Posted in Reviews, The Sisters Recommend, Traveling Sisters Reads

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris @StMartinsPress

Love a strong character, this one is for you and one not to be missed!!!

“She was the bravest person I ever met.” —Lale Sokolov on Cilka Klein, The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Brenda’s review

Cilka’s Journey is a fictionalized story that is inspired by what Heather Morris discovered about real-life Cilka who is a character in The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

Cilka survived Auschwitz and then was sent to a labour camp for collaborating and sleeping with the enemy. Heather Morris captures what it could have been like for Cilka and the other prisoners in the camp.

Cilka’s bravery and strength shine through here as we see her care for prisoners and her friends. It is an inspiring, hopeful story of an ordinary young woman who becomes an extraordinary woman under unimaginable circumstances. Cilka’s actions throughout the story show us the goodness in people at times of horror and the strength needed to survive. I highly recommend it.

I received a copy from the publisher on NetGalley

Lindsay’s review

An engrossing, shocking and unsettling extension of this series. I read and loved The Tattooist of Auschwitz last year and was eagerly anticipating getting my hands on a copy of Cilka’s Journey. Although a very difficult novel to read due to the atrocities detailed within these pages, I found this book to be even more intriguing and informative than the first one. The writing is honest, brutal at times, but so important to read so we can honour those that lived through these devastating wartimes. Their voices cannot be forgotten.

Cilka is only sixteen-years-old when she is sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 1942. She is singled out by the commandant to be given separate living arrangements where she will be available for his pleasure. After living this way for three years, the camp is liberated, although Cilka is not freed. She is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy. She is sentenced to fifteen years at a Siberian prison camp where living conditions are not much different than they were at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

I had not known about these Siberian prison camps prior to reading this novel. I was devastated to learn that these dreadful prison camps continued existing after the liberation of Auschwitz. The charges that Cilka faced were so extremely unjust. Had Cilka denied the commandant what he requested, she would have been killed. What other option did she have? My mind was spinning with this situation throughout the entire novel. What options did these prisoners have other than to accept what was demanded of them?

I loved Cilka’s character. She was extremely strong and inspiring in the face of so much pain. She gave strength and hope to many.

On a side note, I believe a large part of what made me truly connect to and love this book so much was that I had been advised by Brenda (who read this novel before I did) that not everything that happens to Cilka is based on fact. As with any historical fiction book, fact and fiction are weaved together to paint a broad picture of the time period/situation being examined. Although Cilka was a real person who could of endured much of what happens in this novel, not every circumstance is her personal story. I think knowing that ahead of time really enhanced my connection to the story as it stopped me from looking too deep into the reality of each scenario. As the Heather Morris mentions in the Note at the end of the novel, “There is a mix of characters inspired by real-life figures, in some instances representing more than one individual, and characters completely imagined.” I urge you to keep this in mind when reading this harrowing and unforgettable book. Heather Morris does a phenomenal job incorporating much detail into this gripping and emotional storyline.

I will leave you with one of the most powerful quotes from this book. “Everyone affected by war, captivity, or oppression reacts differently — and away from it, people might try to guess how they would act, or react, in the circumstances. But they do not really know.”

Thank you to my lovely local library for the loan of this exceptional novel!

Posted in Reviews

The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan @HarperCollinsCa #BookReview #travelingsistersread

Slow-burn, upsetting, & deceptively appealing!

I fell in love with Gilly Macmillan and her books after reading WHAT SHE KNEW and since have subsequently read or have snatched myself up all of her other books so I have them on hand.  I have a habit of “collecting” author’s books after loving one. I did have every intention of reading them but some of my ARC’s have gotten in the way of reading authors that I favour and enjoy.  So I was beyond ecstatic when I received a physical ARC of THE NANNY.   

THE NANNY by GILLY MACMILLAN is a haunting, dark, eerie, mysterious, and suspenseful psychological thriller that is packed full of buried family secrets, lies, deceit, obsession, regrets, distrust, and dysfunctional familial dynamics.  Unfortunately, this book didn’t immediately grab my attention because I didn’t immediately connect with the writing style and found the story to be painstakingly slow in the beginning. So I put the novel aside for a day and then jumped right back into it, then I was able to fully immerse myself in this tale and I ended up quite enjoying it. 

