Sunday, June 20, 2021

Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb

From Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb, the bestselling authors of Meet Me in Monaco, comes a coming-of-age novel set in pre-WWII Europe, perfect for fans of Jennifer Robson, Beatriz Williams, and Kate Quinn.

Three cities, two sisters, one chance to correct the past . . .

New York, 1937: When estranged sisters Clara and Madeleine Sommers learn their grandmother is dying, they agree to fulfill her last wish: to travel across Europe—together. They are to deliver three letters, in which Violet will say goodbye to those she hasn’t seen since traveling to Europe forty years earlier; a journey inspired by famed reporter, Nellie Bly.

Clara, ever-dutiful, sees the trip as an inconvenient detour before her wedding to millionaire Charles Hancock, but it’s also a chance to embrace her love of art. Budding journalist Madeleine relishes the opportunity to develop her ambitions to report on the growing threat of Hitler’s Nazi party and Mussolini’s control in Italy.

Constantly at odds with each other as they explore the luxurious Queen Mary, the Orient Express, and the sights of Paris and Venice,, Clara and Madeleine wonder if they can fulfil Violet’s wish, until a shocking truth about their family brings them closer together. But as they reach Vienna to deliver the final letter, old grudges threaten their reconciliation again. As political tensions rise, and Europe feels increasingly volatile, the pair are glad to head home on the Hindenburg, where fate will play its hand in the final stage of their journey. 

Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Expected publication: July 27th 2021
by Willow Morrow
4/5 stars

When grandma asks 2 estranged sisters to travel together it really isn't a question and the sisters can't say no to their beloved Violet.

Different in personality, goals, belief and fashion makes for a great story as they travel during a turbulent time in history.  Paris, Venice and Vienna are feeling birth pains as Hitler's reign is on the rise. It isn't a quick journey nor is it easy when the past, present and future are discovered, evaluated and unexpected insight in their relationship is tested.

I enjoyed getting to know Clara and Madeleine, constantly at odds they travelled in style. There were many historical settings making this a fun read - the Queen Mary, Orient Express and even the Hindenburg. While the physical journey was interesting it was the emotional one, watching each of them deal with things made for an entertaining read.

This is not the first time authors, Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb have written together (Last Christmas in Paris), and once again they have delivered a well written heartwarming story that flowed nicely with no hint of different hands.  

My thanks to Heather Webb for a digital arc (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Excerpt: Last Flight to Stalingrad by Graham Hurley

 Excerpted from Last Flight to Stalingrad

by Graham Hurley. Head of Zeus, 2021. 

Reprinted with permission.

                      GRAMMATIKOVO, KERCH PENINSULA, CRIMEA, 20 MAY 1942


Oberstleutnant Georg Messner occasionally wondered whether he’d fallen in love with his boss.

 Generaloberst Wolfram von Richthofen was the legendary chief of Fliegerkorps VIII. In half a decade he’d routed the Reich’s enemies in Spain, Poland, France and the Balkans. His Stuka dive bombers, with the terrifying siren he’d invented himself, had become a battlefield code for instant annihilation, and even the vastness of the Soviet Union hadn’t daunted him. On the day German armour poured into Russia, Fliegerkorps VIII had destroyed no less than 1,800 enemy aircraft for the loss of just two planes. Even hardened Luftwaffe veterans couldn’t believe it.

 Now, Messner – who served as an aide to Generaloberst Richthofen – was sitting in a draughty tent on a scruffy airfield on the Kerch Peninsula. The meeting had started barely half an hour ago. Messner had flown in last night, anticipating a celebration at the end of Operation Trappenjagd. General Manstein was rumoured to be arriving in time for lunch.

 In ten exhausting days of incessant bombing, Richthofen’s Fliegerkorps VIII, working hand in hand with General Manstein’s 11th Army, had kicked open the back door to the priceless Caucasian oilfields. One hundred and seventy thousand Russian soldiers stumbled off into captivity. Two full Soviet armies, plus the greater part of a third, were destroyed. In raid after raid, the Heinkels had seeded the Soviet formations below with the new SD2 fragmentation bombs, tiny eggs that exploded feet above the pale earth and tore men to pieces. Coupled with bigger ordnance, Richthofen called it ‘giant fire magic’.

 On the first Sunday of the campaign, most bomber pilots had flown nearly a dozen sorties. A handful had gone three better. Fifteen take-offs. Fifteen landings. All in one day. Unbelievable. This was the way Richthofen organised his campaigns: violence without end, ceaseless pressure, an unrelenting urge to grind the enemy to dust.

