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the saturday six.

• Earlier this week was World Book Day! Stylist did a piece on the books we never outgrow and the psychology behind their staying power (spoiler: there’s a LOT of Roald Dahl talk here!!)

• This is extremely interesting: a psychiatrist believes that Hemingway suffered a series of concussions that ultimately led to his decline and death.

• I love Pope Francis. He recently gave a TED Talk!

Library wars of the ancient world. Yep. I’m all about that.

• Food Network gets me. 50 things to make with avocados.

• Guys. Spicy Korean noodles and tofu meatballs. GUYS.

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5 things I loved in April.

1. Modcloth’s Easy Buzz It earrings. Sadly, these are no longer available and I managed to snag them at a ridiculous sale price. These super tiny, oh so pretty earrings have been my go-to this month!

2. Willie 103.5 I grew up on 80s and 90s country and live for the throwback lunch hours and random requests for older songs. This new station plays only classic country and I. Am. In. Love.

3. Burt’s Bees Lip Crayons Although my sisters are both way into makeup, I don’t know the first thing about it apart from the basics. I don’t wear much of it and prefer lip balms to lipstick, but when I first saw these lip crayons on another blog, I decided to go for it – and I love it! It’s the perfect pop of color when I want a little something extra.

4. One of my friends joined my company! We used to work together until last year and she wasn’t happy at all with her job. When I found out my company was hiring I pretty much pounced on my group of girls and she was hired! Although I enjoyed it before, there’s nothing like working with a friend ♥

5. Just Mayo I recently tried Hampton Creek’s Chipotle vegan mayo and was completely won over! I’ve been using it on everything lately and couldn’t believe my eyes when I took a look at the rest of their line: wasabi mayo, sesame ginger mayo, a mayo called awesomesauce. Um yeah, I think I need them all in my life.

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The Shadow Sister by Lucinda Riley

The Shadow Sister by Lucinda Riley
Pub. Date: April 25, 2017
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Atria!)
Summary: Star D’Aplièse is at a crossroads in her life after the sudden death of her beloved father—the elusive billionaire, affectionately called Pa Salt by his six daughters, all adopted from across the four corners of the world. He has left each of them a clue to her true heritage, and Star nervously decides to follow hers, which leads her to an antiquarian bookshop in London, and the start of a whole new world.

A hundred years earlier, headstrong and independent Flora MacNichol vows she will never marry. She is happy and secure in her home in England’s picturesque Lake District—just a stone’s throw away from the residence of her childhood idol, Beatrix Potter—when machinations lead her to London, and the home of one of Edwardian society’s most notorious society hostesses, Alice Keppel. Flora is torn between passionate love and her duty to her family, but finds herself a pawn in a larger game. That is, until a meeting with a mysterious gentleman unveils the answers that Flora has been searching for her whole life…

As Star learns more of Flora’s incredible journey, she too goes on a voyage of discovery, finally stepping out of the shadow of her sister and opening herself up to the possibility of love.
Genre: Historical Fiction

Tell me a novel is historical fiction and I’ll be all over it. Add real life historical figures and I’ll swoon. Toss in a quest to discover a character’s long lost past and…oh my. Enter The Shadow Sister. Star, one of six adopted daughters, has no idea about her true origins – nor, for that matter, where her billionaire adoptive (and oh so beloved) father came from. However, they had a wonderfully happy childhood and, when Pa Salt passed away, he left each of his daughters a clue as to her heritage. For Star, that means travelling to London, to an antiquarian bookshop where she uncovers a story that played out a century earlier. A story of Flora MacNichol, Beatriz Potter, and a king’s mistress.

While The Shadow Sister wasn’t my introduction to Lucinda Riley, it was my first of her Seven Sisters series – and let me be the first to tell you if you aren’t already familiar with Riley’s novels: her books are NOT quick, breezy afternoon reads. Not only do they tend to hover close to 500 pages, but the depth of Riley’s writing practically demands the reader’s full attention. Don’t let the size fool you though, these novels are truly lovely and so, so rewarding.

