Just a book blog

Just a book blog

I'm Jenn.

I like to read then blog about it :-)

Review
5 Stars
Pawprints & Predicaments
Pawprints & Predicaments (Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery) - Bethany Blake

The Tail Waggin' Winterfest is the highlight of the season in Slyvan Creek - a small town in the Pocono Mountains famous for being pet-friendly. There's an ice sculpture display, a dogsled race, and an annoying TV producer filming the festivities. Not only is Lauren Savidge annoying, she's controlling and overbearing. Daphne Templeton wants to tell Lauren to jump in a lake. And that's what they're both going to do in the town's first-ever polar bear plunge in Lake Wallapawakee along with eighty or so others who are braving the frigid water to raise money for animals in need. But Lauren is dragged out of the water by a mysterious St. Bernard. Now Daphne and her trusty sidekick, Socrates the basset hound, are going to help Detective Johnathan Black in the murder investigation whether he wants them to or not.

This is the third book in the Lucky Paws Petsitting series but it's the first one I've read. I had no problem following along. I felt as though I was a part of this small town. I love that they love animals. I'm a big animal lover myself and have pets so I could relate to Daphne talking to her pets and them giving her certain looks and answering her because, oh my God, mine do that too! The mystery was great. I suspected everyone at one point and was surprised at who the murderer was. Lots of cozy vibes with the fireplaces and warm, gooey cookies and hot chocolate. There are even recipes for our furry friends that Daphne uses in her new bakery Flour Power! I'm definitely going to read the first two books and keep my eyes open for more in the future.

Thank you to Netgalley and Kensington Books for an ARC.

Review
3 Stars
The Book of Mirrors
The Book of Mirrors - E.O. Chirovici

Literary agent Peter Katz is intrigued by a partial book submission he has just received. The submission, entitled The Book of Mirrors, tells the story of the author's time as an English student at Princeton during the late 1980's. The author, Richard Flynn, documents his relationship with the protégée of the famous Professor Joseph Wieder. But just before Christmas, Weider was murdered in his home and the case was never solved. Twenty-five years have passed since then and Peter Katz suspects that Richard Flynn is either going to confess to the murder or reveal who it was that did it. But the manuscript ends abruptly and Richard Flynn is in the hospital, dying, and the remaining pages are nowhere to be found.

I'm giving this a generous three stars. I liked so many things - a book within a book, memories, the stories we choose to tell others and the ones we keep hidden, the unsolved murder of a popular professor. But all of these things didn't come together as well as I hoped they would. It started off good, but it became boring fairly early on. I was patiently waiting for that extra oomph where something would happen and the story would take off. But nothing ever really did happen. The characters were okay and the ending was just okay.

Review
5 Stars
Bring Me Back
Bring Me Back: A Novel - B.A. Paris

This is the third novel by B.A. Paris. She's one of those authors that I don't even have to read the blurb because I already know it's going to be good no matter what. The first two were really good, but this one is really, really good! My advice is to start this book when you have a few hours to spare because you won't want to put it down! A young British couple are on their way back home after a vacation. Finn leaves the car for a few minutes and when he returns Layla is gone, never to be seen again. That was over a decade ago now. Finn is happy, he's getting married. But then his relationship starts to go awry because of a little Russian Nesting Doll. This book started off good. I was taking my time getting to know Finn before, during and after his relationship with Layla. But there was one part early on that made me think "oh my God" and I couldn't stand not knowing what happened to her. It's like B.A Paris is a race car driver and she threw me in there with her and sped to the finish line. I couldn't read fast enough. I loved the ending. The whole book was intense.

Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for an ARC.

Review
4 Stars
S.T.A.G.S
S.T.A.G.S. - Bennett D. Hill

It's autumn term at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, also known as S.T.A.G.S to the privileged pupils, and Greer MacDonald is struggling to fit in. Making even one friend is looking bleak until she receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed on it - huntin' shootin' fishin'. And it's from Henry de Warlencourt. Henry is the most popular and wealthy boy at S.T.A.G.S and he's inviting her to spend half term weekend at his country manor. She's surprised and flattered. But when she arrives at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, she realizes that the only adults around are the servants and the three bloodsports - hunting, shooting, fishing - aren't only about the wild animals. Greer and the other two misfits Henry has invited along are being hunted.