GILLY MACMILLAN delivers a slow-going, atmospheric, intriguing, and unsettling tale here that subtly shifts in tone from perplexing to comprehension about 20% in for me.  Even though I did get a little bit annoyed and impatient in the beginning because of my disconnect here once I did comprehend and “get” what I was reading the remainder of the book went quite smoothly for me.

The story is told in multiple alternating perspectives between a detective, Jo (our protagonist), her mother Virginia, and my absolute favourite an unknown narrator which adds intrigue and this evil sense of foreboding to the narrative.  I thoroughly enjoyed Jo’s daughter Ruby and found myself more drawn to her character than to our main character here. Jo’s character was really maddening and totally frustrated me. I might have yelled at her and shook my head multiple times at her while I was reading this book.  Why couldn’t she just see what was happening? She definitely had blinders on!

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: An eye-catching, creepy, sinister, intriguing, suspenseful, and extremely fitting representation to storyline. This cover definitely caught my attention and I love the creepiness and gothic vibe to it! 
Title: A straightforward and fitting representation to storyline. 
Writing/Prose: Well-written, vivid, suspenseful, engaging, captivating, and readable. I didn’t immediately connect to the writing style like I have with other books by this author but once I did, it was smooth sailing from there.
Plot: Slow-moving, complex, slightly convoluted, sinister, suspenseful, unsettling, wicked, steadily-paced, enjoyable and entertaining. 
Ending: I was thoroughly satisfied. 
Overall: 3.5 Stars! This isn’t a fast-paced or edge-of-your-seat thriller by no means it is one that delves deep into the characters lives and leaves you with these puzzling subtle clues along the way to piece together piece by piece. Would recommend!

Thank you so much to HarperCollins Canada for gifting me a physical ARC.

Posted in Reviews, Sister Reads, The Sisters Recommend

The Speed of Falling Objects by Nancy Richardson Fischer @nfischerauthor @InkyardPress @HarperCollins

Oct 1 is pub date for THE SPEED OF FALLING OBJECTS by NANCY RICHARDSON FISCHER and it’s a not to be missed YA adventure story of survival!

Norma’s Review

Strength, endurance, & love!

*One Word – Truth*

THE SPEED OF FALLING OBJECTS by NANCY RICHARDSON FISCHER is an entertaining, action-packed, suspenseful, thrilling, and edge-of-your-seat YA survivalist story that immediately hooked and captivated me. The backdrop of the Amazon rainforest and the premise of this novel totally intrigued and enthralled me, I was totally taken with this adventurous tale and loved Danny’s story. The action was so fierce that I literally could not put this book down.

NANCY RICHARDSON FISCHER delivers an atmospheric, vividly descriptive, fascinating, adventurous, engaging, and well-written coming-of-age story here that is packed full of adventure, explores a complex father-daughter relationship, and a touch of romance to lighten the mood.

Danger “Danny” Danielle Warren and her TV celebrity survivalist dad were interesting characters to say the least. Even though the father wasn’t the greatest dad out there he definitely had his purpose in this story and I loved how Danny ended up coming to terms with so many different aspects to her character. She definitely grew as a character and the underlying message and love emanating from the words written were extremely palpable and packed quite the punch. Danny was definitely the shining star in this novel!

Brenda’s review

I took a step out of my normal here with reading The Speed of Falling Objects, and I am so glad I did.  What a great surprise this one was. I loved the self-discovery adventure here I took with our main character Danger “Danny” Danielle Warren.

The Speed of Falling Objects has all the elements here to make this a thrilling edge of your seat emotional YA adventure for me.  It’s an action-packed story of survival, a coming of age story with a touch of romance.  

Nancy Richardson Fischer does such a great job here creating exciting characters.  I am not a big fan of young voices at times, and it took me a bit to get into the head of Danny.  Once I was, I was hooked and loved the personal and emotional conflicts Danny experiences and the adventure she took me on.  I enjoyed seeing her grow and develop with each page. Now her Dad Cougar is a very unlikable character here, making his character a hard one to enjoy but he creates some interesting dynamics here to the story of survival for both the jungle and Danny. 

The rainforest is brought alive and I was fascinated and terrified at the same time with the dangerous bugs and reptiles in the story.  There is a lot of danger here and there is no shying away from details. It did feel at times a bit much with one thing after another; however I enjoy the thrilling fight of survival.  I highly recommend it. 

