Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Romance Review: The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday by Kiley Dunbar

The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday by Kiley Dunbar
Published: May 5th, 2021

Publisher: Hera

Genre: Contemporary Romance

# of pages: 227

My rating: 4 stars

Acquired this book: From the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for honest consideration

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The Borrow-a-Bookshop Bookshop Café invites literature lovers to run their very own bookshop…for a fortnight. Spend your days talking books with customers in your own charming bookshop and serving up delicious cream teas in the cosy café. Bookworms, what are you waiting for? Your holiday is going to be LIT(erary). Apply to: The Borrow-a-Bookshop Bookshop Café, Down-a-long, Clove Lore, Devon.

Jude Crawley should be on top of the world. She’s just graduated as a mature student, and can finally go public about her relationship with Philosophy professor, Mack. Until she sees Mack kissing another girl, and her dreams crumble. And worse, their dream holiday–running a tiny bookshop in the harbour village of Clove Lore for two weeks–is non-refundable.

Throwing caution to the wind, Jude heads down to Devon, eager to immerse herself in literature and heal her broken heart. But there’s one problem: six-foot-tall, brooding (but gorgeous) Elliot, who’s also reserved the bookshop holiday for two weeks…

As Jude and Elliot put their differences aside to run the bookshop, it seems that Jude might be falling in love with more than just words. Until she discovers what Elliot is running from–and why he’s hiding out in Clove Lore.

Can Jude find her own happy ending in a tiny, tumbledown bookshop? Or is she about to find out that her bookish holiday might have an unexpected twist in the tale…

The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday was the third book I've read by Kiley Dunbar. By now I know to expect humour, romance, a beautiful setting, and a temporary escape from reality when I read one of Kiley's books. Escape from reality is a theme in her books: the heroine needs to get away from something (or someone) or needs a break from life weighing her down, and she finds herself - along with love and friendship - in the place she’s escaped to, all while realizing it's not always easy - or sometimes even possible - to outrun your problems. I love books like that and Kiley does them so well.

In The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday, our heroine, Jude, is in her late twenties and has just graduated from college. She’s also just found out her sexy professor boyfriend is a cheating cad. Added to that is the fact the people who have always needed her - the reasons she’s basically put her life on hold until now - no longer need her in the same way. She doesn’t have a job or a purpose, so when her spot on the waitlist for the Borrow-a-Bookshop bookstore and cafe opens up, she takes it as her sign to get away for two weeks and get her head on straight.

I think it’s safe to say many lifelong book lovers have had the dream of running their own bookshop. I know I certainly have, so I loved the concept of this book. Add in the quaint village, the quirky townspeople, and the mysterious man who turns up to help Jude, and you have a recipe for a sweet, emotional story. I connected with Jude easily and felt the heft of responsibility and then uncertainty that weighed on her. She’d never had a chance to live life for herself, and I enjoyed watching her strike out on her own and learn new things about herself.

With travel still out for many of us this summer, The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday makes for a wonderful virtual vacation. 

Have you read The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday? Have you ever dreamed of owning and/or working in a bookshop? Have you ever actually worked in one?

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Rom-Com Review: The Secret Bridesmaid by Katy Birchall

The Secret Bridesmaid by Katy Birchall
Published: May 4th, 2021

Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Heat rating: 🔥

# of pages: 400

My rating: 4.5 stars

Acquired this book: From the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for honest consideration

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Sophie Breeze is a brilliant bridesmaid. So brilliant, in fact, that she’s made it her full-time job.

As a professional bridesmaid, Sophie is hired by London brides to be their right-hand woman, posing as a friend but working behind the scenes to help plan the perfect wedding and ensure their big day goes off without a hitch. When she’s hired by Lady Victoria Swann–a former model and “It Girl" of 1970’s London; now the Marchioness of Meade–for the society wedding of the year, it should be a chance for Sophie to prove just how talented she is.

Of course, it’s not ideal that the bride, Lady Victoria’s daughter, Cordelia, is an absolute diva and determined to make Sophie’s life a nightmare. It’s also a bit inconvenient that Sophie finds herself drawn to Cordelia’s posh older brother, who is absolutely off limits. But when a rival society wedding is announced for the very same day, things start to get…well, complicated.

Can Sophie pull off the biggest challenge of her career–execute a high-profile gala for four hundred and fifty guests in record time, win over a reluctant bride, and catch the eye of handsome Lord Swann–all while keeping her true identity a secret, and her dignity intact?

Sophie Breeze is a professional bridesmaid. She’s there for a bride leading up to and during her big day for whatever she needs, big or small. And when she’s tasked with being a bridesmaid to Lady Cordelia Swann, a seemingly spoiled, ill-tempered, snobby aristocrat--who Sophie admired in her teen years, no less--she’s determined not to let Cordelia get the best of her. Not only is she faced with outrageous demands from Cordelia, but she also has other brides to attend to (many with their own strange requests), deal with other people’s expectations and assumptions about her (in particular her jerk of an ex), and manage her growing feelings for Cordelia’s sweet and charming brother, Tom.

