A Most Agreeable Murder

By Julia Seales

This is a humourous and lighthearted novel about, of all things, murder.

Beatrice Steele is one of a trio of daughters, but she is different from her sisters. Instead of dreaming of love and marriage, or obsessing over balls and tea parties, she is consumed by her fascination with solving murders, especially the murders she reads about in the newspapers. The newspapers tell of gruesome London murders being solved by the handsome and brilliant gentleman Detective Sir Huxley and his assistant Vivek Drake. 

In the conservative and traditional village of Swampshire, Beatrice has to hide her morbid curiosity, else be cast as a social misfit by her community and banished from society.

Until one day, Murder comes to Swampshire and Beatrice, along with the inscrutable Vivek Drake, have to find the killer before they strike again.

This novel is an easily readable tale with engaging characters. The plot is at times predictable but there are several twists and turns at the end that come out of the blue and make it a fulfilling reading experience. The ending sets itself up nicely for a series!  I would love to travel along with Detective Beatrice to solve crimes in the future.

You’ll be able to purchase this novel in summer. A perfect addition to your summer reading list.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for the advanced copy.

Chrysalis

by Anna Metcalfe

I loved this book! It is a story about transformation, deciding to design your own life after trauma, and the reinvention of self, in a way. A common theme but written in a very unique format. I loved how it was organized, and I loved the fact that the only information we get about our main character (who remains nameless….unless I missed it) is from other people. So, how biased is this information? We have to form our own opinions about her using only the judgements and opinions of others. The three sources of our information are Elliot, an introverted, socially isolated (by choice) fellow who notices her at the only other place he inhabits besides his home; the gym. Our second source is Bella, her mother, who gives us her daughter’s back story, and Susie, our main character’s best friend, who offers us information from our main character’s life as an adult and her explanation of the catalyst that inspired her transformation.
Personally, I was not too fond of our central figure. Even though I tried to sympathize with our central character’s circumstances and admire her determination. Did I feel this way because I was manipulated by the point of view of others? Probably.
I would consider using this text in a high school English class as an example of author craft. The themes presented would also lend themselves to deep and interesting classroom discussions. I will be on the lookout for more of Metcalf’s work in the future.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for the Advance copy. Chrysalis will be available for purchase in April.

The Puzzle Master

by Danielle Trussoni

“Puzzle’s are composed of patterns. They are meant to be solved.” (Trussoni).

If you like Dan Brown’s Da Vinci’s code, you’ll love The Puzzle Master.

When our hero Mike Brink was young he suffered a concussion playing high school football. When he awoke, he was suddenly aware “there was a system, an essential order to the world”  (Trussoni) He saw it” as patterns…patterns everywhere. At first, “all he knew was that he was experiencing highly structured geometric hallucinations on a regular basis” (Trussoni) After years of learning how to live with his “gift” Brink made a name for himself as the foremost puzzlemaker of the world. As such, he is asked by psychologist Dr. Moses to make sense of  a puzzle created by Jess Prince, one of her patients who is herself “living in a puzzle”. Ms Prince, famous writer now infamous murderer, is serving her sentence at the New York State Correctional Facility abd has taken to communicating in complex cryptic symbols.

When Brink meets Miss Prince he feels a strange connection and they have a surprisingly intimate encounter where Prince secretly passes him another puzzle. 

Soon Mike finds himself in a world of rare porcelain dolls, the supernatural, and ancient Hasidic texts which are all as intricately connected as the diagramed puzzles Trussoni includes in her text. 

I had forgotten I liked Trussoni’s writing (read Angelology a decade ago).The Puzzle Master was an easy thrilling read and a great story to reintroduce me to Danielle Trussoni’s writing. Now I have to go back and read her titles I’ve missed.

This novel will not be published until June 2023

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for the advanced copy!

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 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. 

O Caledonia

by Elspeth Barker

I was away in Victoria this past weekend. Of course, I visited Munroes, THE most breathtaking bookstore in my neck of the woods. Gift card in hand (from my beautiful friend Debbie), I spent time within its walls doing one of THE BEST things in the world to do: running my fingers along the spines on the bookshelves until I settled on two (full disclosure, I picked 7, realized I only had a carryon, then had to narrow it down to two). One of the chosen was O Caledonia by Elspeth Barker.
Full disclosure, I thought this one could be a quick read. Still, I had to take my time with it….it is so beautifully written but SO unsettling in content. For example:


Halfway up the great stone staircase which rises from the dim and vaulting hall of Auchnasaugh, there is a tall stained-glass window. In the height of its Gothic arch is sheltered a circular panel, where a white cockatoo, his breast transfixed by an arrow, is swooning in death….at night, when the moon is high, it beams through the dying cockatoo and casts his blood drops in a chain of rubies onto the flagstones of the hall .”(pg 1)


The novel starts with the murder of our tragic heroine, so you know how it ends before you even begin (as foreshadowed in the quote I shared above). The story is simply and tragically the story of Janet from birth to her death at 16. Janet is one of the most fascinatingly disturbing characters I’veI’ve met. I sympathize with her, but at times I find her incredibly annoying. She is self-centred, spiteful, and stupid at times, but she is also confused, unloved, and brilliant. She is treated horribly by many people, but then she, in turn, is capable of doing horrible things. I kept reminding myself that she was just a little girl and many of her choices were reactionary and, therefore, not wholly her fault. Janet would make a fascinating character study.
This book left me unsettled. I loved it. I’ve asked people to read it so I can talk to them about Janet.
Find it.
Buy it
Read it.
Then send me a wee message to tell me your thoughts.

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

Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands

by Kate Beaton

Wow, I did not know what to write for this one.

I loved it. It disturbed me. It made me laugh and tear up and feel insurmountable rage. In fact, the rage that has stuck with me.

Ducks is a graphic novel that tackles a variety of issues: environmentalism, indigenous rights, a sense of home, and sexual harassment. Heavy, I know, however, Kate Beaton doesn’t use her graphic novel to lecture us on these issues No, she simply and honestly retells her experience moving to For McMurray and working at the oil sands. This is an important book that will leave you thinking about it long after you read it. I would definitely use it as part of a novel study in High School Social Studies and English classes.

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.

Unsettled Ground

by Claire Fuller


I can’t remember how I heard of this novel, but I was searching the book list in my notes and looking for it. As soon as I saw the beautiful cover, I knew it would be good (not that one should judge a book by its cover, but let’s be honest, we all do to some degree).
The novel starts with the death of Dot. Dot dies suddenly from a stroke, leaving her twins Jeanie and Julius to fend for themselves. Jeanie and Julius, however, should have no problem living without their mother because they are, after all, 51 years old.
Following the death of their mother, the twins discover their mother had been keeping certain truths from them, truths that would lead to evictions, resentments, and potentially murder.
Claire Fuller writes beautifully with every descriptive phrase and piece of dialogue purposefully chosen to tell her story most effectively. I will be reading more of her writing in the future!

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.