Monday, April 6, 2020

Review: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls' lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn't sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh's involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it's a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

 Hardcover, 403 pages
Published August 6th 2019
by Delacorte

Another book where it was the cover that grabbed my attention, what can I say!? But as they say, looks can be deceiving and yes I have been burned before. I am happy to say this one lived up to the cover.

Fairy tale retellings are fun to read, I did go ahead and read Twelve Dancing Princesses first and no there wasn’t anything more revealed that isn’t in the blurb above.

I wasn't sure what to expect here but suffice to say this was atmospheric and definitely had the chill factor. With that Gothic feeling, it was set overlooking the sea with its secret passageways, hintings of a curse, magic and a family that has been in mourning for years and years.

House of Salt and Sorrow is a well written debut. It had that raw plot to remind me fairy tales weren’t originally written for a young audience. With a slow start, the pace increased as the plot opened up to a wide range of characters and had me regarding each with suspicion.  I can’t say the romance worked for me, but that could just be me.

So 3.5 stars rounded up to 4. If you need something to escape to this would be one I recommend.

This book was part of my 2020 reading from my shelf challenge.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories await in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.

Hardcover, 374 pages
Published September 10th 2019
by Redhook

I read this book back in January, the delay in posting my review is not from lack of enjoyment but rather plain laziness.

I loved the cover which is what drove me for a closer peek, isn't it gorgeous!?

This is the author’s debut of an intricate story with so many layers. With attention to the tiniest of details, I was drawn in. It’s an adventure story with its many doors to different worlds. A mystery that kept me guessing, trying to unravel on my own. Plus a love story that spans time and worlds.

It’s a book within a book that was well written and perfect for those you love timeslip, fantasy and a story to get lost in.

This book is from my personal shelves and part of my 2020 reading off my shelf.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Review: Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer

“Fans of Jodi Picoult and Kristin Hannah now have a new go-to author.” —Sally Hepworth, bestselling author of The Secrets of Midwives

From the bestselling author of The Things We Cannot Say comes a poignant novel about the fault in memories and the lies that can bond a family together—or tear it apart.

With her father recently moved to a care facility for his worsening dementia, Beth Walsh volunteers to clear out the family home and is surprised to discover the door to her childhood playroom padlocked. She’s even more shocked at what’s behind it—a hoarder’s mess of her father’s paintings, mounds of discarded papers and miscellaneous junk in the otherwise fastidiously tidy house.

As she picks through the clutter, she finds a loose journal entry in what appears to be her late mother’s handwriting. Beth and her siblings grew up believing their mother died in a car accident when they were little more than toddlers, but this note suggests something much darker. Beth soon pieces together a disturbing portrait of a woman suffering from postpartum depression and a husband who bears little resemblance to the loving father Beth and her siblings know. With a newborn of her own and struggling with motherhood, Beth finds there may be more tying her and her mother together than she ever suspected.

Exploring the expectations society places on women of every generation, Kelly Rimmer explores the profound struggles two women unwittingly share across the decades set within an engrossing family mystery that may unravel everything they believed to be true.

Paperback, 352 pages
Expected publication: April 14th, 2020
by Graydon House

Sometimes starting a new book by an author that is also new (to me) can be daunting, especially when you hear great things about said author. It puts pressure not just on myself but on the book itself, which is precisely what happened here. Kelly Rimmer has written numerous books and this is my first with Truths I Never Told You.

There were many things that I enjoyed here:
1. The dual time period, it’s a favorite of mine.
2. Multiple points of view, it’s great to get different sides to a story.
3. The historical aspect, yes the 1950s is historical and getting a look at that time period makes me happy to be born when I was.

There are many layers that revolve around this group of 4 siblings with Beth playing center stage. Dementia and postpartum depression are some serious subjects to tackle and Kelly Rimmer did a great job. Whether she experienced them first hand herself or not I don’t know but she sure knew how to write with feeling and be authentic at the same time. It’s not that often that a book sprouts tears but this one did. Usually, I find myself favoring one time period over the other, but such wasn't the case here, I genuinely cared for all the characters and the various situations.

Truths I Never Told You is a story of love, heartache, and family.  There was mystery to keep me on my toes and an ending that was very satisfying (for this reader).

My thanks to Harper Collins Canada for an advanced copy of this book, which releases April 14th, in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Review: Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

" Recipe for a Perfect Wife is a bold, intoxicating, page-turner. Karma Brown has long been a favorite of mine and this book is proof she just keeps getting better and better. This is a thrilling, audacious story about women daring to take control."--Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones and the Six

When Alice Hale reluctantly leaves a promising career in publicity, following her husband to the New York suburbs, she is unaccustomed to filling her days alone in a big, empty house. However, she is determined to become a writer--and to work hard to build the kind of life her husband dreams of, complete with children.

