The Keepers of Metsan Valo by Wendy Webb

“Wendy Webb brings the mystical … the what ifs, every single time. You can always count on a bit of magic in one form or another and it’s one of the things I so love about her books.”
~Sheila

Anni Halla is once again returning to Mersan Valo, her family home set on Lake Superior where she holds many of her fondest memories. This time however, it is because her cherished Grandmother Takia, keeper of the most whimsical stories, has passed away, and Anni is angry at herself for not having returned sooner.


As the family slowly arrives for the final goodbye and the reading of the will, Anni is joined by her twin brother Theo, her mother Arden, Aunt Gloria as well as cousins and other family members – all with an assortment of reasons to be there – some more honorable than others.


As they settle in, strange occurrences start to happen – although that in itself is not unusual for those who have spent time ay Metsan Valo, especially for the twins. This time however, there is something off, almost sinister in the air, leaving Anni wondering how much of her Grandmothers stories were actually stories, and what is to happen now that the storyteller is gone.

Wendy Webb once again does not disappoint. I know I am always in for a read that will have me thinking long after that final page is turned. I love not only the stories, but the bonus of having the settings in areas that are familiar to me just adds to the mystical journey.

I enjoyed this tale centered around folklore. It made me think of my own Great Grandmother and the tales she used to tell as I sat raptured as a child with my head filled with the imagery of her words. The Keepers of Metsan Valo brings with it not only colorful, but likable characters (even the ones you kind of at times.. don’t like so much). A recommended read and one I very much enjoyed sinking into while on vacation.

Book Club Worthy? You bet! There is much to discuss surrounding folklore, tales handed down through the generations, your own strange encounters, as well as a lot of tasty food mentioned that would be fun to make as well.


Wendy Webb is the author of many delectable gothic suspense reads. She resides in my home state of Minnesota.

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

I loved it… and then it changed… and then I loved it again. ~Sheila

Fifteen seconds. That’s all it takes to completely change everything about a person. Fifteen seconds that we’ll never get back.

Lily’s life was never one you would define as easy – in fact, it is probably anything but. And that is exactly how we find her in the opening of this book – on an apartment building rooftop contemplating the non-eulogy she has just completed that afternoon as Ryle Kincaid walks into her life.

Ryle is a neurosurgeon and looking for a little mental break on the roof that evening and Lily can not help but notice he is not hard on the eyes. While they have a friendly chat, Ryle is very clear that he does not believe in relationships beyond a night – and Lily is very clear that is not something she would ever be interested in. The two of them part ways with no intentions of ever running into one another again.

Until they do.

As a friendship starts with a possibility for more – Lily finds that for the first time in a long time she can imagine a future with an incredible guy. When an unexpected blast from the past turns up, Lily is left with more questions than answers and finds that everything she believed is about to be twisted in ways one could not imagine.


This is my first book of the year. First Book for me doesn’t work like it used to where I usually have that book read within a day or two of the new year. Nope. Between work and life commitments sitting down with a book is not as often as I would like… which is why here we are a week into the new year and I have just finished my first book.

You know those books that grab you right from the first page? This is such a book. I started reading it on a plane two days ago with every intention to read a bit and then sleep as the day had started at an ungodly early time…. yet the book grabbed me in such a way I could not put it down. I read the entire 3 hours on the plane, and then again that evening and finished by a pool in Florida yesterday afternoon.

I absolutely loved the flow of the book and loved where it was going.

and then it turned.


With that turn I didn’t see coming and didn’t want to happen, I suddenly was unsure of how I felt about the book. I wanted it to be a fluke and keep on the way it had started.

But it wasn’t. And it didn’t.

And then, I loved the book again – for a whole lot of other reasons. I loved its strength and its hard truth – and Lily for being… Lily.

I believe this is my first Colleen Hoover book. It will not be my last. I highly recommend this book for so many reasons. It will leave you wanting to talk about it. It will leave you with something more than when you started.

~Sheila

First Book Update and What’s Up 2022!

Happy 2022 ya all! I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend and are ready to roll into this new year with good thoughts, intentions, and of course – good reads.

I updated the First Book post this morning to add in the pics that came in yesterday. Check it out – the list is a good one and I picked up a few new reads for myself as well.

In my pic, I have my Bookish Secret Santa gift that I am so excited about! This is Author Wendy Webb’s latest book, The Keepers of Metsan Valo. I love Wendy. She is a Minnesota Author and I have hung out with her several times (a couple of those times at Wine and Words!). Wendy writes fantastic Gothic Suspense books and I believe I have read everything she has written.

