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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Review: Before the Crown by Flora Harding


Before the crown there was a love story…

Windsor Castle, 1943

As war rages across the world, Princess Elizabeth comes face to face with the dashing naval officer she first met in London nine years before.

One of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy, Philip represents everything she has always been taught to avoid. Instability. Audacity. Adventure.

But when the king learns of their relationship, the suitability of the foreign prince is questioned by all at court.

He is the risk she has never been allowed to take. The risk not even the shadow of the crown will stop her from taking…

Step through the palace gates and discover a captivating historical novel of royal secrets and forbidden love exploring the tempestuous courtship between Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in the wake of WWII.

Kindle Edition, 267 pages
Published Dec. 10th, 2020 
by Harper Collins, Australia
4/5 stars


Fans of The Crown will enjoy a more detailed look at the courtship of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Beginning when she was only 13 years old (Philip is 6 years older) it was an eye opener into proper protocol for the royal family.

I’m not really what you’d call a diehard royal follower but I find them an interesting bunch - tuning in to weddings and such. While this is a work of fiction it was an entertaining read that had me feeling a wide range of emotions into the plight of these 2 individuals whose life choices needed approval for the good of the realm.

Before the Crown was a slower paced book and I enjoyed glimpsing inside Buckingham Palace, seeing another side of King George VI and his wife and even Princess Margaret. Also this book explored more of Prince Philip’s background through family and conflicts that arose.

This is the author’s debut, so hats off to writing a story where we all know the ending already. The journey to the alter was not smooth, there were obstacles to overcome, approval to be won and internal struggles to be fought. A wonderful debut that will appeal to fans of the Royal family and those that love a fairy tale ending.

My thanks to Harper Collins (Australia) for an advance digital copy (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Review: Don't Look for Me by Wendy Walker

One night, Molly Clarke walked away from her life. The car abandoned miles from home. The note found at a nearby hotel. The shattered family that couldn't be put back together. It happens all the time. Women disappear, desperate to leave their lives behind and start over. She doesn't want to be found. Or at least, that's the story. But is that what really happened to Molly Clarke?

The night Molly disappeared began with a storm, running out of gas, and a man in a truck offering her a ride to town. With him is a little girl who reminds her of the daughter she lost years ago. It feels like a sign. And Molly is overcome with the desire to be home, with her family—no matter how broken it is. She accepts the ride. But when the doors are locked shut, Molly begins to suspect she has made a terrible mistake.

When a new lead comes in after the search has ended, Molly's daughter, Nicole, begins to wonder. Nothing about her mother's disappearance makes sense.

Nicole returns to the small, desolate town where her mother was last seen to find the truth. The locals are kind and eager to help. The innkeeper. The bartender. Even the police. Until secrets begin to reveal themselves and she comes closer to the truth about that night—and the danger surrounding her.

Hardcover, 342 pages
Published September 15th 2020
 by St. Martin's Press
4/5 stars

Don't Look for Me is a story of grief and the effect it has on everyone in the family.  Sometimes its just easier to blame somebody else then to deal with it.  So on the 5th anniversary of her daughter's death does Molly Clark deliberately walk away or does something more sinister happen?

Don't Look for Me is a mystery with some unreliable characters. There are a lot of characters to keep straight but it's possible especially as the desire to read just one more chapter was prevalent the whole way through.  With enough red herrings I was kept theorising over and over again.

This is my first time readying Wendy Was, I picked this up from the library after reading rave comments on social media, so fingers crossed that it would live up to the hype.  It did!!  If you are looking for a fast paced mystery I recommend giving this one a turn.



Monday, November 16, 2020

Review/Giveaway: His Castilian Hawk by Anna Belfrage

For bastard-born Robert FitzStephan, being given Eleanor d’Outremer in marriage is an honour. For Eleanor, this forced wedding is anything but a fairy tale.

Robert FitzStephan has served Edward Longshanks loyally since the age of twelve. Now he is riding with his king to once and for all bring Wales under English control.