At first, the old house seems to resent Alice as much as she resents it, but when she finds an old cookbook buried in a box in the basement, she becomes captivated by the cookbook's previous owner: 1950s housewife Nellie Murdoch. As Alice cooks her way through the past, she begins to settle into her new surroundings, even as her friends and family grow concerned that she has embraced them too fully: wearing vintage dresses and pearls like a 1950s housewife, making elaborate old-fashioned dishes like Baked Alaska, and drifting steadily away from her usual pursuits.

Alice justifies the changes merely as research for her novel...but when she discovers that Nellie left clues about her own life within the cookbook's pages--and in a mysterious series of unsent letters penned to Nellie's mother--she quickly realizes that the housewife's secrets may have been anything but harmless. As she uncovers a more sinister side to Nellie's marriage and with pressure mounting in her own relationship, Alice realizes that to protect herself she must harbor and hatch a few secrets of her own...

Paperback, 336 pages
Published December 31st, 2019
by Viking

I think this is the 3rd book I've read so far this year from the 1950s, I'm not complaining, in fact, I rather enjoy it.  Women are still the minority with the role of housewife front and center, pity the woman who thinks otherwise.

Dual time periods are still my favorite.  Getting a taste of 2 stories and seeing what connects them, going on the journey alongside and seeing if I can undercover clues along the way.  With this book, I enjoyed the format.  Chapters that belong to Nellie back in 1952 usually start with sayings/quotes that one must take as comical (even though sad).
"Don't expect your husband to make you happy while you are simply a passive agent.  Do your best to make him happy and you will find happiness yourself. - Blanche Ebbutt, Don'ts for Wives (1913)"
With old magazines and a cookbook connecting these two women, add in an unsettling house Recipes was an engaging story.  Even though I wasn't really a fan of the characters that doesn't mean the book didn't work.  This is my first time reading Karma Brown and cant wait to read more.

This book was part of my 2020 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge (book 14).

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Review: A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

The highly anticipated, brand-new timeslip romance from New York Times bestselling author Susanna Kearsley

For nearly 300 years, the mysterious journal of Jacobite exile Mary Dundas has lain unread-its secrets safe from prying eyes. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas has been hired by a once-famous historian to crack the journal's cipher.

But when she arrives in Paris, Sara finds herself besieged by complications from all sides: the journal's reclusive owner, her charming Parisian neighbor, and Mary, whose journal doesn't hold the secrets Sara expects. As Mary's tale grows more and more dire, Sara, too, must carefully choose which turning to take... to find the road that will lead her safely home.

Paperback, 528 pages
Published April 7th, 2015
by Sourcebooks Landmark

Susanna Kearsley is one of my favorite authors, her passion for history is evident with each book of hers that I have read. 

A Desperate Fortune is told with alternating viewpoints, each one unique.  The past is vividly portrayed and while it was interesting I found the pace way too slow.  To the point that I started out reading the book but after 110 pages switched over to the audiobook.  It helped a little. There are some nice author notes that talk about the real Mary Dundas, which is always a treat to read.

The present-day story actually kept my attention more so than the past.  Reading about someone with Asperger opened my eyes to what they struggle with and how those around perceive them.  A nice touch.

All in all, though this isn't one of my favorite Kearsley books she still will be one that I reach for when looking for timeslip historical stories.

This book was part of my 202 Reading of my Shelf Challenge (book 13).

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Review: The Last Bathing Beauty by Amy Sue Nathan

A former beauty queen faces the secrets of her past—for herself and the sake of her family’s future—in a heartfelt novel about fate, choices, and second chances.

Everything seemed possible in the summer of 1951. Back then Betty Stern was an eighteen-year-old knockout working at her grandparents’ lakeside resort. The “Catskills of the Midwest” was the perfect place for Betty to prepare for bigger things. She’d head to college in New York City. Her career as a fashion editor would flourish. But first, she’d enjoy a wondrous last summer at the beach falling deeply in love with an irresistible college boy and competing in the annual Miss South Haven pageant. On the precipice of a well-planned life, Betty’s future was limitless.

Decades later, the choices of that long-ago season still reverberate for Betty, now known as Boop. Especially when her granddaughter comes to her with a dilemma that echoes Boop’s memories of first love, broken hearts, and faraway dreams. It’s time to finally face the past—for the sake of her family and her own happiness. Maybe in reconciling the life she once imagined with the life she’s lived, Boop will discover it’s never too late for a second chance.

