Monday, December 9, 2019

Review: The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne

Barnaby Brocket is an ordinary 8-year-old boy in most ways, but he was born different in one important way: he floats. Unlike everyone else, Barnaby does not obey the law of gravity. His parents, who have a horror of being noticed, want desperately for Barnaby to be normal, but he can't help who he is. And when the unthinkable happens, Barnaby finds himself on a journey that takes him all over the world. From Brazil to New York, Canada to Ireland, and even to space, the floating boy meets all sorts of different people—and discovers who he really is along the way.

This whimsical novel will delight middle graders, and make readers of all ages question the meaning of normal.



Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published January 8th 2013
by Knopf Books for Young Readers
**** 1/2

I’m a relatively new John Boyne fan and while his books The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and The Boy at the Top of the Mountain are etched vividly in my brain, leaving their mark on my heart that I couldn't help jumping into The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket. It’s been on my kindle since being released in 2012 and I figured from the blurb I was in for a fun read.

Again the author’s writing style kept me entertained, it was whimsical, engaging with a pace that kept me reading. The characters aren’t just flawed but realistic and well developed, especially Barnaby’s parents - while I understood why they were the way they were it doesn’t mean I had to like them (if you read the story you’ll understand).

Barnaby Brocket is an adventure story that was fun with interesting stops on the way. But it also has a serious side that will pull at the heartstrings, it’s a story of acceptance, abandonment, and searching. I loved Barnaby, his thoughts and the ending was perfect. Sad at times I’m glad to have read this one.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Review: The Light Over London by Julia Kelly

Reminiscent of Martha Hall Kelly's Lilac Girls and Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, this sweeping, entrancing story is a must-read for fans of remarkable women rising to challenges they could never have predicted.

It’s always been easier for Cara Hargraves to bury herself in the past than confront the present, which is why working with a gruff but brilliant antiques dealer is perfect. While clearing out an estate, she pries open an old tin that holds the relics of a lost relationship: among the treasures, a World War II-era diary and a photograph of a young woman in uniform. Eager to find the author of the hauntingly beautiful, unfinished diary, Cara digs into this soldier’s life, but soon realizes she may not have been ready for the stark reality of wartime London she finds within the pages.

In 1941, nineteen-year-old Louise Keene’s life had been decided for her—she’ll wait at home in her Cornish village until her wealthy suitor returns from war to ask for her hand. But when Louise unexpectedly meets Flight Lieutenant Paul Bolton, a dashing RAF pilot stationed at a local base, everything changes. And changes again when Paul’s unit is deployed without warning.

Desperate for a larger life, Louise joins the women’s branch of the British Army in the anti-aircraft gun unit as a Gunner Girl. As bombs fall on London, she and the other Gunner Girls relish in their duties to be exact in their calculations, and quick in their identification of enemy planes during air raids. The only thing that gets Louise through those dark, bullet-filled nights is knowing she and Paul will be together when the war is over. But when a bundle of her letters to him are returned unanswered, she learns that wartime romance can have a much darker side.

Illuminating the story of these two women separated by generations and experience, Julia Kelly transports us to World War II London in this heartbreakingly beautiful novel through forgotten antique treasures, remembered triumphs, and fierce family ties.

Kindle Edition, 305 pages
Published February 2019
by Gallery Books
****

My first book by Julia Kelly was a success and I am eager to read more.

The tread these days is books about strong women though they don’t always start that way. It’s during the challenges life throws at them where their drive comes through, where obstructs, because of their sex, gets in the way only making them all the more determined and to realize how strong they really are.

The other tread I love is those parts of history that have been unknown to me, being educated and entertained at the same time. My knowledge of some of the roles women filled during the war are limited, I’ve never heard of a Gunner Girl and that aspect I found very interesting. What a responsibility to shoulder. Sorry, you will have to read the book to find out what a Gunner Girl is :)

The Light Over London is a well written dual time period story. An old diary and mysterious picture are the start Cara needs and it was her journey as well as Louise’s, during WW2, that kept me captivated. Each with their issues and finding their way in the world. The research is evident and in a market that at times feels saturated with WW2 HF, I enjoyed this one as well as discovering a new to me author.

