Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Cover Reveal: The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray

Mark you calendar, March 30th, 2021 for the release of Stephanie Dray's new book.  Scroll down for the big cover reveal - wowser!! Isn't it gorgeous. Scroll down a little bit more for a

 Q & A.


An epic saga from New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Dray based on the true story of an extraordinary castle in the heart of France and the remarkable women bound by its legacy in three of humanity's darkest hours.

Most castles are protected by powerful men. This one by women...

A founding mother...

1774. Gently-bred noblewoman Adrienne Lafayette becomes her husband's political partner in the fight for American independence. But when their idealism sparks revolution in France and the guillotine threatens everything she holds dear, Adrienne must choose to renounce the complicated man she loves, or risk her life for a legacy that will inspire generations to come.

A daring visionary...

1914. Glittering New York socialite Beatrice Astor Chanler is a force of nature, daunted by nothing--not her humble beginnings, her crumbling marriage, or the outbreak of war. But after witnessing the devastation in France and delivering war-relief over dangerous seas, Beatrice takes on the challenge of a lifetime: convincing America to fight for what's right.

A reluctant resistor...

1940. French school-teacher and aspiring artist Marthe Simone has an orphan's self-reliance and wants nothing to do with war. But as the realities of Nazi occupation transform her life in the isolated castle where she came of age, she makes a discovery that calls into question who she is, and more importantly, who she is willing to become.

Intricately woven and beautifully told, The Women of Chateau Lafayette is a sweeping novel about duty and hope, love and courage, and the strength we find from standing together in honor of those who came before us.

Expected publication: March 30th 2021


What made you fall in love with Adrienne Lafayette and why do you think readers will fall for her as you did?

 Thanks to a popular musical, the Marquis de Lafayette is known to a new generation as "America's Favorite Fighting Frenchman"--and there's good reason for that. He's easily the most lovable of our Founding Fathers, and his wife, whom he called his dear heart, is just as lovable if not more so. Adrienne was our French Founding Mother, so right up my alley as a heroine, but at first I worried she was too sweet, devoted, and forgiving. In short, too gentle for a novel. Little did I realize that more than any other historical heroine I've ever written, Adrienne fought and sacrificed for her principles, courageously threw herself into danger, confronted tyrants, and endured trials that would have broken lesser mortals. She truly humbles me, and when I talk about the Lafayette legacy, I think of it as every bit as much hers as it is his.

 How long did it take you to write this book? Did the story evolve as you researched, or did you always know you wanted to take on the lives of these particular women?

 I was always interested in Lafayette--an interest that grew as Laura Kamoie and I co-authored America's First Daughter and My Dear Hamilton. I think I had the germ of the idea for a Lafayette novel at least seven years ago, but I had other projects in the way. And I was always in search of an angle that would be fresh and unique. That came to me when I discovered that Lafayette's castle in Auvergne, which had been purchased and renovated by Americans, served to shelter Jewish children from the Nazis. Knowing how deeply the Lafayettes both felt about religious freedom, I knew this would have pleased them, and it touched me. I was then determined to know which Americans had purchased the chateau, and when I found out, yet another glorious chapter in the Lafayette legacy was born. That's when the story took shape for me about one special place on this earth where, generation after generation, faith has been kept with principles of liberty and humanity. I find that very inspirational, now more than ever.

 The book is centered around Lafayette’s castle, the Château de Chavaniac, and the pivotal role it played during three of history’s darkest hours—the French Revolution and both World Wars. If you could have dinner with any three people (dead or alive) at Chavaniac, who would you choose and why?

 Believe it or not, this is actually a difficult choice because so many incredible men and women passed through those doors. I'd have to start with the Lafayettes--though I hope they would not serve me pigeons, which were a favorite at their wedding banquet. To join us for dinner, I'd choose the colorful stage-star of the Belle Epoque, Beatrice Chanler, because she was a force of nature without whom Chavaniac might not still be standing. Actress, artist, philanthropist, decorated war-relief worker and so-called Queen of the Social Register, she was as mysterious as she was wonderful, and even after all the startling discoveries I made researching her larger-than-life existence, I have a million questions about the early life she tried so hard to hide. I can't wait for readers to meet her!

Click here to check out Stephanie Dray's website

Monday, July 13, 2020

Review: Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis

Dear Emmie Blue
In this charming and poignant novel, teenager Emmie Blue releases a balloon with her email address and a big secret into the sky, only to fall head-over-heels for the boy who finds it; now, fourteen years later, the one thing Emmie has been counting on is gone for good, and everything she planned is up in the air.