Thank you to Nancy Richardson Fischer for thinking of us and giving us the opportunity to read something different than we usually do.  

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: A beautiful, eye-catching, appealing, intriguing and fitting representation to storyline. I love the fall colours to the cover design.
Title: Intriguing, interesting, metaphorical and a meaningful and significant representation to storyline.
Writing/Prose: Beautifully written, expressive, passionate, vividly descriptive, engaging, and compulsively readable. I immediately connected with the author’s prose.
Plot: Detailed, atmospheric, suspenseful, interesting, authentic, action-packed, fast-paced, and entertaining.
Ending: A deeply touching, satisfying and great ending that made me ugly cry.
Overall: I absolutely loved the adventurous and emotional journey this book took me on! Would highly recommend!

Posted in Behind the Pages, Reviews

Behind the Pages Q & A with Christina McDonald @Christinamac79 #behindthepagesgroup

Yes my friends, it’s snowing in the coulee! Norma braved the storm to take this photo for one of our upcoming most anticipated reads Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald.

Christina McDonald joined us in our Goodreads group Behind the Pages for a Q & A. We had such a great evening sneaking a peak into Behind Every Lie, talking about The Night Olivia Fell and getting some insight to Christina’s writing process. I am excited to share some of the spoiler free Q & A with you here

Brenda Hi Christina! I am so excited to be chatting with you again! Thank you so much for joining us! The Night Olivia Fell was a very loved story and there was a lot of love buzzing around for it and that was exciting to see. Now with the upcoming release of Behind Every Lie what does all this feel like for you?

Christina Well, I’m a little nervous, to be honest! Lol As a writer you feel like you’re only as good as your last good book, and now there’s a certain level I want to hit each time. And of course I don’t want my readers to feel let down in any way! lol I want to deliver a sharp, twisty, emotional book each and every time.

With TNOF I had no expectations, so learning how much people loved it and how much the mother-daughter relationship between Abi and Olivia affected people was just hugely rewarding. BEL is a little darker, it covers more sensitive topics. But it says things I want to say, and hopefully in a way that makes people feel things and explore how and why they feel those things, so I’m hoping readers love it just as much!

Norma Hi Christina! Thanks so much for joining us today! Congratulations on your success of being a USA Today Bestselling author! That is so awesome! Can you tell us how that feels and what that means to you?

Christina Oh man, I am over the moon! Lol I have literally been chasing this dream since I was a kid. I used to write silly stories for my sisters and I’d act out stories with my friends, so writing has always been my joy and my passion.

While I’ve had other jobs (that have mostly revolved around writing!), being an author and telling stories has been a dream come true, and becoming a bestselling author is just amazing. It just means so much to me knowing that my book has connected with readers in some way. It wouldn’t have happened without readers, so I’m just so incredibly grateful!

Brenda Can you give a sneak peek into what Behind Every Lie is about?

Christina BEL is about Eva Hansen, who wakes up in the hospital after being struck by lightning and learns that her mother, Kat has been murdered. Eva was found unconscious down the street, but she can’t remember what happened, which of course makes the police very suspicious of her. To clear her name and to find out if she is capable of something so terrible, Eva heads to London—Kat’s former home—and begins to unravel the mystery behind her mother’s murder.

Brenda How did the idea for Behind Every Lie come to you?

Christina There were two things that really factored into the idea behind BEL. The first is I randomly saw a picture of Lichtenberg figures, which are the branching electrical marks sometimes left on the skin of people who’ve been struck by lightning. I was so fascinated that I began researching more about lightning strikes, particularly how it affects short-term and long-term memory.

During this time I read the impact statement for Emily Doe, who was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner at Stanford University. It really impacted me and I thought: how do you go on after that? Your self-trust and worth would be eroded.

Now I know that sexual assault in a story can be incredibly unsettling for some readers (I don’t show it, but do reference it in this book), but I felt it was so important for women (and men, of course) to know they have a voice. Sexual assault has often been covered in stories, but not often is the pain explored through the victim’s eyes. It’s so common to see men presented as both attacker and savior, while women as powerless, and I wanted to flip that around, to show a woman taking control after that trauma and learning to trust herself again.