 Kindle Edition, 300 pages
Expected publication: April 1st, 2020
by Lake Union Publishing

Amy Sue Nathan is a new author for me, she is a Tall Poppy Writer (check out the website for some awesome writers here) and I'm thrilled to be one of their reviewers.

Summer isn’t here yet but this would be a perfect beach read. It took me to the Catskills of the Midwest (didn’t even know they had one) in 1951. Betty planned it to be her last summer of fun before starting at Barnard’s in the fall. Her future is all planned out.

Current day Betty is...well, older but wiser? Forced to acknowledge that fateful summer reveals memories buried and secrets revealed.

As I was getting into this book I started to worry that this was going to be another predictable story and for a bit it was, until it wasn’t. Weaving back and forth in time with the majority taking place at a Jewish Summer Resort run/owned by the grandparents of Betty. The Last Bathing Beauty is a well written story with authentic characters and multiple layers. It’s not just about first love but forbidden love, family and secrets (just to name a few).

This book releases next week and will be available on different platforms. I recommend this book to those that enjoy coming of age stories as well as taking a peek at a bygone era.

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

Friday, March 20, 2020

Review: Veiled in Smoke (The Windy City Saga #1) by Jocelyn Green

Meg and Sylvie Townsend manage the family bookshop and care for their father, Stephen, a veteran still suffering in mind and spirit from his time as a POW during the Civil War. But when the Great Fire sweeps through Chicago's business district, they lose much more than just their store.

The sisters become separated from their father, and after Meg burns her hands in an attempt to save a family heirloom, they make a harrowing escape from the flames with the help of Chicago Tribune reporter Nate Pierce. Once the smoke clears away, they reunite with Stephen, only to learn soon after that their family friend not only died during the fire--he was murdered. Even more shocking, Stephen is charged with the crime and committed to the Cook County Insane Asylum.

Though homeless, injured, and suddenly unemployed, Meg must not only gather the pieces of her shattered life, but prove her father's innocence before the asylum truly drives him mad.

Paperback, 416 pages
Published February 4th 2020
by Bethany House Publishers

Ever since reading The Mark of the King, Jocelyn Green has become one of my go-to authors.  She writes her books around real historical events that haven't been getting much attention.

Coming in at 400 pages there is great detail to the aftermath of The Great Fire, not all of it necessary but it did paint a picture of what life was like, the struggles that were encountered with the winter approaching.

But it wasn’t just about the fire, it was about people struggling with their own internal demons. It’s about PTSD back when it was called a Soldier Heart, the treatment and social stigma that went with it. It’s the story of two sisters, who run a bookshop, searching for love and meaning. When the dust settles it’s also about a murder and the search for truth.

Once again Jocelyn Green has done extensive research and written a compelling story based on historical events. I love how she has taken me off the beaten path with a unique book that appears to be the first in The Windy City Saga. Released last month it is readily available in all formats.

This book was part of my 2020 reading off my shelf challenge.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely (Cursebreakers #1) by Brigid Kemmerer

In a lush, contemporary fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Brigid Kemmerer gives readers another compulsively readable romance perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer.

Fall in love, break the curse.

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she's instead somehow sucked into Rhen's cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn't know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what's at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

Paperback, 496 pages
Published January 28th, 2019
by Bloomsbury YA

This is my first time reading Brigid Kemmerer, it’s a nice sized book to get lost in. Between a gorgeous cover plus a Beauty and the Beast retelling what can go wrong? Right?!

Told with the alternating voices of Rhen and Harper this is the first book in a planned trilogy. Right from the get-go I was kept on my toes and absorbed in the pages. When Harper finds herself in a world not her our she doesn’t take things lightly. Her feisty spirit, logical thinking, and fiery determination keeps not just Rhen but Grey on their toes. Who is Grey you ask? Read the book!

Rhen has been the crown prince of Emberfall for years and years and years, could this be his final season? Time will tell. I loved his story, his thoughts, getting inside his brain to connect to the real Rhen.

Coming in just shy of 500 pages (yea it might have been a tad too long) I was thoroughly entertained, A Curse so Dark and Lonely is a book of discovering oneself. It’s about taking a stand and seeing what you are made of. It was a unique story and a great retelling. A book I  highly recommend.

Book two is A Heart so Fierce and Broken, my copy is in the hands of Canada Post at the moment winging its way from the Bookdepository in the UK - did you know they offer free shipping?

