This is an easy quick read perfect for summer. It’s 1954 and Alice Campbell has decided to make a big change in her life, giving up everything for independence. So she buys a small bookshop in Boston and makes it her own. One day, Alice decides to create a book club where individuals will meet once a month to discuss books of her choosing…and they just so happen to be books about and/or written by women who are, themselves searching for a life to call their own. Alice’s little book club is made of four young women (Tess, Caroline, Evie, and Merritt) who just happen to be attending nearby Radcliffe College, all are young and edited with their own newfound independence. I liked this book well enough. It was a very quick read that was suitable after a workday where I had to tax my brain. I found the description of Alice’s bookshop and the details of the simple life she has created for herself is simply charming. I also enjoyed the simplicity of characterization, it was easy to understand the choices and motivations of each. My favourite part of the novel was how the author attempted to weave the various themes of the books studied in the book club with the lives of the characters who read them. (Jane Eyre, Age of Innocence, Essays of Virginia Wolfe).
Trigger warning for sexual assault and miscarriage.
You will be able to purchase this book June 18th!
Thank you to Source Books and Netgalley for the free copy.
“Friendship is a contract between two hearts. With hearts united, women can laugh and cry, live and die together” (Lady Tam’s Circle of Women)
I love it when I start reading a book and it immediately transports me into a world where I am captivated by the characters, intrigued by the plot, and seduced by the setting. I started reading this novel one Sunday and my world stopped for the entire day until I was finished.
The story follows The life of Tan Yunxian, one of the few female doctors in 15th Century China. We first meet Yunxian when she is 8 where her feet are newly bound and her mother is teaching her traditional ways in which to be a wife and mother. However, upon the unexpected death of her mother, Yunxian is sent to live with her father’s parents. Her grandparents are of a different sort, they are a noble family, but not merchants or politicians but rather, her grandfather and her grandmother are doctors. They soon realize that Yunxian is a brilliant girl and her grandmother begins to teach her how to be a ‘doctor of women’ focusing on the four components of Chinese medicine: listening, looking, touching, and most importantly asking.
Obviously, it’s not easy being a woman in 15th century China where women are treated as belongings and the gaps between social classes are vast, so as Yunxian grows older she has to navigate her traditional role as a wife and mother in a noble family and as a doctor for women of every class without bringing “shame” upon her husband’s family.
This is a wonderful book about female friendship. The bond between mother and daughter, and the bond between women friends is beautifully developed and I found myself tearing up in scenes where the love and loyalty between characters shone. As women we truly are stronger when we stick together through adversity, support each other in our successes, and laugh and cry with each other through heartbreak and joy.
You will be able to buy this novel June 6th!! An awesome addition to your summer reading list!
Thank you to Simon and Schuster and Netgalley for the free copy.
At the beginning of the book our main character, Hazel is working at an antiquarian bookstore unpacking and itemizing rare books (my DREAM JOB)! However, she is soon off to bigger and brighter experiences moving on to a much more elitist job at an auction house in London. But before she leaves this charming little shop, she comes across a storybook that possesses a tale that shakes her to her very core. You see, when she was a young girl she used to tell her little sister Flora the story of “Whisperwood” , an imaginative world where they would be safe and happy and distracted from the war. Hazel and Flora have had to flee their home and parents in London to escape the bombing and it is up to Hazel to protect her little sister while they are away. Tragically, one day Flora disappears, everyone believing she accidentally tumbled into the river and drowned. And now, like a ghost from the past, the story she has told to only her little sister has appeared. Hazel then sets out in search of the author of this book in the hopes to find out information on her sister’s disappearance or maybe, hopefully, finding her sister alive after all these years.
A lovely, lovely, story. Well written, suspenseful, wonderful plot complications and characterization. Definitely one to put on your summer reading list.
Thank you to Atria Books and Netgalley for the free copy. The Secret Book of Flora Lea is in bookstores now!
