Archive | March, 2016

An Irregular Marriage — Margaret A. Westlie

25 Mar



Publisher: Selkirk Stories
Released: March 26th, 2016
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Ebook review copy from publisher



Isle of Skye, Scotland, 1803: Annie MacPhail is 18 years old and on her own. She has defied her parents and refused to follow them to Prince Edward Island. She is waiting for her sweetheart, Alistair, to marry her—but he is nowhere to be found. She has no home.

Belle, Alistair’s mother, takes her in as an apprentice. Belle says she is a wise women. The community says she is a witch. Under Belle’s guidance, Annie learns to be a midwife and a healer, but she also learns how to read the future in a crystal gazing ball.

Belle tries to disabuse Annie about Alistair. He is not very reliable and he may not even want to marry her. But Annie still believes in her sweetheart—until he returns and she learns the secret that Belle has been keeping from both of them.

Follow Annie and Alistair on their journey to Prince Edward Island after a very irregular marriage. Join the community of Prince Edward Island. Read An Irregular Marriage and other novels by Margaret A. Westlie.

From Goodreads

I’ve mentioned this recently in another review, but it seems that I like historical fiction! I tend to shy away from the genre, but anytime I do read an hist-fic novel I really, really enjoy it. Such was the case with An Irregular Marriage.

I really loved watching the relationship between Annie and Belle bloom. Annie was lost in so many ways when she went to live with Belle and Belle really helped her to grow and come into her own. I love reading about female relationships where there is no back-stabbing and such. Where women actually help each other. And that was the case with Annie and Belle. They both helped each other in their own way and their closeness was wonderful to witness.

On the flip side, I didn’t enjoy the relationship between Annie and Alistair. It’s actually the only thing that I really didn’t like in the book. I think it would have been a stronger novel either without Alistair or if aspects of his story had been changed.

Because Bell is teaching Annie to be a healer, there were a lot of descriptions and mentions of natural medicines, which I really, really loved.  It was cool to read about the usage of different flowers and herbs. It’s something that I have an interest in, so it was nice to read about it.

Something else that was cool to read about was the food exchange and sharing that happened within the community. When Belle healed or brought a baby into the world, she was pretty much always paid with food or something else that she could use. I just loved the sense of community that was throughout the book, even though most thought Belle was a witch.

Westlie’s way with descriptions was just phenomenal. She painted great detail into her telling and I always felt like I was right there with Annie, sitting at the table have a cuppa. The dialogue was also spot on, the word choice and timbre really bringing the words of the characters alive.

I really enjoyed An Irregular Marriage and Westlie’s writing style. I look forward to reading more of her novels.


Secrets Box Set Giveaway!

16 Mar




Thanks to the awesome folks over at Orca, I have one boxset of the Secrets collection to giveaway to one lucky booknerd! These are greats books and I really enjoyed them all, as you can tell by my reviews of them over the past eight days. They connect but can be read in any order and each teaches the reader a little something about history, human connection and finding your own path.

This contest is open to Canada and US and it’s easy to enter. No following or liking or any of that. Simply comment below and tell me which book you’d like to read the most out of the series. You have until March 26th 11:59 pm EST to enter. One entry per person.

Good luck and happy reading!

Innocent — Eric Walters

15 Mar



Publisher: Orca Books
Released: September 29th, 2015
Genre: YA
Source: Ebook review copy from publisher


Sometimes you have to look back in order to move forward.

After the orphanage she lives in is destroyed by fire, Betty, an innocent and trusting teen, takes a job as a maid in Kingston, Ontario. Welcomed into the household of the wealthy Remington clan, Betty makes friends with the staff at the house and soon discovers that her mother had also been a maid there—and that her father is in a nearby jail, convicted of murdering her mother. When she meets her father, she is taken aback by his claims of innocence, and she decides to try to uncover the truth about her mother’s murder and her father’s conviction. A friendly young policeman assists her in her investigation (and shows an interest in Betty that is more romantic than professional). But all is not well in the Remington household, and someone doesn’t want Betty to learn the truth.

