Tuesday 9 April 2024

Get a Life, Chloe Brown

Finished March 31
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

This is the first book in a series around three sisters, Chloe, Dani, and Eve. I found this story really interesting, with the main character Chloe being drawn as a more complex character. The family is a wealthy one, but Chloe has finally made the jump to living in her own apartment. Part of the reason she lived in her parents' multigenerational home was her chronic illness, fibromyalgia, which she developed after a bad bout of pneumonia. When a car out of control nearly hits her as she is out for a walk, she realizes that she has to take chances and live a riskier life because anything could happen to her at any time. Chloe has made a career as a web designer, so she works out of her own home and sets her work expectations around how she feels. 
Chloe is a big listmaker and she's made one for her fresh start. It's not a long list, but she is also a person who, when she sets goals, accomplishes them. 
The superintendent of the apartment she lives in is Redford "Red" Morgan, and he is having a bit of a hiatus from his earlier life after a bad breakup that also touched on his livelihood as an artist. His friend Vik, who owns the building offered him the position when he came back home from London as a temporary haven. Vik enjoys keeping the tenants happy and is patient and kind. Somehow, he started off on the wrong foot with Chloe, but after rescuing her from a situation of her own making, the two start to talk to each other and open up. 
This is a romance for sure, but it is also a story of two people each a little wary due to past relationships, who have their own pains and dreams, who began to share those with each other as they grow closer. I also appreciated that it has a cat.
Truly enjoyable. 

Friday 5 April 2024

Lone Wolf

Finished March 30
Lone Wolf by Diana Palmer, Kate Pearce, and Rebecca Zanetti

This is a collection of three short novels all with a wolf as part of the story. 
The first one is Colorado Cowboy by Diana Palmer. This story has twenty-three-year-old Esther Marist is a real jam. Esther had fled her mother Terry's house in Aspen, Colorado after her mother's latest boyfriend Darrin pushed her mother down the stairs in a temper. She has her purse, but not her phone, and isn't really dressed for the winter weather. Esther is afraid to go to the police as Darrin had indicated he had contacts there. She ends up getting a ride from a middle-aged couple driving a semi who drop her off in northern Colorado where she told them she had friends. She ends up on the doorstep of Iraq war veteran Butch Matthews who works for the wildlife service and has a wolf he rehabilitated as a pet. The story is cute, but a little too sweet for my taste. Esther seems worldly wise in some ways, and completely innocent in others. She grew up in boarding schools, but has no friends. She's eager to please and only wants a happy home in her future. As the man hunting her grows near, it is Butch and his friends, who've become hers, along with long-lost family that save the day. 
The second story, The Wolf on Her Doorstep by Kate Pearce is set in the ranching country of California, and was the best story in my opinion. Beth Baker works at the Garcia Ranch and is in charge as the novel opens, with the Garcia family on vacation. She grew up in the area and her brother is a mechanic at the family-run gas station. Beth is also raising two young men, her own son Mike who is home for the summer from college, and her ex-husband's son Wes, who works as an apprentice carpenter in town.  One of the cabins on the ranch is currently rented by Conner O'Neil, a Navy SEALS veteran, and because he hasn't shown up for his weekly supplies from the general store, Beth agrees to take them up to him. Beth has another worry, as her ex-husband Sean has written her son from prison trying to get back into his good books. Beth knows the violence that he's capable of, but Mike was too young to remember the abuse. Wes is with Beth because Sean killed Wes' mother and she offered him a home. Conner has a wolf pet named Loki who accosts Beth soon after she gets to the ranch. I liked Beth as she's no fool, she's capable of a lot of things and has survived some bad times with grace. The chemistry between Beth and Conner was nicely done, and both were drawn as realistic people. A satisfying read. 
The third story is Rescue: Cowboy Style by Rebecca Zanetti and set in rural Wyoming. Hallie is on the run from something and when she crashes her car into a fence in a storm, she made her way to a clubhouse for local cowboys, following the only light she could see. She meets one of the men who own a large ranch in the area, Trent Logan. He's very pushy and although he doesn't force himself on her, he does make some questionable moves and talks in a very sexist way. Hallie has stumbled on something a little mysterious here that she struggles to understand as she still tries to find a way to save herself from what's chasing her. There was a wolf that followed her from her car, and it seems to have been tamed by someone and seems fixated on looking out for her. By the end, there is some sense of what the wolf represents. Hallie is a woman who has a college education, but seems a little helpless, and doesn't seem to put up much resistance to Trent's advances or sexist outlook. This story bothered me in a lot of ways. It seems to be the story referenced by the series indicator attached to the book, Redemption Wyoming, #1. 
All three novels have ex-military men as the male love interest. 

The Plot is Murder

Finished March 22
The Plot is Murder by V.M. Burns

This is the first book in a series set around Samantha Washington, the owner of a mystery bookstore in a small town on the shores of Lake Michigan. Samantha, a schoolteacher, has always dreamed of becoming a successful mystery writer, while her husband Leon dreamed of owning a bookstore specializing in mysteries. The mystery bookstore part of the dream is about to come true, but it is a bittersweet reality for her though, as part of the money to buy the old downtown building came from her late husband Leon's life insurance. Before he died, Samantha promised Leon that she would buy the brick brownstone, open the bookstore and start writing a book. 
The bookstore is coming together, with the bookshelves getting built by a local Amish craftsman, and books on the way. The grand opening is scheduled for just two weeks from day the story begins. Samantha has also started writing a mystery in the apartment above the store that she and her two toy poodles Snickers and Oreo now live in. She has a lot of support. Her two nephews, Christopher and Zaq, her sister Jenna and brother-in-law Tony, her mom, and her grandmother Nana Jo all support her and pitch in wherever they are needed. When the real estate agent who sold her the building and then, later, tried to stop the sale, ends up dead on her doorstep, she must rally all the troops. 
Interspersed with the main story are snippets from the historical mystery novel Samantha is writing. Set in England just before World War II, the novel is both an escape and a creative endeavour for her. Nana Jo and her group of senior friends are a delightful addition to the action as they work their networks to gather information and put it all together. So is Dawson, the star university football player with an interesting skill set who soon joins the household and store staff. 
This cosy mystery has humour and a good plotline. The characters are beginning to form here, with Samantha, Nana Jo, and Dawson the most developed so far. It was fast moving and I was intrigued by the story within a story. 

