Weyward

By Emila Hart

Weyward is a multigenerational story about three incredible women. First we meet Altha. It is 1619, and Altha is accused of using witchcraft to murder the husband of her estranged best friend, Grace. Next is Kate. It is 2019, and Kate has fled an abusive relationship in London to find sanctuary in the Old Weyard cottage her great aunt Violet has bequeathed her. Finally, we meet Violet. In 1942 Violet is a young girl who unfortunately hears all sorts of rumours about her “mad” mother, who died when she was born. Neglected by her cruel father, Violet finds solace in befriending spiders and marveling at damselflies.

After their introductions, we quickly learn that the lives of each of these women are interwoven. Their histories begin to crossover and run parallel to each other. Violet eventually learns about her ancestor Altha and uses Altha’s wisdom to help take direction of her own life. And Kate, well, Kate soon has to channel the wisdom and strength of all the strong Weyward women before her to not only survive but to protect her unborn daughter.

I really, REALLY liked this book. One of my favourite formats of novels is to have different chapters written from different characters’ viewpoints and then have their stories diverge either with regard to plot or theme. It was an easy escapist read that was the perfect book to finish on a cold, snowy day. I may have to buy a hard copy once it is published because the cover looks absolutely beautiful.

Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin’s press for the free copy.

The Kids From Fawn Creek

by Erin Entrada Kelly

“I am imaginative and kind” taken from Orchid’s I Am Poem (pg 319)

I loved this book. When I finished reading it I knew that it should be in every library and every classroom. It would make the most amazing read aloud because it is abundant in timely topics and VERY approcable subject matter. It will encourage discussion amongst any age group.

I have read another of Entrada Kelly’s books Hello Universe which I absolutely loved so I knew I was probably going to love this one as well. Entrada Kelly has an uncanny ability to convincingly inhabit the world of adolescence thus creating authenticity to her story telling. 

This is a novel about a group of seventh graders who, as most seventh graders, are trying to figure out who they are, which can be both difficult and easy when you live in the VERY small town of Fawn Creek (or referred to as “Yawn Creek” by most) and if you attempt to break away from that stereotype, you run the risk of being bullied and teased by those who are threatened by your uniqueness. The Fawn Creek seventh graders have recognized “who” others say they are: Lehigh takes a bit longer to learn so he is deemed “Slowly”, Dorothy doesn’t want to rock anyone’s boat let alone her own and wont even acknowledge anyone’s tears for fear it may lead to an uncomfortable conversation, Greyson prefers fashion design over duck hunting but can’t let his friends and family know for fear of judgment, and Janie, well Janie has been the minion of Renni, the queen bee herself, and even though Renni has moved away, Janie is still under her reign. But one day, a new girl comes to town. Orchid Mason is an enigma. It’s not just her name that is exotic, but she comes to little ol Fawn Creek from New York via Paris and, unlike the rest of them, she is extremely insightful,confident and kind. Orchid notices when you are hurting and asks if she can help, has a way of making you feel important and special no matter who you are, and she  recognizes your strengths and helps you see them too. Orchid is as kind as she is beautiful. 

This is a wonderful novel about friendship, courage, and being able to stand for what is right and just in front of those who ridicule you. It’s about being brave enough to choose kindness over cruelty, even if it means breaking from those who you once thought were your friends.

I would use this novel as a class novel study, or at least a choice for student book clubs. 

The Luminaries

by Susan Dennard

The Luminaries is a wonderful fantasy novel filled with Banshees Werewolves, Vampires, and all sorts of nightmares that haunt the woods.
Winnie aspires to be a hunter, and only one thing stands in her way; four years ago her father was deemed a “traitor” to the Luminaries and thus exiled from Hemlock Falls. Winnie and her mother and brother are allowed to remain but are considered outsiders in not only their luminary community but also in their family clan.
If Winne can survive the hunter trials and become a Hunter family will once again be accepted into Luminaries and reclaim the respect they once had.
The Luminaries is a supernatural fantasy novel that is filled with just the right amount of gore and adventure. I always love a kick-ass young protagonist and in this regard, Winnie fits the bill.