The Secret Bridesmaid was hilarious. I smiled and giggled my way through this book, sometimes even laughing until I had tears in my eyes. I shed some actual, emotional tears too because there were some genuinely heartwarming and beautiful moments. The concept of this book was so much fun and it was executed so well. I loved watching the progression of Sophie and Cordelia’s relationship, and I enjoyed Sophie’s relationship with her cousin/best friend, Cara. It was also fun getting to see some of the things Sophie did for other bridesmaids, and the correspondences between chapters had me laughing myself silly. I do wish there’d been a bit more focus on the romance - it is a romantic comedy, after all - but the book was just so good, I can’t even really complain that it took a bit of a backseat.

The Secret Bridesmaid is highly entertaining, laugh-out-loud funny, and touching. It was an absolute delight to read from beginning to end, and is without question one of my favourite books of 2021 so far. I’d love to see it turned into a movie or even a mini-series.

Have you read The Secret Bridesmaid? Have you ever been part of a wedding party?

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Canadian Historical Fiction Review: Letters Across the Sea by Genevieve Graham

Letters Across the Sea by Genevieve Graham
Published: April 27th, 2021

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Genre: Historical Fiction/Canadian Fiction/WWII Fiction

# of pages: 384

My rating: 5 stars

Acquired this book: From the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for honest consideration

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At eighteen years old, Molly Ryan dreams of becoming a journalist, but instead she spends her days working any job she can to help her family through the Depression crippling her city. The one bright spot in her life is watching baseball with her best friend, Hannah Dreyfus, and sneaking glances at Hannah’s handsome older brother, Max.

But as the summer unfolds, more and more of Hitler’s hateful ideas cross the sea and “Swastika Clubs” and “No Jews Allowed” signs spring up around Toronto, a city already simmering with mass unemployment, protests, and unrest. When tensions between the Irish and Jewish communities erupt in a riot one smouldering day in August, Molly and Max are caught in the middle, with devastating consequences for both their families.


Six years later, the Depression has eased and Molly is a reporter at her local paper. But a new war is on the horizon, putting everyone she cares about most in peril. As letters trickle in from overseas, Molly is forced to confront what happened all those years ago, but is it too late to make things right?

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Genevieve Graham is single-handedly bringing little-known aspects of Canadian history to light - and to life - through her thought-provoking, emotional, heartbreaking, beautiful books. After reading five of Graham’s books, I think it’s safe to say I’ve learned more about Canadian history from her than I ever did in school.


Letters Across the Sea illuminates yet another aspect of Canadian history I knew nothing about. Starting in Toronto, Ontario in the early 1930s, the Great Depression permeates every aspect of daily life. Jobs are hard to come by, people are working hard for little money, and families are going hungry. Add to that the hatred and antisemitism making their way around the globe, in large part thanks to Hitler and the rise of the Nazis, and tensions are running high across the city. People who were once friends and neighbours now have an ‘us versus them’ mentality, and there’s a rise in white supremacist and anti-Jewish hate groups. All of this culminates in the Christie Pits Riot, which tears apart families and friends, and changes life as Molly Ryan and Max Dreyfus know it. 


Told in alternating points of view between Molly and Max, we see things through the eyes of a young Protestant woman and her Jewish neighbour and lifelong friend, who’s also the older brother of her best friend. We see the hatred, fear, pain, and confusion experienced from both perspectives, along with the friendship and longing between the two. Nothing is ever the same for Molly and Max - or their families - after the riot.


Time passes and life moves on. The Depression continues, although things slowly improve. When war is declared, Max enlists, along with Molly’s brothers and many of their mutual friends. This leads into another little-known aspect of Canadian history: the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941, and Canadians being held in Japanese POW camps for years under horrendous conditions.


Like Graham’s other books, Letters Across the Sea wasn’t an easy read. It was painful - gut wrenching at times - but it was an incredible story about enduring love, bravery, tenacity, and hope. It was difficult reading about the horrible things people are capable of, and that pain was made sharper by the contrasts to today’s racial and religious tensions and injustices. It was a painful reminder that in many ways, things haven’t changed that much in the last 80-90 years. People were gathering for protests and marches back then the way they are now, and it’s easy to believe something like the Christie Pits Riot could happen today. Books like this are a reminder that we need to do better and there’s still a lot of work to do, despite the tireless work of many.


Graham’s wonderful, realistic characters and skillfully woven plot ensured Letters Across the Sea was yet another unforgettable read.

Have you read Letters Across the Sea or any of Genevieve Graham's other books? Do you enjoy books about lesser-known aspects of history?

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