Star is the quiet one in her band of sisters and for a good portion of the book I was extremely frustrated and enraged for her. Her sister CeeCee virtually runs Star’s life and has since they were children. Despite being nearly 30, CeeCee still insists on buying an apartment with Star, sharing a bedroom with Star, going everywhere and doing everything with Star. What really did it for me though, was what happened when the two had been looking at universities. Star had her heart set on a particular school and was even accepted. However, CeeCee had never been as bright as her sister and wanted to apply at a school that was still great, but far easier to get into. And had Star apply too. Naturally Star was accepted and when CeeCee received her own acceptance letter, that’s where the pair ended up studying. Only – and this is the part that had me seeing red – CeeCee dropped out, leaving Star to study at a school she never wanted to attend in the first place. The sheer audacity of CeeCee’s character wowed me (and not in a good way). I was beyond thrilled for Star when she finally realized she needed to break away and take time for herself.

I love novels that bounce between the present day and the past and Riley pulls it off flawlessly, jumping between Flora’s story and Star’s. What had me most intrigued about, not just this book, but the series as a whole, is that each sister has been adopted from a different part of the world and it’s Pa Salt’s clues that lead each woman to discover where she came from. For Star, that clue leads to London, but I’ll admit now I’m eager to read the previous two novels: Maia’s clue leads her to Brazil and Ally’s clue has her packing for Norway! I say this begrudgingly, but even the next book (CeeCee’s story ugh) sounds intriguing as she heads to Australia!

While these novels are definitely a commitment, they are truly worth it and Lucinda Riley is a master at weaving together intricate, seemingly unrelated characters across centuries. The Shadow Sister was my first of this series and easily read as a standalone with Star’s sisters making brief appearances. That said, I’m very interested in going back now and reading the first two books! Several readers have been discussing the possibility of a seventh daughter – after all, the series title does mention seven sisters and the girls’ names come from the Pleiades star cluster, so how could there only be six of them? That alone has me eager for more!

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The One True Love of Alice-Ann by Eva Marie Everson

The One True Love of Alice-Ann by Eva Marie Everson
Pub. Date: April 4, 2017
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Tyndale!)
Summary: Living in rural Georgia in 1941, sixteen-year-old Alice-Ann has her heart set on her brother’s friend Mack; despite their five-year age gap, Alice-Ann knows she can make Mack see her for the woman she’ll become. But when they receive news of the attack on Pearl Harbor and Mack decides to enlist, Alice-Ann realizes she must declare her love before he leaves.

Though promising to write, Mack leaves without confirmation that her love is returned. But Alice-Ann is determined to wear the wedding dress her maiden aunt never had a chance to wear–having lost her fiance in the Great War. As their correspondence continues over the next three years, Mack and Alice-Ann are drawn closer together. But then Mack’s letters cease altogether, leaving Alice-Ann to fear history repeating itself.

Dreading the war will leave her with a beautiful dress and no happily ever after, Alice-Ann fills her days with work and caring for her best friend’s war-torn brother, Carlton. As time passes and their friendship develops into something more, Alice-Ann wonders if she’ll ever be prepared to say good-bye to her one true love and embrace the future God has in store with a newfound love. Or will a sudden call from overseas change everything?
Genre: Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction, WWII, Romance

Alice-Ann Branch is hopelessly in love with her brother’s best friend. Mack is handsome and kind and Alice-Ann dreams of the day he’ll see her as a woman and not just Nelson’s kid sister he’s known since she was a baby. When the news of Pearl Harbor makes its way to their tiny Georgia town, Alice-Ann knows it’s now or never and devises a plan to finally, finally tell Mack her true feelings at her sixteenth birthday party.

With the war at their doorstep, any boy who can readily enlists to go off and do his duty – Mack included and, while he doesn’t quite return Alice-Ann’s feelings, he does promise to write. As the months turn into years, Alice-Ann keeps up their correspondence, determined to make Mack see her as someone worth loving, a woman to spend the rest of his life with.

When Nelson’s other best friend returns home horribly wounded, Alice-Ann is tasked with keeping him company. Temporarily blinded and unable to walk, Carlton lies in his bed as Alice-Ann reads to him every afternoon. Over time, their once-awkward conversations develop into casual chats as they discuss every topic imaginable: literature and music, the war and what happened to Carlton overseas, and Carlton actually seems interested in what Alice-Ann has to say. He truly wants to know what’s on her mind. Each day Carlton’s health improves. The blurry shapes he can barely make out eventually become crystal clear images and under Alice-Ann’s care, Carlton goes from being unable to move his legs to getting around in a wheelchair, to – ultimately – walking on his own again.