Monday 25 March 2024

The Damage Done

Finished March 19
The Damage Done by Hilary Davidson

This is the first book in a series featuring travel writer Lily Moore. Lily has returned to New York City from her more recent life in Spain after the police contact her to tell her that her younger sister Claudia has been found dead in her apartment on the anniversary of their mother's suicide. The apartment is actually Lily's and she'd tried living there with Claudia, but couldn't handle her sister's personality on a daily basis. Lily goes to the apartment and notices things that seem strange and out of character for her sister. When she goes to the morgue to identify her sister, things get even stranger, as the body there is someone Lily has never seen before. 
As she tries to find her sister, tracking down who and when anyone last saw or heard from here, she finds the police seem likely to think Claudia may have something to do with this woman's death. Claudia's best friend Jesse has her back, and provides a place for her to stay when she feels unsafe in her old apartment. 
With her ex-fiance, wealthy hotelier Martin trying to come back into her life, Lily finds herself still charmed by him, and yet wary too. There are a few other interesting characters, from Claudia's ex, Tariq, to the strangely friendly new neighbour Sarah, to the two police officers, Renfrew and Bruxton, assigned to the case.
I liked Lily, and enjoyed seeing both her strengths and flaws become apparent over the course of the novel, and found the plot gripping, with a few twists thrown in. 
I'd read the other two in this series a few years ago, so it was interesting to see earlier events in Lily's life, and I would have liked to see more of some characters, like Bruxton and Tariq, in the other books. 

A Meal in Winter

Finished March 18
A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli, translated by Sam Taylor

I came to this book through a new book subscription service I decided to try out. It's from a shop in Wales called Mr. B's and they have a long form to fill out to get a sense of what books you like, and since I teach Readers' Advisory, I found it really related to the interview aspect that's a part of RA work. So this was the first book I got in the subscription, and I'd never heard of the author before, which was great. I love discovering new authors.
Because this book was somewhat dark in subject, I took my time with it, dipping in now and then over a couple of months to read it. It is beautifully written and translated, and really spoke to me emotionally. There are extremely touching passages, and elements of humour in their thoughts and conversations, and all the time there is the shadow of their task and its outcome hanging over them. 
The story is about three German soldiers in World War II in Poland. The camp that they live it looks for Jews and then the soldiers that are based there shoot them in a formal event every morning. These soldiers absolutely hate having to do this, and so they ask to go wander about the countryside and search for the Jews, a task they would rather do than shoot them. 
When they unexpectedly find a Jewish man, they go through a process where they are torn between their natural bent to let him go, and the expectations of their superiors. They know that if they prove successful in bringing someone in, they will be allowed to go out again and skip the actual execution task. 
As the title indicates, it is winter and very cold and even in the camp food supplies are low, so the men are constantly hungry. When they find an abandoned house and break in, they find a single room with a stove and decide to light it and make a meal with the food they have. 
Another interesting part of this book is that one of them, Emmerlich, is a father who worries about his son. The first time he does so here is when the men have stopped to smoke a cigarette and he worries that his son will start smoking. The worries about his son are ongoing, and the other two men talk him through them, and give their input on the situation. This is one way the author humanizes the men. This discussion also includes a foreshadowing of a future event that provides an eerie echo to what the men are doing now. 
A moving story, beautifully told. 

Saturday 23 March 2024

Hunting Season

Finished March 16
Hunting Season by Andrea Camilleri, translated by Stephen Sartarelli

This novel was one I picked up because I enjoyed the author's Inspector Montalbano mystery series. It is nothing like that series. It is a mystery, but also a farce, with touches of romance, and nods to several of Shakespeare's Italian plays. It also rambles a lot and I found I didn't really care about it enough to try to follow all the plot strings.
There are many interwoven plots for such a short novel, but the central one has a man returning to the town of Vigata under an assumed name after being away for years. He escaped after his father was murdered, and has an agenda that it takes some time to reveal. The local nobility, the marchese, is a womanizer who ignores his daughter while trying to produce an heir, with most of the local inhabitants turning a blind eye. 
Some reviews called this bawdy and humorous, but it felt contrived and hard to follow to me, and I found the female characters to be pawns with no real choices. 
I finished it because I was reading it for one of my reading challenge goals, but wouldn't recommend it. 

Jack in the Green

Finished March 12
Jack in the Green by Diane Capri

This novella continues the series Hunt for Reacher, where FBI agents Kim Otto and Carlos Gaspar search for information on Jack Reacher. Having had little luck trying to get information from those close to Reacher, this installment has them connecting with someone who has had a run-in with Reacher during his Army days. Retired colonel Thomas Weston is back at a Florida base for a memorial service, and the FBI agents have been given a directive to ask him some questions, just before other FBI agents arrest him. 
Weston was investigated for being responsible for the killing of his entire family, but the evidence wasn't found to convict him. 
Otto and Gaspar aren't sure if this meeting is a set-up to trap Reacher or not, and they can't figure out why Weston would return to the U.S. at this time. When things go wrong, as is usual in this series, they really go wrong, and we get to see a little of Tampa while they do.
This novel also brings in characters from Capri's other series, including Judge Willa Carson, lawyer Jennifer Lane, and reporter Jessica Kimball. 
I enjoyed the varied pace of this one, and the glimpse of some other interesting characters. 

Friday 22 March 2024

Love, Holly

Finished March 12
Love, Holly by Emily Stone

This book has a cover that makes it look like a light romance, but it is more complex than that. The book begins with Holly and her sister Lily are driving from London to a rental cottage in the country to join their parents for Christmas, with Lily's husband due to come up later. 
When they make an impromptu stop for a coffee for Holly, and a mint tea for Lily, who is in the later stages of pregnancy, Holly has a meet cute with an attractive man and gets his number.
As the two women get back on the road, an accident happens that changes everything. As a result Holly has been estranged from her family for years, and has found a new career as an art teacher, abandoning her own hopes for a career as an artist. As part of her grieving process, Holly has been participating in a program where the participants send letters anonymously at the holidays to someone else, and receive a letter in return from someone. When Emma, the woman whose letter Holly received, gives out some information in her letter that Holly recognizes, she is determined to find her and reconnect her with her estranged family. 
As the story comes full circle and Holly is reunited with the man she met just before the accident, she finds that her friendship with Emma is leading her back to dealing with her own family issues.
This is a story that begins with a tragedy, with other sad events influencing the plot, but that comes down to issues around grief and communication. The story carries you along quickly, and leaves you with a feel-good ending. 