 The results had been obvious from the air. Towards the end of the first week, personally supervising the carnage from two thousand metres, Richthofen had emerged from his tiny Fieseler Storch to tell Messner that the jaws of Manstein’s trap were about to close around the hapless Slavs. ‘Unless the weather stops us,’ he growled, ‘no Russian will leave the Crimea alive.’

 And so it went. By the third week in May, after a difficult winter, the road to the Crimean fortress at Sevastopol lay open to Manstein’s tanks and Richthofen’s marauding bomber crews. After a victory of this magnitude, Germany was once again on course to advance deep into the Russian heartlands. Messner himself was a Berliner and it wasn’t difficult to imagine the relief and rejoicing in his home city. Moscow and Leningrad were still under siege, but the real key surely lay here on the southern flank. The seizure of the oil wells would keep the Panzers rolling east. Grain from Ukraine would fill bellies back home. Yet none of the euphoria Messner had expected was evident around this makeshift table.

Messner had first served under Richthofen half a decade ago in the Condor Legion, fighting the Republican armies in the mountains of northern Spain. He knew how difficult, how outspoken this man could be. He treated superiors and underlings alike with a rough impatience which brooked no excuse when things went wrong. His men feared him, of that there was no doubt, but he brought them comfort as well because he was – more often than not – right.

 The story of war, as Messner knew all too well, was the story of things going wrong, but Richthofen had an implacable belief in willpower and the merits of meticulous organisation. In his view there was no such thing as defeat. There’d always be setbacks, certainly, occasions when plans threatened to fall apart, but the men under his command were expected to be masters of both themselves and the battlefield below. For Richthofen, the undisputed Meister of close air support, there was no sweeter word than Schwerpunkt, that carefully plotted moment when irresistible wrath descended on the heads of the enemy and put him on his knees.

Kindle Edition, 270 pages
Published June 4th 2020
 by Head of Zeus



Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Road Trip by Beth O'Leary

Two exes reach a new level of awkward when forced to take a road trip together in this endearing and humorous novel by the author of the international bestseller The Flatshare.

What if the end of the road is just the beginning?

Four years ago, Dylan and Addie fell in love under the Provence sun. Wealthy Oxford student Dylan was staying at his friend Cherry's enormous French villa; wild child Addie was spending her summer as the on-site caretaker. Two years ago, their relationship officially ended. They haven't spoken since.

Today, Dylan's and Addie's lives collide again. It's the day before Cherry's wedding, and Addie and Dylan crash cars at the start of the journey there. The car Dylan was driving is wrecked, and the wedding is in rural Scotland--he'll never get there on time by public transport.

So, along with Dylan's best friend, Addie's sister, and a random guy on Facebook who needed a ride, they squeeze into a space-challenged Mini and set off across Britain. Cramped into the same space, Dylan and Addie are forced to confront the choices they made that tore them apart--and ask themselves whether that final decision was the right one after all.

Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 1st 2021 
by Berkley

The Road Trip was one of my highly anticipated books of 2021.  I LOVED The Flatshare, it was my first rom/com and made me open my eyes to what I could be missing.  Next came The Switch which was just as enjoyable, so obviously I was looked forward to The Road Trip.

I am not sure if my expectation level was just too high or what but, yup there is a but. While I enjoyed parts of this book it didn't hit me like the other two did. 

The beginning was a bit slow, I didn't like Marcus at all and that's okay because there are always those characters around - reading would be a tad boring if one must like all the characters.  Part of the reason I steered away from anything to do with any type of romance novel is the insta-love trope and the aftermath.  For me this book was more of an insta-lust and it just didn't sit right.

The book alternates between Addie and Dylan's POV both in the now and then, I'm glad the author did that, seeing where they are now and what transpires in the past. I think Addie was the only one I really got to know and I loved her sister, Deb - she added that extra bit of hmp the book needed. 

The Road Trip is a story of second chances, self discovery and righting wrongs.  While it may not have been as laugh out loud funny as her previous books Beth O'Leary has touch on serious subject matters relevant today in a somewhat light hearted matter.  I liked the conclusion and for me that redeemed some of my feelings for the insta-lust part.

The Road Trip is in bookstores now.

This book was part of my 2021 Reading Of My Shelf Challenge.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Destined for You (Ladies of the Lake #1) by Tracie Peterson

In 1869, Gloriana Womack's family is much smaller since smallpox killed her mother and two of her siblings. She lives in a modest cottage in Duluth, Minnesota, with her father and young brother, and she has dedicated her life to holding her tiny, fractured family together--especially as her father is frequently gone on long fishing trips. Their livelihood may come from the waters of Lake Superior, but storms on the lake can be dangerous, even to those who know it well.