At sixteen, Emmie Blue stood in the fields of her school and released a red balloon into the sky. Attached was her name, her email address…and a secret she desperately wanted to be free of. Weeks later, on a beach in France, Lucas Moreau discovered the balloon and immediately emailed the attached addressed, sparking an intense friendship between the two teens.

Now, fourteen years later, Emmie is hiding the fact that she’s desperately in love with Lucas. She has pinned all her hopes on him and waits patiently for him to finally admit that she’s the one for him. So dedicated to her love for Lucas, Emmie has all but neglected her life outside of this relationship—she’s given up the search for her absentee father, no longer tries to build bridges with her distant mother, and lives as a lodger to an old lady she barely knows after being laid off from her job. And when Lucas tells Emmie he has a big question to ask her, she’s convinced this is the moment he’ll reveal his feelings for her. But nothing in life ever quite goes as planned, does it?

Emmie Blue is about to learn everything she thinks she knows about life (and love) is just that: what she thinks she knows. Is there such thing as meant to be? Or is it true when they say that life is what happens when you are busy making other plans? A story filled with heart and humor, Dear Emmie Blue is perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and Evvie Drake Starts Over.

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Expected publication: July 14th 2020
by Atria/Emily Bestler Books
4.5/5 stars

Lia Louis is a new author for me. Dear Emmie Blue is her 2nd book, though for me it got off to a slow start, it turned into one of my favorites for 2020.

Emmie Blue is a complicated character, impulsive, insecure and a loyal friend.  At first I kinda thought meh but as I got to know her, meet her mother, friends and find out what made her tick I didn't just feel compassion but wanted to reach out and give her a hug and smack at the same time. Her upbringing shaped her in so many ways, as did her friendship with Lucas - finder of Emmie's balloon.

Dear Emmie Blue is a well-written coming of age story for a 30-year-old and that's a good thing.  As Emmie deals with things (the blurb doesn't specifically say what it is, so I won't either) she is forced to deal with the past as it takes her on a journey of self-discovery.  This journey was a pleasure to read as the author wove the past with the present seamlessly. It's a book that made me smile, laugh and shed a few tears. There were serious issues relevant today there are triggers as well as healing.

Though some things might be predictable it was a pleasure to read about Emmie. Lia Louis's debut, Somewhere Close to Happy is already in my TBR pile and I look forward to what she has coming out next.

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

Somewhere Close to Happy

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Review: The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

The Book of Lost Names
Inspired by an astonishing true story from World War II, a young woman with a talent for forgery helps hundreds of Jewish children flee the Nazis in this unforgettable historical novel from the international bestselling author of the “epic and heart-wrenching World War II tale” (Alyson Noel, #1 New York Times bestselling author) The Winemaker’s Wife.

Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librarian in Florida, is shelving books one morning when her eyes lock on a photograph in a magazine lying open nearby. She freezes; it’s an image of a book she hasn’t seen in sixty-five years—a book she recognizes as The Book of Lost Names.

The accompanying article discusses the looting of libraries by the Nazis across Europe during World War II—an experience Eva remembers well—and the search to reunite people with the texts taken from them so long ago. The book in the photograph, an eighteenth-century religious text thought to have been taken from France in the waning days of the war, is one of the most fascinating cases. Now housed in Berlin’s Zentral- und Landesbibliothek library, it appears to contain some sort of code, but researchers don’t know where it came from—or what the code means. Only Eva holds the answer—but will she have the strength to revisit old memories and help reunite those lost during the war?

As a graduate student in 1942, Eva was forced to flee Paris after the arrest of her father, a Polish Jew. Finding refuge in a small mountain town in the Free Zone, she begins forging identity documents for Jewish children fleeing to neutral Switzerland. But erasing people comes with a price, and along with a mysterious, handsome forger named Rémy, Eva decides she must find a way to preserve the real names of the children who are too young to remember who they really are. The records they keep in The Book of Lost Names will become even more vital when the resistance cell they work for is betrayed and Rémy disappears.

An engaging and evocative novel reminiscent of The Lost Girls of Paris and The Alice Network, The Book of Lost Names is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of bravery and love in the face of evil.

Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Expected publication: July 21st 2020
by Gallery Books
4/5 stars

I love reading about strong women from the past, not just during the war but anytime. This book takes place during WW2 along with a few chapters in current time (but with no pandemic). There are a number of books that portray spies, those that infiltrate inner circles of the enemy, Book of Lost Names takes on a different view. Eva forges documents to help children escape Nazi terror, to keep them safe and give them a future. No spoiler, blurb says that. The process was intriguing, learning some of the tricks of the trade, educational and the risks was compelling.

