Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Review: Louisiana's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

From two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo comes a story of discovering who you are — and deciding who you want to be.

When Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return. Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home. But as Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of a small Georgia town — including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder — she starts to worry that she is destined only for good-byes. (Which could be due to the curse on Louisiana’s and Granny’s heads. But that is a story for another time.)

Called “one of DiCamillo’s most singular and arresting creations” by The New York Times Book Review, the heartbreakingly irresistible Louisiana Elefante was introduced to readers in Raymie Nightingale — and now, with humor and tenderness, Kate DiCamillo returns to tell her story.

Hardcover, 240 pages
Expected publication: October 2nd, 2018
 by Candlewick Press (MA) 
*****

~~~~~~~~~~
The beginning is that my great-grandfather was a magician, and long, long ago he set into motion a most terrible curse.
~~~~~~~~~~

I read this over the summer when I needed something light, whimsical and almost magical. I enjoyed  Flora & Ulysses and The Tale of Despereaux also by Kate DiCamillo, so I had a rough idea that I was in for a real treat with this one.

The blurb above tells you what takes place for Louisiana, she is only 10 years old as she tells her story, of being pulled out of bed in the middle of the night and the terrible curse that seems to be following them.  She is quite the character with a vivid imagination, vocabulary beyond her years and amazing reasoning skills. I loved Louisiana, she made me smile and I just wanted to give her a hug (along with some milk and cookies).

Louisiana's Way Home was a delight to read, it's a story of self-discovery, hope, and forgiveness. Told with wit and compassion, Kate DiCamillo has landed as one of my favorite children's author.

~~~~~~~~~~
“Perhaps what matters when all is said and done is not who put us down but who picks us up”
~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you to the publisher (via NetGalley) for an advanced e-arc. 

click on cover to see my review

Monday, September 10, 2018

Review: Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson

From the award-winning author of Catching the Wind, which Publishers Weekly called “unforgettable” and a “must-read,” comes another gripping time-slip novel about hidden treasure, a castle, and ordinary people who resisted evil in their own extraordinary way.

The year is 1938, and as Hitler’s troops sweep into Vienna, Austrian Max Dornbach promises to help his Jewish friends hide their most valuable possessions from the Nazis, smuggling them to his family’s summer estate near the picturesque village of Hallstatt. He enlists the help of Annika Knopf, his childhood friend and the caretaker’s daughter, who is eager to help the man she’s loved her entire life. But when Max also brings Luzia Weiss, a young Jewish woman, to hide at the castle, it complicates Annika’s feelings and puts their entire plan―even their very lives―in jeopardy. Especially when the Nazis come to scour the estate and find both Luzia and the treasure gone.

Eighty years later, Callie Randall is mostly content with her quiet life, running a bookstore with her sister and reaching out into the world through her blog. Then she finds a cryptic list in an old edition of Bambi that connects her to Annika’s story . . . and maybe to the long-buried story of a dear friend. As she digs into the past, Callie must risk venturing outside the safe world she’s built for a chance at answers, adventure, and maybe even new love.

Kindle ebook, 400 pages
Published September 2018
by Tyndale House Publishers
*** 1/2

Opening Line:
The blade of a shovel, cutting through frosted grass. That’s what she remembered most from the spring of 1938.

I have been a fan of Melanie Dobson since reading her books Catching the Wind, Ch√Ęteau of Secrets and Shadows of Ladenbrook Manor - all historical fiction.

It is 1938 and Austria is getting overtaken by the Nazis, three young people’s lives are about to get entwined together as family secrets are uncovered and friendships are put to the test. How an original copy of Bambi, gifted from mother to daughter, ignites a journey for the present day story. 

Hidden Among the Stars weaves between 3 women with 3 vastly different stories to tell. Again I found myself drawn to the past story (nothing new there). Set around a castle, hidden treasure and forbidden love I couldn’t help feeling for these young women. It was a brutal time with the author not holding back on the atrocities that took place. While I enjoyed this book I was able to predict the outcome as the story unfolded - which isn't a bad thing.

Sometimes it’s the little tidbits I glean from certain books that stay with me, such is the case here. Callie works in a bookstore and it’s her knowledge of children’s literature and the past that did interest me.  References to some of my favorite kids' books even adding a few to my tbr pile. The author of Bambi and Curious George both Jewish fled hours before Nazis invaded (I’m still googling).