Luke Carson has come to Duluth to help shepherd the arrival of the railroad to the city's port, and he's eager to be reunited with his brother, Scott, who recently moved there with his pregnant wife. Competition for the railroad is fierce, with the neighboring city of Superior, Wisconsin, fighting for the tracks to come through their town instead. But the real danger lies in a resident of Duluth who is determined to have his revenge upon Luke.

When tragedy brings Gloriana and Luke together, they help each other through their grief and soon find their lives inextricably linked. If they survive the trials ahead, could it be possible they've been destined for each other all along?

Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 2nd 2021
 by Bethany House Publishers
3/5 stars  

I've been wanting to read a Tracie Peterson book for a long time.  When I was offered this book for review I took that as a sign and jumped at the chance.  The cover clinched the deal - isn't it gorgeous?

Destined for You is the first book in the Ladies of the Lake Series, with #2 Forever My Own being released in July.

This book was well written in terms of a good story, the journey for Gloriana, TJ and Luke as they deal with loss and the struggles associated with it.  Their faith was tested again and again. 

For me I don't feel that I'm the target audience for this one.  It wasn't as gritty as I like, I didn't feel the depth of character and therefore didn't get that emotional attachment.  As for the story I would say it was a light romance that again I didn't feel.  The conflict with the railway felt just touched upon and the conclusion was uneventful.

All in all for those that like a lighter story about some serious subject matters this would work.  Looking at the ratings I can see that I am in the minority with my thoughts.

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

Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Perfect Daughter by D.J. Palmer

The Perfect Daughter is a thriller that explores the truth or lies behind a teenage girl's multiple personality disorder, from D.J. Palmer, the author of The New Husband.

Meet Ruby, who speaks with a British accent.

Then there’s Chloe, a perfectionist who strives for straight A’s in school.

And along comes Eve, who is spiteful and vicious.

All of them live inside Penny…

Or do they?

Penny Francone, age 16, is a murderer. Her guilt is beyond doubt: She was found alone in the victim’s apartment, covered in blood, holding the murder weapon. The victim’s identity and her secret relationship to Penny give Penny the perfect motive, sealing the deal. All the jury needs to decide now is where Penny will serve out her sentence. Will she be found not guilty by reason of insanity, as her lawyer intends to argue? Or will she get a life sentence in a maximum-security prison?

Already reeling from tragedy after the sudden passing of her beloved husband a few years before, now Grace is on her knees, grateful that Massachusetts doesn't allow the death penalty.

As Penny awaits trial in a state mental hospital, she is treated by Dr. Mitchell McHugh, a psychiatrist battling demons of his own. Grace’s determination to understand the why behind her daughter’s terrible crime fuels Mitch’s resolve to help the Francone family. Together, they set out in search of the truth about Penny, but discover instead a shocking hidden history of secrets, lies, and betrayals that threatens to consume them all.

The perfect daughter. Is she fooling them all? 

Audiobook, Unabridged
Dan Bittner (Narrator),
January LaVoy (Narrator)
11 hours, 42 minutes
Published April 20th 2021 
by Macmillan Audio
4/5 stars

I was happy to listen to the audio of The Perfect Daughter.  Wanting just one more chapter (pun intended) as I tried to solve the mystery before it was revealed. Suffice to say I didn't.

The Perfect Daughter was an entertaining read, it had a nice mix of both likeable and unlikable characters, the pacing was good, the story line unique and well executed.  Though a few times I had to suspend by belief but not enough to spoil this read.  I liked how the ending played out.

But what stood out for me was educational lesson of DID  (Dissociative Identity Disorder, which at one time was Multiple Personality Disorder). Definitely the author did the research and wove a mysterious story around that.

D. J. Palmer is a new to me author, I hope to read more of his books and check out his backlist.

My thanks to MacMIllan Audio (via Netgalley) for a e-audiobook in exchange for honest review.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Message in the Sand by Hannah McKinnon

Wendell Combs is as local as they come. Born and raised in the small town of Saybrook, Connecticut, his venture into the larger world was met with heartbreak. Now, middle-aged and a confirmed bachelor, he seeks solitude from his tour of duty as a soldier back in his hometown, working as head caretaker for wealthy Alan Lancaster’s forty-acre estate, White Pines, a place he has come to love for its beauty, peace, and quiet.

Alan’s eldest daughter, fifteen-year-old Julia, also loves White Pines, but for very different reasons. She and her little sister spend their days riding horses, swimming in the lake, and painting landscapes inspired by the property they adore. While her parents prepare to host their annual summer gala fundraiser, Julia’s eyes are set to the simpler joys of summer: she’s fallen in love with the boy-next-door and longs for their next encounter.

