novel is set in Brooklyn, New York and the main character is Julia, a high school student who has managed to avoid recruitment into a gang up until the novel begins. Julia is a good student, writes poetry, and values the independence her father allows her. She is of mixed Italian and Puerto Rican background.
Julia's mother died several years earlier, and her father has a good job with the city. He often spends time with his girlfriend and trusts Julia to look after herself, but he still is interested in her life and obviously cares about her. Julia has a group of girlfriends from school that she spends time with, particularly a girl nicknamed Q, as well as a male friend, Black Chuck, that she has a platonic relationship with. 
When a new boy, Eric, shows up at school, Julia shows interest and is surprised that he also seems interested in her. But she finds that he doesn't always tell her the truth despite the way he claims to feel about her. Her own feelings lead her to make choices that lead her in a different direction that she really wants for herself. As she adjusts to her new reality and gets into difficult situations, I could see how this time was forcing her to face up to some adult decisions that may have long-lasting effects. 
An interesting look into a different culture, with new language and situations that are foreign to me. 


Finished January 7
Zolitude by Paige Cooper

This collection of stories is wide-ranging, with some flowing along and other disjointed and hard to follow. There is a touch of the strange to all of them, whether of setting, action, or character. The women in these stories are often caught in circumstances that they don't like, whether it is waiting for someone who will never arrive, being the recipient of a dangerous package, or trying to get answers in a foreign country. These are women who have been treated badly, by their family, by their colleagues, by the people that they have encountered through their work. 
I can't say that I enjoyed these stories, but they did sometimes make me think. When this collection came out in 2018 it was one of the nominees for the Giller Prize, and drew a variety of stellar reviews. One description was offbeat and that is definitely fitting. Throughout, you can sense the author's command of story and of language. 
A unique and interesting colleciton.

Friday 6 January 2023

Kiss Her Once for Me

Finished January 6
Kiss Her Once for Me by Alison Cochrun

This lesbian romance has much more to offer than the satisfying romance it contains. It is a book about dealing with failure, about how we respond to the expectations of others, about being our true selves in all their messy truth, and about how we find those true selves.
It is a book about dealing with the fears we all face, the fears of failure, of rejection, of imperfection, of negative attention, of positive attention, of success, and of being vulnerable. 
Ellie Oliver is a woman who more or less raised herself and is still dealing with a toxic parent in her life. She has used art as a way to make herself feel good, as a way to get positive attention, and now as a way to earn a living, but it has also become something that is no longer something she does for herself in a healing way, but usually something that she does for others. She is broke, unhappy, and trying to hide from everything that she doesn't want to deal with.
Jack Kim-Prescott is a woman who has not lived up to the expectations her wealthy family has had for her. She tried, but she stopped trying a while back. She is slowly finding her path, career wise, but still struggling in her personal life. When they meet, they recognize each other, but it also scares them both to a certain extent because of their pasts. 
The book is set in Portland, Oregon, beginning in December 2021 and ending sometime early in 2023. 
This book makes you feel for the characters, and hope for them, and care about what happens to them. A great read. 

Thursday 5 January 2023

European Reading Challenge 2023 Sign-up

I'm joining this challenge again. Last year was the first time I didn't successfully complete it.

I will join at the 5 star level, which requires me to read books from or set in 5 different European countries. 

It's hosted by Rose City Reader, here.

I usually get Great Britain and France pretty quickly, and some others trickle in. I'm going to be more organized at seeking books to meet the challenge out this year, and hopefully will do better. 

January Reviews for the 16th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge

Add the link to your review, and comment as well.

Sunday 1 January 2023

Summary of 2022 Reading

I always keep statistics on my reading and one of the sites I track it on gave me some additional information that I will share.
Total books read was 102, much less than the previous few years. I would have to go back more than 20 years to get a number lower than that of 2022. 
Total pages read was 29,073.

Children    10
Teen            5
Adult         87

(there is some overlap with multigenre books so the numbers won't necessarily add up)
Fiction                                            86
    Fantasy                                         6
    Historical Fiction                       10
    Mystery/Thriller                         33
    Romance                                    26
    Science Fiction                            2
    Short Stories                                6
    Western                                        1
Nonfiction                                     16
    Essays                                         0
    History                                        2
    Memoir/Biography                     6
    Poetry                                          2
    Science/Social Science               4
Setting (some books had multiple settings, some didn't have one, or it wasn't named)
Canada                                          9
United States                               52
Europe                                         30
Asia                                               4
Australasia                                    2
Africa                                            1
South and Central America           2
Fictional world                              1

Translations    3
    French                 1
    Portuguese          1
    Spanish               1

Library                  11
My own                81
Borrowed                2
Temporary              9
* temporary were digital copies that expired, but not from the library

70 of the owned books left for new homes after I read them.