This is Christian fiction and heavy in both time periods, more so than in the author’s previous books. I feel there is a fine line where it can be too over-the-top, just right or not enough, in terms of sharing the faith of the characters, without sounding overly preachy and taking away from the story. With this book I think it was just the right blend, especially the past story. The  nightmarish path these girls faced, the struggles, it was authentic and believable. For Callie while her story was not as devastating as the other two she clung to her faith.

All in all an entertaining read, my thanks to the publisher (via netgalley) for an advanced copy of this book.


click on cover to take you to make review (except Catching the Wind - review coming soon -how did I miss that!?)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Spotlight: The Jinni's Last Wish by Zenobia Neil

Publication Date: September 13, 2018

eBook; 283 pages
ASIN: B07FLDRY4V
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy

As a eunuch in the Ottoman Imperial Harem, Olin has already lost his home, his freedom, and his manhood. His only wish is for a painless death, until he meets Dark Star, a beautiful odalisque who promises to give him his deepest desire. He refuses to believe her claim to possess a jinni in a bottle. But when Dark Star is accused of witchcraft, Olin rubs the bottle in desperation and discovers she’s told the truth.

Olin becomes the jinni’s master to save Dark Star, but it's not enough. In the complex world of the Topkapi Palace, where silk pillows conceal knives, sherbets contain poison, and jewels buy loyalty, no one is safe. With each wish, Olin must choose between becoming like the masters he detests or risk his life, his body, and his sanity to break the bonds that tie them all.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Chapters


About the Author

Zenobia Neil was named after an ancient warrior queen who fought against the Romans. She writes about the mythic past and Greek and Roman gods having too much fun. Zenobia spends her free time imagining interesting people and putting them in terrible situations. She lives with her husband, two children, and dog in an overpriced hipster neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Visit her at ZenobiaNeil.com.



Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads






Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Audio Review: The Secret of the Irish Castle (Deverill Chronicles #3) by Santa Montefiore

It is 1939 and peace has flourished since the Great War ended. But much has changed for the Deverill family and now a new generation is waiting in the wings.

Martha Wallace came to Dublin from her home in America to find her birth mother. But instead, she has lost her heart to the impossibly charming JP Deverill. Then she discovers that her mother comes from the same place as JP, and her fate seems sealed.

 Bridie Doyle, now Countess di Marcantonio and mistress of Castle Deverill, is determined to make the castle she used to work in her home. But her flamboyant husband Cesare has other ideas. And as his eye strays away from his wife, those close to them start to wonder if he really is who he says he is.

Kitty Deverill has come to terms with her life with her husband Robert, and their two children. But then Jack O’Leary, the love of her life, returns to Ballinakelly. And this time his heart belongs elsewhere…

This summer discover the dramatic conclusion to the bestselling Deverill Chronicles.

Audiobook
Published August 14th, 2018
by HarperAudio
****

Book 3 of The Deverill Chronicles has come to a fitting conclusion, I think this is the first time I have read a trilogy in as many months. I really enjoyed the first two books in this trilogy, the characters were interesting not always likable, the story was plausible and I love the Irish setting.

They were lots of loose ends that tied up nicely for some, not so much for others. But a fitting conclusion to a series that spanned from 1916 till after the Second World War. Three young girls began and what a life they have lived. Oh, and did I mention the curse, yes the Castle is cursed, it added that extra zip, it wasn't necessary but was a nice bonus. There were a few things I found a little too coincidental and predictable but not enough to spoil my enjoyment.

My only complaint would be the book titles, different from the UK edition and since collecting Santa Montefiore novels I’ve managed to acquirer many duplicates. This book is also known as The Last Secret of the Deverills.

My thanks to the publisher (via Edelweiss) for an advanced copy.


click on the cover to take you to review


Monday, September 3, 2018

Review: The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter by Hazel Gaynor

From The New York Times, bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home comes a historical novel inspired by true events and the extraordinary female lighthouse keepers of the past two hundred years
 “They call me a heroine, but I am not deserving of such accolades. I am just an ordinary young woman who did her duty.”
1838: Northumberland, England. Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands has been Grace Darling’s home for all of her twenty-two years. When she and her father rescue shipwreck survivors in a furious storm, Grace becomes celebrated throughout England, the subject of poems, ballads, and plays. But far more precious than her unsought fame is the friendship that develops between Grace and a visiting artist. Just as George Emmerson captures Grace with his brushes, she in turn captures his heart.

1938: Newport, Rhode Island. Nineteen-years-old and pregnant, Matilda Emmerson has been sent away from Ireland in disgrace. She is to stay with Harriet, a reclusive relative, and assistant lighthouse keeper, until her baby is born. A discarded, half-finished portrait opens a window into Matilda’s family history. As a deadly hurricane approaches, two women, living a century apart, will be linked forever by their instinctive acts of courage and love.

ebook, 416 pages
Expected publication: October 9th, 2018
by William Morrow Paperbacks
****

This is my first book but Hazel Gaynor, I’ve seen and heard many wonderful things about her books and jumped at the chance when Edelweiss was offering an advanced copy. This book will be released on October 9th.

One of the things I love about historical fiction is reading about brave women of the past, those ones that we don’t hear much about but for the mark they have left on the pages of history. Grace Darling is one such woman from the Victorian age. It’s 1838, on England's east coast when Grace and her father rescue survivors of the shipwreck during a terrible storm. Jump ahead 100 years to 1938 where Matilda Emerson has been sent away to prevent further disgrace to her family. It’s between these two stories, evolving around lighthouse keepers, that connects and plays central to this story.

It’s not a short book coming in just over 400 pages, it’s the story of courage, love, and strength. How the 2 storylines connect played out nicely. I found this to be a softer book, more romanticized with a calm pacing but still keep my attention. I loved how the author stayed true to history in what Grace endured after the rescue. I have never given much thought to lighthouse keepers and their role, my eyes well opened to what a heavy responsibility that was, especially in both time periods lacking in modern technology of today.

Definitely an author I will be reading more of.  This book will appeal to those that are looking for strong women and unknown stories of the past.

Thanks to the publisher via Edelweiss for an advanced copy.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Review: The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, Karen White

From the New York Times bestselling authors of The Forgotten Room comes a captivating historical mystery, infused with romance, that links the lives of three women across a century—two deep in the past, one in the present—to the doomed passenger liner, RMS Lusitania.

May 2013 Her finances are in dire straits and bestselling author Sarah Blake is struggling to find a big idea for her next book. Desperate, she breaks the one promise she made to her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother and opens an old chest that belonged to her great-grandfather, who died when the RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-Boat in 1915. What she discovers there could change history. Sarah embarks on an ambitious journey to England to enlist the help of John Langford, a recently disgraced Member of Parliament whose family archives might contain the only key to the long-ago catastrophe. . . .

April 1915 Southern belle Caroline Telfair Hochstetter’s marriage is in crisis. Her formerly attentive industrialist husband, Gilbert, has become remote, pre-occupied with business . . . and something else that she can’t quite put a finger on. She’s hoping a trip to London in Lusitania’s lavish first-class accommodations will help them reconnect—but she can’t ignore the spark she feels for her old friend, Robert Langford, who turns out to be on the same voyage. Feeling restless and longing for a different existence, Caroline is determined to stop being a bystander, and take charge of her own life. . . .

Tessa Fairweather is traveling second-class on the Lusitania, returning home to Devon. Or at least, that’s her story. Tessa has never left the United States and her English accent is a hasty fake. She’s really Tennessee Schaff, the daughter of a roving con man, and she can steal and forge just about anything. But she’s had enough. Her partner has promised that if they can pull off this one last heist aboard the Lusitania, they’ll finally leave the game behind. Tess desperately wants to believe that, but Tess has the uneasy feeling there’s something about this job that isn’t as it seems. . . .

As the Lusitania steams toward its fate, three women work against time to unravel a plot that will change the course of their own lives . . . and history itself.

Kindle, 416 pages
Expected publication: September 4th, 2018
by William Morrow
*** 1/2

The Glass Ocean is the 2nd collaboration between talented authors Karen White, Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig. Their first book together, The Forgotten Room was a favorite of mine back in 2016. Needless to say, I was excited when William Morrow provided me with an advanced copy of this their latest.

I didn’t know much about the Lusitania other than it was hit by a German torpedo during World War One and ushered the US into war. With 3 different narrators it wasn’t hard to keep the two time periods straight, two from the past and one present day.

The beginning 1/3 of this book pulled me in with its character building and intriguing plot. The dual time periods are books I usually enjoy, though at times it can be one time period that interests me more. Such was the case here (to some extent). To be honest, I struggled with the past plot, maybe because it dragged on a little longer than I thought necessary or maybe just a slight confusion at times. What saved it for me were the comedic bantering that was needed (pretty sure that was William’s part).