Thank you Netgalley and Tor Teen for the free book!

Only Sisters

by Lilian Nattel

This is a novel about grief; not just grieving death, but grieving the past, grieving failed relationships, and grieving “what could have been “.

Our main character Joan is a middle-aged palliative care doctor who gently and respectfully helps the critically ill navigate their remaining months on earth. However, When her mother Sheila becomes ill, Joan finds it difficult to not only help her mother find peace but also difficult to reconcile with her past.

Early in the novel,  Joan’s sister Vivan ( a nurse working with Doctors without Boarders) Skypes to tell her that she is going to a remote village to help with the Ebola crisis. Vivian requests that if anything happens to her, Joan is to take on her persona and continue communicating with their mother via text and messenger until Sheila dies, thus sparing her the heartache of losing a daughter in her final days. 

Yes, soon Joan gets word that Vivian does indeed die, leaving Joan’s responsibility of helping her mother come to peace with both her daughters. 

This novel obviously does deal a lot with death and dying, not exactly light reading fare. But it also deals with love and hope and the strength that comes with facing your truth. 

2022-2023 Book Club titles

So it’s that wonderful time of the year again when my bookclub meets and votes on what books to read over the next 10 months. We all come with a plethora of suggestions, all of them so wonderful we often have to go for a second round of voting just to narrow it down to 10.  Here they are:

The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guin

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio

Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

Little Eve by Catriona Ward

Joan by Katherine J Chen

Cradles of the Reich by Jennifer Coburn

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

Honourable Mentions

Ducks by Kate Beaton

Magpie by Elizabeth Day

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

Unreconciled by Jesse Wente

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Looking for Jane by Heather Marshall

Foundling Ann Leary

Akin by Emma Donoghue

Daphne by Josh Malerman

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

How the Penguins Saved Veronica by Hazel Prior

Five Wives by Joan Thomas

The Reading List by Sara Nish Adams

The Beekeeper of Alleppo by Christy Lefteri

Fresh Water for Flowers by Valerie Perrin

The Cloisters

by Katy Hays

I love novels set in museums, libraries and universities. Is “Dark Academia” a genre? A sub-genre?
This novel is set in New York, more specifically, The Cloisters. Google it; it looks absolutely beautiful.
Our protagonist Ann Stillwell is brilliant. She has mastered several languages (several of them dead) and is gifted at translating. These skills have taken her to New York, where she, by sheer coincidence (or is it?), gets a job researching and acquiring rare tarot cards.
At first, Ann begins to notice strange events and behaviour happening around her, but when a dead body is found in the library, she realizes that the job she has so gratefully been offered isn’t everything that it seems.
The novel had me invested enough that I quickly devoted an entire day to finishing it. The characters were interesting (especially Ann and her backstory). Still, it was the various settings that I found particularly intriguing, and I found myself wanting to visit New York to find rare book stores and antique shops.
The Cloisters is Kay Hays’s debut novel, which is a good one. I will keep my eye out for more of her writing in the future!

Thank you to Netgalley and Simon and Shuster, and Atria Books for the free copy. You’ll be able to find The Cloisters on the shelf on November 1st.

Hooked

by A C Wise

What if Captain Hook wasn’t the worst villain in Peter Pan? What if Peter Pan was a spoiled adolescent who forces people into acting in roles that serve his play? What if Pan forced James Hook into reliving his death by drowning over and over again so that he could play his game of make-believe over and over and over again?

Hooked is a reimagined tale of Peter Pan. The Darling children are now adults living in a world where they now perceive their time in Neverland as a time that wasn’t always fun and carefree.

A string of murders have been committed in England, and James Hook, who has somehow escaped Neverland, feels Peter Pan is somehow responsible. After a chance encounter with Wendy, the two of them, with the help of Wendy’s daughter, take it upon themselves to try to stop “the Boy Who Would Never Grow Up” from doing any more harm.