Ok, so I’ve really, REALLY wanted to settle into a book lately; I mean, I need to be entertained, consumed by a story enough to be distracted from politics, book banning, and wildfires that seem to be closing in around me. But, much to my dismay, I haven’t been able to find the right book. I needed something not too deep and complex that required careful reading and nothing too sugary- simple that was predictable with nothing of substance to hold my attention for longer than a minute. Well, I found the perfect book, and that book was “Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus.
A story about Elizabeth Zott, a woman in the 1950s who wanted nothing more than to be a chemist in a world where women were anything but. I was immediately fascinated by Elizabeth’s passion, honesty and intellect. Elizabeth is by no means perfect, her social skills are interesting at best, and her focus sometimes borders on naivety. Still, I love her; she has become one of my favourite heroines of the year.
The plot is wonderful, the characters interesting (especially Six-Thirty), and the themes timely even though the story is set in the 1950s-1960s.
This book is perfect for those times when you find it challenging to settle into a book. Definitely make it part of your summer reading list, or better yet, read it now!
The Coachman- “Humans were foolish. Careless. Cruel. But only a few. Most were full of light.” (The Lives of Puppets).
I found this book absolutely enchanting. Part Pinocchio, part Frankenstein, part Wizard of Oz, Klune beautifully writes a fairy tale about a time when humans were extinct and the world was run by machines. It is a story about creation and destruction, friendship, and, most importantly, a story about accepting who you are and discovering your purpose for existing.
This novel is a quick heart warming read with strong themes. It is perfect for a personal weekend read and for classroom discussion.
“We’re not the same,” Dad had said, voice gentle and soft. “But know that I was alone and sad before you came into my world. You Gave me hope, Victor. It started in the tips of my toes before it rose through the rest of my body and lashed firmly in my chest. It has never left. It evolved into something so much greater. And it’s because of this feeling that I can say I don’t need you to be like me. I need you to be like you”. (The Lives of Puppets).
Thank you to Netgalley and Tor Publishing for the Advance copy.
I loved this book. It has become one of my favourites of the year. I loved its characters, I loved its themes, and I absolutely loved how it was written.
This is a novel about love and loss and family, and self-discovery and about something near and dear to my heart, it is about sisters. Beautifully written, Hello Beautiful is a novel not to be missed. I was lucky enough to be sent an advanced digital copy, but today it will be out on bookshelves and I’m about to buy myself a hard copy to have on my shelf to reread and share with others. If you’re already compiling a summer reading list this is definitely one to add!
Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for the free copy.
Black Bird Blue Road by Sofiya Pasternack is a beautifully written book about a young woman who escapes with her brother from a family steeped in traditional fear. Ziva is that “that” age where her family is beginning to find her a suitable husband. The only thing is Ziva wants to be a judge, just like her father. Although an arranged marriage is reason enough for fleeing her family, Zita also has a twin brother Pesha whom she is compelled to take to the Byzantine Empire to be healed. You see, Pesha has leprosy, and the entire family has basically accepted the idea that Pesha will die, except for Ziva. So, one night Ziva takes Pesha, and they flee their home only to be attacked by highwaymen who attempt to steal everything they have, kill Pesha and hold Ziva for ransome…that is until Ziva accidentally (on purpose?) frees a half-demon in exchange for escape, which is fine. Still, she and Pesha have a half-demon bound to them until they repay their debt. Will they make it to the Byzantine Empire safely? Will Pesha be cured? Will their ties to the underworld compromise not only their physical well-being but also their moral well-being? A very well-written, captivating story about family love, perseverance and living with the consequences of choice.