Though tending to Carlton occupies her time, Alice-Ann is nonetheless still convinced Mack is her future…until the day a telegram arrives saying little more than Mack’s plane was shot down and he’s believed to be dead. With her dreams and heart shattered, could Alice-Ann ever move on? Will Mack forever be her one true love or could she possibly learn to open her heart to someone else?

You know a book is good when you ramble on and on just recapping the plot! To say I enjoyed The One True Love of Alice-Ann would be an understatement: I inhaled this novel. I lived and breathed it and it was all I could do to pace myself. This is a novel that completely captives the reader and I was so torn between wanting to savor every minute spent with these characters and wanting to read and read and read.

First and foremost, Eva Marie Everson knows how to write a character. Holy cow. You won’t find any cardboard cutouts here! Even Alice-Ann’s sister-in-law, a woman who I initially pegged as nothing more than a horrible Mean Girl, was surprisingly well-rounded and fleshed-out and I think that, as Alice-Ann aged and matured, she realized that her family and the people in her life weren’t just two-dimensional beings. Over time she became aware of her spinster aunt’s tortured romance, of her father’s past, even of Mack’s true nature and I believe that it’s as she comes to understand these people so does the reader and certain characters I couldn’t stand in the first few chapters grew and blossomed by the time I turned the final page. That is the mark of a fantastic writer.

Although The One True Love of Alice-Ann is set during the Second World War, this book is so much more than a wartime novel – and I say that as a reader who is obsessed with wartime novels! Yes, the war plays a key role, but the action happens off-screen so to speak. What little battle scenes there are can be found in brief, censored snippets from letters or talk about town. Instead, The One True Love of Alice-Ann is a beautiful coming-of-age novel, following a girl with a massive crush on a boy and her journey to the realization of what true love means.

This is the type of book whose ending can be easily guessed. How the novel plays out won’t come as a shock to any reader, but I honestly didn’t mind one bit. In fact, I loved watching the characters work out what I knew would come to be their reality and you can bet I was cheering them on every step of the way!

The One True Love of Alice-Ann is my introduction to Eva Marie Everson’s work and, my goodness, talk about a first impression! There’s drama, action, a swoon-worthy romance, lost love, growing up and moving on from childhood fantasies – not to mention incredibly crafted characters with both faults and strengths and a plot that had me glued to the page! I couldn’t be more excited to have discovered Everson’s novels. Though I honestly am sad to sad goodbye to this book, she has an impressive backlist that is sure to be just as great. If you’re looking for a novel with true-to-life characters, a wonderful message, and a slow burn romance, The One True Love of Alice-Ann is the book for you. My only disappointment is that it’s over – but rest assured I’ll be keeping a close eye on what Everson does next!

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weekly wrap-up 4/23

• This week was all about getting outside and exercising…unfortunately, chilly mornings and hot afternoons led to one wicked cold ugh.

• I mentioned this yesterday, but I am not a tv person. Sure I like some shows, but I’m not the kind of person who marathons or binges on series. Never was. HOWEVER, Friday I came home from work feeling crappy and wanted to relax. I thought I would finally (!!) check out Big Little Lies (back in 2015 I gushed over the audio – that post also features a review for my introduction to Agatha Christie ♥ long and lasting relationship indeed). Matt was going to do his own thing, but decided to sit and watch a few minutes. That few minutes turned into seven hours! We binged the entire thing and I was thrilled that Matt was so into it! Town & Country has a list of several other series to watch and I’m tempted.

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? Sarah Maine’s Beyond the Wild River had such a lush, rich setting (the Canadian wilderness in the 1800s) and a premise tailor-made for me (a sheltered heiress accompanies her father on a trip and runs into a boy – now man – she was once friends with…only for him to disappear from her father’s estate the night of a horrific double-murder). Unfortunately, this one lack character development and I didn’t get into it as much as I had hoped. Still, Maine’s writing was so beautiful that I’m eager to see what she does next.

Kelley Armstrong is amazing and I will forever praise her books. Missing is her latest YA, a thriller about a town kids long to escape and a boy who raises questions about whether or not the kids who left did so voluntarily. I read this one in a single sitting I was so hooked. There are brutal scenes involving dogs, however.

This week’s the saturday six features a mouth-watering recipe I’m seriously considering trying out this week (chipotle lime cauliflower tacos!!), Canada being Canada, my favorite president Teddy Roosevelt praising conversation and nature, a history of one of the most popular fonts, and more!