Eleanor d’Outremer—Noor to family—lost her Castilian mother as a child and is left entirely alone when her father and brother are killed. When ordered to wed the unknown Robert FitzStephan, she has no choice but to comply.

Two strangers in a marriage bed is not easy. Things are further complicated by Noor’s blood-ties to the Welsh princes and by covetous Edith who has warmed Robert’s bed for years.

Robert’s new wife may be young and innocent, but he is soon to discover that not only is she spirited and proud, she is also brave. Because when Wales lies gasping and Edward I exacts terrible justice on the last prince and his children, Noor is determined to save at least one member of the House of Aberffraw from the English king.

Will years of ingrained service have Robert standing with his king or will he follow his heart and protect his wife, his beautiful and fierce Castilian hawk?

Publication Date: September 28, 2020
Troubador Publishing
4.5/5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction

Available on Amazon


I was excited to hear about this new series by Anna Belfrage. Her Graham Saga is one of my absolute favourite series - historical, family drama, mystery, adventure all mixed with some time travel.

His Castilian Hawk is the start of another series set during the reign of the first King Edward and it’s during the Welsh conflict that this book centres on. It didn’t take long to get sweep away into the pages. With an unlikely couple, Robert FitzStephan and Eleanor d’Outremer, who are forced upon each other. I felt a real connection with these two, different backgrounds both conflicted, one committed to the King and the other part Welsh. Throw in a disgruntled Edith, some treason worthy secrets and it’s a match well worth watching.

With so many layers going on Anna has once again delivered a yummy historical drama that was authentic, emotional and entertaining. Her knowledge of history shines through once again. There are scenes of battle and of love - if you've read any of her books you know exactly what I mean.

I can’t wait to see what’s next as this series continues with The Castilian Pomegranate. If you haven't read an Anna Belfrage book I highly recommend both The Graham Saga and The King's Greatest Enemy

My thanks to Amy at HFVBT for the invite to be part of this tour. Also to the author for a print copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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About the Author

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England.

More recently, Anna has published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients. While she loved stepping out of her comfort zone (and will likely do so again ) she is delighted to be back in medieval times in her September 2020 release, His Castilian Hawk. Set against the complications of Edward I’s invasion of Wales, His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty, integrity—and love.

Find out more about Anna on her website or on her Amazon page. You can also follow her on Facebook or Twitter.


click on banner for more stops, including interviews and excerpts on this tour



Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away two paperback copies of His Castilian Hawk! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

The giveaway is open internationally and ends on November 20th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Castilian Hawk


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Review: The Sea Gate by Jane Johnson

A broken family, a house of secrets—an entrancing tale of love and courage set during the Second World War.

After Rebecca’s mother dies, she must sort through her empty flat and come to terms with her loss. As she goes through her mother’s mail, she finds a handwritten envelope. In it is a letter that will change her life forever.

Olivia, her mother’s elderly cousin, needs help to save her beloved home. Rebecca immediately goes to visit Olivia in Cornwall only to find a house full of secrets—treasures in the attic and a mysterious tunnel leading from the cellar to the sea, and Olivia, nowhere to be found.

As it turns out, the old woman is stuck in hospital with no hope of being discharged until her house is made habitable again. Rebecca sets to work restoring the home to its former glory, but as she peels back the layers of paint and grime, she uncovers even more buried secrets—secrets from a time when the Second World War was raging, when Olivia was a young woman, and when both romance and danger lurked around every corner...

A sweeping and utterly spellbinding tale of a young woman’s courage in the face of war and the lengths to which she’ll go to protect those she loves against the most unexpected of enemies.

Paperback, 416 pages
Expected publication: November 17th 2020 
by Simon Schuster
4/5 stars

Right from the beginning I was draw in after being introduced to Rebecca. A sympathetic character mourning the loss of her mother. The old house overlooking the sea is one I would classify as a character, it had secrets to share because we all know secrets don’t stay hidden forever.

Jump over to a distant relative, Olivia, elderly and a force to be reckoned with. Her personality was not just nasty, her companion, Gabriel, well... lets just say they made a good pair. The past story line interested me, I was curious as to why Olivia was the way she was. What happened during WW2 in Cornwall?

This is my first time reading Jane Johnson (not for lack of desire, I have a couple books on my shelf). As the puzzle pieces clicked into place I find myself anxious to read more of her books. Her characters are authentic with issues relevant today as they were in the past. An interesting plot that kept me guessing

The Sea Gate is a story of the war that extends past Europe, it’s about discovering oneself and coming to terms with the past. New beginnings and heartache. While I am usually partial to the past story lines the present day one had me just as intrigued.

The Sea Gate releases next week and is available for preorder.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster for a print ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Cover Reveal: Letters Across the Sea by Genevieve Graham

 One of my highly anticipated books of 2021 has revealed the cover and blurb (and I want now).


Letters Across the Sea is the next book by bestselling historical fiction writer Genevieve Graham.


Letters Across the Sea is the story of a Protestant girl and her Jewish neighbour who are growing up in Toronto, against the backdrop of the Depression, and then the rise of Adolf Hitler, the Nazis and a wave of hate that would ignite the Second World War.

Graham, who is from Nova Scotia, has written several novels that highlight Canadian history. Her other books include At the Mountain's Edge, Tides of Honour, Come From Away and The Forgotten Home Child.

Letters Across the Sea will be available on April 27, 2021.

You can read an excerpt from Letters Across the Sea by clicking here

It's about the last stand during the Second World War, when Canadians fought against the Japanese in Hong Kong in 1941.

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Monday, November 2, 2020

The Evening and the Morning (Kingsbridge #0) by Ken Follett

It is 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages. England is facing attacks from the Welsh in the west and the Vikings in the east. Those in power bend justice according to their will, regardless of ordinary people and often in conflict with the king. Without a clear rule of law, chaos reigns.

In these turbulent times, three characters find their lives intertwined. A young boatbuilder's life is turned upside down when the only home he's ever known is raided by Vikings, forcing him and his family to move and start their lives anew in a small hamlet where he does not fit in. . . . A Norman noblewoman marries for love, following her husband across the sea to a new land, but the customs of her husband's homeland are shockingly different, and as she begins to realize that everyone around her is engaged in a constant, brutal battle for power, it becomes clear that a single misstep could be catastrophic. . . . A monk dreams of transforming his humble abbey into a center of learning that will be admired throughout Europe. And each in turn comes into dangerous conflict with a clever and ruthless bishop who will do anything to increase his wealth and power.

Hardcover, 913 pages
Published September 15th 2020
 by Viking
4.5/5 stars

 Pillars of the Earth is one of my favourite reads, I love getting lost in a story with characters that I've come to connect and cheer for.  Add the historical element and well...I'm in my happy place. We so much hype and positive feedback about this new book I find it hard to write a review.

With The Evening and the Morning I was once again ready to me immersed though it has been awhile since I've tackled a book this size. I will confess that I finished the last 300 pages by listening to the audio book.  John Lee is the reader and again did a stellar job.

I was pulled right in with the first chapter, a Viking attack is the start of a journey for a young man left with nothing.  Follett had the right blend of history, setting and customs that kept me entertained.  There was heartache, love and betrayal, trust issues, violence and power struggles that kept me on my toes. The characters were developed nicely, and even though this had a large cast it wasn't hard to keep everyone straight.  Definitely a great read during this weird year of 2020 to get lost within the pages off.

Even though this is a prequel there is no reason to read Pillars of the Earth first. I might do a reread (via audio book) of Pillars before proceeding with World Without End.

This book is part of my 2020 Reading off my Shelf Challenge.





Saturday, October 31, 2020

Review: Horrid by Katrina Leno

Following her father's death, Jane North-Robinson and her mom move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but behind North Manor's doors lurks a history that leaves them feeling more alone...and more tormented.

As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles in to her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident "bad seed," struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane's mom also seems to be spiralling with the return of her childhood home, but she won't reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the "storage room" her mom has kept locked isn't for storage at all -- it's a little girl's bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears....

Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more... horrid?

Hardcover, Owlcrate Edition, 322 pages
Published September 15th 2020 by 
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
3.5/5 stars

I went into this read blind, no idea what it was about. If it wasn’t for the fact it showed up in my September OwlCrate box I don’t think I would have given it the time of day - I mean look at that cover (not a fan).

Moving clear across the country is how Jane’s story begins. I enjoyed the writing, it was my first time reading Katrina Leno. She grabbed me right away with some quirkyness (don’t think that’s a word) and a character that I felt compassion for.

There is this old family home that’s been empty for a couple years. There is the history that this small town remembers and some hostile people. There are the things her mother won’t share and things that go bump in the night. All the makings for a creepy read, perfect for this time of year.

As the story developed I’ll admit to being stumped as to what was going on, so hats off to the author for keeping me in the dark. Horrid had the ghosty vibes, secrets and things that go creak along with the unexplainable. 

It was a solid 4 stars until I got to the ending. I was left with some unanswered questions that had me scratching my head. I get the conclusion but in hindsight left wondering about some issues. That being said it could very well just be me as there are lots of 5 stars out there for this read.

This book was part of my 2020 Reading Off my Shelf Challenge

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Audio Review: The Orphan Collector by Ellen Marie Wiseman

In the fall of 1918, thirteen-year-old German immigrant Pia Lange longs to be far from Philadelphia’s overcrowded slums and the anti-immigrant sentiment that compelled her father to enlist in the U.S. Army. But as her city celebrates the end of war, an even more urgent threat arrives: the Spanish flu. Funeral crepe and quarantine signs appear on doors as victims drop dead in the streets and desperate survivors wear white masks to ward off illness. When food runs out in the cramped tenement she calls home, Pia must venture alone into the quarantined city in search of supplies, leaving her baby brothers behind.

Bernice Groves has become lost in grief and bitterness since her baby died from the Spanish flu. Watching Pia leave her brothers alone, Bernice makes a shocking, life-altering decision. It becomes her sinister mission to tear families apart when they’re at their most vulnerable, planning to transform the city’s orphans and immigrant children into what she feels are “true Americans.”

Waking in a makeshift hospital days after collapsing in the street, Pia is frantic to return home. Instead, she is taken to St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum – the first step in a long and arduous journey. As Bernice plots to keep the truth hidden at any cost in the months and years that follow, Pia must confront her own shame and fear, risking everything to see justice – and love – triumph at last. Powerful, harrowing, and ultimately exultant, The Orphan Collector is a story of love, resilience, and the lengths we will go to protect those who need us most.

Paperback, 304 pages
Audiobook, 15 hours, 51 minutes
Published July 28th 2020
 by Kensington Publishing Corp.
4/5 stars

I went the audio version for one main reason- I anticipated the emotional impact this book would have on me and knew time was lacking for a proper sitdown read. I knew once started I'd need to finish. That being said I didn’t read the blurb but judging from comments on social media and the title I got a feeling of what was to come.

The audio, which comes in at 15 plus hours fit perfectly into my plans for the week, - I was painting, painting and a little more painting. My gut instinct was that once I started I would need to finish, which is exactly what happened.

The Orphan Collector begins in 1918 and the Spanish flu has broken out, kinda fit right in with the world today minus social media. I connected right away with Pia. The author put me right there, I felt the emotional and physical struggles she was going through. I should add that she is only 13 years old. The story was told through her eyes as well as Bernice. I didn’t like her much even though lost in her own grief is no excuse for what she does.  Both are authentic characters.

I won’t go into the events that transpired, I went in blind and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Suffice to say this is a captivating story, heartbreaking and sad. Remember it’s based around history and through nurse Bernice is fictional I am sure things similar could have happened.

Ellen Marie Wiseman is a new author for me, I like her pose and ability to draw me in with a unique story set during a time of turmoil. Her knowledge of the era is evident. The Orphan Collector is a well written book that has me searching for the authors backlist.

My audio copy was through  Scribd.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Review: Girls of Brackenhill by Kate Moretti

Haunted by her sister’s disappearance, a troubled woman becomes consumed by past secrets in this gripping thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Year.

