Posted in Reviews, The Sisters Recommend, Traveling Sisters Reads

Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens @aeskens @HBGCanada

Amazing!!! Lindsay and I read and discussed Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens together and we loved it!! As I was discussing this one with Lindsay I started to see more into the depth of the story and I recommend this one for group reads. I then decided to explore Allen Eskens’s website and found some discussion questions. I highly recommend checking them out. I held a discussion in my own head as I answered them on paper and pen. Is that odd or do other people do that? I will be suggesting this one in our Traveling Friends Goodreads Group. I feel this one would make a great in-person group discussion as there is a lot to talk about. It also makes for a thought-provoking discussion with yourself. lol

Brenda’s review

The title here draws from the quote, “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Allen Eskens draws on that ignorance and explores prejudice and racism as a way to explore his “own failing regarding notions of prejudice and racism” Taken from his author notes.

Nothing More Dangerous is a prequel to Allen Eskens other books. Boady Sanden is a law professor in The Life We Bury, and we see more of his character in The Heavens May Fall. In Nothing More Dangerous Boady is 15 years old and we follow his coming of age story.

Ellen Eskens creates a thought-provoking part coming of age story here with interesting characters, each with a journey of their own. He weaves a mystery here in the story while layering racial thoughts and feelings along with the racial themes that had me thinking deep into the story. I loved the dynamics here between the characters and their relationships. A few different relationships are explored here so well and each had me feeling different emotions. Eskens has some moves here with those well-layered themes and character dynamics and like a DJ he rolls them right into the next one and we see how dangerous ignorance can be. Ok, I took that phrase with the DJ from Eskens here in this story. He weaves some cliches/phrases in the story that had me laughing and cringing at the same time. I love cliches/phrases and I have been known to use them myself.

The ending was so beautiful and so perfect right out to that amazing line Was Blind and now I see. I really do see so much more after reading this one. I highly recommend.

Lindsay’s review

2019 Favourites List!

Boady (love that name!) is a fifteen-year-old boy who lives with his widowed mother on a remote dirt road in their small town. Hoke, an older man, lives next door and spends many hours with Boady having front porch chats and teaching life lessons. Boady finds himself caught up in a local missing woman’s case where he stumbles upon evidence that no child should be witness to.

Boady stole my heart! I loved everything about him and was fully invested in his journey from start to finish. I adored his relationship with Hoke – it was one of my favourite parts of this novel. I loved watching the dynamics of each of Boady’s relationships change and develop – with his mother, Hoke, his friends and himself.

I enjoyed everything about this book! The gritty, back-roads storyline. The enticing and endearing characters. The engrossing, suspenseful mystery. The writing drew me in from the first word and didn’t let go of my mind until the very last. The way this had my emotions flying around – love, anger, hope, frustration, disgust, comfort – I felt it all.

This is my third Allen Eskens book. I continue to be amazed by his writing – the words seem to easily make their way off of the page and into my heart. I have a strong connection to his writing style and look forward to picking up his other novels.

Thank you to Hachette Canada for sending us our copies to read and review

Posted in Behind the Pages, Reviews, The Sisters Recommend, Traveling Friends Reads

Behind the Pages with Angie Kim author of Miracle Creek @AngieKimWriter

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim has been nominated for two Goodreads choice awards in best mystery/thriller and best debut categories. Of course, I am doing my famous happy dance over this news. I loved Miracle Creek and I love Angie Kim!! She has joined us twice for a Q & A. Once when we read Miracle Creek in our Traveling Friends Goodreads group and then again in our Behind the Pages Goodreads group. I have been slacking a bit with my posts due to life and haven’t posted till now. Now I am glad I have because I think this is a perfect time for this post.

Angie shared some insight into Miracle Creek, herself, her writing process and some of the most highlighted quotes provided by Goodreads. Today I am sharing some of the Q & A with you. You can find the full Q & A here

Brenda Let’s start with how all the success of Miracle Creek had felt for?