From Goodreads

Although this book is set in 1964, it has a bit of a gothic feel to it, which I love. The whole young-girl-goes-to-work-at-a-mansion-while-working-to-uncover-a-mystery thing, and it works quite well. Betty is an outsider who is welcomed into the Remington household but almost straight off the bat you get the feeling that things are a bit wonky.

While the other girls are all searching to discover who their parents are, Betty finds out during the course of the book and then her focus switches to finding out what really happened to her mother. As with all the best mysteries, her search is anything but easy and it isn’t always clear who’s on her side. That’s what I love about a well-told mystery: like the protagonist, you aren’t always sure who is good and who is bad.

The mystery is also very well-crafted, which isn’t always a given with the genre. The plot wasn’t convuluted and the ending wasn’t easy to figure out, although there were some well placed hints along the way.

This was one of my favourite plots of all the Secrets books and I highly recommend it.

The Unquiet Past — Kelley Armstrong

14 Mar

unquiet past


Publisher: Orca Books
Released: September 29th, 2015
Genre: YA
Source: Ebook review copy from publisher


You can only hide from the truth for so long.

Tess has always been tormented by waking visions that make her question her sanity. When the orphanage she lives in burns down, she decides to face her fears and find out once and for all what is wrong with her. She believes the truth must lie with her parents, and so, armed with only an address and phone number, Tess travels to a crumbling mansion in rural Quebec, where she discovers evidence of mistreatment of mental patients. She also makes an unlikely ally and gradually unearths her family’s sad history—and finally accepts the truth about her paranormal powers.

From Goodreads

When I agreed to read and review all of the books in the Secrets series, I had no idea my fave author had written a volume. So you can imagine my excitement. And I wasn’t disappointed.

I really like that even though this is a bit of a different series for her, Kelley still added some paranormal stuff. Her own flair, if you will. I love when authors write outside of their preferred genre, but still make sure that they are including something that makes them them, you know? And that’s the case here.

As with the other books in the series, The Unquiet Past tackles a social issue — the prejudice against Native Canadians. I think for younger readers this aspect of the book will be a real eye opener.

This was one of the darker books of the series (perhaps even the darkest) and that definitely has to do with the subject matter. Questionable mental hospitals and mistreatment of their patients is right up there with creepy clowns in my fear book, as I’m sure it is for a lot of people. This part of the story made for a very suspenseful read and made the book a strong page turner.

The Unquiet Past is a welcome addition to both the Secrets series and also Kelley’s books. I highly recommend it.

Shattered Glass — Teresa Toten

12 Mar



Publisher: Orca Books
Released: September 29th, 2015
Genre: YA
Source: Ebook review copy from publisher



Fake courage is better than no courage at all.

Toni has always had nightmares about fire, and she also has burn scars but no idea how she got them. So when fire destroys the orphanage she has grown up in, she is ready to make her way to Toronto, where she hopes to discover the truth about the mother she believes hurt and then abandoned her. Toronto proves to be both daunting and exciting for Toni, whose charm and innocence attract attention—not always positive—wherever she goes. Buoyed by the music she hears at the folk club where she finds a job, and encouraged by her glamorous landlady, Toni unearths shocking information that contradicts everything she believes and makes her re-evaluate what she feels for all the new people in her life.

From Goodreads

Out of all the orphans in the Secrets series, Toni is the one I felt the most for. She’s just so sweet and really, REALLY innocent and that doesn’t always bode well for her. She doesn’t really have the ability to read people well, and that can get you into some really sticky situations. She has some great new friends looking out for her, and that made all the difference. Without their help and support, this would have been a much different story.

Most of the girls in the series have no memory of their parents or life before the orphanage, but this isn’t the case with Toni. It was interesting to read about what she remembered and her slant on it and what actually happened. It’s a huge eye opener for Toni, and a great learning lesson.