When Hannah Maloney’s aunt dies in a car accident, she returns to her family’s castle in the Catskills and the epicenter of a childhood trauma: her sister’s unsolved disappearance. It’s been seventeen years, and though desperate to start a new life with her fiancĂ©, Hannah is compelled to question the events of her last summer at Brackenhill.

When a human bone is found near the estate, Hannah is convinced it belongs to her long-lost sister. She launches her own investigation into that magical summer that ended in a nightmare. As strange happenings plague the castle, Hannah uncovers disturbing details about the past and startling realizations about her own repressed childhood memories.

Fueled by guilt over her sister’s vanishing, Hannah becomes obsessed with discovering what happened all those years ago, but by the time Hannah realizes some mysteries are best left buried, it’s too late to stop digging. Overwhelmed by what she has exposed, Hannah isn’t sure her new life can survive her old ghosts.

Kindle Edition, 330 pages
Expected publication: November 1st 2020
 by Thomas & Mercer
3/5 stars

This book had a great premise- a missing sister, creepy castle and an unexpected death. Perfect for this time of year.

It started out with a bang and even the first couple of chapters kept up the momentum. It was atmospheric and the writing kept that feeling throughout, that being said there were aspects that left me wondering - like the basement. The castle setting had more of an English feel to me vs in US, but whatever.

Hannah was an unreliable narrator, she told the story with flash backs as her relationship with her sister is revealed.  I couldn’t connect to her, her behaviour was too flighty, impulsive and didn’t always jive with her thoughts. Her relationship and treatment with her fiancĂ© was odd and I felt sorry for him. .

All in all I kept reading because I was genuinely curious about what happened in the past. But there were scenes that left me confused (one I think I've blocked from memory) and situations unrealistic. The pacing slowed down and to be honest the ending left me somewhat confused with unanswered questions.

Girls of Brackenhill releases Nov 1st.  My thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Review: The Arctic Fury: A Novel by Greer Macallister

A dozen women join a secret 1850's Arctic expedition—and a sensational murder trial unfolds when some of them don't come back.

Eccentric Lady Jane Franklin makes an outlandish offer to adventurer Virginia Reeve: take a dozen women, trek into the Arctic, and find her husband's lost expedition. Four parties have failed to find him, and Lady Franklin wants a radical new approach: put the women in charge.

A year later, Virginia stands trial for murder. Survivors of the expedition willing to publicly support her sit in the front row. There are only five. What happened out there on the ice?

Set against the unforgiving backdrop of one of the world's most inhospitable locations, USA Today bestselling author Greer Macallister uses the true story of Lady Jane Franklin's tireless attempts to find her husband's lost expedition as a jumping-off point to spin a tale of bravely, intrigue, perseverance and hope.

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: December 1st 2020
by Sourcebooks Landmark
3/5 stars

The Arctic Fury had me with that cover.   I got the chills just looking at it and I'm coveting that jacket/cape - looks like the perfect thing for the location. From the blurb I found it hard to imagine a dozen women (or anyone for that matter) braving the Arctic elements in search of Franklin.

It's the mid 1850's when Victoria is approached and takes on the challenge to discover the fate of the Franklin exhibition.  I had hoped this was based on fact but alas, while there were multiple searches made for the crew this isn't one of them.  

Told with a dual narrative that are not too far apart, time wise.  The journey is told mostly via Victoria but also a few snippets from a couple of the other women - that I liked and wished for more, just to connect and really get to know the different personalities on board.  That being said there is a large cast of characters to keep track of. The interaction I was hoping for didn't happen till later on and for me that might have been a little too late to get a true picture of the relationships.

The other narrative was the murder trial and Victoria's incarceration.  That was a little slow moving and repetitive in terms of accommodations and also frustrating to read, so hats off to the author for creating that kind of emotion in this reader.

Greer Macallister created an atmosphere story that reflected the times, from the streets of Boston, paddling the lakes, the cold of the north and finally back to Boston.  The Arctic Fury was an interesting concept which will appeal to readers that like something off the beaten path.

My thanks to Sourcebooks (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.