Friday, March 5, 2021

Blog Tour: The Lost Apothecary

Every once and awhile a story comes along that reminds you about how much history has been lost over time. Sarah Penner's debut novel, The Lost Apothecary, was one of those stories. She writes of how a woman in the present tries to unravel the mysteries left behind by two women living centuries ago. 

Here's the book's description:

A forgotten history. A secret network of women. A legacy of poison and revenge. Welcome to The Lost Apothecary…
Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.
Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.
With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters and searing insight, The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating debut novel of secrets, vengeance and the remarkable ways women can save each other despite the barrier of time. 
In the past, I hadn't really thought too much about the process of finding a historical artifact and researching and so on. Probably more than the average person, of course. I do read a ton of historical fiction and watch movies set in the past so, yeah, I'd say I'm interested in how the truth is found. But for the last almost year I've worked at a community museum as a fundraiser. I've learned from my colleagues (curators and archivists) and my own research on how museums run and I couldn't help but wonder how damaging some of Caroline's behaviour would be to the history she found and why she was choosing to withhold some of the information. I can't mention one particular thing because spoilers but there was a moment at the end where I was just about screaming at the book, wondering what the hell she was thinking. All that being said, I could totally identify with her wanting to get to the bottom of the historical mystery. I was fizzing with excitement right alongside with her as she and Gaynor unearthed research and secrets. I also hoped she would realize that she was doing what she was meant to and would change her life so she could keep going along that path.

A bit more about Caroline...she was so very bland. I didn't find myself caring too much about her apart from her being the vehicle that allowed the mystery of the lost apothecary to come to light. I could, to a point, understand why she would have pushed her dreams aside but...I was annoyed too. Her husband had been so selfish as to kind of persuade her to stay and get married instead of pursuing further education after they finished college. Was he that insecure that he couldn't handle her being away for a year when they were in their early twenties to further her career? Was she that blind that she didn't realize that it was totally possible for her to still do her schooling and go back to him? Especially when he said he didn't want kids until he was more on partner track? I couldn't help but feel more frustration than empathy when it came to Caroline. She was fine but she'll be the most forgettable part of this whole story.

I think this also reads a lot like a debut novel. It kind of felt like a bit of an info dump, especially at the start, and I was impatient for the story to get moving. That said, Penner does do a really good job of keeping the suspense and unraveling the mystery. Until the end when it was kind of just...done. Satisfying, mostly, but I find I'm left with a few niggling questions. I liked that Caroline's chapter's didn't reiterate what I had just read from Nella's or Eliza's points of view as that kept the plot going and kept the story from being repetitive.

Nella's and Eliza's stories were the most intriguing and I enjoyed the historical part of the story the most. I don't spend much time reading about the late 1700s but it was an interesting time. Women didn't have a lot of options and lower class women had even fewer. I appreciated that Nella used her registry not just to write down the poisons and remedies sold but also as a record of the women she interacted with. As she said, these women would otherwise be forgotten by society and their names would never be recorded anywhere else. It was a powerful reminder that, while we still have a lot to do to have equality, things have come a long way.

The Lost Apothecary was an enjoyable read but might not be one that stays with me for too long. Sarah Penner's debut novel was interesting enough and I did feel the need to keep reading until I finished the story and figured out the mystery behind the apothecary. 

About the Author
Sarah Penner is the debut author of The Lost Apothecary, to be translated in eleven languages worldwide. She works full-time in finance and is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women's Fiction Writers Association. She and her husband live in St. Petersburg, Florida, with their miniature dachshund, Zoe. To learn more, visit slpenner.com.

Connect with the Author
Website * FacebookInstagramTwitter

Buy the Book
Bookshop.org * IndieBound * Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Audible * Apple Books 
Kobo * Google Play * Books-A-Million * Target * Libro.fm

*An egalley of this novel was provided by the publisher, Park Row Books/HarperCollins, via NetGalley in exchange for a review for the purposes of a blog tour. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Blog Tour: Float Plan


Float Plan
came across my radar in summer 2020. A blogger I've trusted for a long, long time (@greadsbooks on Instagram) talked about this great new book from Trish Doller she had beta read and absolutely loved. It was on NetGalley already so I requested it because it sounded SO GOOD. Fast forward to last weekend when I finally curled up with the book aaaaand...absolutely devoured it. Friends, I honestly can't think of a single thing I did not like about this novel. 