Men            18
Women       76
Both             5

Physical book        87
ebook                    15
Advanced copy     27
Netgalley                9

29 of the books were part of a series, and 77 of them were authors I hadn't read before.

Other insights
Storygraph analyzed some things that I hadn't before and I found it very interesting
One thing it looks at was the mood of the books. Lighter books moved the line up. My graph had a definite upward slant to it.
I could also see from another graph that I went through obvious cycles this year in reading and not reading, with the line undulating up and down.
My longest read this year was only 544 pages, while the shortest was 24 pages, and my average length came in at 287 pages.

What's in a Name Reading Challenge 2023

 This reading challenge is not too onerous and it's super fun. The signup page is here.

The idea is to read a book that matches each of the prompts. The book can be in any format. 

This year the prompts are:

7 Deadly Sins
You or Me
Chess Piece
Q, X, Z

52 Book Club's 2023 Reading Challenge

 Information on the challenge can be found here.
There are usually some mini-challenges in different months as well and I will add those in my Reading Challenge Progress page for the year.

The main list
1. A book with a subtitle
2. Featuring an inheritance
3. Title starting with the letter "G"
4. Title starting with the letter "H"
5. Title starting with the letter "I"
6. Under 200 pages
7. A city or country name in the title
8. Dystopian fiction
9. A book with a dedication
10. Takes place during the Roarding 20s
11. A book about secrets
12. High fantasy
13. Published posthumously 
14. A survival story
15. Set in Australia
16. Featuring one of the "seven deadly sins"
17. By a Caribbean author
18. Set during a war other than WWI or WWII
19. Typographic cover
20. A book about siblings
21. A second-hand book
22. A body-positive message
23. An alliterative title
24. Nordic noir
25. A fashionable character
26. Has an epilogue
27. Newberry Medal winner
28. Includes a funeral
29. Sends you down a rabbit hole
30. An author with a same name as you
31. Set in a workplace
32. Published by MacMillan
33. A banned book
34. Featuring mythology
35. A book you meant to read last year
36. Chapters have cliffhangers
37. Written in present tense
38. An enemies to lovers plot
39. The final book in a series
40. Written by a comedian
41. A character who is a refugee
42. Time in the title
43. A book "everyone" has read
44. A contemporary setting
45. First word in the book is "the"
46. Script font on the spine
47. Set in the city of Dublin
48. A book by Octavia E. Butler
49. Books on the cover
50. Related to the word "murder"
51. Doesn't fit any of the other 51 prompts
52. Published in 2023

Wrap-Up of 52 Book Club 2022 Reading Challenge

 I didn't complete this challenge, but I did read to most of the prompts. I particularly didn't read the mini challenges very well, so that is something I will try to focus on in 2023.