But as the last guests leave on that magical summer night, a tragedy no one could have predicted suddenly occurs, shaking the entire town to its core. Wendell and Julia now face an uncertain future. At the height of their grief, two very different women return to Saybrook: Ginny Foster, Wendell’s first love, who cannot stay away any longer, and Candace Lancaster, Julia’s estranged aunt who wants nothing to do with the town or the family estate she escaped decades earlier. Now, the only familiar things Julia has to cling to are Wendell and White Pines, but it looks like she’s about to lose both...

Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Expected publication: June 15th 2021
by Atria/Emily Bestler Books
4/5 stars

I surprised myself on how much I enjoyed this book, I mean that in a good way.  It's a genre I don't usually read a lot of and sometimes it pays to follow a gut instinct.

Message in the Sand is a heartbreaking story that showed the determination in the mist of grief to stand up and well, take a stand.  I was drawn in right away with the writing and the characters.  It's not often that I like most, if not all the players in a book. Here is a cast of characters, each with baggage, heart and afraid to let anyone in. While it might have been a little predictable I enjoyed the journeys that were taken. 

With multiple layers this book was written with feeling and flowed smoothly. There were also a number of different POV's that just rounded this book nicely.

Hannah McKinnon is a new author for me, I'll definitely be on the lookout for more.

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

Thursday, May 27, 2021

The Warsaw Orphan by Kelly Rimmer

In the spring of 1942, young Elzbieta Rabinek is aware of the swiftly growing discord just beyond the courtyard of her comfortable Warsaw home. She has no fondness for the Germans who patrol her streets and impose their curfews, but has never given much thought to what goes on behind the walls that contain her Jewish neighbors. She knows all too well about German brutality--and that it's the reason she must conceal her true identity. But in befriending Sara, a nurse who shares her apartment floor, Elzbieta makes a discovery that propels her into a dangerous world of deception and heroism.

Using Sara's credentials to smuggle children out of the ghetto brings Elzbieta face-to-face with the reality of the war behind its walls, and to the plight of the Gorka family, who must make the impossible decision to give up their newborn daughter or watch her starve. For Roman Gorka, this final injustice stirs him to rebellion with a zeal not even his newfound love for Elzbieta can suppress. But his recklessness brings unwanted attention to Sara's cause, unwittingly putting Elzbieta and her family in harm's way until one violent act threatens to destroy their chance at freedom forever.

From Nazi occupation to the threat of a communist regime, The Warsaw Orphan is the unforgettable story of Elzbieta and Roman's perilous attempt to reclaim the love and life they once knew. 

Expected publication: June 1st 2021
 by Graydon House
4/5 stars

The Warsaw Orphan is a heartbreaking story told from the POV of both Elzbeita and Roman.  Teens caught in the war that destroyed so much, shattered lives and wiped out generations of families.

Both Roman and Elzbeita have strong personalities, are so determined in their quests making me forgot their ages (14 years when the book begins). A part of me struggled with that aspect, but on the other hand the war caused a lot of people to grow up before their time.

The author didn't hold back in her descriptive story and what wasn't verbalized was definitely felt.

I missed the author notes - this was an arc so hopefully the finished copies will have them.  I would have loved to known what was based on fact vs. fiction.  Part of me feels much of this book is not made up, how can so much bad be consciously imagined?  But rather this was a true reflection of what took place and that in itself will stay with me for a long time.

The Warsaw Orphan was an emotional reading, depressing at times. It showed a side of the war in Poland I haven't visited before. But it also showed the strength and determination of those that fought back and survived.

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

Monday, May 24, 2021

A Vow So Bold and Deadly (Cursebreakers #3) by Brigid Kemmerer

Grey has been revealed as the rightful prince of Emberfall. But the kingdom is crumbling fast, torn between his claim and that of the reigning Prince Rhen and Princess Harper.

Newly crowned as Queen of the enemy kingdom Syhl Shallow, Lia Mara struggles to rule with a gentler hand than her mother. But as Grey moves closer to claiming the crown of Emberfall, both Harper and Lia Mara are forced to question where they stand - and how far they can follow the dictates of their hearts.

Brigid Kemmerer's heart-pounding saga comes to a thrilling climax, as two kingdoms come closer and closer to conflict - and an old enemy resurfaces who could destroy them all.

Paperback, 405 pages
Published January 26th 2021
 by Bloomsbury YA
3.5/5 stars

A Vow So Bold and Deadly, the final book in the Cursebreakers Series continues right where the last book left off.  Though it hasn't been that long since I read the last two books my memories were refreshed in a non info dumping way.