Angie Thank you so much, Brenda! It’s been more than a little surreal, quite honestly. I think all writers dream that their books will find an audience, and I of course did as well. But it’s one thing to have silly fantasies, and another to actually have so many of them come true. Because I’m new to the writing/book publishing world, I didn’t even know about many of the things that have happened to me, including Book of the Month, Indie Next, Amazon Best of Month, Library Reads, and all the magazines that feature most-anticipated and best-of lists. (SO MANY lists!!!!) It’s been really amazing and now that we’re gearing up for paperback publication next April, I’m finding out even more things, which are so exciting and fun. But the most fun and gratifying have been doing things like this and book clubs, where I get to interact directly with readers. So thank you!!

Brenda You wrote about themes you know from your life experiences. Can you share a bit of them that inspired you to write this story or shaped the characters for you?

Angie The three main threads of my life that I mined for Miracle Creek are my own experience being a Korean immigrant as a preteen, my first career as a trial lawyer, and my experience as a mother to three kids who all had medical issues as babies/toddlers. (All are fine now, thankfully!)

The immigrant thread – I moved from Seoul to the Baltimore area when I was 11 (much like Mary in Miracle Creek), and I went through a really rough period of being bullied in middle school, not speaking English at all and feeling lost as a result, and being separated from my parents (who ran a grocery store in a dangerous part of Baltimore). One of the things I loved most about writing Miracle Creek was that I got to explore this experience from my parents’ experience as well as my own. (The mom, the dad and the daughter of the immigrant family all have their own POV chapters.)

The courtroom scenes were amazingly fun to write for me, almost like going back to the courtroom, except that I got to control what the witnesses said! Being in the courtroom and questioning hostile witnesses was my favorite part of being a lawyer, so I loved revisiting that.

Finally, the parenting experience provided the foundation for Miracle Creek. I actually did HBOT (hyperbaric oxygen therapy) in a group chamber just like “Miracle Submarine” in the novel with one of my kids. I wrote about it in an essay for Vogue, which you can read here: tinyurl.com/vogueangiekim

Brenda You have a few different and very interesting characters each with their own heartache dealing with being a parent? What came first for you the plot/story or the characters?

Angie I would say the situation and setting came first – the HBOT world and the fact that there would be a disaster that occurs in that group chamber during an active session. Then, the characters–both the Yoo family (the owners of the HBOT chamber) and the patients and their families who are affected by the tragedy. The plot, the trial, what happened that led up to that moment of the fire, etc. – all that came as I was writing.

Brenda What character or characters did you identify more with?

Angie I probably identify the most with Mary Yoo, because she is me (as a preteen/teenager). The Yoos are the characters who are most directly based on people from my own life (me + my parents). As an adult, I also identify with Elizabeth, the mother who’s on trial, mostly because I, like her, felt guilty at times about having a child who had the least severe medical issues in the group HBOT setting and felt a lot of angst about that.

Brenda What does your writing day look like to you? Do you have a routine?

Angie I used to have a routine, which I hope to get back into once travel and events slow down a bit. After the kids are all off to school, I start with reading my previous day’s writing over coffee, and I just force myself to sit in my writing nook for as may hours as I possibly can. I don’t have any word count goals or time goals because it depends so greatly on what I’m working on. If I’m working on the beginning of a scene or chapter, it might take me days to find the right sentence. If I’m working on continuing a scene, I’m usually in the flow and can crank out the last 1/3 of a scene in one sitting.

Brenda On Goodreads you shared some insight into some for the most popular highlighted Kindle passages. Can you give us here some insight into them?

Highlight My Husband Asked me to Lie

Angie The first version of the beginning of the novel started with “The pounding. It’s the pounding I remember most,” and then went directly into the scene with TJ’s head-banging (in the middle of page 7). This original opening line was a rhythmic homage to Russell Banks’ THE SWEET HEREAFTER, which opens with “A dog—it was a dog I saw for certain. Or thought I saw.” I love the structure of that novel—the exploration of a tragedy, the causation and the aftermath, through four people’s POVs—and I wanted to do something similar with my novel.