I struggled between giving this book 3 or 4 stars. Frustration grew when a change of direction occurred towards the end of the present day story (yea I felt it out of place and it really bugged me). But as I continued reading I ‘got it’ and thought it a great addition- sometimes you just need to sit back and trust the writer.

So I'm giving this book 3 1/2 stars rounding up to 4.

My thanks to William Morrow for an advanced copy (via Edelweiss).

click on cover for my review


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Audio Review: Tiffany Blues by M.J. Rose

New York, 1924.

Twenty‑four‑year‑old Jenny Bell is one of a dozen burgeoning artists invited to Louis Comfort Tiffany’s prestigious artists’ colony. Gifted and determined, Jenny vows to avoid distractions and romantic entanglements and take full advantage of the many wonders to be found at Laurelton Hall.

But Jenny’s past has followed her to Long Island. Images of her beloved mother, her hard-hearted stepfather, waterfalls, and murder, and the dank hallways of Canada’s notorious Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Women overwhelm Jenny’s thoughts, even as she is inextricably drawn to Oliver, Tiffany’s charismatic grandson.

As the summer shimmers on, and the competition between the artists grows fierce as they vie for a spot at Tiffany’s New York gallery, a series of suspicious and disturbing occurrences suggest someone knows enough about Jenny’s childhood trauma to expose her.

Supported by her closest friend Minx Deering, a seemingly carefree socialite yet dedicated sculptor, and Oliver, Jenny pushes her demons aside. Between stolen kisses and stolen jewels, the champagne flows and the jazz plays on until one moonless night when Jenny’s past and present are thrown together in a desperate moment, that will threaten her promising future, her love, her friendships, and her very life.

Audiobook, 10 hours 25 minutes
Published August 7th, 2018
by Atria Books
****

Opening line: I lost my heart long before this fire darkened its edges.

M.J. Rose has been a favorite of mine since reading Seduction about 5 years ago. She knows how to write unique plots with snapshots of real historical places, with characters that are hurting and struggling to hide secrets of the pasts. It’s always a treat opening one of her books. Due to time restraints, I opted for the audio version of Tiffany Blues.

The book opened in 1957 when a fire destroyed the famous Tiffany mansion in Long Island (it's a fact, google it, I did). There was enough in that opening that had me intrigued and curious about this place. The biggest surprise was the location of Hamilton, Ontario playing a pivotal role in Jenny’s past. That’s my neck of the woods (well close enough). One can’t help feeling for Jenny and all she went through, but trying to live a life without the past catching up is hard.

Tiffany Blues is a mysterious story with romance and the historical elements I love. The story goes back and forth to Jenny’s past and 1924, both of which were interesting enough, but I kinda felt it lacked the depth of character development from Rose’s previous books. That being said Jenny was well developed but I would have loved to have known some of the others in this book a little better, like Minx especially.

Coming in at just over 10 hours it was a quick listen with the reader Tavia Gilbert doing a great job. Author notes are always a favorite of mine especially for historical fiction, they were included here and I liked the fact it was at the beginning before the story began.

My thanks to the publisher for an advanced copy, however, I went the audio route via Sribd.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Spotlight: The Promise of Tomorrow by AnneMarie Brear

The Promise of Tomorrow by AnneMarie Brear

Publication Date: September 1, 2018
eBook; 390 Pages
ASIN: B07GHCXQ8Y
Genre: Historical Fiction

Perfect for the fans of Dilly Court and Rosie Goodwin.

Charlotte Brookes flees her lecherous guardian, McBride, taking her younger sister with her. After a year on the road, they stumble into a Yorkshire village where the Wheelers, owners of the village shop, take them in. This new life is strange for Charlotte, but preferable to living with McBride or surviving on the roads.

Harry Belmont is an important man in the village, but he’s missing something in his life. His budding friendship with Charlotte gives him hope she will feel more for him one day, and he will marry the woman he yearns for. When McBride discovers where Charlotte lives, his threats begin. Harry fights to keep Charlotte safe, but World War I erupts and Harry enlists. Left to face a world of new responsibilities, and Harry’s difficult sister, Charlotte must run the gauntlet of family disputes, McBride's constant harassment, and the possibility of the man she loves being killed.

Can Charlotte find the happiness that always seems under threat, and will Harry return home to her?

Available on Amazon


AnneMarie has been a life-long reader and started writing in 1997 when her children were small. She has a love of history, of grand old English houses and a fascination with what might have happened beyond their walls. Her interests include reading, genealogy, watching movies, spending time with family and eating chocolate – not always in that order! AnneMarie grew up in Australia but now lives in the UK.

