Monday, March 23, 2020

June 14, 2019
 Victoria Hall Press

With Hallowmas approaching, time travelers, Azur Moonstorey and companions, exit Creekside's station library to board the midnight ghost train bound for nineteenth-century Prosper Station. Their mission: to rescue Azur's sister from the eerie dimension, Vapourlea.

This is one of those books that slipped-under-the-radar. Well, almost. BELLS OF PROSPER STATION is unexpectedly enjoyable and imaginative. I like the author’s take on Hallowmas, how the infamous train from hell could be a time-traveling machine, and oil-digging caused the mutation, not only on humans but with the supernatural as well. I enjoyed looking at the scenes from Victorian-era Canada –the community, their lifestyles, and the changes carried by the oil industry to the country- as much as I enjoyed all the local folklore incorporated into the premise.

And there’s, in fact, a good amount of sensible romance to fill the belly. I am glad that it never overshadowed the plot lines and the focus remained on the adventure at hand. I am not a fan of small talks on adventure books, honestly, those slowed things a bit for me. Although, there are very few tangent stories here and all loose ends were tied nicely together in the end.

The characters were suitably shaped, there is very little development, but they are charming. And after one of my recent read, I promised not to read another book where pets are featured, but Bleu is so interesting and fierce, I kept rooting for her. One of these days I’m going to see how things went for these characters, maybe they’ll be on the next book of Curious Tales from Creekside too.

I recommend this for readers who enjoy historical fiction, folklore, and adventure.

Book details:
Title: Bells Of Prosper Station
Author: Gloria Pearson-Vasey
Publication: June 14, 2019; by Victoria Hall Press
Genre: Historical fantasy
Rating: ★★★½

*Thanks to Miss Gloria for sending the digital copy in exchange for this unbiased review.

Book Review | BELLS OF PROSPER STATION by Gloria Pearson-Vasey

Thursday, March 19, 2020

About the Book:

March 17, 2020
Salted Lightly
Funny, accessible and moving kids'-eye view of the Jesus story - aimed at pre-teens, though some adults have sneakily read and enjoyed it too.

Tammie's life in a quiet fishing town would never be the same. Her future wasn't looking good (*understatement!*) but things quickly went from bad to WICKED with the arrival of a strange grown-up with nice eyes.

And as for the business with Daniel's lunch, or Dibs's roof...

JAIRUS'S GIRL will be part of The Young Testament, a series on the life of Jesus, but with the children and young people as the main characters.

Next up, a prequel: JOSEPH'S BOY - a kids'-eye view of the first Christmas!

About the Author:

Lynn Robertson Hay's writing covers a number of episodes for BBC TV, film, radio and theatre - winning an award from the Writers' Guild of Great Britain. As an actor she's played parts ranging from Lady Macbeth to Mole, and was last seen wielding a rolling pin as Andy Capp's wife Flo. Her one-woman show has played in a variety of venues, including the only part of Glastonbury Abbey still standing (not her fault). Lynn's claim to fame is that she once won an episode of quiz show Fifteen to One.

*This is a free ad.

Book Spotlight | JAIRUS'S GIRL by L.R. Hay

Monday, March 16, 2020

May 12, 2020
Thomas Nelson
Amidst literature and lattes, two people discover the confusing, complex, and beautiful nature of friendship.

After fleeing home three years earlier, Alyssa Harrison never wanted to return. But after the Silicon Valley start-up where she works collapses and turns her world upside down, she finds herself broke, in trouble, and without a place to go. Having exhausted every option, she returns to Winsome, Illinois, to regroup and then move on. Yet as friends and family welcome her back, she begins to envision a future in this small Midwestern community.

Jeremy Mitchell moves from Seattle to Winsome to be near his daughter and to open the coffee shop he’s been dreaming of for years. Problem is, the business is bleeding money—and he’s not quite sure why. When he meets Alyssa, he senses an immediate connection, but what he needs most is someone to help him save his floundering business. When he asks for Alyssa’s help, he wonders if something might grow between them—but forces beyond their control soon complicate their already complicated lives and the future both envision is not at all what they anticipated.