Small Spaces

Finished March 11
Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

I've enjoyed this author's adult novels and thought I would try one of her children's novels. Small Spaces is the first book in a series of novels featuring paranormal elements in our world. The story is centered on 11 year old Ollie, who is still grieving the loss of her mother. She loves books and wandering in the woods near her Vermont home. One day, when she's going to her secret forest reading spot, she finds someone already there, a woman who seems distraught and who is about to throw a book into the river. Ollie grabs the book from her hands and takes off. When she examines the book later, she finds it is a sort of diary told by a woman whose husband made an agreement with "the smiling man" to find his brother again. 
A few days later, when Ollie's class goes on a field trip to a nearby farm, she finds several things unsettling, from the substitute bus driver, to the presence of the woman she'd seen earlier. There are also numerous scarecrows on the farm who give off an eerie vibe to Ollie. 
When their bus back to school breaks down and leaves them on the side of a deserted road near the forest, Ollie and two other students who follow her, try to make their way to safety, using the words that Ollie found in the book about keeping to small spaces, and the guidance that she gets from her mother through a device.
This is a creepy story with suspenseful and tense moments. Ollie is a girl who cares about others, and also one who is able to find calmness in a crisis. I read the book in one sitting, eager to know what happened. 
The pace is fast and the main characters of Ollie, Brian, and Coco have some depth to them. I'm interested in seeing how this series continues. 

Monday 18 March 2024

Her Majesty's Royal Coven

Finished March 8
Her Majesty's Royal Coven by Juno Dawson

This is the first book in a series by the same title, and is set around a group of women that took their adolescent oath to join Her Majesty's Royal Coven (HMRC), a longstanding institution, first started by Queen Elizabeth I, at the same time. All of the girls had some early schooling in the magical arts by Elle's grandmother, Annie, who is an oracle. Since then they have gone their separate ways, but still retain some friendships. 
There was a civil war in recent years that has hit many of them hard, and caused two of them to lose their partners. This is a wound for many that hasn't yet healed. 
Helena, the wealthiest of the girls, is now the High Priestess of the coven. Elle, a healing witch, is living a life as a normal housewife, with her partner unaware of her abilities. Niamh, who has multiple abilities, is working as a country vet, still mourning the loss of her partner. Leonie, the only black one of the group, has started her own more inclusive and intersectional coven called Diaspora in which she welcomes witches from all cultural backgrounds as well as lesbians and transgender witches. 
This book begins with a couple of young people. One of them, Elle's daughter Holly, is showing signs of magical abilities, and Elle asks Niamh for help in introducing the whole idea of witches to her, as well as giving her some training. The other is a young man, Theo, who seems to have extraordinary abilities and caused damage to the school he was attending. Helena has retrieved him and imprisoned him, and he is in great distress. She asks Niamh to come and help, even though Niamh is no longer part of the HMRC.
It is obvious from the beginning that Helena is the most traditional and staid of the group, as well as being the one who likes the power she wields. I enjoyed getting to know the way that this imagined world worked, with witches in general more powerful than warlocks, and them having separate administrative structures while still with the witches as the ultimate decision-makers. 
We also learn the mythology of their creation and the creatures, demons, that they, as representatives of Gaia, are supposed to hold the world against. There are different kinds of witches, with certain attributes and some, with more power, who have combined skills. 
I was quite enjoying this book and seeing how the different women lived, but few of them were complex characters, with none of the younger characters in the book having a real voice, despite their importance to the plot. 
I did get frustrated with some of the characters, and with some of the later plot elements, particularly with the note on which the book ended. I realize that it was likely structured this way to encourage the reader to continue with the following book in the series, but it didn't sit well with me. 


Sunday 17 March 2024

Homecoming

Finished March 8
Homecoming by Kate Morton

This novel starts in the past, on New Year's Day in 1959, and moves back and forth between that 1959  and the near present, late 2018. The 1959 portion takes place in the Adelaide Hills, around a family, the Turners, that lived in a large house that had a sad past, built for a wife that never arrived. The first scene is an interesting one, letting us into the mind of Isabel Turner, a woman who is beginning to question the life she lives. It also ends on an interesting mysterious note with the arrival at the house of a man Isabel hadn't expected. This is followed by tragedy nearly a year later, with a local man, Percy Summers, the one to make the sad discovery on Christmas Eve. 
This present day part of the novel starts in London, but is set mostly in Australia. Jess, a journalist, is off to meet a friend after time spent at her favourite museum, and grabs a cab as rain begins. She receives a call from Australia, where she was born and grown up, telling her of her grandmother's hospitalization after a fall. Jess travels back to Australia, where she finds herself alone in her grandmother's large house, and begins to reflect on memories as well as look for reasons for her grandmother visiting a part of the house that led to her fall. 
One thing she finds is an old book, written by an American journalist, that tells of the tragedy in 1959, with apparent access to personal papers of the Turner family. As Jess begins to realize the connection between this event and her own family, she must also deal with family issues much closer to home, the relationship between herself, her mother, and her grandmother. 
I found this a fascinating read. As is usual for Morton, the characters are complex and feel real. As Jess uncovers her family's history and faces the strange dynamics between the three generations of women, we see the insecurities, fear, and love that underlie all of it. 
A great read. 

Saturday 16 March 2024

Get Back Jack

Finished March 2
Get Back Jack by Diane Capri

This is the second novel in the series Hunt for Reacher, where FBI agents Kim Otto and Carlos Gaspar are on an off-the-books case to discover more about Jack Reacher as part of a supposed background check. Here, there are trying to talk to the surviving members of his core team from his army days. There aren't a lot of them left, and they find that suspicious in and of itself. When they arrive at the office of one of them and find a crime scene being processed, they get worried about the remaining members of the team. 
This book features one of my favourite recurring characters from the Reacher novels, Frances Neagley, a woman that he often relies on for assistance, but who also has her own issues. 
We actually get a deeper glimpse into her life here, and also find that Otto and Gaspar encounter move danger than they expected. When women and children connected to Reacher are kidnapped as leverage against some of the members of Reacher's team, Otto and Gaspar find themselves teaming up with Neagley and learning a little more about Reacher. 
I enjoyed how this book, brought in characters from Child's books, but let us see a different aspect of them. I'm enjoying this series. 

Hidden

Finished February 27
Hidden by Rebecca Zanetti

This romantic suspense novel is the first book in a series that is centered around a small unorthodox group of government agents. There are two main characters. Pippa is a woman with a past that she fears will one day catch up with her. Malcolm was an undercover cop who is drafted into the small government team early in this novel. When Malcolm moves into the house that shares a yard with Pippa's it doesn't take long for them to notice each other, but they are both wary for their own reasons. 
The team Malcolm is drafted onto is made up of misfits, people who have traumas, and many have interesting quirks. 
Pippa has a job where she can work from home and interacts with others rarely. She has one woman that she meets from time to time and we learn gradually just how they know each other. Just as we learn the life that Pippa has fled, and what she has left behind.
We also learn about Malcolm's past and why he ended up where he is now. 
There are some formulaic elements to this story, and a few things that seem unlikely as plot devices, but the story is a fast-moving one, with elements of violence and sex in small doses. 
I picked up the book to meet a reading challenge, trying out an author that was new to me. 

Friday 15 March 2024

My Life as a Villainess

Finished February 25
My Life as a Villainess by Laura Lippman

This collection of  fifteen personal essays covers many aspects of Lippman's life, from her later in life motherhood to her time as a rookie reporter in Waco, Texas to the wonder of reheating leftovers in a double boiler. 
The book is organized into four sections, each with a few essays, along with an introduction that tells us how she came to write personal essays in the first place. I came to this book having enjoyed her fiction and found myself quickly enjoying her open style when discussing different aspects and events in her life. As she says in the introduction, there are portions of her life not covered here, but what she has included is interesting and relatable. 
Her opening essay is on the mental struggle for women between the body they have and the body society tells them they should have. It's magnificent. 
The essays aren't in chronological order about her life, but are grouped roughly into four sections where they feel that they belong with each other. 
I read this book one essay at a time, taking breaks between them and found them emotionally moving and reminding me of aspects of my own life. 

Wednesday 13 March 2024

March Reviews for the 17th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge

 Sorry to be posting this so late. Things kind of got away from me this month. 

Please use the linky to connect to your reviews for the month.


Sunday 10 March 2024

The Clinic

Finished February 21
The Clinic by Cate Quinn

This suspense thriller mostly takes place at a remote luxury rehab centre on the Oregon coast. Haley, an famous singer, is a patient there and we see her as the novel begins going into an area that she's not supposed to be in.
The novel then jumps to her sister Meg. Meg works at a casino in Las Vegas, where she is part of the investigative team looking for people trying to cheat the system and for other types of crimes. Meg was caught a few years back by some of the bad guys and suffered an injury that she got opioids for and now she is a functioning addict. She's already used other substances to deal with childhood trauma that she hasn't dealt with, and has recurring nightmares that include a man in a fedora and playing cards. 
She'd been close to Haley until Haley left home suddenly, leaving Meg with their mentally unstable mother. 
When Meg gets the news that Haley has died at the rehab centre, and hears rumours of suicide, she is at first very upset, then decides to enter the centre herself as a guest to try to find out what really happened to Haley. She is sure that Haley would never commit suicide. 
There is a second point of view here as well, that of the manager of the rehab centre, Cara, who hasn't been there long. Cara has a background in the hotel industry, where she worked until she got caught up in a scandal. As Cara gradually learns what is going on, partly from the doctor there, Max, and partly from her own investigations, we learn about things from a different angle. 
The other guests at the centre are as famous as Haley was, actors and singers, all there for various addictions. The head of the centre is a man from Switzerland with his own sketchy past, and as the local police also show an interest after the death of Haley, we find some other centre staff may have troublesome connections as well. 
This is a story of both psychological suspense and some physical suspense as well. It has lots of twists and turns and unexpected events that keep you guessing on things right to the end. None of the characters are particularly likeable, even though you might think are. 
The author has her own experiences in rehab, and says that this is her first novel that she's written sober. 

Saturday 9 March 2024

Night Diver

Finished February 20
Night Diver by Elizabeth Lowell

This is a gripping novel about family, trust, and fraud. Kate Donnelly left St. Vincent years ago after the death of her parents when they were doing a dive. She tried to save her father, and her mother's body was never found. Kate hasn't dived since. Now her brother and grandfather, who run the family's dive company Moon Rose, have asked for her help sorting through the finances to try to keep the company from going bankrupt. They current have a dive contract with a British antiquities organization that barely pays the costs. She feels that she must go even though she has little hope that she will be able to make the difference needed. 
She is put in charge of a new arrival to the island, a dive consultant from the funding company who is evaluating the operation to see if it is viable or should be shut down. His name is Holden Cameron and he has both experience diving and an investigative background. 
As the two are forced to spend time together, they find it hard to withstand the physical attraction to each other, but also both have suspicions that something isn't right about the dive that is going on. 
Because of poor funding, Moon Rose has trouble hiring good divers, which isn't helped by the site they are diving at having a reputation for things going wrong. 
This is a story that built slowly into a finale with lots of action. The two main characters are interesting and have backstories that include trauma. They are also smart and once they start putting facts together, they find themselves coming to the same conclusion. 

Anger Bang

Finished February 19
Anger Bang by Avery Flynn

This novel is the first in a romance series and the two main characters, Thea and Kade, had their own baggage that they are bringing to their present situation. Thea was a child actress along with her sister and their mother was a stereotypical Hollywood mom, doing everything she could to keep parts coming. But Thea's heart was never in it and she stepped back when she became a teenager and the parts dried up. She is now a paleontologist and loves her job. Kade's story is unveiled as the book progresses, but he had an unhappy childhood that is still unresolved. 
As the novel opens Thea is getting the final fitting for her bridesmaid dress. Her sister's wedding is a reality show event at a camping resort in Wyoming, with footage revealed to fans daily. Both bride and groom are stars looking for a lift in their careers and have agreed to do this as a career move. They are friends as well. As Thea is standing outside her sister's trailer, she meets Kade, the best man and brother of the groom. Kade looks like a rebel with his tattoos, long hair, and motorcycle, but he has a successful entrepreneurial career that belies his looks. 
When Thea overhears her sister say that she didn't even want Thea at the wedding, but the producers insisted, she is hurt. That evening, at the rehearsal event, Thea propositions Kade in front of everyone, on camera, and is surprised when he agrees. As the two spend time together, both trying to escape the cameras and wedding events, the find themselves confessing secrets and growing closer. 
There is lots going on here, with Thea's issues with both her sister and mom, and an unresolved situation at work that we never see resolved. Kade has issues with both his brother and his estranged mom, not to mention his dad who passed away years ago. With his mom at the wedding, things come to a head for him in a way that isn't entirely predictable.
This book has a lot of humour that really makes the story come alive. Thea is a lovely woman who has let herself be a doormat for far too long, and Kade has pushed people away in his life, focusing on his work. It was a quick enjoyable read. 


Monday 19 February 2024

Jack and Kill

Finished February 12
Jack and Kill by Diane Capri

This is another short story in the series Hunt for Reacher, and this one immediately follows Jack in a Box. Gaspar has heard of a sighting of Reacher in the tiny town of New Hope, Virginia, and now the two FBI agents, Gaspar and Otto are travelling there to see what they can find.
When they arrive, they find traffic moving slowly due to what appears to be a road accident where one vehicle has rear-ended another, but the local police seem to be expecting agency staff, and they soon see why. 
The two agents are able to access video showing them what happened, and this gives them a real glimpse of their quarry, Reacher, in action. Someone else they have met recently soon arrives on the scene as well, and the two are left with new questions. like why did Reacher return to this town and get involved in this situation. 
A nicely done story that gives us a sense of the difficult case the two agents have. 

Jack in a Box

Finished February 12
Jack in a Box by Diane Capri

This is a short story in the series Hunt for Reacher, where FBI agents Kim Otto and Carlos Gaspar are on a case looking for information about Jack Reacher. This story takes place after the first book in the series, Don't Know Jack, and both agents are digging back into physical records, but separately. 
Kim gets a message to go to her father's hometown in Wisconsin to see her grandmother who ill in the hospital there. This gives us a window into her personal life. We see how her father's side of the family, German in heritage, had not taken well to his marriage to his marriage to a Vietnamese woman, and so he's moved to Michigan, where Kim grew up. The family dynamic is interesting, with the family acknowledging her while also keeping their distance. Besides her grandmother, the only person she really interacted with is a cousin, Lothar, who is in the army, and who surprises her near the end of her visit. 
Carlos gets a message that takes him to D.C. from his Miami home, but he is anxious about his own family, with four daughters that keep things hopping and a son on the way. We don't get as much information about the dynamics here as we do with Kim, but the hints keep it interesting. 
As the two approach the place and time they've been led to, they are given a message regarding their case. 
I liked the background this story gave, which enhanced the series for me. 

Thursday 15 February 2024

The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club

Finished February 12
The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club by Helen Simonson

This novel was a delightful read. It takes place in the summer of 1919, and follows several young people who are adjusting to life after the war. Many of the women worked during the war, and have now found themselves without those jobs. Some are trying to survive on the small war widows pensions by augmenting it by other work. They aren't the only ones seemingly locked out of the work they had been doing. Men who were injured also find themselves treated as incapable. 
The central character here is Constance Haverhill. Constance's mother grew up with another woman who married into a titled family, while Constance's mother married a farmer. They continued to call each other best friends, but it seems like Lady Mercer treated her friend as an unpaid worker, often calling on her to help with childcare and other household endeavours. During the war, Constance worked as estate manager for the Mercers, but found herself quickly ousted when the war ended. With her mother dead from the influenza epidemic, she found herself called on to nurse Lady Mercer's mother, Mrs. Fog when she was ill. Her 'reward' is to act as companion to Mrs. Fog while she convalesces at a seaside hotel. 
But it is in this town that both Constance and Mrs. Fog encounter second chances. Constance meets another young woman her age, Poppy Wirrall. Poppy is also the daughter in a titled family, and she spent the war, along with other young women, working as motorcycle messengers. Poppy has started a small company offering motorcycle taxi (using sidecars) and delivery services, with a variety of young women employed part-time doing this work. Some have other jobs or widows pensions that they augment by working for her. 
Poppy's brother was a pilot during the war, and lost part of one leg in action. He is back at home, but depressed by the loss of many men he considered friends, and the inability of others to consider him employable. 
Constance is a calming force to Poppy's impulsiveness and exuberance, and as she begins to take chances, and open herself up to other possibilities in her life, I found myself hoping for a more promising future for her than she expected at the book's beginning. 
I also enjoyed Mrs. Fog, watching her go from recovering invalid to putting her own wishes first, despite the pressure of those she'd given into previously. 
I also found the story of the German waiter Klaus Zeiger touching. He is the quintessential waiter, always observant, mindful of propriety, and empathetic to the needs of those he serves. He is also highly aware of his ethnic baggage and how it has affected his life both during the war and now. I really appreciated that Constance saw him as a person, beyond his role. 
This is a novel of a time of great changes and adjustments and not all of them are fair or pleasant. This novel has moments of outrage, sadness, and joy. Well worth reading. 

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Final Assignment

Finished February 9
Final Assignment by Linwood Barclay

This novella is part of his series set in Promise Falls, New York. It is set as #1.5 in the series, and the main character and narrator is Cal Weaver, a private investigator that readers of the series would be familiar with. Here, he is called to the home of an acquaintance of a friend, the mother of a high school student who has handed in an English assignment that includes an act of violence. The school wants him to get a psychiatric evaluation, but the mother has something else in mind to get her son out of trouble.
After Cal leaves their home, he visits the friend who referred him to them, and find another situation. Their son didn't come home the previous night and isn't answering. 
As Cal follows up on the developing situation, talking to his friend the police chief, as well as other students who knew both boys, he comes up with a surprising conclusion that is more nuanced than one first realizes. 
A great short read that gives a great example of Cal's strengths around observation and quick thinking. 

Tuesday 13 February 2024

The Dragon Head of Hong Kong

Finished February 9
The Dragon Head of Hong Kong by Ian Hamilton

This novella is a prequel to the Ava Lee series and shows us how Ava got started on her atypical forensic accounting career, and how she met Uncle. 
When Ava is asked by her mother to help the son of one of her mother's friends, she is unsure that she will be able to help. She agrees to go to Hong Kong to find the man that her client has been shipping goods to, in the hopes that she will be able to get him to pay all the overdue invoices that have put her client in financial trouble. 
Ava is not expecting the violence that she encounters on her case, but she is prepared to deal with it. Both her forensic accounting skills and her martial arts training are useful on this job. 
I enjoyed seeing her trying to find her way in this culture that she was unfamiliar with, and taking charge with a firm hand, while remaining curious and open to learn. 
An enlightening and entertaining read. 