For more information please visit AnneMarie Brear's website.

You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Goodreads.


Sunday, August 26, 2018

Review: The 49th Mystic (Beyond the Circle #1) by Ted Dekker

Some say the great mystery of how one can live in two worlds at once died with Thomas Hunter many years ago. Still, others that the gateway to that greater reality was and is only the stuff of dreams.

They are wrong. In the small town of Eden, Utah, a blind girl named Rachelle Matthews is about to find out just how wrong.

When a procedure meant to restore Rachelle's sight goes awry, she begins to dream of another world so real that she wonders if Earth might only be a dream experienced when she falls asleep in that reality. Who is a simple blind girl to have such strange and fantastic dreams?

She's the prophesied one who must find and recover five ancient seals--in both worlds--before powerful enemies destroy her. If Rachelle succeeds in her quest, peace will reign. If she fails, both worlds will forever be locked in darkness.

So begins a two-volume saga of high stakes and a mind-bending quest to find an ancient path that will save humanity. The clock is ticking; the end rushes forward.

Ready? Set?

Dream.

Paperback, 409 pages 
Published May 15th, 2018 
by Revell
****

I am a relatively new reader to Ted Dekker. I have read his Boneman's Daughter and that’s about it. I know he is a Christian author with supernatural or mystic themes in his book. Having never read the Circle series, which is a prequel to this book, and while it didn't hamper my enjoyment of The 49th Mystic some prior knowledge might have been helpful at times.

It didn’t take long for me to get drawn in, beginning with a young blind girl I immediately connected and wanted to find out how she fared.

There is a lot going, it’s fantasy with Other Earth and supernatural elements. Mysterious and suspenseful as the story unfolds. The 48th Mystic is Rachelle’s journey, with theology themes familiarity with The Bible is helpful to appreciate her quest.

The 49th Mystic is a well-written book, a nice fast pace that kept me on my toes.  I can see myself reading over again. There were many quotes and highlights pertaining to my life and journey.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Review: Falcon Wild by Terry Lynn Johnson


 "I back up as Cooper did and then sprint toward the edge. Just as I'm about to launch myself across the crevice, a hot wave of nausea grips me. I stumble at the last second. My leap is not enough to propel me to the other side. I reach for the edge.

 And miss." 

 Thirteen-year-old Karma is lost in the backcountry of Montana with her falcon, Stark, and a runaway boy named Cooper. She's desperate to find help for her dad and brother after they find themselves in a terrible accident on a back road.

 Karma wouldn't be in this mess if her parents hadn't insisted on returning Stark to the bird's original owner. Life at her father's bird sanctuary--and Karma's dreams of becoming an apprentice falconer--will never be the same now that she has to give Stark back. Lost in the wild, her bond with the tamed falcon only grows stronger. All the while, Cooper gets his own lessons on how to trust in newfound friendship.

 Both Karma's and Cooper's mettle is tested by mountain terrain, wild animals, severe weather, injury, and their own waning hope as this edge-of-your-seat adventure story vividly portrays the special bonds that can form between humans and animals.

 Hardcover, 176 pages 
Published September 19th 2017 
by Charlesbridge
*****


I used to use the excuse that I read middle grade and children's book to see what would appeal to my boys and as time went by for the grandkids.  But the plain truth is that I love these books and I don't read nearly enough of them.  Now mind you I do have boundaries, not being a fan of fantasy or sci-fi, I am always on the lookout for adventure type story's, ones that feature the great outdoors and coming of age themes.  So when I discovered Canadian author Terry Lynn Johnson I knew I'd hit gold.

Beginning with Ice Dogs and Dogsled Dreams I have been avidly waiting for more great stories.  Imagine my shock in discovering Falcon Wild months after it's release. (I read this last fall and realized I never posted my review).  One of the things that stands out for me is the author's love of nature, it shines through in her writing.  With Falcon Wild it wasn't just about a couple of kids lost in the wilderness, I was given a glimpse of the beauty and harshness of the environment.  The feelings of hope and hopelessness,  respect and appreciation of animals and nature shine through.  Karma and Copper are challenged on many levels and I enjoyed reading about it.  The lessons on falconry were fun and educational.

Terry Lynn Johnson has a wonderful blog that highlight not just her books but where she draws inspiration.  Check it out at TerryLynnJohnson.com

My print copy from personal library.