I’m a huge music fan, so the musical elements in the book just make me happy. They also offer some lighter moments balancing out the rest of the story. Toni’s optimism and compulsion to quickly find out who her father is also leads to some fun scenes.

This was a quick, engaging read for me and I was almost sad when it was over. A great book that fits in nicely with the series.

My Life Before Me — Norah McClintock

11 Mar



Publisher: Orca Books
Released: September 29th, 2015
Genre: YA
Source: Ebook review copy from publisher


Nothing worth fighting for comes easy.

Cady has always wanted to be a reporter, like her hero Nellie Bly, so after a fire burns down the orphanage she lives in, she’s ready to leave small-town Ontario and make her mark as a newspaperwoman. A crumbling newspaper clipping leads her to Orrenstown, Indiana, where her investigation into a long-ago murder earns her a hard lesson in race relations. Smart and determined, and more than a little headstrong, Cady pokes a stick into a wasp’s nest of lies, dirty politics, corrupt law enforcement and racial tension—and ends up fearing for her life as she closes in on something she’s never cared about before—the truth about her own origins.

From Goodreads


Sassy. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of Cady. Quickly followed by determined. She’s a character who knew what she wanted and did her best to go after it, regardless of the roadblocks in front of her.

I loved the tone of My Life Before Me. The writing was sharp and really made the story move at a good pace. There was a lot going on with the plot, but it didn’t feel confusing or overdone. It actually felt like following a news story!  Because of this, I think it would make an amazing movie.

As with the other books in the Secrets series, the main plot centred around the mystery of Cady’s heritage. This was one of the most intriguing of the series for me. She really had to push to find out about her parents, which meant that she really had to come to terms with the fact that she actually wanted to know, which was a shift for her.

This was my first McClintock book, but I know it won’t be my last. 🙂

Stones on a Grave — Kathy Kacer

10 Mar



Publisher: Orca Books
Released: September 29th, 2015
Genre: YA
Source: Ebook review copy from publisher


There is no failure, just discovery.

Sara has never been out of the tiny town of Hope, Ontario, where she has been in an orphanage all her life. After a fire destroys the orphanage, clues about her parentage—a medical certificate and a Star of David—lead her to Germany. Despite her fears—she doesn’t speak the language, she knows no one in Germany, and she’s never been on an airplane—Sara arrives in Germany determined to explore her newly discovered Jewish heritage and solve the mystery of her parentage. What she encounters is a country still dealing with the aftermath of the Holocaust. With the help of a handsome, English-speaking German boy, she discovers the sad facts of her mother’s brief existence and faces the horrible truth about her father. Ultimately, the knowledge she gains opens up her world and leads her to a deeper understanding of herself.

From Goodreads

The thing I really really liked about this book is that while Sara had heard of the Holocaust, she really didn’t know a whole lot about it, and I think a lot of young readers are in the same position. So it’s awesome that not only are young readers getting an addictive story centred around the mystery of who Sara’s parents were, but they are learning an important piece of world history.

I found Sara to be a bit of a wishy-washy, weak character at the beginning and it was cool to watch her really come into her own as the story progressed. As she worked through the mystery of her heritage she really came into her own and started to realize what’s important to her and stand up for it.

As with all of the books in this series, there was an element of romance to Stones on the Grave. I’m honestly still trying to decide how I feel about it. I think, given Sara’s journey, I would have preferred the book without it, but it in no way was overdone and it definitely didn’t distract from the main story. I’m just curious about how Sara would have handled her situation without his help.

I really enjoyed this book and the details of Sara’s heritage definitely caught me by surprise. Which is perfect for a mystery.

A Big Dose of Lucky — Marthe Jocelyn

9 Mar



Publisher: Orca Books
Released: September 29th, 2015
Genre: YA
Source: Ebook review copy from publisher




Moving forward doesn’t always happen in a straight line.