52 Book Club Reading Challenge 2022

1. A second-person narrative
    Lipstick and Lies by Lesley Grant-Adamson. Finished September 21
2. Featuring a library or bookstore
    Book Lovers by Emily Henry. Finished April 1
3. Title starting with the letter “e”
    The End of October by Lawrence Wright. Finished December 2
4. Title starting with the letter “f”
    For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten. Finished March 22
5. Chapters have titles
    The Family Man by Elinor Lipman. Finished January 26
6. Household object on the cover
    Changing Habits by Debbie Macomber. Finished September 12
7. A non-fiction bestseller
I didn't read as much nonfiction this year as usual, and not any bestsellers. Something to think on for 2023
8. Involving the art world
    A House Among the Trees by Julia Glass. Finished May 4
9. A book that sparks joy
    The Lonely Fajita by Abigail Mann. Finished April 10
10. A book based on a real person
    Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch by Rivka Galchen. Finished January 24 
11. A book with less than 2022 Goodreads ratings
    Rabbit Ears edited by Joel Allegretti. Finished January 12 (9 ratings at time of review)  
12. Set on at least two continents
    Die For You by Lisa Unger. Finished January 15 (New York City and Prague)  
13. Includes a club
    Juniper Lemon's Happiness Index by Julie Israel. Finished March 2
14. A character with superhuman ability
    Queen of Dragons by Shana Abe. Finished February 4
15. A five-syllable titles
    So Say The Fallen by Stuart Neville. Finished February 12
16. A book you’ve seen someone reading in a public place
I had a book that I was reading for this prompt (Lessons in Chemistry), but didn't finish it in time.
17. A book picked based on its spine
    The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Robert Hillman. Finished April 21
18. Jane-Austen-inspired
    I have a book I identified for this prompt, but never even started it.
19. A book that has an alternate titles
    The House of Whispers by Laura Purcell. Finished February 25 (alternate title: Bone China)
20. Related to the world “gold”
    The Other's Gold by Elizabeth Ames. Finished September 22
21. Published by Simon & Schuster
    Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald. Finished February 2
22. An unlikely detective
    The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James. Finished May 22
23. Author with an X, Y, or Z in their name
    Sea Wife by Amity Gaige. Finished June 28
24. Addresses a specific topic
    If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It by Colleen Nelson and Kathie MacIsaac. Finished December 11
25. A wealthy character
    Leave Me By Dying by Rosemary Aubert. Finished April 8
26. Has an “Author’s Note”
    The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher. Finished May 14
27. Includes a map
    A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz. Finished January 28
28. Award-winning book from your country
I was really bad at paying attention to awards this year, so I may have achieved this one without realizing it.
29. Over 500 pages long
    Find You First by Linwood Barclay. Finished May 6
30. Audiobook is narrated by the author
I didn't listen to a single audiobook this year. I'm finding myself listening to radio more often in the car and my trips have been shorter
31. Technology-themed
Again, didn't read a lot of nonfiction this year. Usually I read in this genre, so it was a bit surprising to miss this prompt
32. A book that intimidates you
    Pitch Dark by Renata Adler. Finished December 14
33. A bilingual character
    I Found You by Lisa Jewell. Finished February 28
34. An author’s photo on the back cover
    Stars in the Junkyard by Sharon Berg. Finished March 28
35. From the villain’s perspective
I had problems with the premise of this one being a bit of a spoiler alert. I don't think I fulfilled it though
36. Recommended by a favourite author
I probably fulfilled this one, but again not something I really look for regularly
37. Set in a rural area
    The Beacon by Susan Hill. Finished April 24
38. Don’t judge a book by its cover!
    The Heart of the Deal by Lindsay MacMillan. Finished May 18
39. A middle-grade novel
I had one planned for this, but never got to it.
40. A book with photographs inside
    An Emotional Education by The School of Life. Finished March 15
41. Involves a second chance
    The Mountains Wild by Sarah Stewart Taylor. Finished April 13
42. An indie read
I probably fulfilled this one, but didn't specifically note it
43. Author who’s published in more than one genre
    Pianos and Flowers by Alexander McCall Smith. Finished December 6
44. An anthology
I did some stories and essays, but no anthologies this year
45. A book with illustrated people on cover
    Queerly Beloved by Susie Dumond. Finished May 16
46. A job title in the title
    The Vet's Daughter by Barbara Comyns. Finished August 28
47. Read during the month of November
    The Witch of Babylon by D.J. McIntosh. Finished November 26
48. Redo one of this year’s prompts but with a different genre
    Prompt 11 (less than 2022 GR ratings)
    X + Y: A Mathematician's Manifesto for Rethinking Gender by Eugenia Cheng. Finished December         31 (at time of writing had 605 ratings)
49. Book title starts with the same letter as your first name
    Sight by Adrienne Maria Vrettos. Finished February 16
50. A person of colour as the main character
    Serena Singh Flips the Script by Sonya Lalli. Finished December 16
51. The word “game” in the title
    Rules of the Game by Lori Wilde. Finished May 29
52. Published in 2022.
    Lucy Checks In by Dee Ernst. Finished April 4

* Second in a series
    So Say the Fallen by Stuart Neville. Finished February 12.
* A title with the same word twice
* Mirror, Mirror on the wall

* Character who works in math or sciences
* Circle on the cover The School of Life: An Emotional Education by the School of Life. 
* Pi or Pie

April (NONE!)
* Rain on cover
* Comical Read
* Foolish Character

* Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
* Suitcase of the Cover
* Set in a Place You Wish You Were Vacationing

Summer Genre Challenge (June 21-Sept 22)
Includes the following genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Sci-Fi, Children's Story, Young Adult, Mystery, Memoir/Biography, Romance, Classic, Thriller, True Crime, Non-Fiction, Adventure, Self-Help, Poetry, and Other

Mystery: Another Thing to Fall by Laura Lippman. Finished June 23
Adventure: Sea Wife by Amity Gaige. Finished June 28
Fantasy: An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard. Finished August 15
Historical Fiction: Mary Coin by Marisa Silver. Finished August 31
Romance: A Family for Christmas by Helen Scott Taylor. Finished September 2
Children's: Windy Days by Deborah Kerbel and Miki Sato. Finished September 5

* Related to the word "Dark"
* A Psychological Thriller
* Local Legends The Second Chance Inn by Susan Hatler. Finished October 9

November (NONE!)
* Dessert on the cover
* Let's Party
* Related to the word "gift"

* 300-399 pages long In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren (336 pages)
* Set or written 300 years ago 
* Three "C"s on the cover Whiteout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon.