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Friday, January 17, 2020

Review: The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica

Sadie and Will Foust have only just moved their family from bustling Chicago to small-town Maine when their neighbor, Morgan Baines, is found dead in her home. The murder rocks their tiny coastal island, but no one is more shaken than Sadie, who is terrified by the thought of a killer in her very own backyard.

But it’s not just Morgan’s death that has Sadie on edge. It’s their eerie old home, with its decrepit decor and creepy attic, which they inherited from Will’s sister after she died unexpectedly. It’s Will’s disturbed teenage niece Imogen, with her dark and threatening presence. And it’s the troubling past that continues to wear at the seams of their family.

As the eyes of suspicion turn toward the new family in town, Sadie is drawn deeper into the mystery of Morgan’s death. But Sadie must be careful, for the more she discovers about Mrs. Baines, the more she begins to realize just how much she has to lose if the truth ever comes to light.

Kindle, 405 pages
Expected publication: February 18th, 2020
by Park Row
**** 1/2

So the lovey Laurie (aka TheBakingBookworm - click on link for her blog) and I did our first Buddy Read - what fun! We started on Monday planning to read 20% a day and finish on Friday. Monday we read 19%, Tuesday we got to 51% and Wednesday we both decided we couldn’t wait till Friday and basically planned to stay up late to read, it was time get all these puzzle pieces put together. We chatted, we questioned this and that and shared our theories. It was a blast!

The Other Mrs is atmospheric with its setting on a little island 3 miles off the coast of Maine. There is an old house with its dark history, a teen who resents the intrusion then add a little murder and it’s the perfect recipe for the mayhem that follows.

I’m a new Mary Kubica reader and actually went into this book blind. I didn't know what to expect and loved this experience. Told from 3 different POVs, with distinct voices, I found myself immersed in their stories. Some characters I would have liked to hear more from and others I wasn’t crazy about (which always adds that extra oomph).

As for the story, well that was some ride. It was fast-paced, full of twists and turns to keep me on my toes. Just when I thought I had things figured out, wham comes another clue to mess with my brain.

Definitely a book I will recommend and if you think you won’t have time to read it, you will because once you start it’s hard to put down.

My thanks to Park Row Books for a digital ARC (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Review: The Hidden Light of Northern Fires by Daren Wang

A novel rooted in the remarkable, but little-known, true history of the only secessionist town north of the Mason Dixon Line.

When escaped slave, Joe Bell, collapses in her father’s barn, Mary Willis must ward off Confederate guerillas and spies, Joe’s vengeful owner, and even her own brother to help the handsome fugitive cross to freedom.

Mary has always been an outcast, an outspoken abolitionist woman in a town of bounty hunters and anti-Union farmers. Helping runaways is the only thing that makes her life in Town Line bearable. As the countryside is riled by the drumbeat of civil war and the promise of an extravagant bounty for the wounded fugitive, Mary finds herself drawn to the stranger in forbidden ways. When rebels cross from nearby Canada intent on killing him, they bring the devastation of the brutal war to the town and the farm and threaten to destroy all that Mary loves.

Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published August 29th, 2017
by St. Martin's Press
***

Released in 2017 this is Daren Wang's debut bringing to light another glimpse into the Underground Railway.

The Hidden Light of Northern Fires is told from multiple pov's, which when done right can be wonderful.  But for some, it can be distracting and confusing at times.  This book fits right in the middle, there were times I had to stop and think who was who, where they were and which side they were on.  The characters themselves I found interesting, getting the different perspectives, the reasoning and such opened my eyes a little wider to this time in history.

I think it was the location that really drew me in, especially the latter half of the book where some of the action happened literally in my backyard - who doesn't love to read local history?

All in all a solid debut with a gorgeous cover.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press for a digital copy in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, January 13, 2020

Review: The Whispers of War by Julia Kelly

The start of World War II looms over three friends who struggle to remain loyal as one of them is threatened with internment by the British government, from the author of the “sweeping, stirring” (Kristin Harmel, internationally bestselling author of The Room on Rue Amélie ) The Light Over London.