This book, along with a few others I will be chatting with you about over the next few days, will be going with me to Florida later this week when I get a little sun time for 10 glorious days. I love that our vacation is so early this year – for one… 2021 was a HARD work year with many weeks working 70 to 80+- hours a week as an Event Coordinator and I can really use the reset. Secondly, starting a new year with time to actually read always inspires me to get back into the routine of blogging here and sharing all the things – which I miss doing, however, time does not always allow.
Perhaps… this is the year.

Is this time of year a good time for you to read? Is there a season where you tend to read more?

Check out Wendy Webb here!

~ Sheila

First Book 2022

This is the 9th year of First Book and it is one of the staples that keep this blog (me) going. Whenever life takes over and this space, unfortunately, goes quiet… every January I am renewed with this post and all the book lovers and great books that people are choosing for their first book of the year.

That said….

This is also the most unorganized duck-taped-together First Book Event I have ever hosted in the 9 years of doing so. I hardly promoted this year – one post here and one post on my Facebook Page. Goodreads no longer allow you to set up events and notify people so that great source was lost. Many of the personal contacts I make to friends, family, Authors, my book club…. didn’t happen this year due to work, commitments, and just honestly, overall exhausted from a really FULL event season. And yet here I am smiling today as I look at your pictures and see the books – or see you joining again because you love this event. While this is the smallest grouping of all the years, I am still thrilled that so many of you remembered even without my cheerleading and reminders.

So, I bring you a day late (Grandbaby in my life now- throws my timing off in so many good ways 🙂 ) The 2022 First Books. If you missed out you can still send to me through Facebook, text, or email me at sdechantal@gmail.com – if I missed any of you I apologize, I searched through all my contact options to make sure I had everyone -however if I did miss you, just let me know and I will update.

Happiest of the New year to you. My word for 2022 is: JOY (I want to seek it, find it, remove things in my life that don’t provide it, and bring it and share it as often as I can).

(The Book list is below the pictures)



A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
An Impossible Imposter by Deanna Raybourn
A Sinister Service by Alyssa Maxwell
The Shell Collector by Nancy Naigle
Collected Stories by Shirley Hazzard
State of Terror by Hillary Rodman Clinton and Louise Penny x3
The Night Shift by Alex Finlay
Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim
The Collection Of Narnia by CS Lewis
The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris
Crying In H Mart by Michelle Zauner
The Silent Sisters by Robert Dugoni
The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo
The Case For A Creator by Lee Strobel
The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
Crossroads by Jonathon Franzen x2
New Years Kiss by Lee Matthews
Janesville An American Story by Amy Goldstein
The Sentence by Louise Penny x2
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
The Witcher: The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski, Danusia Stok
My Darling Husband by Kimberly Belle
Honor by Thrity Umrigar
The Attic On Queen Street by Karen White
The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams
The Art Of Living by Epictetus
The Things We Cannon Say by Kelly Rimmer
Waiting For Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
End Of Days by Brad Taylor

A History Of Violence by Edouard Louis
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The Last Bookseller by Gary Goodman
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Huntress by Kate Quinn
Prodigal Son by Greg Hurwitz
Christmas By The Book by Anne Marie Ryan
Our Country Friends by Gary Shteyngart
The House In The Cerulean Sea by T J Klune
Matrix by Lauren Groff
Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson
Cul-De-Sac by Joy Fielding
Dreams of Falling by Karen White
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling (20th Anniversary edition)
The Final Girl’s Support Group by Grady Hendrix
Charlotte’s Web by EB White
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
The Sum Of Us bu Heather McGhee
Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan
Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain
The Childrens Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin
The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont
Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman

A nice variety this year with a couple duplicates with two of Louise Penny’s books and also Franzen’s, Crossroads. A few new to me titles that inspired me to add them to my TBR list and I hope the same for those of you. You will see I show up not once, but twice when I could not get out of my head that I really wanted to read the Sorcerer’s Stone again. I am experiencing a lot of nostalgia this time of year and the Harry Potter Reunion Special that aired last night did not help as I laugh-cried my way through it.
Here is to a great year of reading. I hope (hope hope!) that I will be more active here and take more time to pick up a book than I did this previous year.
Cheers to you – Kings and Queens and all Royalty of the written word.

~Sheila

The 9th Annual First Book Event

Oh yeah… It’s happening.
It has been quite a year of long workdays, lots of hours, and trying to find a balance between work, family,-friends, and a little time for just me. This space at Book Journey has been long neglected as I just did not have it in me to write a review.

But… We are not done here.
This is one of my favorite events of the year and was I going to miss it when people started asking if it was happening again this year?
No way. We are soooooooooooo doing this.