Malou has just turned sixteen—hardly old enough to be out in the world on her own—and all she knows for sure is that she’s mixed-race and that she was left at an orphanage as a newborn. Beyond that, it’s a mystery—a mystery that takes her to the little town of Parry Sound, where she finds lots of young brown faces like hers. Are these her relatives, and why doesn’t anyone want to talk about it?

From Goodreads

I’ve said this before in other reviews, but I find it really, really hard to review mysteries. I don’t want to give anything key away so trying to decide what to write and what not to write can be a bit of a struggle. All I’m going to say about the mystery in A Big Dose of Lucky is that it was really well done and multi-layered. It involved several different elements that all fit together but wasn’t easy to figure out.

I think the thing that I loved the most about this book was watching Dot form friendships with Pete and Lucy. It was heartbreaking that this was a new thing to her and there’s one scene where she’s at their house for super that really brings that home in a way that isn’t overly sentimental.

The other aspect of the story that I didn’t necessarily love (because who loves racism?) but thought was well done and will really give young readers a strong perspective on race relations today is how she is treated because of her skin colour. It was hard to read about her treatment by certain people, but it’s an important and essential part of her story. And while I think there are lessons to learn from the book, they never present themselves as hit-you-over-the-head moment.

This was an intriguing read and anyone who enjoys a good mystery will enjoy it.

Small Bones — Vicki Grant

8 Mar

smalbonesPublisher: Orca Books
Released: September 29th, 2015
Genre: YA
Source: Ebook review copy from publisher




There’s nothing to stop a small person from dreaming big.

Dot, whose name reflects her stature, has always had big dreams—she wants to be a dress designer like Mary Quant—but her dreams have to be put on hold while she searches for the truth about her parents. She gets a job as a seamstress at a lakeside resort in rural Ontario and falls hard for Eddie, a charming local boy who is equal parts helpful and distracting as Dot investigates her past. Searching for answers to questions about her birth, Dot learns more than she ever wanted to about the terrible effects of war, the legacy of deceit—and the enduring nature of love.

From Goodreads.

I have to give Orca, this book and Vicki a big THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. This was the first book I read in the Secrets series and it made me realize that I really kinda did historical fiction. At least set in the time that the books are set, the mid sixties.

This book was a super combination of mystery and fun. I didn’t find it laugh out loud funny as with Vicki’s other books, but I actually loved that. Mostly because that wouldn’t have done the story justice at all. But Vicki has such a fresh and breezy writing style and it fit in perfectly with Dot’s character and her story. I also loved that the mystery wasn’t something that was easy to figure out and had many layers to it(and that’s all I’ll say because SPOILERS!).

I’m not a huge, huge fan or romance, but I find that when it’s done well, I actually do enjoy it! And I liked that there was an element of romance in Small Bones, but that it really wasn’t the main focus.

This book has some messages in it about war, family and love, but it didn’t hit you over the head with it. They were an integral part of the story, so it didn’t come off as preachy at all.

Small Bones was a great read and I highly recommend it.

Secrets week is here!

7 Mar

I am soooooooooo excited about this, you guys! Orca has an amazing series out, called Secrets. It’s seven books in total, by different authors, and each book is about a different character. Here’s the series description from Orca:

In early June, 1964, the Benevolent Home for Necessitous Girls burns to the ground and its vulnerable residents are thrust out into the world. The orphans, who know no other home, find their lives changed in an instant. Arrangements are made for the youngest residents, but the seven oldest girls are sent on their way with little more than a clue or two to their past and the hope of learning about the families they have never known. On their own for the first time in their lives, they are about to experience the world in ways they never imagined.

Bestselling authors Kelley Armstrong, Vicki Grant, Marthe Jocelyn, Kathy Kacer, Norah McClintock, Teresa Toten and Eric Walters team up to create this series of linked YA novels.

Each day over the next week I’ll be reviewing each of the books in the series. And then? Well, then I’m giving away a complete box set to one lucky booknerd!

I loved this series and each book was just great. So make sure to pop back and check out the reviews and then the big contest!

Happy reading!