Beyond the Wild River (Sarah Maine)

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For fans of Kate Morton and Beatriz Williams, a highly atmospheric and suspenseful historical novel, set in the 1890s about a Scottish heiress who unexpectedly encounters her childhood friend in North America, five years after he disappeared from her family’s estate the night of a double murder.

Nineteen-year-old Evelyn Ballantyre has rarely strayed from her family’s estate in the Scottish Borderlands, save for the occasional trip to Edinburgh, where her father, a respected magistrate, conducts his business—and affairs of another kind. Evelyn has always done her duty as a daughter, hiding her boredom and resentment behind good manners—so when an innocent friendship with a servant is misinterpreted by her father as an illicit union, Evelyn is appalled.

Yet the consequence is a welcome one: she is to accompany her father on a trip to North America, where they’ll visit New York City, the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and conclude with a fishing expedition on the Nipigon River in Canada. Now is her chance to escape her cloistered life, see the world, and reconnect with her father.

Once they’re on the Nipigon, however, Evelyn is shocked to discover that their guide is James Douglas, the former stable hand and her one-time friend who disappeared from the estate after the shootings of a poacher and a gamekeeper. Many had assumed that James had been responsible, but Evelyn never could believe it. Now, in the wilds of a new world, far from the constraints of polite society, the truth about that day, James, and her father will be revealed…to stunning consequences.

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Last year I read and reviewed Maine’s debut novel, The House Between Tides, which turned out to be one of my favourite books in 2017. So I was eager to read this new book, Beyond the Wild River, which is set in the late 1800s in Canada.

Unfortunately this book set a much slower pace and I had a very difficult time getting through it. It seemed to take forever for the hunting party to reach Canada and come across James. There was a lot of build up to this point, and I just lost interest in the story.

For avid fans of historical fiction, this book would probably be an amazing new story. I do believe that the author is a great writer. This book just didn’t do it for me.

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The Undomestic Goddess – a review

Sophie Kinsella is my favourite contemporary British author. She’s writes humourous chick lit, and let me tell you, it is hard to find funny adult books!

My favourite aspects of her novels is their lightheartedness and silliness, and that they are such quick reads. You can breeze through one in an evening, or pick it up and continue from where you left off three weeks ago, no backtracking required.

Here are the deets:

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Workaholic attorney Samantha Sweeting has just done the unthinkable. She’s made a mistake so huge, it’ll wreck any chance of a partnership.

Going into utter meltdown, she walks out of her London office, gets on a train, and ends up in the middle of nowhere. Asking for directions at a big, beautiful house, she’s mistaken for an interviewee and finds herself being offered a job as housekeeper. Her employers have no idea they’ve hired a lawyer–and Samantha has no idea how to work the oven. She can’t sew on a button, bake a potato, or get the #@%# ironing board to open. How she takes a deep breath and begins to cope–and finds love–is a story as delicious as the bread she learns to bake.

But will her old life ever catch up with her? And if it does…will she want it back?

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I envy Samantha. She walks out of her old life and mindlessly, accidentally finds a fabulous new one. And yes it is quite a mess at first. She has to work really hard to learn new skills and smooth over seemingly impossible situations but she does so with grace and never doubts her ability to overcome new challenges.

I constantly doubt myself and certainly don’t seem to have the fire that Samantha feels inside, even at her lowest point.

The number of times I’ve wanted to just walk out of my life, get on a train and make a fresh start somewhere else… ! I feel like I get the chance to live a little vicariously through Sam.

I admire her ability to turn a fresh start into a really positive life, building a network of new friends and family around her and you can see where her life is heading at the end of the book. It takes great confidence to turn your back on something you have been working towards for your entire life when you realize that it isn’t what you really want, and to re-invent yourself. Particularly when everyone from that old life tells you that you’re crazy.

Highly recommend this one for a light read.

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Shopaholic to the Rescue – a review

I am a huge fan of British women’s lit author Sophie Kinsella. She has written numerous stand-alones but is probably most well known for her lengthy Shopaholic series, featuring shopaholic protagonist Becky. She gets herself into the most outrageous situations, but you always forgive her because she has a genuine heart, great sense of humour and indomitable spirit. I like Becky, silly as she can be. She’s plucky and lives life to the fullest.

Shopaholic to the Rescue is the most recent instalment in the series and I think it is the eighth book. It is written much more differently from the early books in the series, in the best way. Becky has matured, become more self-aware and introspective since her early 20s, and good thing too. You won’t find tallies of shopping hauls or passerbys’ outfits in “to the Rescue”.

Before I get too in-depth, here’s the blurb.

to the rescue

Becky Bloomwood and a hilarious cast of beloved family and friends (plus one enemy!) set off in a van to find her missing father, last heard from in Las Vegas.

Becky’s father Graham and her best friend’s husband, Tarquin, have disappeared from Los Angeles saying simply they have “something to take care of.”

But Tarquin’s wife Suze who is Becky’s best friend, and Becky’s mother Jane, are convinced the two men are hiding something and are in danger—their imaginations run wild. They must track them down!

Hijinks ensue as husband Luke drives Becky, daughter Minnie, Jane, Suze and other favourite Kinsella characters across country from LA to Las Vegas in search of the missing men.

Becky feels deeply guilty about ignoring her father while he was in LA, in addition Becky feels her enemy Alicia is threatening her friendship with Suze.

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** minor spoilers in this review **

This was my favourite book in the Shopaholic series.  I actually sat on it for about a month before reading because I detested the previous book and was worried it would ruin the series for me if I disliked to the Rescue as well, but once I started, I couldn’t put it down. Cue laughing out loud on page one. Not to mention staying up til 3am to finish. Shhhh, let’s not share that particular point, okay?

I think what set this one apart from the others is that the focus wasn’t on the trouble Becky finds for herself. Although she blames herself for the problems, she isn’t to blame and after seven books fixing her mistakes, it is refreshing to see Becky has grown into a more mature and responsible version of her youthful self, and that sometimes that “perfect” friend can dig herself into a real doozy of a hole.

I also loved two specific things about “Rescue”.

Luke and Becky are in the best place they have ever been, as a couple. After seeing so many people try to tear them apart in the past, and the two of them struggling to make it work through the bad, it was a relief to see that they are in such a good place, since I just know they are meant for one another.

Secondly, all your favourite characters are liberally included across the plot and it’s awesome. This almost feels like a “reunion” book. Sometimes Becky and Luke exist in a bubble and people only briefly pass through, but everyone is there throughout this time (even Alicia Bitch Long Legs).

I definitely recommend picking this book up. The whole series is great but you could probably read this without reading the others if you wanted. It almost felt as if Kinsella was closing the series on this one, but I feel like there is one story left to tell. Hopefully we’ll get to read it.

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