So I wrote BEL, which takes a thriller concept and places Eva, my protagonist, around a similar past. Now she’s been struck by lightning and can’t remember if she murdered her mother, and this further erodes her self-trust. So she embarks on a journey to find out who she really is and what she’s capable of, while trying to solve the mystery of who murdered her mother.

Brenda Can you describe Eva Hansen from Behind Every Lie in 5 or less words?

Christina Sensitive. Idealistic. Haunted. Insecure. Resilient.

Brenda What are three words you would use to describe Behind Every Lie? The Night Olivia Fell?

Christina Behind Every Lie – Twisty. Emotional. Empowering.
The Night Olivia Fell – Emotional. Compelling. Suspenseful

Lisa How long did it take you to write “Behind Every Lie”?

Christina Hi Lisa, It usually takes me about 3 months to get a first draft out of my head and onto the page. It’s a very, VERY rough draft of the final book – kind of like a chunk of ice I whittle away at until it becomes something more beautiful. 🙂

Brenda What comes first for you plot or characters?
Do you plan or does it come together for you as you are writing?

Christina I think a little of both! I definitely have the idea for plot first, then I sit down and sketch out who I think my characters are, their defining characteristics, how the story will change them and how they appear to others (sharp, business suit and hair in a bun says high-achieving lawyer while flowing peasant dress and long braids says carefree bohemian). I try to see my characters as a whole person, but mostly they just evolve as I write the story.

I have a general idea of what the book will be about and I might know maybe the chapter I’m working on, but that’s as far as I go with planning. Usually once I’ve written the book I look back and realize how much more I need to fill out my characters. It means a lot of edits, but it’s just the way my brain works! I have to get to know my fictional people, and like with real people, it takes time.

Norma I do love my covers and titles of books. Can you share with us if you had a vision of what you wanted the cover to look like or was it all in the hands of the publisher? Did the titles of your books come first or after you were finished writing?

Christina Hmm… good question! I might have a vague idea of what I want or don’t want. Like for TNOF I said something with a bridge and I didn’t want any faces showing, and the cover they gave me was just a gift from the cover gods.

With BEL I didn’t say anything about what I wanted, although in my head I’d thought lightning should be there somewhere, and again, the cover gods knew exactly what to do and they just got it so perfect! Ultimately my publisher has final say, but they’re amazing and they do consult with me.

With my first two books I had a title in mind, but neither were quite right. My editor, agent and I brainstormed ideas and then my editor took them to her teams and they made the final choice. So for my third book I’m just leaving it untitled for now. 🙂

DeAnn Will you be going on tour at all with this book? It seems like your first book was super successful, so I hope so!

Christina I really hope so one day! It would just be a dream come true to meet all you wonderful readers who have read and loved and talked about TNOF, and now BEL. I’m overwhelmed by the support I’ve had and would like to meet everybody. I think you all should email my publisher and get me sent out! 

Brenda You added and showed some different emotions with your characters in The Night Olivia Fell and I went thought a few myself while reading. After writing do you feel exhausted or energized?

Christina I guess more than anything else I just feel relieved! lol I’m not really a planner so I don’t know where the book will go when I start. I have a general synopsis of the beginning of the story and what I want to say, but then I just sit down and go. Every day what happens is a complete surprise; every day my characters make choices and do things that startle me. I love it! 🙂

But that being said, sometimes at the beginning I don’t think it’s possible to write a whole book. I’m always a little surprised when I finish and I look down at my laptop and I’m like, ‘hey! I wrote a whole book!’

Norma I am always curious about while I’m reading. How does an author come up with their character names? So that is my question to you. LOL Do you have a connection to the names you choose or are they just random?

Christina This is such a good question and one that’s difficult to describe! It’s probably different for other authors, but for me it’s some sort of bizarre subconscious match. It’s like I see a particular type of person in my head and they match a particular name. So in a way they are random, but I must have some sort of subconscious connection to them.

What Christina has to say about us I had such a wonderful evening chatting with Behind The Pages with The Traveling Friends. The questions about my books were fresh and insightful, and I had so much fun. What a great way to spend an evening. The time absolutely flew by! Thank you so much for having me!

For more Q & A , highlights to The Night Olivia Fell you can find the full Q & A here

Posted in Reviews

Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella @randomhouse @KinsellaSophie #travelingsistersread #bookreview

Norma’s Review

Hilarious, delightful, & heartwarming!