Don't Know Jack

Finished February 9
Don't Know Jack by Diane Capri

I was interested when I heard about the series Hunt for Reacher, and borrowed this first book from my local library. I read it very quickly, wanting to know how it unfolded. 
The book starts with two FBI agents, Kim Otto, from the Detroit office, and Carlos Gaspar from the Miami office, being woken in the wee hours and sent on a discreet mission, meant to be off the books. They are supposed to find out as much as they can about Jack Reacher, but they are provided with very little. They are told to go to Margrave, Georgia, by a certain time, and for readers of the Jack Reacher novels, like me, this small town will immediately ring some bells. 
In Margrave, they find a female police chief, who seems like she knows more about Jack than she'd saying, but their search is interrupted when the chief is called about a murder, and they accompany her to the scene. They find a long-dead cop, a oddly calm and reticent killer, and a house that looks almost abandoned. 
As they try to pierce together the story, and make a mistake or two of their own, they find themselves under fire, mixing with questionable company, and taking way more flights than Otto is comfortable with. 
I liked both the main characters, and enjoyed seeing how their backstories unfolded, in small pieces. They both have a sense of humour and soon find a rhythm of communication that feels fun, yet not forced. They are both good agents, but their lack of knowledge creates an interesting dynamic where the reader knows more about Jack than they do. 
They're pretty sure he's a bad guy, who's killed many people after leaving the army, and this assumption means that they suspect him every time they find a crime. 
I'm definitely going to be reading more of this series to see where their search leads them, and what they learn along the way.  

The Edge of the Water

Finished February 8
The Edge of the Water by Elizabeth George

This is the second book in a series of teen novels set on Whidbey Island, which is in the state of Washington. This book tells the story from several points of view, but mostly from that of two teenage girls, Jenn and Becca. 
I read the first novel a few years ago, but always meant to follow up. I'm glad I did. Becca was the main character in the first novel, but here we also see a lot of Jenn. 
Jenn is in the same grade as Becca, but she resents Becca for taking Derric's attention, and seems constantly angry at her. Jenn lives with her parents and younger brothers in a shabby house near the water. She is working hard to get herself into a position where she can get a soccer scholarship and escape the life she feels stuck in. 
When a young woman researcher, Annie, comes to live in the previously abandoned trailer nears Jenn's house, Jenn willingly takes on a paid job of guide and cleaner, but worries about it cutting into her training time. 
Becca, meanwhile is having issues with her relationship with Derric as she tries to keep where she is currently living a secret as a means of protecting herself. 
The connecting element between all the characters in this novel is Nera, a black seal that has been coming to the island at the same time of year for many years now. Annie wants to make a career-making discovery, but the islanders fear losing Nera's presence. 
This is a story of growth on the part of both teenagers, as they find there way forward and learn about strengths they hadn't realized they contained. 
I'm definitely going to be looking for the next book in the series soon.

Monday 12 February 2024

Protecting the Heiress

Finished February 6 
Protecting the Heiress by Nana Malone

This novella is billed as the first of a duology, but it is more properly the first half of a novel as it doesn't wrap up either of the main storylines, the mystery or the romance plots. I chose it from free Kobo books to meet a reading challenge. 
It's set in a small fictional European country called the Winston Isles, and follows several characters. The two main characters are Jax and Neela, but it starts with Ariel. Ariel has started her own company after leaving the Royal Guard of . She is putting together a team based on recommendations from friends and former coworkers. The first one she approaches is Jax Reynolds, and she's been following him for a while as he works a case. He's been working in London, but used to be a Royal Guard and would like nothing more than to get back in. He quit for a woman, and when that relationship didn't pan out, he found himself without the job he'd loved. 
Jax's first job is to go undercover as a nanny for a woman who recently took custody of a friend's child. There is some uncertainty whether the friend's death was an accident, and her lawyer doesn't want anything to happen to the child. 
Neela is a cryptanalyst who looks into security issues for companies. She had started the company with her boyfriend, but that relationship has recently ended and he's been not playing very nice about how the company is being split. When she unexpectedly finds herself the guardian of a baby, she finds herself happy to accept the help the lawyer has arranged for her, unaware that she is also gaining protection for her and Mayzie. 
Jax knows better than to act on his attraction for his employer, but the attraction is mutual, and hard to ignore. When Neela gets threatening messages and other dangerous things begin to happen, things get pretty intense in another way.
The cryptology angle of the story is interesting and I liked both the main characters. We see many other side characters, from the King of this small country to Neela's coworkers, but other related series follow them in more depth. 
As I said, this book leaves the reader wanting more. 

The Red Pole of Macau

Finished February 5
The Red Pole of Macau by Ian Hamilton

This is the fourth book in the Ava Lee series. I like this series, but hadn't been keeping up with it after the first few books. Here, Ava has recently met her oldest half-brother, Michael, when he calls on her for assistance. Michael and his business partner Simon run a chain of noodle restaurants and recently made an investment that involved a share of a real estate development where they would locate a shop. But things haven't been moving along at all, and they just want their money back. 
Ava can see the big picture here once she knows more about the situation, and can see how a failure would impact not just Michael and Simon, but also Ava's father and the entire family. 
Macau is somewhere that Ava hasn't visited in years and the changes there are dramatic. When she accompanies Michael and Simon to meet the men behind the project, she finds they are more dangerous adversaries than she imagined, and the whole situation is something beyond what she normally would deal with. Even her partner Uncle has reservations. 
Given the family considerations, Ava feels she must move forward, but this is a foray that requires connections she doesn't have. When a new friend offers to help, Ava finds herself making new connections and relationships as well. 
I liked the strong female characters here, not only Ava, but also May Ling Wong and Michael's girlfriend Amanda Yee. I also liked seeing more into the backgrounds of Uncle's side of the partnership, including the men who work for him, either directly or from time to time. 
The book also details how the old Hong Kong triads were structured and what roles the different members played. This plays into the plot in a big way, and gives a sense how the dismantling of a system like this sometimes results in unexpectedly dangerous men who can't be controlled. 
We also get a better sense of Ava's family dynamics. 
A very enlightening addition to the series on many fronts. 


Friday 9 February 2024

Rules for Second Chances

Finished January 30
Rules for Second Chances by Maggie North

This book is centered on Liz Lewis, who grew up and lives in a small community in the mountains of B.C. where much of the business is around tourism. She is married to Tobin Renner-Lewis, and they both work for a small backcountry tour company. Lately Liz doesn't feel seen, either at home or at work. At work, her suggestions don't seem to be taken seriously by the owners, and she hasn't been promoted, even after her immediate boss left and she'd doing all his work. 
At home, her husband doesn't appear to be able to say no to anyone that asks for help, even when that means her plans are affected. Her parents have a house nearby that is no longer their primary home, and that her older sister and niece live in. She is close to her niece, who is autistic, and spends a lot of time with her. 
Tobin's parents bought the house next to theirs shortly after they married, and his mother demands of lot of him, and hasn't warmed up to Liz at all. As the book opens, his mother has co-opted Liz's birthday party and that is the last straw for her. 
As she takes a break from her marriage, and tries to put together a winning pitch for the company's annual service pitch competition, she gets pushed into attending improv classes.
This is a very interesting twist to the story, as improv becomes a way for Liz to let go of some of her fears, as well as using an improv guide to reconnect with Tobin and change their dynamic. 
I really enjoyed Liz as a character, and could relate to her in many of the feelings and experiences she has. 
I loved the Canadian setting, and found it especially interesting that the author is herself autistic and thus could really describe certain elements of the autistic characters in the book so well. 
This book has real depth to it, and some of the exercises described for Liz and Tobin might be taken and used in readers' own lives. I loved seeing Liz grow and appreciate her own strengths. 

Thursday 8 February 2024

I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home

Finished February 3
I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home by Lorrie Moore

This is a very unusual book. It is part letters from one sister to another, dating from the years shortly after the U.S. Civil War, and part modern day tale of a Chicago-area teacher struggling with loss. 
The book begins with a undated letter from Elizabeth to her unnamed sister. It tells of everyday events, include the nature that she witnesses, the male lodger in her home that is wooing her, the state of her finances, and visits from the local minister. She also invokes shared memories of earlier points in their lives. From the contents, and the words used, the reader can tell that this is a letter from a past time, and that it is not too long after the end of the Civil War. 
The next section is set in the present, as Finn moves through New York City to visit his older brother Max, who is in a hospice. We see not only what is happening as Finn sees it, but also his thoughts, which range from issues with his landlady and interactions with his Airbnb host to things he is reminded of by the sights and smells of the world around him. 
Once he gets in to his brother's room, the interaction between the brothers is also mingled with Finn's thoughts and observations. 
When Finn is called away by another crisis the book takes a turn for the surreal, and we begin to be unsure what is real and what isn't. We see Finn's personal issues, including the complicated love he has for Lily a woman he lived with for many years. 
Interspersed with Finn's story are the letters, and we eventually see the connections between them and his story. 
This is a novel of loss, of death, of how people deal with losing someone they care about, and about the uncertainty of life itself. 

Friday 2 February 2024

February Reviews for the 17th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge

 This is where you link to the reviews of Canadian books you've read in February. Add a comment too!



The Black Witch

Finished January 29
The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

This is the first book in a high fantasy series set in a world similar to our own. The current political situation is only a couple of generations old and unstable. The main character is Elloren Gardner, a 17-year-old who has led a sheltered life. There was a major war going on when she was very young, with her grandmother Clarissa a heroine for the winning side. Gardnerians made a pact with the Elvish people to create a peace, but it came at a cost to many of the other ethnic groups around. Elloren's parents were killed in one of the final battles in the war and she and her brothers Rafe and Trystan were looked after by their uncle Edwin, who brought them up in a remote pastoral part of the country. 
Near the beginning of the story, Elloren is surprised by an announcement from Edwin that she will be joining her brothers at Verpax University, to study to be an apothecary like her mother. Her paternal Aunt Vyvian, at the core of the Gardnerian government is on an unannounced visit and wants to wandfast her to the son of a prominent family.
This is a land of magic, where children are tested for magic at a young age and then classified into ranking based on their magical ability. Many other nations of being have magic as well, magic unique to them. Elloren has been told that she doesn't have magic, but she suspects she might have a different sort of magic. 
As Elloren is immersed into a world of diplomacy, rivalry, and infighting and forced to deal on a daily basis with beings she has had limited to no contact with before, she must navigate this with limited help from others. 
She finds herself living with two others, one a being said to be evil incarnate, of whom no males are allowed to live, and the other a half breed that is outcast by most of her mother's people. She must earn her tuition with labour after refusing to bow to her aunt's will, and work in the kitchens with those who both hate and mistrust her. 
Worst of all, she is the spitting image of her warrior grandmother and people assume she is like her in all other ways as well. 
As Elloren meets individuals of different beings, she finds more in common with them than she does with some of her own people, and she finds herself making choices that will shape her destiny. 
This is a story of a world of prejudice, with a caste system, and betrayal between former allies. It is a world where some are trying to build bridges, while others are planning mass genocide. 
It is also a world of unpredictable magic, of dragons and elves, fae folk and werewolves. A world where maybe anything is possible. 
I found myself totally immersed in this book, and immediately placed a hold at my library for the next in the series. I'm looking forward to seeing what Elloren and her friends get up to next. 

The Downstairs Neighbour

Finished January 25
The Downstairs Neighbour by Helen Cooper

This novel has a mystery that develops soon after the book opens and soon becomes the focus of the main story of the book, taking place in the present. There is another story from 25 years earlier that pops up now and again and it takes some time to see exactly how that story relates to the present day one.
The title is also intriguing, because it is unclear exactly who it pertains to. 
In a house in a London suburb, Paul and Steph live with their teenage daughter Freya on the top two floors. There are a close family, and Freya spends time with both her parents as well as with the family as a whole. Paul is an ex-cop and a data analyst, but he doesn't talk much about his previous career. Steph works in the first class lounge at Heathrow airport, making sure everything there runs smoothly. Freya is a popular and energetic teenager. 
Below them, on the ground floor, Emma lives. Emma owns her own vintage store, where she sells clothing, jewellery and other personal and decorative items. Things haven't been going well lately, and she has closed up shop, and has a deal to sell the shop very soon. She has a hamster named Gilbert, and his nocturnal activity has led her to move his cage to the cupboard underneath the stairs going up to her neighbours. She has discovered that when she is in there she can hear, fairly clearly, conversations going on upstairs. Emma is also waiting to hear from someone, a man named Zeb, that we don't learn much about until later in the story.
Below her, in the basement flat live Chris and his wife Vicky. Chris is a driving instructor, and teaches many of the young people in the area, including Freya. Vicky is a nurse. It seems that they are growing apart lately, although it isn't entirely clear why. 
One evening Emma senses unusual activity and soon hears that Freya hasn't come home from school. No one seems to have heard from her and she isn't answering her mobile. When the police ask Paul and Steph whether either of them have enemies, it seems that maybe they don't know as much about each other as they thought. Emma and Chris get drawn into the investigation too, through contact with Freya and an unknown person who seems to be sending a message to someone in the building. 
In the part of the story twenty-five years earlier, teenage Kate is worried about her mom. It's only been the two of them for a long time, but now her mom has a boyfriend, Nick, and she seems a lot quieter than before. The two of them often stop talking when Kate enters the room. When she sees bruises on her mom she gets scared and isn't sure what to do. So she calls a cousin, who's also a friend, for advice. 
As the two stories slowly unfold, there is a tense feel to both stories as we wonder what will happen, and the secrets that so many people have gradually get revealed. 
This is not a fast-moving story. But it is one that has you turning the pages, wanting to find out more. As we learn more about the different people, they become more and more interesting and imperfect. A fascinating story with long trails to the past. 

Monday 29 January 2024

If We Had Known

Finished January 22
If We Had Known by Elise Juska

This novel is set around a shooting in a small college town in Maine. The shooting occurs in a mall and the shooter is a recent graduate of the college. Maggie Daley recognizes the name of the shooter, Nathan Dugan, as a former student. She teaches English composition a required course that many of her fellow teachers resented because of the challenge of teaching students who didn't want to take English. But Maggie is an enthusiastic teacher who loved the challenge. The students wrote papers, shared them in class, and talked about them with each other. In many cases the topics were deeply personal and the experience was a meaningful one in their lives. Maggie loves her job and really enjoys getting the students enthused about writing about something important to them. After Maggie's marriage ended she begin seeing Richard, another teacher at the college, but he still lives with his wife even though he says their marriage is over. Because he is worried about his wife's mental health, he and Maggie have kept their relationship secret. 
While Maggie is at the center of the story, she is not the only voice here. Another is the voice of her daughter Anna, who is just about to leave for college herself. Maggie and her husband Tom divorced and Anna hasn't been taking it well. Anna has a history of anxiety issues that began a few years ago and that this event is somewhat triggering for. As Anna leaves home, and adjusts to college life, she finds a good friend in her roommate, but soon is triggered in another way by someone new in her life and finds herself struggling again.
A third voice in the story is Suzanne, Richard's wife, who can see that Richard is pulling away from her and suspects that he is having an affair. She had a brief contact with one of the shooting victims and finds herself reacting to the news with a lot of emotion. We see as she discovers who Richard is seeing and takes some action against Maggie. 
Another voice in this book is Luke Finch, who was in Maggie's class at the same time as Nathan. For some reason he doesn't fully understand himself, Luke posts on Facebook about his memories of Nathan and then is taken aback when the post goes viral. People start responding to it from all over, and Luke has a variety of reactions to it. Luke is living at home, working in a donut shop and dreaming of a different life. His sudden fame has him reacting, but not always in a way that is helpful for him.
As these four people try to move on with their lives, but find themselves connected in a variety of ways, we see how this terrible event has changed their circumstance so their lives won't be the same. 
Maggie struggles to figure out whether she should have or could have noticed that this young man would do something so awful and tried to help him. She isn't sure of her ability to connect with the students anymore and we see her become more and more isolated. With Anna at college, she is alone, and she cuts off most of the world. 
This is a book that looks at our connectedness to others and what our responsibility to each other is in a larger way. These four people react in different ways, some of them harmful to others, some harmful to themselves, as they try to figure out how to move forward from in their own lives. 
A gripping story. 

Thursday 25 January 2024

The Trouble with You

Finished January 19
The Trouble with You by Ellen Feldman

This novel is set in a time period that I haven't seen covered as often in novels, but that was very interesting in a lot of ways. The novel begins on Christmas day in 1947 as Fanny, her husband Max, and their young daughter Chloe head off to a wedding, coming home in the beginnings of a huge snowstorm. It than jumps back to 1941, when Max is leaving for Europe. He is a doctor, and we are told a little of their pasts. Fanny went to Barnard, something she has her Aunt Rose to thank for. 
Aunt Rose is also an important character in this novel. She is a woman who went to work directly from school, earning the money to put both her brothers through college, and eventually starting her own business as a dressmaker and seamstress, specializing in recreating designer dresses for those who can't quite afford the real thing. Rose's story will come to be important in Fanny's life in other ways as well. We see how, with Max off in Europe during the war years, life went on for Fanny. Chloe grew, some of Fanny's married friends found jobs that men had done before the war, and Rose was nearby and very involved in Fanny and Chloe's life, babysitting so Fanny could spend time with friends and taking Fanny to plays and on other cultural outings. Since Fanny's mother died when Fanny was young, Rose was almost a mother to her in many ways. We see how her cousin Mimi, also with a husband off to the war, goes on a different path, moving home to her parents for this time. 
Then, after the war, we watch as Max returns, they move out of the city to a house and we read our way back to 1947. Home after the wedding, the day will end in tragedy for Fanny, and she will have to find a way to move on. 
Moving from the house she and Max lived in in New Jersey, she takes a small apartment not far from Rose's in New York City. We follow her as she adjusts to her new life, providing for herself and Chloe, and we also sometimes see things through Chloe's eyes.
One element of the book that I enjoyed learning more about was that of McCarthyism. Fanny works in a field where people get blacklisted for the most minor of things: donating to a cause, a past association, an opinion stated. This is interesting, particularly in relation to the world today, where people use socialist as an accusation. I found the parallels worth thinking about. 
I also enjoyed seeing Fanny bloom as she earns a living, starts doing something she really enjoys doing for herself, and takes a chance on love again. 

Tuesday 23 January 2024

It Happened One Christmas

Finished January 16
It Happened One Christmas by Chantel Guertin

This novel is a Christmas romance, set in a small Canadian town in Quebec. Zoey Andrews is a woman who loves Christmas even though she doesn't get to celebrate a typical Christmas herself. Zoey works for Epic Productions, one of the biggest producers of romance movies, especially holiday romance movies. She's been working her way up in the company and is all set to direct and produce her own movie, one that is inspired by a cherished childhood memory of a Christmas spent in a small Quebec town. 
When the production assistant in charge of getting location permits confuses her choice of Chelsea, Quebec with Chelsea, New York, Zoey is determined to do whatever it takes to get the permits herself. She is scared that if she lets this chance slip through her fingers, she won't get another one. She's also recently dumped by her boyfriend and her Christmas vacation plans have fallen through, so she has the time available. So, of course, she jumps on a plane to Ottawa, and heads out to the town of Chelsea.
Unfortunately, the weather isn't on her side, with a big storm predicted to hit the area in the next few days, 
The town is as good as her memories of it, so when she finds the perfect Christmas tree farm for part of her story, she isn't about to let the grumpy owner of the farm, who is as annoying as he is sexy get in her way. 
I could barely put this book down, as it grabbed me right from the beginning with Zoey's earnest drive to get what she wanted combined with the nostalgia that inspired it. The book gradually reveals the main characters' stories, and the town is charming. 
The weather was believable, the storm, the conditions, and the determination of people to find a way to their goals. 
P.S. there's also an adorable dog.