So what is First Book?  First Book is the first book you plan on reading in the New Year.  It can be a long-coveted read you have not had time for, a guilty pleasure read like a re-read of a favorite…  really it can be anything – it is, after all, YOUR First Book.

Make it AWESOME.

Then, once you have picked what it will be, email/ Facebook message/ text me a picture of you with the book (send it to sdechantal@gmail.com).  This adds to the excitement of the First Book.  You have between now and December 31st to send in your choice.  On January 1st I will post all the pics in a collage format of all of you around the world that are doing First Book.  I do hope you will join me – friends, family, fellow book lovers, a friend of a friend of a friend… you there in the corner looking at this crazy site for the first time – you as well.  I enjoy putting this together every year and seeing all the great books and pics come in really makes my heart smile.

Here are just a few of the over 100 books that came in last year:

And yeah… that’s just a few.
I do hope you will join in. It is fun to see friends and authors who participate as well as people from all over the world.

Be well.
~Sheila

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Think Clue on steroids ~Sheila

Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered.

It is the 1920’s and Aiden Bishop wakes up in a forest calling out in terror, the name of a person he does not know.

He is also in a body he does not know.

After a harrowing experience, he makes his way to a nearby home, only to find out that everyone there knows him as this someone else, and apparently he was a guest there at the previous nights party. As he attempts to puts things together he discovers that each time he sleeps, he awakens as a different guest – all the while trying to solve the murder that takes place – apparently EVERY SINGLE DAY.

I kind of feel like it is the year of the maps! This is the third book I have read recently that had a map in it! Love it!


So….
Picture yourself as a pawn in the game CLUE. You are put in a cup and you are shaken about and dropped onto the board as a guest to solve the crime….

Yet, every so often, you are tossed back in the cup, shaken up and dropped back in the game as a different pawn, trying to device what you have already learned from your past-pawn experience, as well as put things together as this new pawn…
and then..

it happens again.
and again.

And again.
and…

You get the picture. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is like that. With each new body Aiden encompasses, he learns a little more, being able to use this body so to speak, to find out things that perhaps in the previous body he could not. The trick is of course, that none of this is in any kind of order – so some things he is experiencing too early to understand, and some things might make sense much later.

Yeah.

It’s like that.

In some ways, this book is brilliant. I listened to this on audio (incredible narration!) and found myself in bewilderment of the authors mind to come up with all of this AND keep it all straight as you weave back and forth and sideways through the guest list. I do like me a good who-done-it.

However as time went on, my mind was so tangled in the details and repetitions that it started to feel LLLLOOOONNNGGGG. Just when I thought we were close, we were not…

Honestly, I am not entirely sure what I feel about this book. I am glad I had the opportunity to experience it. It sounds like NETFLIX will have this as a series and yes, I will certainly give it an attempt to see if all things click better visually. In the end, I feel I am left with more questions than answers.

I am actually uber curious to see what others thought of this book and look forward to our discussion on June 21st on ZOOM with the Books Burgers and Brews group.

All are welcome – if you would like to get in on this book discussion feel free to register here. There is a pretty good chance I will dress the part. ;P

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

In eighteenth century London, a secret Apothecary Shop lends a hand to those in need in a very unusual way… women with a cheating spouse just need to seek out Nella who will give these ladies a little something something to make sure they never stray again… or breath for that matter…
When a young girl names Eliza comes to the shop, she is looking for more than a cure, she wants to learn the art of potions, and while Nella feels that no good can come of this – she can not deny the strange connection she feels towards the girl. Unknowingly, together, they will make history.

In present time, Carolyn Parcewell finds herself in London experiencing her ten year anniversary – alone. After recently discovering her husband’s infidelity, she takes their planned trip anyway – looking for distance and time to sort through her feelings. Having a love of history, she finds herself frequenting the local library and researching information on an aged apothecary bottle she found in the river while taking a walk. Her research connects her to London’s unsolved murders and a chance to put her mind on something other than her own personal stuff. As Caroline continues her investigating, she uncovers a long forgotten mystery that will bind her to Nella and Eliza forever.

I love book maps!

The Lost Apothecary has a little bit of magic. A little bit of mystery. AND a whole lot of fun historical happenings. I loved the back and forth of early London and the secrets of the Apothecary and its mission to help wronged women (well… most of them anyway – I don’t want to go give too much away 😉 ) and then forward to Carolyn’s story as she stumbles on long-buried secrets that lead her to the history of this very Apothecary.

Sarah Penner’s debut novel is an engaging read that I found myself seeking out whenever I had the time. I was impressed with the nice flow of the two timelines, in particular when what was happening in eighteenth-century London, was what Carolyn was discovering with her research at the same time. Nice touch, Sarah.