This book is from my personal kindle library.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Spotlight & Giveaway: The Lords of the Wind by C.J. Adrien


Publication Date: July 3, 2019
Runestone Books
eBook & Paperback; 339 Pages
Series: The Saga of Hasting the Avenger, Book One
Genre: Historical Fiction

“For indeed the Frankish nation, which was crushed by the avenger Hasting, was full of filthy uncleanness. Treasonous and oath-breaking, they were deservedly condemned; unbelievers and faithless, they were justly punished.”

 Orphaned as a child by a blood-feud, and sold as a slave to an exiled chieftain in Ireland, the boy Hasting had little hope of surviving to adulthood. The gods had other plans. A ship arrived at his master's longphort carrying a man who would alter the course of his destiny, and take him under his wing to teach him the ways of the Vikings. His is a story of a boy who was a slave, who became a warlord, and who helped topple an empire. A supposed son of Ragnar Lodbrok, and referred to in the Gesta Normanorum as the Scourge of the Somme and Loire, his life exemplified the qualities of the ideal Viking. Join author and historian C.J. Adrien on an adventure that explores the coming of age of the Viking Hasting, his first love, his first great trials, and his first betrayal.

Available on Amazon


C.J. Adrien is a French-American author of Viking historical fiction with a passion for Viking history. His Kindred of the Sea series was inspired by research conducted in preparation for a doctoral program in early medieval history as well as his admiration for historical fiction writers such as Bernard Cornwell and Ken Follett. C.J. Adrien’s novels and expertise have earned him invitations to speak at several international events, including the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds. For more information, please visit C.J. Adrien's website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.


During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a copy of The Lords of the Wind! To enter, please use the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on December 13th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Paperback giveaway is open to US residents only. – Only one entry per household.

 The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

  The Lords of the Wind

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Review: Echoes among the Stones by Jaime Jo Wright

After Aggie Dunkirk's career is unceremoniously ended by her own mistakes, she finds herself traveling to Wisconsin, where her grandmother, Mumsie, lives alone in her rambling old home. She didn't plan for how eccentric Mumsie has become, obsessing over an old, unsolved crime scene--even going so far as to re-create it in the attic.

Mystery seems to follow her when she finds work as a secretary helping to restore the flooded historical part of the cemetery. Forced to work with the puzzling, yet attractive museum curator to contact living family members of those in the disturbed graves, Aggie stumbles upon the unsolved murder of a young woman--the details of which match Mumsie's case. As Aggie exhumes the past's secrets, she uncovers a crime that some will go to any length to keep quiet--even if it means silencing Aggie.

In 1946, Imogene Flannigan works in a local factory and has eyes on owning her own beauty salon. But coming home to discover her younger sister's body in the attic changes everything. Unfamiliar with the newly burgeoning world of criminal forensics and not particularly welcomed as a woman, Imogene is nonetheless determined to stay involved. As her sister's case grows cold, Imogene vows to find justice . . . even if it costs her everything.

Kindle Edition, 380 pages
Expected publication: December 3rd, 2019
by Bethany House Publishers
**** 1/2

Jaime Jo Wright is one of my go-to authors.  Her previous books kept me glued to my kindle, I get excited when I find out a new one is on the way.  Why is that you ask?  She has characters that are flawed, struggling with real-life situations and a yummy mystery - I might add that when I think I've figured things out she comes up with twists and turns that make total sense and totally different from my thoughts (I love it when an author does that).

With Echoes Among the Stones I was treated again to a story that had the right pace where I got to know the characters, Mumsie is a hoot and the curator, well I even heard his British accent in my head - how did Jaime Jo Wright do that? 

Told in dual time periods, usually I am drawn to the past story over present this book had me equally intrigued with both of them.  It wasn't rushed but captivating, an old murder and a sister's determination to solve it that travels to current day.

Echoes is a story of grief and how there are no time limits on it, I loved how this played out, it was authentic and heartfelt and so relatable. I am quick to recommend this author whenever I get the chance.