This book is a story of Eva, her desire to not sit by but use her talents to help thousands of children escape France.  It's a realistic look at the times, to feel the heartache of what the citizens of France endured. Eva's mother is with her, I really felt for her. Her fear and confusion shines through, she ages so much that I can’t imagine what she is going through. The fear of what was happening, what the future holds when they planned and work so hard for the life they had and then taken away like that with just the clothes on their backs. Great character development!

Eva's passion to remember these children, to record them with the hope of reuniting families is evident and commendable. Whether that book actually exists, I'd like to believe it does.  The author notes highlight facts of the time, the forgers and sadly how many families were ripped apart.

Kristin Harmel has written a number of books now taking placing during WW2 (this is my 2nd), her knowledge of the time shines through. This is a book and author I recommend.

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

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Review: Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella

A Harvard freshman becomes obsessed with her schizophrenic brother’s suicide. Then she starts hearing voices.

Cadence Archer arrives on Harvard’s campus desperate to understand why her brother, Eric, a genius who developed paranoid schizophrenia took his own life there the year before. Losing Eric has left a black hole in Cady’s life, and while her decision to follow in her brother’s footsteps threatens to break her family apart, she is haunted by questions of what she might have missed. And there’s only one place to find answers.

As Cady struggles under the enormous pressure at Harvard, she investigates her brother’s final year, armed only with a blue notebook of Eric’s cryptic scribblings. She knew he had been struggling with paranoia, delusions, and illusory enemies—but what tipped him over the edge? With her suspicions mounting, Cady herself begins to hear voices, seemingly belonging to three ghosts who walked the university’s hallowed halls—or huddled in its slave quarters. Among them is a person whose name has been buried for centuries, and another whose name mankind will never forget.

Does she share Eric’s illness, or is she tapping into something else? Cady doesn’t know how or why these ghosts are contacting her, but as she is drawn deeper into their worlds, she believes they’re moving her closer to the truth about Eric, even as keeping them secret isolates her further. Will listening to these voices lead her to the one voice she craves—her brother’s—or will she follow them down a path to her own destruction?

Hardcover, 480 pages
Published May 5th 2020
by Random House
4/5 stars

Have you ever seen a book and just by the title know you want to read it? That gut instinct that triggers something. That’s the way it was for me with this book, then a couple of zoom meetings with various authors clinched it.

Coming in at 480 pages it's a size I can sink my teeth into. There is time to develop characters, create the setting with depth and cast suspicions all around. So yes Ghosts is a slow burn that managed to keep my attention and bond with Cady.

Ghosts of Harvard is a book about grief and the different ways people handle it. For Cady she wanted to walk in her brother’s footsteps at Harvard, feel his experiences but she got way more than she bargained for. There is suspicion, mystery, healing and family drama that make this a well-rounded story. Oh and one can’t forget about the ghosts, who doesn’t love a good ghosty story?

Mental illness does take center stage here. As someone that has little experience with it I always appreciate the reminder of how it affects individuals, family, friends and society. 

Ten years in the making this is a solid debut for Francesca Serritella - though she has written nonfiction and collaborated with her mother Lisa Scottoline. I'm looking forward to reading more in the future.

My copy obtained from the public library in print form - been craving print format these days.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Review/Giveaway: The Imperfects by Amy Meyerson

From the bestselling author of The Bookshop of Yesterdays comes a captivating new novel about a priceless inheritance that leads one family on a life-altering pursuit of the truth.

The Millers are far from perfect. Estranged siblings Beck, Ashley and Jake find themselves under one roof for the first time in years, forced to confront old resentments and betrayals, when their mysterious, eccentric matriarch, Helen, passes away. But their lives are about to change when they find a secret inheritance hidden among her possessions--the Florentine Diamond, a 137-carat yellow gemstone that went missing from the Austrian Empire a century ago.

Desperate to learn how one of the world's most elusive diamonds ended up in Helen's bedroom, they begin investigating her past only to realize how little they know about their brave, resilient grandmother. As the Millers race to determine whether they are the rightful heirs to the diamond and the fortune it promises, they uncover a past more tragic and powerful than they ever could have imagined, forever changing their connection to their heritage and each other.

Inspired by the true story of the real, still-missing Florentine Diamond, The Imperfects illuminates the sacrifices we make for family and how sometimes discovering the truth of the past is the only way to better the future.

Paperback, 384 pages
Published May 5th 2020
by Park Row
4/5 stars

The Millers are a dysfunctional family who reunite at a grave site - no spoiler here, aside from the blurb what else brings a group of estranged family members together? Each with their own personal issues both inside and outside of the family circle, but together... let’s just say I’m was looking forward to seeing how this was going to play out. What happened to make everyone at odds with each other?