This book was a great read. Dark and fast-paced it is more than a retelling of an old fairy tale but also a story of the repercussions of war and familial love.

Little Eve

By Catriona Ward

Ever read a book that was so enthralling it was difficult to start another because nothing reads as good? This is the problem I’m having after reading Catriona Ward’s Little Eve. Dark, atmospheric and filled with the most fascinating of characters.

Ward weaves together a plot about psychological manipulation and survival. Evelyn or “little Eve”, is an adolescent girl who lives at Altnahara, a castle on an island a small distance from the coast of Scotland. Evelyn’s family is an unusual one. Two women and three other children. The head of the family is a man referred to as “uncle”, or at times, he is terrifyingly referred to as The Adder. When a man from the mainland arrives to deliver meat, he discovers the dead bodies of several inhabitants, each wrapped in white shrouds and missing an eye. All are dead except for 16-year-old Dinah, who accuses the missing Eve of the murders.

The author writes alternating chapters in the voices of both Dinah and Eve. Hence, we, the readers, get a telling of events and consequences that is satisfying at the end.

This is my first encounter with Catriona Ward’s writing, and I am so excited to have found a new favourite author.

Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Nightfire for the free copy.

Long Story Short

by Serena Kaylor

Beatrice is a brilliant 16-year-old who has already been accepted into the university of her dreams; Oxford. The only problem is that Beatrice suffers extreme social anxiety, so much so she has been homeschooled for most of her life. Beatrice has never been to a party. She’s never had a friend; she has never even deviated from a specific weekly dinner menu. Needless to say, her parents aren’t thrilled with her acceptance, so they decide that Beatrice will have to prove to her parents that she is emotionally and mentally ready before they allow her to go. and boy do her parents have the perfect challenge for her, she will have to successfully a program, well actually a summer camp that is completely out of her comfort zone; camp where she will have to interact with others, speak in public, and share personal space…a Shakespearian Theatre camp! And while she is there, she’ll have to fulfil a list of accomplishments her parents create for her:

Make a friend.

Share a secret.

Walk up to someone and make small talk.

Accept an invite she doesn’t want to.

Do an outdoor activity.

Pull a prank.

Execute a dare.

Hug three people.


The dream of attending Oxford is enough to get Beatrice out the door and onto the bus that will take her to camp; however, she soon faces embarrassment and rejection when she tries to cross a task off her list and talk to a stranger who just happens to be the most popular girl at camp; the “Ice Queen”.
I found this novel charming and a wonderful break from popular teenage angst-riddled dystopian literature. It is very well written with endearing characters (I absolutely LOVE Mia and Nolan!) It is a sweet, light-hearted novel that will be the perfect light summer reading fare.

Thank you Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for the free copy

What Moves the Dead

by T Kingfisher

What a horrifically beautiful cover!

This was the perfect book to start off my summer. The novel starts with our narrator Alex, who is on their way to visit their dear friends Madeline and Rockrick Usher. Before they even arrive, Alex is mesmerized by the woods in which he travels. Although the lake and trees seem to possess a threatening and ominous air, the mushrooms and all things “fungal” seem to enthral Alex the most. The mushrooms “ grew out of the gaps in the stones of the tarn like a tumour growing from diseased skin [Alex] had the strong urge to step back from them and an even stronger urge to poke them with a stick.” Before they get the opportunity to do so, an older woman Eugenia Potter stops them. Eugenia is one of my favourite characters; eccentric and bold; she paints the various fungus she finds with the ambition of having her own name in the books recognized by the “Mycology Society”.
Second, only to Eugenia Potter, Alex is in themselves a fascinating character. As “Sworn Soldier”, Alex carries the courage they possessed on the battlefield in t the horror that awaits at the Usher’s estate. Alex discovers that their friends Madeline and Roderick have wasted (rotted?) away both physically and mentally.