But one day, the line “My husband asked me to lie” came to me, and I knew that had to be the beginning of the novel. It seemed so perfect for the themes of the novel, as well as the character arc for Young Yoo, who struggles to find her own voice and to stand up to her husband for much of the novel.

Brenda This is one of my favorite quotes from your book that I really could relate too. I love to see more insight into the quote “But life doesn’t work like that. Tragedies don’t inoculate you against further tragedies, and misfortune doesn’t get sprinkled out in fair proportions; bad things get hurled at you in clumps and batches, unmanageable and messy.”

Angie This is one of my favorites, too! As I commented earlier, I have three boys who all had medical issues. My first child was born deaf in one ear due to a neurological condition, which involved a lot of hospital visits, tests, and therapy when he was a baby/toddler. By the time he was four, when everything seemed resolved with that (and other associated neuropathies ruled out), we found out that he had two OTHER unrelated medical issues—celiac disease and ulcerative colitis—and my other child turned out to have severe anaphylactic allergies. Shortly thereafter, we had two medical scares with our third child for conditions completely unrelated to any of those. (Thankfully, all three kids are fine now.) I was a Philosophy major in college, and this set of events definitely made me think hard about how foolish I’d been to expect that going through one misfortune would mean nothing more would happen to my life, at least for a while.

Highlight “Having a special-needs child didn’t just change you; it transmuted you, transported you to a parallel world with an altered gravitational axis.”

Angie I did HBOT in real life with one of my kids who had ulcerative colitis. The standard treatments weren’t working, and he was in pain, throwing up every day, losing weight, and we became desperate and decided to try this experimental treatment. It was a group HBOT chamber like Miracle Submarine, with kids with chronic illnesses and special needs, including autism and cerebral palsy. It was an intense and intimate environment, with a confessional feel, and we parents talked about our lives and families. No matter what the condition or the severity, the one thing we all agreed on is that when your kids have a chronic condition, it’s not just your actions that change, but the whole world, your outlook, your relationship to society, EVERYTHING changes. One of my favorite things about having written this book is reading reviews and emails from readers who have children with special needs or chronic illnesses—hearing that they appreciate reading sentiments like this because they’ve thought it themselves, and it makes them feel less alone.

Highlight “That was the thing about lies: they demanded commitment. Once you lied, you had to stick to your story”

Angie I think lying is very difficult, precisely because of this. You have to stick to the story you tell, and you have to stick to all the ramifications of that story. My favorite part of being a lawyer (by far!) was being in the courtroom or taking a deposition, questioning a hostile witness and ferreting out and trying to find a weakness in their story. One of the best ways to do that, I found, was to ask them about a logical extension of their main story, something that must be true if they’re telling the truth, and then confronting them with a document or previous statement that contradicts that. The funny thing was, people would often continue to stick to their lie even when faced with incontrovertible evidence that it was a lie. It made them look ridiculous and destroyed their credibility, and yet, they’d persist. I found it fascinating, this commitment to their lies. It often led to a situation in which someone would lie about something little, insignificant, but rather than admit that they lied, shame would take over and they’d end up saying more and more outlandish things in support of that initial little lie, until the lie grew to something big and important. Shame is at the root of so many lies and secrets. I think it may be the most powerful emotion we have, certainly the most long-lasting

Brenda I really connected with the characters in their grief for their children and I loved that you added some of the inner thoughts that in grief we have, the ones that we are too afraid to say for being judged, unliked or feeling bad for thinking them. The thoughts that make us human. “So if a tiny part of us has these thoughts a tiny part of the time, thoughts we shut out as soon as they creep in, is that so bad? Isn’t that just human?”

Angie Thank you so much for highlighting this, which is what Elizabeth says to Teresa in response to what Teresa confesses to her, about her once having a fleeting thought (that she’s extremely ashamed by) of wondering if her life would be better if her daughter had died. This is a passage that Ari Shapiro read on NPR’s All Things Considered and discussed with me. I love that so much because it’s such a pivotal moment that’s at the heart of this novel for me. I think that there’s a Myth of the Good Mother, which is that mothers are and should be saintly. Elle Magazine said that Miracle Creek “tears the ‘Good Mother’ myth apart,” and I hope that that’s true. I think all humans have fleeting, shameful thoughts, but I think mothers who admit openly to having such thoughts are demonized. Being a mother is hard. It’s hard with any child, special needs and chronic illnesses or not. We should be able to be open and honest with each other about it, and not have it be so taboo. I’m not saying that it’s all hard and bad—not at all! There’s intense love and so much joy, but it can be awful sometimes, and we should be able to talk about that and process it with each other, together.