It was a slow start to this story but it was also time to get to know everyone.  The story is weaved with memories making it easy to get inside everyone's head and know what the issues are/were.  The author did a great job of weaving making this a well written book with characters that are flawed and at times not really likeable.

The historical aspect of the Florentine Diamond had me googling, seeing pictures and learning more about it.  I would have loved that time period to have taken up more pages - that's the history nerd in me talking.  But I loved the back story and how Helen acquired it.

The Imperfects is a book of secrets - everyone had secrets, family dynamics - such a wide range of personalities, and history - to know what really happened to the diamond would be so cool.

Amy Meyerson is a new author for me, this is her 2nd book, The Book Shop of Yesterdays being her debut (on my TBR pile).

I have an extra copy of this book, if you pop on over to my Instagram account you can enter to win. Sorry but due to postage rates I can only ship to a Canadian address.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Audio Review: Good in Bed (Cannie Shapiro #1) by Jennifer Weiner

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Review: The Winter Rose (The Tea Rose #2) by Jennifer Donnelly

Another strong, satisfying novel, full of rich storytelling, by the author of the favourite The Tea Rose.

An epic tale of secret love and hidden passions.

It is 1900 and the dangerous streets of East London are no place for a well-bred woman. But India Selwyn Jones is headstrong: she has trained as one of a new breed, a woman doctor, and is determined to practice where the need is greatest. It is in these grim streets where India meets - and saves the life of - London's most notorious gangster, Sid Malone. Hard, violent, devastatingly attractive, Malone is the opposite of India's cool, aristocratic fiance.

Though Malone represents all she despises, India finds herself unwillingly drawn ever closer to him - enticed by his charm, intrigued by his hidden, mysterious past. The Winter Rose brings the beginning of the turbulent twentieth century vividly to life, drawing the reader into its wretched underworld, its privileged society, and the shadowland between the two, where the strict rules of the time blur into secret passions.

Praise for The Tea Rose: 'Most seductive . . . the writing is so fluid you feel the author simply loves telling her story' Frank McCourt

'I loved this vividly researched and wonderfully rumbustious yarn - brilliantly told, great fun to read' Simon Winchester

Paperback, 736 pages
Published November 30th 2006
by Harper Collins
4/5 stars

This book is not for the faint of heart in terms of size. Coming it at 736 pages and 35 hours as an audiobook, be prepared.

Continuing 6 or so years after The Tea Rose ends it follows the Finnegan family. Plus India Jones joins the casts at the turn of the 20th century, one of the first female doctors with a passion for those who cannot afford medical treatment. She has plans and goals with a character to make it happen.

I won’t go into detail as to what happens but suffice to say this epic read is full of drama. Forbidden love, greed, treachery, money and actually this list could go on and on. Yes there is a lot going on and I’m glad I split my time between both the ebook and audiobook.

Yes it is long winded and honestly could have been a little shorter but I’m at a lose as to what could be omitted. The characters are well developed, the classes of society well defined and yes there is another epic sized sequel, The Wild Rose, waiting in the wings.

This could have been a 5 star read for me if not for some of the coincidences that take place towards the end. I get it, but...

Jennifer Donnelly is a favorite author of mine. Not all her books are that size. Revolution and The Northern Light are my favorites, both YA historical reads.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Review: A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry

Acclaimed author Lois Lowry's first novel, A Summer to Die is a poignant and perceptive tale of love and tragedy.

Meg isn't thrilled when she gets stuck sharing a bedroom with her older sister Molly. The two of them couldn't be more different, and it's hard for Meg to hide her resentment of Molly's beauty and easy popularity. But now that the family has moved to a small house in the country, Meg has a lot to accept.

Just as the sisters begin to adjust to their new home, Meg feels that Molly is starting up again by being a real nuisance. But Molly's constant grouchiness, changing appearance, and other complaints are not just part of a new mood. And the day Molly is rushed to the hospital, Meg has to accept that there is something terribly wrong with her sister. That's the day Meg's world changes forever. Is it too late for Meg to show her true feelings?

Paperback, 192 pages
Published May 10th 2016
by HMH Books for Young Readers
4.5/5 stars

Having never read a Lois Lowry book before, for some reason I was drawn to this one. Judging by the title you can get a feel what this book is about. This is also the author's debut, first published in 1977.

I went in with an open mind but at the same time bracing myself as the story developed and I got to know Meg and her sister Molly. Written in 1977 one must remember what times were like back then, especially when mixing children, illness and hospitals. Definitely not the openness we see today.