My thanks to Bethany House for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

 clicking on the cover will take you to my review


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Spotlight: Distant Signs by Anne Richter


Publication Date: November 7, 2019
Neem Tree Press
Hardcover; 240 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance/Saga

Distant Signs is an intimate portrait of two families spanning three generations amidst turbulent political change, behind and beyond the Berlin Wall.

In 1960s East Germany, Margret, a professor's daughter from the city, meets and marries Hans, from a small village in Thuringia. The couple struggle to contend with their different backgrounds, and the emotional scars they bear from childhood in the aftermath of war. As East German history gradually unravels, with collision of the personal and political, their two families' hidden truths are quietly revealed.

An exquisitely written novel with strongly etched characters that stay with you long after the book is finished and an authentic portrayal of family life behind the iron curtain based on personal experience of the author who is East German and was 16 years old at the fall of the Berlin Wall. Why do families repeat destructive patterns of behaviour across generations? Should the personal take precedence over the political? Can we rise above our histories and political identities to forge a new understanding of the past and to welcome change?

Available on Amazon



Anne Richter was born in 1973 in Jena, in the former German Democratic Republic. Her degree in Romance languages and English included study periods in England, Italy and France. In 2011, Anne was nominated for the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, a highly regarded German-language literary award. Her debut novel, Distant Signs, was published in Germany in 2013. Anne is currently writing her second novel. Douglas Irving is Scottish. He studied German and Spanish at Aberdeen University. In 2014 he completed a Masters in Translation at Glasgow University. His first translation, Crossing: A Love Story by Anna Seghers was published in 2016 in the US to positive reviews. His translation of Anna Seghers’ last work published in her lifetime, Three Women from Haiti, is set to follow.




Monday, November 25, 2019

Review: The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan


The New York Times bestselling author of What She Knew conjures a dark and unpredictable tale of family secrets that explores the lengths people will go to hurt one another.

When her beloved nanny, Hannah, left without a trace in the summer of 1988, seven-year-old Jocelyn Holt was devastated. Haunted by the loss, Jo grew up bitter and distant, and eventually left her parents and Lake Hall, their faded aristocratic home, behind.

Thirty years later, Jo returns to the house and is forced to confront her troubled relationship with her mother. But when human remains are accidentally uncovered in a lake on the estate, Jo begins to question everything she thought she knew.

Then an unexpected visitor knocks on the door and Jo’s world is destroyed again. Desperate to piece together the gaping holes in her memory, Jo must uncover who her nanny really was, why she left, and if she can trust her own mother…

In this compulsively readable tale of secrets, lies, and deception, Gilly Macmillan explores the darkest impulses and desires of the human heart. Diabolically clever, The Nanny reminds us that sometimes the truth hurts so much you’d rather hear the lie.

Paperback, 400 pages
 Published September 10th 2019
by William Morrow
****

This book has been on my radar before it was even released, not just because of its interesting cover but also an author that I have been hearing good things about and have never read before.

The Nanny is what I would call a slow burn, meaning it is not a fast-paced hang onto your seat type of thriller but rather the author slowly weaves the past to present day.  It is well written with characters that are flawed, each with ghosts haunting them and the secrets, oh the secrets!  The plot had a number of twists and turns, very much a whodunnit that kept me guessing with its unexpected twists and turns.

So another author that I get to explore more of their books.  The Nanny is a book I recommend to those that love a mystery that is hard to predict and one that kept me glued to the pages. 

This book was part of my ‘2019 reading off my shelf’ challenge and obtained by SweetReads in my October box.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Review: New Boy (Hogarth Shakespeare) by Tracy Chevalier

"O felt her presence behind him like a fire at his back.”

Arriving at his fourth school in six years, diplomat’s son Osei Kokote—“O” for short—knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day, so he is lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one boy, used to holding sway in the world of the school­yard, can’t stand to witness the budding relationship. When Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl, the school and its key players—teachers and pupils alike—will never be the same again.

The tragedy of Othello is vividly transposed to a 1970s suburban Washington school, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practice a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. The world of preadolescents is as passionate and intense, if not more so, as that of adults. Drawing us into the lives and emotions of four eleven-year-olds—Osei, Dee, Ian and his reluctant girlfriend Mimi—Tracy Chevalier’s powerful drama of friends torn apart by love and jealousy, bullying and betrayal, is as moving as it is enthralling. It is an unfor­gettable novel.

