Book Review: The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets

The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets by Molly Fader

What drove their family apart just might bring them back together… It’s been seventeen years since the tragic summer the McAvoy sisters fell apart. Lindy, the wild one, left home, carved out a new life in the city and never looked back. Delia, the sister who stayed, became a mother herself, raising her daughters and running the family shop in their small Pennsylvania hometown on the shores of Lake Erie. But now, with their mother’s ailing health and a rebellious teenager to rein in, Delia has no choice but to welcome Lindy home. As the two sisters try to put their family back in order, they finally have the chance to reclaim what’s been lost over the years: for Delia, professional dreams and a happy marriage, and for Lindy, a sense of home and an old flame–and best of all, each other. But when one turbulent night leads to a shocking revelation, the women must face the past they’ve avoided for a decade. And there’s nothing like an old secret to bring the McAvoy women back together and stronger than ever.With warm affection and wry wit, Molly Fader’s The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets is about the ties that bind family and the power of secrets to hold us back or set us free.
Review:
This was a sweet, light read that I quite enjoyed. The book has alternating points of view and flashbacks to the past, but centres around estranged sisters, Lindy and Delia. Lindy left their small town at an early age, even though she had planned on staying and running the family fish store. Delia stayed though she had wished to leave and go traveling and then university. I liked each woman in her own way and was rooting for them to reconcile through the whole book.
The author did a good job in creating the tension in the family, then slowly dispelling it through understanding and revelations. I like how the generations were brought in, namely their mother and Delia’s daughter.
The mother was a fantastic character, a once sharp woman who’d had a stroke and was now having troubles with her memory. She was both foggy and sharp, but her (now) no nonsense approach was fun and her flashbacks of joys and regrets were authentic sounding.
The romances in the book were nice and not overdone — they added to rather than took away from or overpowered the story of the sisters and the family that was learning to heal.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book.
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Book Review: Woman 99

Woman 99 by Greer Macallister

A vivid historical thriller about a young woman whose quest to free her sister from an infamous insane asylum risks her sanity, her safety and her life

Charlotte Smith’s future is planned to the last detail, and so was her sister’s – until Phoebe became a disruption. When their parents commit Phoebe to a notorious asylum, Charlotte knows there’s more to the story than madness. Shedding her identity to become an anonymous inmate, “Woman Ninety-Nine,” Charlotte uncovers dangerous secrets. Insanity isn’t the only reason her fellow inmates were put away – and those in power will do anything to keep the truth, or Charlotte, from getting out.

Review:
I found myself drawn into this book right away. Charlotte is a young woman of marriageable age who lives in the 1880s San Francisco and her life laid out for her — her mother is social climbing, her father is always working, she has fallen in love with someone she can’t marry, and her sister, Phoebe, is “difficult”. When Phoebe gets sent to a notorious asylum, Charlotte decides to follow her in order to free her, even if it means breaking the rules and risking her own happiness.
Macallister clearly did her research on asylums of the time as her descriptions of life there feel authentic and not “over the top”. I also loved the relationships that Charlotte developed. It is clear that she loves her sister and that she has a rosy view of her, but she grows and learns at the asylum, meeting and becoming friends with women she never would have even talked to before her experience there.
I also enjoyed the author’s social commentary on “inconvenient” women and how society tries to deal with them — and how many of the women fight back. But she doesn’t shy away from mental illness, either, recognizing that some people do need help because they simply cannot function in society as it is.
Overall, this was a great read that had pretty much everything — sisters, history, loyalty, suspense, romance, rule breaking, risk taking, and some difficult conversations. Woman 99 approaches an interesting time in history, especially as far as mental health is concerned, and does it in an engaging, very readable way.
Thank you to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for the review copy of this book.
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Book Review: Polaris Rising

Polaris Rising (Consortium Rebellion #1) by Jessie Mihalik

A space princess on the run and a notorious outlaw soldier become unlikely allies in this imaginative, sexy space opera adventure—the first in an exciting science fiction trilogy.

In the far distant future, the universe is officially ruled by the Royal Consortium, but the High Councillors, the heads of the three High Houses, wield the true power. As the fifth of six children, Ada von Hasenberg has no authority; her only value to her High House is as a pawn in a political marriage. When her father arranges for her to wed a noble from House Rockhurst, a man she neither wants nor loves, Ada seizes control of her own destiny. The spirited princess flees before the betrothal ceremony and disappears among the stars.
Ada eluded her father’s forces for two years, but now her luck has run out. To ensure she cannot escape again, the fiery princess is thrown into a prison cell with Marcus Loch. Known as the Devil of Fornax Zero, Loch is rumored to have killed his entire chain of command during the Fornax Rebellion, and the Consortium wants his head.

When the ship returning them to Earth is attacked by a battle cruiser from rival House Rockhurst, Ada realizes that if her jilted fiancé captures her, she’ll become a political prisoner and a liability to her House. Her only hope is to strike a deal with the dangerous fugitive: a fortune if he helps her escape.

But when you make a deal with an irresistibly attractive Devil, you may lose more than you bargained for . . .

Review:
I’ve never read a space opera before so I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. Polaris Rising was full of adventure, interesting characters, romance, and great world building.
Ada is strong, both mentally and physically, and can certainly fend for herself. She was raised in a cutthroat political family, but is now on the run, avoiding an arranged marriage. She meets Loch, a famous fugitive, and the sparks fly.
I found this a fun read, though there were times it felt slightly repetitive. There was a lot of detail given to the world building, which was occasionally distracting. This is certainly an adventure novel, full of gun fights, kidnappings, daring escapes, and space travel. It’s easy to get into and get lost in.
The characters were good, even if they felt a little stereotypical — this book was more about the relationships and the adventure than the character development.
Overall, this was an enjoyable read and a good escape from reality.
Thank you to Edelweiss+ and Harper Voyager for the review copy of this book.
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Book Review: Ayesha At Last

Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Pride and Prejudice with a modern twist 

AYESHA SHAMSI has a lot going on.  Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.

When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and his family; and the truth she realizes about herself. But Khalid is also wrestling with what he believes and what he wants. And he just can’t get this beautiful, outspoken woman out of his mind.

Review:
This book was fantastic. I loved the writing, the storytelling, the characters, the ending, and the humour.
Ayesha at Last is a modern Pride and Prejudice retelling set in the Muslim community of Toronto. As a Canadian, I love reading books set in Canada. The novel doesn’t take itself too seriously and Jane Austin fans will find some fun plays on phraseology and themes.
Ayesha is a wonderful character. I felt for her and quickly became engaged with her dilemma — which was about getting married but also about what she really wanted from her life and how to follow her dreams.
Khalid ultimately had a similar dilemma, though he didn’t always think that he did, which really added to the book.
I’d highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a light read with romance, and yet still has other aspects to the story.
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