Sisters and a heartbreaking summer pretty well sum up this story. It’s up there with The Boy in the Striped Pajamas in terms of the emotional impact it left on this reader. A Summer to Die is a well-written book with a pretty serious subject matter for a younger child.  It's an authentic look at two sisters doing what sisters do -  bicker, draw lines and are best friends (but not always). It had that coming of age feel as Meg navigated that summer with her camera focusing on relationships and making new friends.

The author notes tell what inspired the author to write this story making it all the more endearing and heartfelt. I have both Number the Stars and The Giver waiting patiently on my TBR pile, hopefully this summer.

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Review: Red Sky Over Hawaii by Sara Ackerman

Inspired by real places and events of WWII, Red Sky Over Hawaii immerses the reader in a time of American history full of suspicion and peril in this lush and poignant tale about the indisputable power of doing the right thing against all odds.

The attack on Pearl Harbor changes everything for Lana Hitchcock. Arriving home on the Big Island too late to reconcile with her estranged father, she is left alone to untangle the clues of his legacy, which lead to a secret property tucked away in the remote rain forest of Kilauea volcano. When the government starts taking away her neighbors as suspected sympathizers, Lana shelters two young German girls, a Japanese fisherman and his son. As tensions escalate, they are forced into hiding—only to discover the hideaway house is not what they expected.

When a detainment camp is established nearby, Lana struggles to keep the secrets of those in her care. Trust could have dangerous consequences. As their lives weave together, Lana begins to understand the true meaning of family and how the bonds of love carry us through the worst times.

Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published June 9th 2020
3.5/5 stars

I'll confess to be drawn to this book by the cover along with the chance to read with a Hawaiian setting.  It isn't often I read with a point of view from that side of the ocean during WW2.

Red Sky over Hawaii was a slow burn that took its time in developing into something that grabbed my attention.  The first few chapters were a little long winded, just getting Lana to where my interest peaked. After that this book showed what life was like for those deemed the enemy, no matter the age. I didn't realize that there were detainment camps on the islands not just the mainland. The author notes expounded on that a bit.

With vivid descriptions of the Island, nature and the struggle to survive when always watching every step, I enjoyed my time reading this book. Secrets were key to protect those more vulnerable and there are always repercussions.

Sara Ackerman is a new author for me, I be checking out her back list.

My thanks to the publisher for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Review: A Murder in Time (Kendra Donovan #1) by Julie McElwain

Beautiful and brilliant, Kendra Donovan is a rising star at the FBI. Yet her path to professional success hits a speed bump during a disastrous raid where half her team is murdered, a mole in the FBI is uncovered and she herself is severely wounded. As soon as she recovers, she goes rogue and travels to England to assassinate the man responsible for the deaths of her teammates.

While fleeing from an unexpected assassin herself, Kendra escapes into a stairwell that promises sanctuary but when she stumbles out again, she is in the same place - Aldrich Castle - but in a different time: 1815, to be exact.

Mistaken for a lady's maid hired to help with weekend guests, Kendra is forced to quickly adapt to the time period until she can figure out how she got there; and, more importantly, how to get back home. However, after the body of a young girl is found on the extensive grounds of the county estate, she starts to feel there's some purpose to her bizarre circumstances. Stripped of her twenty-first century tools, Kendra must use her wits alone in order to unmask a cunning madman.

Kindle Edition, 513 pages
Published April 15th 2016
by Pegasus
3/5 stars

I can't believe its been 4 years since A Murder in Time has been released.  I remember when so many of my blogger friends recommended this one and I jumped to grab at an ARC when it was offered.  Unfortunately life got in the way and its only been recently that I did a buddy read with Laurie aka The Baking Bookworm. Here is the thing with Laurie and I, there are some books that we both love, some I love and she doesn't and visa versa and ya know what? That's okay, because wouldn't life be boring if we all loved the same thing.  Follow the link above for her review.

A Murder in Time started out great, a feisty Kendra was an instant like for me.  She took no guff, was confident and as her past was revealed I really felt for her. I enjoyed the writing, it was engaging and had me wanting to read more. 

Things changed though once she is hurtled back in time to 1815. That in itself was done nicely and actually felt authentic. As the story progressed the tone did also. I get that she struggled to adapt and even accept what happened.  Dawning her FBI profiler hat didn't help when the actions and language were too modern for the times. I was tired of hearing unsub over and over again.

The mystery was interesting, a wide case of characters to keep my eyes on and with no modern forensic methods made this case very interesting.  Now that it's been a while since A Murder of Time has been released I know there is a sequel or two out there.