Each of Us a Universe by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo with Ndengo Gladys Mwilelo Calliope Scott is fascinated by Meteorite Mountain. In fact, she’s making it her mission to reach the top to find out the answers to the secrets it holds, especially the mystery of the meteorite, “the one that people say landed on the top of that spire…just because no one’s found it doesn’t mean it isn’t there, right? If it is, how do we know it isn’t magical?” ( page 45). You see, Cal is in need of magic, her mother has cancer, and her father is in prison, and although most of the community is supportive towards her and her mother, Cal still sneaks clothing from the lost and found at school, and steals cans of food from the grocery store. Then one day, a small change occurs in her world; a new girl named Rosine becomes an ally and a friend at school. Rosine, having lost her parents to war in another country, has arrived with her sister. Rosine, too, wants to find magic in the mountain to help her sister, who is “sick with sadness and making bad decisions” (page 77). Bound by this common quest, the two girls find strength in each other to succeed in their quest and forge a true friendship that strengthens both during a difficult time in their lives. This is a lovely book about friendship, overcoming adversity and perseverance. It also has a wonderful interview at the back with an actual “stardust hunter” that explains how you can collect “stardust” (micrometeorites) yourself. A perfect novel for a cross-curricular study linked to science.
Gabe in the After by Shannon Doleski This is a story about a pandemic and survival…like so many other books, TV shows, and movies that have popped up since Covid. However, this story reads a bit differently. Gabe Sweeney is one of 20 survivors (primarily children and young adults) who lives on a small island off the coast of Maine. Gabe and his group were evacuated there during the start of a deadly outbreak that they assumed killed most of the country’s population. The novel starts with Gabe scouting for survivors. For two years, Gabe has taken a small boat to the dock on the mainland to see if anyone is waiting, and so far, there has been no one. But today, Gabe finds (or rather his dog Mud) finds a young woman named Relle in the forest nearby. Relle has been on her own for most of the two years and had been making her home in a library until the roof caved in, making it uninhabitable. Since then, she has been wandering, hoping to find a community, a family of her own. From this initial incident, the novel follows Gabe in his tasks and responsibilities, one of which takes him days away from the island in search of medicine and ultimately to see what the outbreak’s status is in the world. During this time, Gabe has to deal with his feelings for Relle, with whom he falls in love. Let’s say dealing with these newfound feelings is a whole other story in survival. I really liked this book. Even though it was a story about a deadly pandemic, the narrative didn’t focus on that tragedy; instead, I found it a charming love story, growing up, responsibility, and finding joy and comfort in the little things in life. Suppose you’re looking for a story about zombies and murderous raiders. In that case, this is not the story for you, but if you’re looking for a wholesome story about first love and growing up, then definitely pick this one up.
Kate Morton’s writing is easy to love. Engaging plots, an interesting collection of characters, and secrets of varying degrees begging to be uncovered. Homecoming is probably my favourite of Morton’s novels thus far. The story starts in 1959 with the death of a mother and all her children. The bodies of Mrs. Turner and her children are discovered lying peacefully by the side of a creek, all looking as though as if they were asleep. Was it murder, or a murder suicide?
Sixty years later we meet Jess, a young woman journalist living in London who is, trying to “find” herself, after breaking up with a long term boyfriend and losing her job. When Jess learns her grandmother suffered a serious fall, she travels to Australia to care for her loved one, and maybe find a change she needs to find a story worth writing about.
Once in Australia, Jess learns of her familial connection to the suspicious deaths of the Turner family and then begins a journey of research, investigation, and coming to terms with family secrets she never knew existed. Jess finds that sometimes your own family history possesses incredible stories that are worth writing.
I enjoyed this book tremendously. It is a long one though so I would recommend putting it on your summer reading list so you can take your time immersing yourself in the story.
Thank you Netgalley and Simon and Schuster for the free copy.
You will be able to purchase Homecoming April 4, 2023
I love Shakespeare and upon reading this novel it is apparent that M. L. Ric loves Shakespeare too!
The characters are literally Shakesperian actors, or rather students studying to be Shakespearian actors. Our cast of characters range from a villain to an ingenue.Our main character, Oliver, is neither a villain or an ingenue, rather he is “every man” that one character Shakespeare always includes in his play that seems close enough to the audience that we can understand and believe the events and motivations of the characters more readily.