Here's the book's description:
Heartbroken by the loss of her fiancé, adventurous Anna finds a second chance at love with an Irish sailor in this riveting, emotional romance.
After a reminder goes off for the Caribbean sailing trip Anna was supposed to take with her fiancé, she impulsively goes to sea in the sailboat he left her, intending to complete the voyage alone.
But after a treacherous night’s sail, she realizes she can’t do it by herself and hires Keane, a professional sailor, to help. Much like Anna, Keane is struggling with a very different future than the one he had planned. As romance rises with the tide, they discover that it’s never too late to chart a new course.
In Trish Doller’s unforgettable Float Plan, starting over doesn't mean letting go of your past, it means making room for your future.
The novel starts in a really dark space as it begins with Anna's fiance's suicide note. Now, I know the description doesn't get into that but I think it's important that people know upfront that someone dies by suicide in this book. And it's something that Anna has to deal with throughout the novel - that she was the one left behind, that she feels she wasn't good enough to keep Ben alive. It's tough to read and I'm privileged enough that I've never been in that kind of situation so it's important for those who may be triggered by suicide to know before going into this story. Doller makes sure to keep it real while also lightening the story as time passes. Anna's story isn't going to be everyone's story but I appreciated this small insight into how someone might deal with losing their loved one to suicide.

Now, you might be wondering how this book could also be a romance when Anna is reeling from the death of her fiance. Know that it's about ten months since his death. (I know there's no time limit on grief which, I think, is something at least one character says throughout this book.) She may think she's going on this trip because she wants to hold on tight to Ben's memory but she soon realizes - after many, many bumps in the, well, ocean - that maybe this trip was more of a way to find some peace and chart a new course (yep, I went there with the sailing puns). I don't think many authors could find a way to bring a character from deep grief to emerging from grief to finding a new partner as well as Doller did. She approaches it with kindness and compassion which you really feel while you're reading.

Anna is magnificent. She's lost, in so many ways (except literally - she does always know where she's going even if it's a bit of a rough go), but the reader can see the woman she can become through all the grief she's wrapped up in. She's smart and funny and strong and I would love to have a cocktail or two on the beach with her. And as for Keane? Hoo boy, I would love an Irishman on a boat. Don't tell my boyfriend. He was such a great hero - so layered and so kind. Their dynamic was perfection and I fell in love with them both.

I have never felt the urge to sail around anywhere for any length of time on a small sailboat but I found myself really intrigued, and a tad envious, of Anna and Keane's lifestyle as they took the boat around the islands. It was a nice bit of armchair travel to discover some new Caribbean islands right alongside Anna and also revisit a spot I've traveled to before, on a much bigger ship. There's a scene when they arrive in Nassau, Bahamas where I've been twice on two separate cruises. It was nice to be brought back to that moment of sailing into the harbour but also totally being called out for being a tourist by the characters. I am well aware I only saw what tourists see and really appreciated the viewpoints given by the characters in the book.

I hadn't read any of Trish Doller's work before so I came into Float Plan with no real expectations. I was completely blown away and was left feeling so pleased and full of all the warm and fuzzies after I finished the book. It was well-written and so, so enjoyable. I highly recommend everyone reads it! Seriously. Go buy a copy now!


About the author
TRISH DOLLER is the author of novels for teens and adults about love, life, and finding your place in the world. A former journalist and radio personality, Trish has written several YA novels, including the critically acclaimed Something Like Normal, as well as Float Plan, her adult women's fiction debut. When she's not writing, Trish loves sailing, traveling, and avoiding housework. She lives in southwest Florida with an opinionated herding dog and an ex-pirate.

For where to buy the book, click here.

Connect with the author
Instagram and Twitter

*An egalley of this novel was provided by the publisher, St. Martins Press, via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Review: Accidentally Engaged


Accidentally Engaged
was my first Farah Heron novel. I admit I do own a copy of her debut, The Chai Factor, but, for some strange reason, haven't gotten around to reading it yet. After absolutely devouring her latest though? I'll be moving it up the queue.

Here's the book's description:
Reena Manji doesn’t love her career, her single status, and most of all, her family inserting themselves into every detail of her life. But when caring for her precious sourdough starters, Reena can drown it all out. At least until her father moves his newest employee across the hall--with hopes that Reena will marry him.
But Nadim’s not like the other Muslim bachelors-du-jour that her parents have dug up. If the Captain America body and the British accent weren’t enough, the man appears to love eating her bread creations as much as she loves making them. She sure as hell would never marry a man who works for her father, but friendship with a neighbor is okay, right? And when Reena’s career takes a nosedive, Nadim happily agrees to fake an engagement so they can enter a couples video cooking contest to win the artisan bread course of her dreams.
As cooking at home together brings them closer, things turn physical, but Reena isn’t worried. She knows Nadim is keeping secrets, but it’s fine— secrets are always on the menu where her family is concerned. And her heart is protected… she’s not marrying the man. But even secrets kept for self preservation have a way of getting out, especially when meddling parents and gossiping families are involved.
I cannot tell you how much I appreciated that Heron set this novel in Toronto. Too often us Canadian readers find that our authors are encouraged to set their stories somewhere in the US because it's more "relatable" or some such nonsense. I know a lot of American readers who don't care one way or the other so I'm hopeful that soon we'll see even more Canadian cities, and small towns, featured in books published in the US. 

Reena was an absolutely delightful character. She was funny and smart and I constantly found myself wishing we could get together for a beer. (Mmm some of the beer she and Nadim had sounded sooo good.) She by no means had her life figured out and I could definitely identify with that. I was rooting for her the entire way through and hoped she'd find her Happily Ever After for herself (but also, of course, with Nadim because they were just too cute). 

The storyline with the cooking show Reena and Nadim enter was too fun. Food was a big part of this story and will leave you craving bread and delicious meals while you're reading. Me included even though sourdough isn't my favourite kind of bread and a lot of the spices Reena used aren't ones I like. But there we have it! Back to the show. I think it was also more enjoyable for me because I love wholesome cooking shows. Great British (or Canadian) Baking Show? (As it's called over here...Great British Bake Off is the title back in England.) I adore them and they've been a balm during the last year. It was really nice to escape into that kind of cooking competition world, at least a little, in Heron's novel.

Even though this is, technically, a rom com, Heron packs a lot into the story that isn't as lighthearted as a romance may suggest. And I am HERE for it. Reena not only has to deal with overbearing parents but she also has job loss and a spotty relationship track record. Plus, she and her sister have a very complicated relationship and both women have mental health issues that are in various stages of being addressed. Heron has her characters being quite open about most things - even for a story that is full of (sometimes ridiculous) secrets - and I appreciated that. I like my rom coms with a heavy dose of real life and am glad to see more of those being written.

Accidentally Engaged was a delight from start to finish and I definitely recommend contemporary readers check this one out. Farah Heron has given us a smart and entertaining novel that will get under everyone's skin, in the best possible way, and also have everyone craving bread!

*An egalley of this novel was provided by the publisher, HBG Canada/Forever, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Review: First Comes Like


First Comes Like
was my first read from Alisha Rai, even though it's technically third in her Modern Love series. I've seen the others but just never managed to cram them into my reading schedule. I made sure to make the time for Jia's story, though, and I'm really glad I did. I had SO much fun reading it!

Here's the book's description:
Beauty expert and influencer Jia Ahmed has her eye on the prize: conquering the internet today, the entire makeup industry tomorrow, and finally, finally proving herself to her big opinionated family. She has little time for love, and even less time for the men in her private messages—until the day a certain international superstar slides into her DMs, and she falls hard and fast.
There’s just one wrinkle: he has no idea who she is.
The son of a powerful Bollywood family, soap opera star Dev Dixit is used to drama, but a strange woman who accuses him of wooing her online, well, that’s a new one. As much as he’d like to focus on his Hollywood fresh start, he can’t get Jia out of his head. Especially once he starts to suspect who might have used his famous name to catfish her…
When paparazzi blast their private business into the public eye, Dev is happy to engage in some friendly fake dating to calm the gossips and to dazzle her family. But as the whole world swoons over their relationship, Jia can’t help but wonder: Can an online romance-turned-offline-fauxmance ever become love in real life?
One weird thing that drove me bananas was that Jia mentioned several times at the start of the novel (when she's trying to figure out what happened with Dev and why he doesn't know her) that she was very ill recently and still kind of recovering. Her sister, who lives on the other side of the country, was ill with the same thing and still needs to use oxygen. The problem? I have absolutely no idea what illness it was. And it seemed to be such a big part of the reason why the story even had a story (she got back to talking with "Dev" when she was sick) that it was bizarre that it was mentioned so much and then just...left alone. Was it mentioned in the previous stories and that's why I was missing information? Was it supposed to be COVID? If it was, can we please fast forward to the world they're in where everyone can hang out together and fake date? Because it didn't seem like anyone else in the entire world had gotten sick and her illness wasn't that long ago. 

I also wondered if Jia had ever mentioned to her roommates (who are the heroines in the first two novels) that she had been messaging with Dev. That part of the story was...convoluted. And heartbreaking and also infuriating. I kind of found myself waiting for the pair to get past that situation so I could enjoy the rest of the story. 

I went down the rabbit hole of Goodreads reviews because I needed to see how Muslim readers felt about the story. From what I can gather, Rai is not Muslim herself and a lot of readers were worried about how Jia's faith would be portrayed (as they should be). Some readers took issue with it seeming like this was just a check off the Diverse Rom Com List: girl wears hijab - check! girl prays - check! girl does not drink or have premarital sex - check and check! Other readers appreciated those mentions. I'm not going to comment one way or the other but I do think I'll try to find some more reviews from Muslim readers (while understanding that it's not a monolith and one person's experience does not speak for everyone of that faith).

Jia is such an interesting character. She is so warm and engaging but also kind of an introvert, I think. She's wicked smart and so funny. Some of the conversations with Dev and her roommates were too hilarious - I was giggling out loud when she and Dev went to an art show together as they poked fun at the abstract art. She's also such a kind person. You can see that when she interacts with, well, just about anyone, but especially her roommates. There's a really enviable bond there and made me miss my friends and former university roommates. 

First Comes Like isn't a story that lends itself to a picked apart review, to be completely honest. It's not a perfect story but it was perfect for me at the time I was reading it. I loved Jia and had a lot of fun reading her story and hoping for a Happily Ever After for her. It was fun and smart and I look forward to reading Alisha Rai's backlist and whatever she writes next.

*An egalley of this novel was provided by the publisher, Avon, via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Review: Ladies of the House


I'm a Jane Austen fan who enjoys reading (and watching) adaptations of Austen's work. Not everyone does, and that's OK. (I'm more forgiving of adaptations in general than some readers, I find.) So, I figured I'd have a good time reading Lauren Edmondson's debut novel, Ladies of the House, which is a modern day retelling of Sense and Sensibility. I was wrong. I had a great time reading it. It might be my love of Austen influencing me but I absolutely adored this book from start to finish.

Here's the description:
No surprise is a good surprise. At least according to thirty-four-year-old Daisy Richardson. So when it’s revealed in dramatic fashion that her esteemed father had been involved in a public scandal before his untimely death, Daisy’s life becomes complicated—and fast.
For one, the Richardsons must now sell the family home in Georgetown they can no longer afford, and Daisy’s mother is holding on with an iron grip. Her younger sister, Wallis, is ready to move on to bigger and better things but falls fast and hard for the most inconvenient person possible. And then there’s Atlas, Daisy’s best friend. She’s always wished they could be more, but now he’s writing an exposé on the one subject she’s been desperate to avoid: her father.
Daisy’s plan is to maintain a low profile as she works to keep her family intact amid social exile, public shaming, and quickly dwindling savings. But the spotlight always seems to find the Richardsons, and when another twist in the scandal comes to light, Daisy must confront the consequences of her continued silence and summon the courage to stand up and accept the power of her own voice.
Like with any adaptation, Edmondson cut some characters and combined others. Some storylines were removed and adjusted to fit the flow of a modern story. It's been a few years since I've read Sense and Sensibility (and about as long since watching Emma Thompson's excellent movie adaptation), so I could only really recall the broad strokes of Austen's novel anyway. And those were the strokes that Edmonson made sure to make. Her Willoughby was perfection and Beau (aka Colonel Brandon) was wicked smart and an absolute sweetheart, just as he should be. The relationship between the sisters (only two - no youngest sister to be found in this story) and their mother was much better and healthier than I think Austen had ever written - but I loved that. Give me a great sister story and I'm happy - even happier when they get along well with their mother. There was a great scene in this story when Daisy and her mother, Cricket, wander around the National Gallery of Art. She says that she'd forgotten her mother was her ideal museum companion, since her father didn't care and her sister, Wallis, always zoomed through. I can't remember the last time I would have been at an art museum with my mom, certainly not as an adult, but the scene struck me so deeply and I wished the world wasn't locked down so I could go on an art adventure with my mom.

Speaking of the National Gallery of Art, there were a few scenes sprinkled throughout the story that would appeal to those wishing to do a bit of armchair traveling. The majority of the Washington, D.C. the reader gets is very political (which I enjoyed a lot) but there are a few moments where the reader, if they've visited the city like I have, will recognize attractions and be able to exactly picture the setting. 

The story, separate of all things Austen, is a gem. It is smart and amazingly feminist. I loved that Daisy was just a year older than me and absolutely killing it on the Hill. (Equally great was that the story wasn't super bogged down in politics.) I also freaking adored that she took no bullshit from Blake (aka Willoughby) at the end of the novel when he was trying to wrangle an apology out of her simply because his white frat boy self thought he deserved one. The epilogue gave me chills and I think I'm going to have to reread it a couple more times because of how powerful I felt it was. (No quotes here because 1. it's the epilogue and therefore the very end of the book and 2. I only have an advanced copy and can't confirm the finished text.) Wallis and Daisy had such a great sisterly relationship and I wished I could be their friend. 

You don't have to be a fan of Jane Austen to love Lauren Edmondson's debut novel - though Janeites will enjoy the nods to Sense and SensibilityLadies of the House is smart, entertaining, heartwarming, and feminist. I loved reading it and I think a lot of others will too. I can't wait to read what she writes next.

*An egalley of this novel was provided by the publisher, Graydon House/Harlequin, via NetGalley, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Review: A Stranger in Town


I'm finding it difficult to acknowledge that Kelley Armstrong's Rockton series will be coming to an end soon. Maybe it's because I hadn't quite realized before the Q&A I did with her (read it here) that there would likely only be seven books. A Stranger in Town, released just last week, is book six. I also didn't get into the series until the fourth book so I haven't had as long with the characters and I'm just not ready to let go of this great mystery series yet!

Here's the book summary:
Detective Casey Duncan has noticed fewer and fewer residents coming in to the hidden town of Rockton, and no extensions being granted. Her boyfriend, Sheriff Eric Dalton, presumes it’s the natural flux of things, but Casey’s not so sure. Something bigger is happening in the small town they call home.
When an injured hiker stumbles from the woods, the sole survivor of a hostile attack, it’s all hands on deck. Even a member of the elusive Rockton council comes in to help. This council member also comes bearing news: Rockton is being shut down due to the hostile situation.
Casey and Eric must now race to save the town that has allowed residents to have a fresh start, away from the mistakes of their past, while also getting to the bottom of this latest attack.
You might know that I don't often reread a synopsis before reading a book I've requested for review. In the case of A Stranger in Town, I don't even think I read it before saying, YES PLEASE. I'm so thankful the publisher sought me out (it seems to have changed publishers since the last book's release...) because I'm loving this series so much. So that means that the description, which I've now read, contained a lot of info that I didn't know before I started reading (other than someone stumbling into town - the title kind of gave that one away). I especially like to stay in the dark with mysteries because I don't want any preconceived ideas to get into my head, even if it's one the publisher is allowing out into the world. Which also makes reviewing these types of books tricky because I don't want to give anything away either!

I had absolutely no idea how the mystery was going to resolve itself. None. I couldn't figure out the links and instead of wishing I could keep up with Casey and Dalton's minds, I just rolled with it, trusting them, and Armstrong, to keep me guessing (and wondering and worrying and on the edge of my seat and entertained) until the end when everything would come together. I wasn't expecting quite as much of a big, red bow as I got but that has me more excited now for what's to come. (Excited might be the wrong word. It will not be easy and I'm sure Casey will have at least one more dead body to deal with.)

I also love the characters you meet in Armstrong's series. Yes, there are multiple books so you spend a lot of time with them and learn a lot about them, but Armstrong has a knack for letting you into their world and allowing you to really get to know them. None of them are one-dimensional, stereotypical characters. There are layers to everyone, even those who just get a passing mention in the story, and the reader learns more about them as they begin to trust and open up more to each other. That, in turn, makes the reading experience even more enjoyable.