You Were Here by Gian Sardar
“Readers of Kate Atkinson will delight in this suspenseful and romantic debut novel about a woman haunted by nightmares and her grandmother’s role in a doomed love triangle almost seventy years before.” Hello, gorgeous. Abby is terrified of an early death and her constantly nightmares of being buried alive aren’t helping matters. When a recent nightmare reveals a name from her family’s past, she returns home looking for answers, only to be hit with more questions. A cryptic note hidden among her grandmother’s jewelry, a seventy-year-old love triangle, a detective hunting down a violent criminal. You Were Here has my name ALL over it!! Thank you, Putnam!

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly
This one had been on my radar since I first heard about it, but what really sealed the deal was when a publicist (who normally does NOT pitch this type of book to me) reached out about it. Her excitement was totally infectious AND the fact that this isn’t the typical book she sends me made me even more eager to read it! It’s the summer of 1999 and a couple travels to a festival to see a total eclipse of the sun. Both are sure it’ll be a memory to last a lifetime, only it’s not the eclipse that has a lasting impression. Shortly after the shadows pass, Laura sees something terrible and is adamant about what she witnessed, though the man denies it – her word against his, right? Still, the woman involved is relieved and grateful. Months later, however, she appears at Laura’s door. Fifteen years later, Kit and Laura are living under false identities, completely off-grid, no social media. The past still has a way of catching up, however. There’s been some buzz for this one and y’all know I love me a twisty thriller!! Thank you, Minotaur books!

Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave
I wasn’t a huge fan of Eight Hundred Grapes, so I was surprised when Dave’s upcoming novel arrived at my door. I’m prone to giving authors second chances, however, and Hello, Sunshine sounds really interesting: a lifestyle guru with an extremely popular YouTube cooking show and New York Times bestsellers, Sunshine Mackenzie seems to have it all. Her videos have millions of views, people love her recipes, and she has a perfect husband. Sunshine is hiding a secret though, and when it’s revealed, her fall is catastrophic. Yep, I’m curious! Thank you, Simon & Schuster!

Antisocial by Jillian Blake
Anna isn’t having a great senior year. Her basketball star boyfriend unceremoniously dumped her and her friends are all but ignoring her. But Anna isn’t the only Alexandria Prep student who’s in for a rough year. Someone begins hacking phones, leaking photos and texts for all the world to see. I hadn’t heard about this book before it showed up in the mail, but it’s super short and YA Thrillers are always fun! Thank you, Delacorte Press!

Loving Luther by Allison Pittman
Germany, 1505. A six-year-old girl begins her new life inside a convent. Though she’s fiercely devoted to upholding the vows she took as a child, smuggled writings from excommunicated priest Martin Luther work their way into her mind – could there be more to her life than the convent? I’ve been getting back into Christian Fiction (hahaha, what a pairing: Christian Fiction and Psychological Thrillers are the two genres I’m most into at the moment) and was delighted when this arrived at my door! Thank you, Tyndale!

The Promise of Breeze Hill by Pam Hillman
After Isabella’s brother was found dead, the responsibilities of running her family’s plantation fall squarely on her shoulders. Though she does have the help of a handsome Irish carpenter (who, in turn, is hoping to provide his brothers passage from Ireland), Isabella can’t help but fear she’ll lose Breeze Hill. When a suspicious fire devastates the crops and gravely injures Isabella’s father, Connor begins to suspect someone is out to destroy the wealthy family. Okay, so I legit shrieked when I opened this package!! I heard about this one months ago and have been drooling over it ever since. I cannot wait to dive in! Thank you, Tyndale!

The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert
I first blogged about this one back in January in my post about 2017 contemporaries I need to get my hands on and was thrilled when a review copy arrived a few weeks later! A second ARC arrived this week (giveaway time??) and I can’t wait to discuss this book! Sanna is a fifth generation cider-maker who only wants to live a nice, quiet life on the family orchard. After years of keeping his son’s troubled mother away, Isaac decides to pack up and move to California, where he happens to pull up at Sanna’s orchard. Reichert’s novels are fun and light-hearted and food-focused – totally up my alley!

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the saturday six.

• These chipotle lime cauliflower tacos have me drooling all over myself!