 Kindle Edition, 208 pages
Published May 16th 2017
by Knopf Canada
***

I knew nothing about this book going in, not about Othello and that it’s part of a series, though each works as a stand-alone. It’s the author that drew me in, I’ve read some of her previous books and liked them.

New Boy takes place in the 1970s during a normal day at school for a group of 10/11-year-olds. But there is nothing normal about it. Again I was treated to great writing, a very fast-moving plot and a look at racism, friendship, and bullying (plus other social issues).  However, my problem with the issues here and the feel of the story were more in line with 16 years old, the strong sexual tensions didn’t match the ages nor the time period. 

So for me I struggled with that aspect a lot. Also, the new boy is Osei shortened to O and that distracted me because at times he’d be Osei and other times O, just disrupted my flow.

All in all an interesting and quick read.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Audio Review: Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors (The Rajes #1) by Sonali Dev


Award-winning author Sonali Dev launches a new series about the Rajes, an immigrant Indian family descended from royalty, who have built their lives in San Francisco...

It is a truth universally acknowledged that only in an overachieving Indian American family can a genius daughter be considered a black sheep.

Dr. Trisha Raje is San Francisco’s most acclaimed neurosurgeon. But that’s not enough for the Rajes, her influential immigrant family who’s achieved power by making its own non-negotiable rules:

· Never trust an outsider

· Never do anything to jeopardize your brother’s political aspirations

· And never, ever, defy your family

Trisha is guilty of breaking all three rules. But now she has a chance to redeem herself. So long as she doesn’t repeat old mistakes.

Up-and-coming chef DJ Caine has known people like Trisha before, people who judge him by his rough beginnings and place pedigree above character. He needs the lucrative job the Rajes offer, but he values his pride too much to indulge Trisha’s arrogance. And then he discovers that she’s the only surgeon who can save his sister’s life.

As the two clash, their assumptions crumble like the spun sugar on one of DJ’s stunning desserts. But before a future can be savored there’s a past to be reckoned with...

A family trying to build a home in a new land.

A man who has never felt at home anywhere.

And a choice to be made between the two.

Paperback, 481 pages
Published May 7th, 2019
by William Morrow Paperbacks
*****
This is my first time reading this author and though I started out with the book I transferred over to the audio version, not just because of time restrictions but I had a feeling I would like this route better, and I was correct. The audio version comes in just over 15 hours and I was enraptured with it the whole time. The reader was Soneela Nankani, she added that extra pizzazz with the various accents and emotions.

Just going by the cover it’s a book that I wouldn’t usually be attracted to but after meeting the author and hearing a keynote address she did recently had me intrigued to read her books.

There are many layers to this story which I loved. it wasn’t just the story of Trisha and DJ but rather a book of trust issues, guilt and mortality adding in a heavy dose of family as well.

Part of me wonders if I would have enjoyed reading this as much as I did listening to the story, I think some books lend themselves better in audio format and for me this was a perfect listen.

This book is part of my ‘2019 reading off my shelf’ challenge. Audiobook via Scribd.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Review: This Son of York by Anne Easter Smith

"Now is the winter of our discontent, Made glorious summer by This Son of York..." -- William Shakespeare, Richard III 

Richard III was Anne's muse for her first five books, but, finally, in This Son of York he becomes her protagonist. 

The story of this English king is one of history's most compelling, made even more fascinating through the discovery in 2012 of his bones buried under a car park in Leicester. 

This new portrait of England's most controversial king is meticulously researched and brings to vivid life the troubled, complex Richard of Gloucester, who ruled for two years over an England tired of war and civil strife. 

The loyal and dutiful youngest son of York, Richard lived most of his short life in the shadow of his brother, Edward IV, loyally supporting his sibling until the mantle of power was thrust unexpectedly on him. Some of his actions and motives were misunderstood by his enemies to have been a deliberate usurpation of the throne, but throughout his life, Richard never demonstrated any loftier ambitions than to honorably discharge his duty to his family and his country.