The location was, as always, a character itself. I haven't been to the Yukon but my sister worked two summers at a camp on the Alaskan highway. It definitely wasn't as remote as Rockton (you can actually find it on a map) but her stories and pictures help make these novels come even more alive for me. An amusing anecdote before I close this review: chapter 22 begins with Casey and Dalton heading to Lynx Lake. Casey mentions that "the Yukon isn't a zoo" and many southerners don't realize that wildlife, lynx included, aren't wandering around for the tourists' enjoyment. My sister had a hell of a time spotting a moose in the wild so I snapped a pic of the paragraph and sent it to her. She enjoyed it as much as I thought she would. And what pops up on her Instagram feed the next day? This timely post from Travel Yukon.

I have a feeling I know some of what's coming in the next (last???) Rockton novel. A Stranger in Town did wrap a lot of things up, which was great, but also has left me wondering (and worrying) about what on earth is going to happen next. I cannot wait to see what Kelley Armstrong has up her sleeve for the residents of Rockton.

*An egalley of this novel was provided by the Canadian distributor, Raincoast Books, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Review: The Paris Library


I had been sitting with my copy of Janet Skeslien Charles' The Paris Library for almost a year before I finally read it. You see, the book was originally supposed to be released in 2020 but was only just published this month. I was even lucky enough to be able to get a physical ARC at the last event I attended in early March 2020 before the world shut down. I enjoyed hearing from Skeslien Charles herself and looked forward to reading her book. Fast forward eleven months and I enjoyed my time spent getting lost in Paris as I read the novel.

Here's the synopsis:
Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.
Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.
A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are—family, friends, and favorite authors—The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.
The cover and opening chapters of this novel are completely swoonworthy. Odile is a bookworm, desperate to work in her favourite place: the American Library in Paris. I completely identified with her love of reading, and even with hoping she'd be able to work at the library where she feels most at home as my first job was at my hometown library and I adored it. Skeslien Charles did the library (where she had worked herself years ago) credit and I really felt like I was there with Odile and the whole cast of characters who loved the library as much as she did. This love of books and the library being a sacred space was my favourite part of the whole novel.

This is a quiet historical novel. There isn't a whole lot that seems to happen - there are no battles being fought here - but everything changes over the course of the story. As the war begins, things gradually get deteriorate until Paris is occupied and German soldiers are crawling all over the city and imposing rules that impacted all citizens and the library. And things get even worse from there. Jewish subscribers were no longer welcome in the library and Miss Reeder (the real life American directress at the time) could not let that stand. The librarians arranged to deliver books to those who were no longer allowed into the library and continued to send books to soldiers when they could. It seems like such a small thing but they were risking their lives by doing this. They could have been arrested, or worse, for providing reading material, of all things, to Jewish subscribers or by having a banned book in their possession. Other libraries and museums had been pillaged already by the Nazis and Miss Reeder made sure to have some of their collection hidden in case their library was next. As we're learning now, during this pandemic, culture isn't going to cure us of COVID-19. It isn't going to feed us or find housing and safety for those who need it. But it is important for our mental wellbeing and we need libraries, and other institutions like them, to be around when we're finally able to emerge from this world we're living in right now. I think the librarians knew that, too.

I didn't like the dual timeline. I'm being increasingly picky when there is a historical and a present-ish day storyline woven together. I want it to have purpose and I didn't really feel like Lily's story in 1980s Montana really had a purpose. I wanted to know more about Odile and the secrets that she was apparently keeping but Lily's story didn't hook me. It was sort of clunky too and just didn't flow well. I would have much rather the story be told chronologically. Maybe in parts with the final part in 1983 as Lily helped Odile finally lay her ghosts to rest. I think this was a huge part of why I didn't like the book more than I did. I didn't want to be taken out of the story and I was whenever a chapter from the eighties came up. 

I wanted to love The Paris Library but it didn't quite make it. I would still recommend Janet Skeslien Charles' novel for those who want a different perspective on World War II and how difficult it would have been to live in Occupied Paris. I look forward to what she writes next!

*An ARC of this novel was provided by the publisher, Simon & Schuster Canada, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*