This book was part of my 2020 reading off my shelf challenge (book 12 so far).

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Review: Stars Across the Ocean by Kimberley Freeman

The powerful new novel from Kimberley Freeman.

A rich and satisfying story of two women with indomitable spirits and the high costs they have to pay for being strong-minded, from the author of the bestselling LIGHTHOUSE BAY and EMBER ISLAND.

A story about love, motherhood, and learning whom you belong to in the world.

In 1874, wild and willful Agnes Resolute finally leaves the foundling home where she grew up on the bleak moors of northern England. On her departure, she discovers that she was abandoned with a small token of her mother: a unicorn button. Agnes had always believed her mother to be too poor to keep her, but Agnes has been working as a laundress at the foundling home and recognizes the button as belonging to the imperious and beautiful Genevieve Breakby, daughter of a local noble family. Agnes had only seen her once but has never forgotten her. She investigates and discovers Genevieve is now in London. Agnes follows, living hard in the poor end of London until she finds out Genevieve has moved to France.

This sets Agnes off on her own adventure: to Paris, Agnes follows her mother's trail, and starts to see it is also a trail of destruction. Finally, in Sydney she tracks Genevieve down. But is Genevieve capable of being the mother Agnes hopes she will be?

A powerful story about women with indomitable spirits, about love and motherhood, and about learning whom you belong to in the world.Praise for Kimberley Freeman's writing:

Paperback, 449 pages
Published May 1st, 2017
by Hachette Australia

Kimberley Freeman is one of my go-to authors, with a flair for dual time periods she reminds me of Kate Morton with intricate plots and great writing.

Agnes Resolute is a feisty character, and getting to know her and her traits are what makes this novel work. One coincidence after another works for her as it did for this reader.

This is another dual time period story revolving between current day and 1874, traveling to many locales. Most of the book centers in the past with its adventure, family drama and maybe a touch of romance. As Agnes tries to discover who she is this journey of self-discovery leads her where she least expects.

Present-day is shorter but equally interesting to read. Traveling clear across the globe Victoria makes some discoveries of her own which set in motion changes she never saw coming.

I love Freeman’s writing style, she knows how to grab this reader till I am absorbed in not just the story but the characters as well. I’ve yet to be disappointed in any of her books. If you haven’t read her I highly recommend both print and audio formats work great.

This book is part of my 2020 reading off my shelf challenge.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Review: The Orphan House by Ann Bennett

As she looks at the baby wriggling in her father’s arms, a bolt of recognition goes through her and she takes a step back. And it’s in that moment that she begins to protect her father’s secrets.

1934, Weirfield-on-Thames. Connie Burroughs loves living in the orphanage that her father runs. Exploring its nooks and crannies with her sister, hearing the pounding of a hundred pairs of feet on the wooden stairs, having a father who is doing so much good. But everything changes the day she sees him carrying a newborn baby that he says he found near the broken front gate. A baby she recognizes…

Present-day. Arriving at her father’s beloved cottage beside the river, Sarah Jennings is hoping for peace and quiet, to escape her difficult divorce. But when she finds her father unwell and hunched over boxes of files on the orphanage where he was abandoned as a child, she decides to investigate it herself.

The only person left alive who lived at Cedar Hall is Connie Burroughs, but Connie sits quietly in her nursing home for a reason. The sewing box under Connie’s bed hides secrets that will change Sarah’s life forever, uncovering a connection between them that has darker consequences than she could ever imagine.

A heartbreaking but ultimately uplifting tale inspired by the lives of the children who lived at the author’s great-grandfather’s orphanage. Fans of Before We Were Yours, The Orphan’s Tale and The Orphan Train will be hooked.

 Kindle, 322 pages
Expected publication: February 28th, 2020
by Bookouture

This is my first time reading anything by Ann Bennett, I thought the synopsis sounded like a great read.  With so many great reviews I hunkered down to read about an old house, secrets and this baby Connie recognized so clearly.

The Orphan House is a multi-POV story that centers around an old house with secrets to share. Told from the perspective of 3 women it was the past storylines that I was really drawn to. Connie goes back and forth in time as she sits in a nursing home, her story was interesting enough and piqued my curiosity.

Sarah is running from a marriage that seemed fine one day and the next in shambles, I would have loved to be privy to more details along the way about what happened. I struggled to come to grips with this storyline at times, it felt a little disjointed at times.

The concept for the book was great but I wasn't as captivated as I usually am with dual time period mysteries, it didn't have the same emotional impact.

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