In August of 1939, as Britain watches the headlines in fear of another devastating war with Germany, three childhood friends must choose between friendship or country. Erstwhile socialite Nora is determined to find her place in the Home Office’s Air Raid Precautions Department, matchmaker Hazel tries to mask two closely guarded secrets with irrepressible optimism, and German expat Marie worries that she and her family might face imprisonment in an internment camp if war is declared. When Germany invades Poland and tensions on the home front rise, Marie is labeled an enemy alien, and the three friends find themselves fighting together to keep her free at any cost.

Featuring Julia Kelly’s signature “intricate, tender, and convincing” (Publishers Weekly) prose, The Whispers of War is a moving and unforgettable tale of the power of friendship and womanhood in the midst of conflict.

Paperback, 336 pages
Expected publication: January 14th 2020
by Gallery Books
****

The Light over London was Julia Kelly's debut, it's a book I enjoyed with a story that enlightened me with some of the different roles women held during WW2.  With The Whispers of War the author took me again back to WW2 and again I was educated and entertained at the same time.

While this was a dual time period story the majority takes place in the past.  It's the story of 3 friends, their friendship and how it developed.  With each of them given time to tell their story allowing this reader to get a real sense of who they are, the struggles they faced and what drove them forward.

Between an interesting plot about Germans living in England as war breaks out Whispers of War is a well written story with developed characters that focus on friendship, the bonds that connected these women and the sacrifices they make for each other.

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

Friday, January 10, 2020

Review: Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau

The year is 1911 when twenty-year-old heiress Peggy Batternberg is invited to spend the summer in America’s Playground.

The invitation to the luxurious Oriental Hotel a mile from Coney Island is unwelcome. Despite hailing from one of America’s richest families, Peggy would much rather spend the summer working at the Moonrise Bookstore than keeping up appearances with New York City socialites and her snobbish, controlling family.

But soon it transpires that the hedonism of nearby Coney Island affords Peggy the freedom she has been yearning for, and it’s not long before she finds herself in love with a troubled pier-side artist of humble means, whom the Batternberg patriarchs would surely disapprove of.

Disapprove they may, but hidden behind their pomposity lurks a web of deceit, betrayal and deadly secrets. And as bodies begin to mount up amidst the sweltering clamour of Coney Island, it seems the powerful Batternbergs can get away with anything…even murder.

Extravagant, intoxicating and thumping with suspense, bestselling Nancy Bilyeau’s magnificent Dreamland is a story of corruption, class and dangerous obsession. (less)

Paperback, 386 pages
Expected publication: January 16th 2020
by Endeavour Quill
*****

 Nancy Bilyeau has cemented herself as a go-to author, she writes in such a way that I am put in that location and her characters are real - both likable and others not so much.

Dreamland takes place on Coney Island, a place I’ve heard of but never read about or even seen pictures of. So a real treat for me on so many levels.

Dreamland is a story about Peggy, only 20 years old and because of her privileged upbringing, being segregated from those deemed unacceptable and not her kind, she can be naive in an innocent way that just made me like her all the more.  She was smart and looking out for others.  A great character, loosely based on Peggy Guggenheim (I read the author's notes and loved them as well).

The mystery played out very nicely here, with its many layers I was kept on my toes and loved the ride.

I love the author’s writing, she sets me right in the heart of the setting. Between the mystery, setting and character development Dreamland is a well-written book that kept me glued to the pages, thinking JustOneMoreChapter as I savored this gem.

Thank you to Hannah at Endeavour Media for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Spotlight: Josephine: Singer Soldier Dancer Spy by Eilidh McGinness

Josephine: Singer Soldier Dancer Spy by Eilidh McGinness

Publication Date: December 1, 2019
eBook & Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction

Josephine Baker is born into poverty in racially segregated America. Desperate to escape she flees to France where she embraces the hedonistic lifestyle on offer for those who dare, in the Paris of the Roaring Twenties. Hitler's rise to power in Germany forces her to face her true self. Determined to protect the Liberty Equality and Fraternity she has found in France, she becomes an 'honorable correspondent' for the French Secret Service. So, beginning a journey which will take her from the Red Cross Shelters in Paris to the cruel deserts of North Africa. She will find love and enduring friendship but she must also face dangers which will threaten not only her life but all she holds dear.....Can she find the courage to fight for what she believes in....no matter what the cost?