I couldn’t be more excited that Becky Brandon née Bloomwood is back in this latest installment to the Shopaholic Series. This is one series that I eagerly and patiently wait for the next installment. Thank you so much, SOPHIE KINSELLA for writing such a fabulous and entertaining character. I absolutely adore Becky and you! CHRISTMAS SHOPAHOLIC did not disappoint me at all in fact it exceeded all my expectations!

CHRISTMAS SHOPAHOLIC (Shopaholic #9) by SOPHIE KINSELLA is a lighthearted, entertaining, and fun festive read that had me laughing-out-loud hysterically right from the very start. You can’t help but fall in love with Becky and be amused by all of her farcical antics. She is definitely a one of a kind character that is so darn entertaining and lovely.

SOPHIE KINSELLA delivers a fast-paced, amusing, fun, and well-written read here that has us following along with Becky as she has been tasked to host Christmas for the very first time. This book was extremely fun and I was definitely entertained by Becky and all of her holiday season mishaps.

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: An intriguing, festive, adorable, lovely, amusing, colorful, and whimsical book cover that depicts this storyline well.
Title: The title speaks for itself! 🙂
Writing/Prose: Humorous, engaging, fun, smart, and well-written.
Plot: Engaging, fast-paced, fun, cute, captivating, humorous, heartfelt, and entertaining.
Ending: I was thoroughly touched and moved in the end leaving me with a great big satisfied smile on my face! Definitely a feel-good ending!
Overall: I loved spending time with Becky! She is by far my most favourite character ever!! I want to be Becky’s BFF! This book will definitely put you in the holiday spirit! Would highly recommend!

Thank you so much to NetGalley, The Dial Press / Random House Publishing Group and Sophie Kinsella for the opportunity to read this fabulous book! I absolutely loved the escape into Becky’s world!

Posted in Reviews, Sister Reads

Well Met by Jen DeLuca @BerkleyPub #travelingsistersread #bookreview

It’s been a while since Norma and I have had some different thoughts on a book we have read together. As always, it made for an interesting discussion between Two Sisters with two different views.

Norma’s review

WELL MET by JEN DELUCA is an adorable, charming, heartwarming, romantic, and sweet lighthearted rom-com that captured my heart and attention.  I was immediately hooked and fully absorbed within this tale. I absolutely loved the small town atmosphere and the Renaissance Faire elements to the storyline, and got a kick out of the hate to love relationship between Emily and Simon.  

I’ve always had this fascination and appeal to renaissance times so I absolutely loved the Renaissance Faire backdrop to this story.  It was definitely fun experiencing that through the eyes of the characters. The playacting and Simon’s secret alter ego was extremely attractive and swoon-worthy!!  Loved his character!

JEN DELUCA delivers a fast-paced, amusing, and well-written read here that had the perfect mix of humour, romantic moments, steam, tension, and warmth.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching the relationship between Emily and Simon grow and thought that they had some good chemistry happening there. The supporting cast was also great and complimented the dynamics of the storyline extremely well.

Brenda’s review

Well Met starts off with such a great opening line and it hooked me in right away.  I was smitten with the story theme here with enemies to lovers and the Renaissance Faire adds something different and fun to the story. 

At about the halfway mark, things started to slow down for me and I wanted to feel more tension, suspense and substance to the characters and their relationships.  It’s not an easy thing to pull off for this picky non-romantic soul and I am in the minority here with my thoughts. 

Norma’s Stats:

Cover:  An intriguing, cutesy, colorful, playful and amusing cover that depicts this storyline well.

Title: I have a foggy idea of what “Well Met” means, as for the meaning behind the title I see how creative, fitting, and intriguing it is in relation to the storyline. 

Writing/Prose: Witty, engaging, smart, and well-written. 

Plot: Charming, fast-paced, fun, sweet, steamy, romantic, captivating, humorous, heartfelt, and entertaining.

Ending:  A lovely feel-good and satisfying ending that put a big smile on my face!

Overall: A laugh-out-loud rom-com with a lovely heroine and a fabulous romantic hero that is absolutely swoon worthy!  Would highly recommend!

Thank you so much to Elisha at Berkley Publishing for our complimentary copies!