Return to the cozy and delightful town of Winsome as two new friends discover the grace of letting go and the joy found in unexpected change.

Winsome Illinois is home to The Printed Letter Bookshop characters and it is lovely coming back to this community for OF LITERATURE AND LATTES’.

I think Katherine Reay is starting to be a favorite. I am totally captivated by her deep understanding of the community. For an immigrant like me, the need for kinship and inclusion is very acute. Everyone deserves a place to call home and a family to lean on, especially when things go sideways. Reay did her best to bring in real-life issues and avenues to address them, enveloped with acts of kindness and a good amount of grace, without being theatrical or desperately pious.

The characters are all relatable -you can be a father, a mother, a daughter, or a good friend- there’s a good chance you’ve been there too. I am drawn to their struggles and how they overcame them, to their mistakes and how they amenably acknowledged each. I am drawn to their transitions from a very rocky start to optimistic individuals.

I highly recommend this book that celebrates second chances and the birthing of a book club.

Book details:
Title: Of Literature and Lattes
Author: Katherine Reay
Publication: May 12, 2020; Thomas Nelson
Genre: Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★

*Thanks to Thomas Nelson and Netgalley for the digital galley in exchange for this unbiased review.

Book Review | OF LITERATURE AND LATTES by Katherine Reay

Monday, March 9, 2020

May 7, 2020;
Grove Atlantic, Black Cat

Named after one of Iceland's most magnificent volcanoes, Hekla always knew she wanted to be a writer. In a nation of poets, where each household proudly displays leatherbound volumes of the Sagas, and there are more writers per capita than anywhere else in the world, there is only one problem: she is a woman.

She decides to try her luck in Reykjavik, and moves in with her friend Jon, a gay man who longs to work in the theatre, but can only find dangerous, backbreaking work on fishing trawlers. Hekla's opportunities are equally limited: marriage and babies, or a job as a waitress, in which harassment from customers is part of the daily grind. They both feel completely out of place in a small and conservative world.

And yet that world is changing: JFK is shot, hemlines are rising, and in Iceland another volcano erupts, and Hekla knows she must escape to find freedom abroad, whatever must be left behind. -Goodreads

The New York Times got it right, Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir upends expectations. This is my first experience reading her and the book blurb is not enough to describe this work. Winner of the Nordic Council Literature Prize and the Icelandic Literary Prize for her novel Silence Hotel, Ólafsdóttir is a force to reckon with. Her manipulation of the fragmented narrative is reminiscent of César Aira and Paul Auster. Unlike most fragmented narration, there is no blurring of the timeline in MISS ICELAND, but of perceptions and images. Side stories, historical information, and metaphors are provided to highlight an uncommon thought or to indicate what is broken. That rich approach hooked me from the very beginning.

Set 1960s, the story follows Hekla, an emerging novelist, who has moved from remote Dalir to Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, to be published as a writer. In the beginning, Hekla shares her childhood friend Jon’s tiny rented room. She became witness to her friend’s struggle with being gay and victimized for it, “I don’t belong to any group Hekla. I’m a mistake who shouldn’t have been born.” Meanwhile, Hekla herself battles with being a woman and a poet in a male-dominated society. Their other friend Ísey, on the other hand, exclaims being happy as a mother and a wife, while lamenting her being a mother and a wife and not pursuing her writer’s dream. Another would-be poet is Hekla’s boyfriend, Starkadur, who bemoans that he’ll never be bound in leather. Hekla describes him as. “He uses alliteration, but no end rhymes.”
“Men are born poets. By the time of confirmation, they’ve taken on the inescapable role of being geniuses. It doesn’t matter whether they write books or not. Women, on the other hand, grapple with puberty and have babies, which prevents them from being able to write.”
I am fascinated by Ólafsdóttir’s array of diverse characters sharing a common foe –struggles. I love how they lift each other up and not exactly looking at themselves from each other’s perspective, but by feeding their own madness, crossing their boundaries, and defining their own happiness. I like the chapter headings. They are like haikus, giving the reader a warning where the story is heading. I also like how the story ended -an opportunity to put the imagination to work.

Also, praise to Brian FitzGibbon for the exceptional translation.