Can Alex determine the cause of this decline before they too succumb to the madness and death surrounding them?
What moves the Dead, a gothic tale inspired by Edgar Alan Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher”, is well crafted with viscerally vivid detail even though it moves at a rapid pace. It is the perfect novel to add to your summer tbr pile.

Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor for the free copy.

Mad Woman

by Louisa Treger

Mad Woman is a psychological drama based on the intriguing life of feminist heroine Nellie Bly. Nellie, as you know, is the courageous newspaper woman who, in 1817, posed as a madwoman to expose the atrocities taking place in the “insane” asylum on Blackwell’s Island, New York.
Treger begins her novel in Nellie’s childhood where Nellie, a precocious, brave young girl, wants to be a lawyer just like her father. Sadly, due to various tragic events in her life, Nellie soon becomes consumed by the plight of the poor, especially the plight of women in society. Nellie soon changes her ambition from law to journalism and eventually finds herself in New York. Desperate for work, Nellie forces her way into the offices of the World and finds herself talking to the managing editor John Cockerill and millionaire Joseph Pulitzer where she presents her ‘insane’ idea of a story.
Without giving away any more plot, I can say that the portion of the novel that takes place at Blackwell’s is incredibly riveting. In fact, after I had read the novel, I fell down a rabbit hole of Googling more information on Bly just to discover more about her incredible life.
Mad Woman is a novel that is a fast-paced, incredibly compelling story of a real-life heroine.

You will be able to read Mad Woman August 23,

Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for the free copy.

Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

Megan Goldin is one of my new favourite mystery writers. My introduction to her was the novel  Night Swim and I absolutely loved it. I was privileged enough to receive, through NetGalley and  St. Martin’s Press, a copy of her newest novel Awake. Goldin does not disappoint. 

This novel is in the vein of the movie Memento and the book Before I go to Sleep where sleep is the enemy.

Our protagonist Liv suffers a trauma so severe she cannot remember it. Every time she wakes up she suffers short term memory loss. When we first meet Liv (present day) she finds herself in a cab with no ID and in possession of a bloody knife. Liv  doesn’t remember the last two years of her life let alone how she got into that cab. The only clues to help her are written on her hands and arms. “ Stay awake” and “trust no one” are two such ominous clues. 

The story moves effortlessly between two time periods; present day and a time set two years in the past.

For most of the novel we live in media res with an unreliable narrator. Alternate chapters do give us some sense of logic because we meet Darcy Halliday, a homicide detective who is trying to take her place in a department where women are  few and far between. Darcy is first on the scene of a murder where “stay awake” is written on the window of the crime scene with the victims blood. This phrase will obviously thrust the two women together to seek the truth.

Stay Awake forces the reader to literally stay awake themselves with its rapid plot and overpowering suspense until the end of the novel is reached. 

Haven by Emma Donoghue

Father Artt had a dream. A dream of an island far off the coast of Ireland where he and two other men will build a monastery. Artt recruits old Cormac and young Train to come with him. Each monk possess skills that will be important for the successful manifestation of Artt’s dream.

Using Skellig Michael as the setting for most of the story, Donoghue weaves a tale filled with external and internal conflict. On top of fighting the elements, tension also arises between the men. But what I found particularly interesting is the inner conflict each man experiences with a crisis of faith towards God and humanity.

This novel isn’t heavy on plot. Instead, it serves as more of a character study. Each of the three main characters are incredibly intriguing however,  Donoghue only gives us glimmers of their backstories making Haven a fascinating read. (I especially love Cormac, I want to know more about his life before his holy vows).

Haven would make for a compelling novel study. Students could learn more about: Elements of allegory, characterization, beautiful detail, and a variety of themes (blind faith, disillusionment, adversity, resiliency, conformity, guilt, environmentalism, just to name a few). 

This novel is both sophisticated yet accessible and rich enough to serve as a class novel study and/or a mentor text. 

Haven will be published August 23. Thank you to NetGalley and Little Brown and Company for the advanced copy.