Brenda Can you tell us what your are working on?

Angie I’m working on my next novel (or trying to, anyway!). It’s about a 10-yr old boy who’s nonverbal (with autism) who goes on a walk at the beginning of the novel with his father, who’s his primary caregiver. But only the boy returns home. And because he’s nonverbal, he can’t tell us what happened to the father. His older siblings (17-18 yr old fraternal twins, one boy, one girl) become obsessed with working with him with assistive communication technologies and therapies to get him to communicate

What Angie had to say about us “I know this is an active group filled with passionate readers, and I loved getting a chance to think through and answer such thoughtful, insightful questions. Thank you so much for reading Miracle Creek and for inviting me to take part in this amazing discussion group!”

For more highlights on Goodreads can be found here

Posted in Reviews

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell @SimonSchusterCA @lisajewelluk

The Family Upstairs is now available. Lisa Jewell the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People)  has done it again and had this reader chilled to the bone after reading this exciting and enthralling domestic family saga/ thriller. I flew those this one turning the pages as fast as I could.

Brenda’s review

After seeing some mixed thoughts for The Family Upstairs, I was a little worried one of my favorite authors has turned to the dark side in more ways than one. I am so glad I decided to give this a try for myself because I had nothing to worry about. Lisa Jewell continues to do no wrong with this devoted reader.

Lisa Jewell is moving a little towards the darker side from what this “Lisa Jewell reader” has come to expect. However, I have moved a little ok a lot to the darker side myself, so I think she and I still make a great match. She still has all those significant elements that make for her signature suspenseful style with those well-layered unpredictable plots and reveals and twists that come just at the right time to figure some things out but still keep you guessing right to the end.

The Family Upstairs is a compelling family saga with devilishly, deliciously chilling narrative along with disturbing dark characters. I enjoyed the three POVs along with the different timelines that had me questioning the reliability of some characters. The last few pages are so chilling and I loved every one of them. I was left feeling delightfully chilled to the bone with how it all came together. I highly recommend.

I received a copy from the publisher on NetGalley



Posted in Reviews

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams @LyssaKayAdams @BerkleyPub

Well the first rule of book club might be don’t talk about book club but I want to talk about The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams. It is available tomorrow November 4, 2019. If you like a well delivered, fun romance then this is one not to be missed. Hmm, I think I might make that a rule with our book clubs. Hehee!!!

Brenda’s review

I didn’t want this one to end! Did I just say that?

Super hot diggity dang! That was a Grand Slam for me and left me cheering and dancing after reading this one. I am always a bit nervous starting romance/women fiction books because I have a heart of stone and my eyes can get a little workout with the rolling when I read some. They can be a hit or miss for me. Lyssa Kay Adams knocked it out of the park here for me. Maybe that heart of mine is softening up.

Lyssa Kay Adams creates an unique, sweet, funny story full of heart with some heat to keep you warm and feeling a little fuzzy while reading it. I loved our main characters here, Gavin and Thea. Gavin is so sweet and helpless in his confused romance ways. I thought the Bromance Book Club played so well in that. I think he is book crush material here. Thea was a bit annoying at times for me however her broken and flawed side to her warmed me up to her along with her relationship with her sister Liv.

I loved the bromance with the witty, fun dynamics between the bros. There was a scene that involved a hot beverage that had me rolling on the floor with laughter. I wanted to tell my son about it. I am still laughing. I loved how Adams weaved the book club read so well and I enjoyed how that all together right up to the end.

Of course, I have to mention the adorable twin daughters in the story that made this one just too cute. I am looking forward to the second book. I highly recommend.