In a nutshell, this is a profound read for thought. It is no wonder that it won the 2019 Prix Médicis étranger. I recommend it for either personal reading pleasure or book club discussion.

About the book:
Title: Miss Iceland
Author: Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
Publication: May 7, 2020; by Grove Atlantic, Black Cat
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★

*My thanks to Grove Atlantic and Netgalley for the DRM in exchange for this unbiased review.
*This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on

Book Review | MISS ICELAND by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

Monday, March 2, 2020

March 24, 2020
Quirk Books

An illustrated middle-grade fiction series with Gothic and Victorian overtones featuring the misadventures of a cursed 12-year-old bellhop trying to save his family's hotel from the clutches of evil.

At the conclusion of the second book in the Warren the 13th series, The Warren Hotel had transformed into a giant ship and set sail for the open seas! When Warren 3 opens, Warren is adjusting to the demands of running a floating hotel and is planning his 13th birthday party when disaster strikes--the hotel is shipwrecked on a strange island. To make things worse, his octopus-like friend Sketchy is kidnapped by a traveling circus! Warren and his friends must solve a series of riddles to find the next location of the circus and rescue their friend before it's too late. Along the way, they meet a new cast of characters, including some elderly pirates, a sea witch, a talking clam, and a giant sea monster. As Warren pursues Sketchy's kidnappers, he will learn the truth of his friend's mysterious origins--as well as one final secret of the Warren Hotel.-Goodreads

This is the 3rd book in the series but it works perfectly as a standalone story. After reading the first two books, I’ve been very curious about what happens next for Warren. The story launched from where book two left off and the Warren Hotel was having a grand time sailing away. But now at 13, there’s a curse hovering above Warren’s head.

These books are placed as Middle-Grade Fiction. Nevertheless, Tania del Rio made these books relatively easy and perfect for a read-aloud that even younger Middle-Graders can enjoy them. Or even if your kids aren’t proficient readers yet, Will Staehle’s two-toned illustrations can boost their imagination effortlessly. The gothic feel they imbue is rather perfect for the story.

WARREN THE 13TH AND THE 13-YEAR CURSE is a great adventure, filled with diverse characters (even nasty pirates) that have rare surprises up their sleeves, and an impressive rescue mission. Despite his probable curse, Warren remains resolute, optimistic, and completely kind. His character brings out the good in people and that’s what I love most about these books. People never thought twice helping Warren or doing kindness for him in return.

The Warren the 13th series is filled with adventures and people you very much want your kids to meet. If you haven’t started on them yet, please get your copies soon. I heartily recommend these books.

*Thank you for sharing this amazing ride, Will and Tania. I'll miss Warren, but I also know that he's off to new adventures. Instead, I'll bid him and both of you farewell.

Book details:
Title: Warren the 13th and the 13-Year Curse
Series: Warren the 13th, Book #3
Author: Tania del Rio
Illustrator: Will Staehle
Publication: October 1, 2019, Quirk Books
Genre: Middle-Grade Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★

*Thanks to Quirk Books and Netgalley for the digital copy in exchange for this unbiased review.
*This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on

Book Review | WARREN THE 13TH AND THE 13-YEAR CURSE by Tania del Rio, Will Staehle

Monday, February 24, 2020

January 28, 2020;
 Simon & Schuster

Sometimes life isn’t as simple as heroes and villains.

For Zelda, a twenty-one-year-old Viking enthusiast who lives with her older brother, Gert, life is best lived with some basic rules:

1. A smile means “thank you for doing something small that I liked.”
2. Fist bumps and dabs = respect.
3. Strange people are not appreciated in her home.
4. Tomatoes must go in the middle of the sandwich and not get the bread wet.
5. Sometimes the most important things don’t fit on lists.

But when Zelda finds out that Gert has resorted to some questionable—and dangerous—methods to make enough money to keep them afloat, Zelda decides to launch her own quest. Her mission: to be legendary. It isn’t long before Zelda finds herself in a battle that tests the reach of her heroism, her love for her brother, and the depth of her Viking strength.

When We Were Vikings is an uplifting debut about an unlikely heroine whose journey will leave you wanting to embark on a quest of your own, because after all...

