Category: book review

The Duke I Once Knew

When two childhood sweethearts find themselves together after years apart, does their romance have a chance to be rekindled now that he’s a duke and she’s a governess?

About The Duke I Once Knew

For years, Abigail Linton devoted herself to caring for her parents and her siblings’ children. Now, eager to create a life of her own, Abby seizes upon a position as a governess on a neighboring estate. Unfortunately, her absentee employer is Maxwell Bryce, the Duke of Rothwell, the notorious rake who once broke her youthful heart. But since he hasn’t set foot on his estate for fifteen years, Abby assumes she’ll never have to lay eyes on him ever again.

Then, from out of nowhere, Max appears. He is stunned to come face to face with the girl next door he fell for years ago—before he went away, and she stopped writing to him. . .even though Abby swears that he is the one who left her without a word. Could it be that this spirited, witty spinster has won Max’s heart all over again—and that they may have a second chance at love?

My Thoughts

Abby is a special young woman. She is the youngest child in her family – they were not expecting her birth but that did not make her less special in her parents eyes. When her parents fall ill and her siblings out of the house already, it is Abby that cares for her elderly parents. She sacrifices her season, her chance of finding a husband and her own family, in order to care for her parents. While this sounds so odd with her young age, in this time period she would have been viewed as off the shelf!

After the death of her parents, Abby yearns for more. She is tired of being the person her family relies on to care for everyone else, the children, care for their homes – she is sometimes treated more like a cherished staff member than a younger sibling at times! She loves her family and deals with this despite her obvious dislike of the treatment in order to prevent fighting. Against the wishes of her family, she takes the position of governess for the sister of her one true love.

Abby had fallen in love with Max in their teen years and both made promises of marriage and ever lasting love. When he is sent away, they make promises that this departure will not affect their relationship but unfortunately it did. Neither Abby nor Max receive correspondence from each other and this turns their hearts cold to any future love or relationship. Max becomes a non-believer in love and vows to not settle down in any complicated relationship.

When they meet up again, there is years of anger, hurt and disappointment. They argue, lash out and are stubborn to listen to the others side of the story. While you want them to work out their differences, you can also understand why they would be so full of hurt. Their story is one of betrayal, lies and deceit by the people who should have loved them the most.

This is a beautiful story of hope and forgiveness, you keep rooting for Abby and Max throughout the story. You want these two individuals who have hurt long enough, to find happiness and peace (and hopefully together!). A great historical romance read from start to finish.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

Rating: 4/5

About the Author

Olivia Drake is the author of the Cinderella Sisterhood series (Seducing the Heiress, NeverTrust a Rogue, Scandal of the Year, If the Slipper Fits, Stroke of Midnight, Abducted by thePrince, Bella and the Beast, His Wicked Wish, and The Scandalous Flirt). She has been amember of Romance Writers of America since 1981, and her novels have won the GoldenHeart Award, Best Historical Romantic Suspense and Best Regency Historical from RomanticTimes. She has also won the prestigious RITA award. She currently resides in Houston, Texas.

Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Magical Picture Books Perfect for the Holiday Season from Raincoast Books

Raincoast Books

Books have a magical quality about them, they take you on adventures to far off places, they encourage you to do use your imagination and foster a love of learning and education. Each book is special in its own manner.

Every holiday season, I ensure that I pick two books each for my nephews and niece, along with my own boys. I try to find a book that will capture their interest and spark a flame. Two new titles from Raincoast Books will make a perfect gift under the tree this year, Ara the Star Engineer and Mary Poppins, as they inspire, excite and encourage.

Magical Picture Books Perfect for the Holiday Season from Raincoast Books

Ara the Star Engineer is a great gift for young girls who want to explore the world of technology or perhaps a parent who wants to encourage their child to think big!

Ara is a young girl who loves BIG numbers. She wants to count all the stars in the sky… but how? This is an upbeat adventure of Ara and her sidekick droid, DeeDee (“Beep!”). They use smarts and grit to solve a BIG problem and discover an amazing algorithm. A quest that takes them through a whirlwind of intriguing locations at Innovation Plex – Data Centre, Ideas Lab, Coding Pods, and X-Space. Along the way, they encounter real-life women tech trailblazers of diverse backgrounds, including a Tenacious Troubleshooter, an Intrepid Innovator, a Code Commander, and a Prolific Problem Solver. They tinker-and-tailor, build-and-fail, launch-and-iterate, and in the end discover an amazing algorithm of success – coding, courage, creativity and collaboration.

This is an incredible, must read book for all young girls. It breaks my heart just a little on how this book was developed – she was inspired to write this book when her daughter stated that ‘engineers are boys’. Too often young girls are told either verbally or through visuals and media that they are not meant to participate in STEM or that this is a male dominated field. That flame is extinguished before it is even given a chance to spark. Girls should be encouraged to participate in STEM activities, books and classes. This book follows Ara, a young and inquisitive young girl, as she tours the Innovation Plex Data Centre in order to solve her own tech problem of counting the stars. She meets with four incredible women who show her how to solve her problem and these women help to inspire young girls who have an interest in those fields. It is so important to show young girls that other women have and are succeeding in this field and that they should always aim for the stars. No challenge is too big for any young girl (or child) when they put their mind to it. This is a definite must have book item for all young children and to be read over and over again.

You can find more about Ara the Star Engineer on the Raincoast Books website. You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon and Chapters.

About the Author

Komal Singh is a techie by day and a storyteller mom by night , one who loves coding and cupcakes, data crunching and day dreaming, pottery making and program planning. She was inspired to write this book when a hypothesis put forth by her four year old daughter stunned her: ‘Engineers are Boys’.

Singh is passionate about using technology as an enabler and an equalizer for all. She takes part in kids’ coding clubs, sits on hackathon judge panels, and volunteers with nonprofits on technology development.

Komal grew up in India and studied Computer Science at Delhi University and later moved to Canada to complete her Masters’ degree in C.S from Simon Fraser University. She has worked as a software engineer with tech consulting firms and is currently an Engineering Program Manager at Google. Komal lives in Waterloo, Canada, with her husband and two kids.

Magical Picture Books Perfect for the Holiday Season from Raincoast Books

Mary Poppins, the illustrated gift edition, is a full-color illustrated edition of the classic novel about the magical nanny who has delighted children and adults the world over for many years.

Experience the adventures of the magical nanny who inspired the classic film, stage show, and young imaginations around the world in a whole new way. This illustrated gift edition features silver foil on the cover and beautiful artwork by Julia Sarda that re-imagines Mary’s London in rich, full color. Ideal for the lifelong Mary Poppins fan or serious collector, this edition also makes for a lovely family read-aloud book.

I loved Mary Poppins as a child, it was by far one of my favourite movies of all time. She was such a special person and sparked your imagination. I am sure the minute you hear her name, you are transported to your childhood and can sing all of the songs all over again. I could not wait to get my hands on this book. It is such a treasure from its magical cover (honestly I kept running my hands all over it, it is so beautifully done) to each and every page – it can be both a collectors item and a soon to be cherished book for a child. I almost didn’t want to share it with my own kids, it felt so special!

I loved reading the stories out loud to my son, it was easy to follow along and even easier to make silly voices to keep him entertained. There was an excellent balance of images throughout the book to keep your child entertained visually (but the stories are so vivid, you could almost get away with none). This is honestly a truly special book that will make adults and children alike happy.

You can find out more about this book on the Raincoast Books website. You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon and Chapters.

About the Author

P. L. Travers (1899-1996) was a drama critic, travel essayist, reviewer, lecturer, and the creator of Mary Poppins. Ms. Travers wrote several other books for adults and children, but it is for the character of Mary Poppins that she is best remembered.

About the Illustrator

Julia Sarda has illustrated everything from classic children’s books to concept art for merchandise and video games. She lives in Barcelona.

What do you look for in a book as a gift for a young child?

Disclosure: I received the above mentioned products in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Good, Better, Best Wines Book Review

DK Canada

Love wine? Then get ready for the Good, Better, Best Wines book!

Good, Better, Best Wines Book Review

About Good, Better, Best Wines

While wine snobs are swirling and sniffing expensive wines that are tediously hard to find, the rest of us are just drinking wine. Popular wine. Big-brand wine. Big brands can spell terrific value, but you need to know which bottles to buy. That’s where Good Better Best Wines, 2e comes in. It’s small enough to pop in your pocket and take with you to the store. And it’s user-friendly enough to flip through on the fly.

This book ranks the best-selling wines in North America by grape variety and price point up to $15 (USD). And every bottle listed comes with a color photograph for quick and easy identification, so you can buy and run before getting stuck in a conversation with someone eager to share their vast wine knowledge with you! Of course, you’ll also get other important details, such as what ingredients created each wine, flavor and smell profiles, and alcohol content by volume–but in Carolyn’s relaxed, friendly tone.

My Thoughts

It wasn’t until I reached my late twenties that I began to appreciate a good glass of wine. I think my problem in the beginning was that I had no idea about the differences between the different types of wine and would just randomly choose a bottle based on price. This usually meant I grabbed a wine that tasted sour and was not easy to finish. Over the last years, I have learned to appreciate and develop a preference for specific brands and types of wine. I am in no way an expert but I do know what I like and what I don’t like (I like a sweet, smooth taste with not too strong of an alcohol taste).

This well written and witty guide is the perfect guide book for those who love their wine but by no  means want to be an expert – they want to find a great bottle of wine at the right price point.

Carolyn breaks down everything you ever wanted to know about wine – from just the basics about prices, the battle of the cap to how to get the  most out of a bottle (which fortunately we have never had to worry about as we always finish a bottle once it is opened!). She then dives right into the world of white, reds, rose and sparkling as well as bargain, dessert and party wines. The book is roughly 238 pages long and each two page section carries information on three types of wines. My mind was officially blown at the sheer volume of wine brands she shared! Some of them were familiar but some were new to me. She gives a great background on what each wine tastes and I love how visual her description is (you can almost taste it) as well as sharing pretty neat did you know facts and food pairing tips (although I could have used without the amount of calories in wine – just joking!).

Carolyn has done an incredible job with this guide – she gives you advice that you didn’t even know you needed to know, like how full to make the glass to ensure you can fully appreciate the taste and aroma of the wine and the perfect temperature to serve each wine at. She gives you such a great variety and different price points, I found a few wines in there that I have been hesitant to try but actually did after reading her work, I was not disappointed at all!

You can learn more about this book on DK Canada’s website and purchase a copy of this book here.

Rating: 4.5/5

About the Author

Carolyn Evans Hammond is a two-time bestselling wine book author, the wine columnist for the Toronto Star (syndicated), and a seasoned wine judge.

Over the past 15 years, she has appeared on CNN International, BON TV (China), GoingGlobalTV.com, Canada AM, and CITY-TV; she has been a guest on radio stations all over the United States; and she has written for top publications, including Decanter, Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirit International, The Times(London), Maclean’s, Quench, Taste magazine, and others.

Constantly learning, Carolyn spends much of her time tasting wine, judging wine, and meeting with winemakers to keep abreast of the industry. She’s a longstanding member of the Circle of Wine Writers, holds a diploma from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust in the UK, and earned a BA from York University, where she studied English and philosophy. She has lived in many cities in North America and Europe and now resides in Toronto, where she was born.

Her message is simple: Living well doesn’t have to be pricey or pretentious. It just takes a little know-how—and maybe a corkscrew.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Spirit of the Fox Book Review

Spirit of the Fox Book Review

She’s lost her mother and her memory. And if she fails to escape – she’ll lose herself.

Spirit of the Fox Book Review

About Spirit of the Fox

Meiko Wright wants nothing to do with the mother who abandoned her nine years ago. Spending a year in Tokyo, where her mother lives, will not change that fact. But when she takes a nasty fall in a Shinto temple, she wakes with no memory of her mother or anything of her past life. Without any idea who she is, she must rely on the kindness of a local priest who offers to help her as best he can. When the amnesiac Meiko wakes with a strange suspicion that something isn’t right, she vows to escape from a bond she doesn’t truly understand.

After years apart, Meiko’s mother Chieko is determined to make up for lost time. But when her daughter mysteriously disappears, Chieko promises she won’t lose her again. Along the trail of clues, the detectives working Meiko’s case discover a pair of suicides linked by a strange seductress and matching fox tattoos. Afraid her daughter may be next, Chieko visits a local shaman who tells her dark spirits could make her attempt for a rescue impossible.

With time running out, Meiko and her family must uncover the mystery of her mental captivity before she loses herself and her only way home forever.

My Thoughts

Spirit of the Fox is an amazing, thrilling novel from start to finish – I never knew quite what to expect next in this story.

We have Meiko, one of our main characters in this story, who is the daughter of an anthropology professor who specializes in folklore and a psychologist. Her mother (the psychologist) left her at an early age to return to Japan after she divorced her father. Meiko was raised primarily by her father in America (or perhaps she raised him a bit) and she has turned into a responsible, organized, cultured young woman who wants to continue in her graduate studies but needs some time to reflect and figure out what that would look like. She travels to Japan with her father (who will be teaching there) and plans to use this time to reflect on her future, document her journey on her blog and perhaps re-build her relationship with her mother. This is when everything makes a turn in the novel.

This is when we are introduced to some of the folklore of the Japanese culture which sends Meiko down a destructive path that we hope her family can rescue her from. The fox plays an interesting role in Japanese culture with both a good fox and an evil fox that plays on men and can be manipulative and destructive. The fox will possess a woman (who is very attractive and has a manipulative personality) and she will spell the ruin of any man. Throughout the novel, we are shown how many times this woman, at no fault of her own, will be ostracized from the community and sometimes forced to leave her home. Her history will follow her everywhere and she is doomed to a life of hatred from other women and never belonging.

It is the symbol of the fox (controlled by one man) and Meiko’s family history that is the center of the story as we soon find out. Meiko is “captured” by a person using the history of the fox and branded with the fox tattoo. She takes on the persona of a controlling, manipulative woman who is out to financially ruin the men on her list. The death toll starts to rise and Meiko’s parents must work together despite their history in order to save their daughter and bring her back to them.

This was an amazing book from start to finish, it was refreshingly different and exciting. I loved how he intertwined the culture and beliefs into the story for some additional learning. Meiko and her captor keep you on your toes, right when you think she may be coming back – he pulls her back into his evil plot. You almost feel lost at the end, that she may never come back but you keep praying that her parents and Grandmother can solve the case. This is a definite must read novel.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

Rating: 5/5

About the Author

I’m not exactly sure when I decided to become a novelist, but I have always loved fiction. I read it slowly, a plodder in fact as I delve into the dialogue, the descriptions, the scene and setting. While my tastes are pretty eclectic, I am definitely drawn to books that push the limits of reality.

I recently sold the company, Select International, that I co-founded in 1993. We started the company in Guadalajara, Mexico where my wife Mari and I lived and worked for a little over two years with a wonderful group of employees. It was a phenomenal experience; we both learned not only to speak the language but also to embrace the Mexican culture and people.

In the past twenty years I’ve written over a hundred white papers, journal articles, book chapters and even a book, Hiring Great People. But writing technical papers is far removed from writing fiction. There are more constraints — the need to back up your text with results or references and the format is usually clearly outlined, and frankly, somewhat rigid. Fiction, though, is truly a blank page, which is both liberating and terrifying.

Almost ten years ago I got the idea for The Painter of Time, my debut novel. Then, of course, it was just a concept that needed a lot of fleshing out. It meant a lot of research on art history and art restoration, neither of which I had any formal training or experience. But I love doing research and learning new things so it was a natural fit. What I didn’t realize is how hard it is to actually write a good novel. There’s much more involved in the actual craft of writing that I ever expected.

I recently finished my second novel, Spirit of the Fox, which takes place in Japan. It is now available on Amazon!

Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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The Good, the Bad and the Duke Book Review

A lady with a noble mission. A duke looking for redemption. A forbidden love that cannot be denied, in The Good, The Bad, and The Duke by Janna MacGregor.

The Good, the Bad and the Duke Book Review

About The Good, the Bad and the Duke

Lady Daphne Hallworth is ready to celebrate the holidays with her family. But when they accidentally leave her home alone, Daphne uses the time to work on her dream—opening a home for unwed mothers. But her quest isn’t problem-free: She’s in a battle to win the property for the home against her brother’s best friend-turned-enemy, Paul Barstowe, Duke of Southart. And that’s not all: someone has stolen her personal diary, which holds secrets that could devastate her family. Daphne has always harbored private feelings for the man her family scorns…though perhaps striking a bargain with the handsome Duke will solve both their problems?

Paul, long considered good for nothing, aims to open a hospital to honor his brother and restore his reputation. So when a conflict over the land brings him straight into Daphne’s life, they make a deal: He will help her find her diary if Daphne can change her family’s opinion of him. But before he can win her family’s affection, he has to win hers first. Maybe love was the answer to their family feud all along?

My Thoughts

A beautiful historical romance set in the backdrop of the holiday season but is so much more than a holiday novel.

Lady Daphne may not be married and may be considered to old in society eyes (which is ridiculous when you think of how young she truly is) but she is not a wallflower. She feels forgotten by her family at times and at other times a burden. She is quiet but has a kind and brave heart. Her ultimate goal is to purchase property so that it can be converted into a home for unwed Mothers. She wants to honour a young woman who died and pursue this dream of helping others as she has been given a high place both with her status and her finances in society. The only drawback? Someone else wants the same property – the Duke of Southart. Who also happens to be the man that she has had a huge crush on despite her family despising him. Paul has quite the reputation, some if it earned and some of it unfairly bestowed upon him. He grew up with his Father hating him and only became the Duke by chance when his brother and Father died. His Father made it his life goal to torment Paul, even continuing to do so beyond the grave.

These two are brought together again over the property and Lady Daphne’s stolen journal that contains secrets that could destroy her family. We watch as they work through their past pain, open their hearts to each other and truly trust each other with their secrets and pain. You find yourself hoping and praying that they can not only find a way together but to also find forgiveness and acceptance of their relationship from her family.

This is a beautiful story of healing, faith and tied into an well written, suspenseful plot full of twists and turns. I loved every  moment.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

Rating: 4.5/5

About the Author

Janna MacGregor was born and raised in the bootheel of Missouri. She credits her darling mom for introducing her to the happily-ever-after world of romance novels. Janna writes stories where compelling and powerful heroines meet and fall in love with their equally matched heroes. She is the mother of triplets and lives in Kansas City with her very own dashing rogue, and two smug, but not surprisingly, perfect pugs. She loves to hear from readers. She is the author of the Cavensham Heiresses series, which includes The Bad Luck Bride, The Bride Who Got Lucky, and The Luck of the Bride.

Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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