• I’m not much of a television person and I definitely am not a binge-watcher. That said, last night Matt and I watched all seven (a LOT for me!!) episodes of HBO’s Big Little Lies. This article about Netflix shows that are too long is interesting and a little surprising – The Crown, really??

• Oh, Canada. Never change ♥ A beaver was filmed herding cows.

• In celebration of Earth Day, enjoy some Teddy Roosevelt quotes on conservation.

• VERY interesting: a history of the Baskerville font.

• Jessica gets me: toasted sesame sriracha deviled eggs.

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Missing by Kelley Armstrong

Missing by Kelley Armstrong
Pub. Date: April 18, 2017
Source: finished hardcover via publisher (Thank you, Crown Books for Young Readers!)
Summary: The only thing Winter Crane likes about Reeve’s End is that soon she’ll leave it. Like her best friend did. Like her sister did. Like most of the teens born in town have done. There’s nothing for them there but abandoned mines and empty futures. They’re better off taking a chance elsewhere.

The only thing Winter will miss is the woods. Her only refuge. At least it was. Until the day she found Lennon left for dead, bleeding in a tree.

But now Lennon is gone too. And he has Winter questioning what she once thought was true. What if nobody left at all? What if they’re all missing?
Genre: YA, Thriller

When you pick up a Kelley Armstrong novel you know you’re in for a good time. A gruesome and gory time, perhaps, but entertaining all the same! Missing arrived at my door one day and – no lie – I tossed aside the book I was in the middle of in order to start this one. That is how fantastic Kelley is.

To say Reeve’s End is the wrong side of the tracks would be an understatement (not to mention downright insulting to towns that actually are). Reeve’s End is a go-nowhere pit complete with a grimy payphone. Winter Crane has been counting down the days until graduation, counting down the days until she can leave her trailer park, never set eyes on her father again, walk out of town and wash her hands clean of it forever. Her sister got out, her best friend got out. What’s stopping Winter?

The only saving grace is the woods and her makeshift cabin where she can be alone and completely block out the rest of the world. In the woods it’s just Winter and her hunting gear. Oh, and the feral band of dogs, but hey, you can’t win them all.

It’s while she’s in the woods one day that Winter comes across something she shouldn’t. A boy – definitely not from Reeve’s End (his shoes alone cost more than the town’s average income) – left for dead in a tree. Making a split-second decision, Winter brings him back to her cabin where she learns her troubles have only just begun. It’s not long before Lennon disappears, leaving Winter with one startling question: what if the kids who left, those lucky souls who got out of Reeve’s End didn’t leave? What if they’re missing?

Yeah, I tore through this one, make no mistake about it. Kelley Armstrong is such a master at what she does that I felt as though I was there, right there in Reeve’s End. I felt bugs crawl over me at Winter’s living conditions. I felt I would die of embarrassment right along with Winter as she invited a boy into her home – a boy who, keep in mind, probably has a bathroom the size of her entire trailer. I could picture Reeve’s End with its lone doctor’s office and the fields upon fields that make up the town. But it wasn’t just Kelley’s descriptions of the town that drew me in, it was the story itself.

Once I got going, I truly could not put the book down and ended up reading Missing in a single sitting (you know a book has you captive when dinner consists of a bowl of cereal and a pb&j sandwich – whatever is quick and easy to scarf down!) Though I had my guesses at to what was going on and who played on which side, the ride to the end was half the fun and I was more than happy to see it through.

There is only one thing that will make me openly post spoilers and that’s when a dog dies. Prepare yourself. There’s a brutal scene involving those feral dogs and the book’s villain and it actually made me pause. Give me a torn apart, mangled, intestines-scattering-in-a-ten-foot-radius, dead body, and I won’t bat an eye. A scene involving the death of a dog however (even when it happens offscreen, like it does here)…I’m a total goner. It was all too easy picturing my own pup hurt and scared. Any other dogmamas out there, proceed with caution.

Despite that hard-to-stomach scene, I totally devoured Missing. Kelley Armstrong is at the top of her game here. The setting was great, the characters were intriguing, the mystery was gripping. There was even a super swoony moment that had me all heart-eyes! Whether you’re an long-time reader of Kelley’s novels or a newcomer looking for a fun and engaging read, look no further: Missing is the book for you. Though it doesn’t have her typical paranormal flair, I am all about this new mystery angle and am SO excited to see what she does next!