 In a gentler vein, despite the cruel onset of severe scoliosis in his teens, Richard did find love, first with a lover and then in his marriage to Anne Neville. Between these two devoted women in his life, he sired three and perhaps four children. Bringing the Plantagenet dynasty to a violent end, Richard was the last king of England to die in battle.

 This Son of York is a faithful chronicle of this much-maligned man. 

Publication Date: November 10, 2019
Bellastoria Press
eBook & Paperback; 504 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

I’m struggling to find the right words to describe my thoughts on this book without sounding like a blubbering idiot. It’s a book that puts so much pressure on the next one I pick up to read (and being a bigamist reader my audio and print books are 5+ stars also), poor poor next book. 

This is my fourth book by Anne Easter Smith, the previous three were audiobooks, I went that route because of the size. The Son of York comes in at 500 pages and from past experience, I knew I was in for a real big treat.  

Beginning when Richard was a wee little lad, watching him grow up, his relationship with his siblings and parents shaped who he was, as did the era and environment - with its unrest and battle for the crown. Not only was his character development spot on but also the entire cast of characters. Which in turn reflected in the story.  

I can see why it takes a bit for a new Anne Easter Smith book to be released. Her attention to detail, the emotional aspects and dare I mention the research, to say the research is evident doesn’t really give the statement the respect it deserves. Lets just say she knows her history.

I was placed in the time period and felt the drama.  I knew how this book would end, with each page I was hoping for a different outcome. I connected with Richard III and now have a new appreciation for what might have transpired. Definitely, an author I highly recommend, not just those that love HF but those that love an epic-sized book to get lost in the pages of. 

My thanks to Amy at HFVBT for the invite to be part of this tour and an arc in exchange for an honest review. 


Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anne is the award-winning author of The King's Grace and the best-selling A Rose for the Crown, Daughter of York, Queen By Right, and Royal Mistress. She is an expert on Richard III, having studied the king and his times for decades. Her sixth book, This Son of York, will be published soon. She grew up in England, Germany and Egypt, and has been a resident/citizen of the US since 1968. Anne was the Features Editor at a daily newspaper in northern New York State for ten years, and her writing has been published in several national magazines.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Friday, November 15, 2019

Audio Review: The Arrangement by Robyn Harding

A Pretty Woman tale turns toxic and deadly in this provocative and riveting thriller of sex, obsession, and murder from Robyn Harding, the “master of domestic suspense” (Kathleen Barber) and the USA TODAY bestselling author of The Party and Her Pretty Face

 Natalie, a young art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not go online and find a sugar daddy—a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates, and even give her a monthly allowance? Lots of girls do it, Nat learns. All that’s required is to look pretty and hang on his every word. Sexual favors are optional.

 Though more than thirty years her senior, Gabe, a handsome corporate finance attorney, seems like the perfect candidate, and within a month, they are madly in love. At least, Nat is…Gabe already has a family, whom he has no intention of leaving.

 So when he abruptly ends things, Nat can’t let go. She begins drinking heavily and stalking him: watching him at work, spying on his wife, even befriending his daughter, who is not much younger than she is. But Gabe’s not about to let his sugar baby destroy his perfect life. What was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception, obsession, and, when a body is found near Gabe’s posh Upper East Side apartment, murder.

 Emotionally powerful and packed with page-turning suspense, The Arrangement delves into the sordid, all-too-real world of shadowy relationships between wealthy, powerful men and the young women who are caught in their web.

 Audiobook, Unabridged, 352 pages
 Amanda Dolan (Narrator )
 9 hours, 15 minutes
Published July 30th 2019
by Simon & Schuster Audio
**** 1/2


Robyn Harding is a new author to me and a fellow Canadian to boot. The Arrangement has been getting rave reviews amongst my peeps so I jumped on the bandwagon and went the audio route.

Coming in at 9 hours 15 minutes it was a fast-paced addicting story that kept my earbuds in place. With a prologue that hooked me, it was the characters that made this a wonderful listen, well the characters go hand in hand with a suspenseful plot. What I loved was watching the characters evolve, how the story changed them.

The Arrangement is a well-written suspenseful thriller with an ending that fit nicely without being too neatly wrapped up.  Definitely an author I will be reading more of.

This audio was obtained via Scribd.