Like Shakespeare, Ric organizes his novel in 5 acts, then, each scene in each act serves as chapters. I love the parallels in organization.
The similarities to Shakepeare’s craft just don’t end in how the novel is organized. The themes in the novel are as big as Shakespeare’s themes, love, hate, guilt, power, betrayal and the repercussions from choices taken within each theme. Obviously I have first read this novel for the plot, but it is definitely worth a reread in order to see just how layered and interconnected he made his story to the plays themselves.
An engrossing story in the genre of Dark Academia (my new favourite) that is totally worthy of a reread. I would also use it to “hook” my high school students into studying Shakespeare.
So far, If We Were Villains is one of my favourite books I’ve read this year!
“9: 45 P.M. Standing next to his step box, Baxter hovers: immobile and elastic, ready to spring forward to lift a suitcase, dissect a timetable, point to the conductor, nod, lift more suitcases, now hat boxes, answer more questions, and nod, nod, nod. Trouser cuffs drag in the dust, shiny boot heels clap against the train station platform; a child runs toward an observation car, ribbons and cuff-links and tickets and goodbye letters swish to the ground. Hands reach toward him, grab at him for a lift up, grab his coat pocket, wave in his face. A sea swell of passengers, spilling toward his car; a maelstrom of departure-time panic”. The Sleeping Car Porter by Suzette Mayr pg 11.
I want to write like Suzette Mayr. Vivid descriptions, an interesting cast of characters, and a main character whose story is one of heartache, confusion, and blinding determination. Baxter is a Black sleeping car porter working the Canadian National railway on routes that span a multitude of provinces. Obviously being a porter is anything but glamorous, and Baxter is constantly taken advantage of, verbally abused, and dismissed by a plethora of passengers who demand attention to the most frivolous of requests. Throughout it all, Baxter attempts to go above and beyond his duties so that he does not run the risk of being written up, gaining demerit points or ultimately being fired from his job. However, what keeps Baxter focused on performing the best job possible is the possibility of tips. You see, Baxter is saving up to go to dental school, and at the beginning of the novel we learn he only needs $101 more dollars in his dentistry fund in order to go to school for four years. Throughout the novel we can’t help but root for Baxter to defeat his exhaustion and survive the demands of the passengers so that this can be his final route and he can move forward to fulfill his dream to be dentist. I was particularly interested in the way Mayr creates her main character. Weaving together flashbacks, events in the present, and Baxter’s fuzzy hallucinatory recollections and interpretations of his reality (brought on by lack of sleep) Mayr places us as close as possible in the shoes and mind of this man. I would definitely use portions of this novel as a mentor text in a high school classroom. Using the quote above one could discuss a variety of literary devices (imagery, onomatopoeia, metaphor, personification) and how to use colons and semicolons! Please note that there are portions of this novel that are sexually explicit so be careful of its use in the classroom.
Anna Armstrong is a brilliant precocious girl who has always been fascinated by space. In fact, she has attempted to launch herself several times into space but unfortunately her homemade rocket ships did not have sufficient enough power to get her there. Tragically, on the day of one of her “launches”, she learns that her mother and father have died on their way back home from Europe. Thirteen year old Anna then goes to live with her kind uncle Jack on his farm research center outside Smartt Indiana.
Very soon upon her arrival, Anna sees strange lights in the distance and eventually goes and investigates. There, she discovers a different dimension in time and space, where girl named Mara exists. Anna soon becomes involved in trying to help Mara save the world from the repercussions of time travel using Science to help them.
This is such a wonderful book about responsibility, friendship and science. The young people presented are supportive and caring towards each other and lessons learned about curiosity, responsibility and friendship abound.
This book should be added to school libraries as well as any little classroom library. It is a science fiction novel that is accessible to upper elementary and middle school students.
Thank you to Girl Friday Books and Netgalley for the free copy. Girl Out of Time is available for purchase on March 7
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.
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.