Available on Amazon


Eilidh was born and brought up in the Highlands of Scotland. She studied law at Aberdeen University. She practiced as a lawyer for twelve years, latterly specializing in criminal defense. Eilidh then moved to South West France with her then husband and four children. She established an independent estate agency business which she ran for twelve years before concentrating on writing- a long held dream. Eilidh has always been fascinated by history and ordinary people who achieve extraordinary things.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads





Giveaway


During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a paperback copy of Josephine: Singer Soldier Dancer Spy! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

  Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on January 20th. You must be 18 or older to enter. Paperback giveaway is open to the US only.
The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

  Josephine





Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Review: Lady Clementine: A Novel by Marie Benedict

New from Marie Benedict, the New York Times bestselling author of The Only Woman in the Room! An incredible novel that focuses on one of the people who had the most influence during World War I and World War II: Clementine Churchill.

In 1909, Clementine steps off a train with her new husband, Winston. An angry woman emerges from the crowd to attack, shoving him in the direction of an oncoming train. Just before he stumbles, Clementine grabs him by his suit jacket. This will not be the last time Clementine Churchill will save her husband.

Lady Clementine is the ferocious story of the ambitious woman beside Winston Churchill, the story of a partner who did not flinch through the sweeping darkness of war, and who would not surrender either to expectations or to enemies.

Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Expected publication: January 7th, 2020
by Sourcebooks Landmark
***

This is my first time reading Marie Benedict, she has been on my radar for a while with The Other Einstein and Carnegie's Maid - both waiting patiently on my tbr pile.

Lady Clementine follows the trend these days with strong women supporting men in leadership roles.  My only glimpse of the wife of Winston Churchill were brief appearances on The Crown, so yea I was looking forward to this one.

Beginning in 1909 with their wedding and spanning through to 1945, there is a lot of years and living to tackle in 336 pages.  For me, that reflected in my enjoyment as I struggled to connect with Clementine. I found I was educated verses entertained. I learned a lot about their lives, struggles, parenthood and more, but I didn’t warm up to them.  I didn't get the emotional attachment that I crave in these types of books.  Given the ratings, it would appear I am in the minority.

But all in all, I liked it and that's still a good thing.

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

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Review: Always Watching by Chevy Stevens

She helps people put their demons to rest.

But she has a few of her own…

In the lockdown ward of a psychiatric hospital, Dr. Nadine Lavoie is in her element. She has the tools to help people, and she has the desire—healing broken families is what she lives for. But Nadine doesn’t want to look too closely at her own past because there are whole chunks of her life that are black holes. It takes all her willpower to tamp down her recurrent claustrophobia, and her daughter, Lisa, is a runaway who has been on the streets for seven years.

When a distraught woman, Heather Simeon, is brought into the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit after a suicide attempt, Nadine gently coaxes her story out of her—and learns of some troubling parallels with her own life. Digging deeper, Nadine is forced to confront her traumatic childhood and the damage that began when she and her brother were brought by their mother to a remote commune on Vancouver Island. What happened to Nadine? Why was their family destroyed? And why does the name Aaron Quinn, the group’s leader, bring complex feelings of terror to Nadine even today?

And then, the unthinkable happens, and Nadine realizes that danger is closer to home than she ever imagined. She has no choice but to face what terrifies her the most…and fight back.

Sometimes you can leave the past, but you can never escape.

Told with the trademark powerful storytelling that has had critics praising her work as “Gripping” (Kirkus), “Jaw-dropping” (Publishers Weekly) and “Crackling with suspense” (People magazine), ALWAYS WATCHING shows why Chevy Stevens is one of the most mesmerizing new talents of our day.