Thank you to Elisha at Berkley pub for my copy!!


Posted in Reviews, Traveling Sisters Reads

The Widow of Pale Harbor by Hester Fox @HesterBFox @HarlequinBooks @HarperCollinsCa

The Widow of Pale Harbor by Hester Fox is now available and it’s a great one to curl up with your favorite beverage this Halloween

Last year around this time I read The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox with a few of my Traveling Sisters and it was a hit for us and we thought it was a great one for this time of year. I read The Widow of Pale Harbor with a couple of my TS and it was also a hit for us. I did enjoy The Widow of Pale Harbor a bit more. I highly recommend both.

Brenda’s reivew

Things did start off a little rocky for me here with the strange unsettling things going on in this town and I was reading with one eye closed hiding behind my pillow. Soon things started to come together and I start to see how that is cleverly weaved into the story.

The Widow of Pale Harbor has all the elements to make this a creepy good Gothic atmospheric read. It has an entertaining and engaging mystery that had us all following the clues with a little help from Debra who set us on the right track with there. The romance in this one was perfectly done and I was enjoying the dynamics with that. I was swept away to this historic Maine 1846 setting and the castle and town came alive for me with that creepy, foreboding feeling.

Near the end, the drama and action pick up and I was a little worried my drama patience was going to go over the edge, however, the story kept me on the edge of the cliff and brought me safely to a satisfying ending.

Traveling sister friend read. You can find our discussion here. Spoilers are used. Did you love this one too or? Join us and let us know your thoughts.

Thank you to Eden at HarperCollins for my copy!

Posted in Reviews

Olive Kitteridge and Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Brenda’s review

These are the books I love to read and I feel like I learned a little bit more about myself and the world we live in. It’s the reason I read books like this. Elizabeth Strout knows how to get me thinking and I couldn’t help myself to look deep into Olive’s character and exam the layers to her well-developed character. I loved every word and was really glad I got to read both books together and really see Olive grow as a person. I loved how real Olive is and the more I got to know the more I loved her. I highly recommend!

Olive Kitteridge (Olive Kitteridge, #1)

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

I was an emotional wreck in the best of way reading this one. I cried all the way through this one as themes of loneliness, acceptance, wounded with flawed souls, quilt and hope are explored.

Elizabeth Strout has written a beautiful remarkable gut-wrenching story with real substance layered in the depth of each page and word. There is so much wisdom beyond the words in this story. Everything Olive does and says is so complexed. Her character and how she interacts with other characters can be examined, and you will find understanding and insight into the depth of people’s actions. Reading this one is like learning something about what makes us human and the compassion needed in this world we live in.

I loved Olive and how complex she is. She is not kind but compassionate. I cried for her moodiness and her misunderstood meanest, combined with her honest empathy and compassion that came from her heart. I cried over the judgement shown to her by others and Olive’s acceptance of her truth and how she recognized the truth in herself. I cried for her hope to do better. I cried for the kindness shown to Olive by the people who accepted Olive for who she is and it broke my heart the ones who didn’t.

Then I watched the mini-series and cried some more.

Olive, Again (Olive Kitteridge, #2)

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Olive again is who she is and still not afraid to say it like it is, however she mellower, a little less difficult and ornery here in this story. I cried less in this one and loved her even more as we can see her grow and come to terms with ageing and her truths.

Elizabeth Strout doesn’t miss a beat here and picks up after Olive Kitteridge and she explores loneliness through ageing and regrets. She takes that hope of doing better from Olive I felt in the first book and we see Olive reflecting on her life and coming to terms with her relationships.

Elizabeth Strout explores ageing with compassion and humor. I loved seeing Olive’s frustration and insecurities about ageing yet not taking it so seriously but gracefully. I hope to do the same.

Olive in both books represents our worst fears for ourselves and gave me hope we can come to terms with our vulnerability as we age and grow as a person. Even though Olive can be infuriating in both books, her acceptance, reflections of her truth, along with her willingness to see them and do better is admirable. It’s refreshing to see in a world where we put our truths on others instead of accepting them as our own.

I received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley.