[713]: Promises to Keep by Genevieve Graham

Today’s post is my stop for Genevieve Graham’s latest, Promises to Keep for Simon & Schuster Canada’s Timeless Tour. For more details, follow the link here.

Promises to Keep
by Genevieve Graham

One of the best things I love about Historical Fiction is that it awakens a hunger in me to learn more. It’s an appetite that forces me to go beyond the storylines and seek the basis of the novel.

After devouring this in practically one sitting, I’ve come to realize that I don’t know much about the history of this great nation. I didn’t go to school here; even though I’ve been living here for 20+ years now. Other than the brief history I needed to learn in order for me to get my Canadian citizenship status; the current events, political or otherwise, my knowledge about this great country of mine is pretty paltry. Thanks to this book, I’ve developed an interest in the Expulsion of the Acadian people in the 17th century. 

On the surface, Promises to Keep is a story about the romantic entanglement between an Acadian and English soldier. But on the large, it’s about the resiliency of the Acadian people at a time when they were forced out of their land and imprisoned in a ship on their way to exile. It is also about the fierce relationship between the Mi’kmaq people and the French Canadians. This was an especially curious interest to me the most.

Over the course of history, all we’ve ever known about the relationships between the indigenous people and the invaders of their land was how it was ripe with contempt and ill will. But the Mi’kmaq people and the French had developed a friendship that left the English confounded. Perhaps it was in this resulting uncanny camaraderie that the Acadian hoped for a better outcome of the invasion.

The Acadian people wanted to believe that they can live in harmony with the English soldiers. They showed little to no resistance; they fed them even. But they would soon realize that the dictates of war offer no such euphony. The English would leave them homeless first, then confined in the bellows of a ship sailing the perilous Atlantic Ocean towards the South.

Before the invasion, Genevieve depicted the idyllic life of the Acadians set in the backdrop of a lush farming land and the giving sea. There were conviviality and togetherness in the small population of Grand Pre. Unfortunately, the serenity would not last. Through her words, she also conveyed their hardship during the invasion. The more often hopelessness of their situation: the hunger, the filth they had to wade through, and their resolve to see through their plight no matter how desperate their situation. 

And amidst this struggle, was the budding and tremulous romance between Amelie and Connor MacDonnell. It’s one that’s forbidden, dangerous but all the more important because their entanglement was the flint the Acadian needed to spark their resistance. MacDonnell was first burdened with a choice between doing his duties as a soldier and doing what’s right for Amelie’s people. But given his history with the British Army, this choice soon became less of a burden but more of the end justifying the means. 

He was once a victim of the English invasion as well. He’s a Scot who had seen and tasted what the English were capable of when they marauded Scotland. After his entire family was killed during the war, he was left with no other choice but to become a soldier in service of the Queen. Even if he was full of hatred for the English. Which is why the decision to betray them even it means his death came to him easily. 

Amelie was a strong woman who had to make hard decisions as well but never did she wallow or second guessed herself knowing what was at stake. She had a fierce love and loyalty to her family; a sense of belonging with the Mi’kmaq people, and love for her land that had given them so much over the years.

I started reading this book at noon on a Sunday. I finished reading it on my ride to work the following day. If you’ve ever considered Historical Fiction boring, Promises to Keep was far from it. Genevieve Graham rendered the most romantic landscape of the East Coast amidst the imperious haze of a brewing war. This book was a measly 300+ pages. But it offered so much perspective and connection to the characters and the history.

Genevieve’s Website | Twitter | Facebook

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[610]: City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong


I am ashamed to admit that I don’t follow too many Canadian authors. I haven’t even read too many of Margaret Atwood’s work. Kelley Armstrong, however, is one that I don’t dare miss. She writes the best thriller in any genre, so when I came across this title, I immediately pounced at the chance to read it.

City of the Lost is the story of Casey Duncan, a detective who found herself on the run because her past came back to haunt her. On top of that, her best friend’s abusive ex found her again and decided to reunite with her the only way he knew how: by beating her to within an inch of her life.  Wanting to hide, they found sanctuary in a town where people come to disappear. In the remote wilderness of Yukon Territory, a sense of an otherworldly danger only the likes of Casey can detect. And it doesn’t take long before she’s entrenched in a series of murder investigations where the suspect roams the inside and outside of the boundary of the forest.

I’m often cautious to recommend a good crime story. But if that’s not your thing, and you’ve decided to see what you’ve been missing, Kelley Armstrong’s work is a great place to start. She somehow manages to entice non-readers to come to the dark side with her tightly-woven mysteries and seemingly stereotypical characters. Don’t get me wrong, stereotypical characters are not always a good thing, but since it’ll be a new territory, it’s oddly comforting.

You’ve got a strong female character who presents a tentativeness that you don’t normally see from heroines in the genre. Casey can kick the living daylights of the bad guys any day, but is a little insecure in some ways. She’s a study in dichotomy, oddly enough. But then again, aren’t they all? I’ve never found her to be confident, even though she’s intelligent and quick on her feet. She’s mild-mannered and even-tempered. Just don’t surprise her or she’ll shoot you first and then ask questions after.

Then, there’s the Sheriff. He was a dick. But this dick grew on me. Hard. (Sorry. I can’t resist). Eric Daulton grew up in this secret town so he has a sense of ownership and is always looking for ulterior motives from any newcomers. Casey was on his shit list at first, but she quickly wins him over with her take-no-shit-from-anybody attitude. This novel features a whole slew of shady characters with shady pasts. And since this Rockton is a place where none of that matters, the investigation was a slow process. I think the only thing I can complain about is tediousness and it wasn’t very forthcoming with clues either. But never fear Casey and Eric’s interactions were torturous fun.

Once again, Kelley didn’t disappoint. She captures the very essence of a good mystery novel in a setting unlike anything I’ve ever read before. This is a first in the series so I’m chomping at the bits to read more. The possibilities are endless for this town of Rockton, the good Sheriff and the detective.

GOODREADS SUMMARY | January 2nd, 2016 | Random House Canada | 



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[605]: Cracked by Barbra Leslie


It’s been driving me mad for weeks. This book arrived at my doorstep weeks ago and still have no clue who sent it. At first, I thought Titan must be connected to Penguin Random House Canada or Simon Schuster. Because they’re the only people who send me unsolicited books for reviews. But I’ve yet to find the connection. If any of you knows, please feel free to enlighten me. In any rate, I’m thankful. Cracked had sparked my long lost love for pulp fiction.


is an unapologetic mess. After her marriage ended, she flitted from alcohol abuse to the oblivion that only drugs can provide. She has no intention of getting clean. Not even when she got a phone call informing her that her twin sister, Ginger was found dead in a seedy motel. Far from the rich neighborhood where she and her perfect family lived.

Armed with the determination to find her killers, Danny, and her brother set out to exact revenge to those responsible. In California, they’ll find their brother in law in jail under suspicion of murder, their nephews missing, and a trail of clues that will lead them to her ex-husband’s shady past.


Reading pulp fiction is always a different experience. Everything is raw and visceral; bloody with a tinge of humor only a few of us would be able to get. Cracked is exactly that. It was dark and ripe with violent tendencies. The heroine works hard to appeal to the reader’s sympathetic side and was somewhat successful for the most part. While I tend to be unforgiving with characters who knowingly walks the path of destruction, I am a bit more generous with those who has gone past the point of no return. Danny, bless her, has fully owned being an addict. It’s the fuel that drives her- the spark that electrifies her. Knowing fully well that it could kill her one day.

This book is not for the faint of heart. It is not afraid to show all its dirty parts. It’s an honest portrayal of a woman whose weakness could very well be what keeps her alive. In that, it’s a dangerous novel, but only to those with no appreciation of what being human is like. Barbara Leslie is a woman who knows a thing or two about being an addict. As someone who’s well on her way to recovery, she’s been in that position before; where the need to use wars with the need to survive.

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[560]: Long Change by Don Gillmor


Long Change / Don Gillmor

“Oil is what holds Western civilization up. It is energy, politics and security. It binds Christians to Arabs. It starts wars and creates wealth.” – pp. 104

To be honest, I don’t know what it was about this book that attracted me when I read the review invite from Random House. Don Gillmor may be a Canadian household name, but I haven’t read any of his book. Moreover, oil is something that doesn’t really appeal to me. The only thing I know about it is, just like money, it’s a necessary evil. It turns out, the industry is that much interesting that I ended up devouring this book in one weekend!

Long Change is the story of one man’s life and loves as it correlates with the dog-eat-dog world of the oil business. Some could argue that his life was dictated by whichever way the oil flows. From the dry heat of Texas, to the frozen tundra of Alberta; and even as far away as the perilous remoteness of Africa, Ritt Devlin’s life was an up and down roller coaster of triumphs and failures.