To look at the actual cover, it's gorgeous. Crisp and elegant. When I read the blurb I thought people were being hunted and that was it. People being hunted I'm okay with. Animals, I'm not. I was absolutely devouring this book and then.. poor stag. I try to tell myself it's just a book, it's not real. I almost dnf'ed. Even though I tried my best to skip these parts, the author seemed to go into great detail with organs and insides. I'll cry into my pillow tonight for all the poor animals in this book. I do enjoy books about boarding schools and the twisted secrets they seem to hold and this part did not disappoint. The school and the de Warlencourt's country manor is so beautiful and rich with history. The writing was good and made it easy to fly through the pages in no time.

I won a copy of this book through LibraryThing. Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for a hardcover copy.

Review
3 Stars
Letters to the Pianist
Letters to the Pianist - Frances Mayes

In war-torn London, 1941, fourteen-year-old Ruth Goldberg and her two younger siblings, Gabi and Hannah, survive the bombing of their family home but their parents are believed to be dead, buried under the rubble. They don't know that their father has been taken to the hospital with amnesia. Years later, Ruth stumbles across a newspaper photo of a celebrated pianist who looks exactly like her father. The only way to find out for sure is to write him a letter, and as the pianist's memories surface, his new life begins to fall apart.

I didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would. I did like the early days - with the Goldberg's as a whole, and as poor Ruth had to stay with aunt Fenella and uncle Harry while her younger siblings went to stay with aunt Betty. The characters were okay. The concept was interesting. I liked the setting. But I found it long and drawn-out. Once I put the book down I didn't really want to pick it back up. I'm happy it's over and now that it is I seem to enjoy it more looking back on it than I did while I was reading it.

I won a copy through LibraryThing. Thank you to BHC Press for my copy.

Review
3 Stars
The Doll House
The Doll House - Phoebe Morgan

On the outside it appears as though Corinne has a perfect life, but after three failed IVF attempts she has one more chance at having a baby. When she finds a little part of a doll house at her door she feels as though it's a good sign. But as more pieces show up she realizes these aren't good signs at all. These are pieces to her childhood doll house. Someone has been inside her home. But why?

Corinne's sister, Ashley, has three children. Her baby girl won't sleep through the night and her  teenage daughter doesn't seem to like her much these days. An exhausted Ashley is becoming more and more frustrated with her husband as he spends more and more time at the office. When phone calls from an unknown number start up, she thinks that maybe her husband is having an affair. What else could phone calls like that mean, right?  

I tried picking this book up a few times, but wow - boring. I was bored until about 25% at which point I was disgusted. I don't enjoy reading about dead animals, real or fictional. And the author mentioned this same animal over and over and over. I get the connection, but there was no need for it to be in the book. It didn't add anything. Neither did the dead pigeon. I hate that and I was so close to dnfing because of this. But anyway, the story eventually picked up. It was suspenseful. I had to find out who was stalking Corinne and Ashley. And then it kind of fell apart for me at the end. So the middle part was fun but overall it's not going to be a memorable book for me.

Thank you to Netgalley and HQ Digital for an ARC.

Review
5 Stars
Keep Her Safe
Keep Her Safe: A Novel - K.A. Tucker

Noah Marshall had been living a comfortable and privileged life thanks to his mother, the highly decorated chief of the Austin Police Department. But he becomes worried and frustrated as her drinking increases. He comes home one night and she lets out bits and pieces of secrets she's been carrying around for years. She can't handle the guilt of destroying an innocent family's life. Noah's left with his grief and a note to find Grace Wilkes. Grace is living in a run-down trailer park in Arizona where no one cares that her father was a corrupt cop in Austin, murdered in a drug deal gone wrong. She's struggling to get through each day, not knowing if she'll find her drug-addicted mother dead when she gets home from work. It takes some time after she finds Noah on her doorstep to trust him. Despite their differences they are searching for the answers to the same questions. Together they set out to uncover what dark secrets the Austin Police Department may be hiding.

I enjoyed this book from the very first page. It was extremely well-written. There's not a lot of them, but the romantic scenes were tastefully done. The whole story flows smoothly. Every now and then we'd get a glimpse into the past from Abe Wilkes (the cop who was murdered) and from Jackie Marshall (fellow cop and good friend of Abe Wilkes) which helps us understand what Abe got himself into. There's no shortage of emotions for young Grace and Noah - disbelief, hurt, anger, betrayal. There's lies, secrets, corruption. Twists and turns. But there's also peace, the truth, and hope for the future. A page-turner that had me believing everyone had something to hide. I loved it!