Overall I feel the book is worth the attention it is getting. The Lost Apothecary made the New York Times best Seller’s list seven weeks in a row, debuting at #7. It is currently being translated into 30 languages.

If I had one tiny complaint, it would be that it wrapped up too quickly. I know all good things must come to an end but I was finishing this one on audio and all of a sudden ending credits were playing and I thought I had missed something. I actually went back to listen to the last chapter again. I guess I expected more. Of course, all will be forgiven if that just means there may be a follow up book 🙂

I read this for our June book club discussion and already am contemplating ideas of bottled “potions” and something…
a little magical.

Worth the read? You bet.

Check our Sarah Penner here.

Troubles In Paradise by Elin Hilderbrandt

After all the turmoil surrounding the uncovering of Irene Steele’s husband Russ’, double life, Irene is trying to start again in St. John. Yet a visit from the FBI once again throws a wrench in the plans and reminds Irene that she really knew very little about the man she had spent her life with.

As things unfold, evidence leads to the knowledge that the crash that killed Russ may now have been the accident everyone was lead to believe. With the help of her friends and her son’s, Irene will face this storm as well.

It’s no secret that I adore Elin Hildebrandt’s books. This is the third book in the Paradise trilogy and for me it was taking a trip to a a beautiful space filled with sunshine, beach air, and old friends. The perfect read for this time of year as I crave more sunlight and days with nothing more to commit to then a good read and a lot of iced tea.

Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

In 1943 Milan, Italy, Pino Lella has no interest in the war. At seventeen, he was about hanging with his friends and what girl he could get to catch his eye.

In a matter of hours, this would all change.

As the air raid sirens wailed, and destruction rained down on Milan, Pino Lella’s world changed for forever. And he had no idea what important role he would play in it.

We read this book in May of 2021 for Books Burgers and Brews. Honestly, this is a book I most likely would not have ever picked up. 434 pages in book format on the war? 17 hours and 43 minutes on audio? Not exactly what I would run to pick up.

And isn’t this one of the many beauties of book clubs? You find something you would have never read on your own…

The historical fiction story of Pino Lella is an amazing one. Pino is a quiet war hero and plays a role in saving many Jews from Hitler’s ruling in many ways.

The story flows well in both book and audio format ( I did a little of both, more audio then book as it fit better into my schedule), both are highly recommended.

This book is an amazing read no matter how much is fictionalized to fill in the gaps from the Authors meetings with Pino.

You may recognize Author Mark Sullivan’s name from his writing with James Patterson.

Feel free to join us VIA ZOOM on June 21st for our discussion of Stuart Turton’s book, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

The Other Emily by Dean Koontz

Essence of Koontz’ Frankenstein series

Writer David Thorne still grieves the tragic loss of his beloved Emily. Even though it has been ten years, David still can not get the images out of his head of her being taken all those years ago when her car broke down on the side of the road, presumably another of serial killer Ronny Lee Jessup’s victims.


He should have been with her… this never would have happened if he had only been there. He should have been there.

Then on chance, David meets Maddison Sutton. She is beyond beautiful, intelligent, playful – but what really shakes David to the core is that she is everything like Emily, right down to her expressions, toss of her hair, and even her kisses. Yet that is impossible. Emily would be older now, and Maddison looks like the girl David last seen a decade ago. As much as David wants to believe this is his second chance, he can not let go of that sickening gut feeling that something is terribly wrong. David must decide if the fantasy is worth looking the other way or must he continue to do what he has done for the last ten years and search for the truth no matter how painful it is.

SO….. I am a long time Koontz fan. Long before I was writing about books here ( so , before 2009 – eep!) I was reading Koontz. As years went by his writing changed and I fell away from his books – however some titles as of late, such as this one, started to pull me back in.

The Other Emily surprised me how dark it was, although I questions why I was surprised. I had forgotten that in my twenties – these were the books I enjoyed and this is exactly who Koontz always was – I had just…

forgotten.

That said – I still enjoyed this book. Dean Koontz is a gifted writer and this book surrounding an abduction of a woman is only the surface layer of what is going on here. A couple of years ago, a friend from out of state and I decided to read Koontz’ Frankenstein series together. Every Sunday we would talk on the phone about the chapters we had read. I bring that up now, because this book had a surprising likeness to what Koontz centers that series around. I don’t want to say too much as I do not wish to give anything away.

I did enjoy this book. It was a fun reminder of the powerful genius of this author. I listened to it on audio and it completely sucked me in. Absolutely recommended.