We are all legends of our own making. - Goodreads


I listed this as one of my Most Anticipated Books for 2020, but I never anticipated just how much I’d be blown away by how good this is. For one, Zelda, a young-adult born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, is really engaging. I was most fascinated by her lists and her quest for a better version of herself. Zelda’s honesty, naivety, and spunk for life are refreshing. Meanwhile, her devotion to her brother Gert is deep but may also be a sign of her vulnerability.

Andrew David MacDonald created characters that literally emanate oomph from the pages –from Zelda herself down to her last villain. I like how he portrayed them with a specific purpose, eliminating gray areas for the development of the story. And although I’m almost always afraid for Zelda, as the story progresses, I am cheering her on and totally invested in her triumphs. She is a Viking hero! MacDonald brilliantly captured the essence that there are no big or small accomplishments, they are all the same and worth celebrating every time.

Inside those 336 pages, MacDonald managed to squeeze in huge topics –alcoholism, poverty, healthcare, abuse, and equal opportunity for everyone. He employed a witty and affecting narrative that engages the reader straightforwardly. Specifically, as he creates this safe environment and supportive people for Zelda, he emphasizes the essentials for security, as well as human growth and development.

I have to add that Pheobe Strole did a marvelous job narrating the audiobook, go check it out.

I am also glad to know that Andrew David MacDonald was a recipient from the Canada Council for the Arts and I do hope they continue supporting emerging authors.


About the book:
Title: When We Were Vikings
Author: Andrew David MacDonald
Publication: January 28, 2020; by Simon & Schuster
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult
Rating: ★★★★★

*This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on

WHEN WE WERE VIKINGS by Andrew David MacDonald

Monday, February 17, 2020

March 3, 2020;
G.P. Putnam's Sons
An emotional novel of love and the power of lost dreams from an internationally bestselling master of historical fiction, about a young woman's coming-of-age in 1920 and the secrets that surface more than seventy years later.

Australia, 1920. Seventeen-year-old Maddie Bright embarks on the voyage of a lifetime when she's chosen to serve on the cross-continent tour of His Royal Highness, the dashing Edward, Prince of Wales. Life on the royal train is luxurious beyond her dreams, and the glamorous, good-hearted friends she makes--with their romantic histories and rivalries--crack open her world. But glamour often hides all manner of sins.

Decades later, Maddie lives in a ramshackle house in Brisbane, whiling away the days with television news and her devoted, if drunken, next-door neighbor. When a London journalist struggling with her own romantic entanglements begins asking Maddie questions about her relationship to the famous and reclusive author M.A. Bright, she's taken back to the glamorous days of the royal tour--and to the secrets, she's kept for all of these years. -Goodreads

This is a very engrossing novel, both the characters and arrangement can absorb the reader with profound curiosity.

It's pure coincidence that I read this book after Harry and Megan announced that they are stepping down from their royal duties and chose to move here to Canada. Yet, somehow, I find it very relevant.

LOST AUTUMN is told in interweaving timelines, featuring books within a book. A  feat difficult managed beautifully by the deft hands of Mary-Rose MacColl. The marriage of fact and fiction is flawlessly achieved, so much so that the shift from historical to contemporary was perfectly believable. It strongly signifies that thorough research and planning was invested in making this book.

Like I said, the characters are half of the reason this is very engrossing. Maddie’s character development is critically significant for the timelines. Over the years, she’s still that uncomplicated, honest, intelligent girl that she was, but now, also wounded and resolved. I also like how MacColl gave each of her characters a particular weight. Each woman denotes how opportunities are dealt and withheld at different times, how they are viewed by the public and by those people around them, and the importance of choices and affirmation. In like manner, men are portrayed on how they significantly affect people; and no, not all of them are villains, some are truly honorable too. 

I highly recommend this book.

Book details:
Title: Lost Autumn
Author: Mary-Rose MacColl
Publication: March 3, 2020; G.P. Putnam's Sons
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★

*Thanks to Edelweiss and G.P. Putnam's Sons for the DRM copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
*This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on

Book Review | LOST AUTUMN by Mary-Rose MacColl