I won an ARC through a Goodreads giveaway. Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for my copy.

Review
2 Stars
The Girl From the Train
The Girl from the Train - Irma Joubert

Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the train tracks shortly before the train passes by, his only problem is that it was the wrong train. Fighting with the Polish resistance against Germany and Russia, their intent was to destroy a German troop transport, not destroy a train going to Auschwitz. On that train was six-year-old Gretl Schmidt. Although she is spared from the concentration camp, she is now an orphaned German Jew who finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. Jakób's guilt and compassion allow Gretl to stay with him for three years and the pair form a strong bond. But Jakób believes Gretl will have better opportunities in South Africa where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families - so long as her Jewish roots, Catholic education and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.

Poor Gretl. She had been through a lot but she was determined and headstrong and I couldn't help but root for her to have some happiness. As time went on I began to get bored. I felt like I was reading forever and getting nowhere. I was sick of reading about the minutiae of her everyday life - what colour ribbons she was wearing in her hair, what she was eating, what language she had to speak that day or what religious beliefs she had to believe in that day. We had to be told every. little. thing. I skipped the second half of the book and went straight to the epilogue, which held no surprises for me. A very tedious read.

Thank you to Netgalley and Thomas Nelson for a copy of this book.

Review
2 Stars
Holding
Loveland - Graham Norton

Duneen is a remote village in Ireland where little happens. Until human remains are discovered on an old farm. The remains are believed to be Tommy Burke's who was last seen twenty-five years earlier, getting on a bus to Cork. As Sergeant P.J. Collins struggles to solve a big case for the first time in his career he uncovers anger, resentment, secrets, and regret from some of the community's residents. 

I really like the cover. Unfortunately, there's not much else I like about this book. I found the characters lacking depth. They're unlikable and forgettable. And they blame the disappearance of Tommy Burke twenty-five years ago for their unhappiness to this day? Ugh. There were three Ross sisters and I couldn't keep straight who was who. There were too many characters and side stories. It was like a bad romantic comedy. I wanted to know what happened to Tommy Burke, but this was very boring to get through. I dreaded picking it back up and had to start skimming the last half of the book. Disappointing ending.

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for a copy of this book.

Review
5 Stars
I'm Not Your Sweet Babboo!
I'm Not Your Sweet Babboo! (Peanuts Kids) - Charles M. Schulz

I don't know why I was browsing Netgalley's "read now" books before I fell asleep last night, but I'm glad I did! I love Snoopy and this is the perfect way to end the year. In this one, we spend a lot of time with Sally as she crushes on her sweet babboo and with Peppermint Patty as she struggles in school. And of course, with that lovable beagle, Snoopy, and his cute little friend, Woodstock, as they fight with the cat next door. A fun way to spend an afternoon for young and old alike! 

Thank you to Netgalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for an ARC.

Review
5 Stars
The Stowaway: A Young Man’s Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica
The Stowaway: A Young Man’s Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica - Laurie Gwen Shapiro

The year was 1928. The Great War was over. America was optimistic. What better time to launch an expedition to Antarctica? Not a whole lot was known about the planet's final frontier. Almost everybody wanted to join Admiral Byrd on his journey, even the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts begged to be taken on as mess boys. Young Billy Gawronski was no different. The skinny New York City high-schooler begged his father to sign the paper to let him go, but it wasn't happening. Billy didn't want to go into the upholstery business with his father. So he did the only thing he could think of that might work - he jumped into the Hudson River and snuck aboard. 

I would love to go to Antarctica. But not as much as Billy because there's no way I'd do what he did. I admired his tenacity. Nothing deterred this young man from getting what he so desperately wanted which was a place alongside Richard Byrd on his exciting and highly publicized expedition to Antarctica. This doesn't read like a non-fiction book. It wasn't bogged down and it was never boring. The author's note was great as well. 

I won an ARC from a Goodreads giveaway. Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada and to Laurie Gwen Shapiro for bringing Billy's story into 2018.

Review
4 Stars
Does It Fart?
Does It Fart?: The Definitive Field Guide to Animal Flatulence - Nick Caruso Dani Rabaiotti

If you've ever wondered if a certain animal farts, look no further. There's sea cucumbers, unicorns and lots in between. Even if an animal doesn't fart, we learn why not and what takes place instead. We also learn about their diets and why their farts smell and sound the way they do, and if their farts are a defense mechanism or not. There's a glossary, illustrations, and a surprising amount of information. A quick and interesting read.