Kindle Edition, 497 pages
Published June 18th, 2013
by St. Martin's Press
****
Ever since reading Still MIssing Chevy Stevens has been a go-to author for me.  While some of her other books have been hit and miss I really appreciate her settings and am always in my happy place in British Columbia.  With Always Watching she again took me to Victoria and the bush.  I've been there and did a little exploring off the main drag myself so I was right at home reading this one.

This is actually Steven's third book and while I have read the previous two I don't really recall Nadine Lavoie's character.  What I love about this author is her pacing, the story flowed nicely but then towards the end picks up speed and by that point you just have read and hope someone else picks up the reigns at dinnertime.  

The storyline was interesting as it dealt with a number of different mental issues (I won't mention them) as well as an eye-opener into the workings of a cult.  With the psychological hold and their methods of drawing those most vulnerable at times were hard to fathom. 

All in all, Always Watching was a gripping story that I polished off in a couple days over the holidays and have now officially read all of Chevy Stevens books.  Hopefully, the wait for a new one isn't too long.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press (via Netgalley) for a Kindle copy of this book (and my apologies for the tardiness in this review)..

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Review: The Quality Street Girls (Quality Street #1) by Penny Thorpe

The perfect book for anyone who loves chocolate and Christmas A seasonal delight, inspired by the true story of the Quality Street factory. At sixteen years old, Irene ‘Reenie’ Calder is leaving school with little in the way of qualifications. She is delighted to land a seasonal job at Mackintosh’s Quality Street factory. Reenie feels like a kid let loose in a sweet shop, but trouble seems to follow her around and it isn’t long before she falls foul of the strict rules.

Diana Moore runs the Toffee Penny line and has worked hard to secure her position. Beautiful and smart, the other girls in the factory are in awe of her, but Diana has a dark secret which if exposed, could cost her not only her job at the factory but her reputation as well.

When a terrible accident puts supply of Quality Street at risk, Reenie has a chance to prove herself. The shops are full of Quality Street lovers who have saved up all year for their must-have Christmas treat. Reenie and Diana know that everything rests on them, if they are to give everyone a Christmas to remember…

Paperback, 401 pages
Published November 15th 2018
by HarperCollins
****

My first Christmas book surprised me with a 1936 Halifax setting, I love reading Canadian HF so that was a great sign right off the bat.

This was a sweet story (pun intended) about my favorite chocolates, I learned a lot about the assembly line and business practices of the time. But really the book is about 3 young women, each struggling with their own stories. Rather than go into detail about each of (see blurb above) let’s just say this is a story that revolves around secrets, ambition, and jealousy. How they aren’t just contained to the barer but there is the ripple effect it causes. Consequences for your actions.

The Quality Street Girls is a well researched and well-written book where friendship plays a big part and it’s one I recommend not just for the season but year-round.

This book was part of my 2019 reading off my shelf challenge

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Preview of 2020


It looks like a bumper crop in the literary world for 2020.  Here is a sampling of 20 of my most anticipated books. Do you see any familiar?  Did I miss some?  What books are you looking forward to reading?


---clicking on the cover will take you right over to Goodreads where you can add to your TBR pile--


 

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Audio Review: Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast (Folktales) by Robin McKinley

A strange imprisonment...

Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.

When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, "Cannot a Beast be tamed?"

Robin McKinley's beloved telling illuminates the unusual love story of a most unlikely couple, Beauty and the Beast.


Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 30th 1993
by HarperCollins (first published October 25th 1978)
*** 1/2

As much as I love fairy tale retellings I really don't read a lot of them.  I've heard plenty of good things about this book, so on a whim I grabbed the audiobook (via Scribd) and dove in for the 7 plus hours of being mesmerized. 

There is a lot of background story before I met the Beast and his enchanted castle, for some that might be distracting, but I enjoyed learning more about Beauty - her family, the world and their situation.

I would call this somewhat of a cozy read, it was charming, descriptive and great for someone looking for a light-hearted read that is captivating and endearing.

This was part of my 2019 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.