Like the previous books this is told from a number of different POVs - Harper, Grey, Rhen and Lia Mara. While it was nice to get the different perspectives it did take time and I found my attention waning with the back and forth and very little in the way of action.  

I'm not sure that I can totally fault the book for my feelings.  Since covid hit I have been craving faster paced stories, ones with more mystery and suspense. This was a slower paced story that did pick up speed for the last 1/3, thank goodness! The ending was fitting but nothing spectacular.

When put together as the whole series I really did enjoy it, especially the first two books.

This book was part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge - #35.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

The Whispering Dead (Gravekeeper #1) by Darcy Coates

USA Today bestseller and rising queen of atmospheric horror Darcy Coates returns with a ghost story that will haunt you long after the final page. She hears them whispering...

Homeless, hunted, and desperate to escape a bitter storm, Keira takes refuge in an abandoned groundskeeper's cottage. Her new home is tucked away at the edge of a cemetery, surrounded on all sides by gravestones: some recent, some hundreds of years old, all suffering from neglect.

And in the darkness, she can hear the unquiet dead whispering.

The cemetery is alive with faint, spectral shapes, led by a woman who died before her time... and Keira, the only person who can see her, has become her new target. Determined to help put the ghost to rest, Keira digs into the spirit's past life with the help of unlikely new friends, and discovers a history of deception, ill-fated love, and murder.

But the past is not as simple as it seems, and Keira's time is running out. Tangled in a dangerous web, she has to find a way to free the spirit... even if it means offering her own life in return. 

Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 4th 2021 
by Poisoned Pen Press
4/5 stars

It was the cover that drove me to this book, it has that eerie creepy look that screams don't read late at night. The thing is it isn't as dark as I thought.  Now don't get me wrong that doesn't mean it wasn't a good read because it was.

Kiera forgot her past and I suppose she forgot to be afraid of the dark and creepy situations - like a cemetery late at night. While I say this wasn't dark it was still an interesting mystery that had ghosts of the past mixed with some likeable and kinda quirky characters in the present and it has a cat.

I liked the small town setting, with an eclectic, mysterious cast this was an intriguing story that kept me guessing.  Plots with that ghosty vibe are some of my favourites to read.  Being the first book in a brand new series The Whispering Dead leaves room to fill in the blanks that weren't resolved in this book.  

This book was part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge

Coming March 2022

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Cover Reveal: The Next Ship Home: A Novel of Ellis Island by Heather Webb


The Next Ship Home: A Novel of Ellis Island
by Heather Webb

Publication Date: February 8, 2022
Sourcebooks Landmark

Genre: Historical Fiction

Ellis Island, 1902: Two women band together to hold America to its promise: "Give me your tired, your poor ... your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."

A young Italian woman arrives on the shores of America, her sights set on a better life. That same day, a young American woman reports to her first day of work at the immigration center. But Ellis Island isn't a refuge for Francesca or Alma, not when ships depart every day with those who are refused entry to the country and when corruption ripples through every corridor. While Francesca resorts to desperate measures to ensure she will make it off the island, Alma fights for her dreams of becoming a translator, even as women are denied the chance.

As the two women face the misdeeds of a system known to manipulate and abuse immigrants searching for new hope in America, they form an unlikely friendship―and share a terrible secret―altering their fates and the lives of the immigrants who come after them.

Inspired by true events and for fans of Kristina McMorris and Hazel Gaynor, The Next Ship Home holds up a mirror to our own times, deftly questioning America's history of prejudice and exclusion while also reminding us of our citizens' singular determination. This is a novel of the dark secrets of Ellis Island, when entry to "the land of the free" promised a better life but often delivered something drastically different, and when immigrant strength and female friendship found ways to triumph even on the darkest days.

Pre-order now!
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About the Author

Heather Webb is the USA Today Bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction. In 2017, LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS won the Women's Fiction Writers Association award, and in 2019, MEET ME IN MONACO was shortlisted for both the RNA award in the UK and also the Digital Book World Fiction prize.

Up and coming, Heather's new solo novel called THE NEXT SHIP HOME: A NOVEL OF ELLIS ISLAND is about unlikely friends that confront a corrupt system altering their fates and the lives of the immigrants who come after them, and it releases in Feb 2022. Also, look for her third collaboration with her beloved writing partner, Hazel Gaynor, THREE WORDS FOR GOODBYE, releasing this July! (2021)

When not writing, Heather flexes her foodie skills, geeks out on pop culture and history, or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world.

For more information, please visit Heather's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

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