Thank you to Netgalley and Hachette Books for an ARC.

Review
3 Stars
Brass
Brass: A Novel - Xhenet Aliu

Elsie is a young waitress at the Betsy Ross Diner. She hopes her nickel and dime tips will take her away from her small town of Waterbury, Connecticut. Instead, she becomes pregnant to Bashkim - a married man from Albania who works at the Diner as a line cook. Elsie doesn't quite know what's going to happen once the baby comes. Will Bashkim stay or will he go back to his wife? Fast forward seventeen years and we have headstrong, independent Luljeta who has just received a rejection letter from NYU and her first ever suspension from school both on the same day. She desperately wanted a new life in New York but she's stuck in Connecticut with her mother. Now she's determined to uncover the truth about the father she never knew. 

The chapters alternate between Elsie when she was younger, and her daughter, Luljeta, when she's almost the same age. I really enjoyed the writing. The author has the ability to transform a mundane sentence into something mesmerizing. Sadly, at a little over halfway, the lack of anything really happening made me bored and the ending didn't make up for that fact. What a disappointing ending.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for an ARC.

Review
4 Stars
Where the Sweet Bird Sings
Where the Sweet Bird Sings - Ella Joy Olsen

Emma Hazelton has just buried her grandfather. And she buried her son on the same day one year earlier. She's still grieving her little boy who passed away due to a rare genetic disease and she feels as though her husband wants to move on, to try to have another baby even though there's a 1-in-4 chance that baby will have Canavan's. Emma decides to get out of the house. She needs time and space to think. While going through her grandfather's things, she begins to untangle the web of her family's past and dig into the roots of her son's disease. And she learns that it isn't blood that connects a family, it's love.

I won a copy of her debut novel (Root, Petal, Thorn) and it was really good and, like this one, it has a beautiful cover. So when I saw this as a "read now" on Netgalley I had to click the button. But I couldn't get into it then and I tried over the months but it just wasn't holding my attention. I knew it was going to be a good read, so what was my problem? I donno. Anyway, I picked it up the other day and could not put it down. I devoured it. Emma's love for her child and her grief were palpable. It's predictable but that doesn't take anything away from the book. It's beautifully written. And if you've read Root, Petal, Thorn you'll get a nice little surprise in this one!

Thank you to Netgalley and Kensington Books for an ARC.

Review
5 Stars
Canadianity: Tales from the True North Strong and Freezing
Canadianity: Tales from the True North Strong and Freezing - Jeremy Taggart, Jonathan Torrens

Take a trip across Canada with Taggart and Torrens as they share their tales from the road, their observations and their best places to eat, drink and hang out in each province. They take us on a stroll down memory lane as they share their lists of top bands, tv shows and athletes from this great country. I really enjoyed reading about Jeremy's father's antics and Jonathan's embarrassing moments (sorry!) but everything in between was interesting too. I'm a proud Canadian and I always love hearing/reading about all the great people that came from here and what they've achieved. They don't even have to be famous - I loved the story about people helping others when the Fort McMurray wildfire took over. I grew up listening to Our Lady Peace and, of course, J-Roc is my favourite on Trailer Park Boys so it was cool to meet these two and find out they're just a couple of down-to-earth bahds. Great book!

Review
5 Stars
Find You in the Dark
Find You in the Dark: A Novel - Nathan Ripley

Martin Reese is a family man, but he has a dark secret - he's obsessed with murder and has been for years. He's been illegally buying police files on serial killers. He studies these files in depth and uses them as guides to find the missing bodies. He never takes anything except pictures that he stores on an old laptop. He calls the police and tells them where to look and he does it anonymously. When a crooked cop goes missing Detective Sandra Whittal zeroes in on the mysterious caller. She doesn't see the caller as helpful. She knows he isn't the killer, but she believes he'll start killing sooner rather than later. While on his latest dig, Martin digs himself into a hole that he may not be able to get himself out of.

I love the cover. This book gripped me from the very first page and didn't let go until the very end. The concept is interesting - a husband and father leaves home for a bit every now and then to dig up bodies of missing women that the cops never found. Isn't that dangerous? How does he not get caught? Why is he doing it? This whole story was crazy but it also felt very real. Martin believed he was doing a good thing and he just got in way too deep. I was worried about him more than once. This was so well-written and such an intense page-turner that I felt like I was a part of it and not just sitting on the couch reading a book. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for an ARC.