He escaped the clutches of his abusive, religious father at a young age of 17 in the 50s. From there, he worked in an oilfield in Abilene, Texas. He found himself on the run from the law after an altercation with a group of men looking for trouble. From Texas, he made his way to Alberta where the oil business was just getting off the ground. He also met his great love, Oda. A tall, bookish woman who would show him the love of outdoors and the love of books.

Through the years, he’ll experience great successes and disappointments. And yet even with all that, Ritt kept a cool disposition; never losing his temper or straying away from his goal. He had a way of distancing himself from situations – however minute, or consequential it may be. I almost felt like one of the women that passed by his life after Oda. When he didn’t seem to feel a smidgeon of remorse for not trying hard enough to make a relationship work.

Ritt Devlin has a very passionate relationship with Geology. He understood it, he respected it, and he more or less took advantage of it. Even still, I rooted for him. I wanted him to find the ultimate success that eluded him. This novel had me in its grips. It’s not a suspenseful read, but the power of Gillmor’s writing is that he captures the readers from the first page. He had me interested in an industry that I hate but could not live without.  The plot moved steadily, but with relentless passion. Passion in Ritt’s relationships – personal, business, and more importantly, with the land.

GOODREADS SUMMARY | Random House Canada | August 18th, 2015 | 4 out of 5 Stars



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[490]: The Damned by Andrew Pyper

DSC_0980GOODREADS SUMMARY | Simon & Schuster Canada | ARC, 287 pp. | February 10, 2015 | Adult Fiction | Horror | Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Andrew Pyper’s latest tells the story of a Detroit-native best selling writer who knows a thing or two about dying. Having survived multiple close calls gives him the perspective of what being dead – even for a few minutes – felt like. In this novel, Andrew explores the afterlife, unfinished business and the limitations (or lack thereof) of twin intuition.

Death Becomes Him.

From the moment of birth, Danny and his twin sister Ashley were already familiar with death. When they were born, only one of them came out the womb breathing. You can say that their mother made a bargain with any one listening to save her children. It just so happens that the bargain came with a hefty price. From then on, Ashley has been a different creature altogether.

She seems to have something evil lurking inside her. Her powers of manipulation knows no bounds. She can will anyone to do her bidding; even persuade someone to hurt themselves to the point of suicide. When they were teens, Ashley and Danny died in a house fire. While Ashley stayed dead, Danny, somehow came back wearing their dead mother’s watch; a watch that was buried with her when she died. Everyone’s theory was that Danny was saved by his mother in the afterlife.

His memoir has garnered some nationwide attention. The story of how he almost perished along with his sister in a fire many years ago gave him the morbid reputation of being somewhat of an expert. And while he’s determined to forget about the past, and move on to the land of the living, his dead twin sister refused to let things go.

From the Grave and Beyond.

When Ashley was alive, Danny didn’t have much of a life to speak of. He lived in his sister’s effervescent shadow. But they know something was wrong with her. She’s feared, especially at her own home. Their mom drank herself to oblivion, and ended up drowning in an apparent suicide. Their dad worked all hours just to avoid being at home. When she died, it was almost a huge relief for both Danny and his father. Because then, they’ll be able to live without the every day fear of being around Ashley.

Years go by, Danny couldn’t hack college. He had no social life. Relationships are non-existent. That is, until he meets Willa and her son, Eddie. Now that he’s happy, however, Ashley couldn’t let him have his peace. She starts haunting his little family.  But if there’s one thing Danny understands about restless ghosts, it’s that they have some unfinished business that’s anchoring them to this world. If he ever has any hopes of achieving a peaceful life, he needs to find out what Ashley wants even if he had to die over and over again.

 With One Eye Open.

Sorry for the over long summary. It was the only way I could explain why this book was terrifyingly good. I mean, what’s scarier than a ghost? Hmm. I don’t know. Maybe a psychotic ghost? Ashley was that and more.

I’m the type of person who needs to watch a horror flick in broad daylight. The first time I watched Paranormal Activity, it was one sunny summer afternoon. Even then, I ended up hollering for my husband to turn the tv off. And I ended up sleeping with the lights on for at least a few days.

This book was a freaking nightmare. Sometimes, I had to calm my racing pulse before I could continue reading. It is why it took me a while to finish this less than 300-page novel. If I could read with one-eye open I would. But we all know that’s impossible. There is nothing worst than a violent ghost. And Ashley is the absolute worst.

If you can stomach reading with raised gooseflesh, The Damned is highly recommended. Dark family secrets, sinister vengeful ghost, and a glimpse of the different kinds of hell that await the dearly departed. This spine-tingling book is terrifyingly good!

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