Thursday, November 21, 2019

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

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

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

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

· Never trust an outsider

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

· And never, ever, defy your family

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

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

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

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

A man who has never felt at home anywhere.

And a choice to be made between the two.

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Review: This Son of York by Anne Easter Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound


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

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Friday, November 15, 2019

Audio Review: The Arrangement by Robyn Harding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This audio was obtained via Scribd.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Review: The Painted Castle by Kristy Cambron

A lost painting of Queen Victoria. A library bricked off from the world. Three women, separated by time, whose lives are irrevocably changed.

 When art historian Keira Foley is hired to authenticate a painting at a centuries-old East Suffolk manor, she hopes this is just the thing to get her career and life back on track. But from the time she arrives at Parham Hill Estate and begins working alongside rumored art thief Emory Scott, she’s left with far more questions than answers. Could this lost painting of Queen Victoria be a duplicate of the original Winterhalter masterpiece, and if so, who is the artist?

 As Keira begins to unravel the mystery behind the portrait of the queen, two women emerge from the estate’s forgotten past. In Victorian England, talented sketch artist Elizabeth Meade is engaged to Viscount Huxley, then owner of Parham Hill. While there, master portrait artist Franz Winterhalter takes her under his wing, but Elizabeth’s real motive for being at Parham Hill has nothing to do with art. She’s determined to avenge her father’s brutal murder—even if it means feigning an engagement to the very man she believes committed the crime.

 A century later, Amelia Woods—a WWII widow who has turned Parham Hill Estate and its beloved library into a boarding school for refugee children—receives military orders to house a troop of American pilots. She is determined that the children in her care remain untouched by the war, but it’s proving difficult with officers taking up every square inch of their world… and one in particular vying for a space in her long shut up heart.

 Set in three time periods—the rapid change of Victorian England, the peak of England’s home front tensions at the end of World War II, and modern day—The Painted Castle unfolds a story of heartache and hope and unlocks secrets lost for generations, just waiting to be found.

 The Painted Castle is a sweet romance, the third in the Lost Castle series. It can be read as a stand-alone but is better if read with The Lost Castle and Castle on the Rise.

Paperback, 400 pages
 Published October 15th, 2019
 by Thomas Nelson

The Painted Castle is book 3 in the Lost Castle Series, I have only read the first book and think these work well as standalone even though there are brief mentions of the previous books here, not enough to spoil book 2 (yea I gotta read it soon).

Dual time periods are my favorites and when it turns into a triple feature, well I’m in my happy place. It takes a talented author that can pull off 3 storylines that come together. Kristy Cambron has done it with this book.

The setting was an old English Manor from the days of Victorian England to WW2 and then-current day. The Painted Castle is a story of the mystery surrounding a painting - it’s authenticity, why it was hidden for so long and how did it become hidden.

The characters are real with hurts, secrets, and hearts hardened because of said hurts and secrets. There are the historical elements that I always enjoy, especially seeing another glimpse of strong women not just during WW2 but in the past when women weren't supposed to be strong and have a mind of their own. The art world, both past and present added something different and the plot woven around it was unique and realistic- definitely shows the authors' research was done.

The Lost Castle is a series I recommend, I was entertained and totally absorbed in the pages.

My thanks to TLC Tours for the opportunity to be part of this tour and an ARCin exchange for honest review.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher's life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women's Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

 North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn't expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

 What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?

 Kindle Edition, 400 pages
 Expected publication: January 14th 2020
 by St. Martin's Press

Diane Chamberlain had me at The Midwife’s Confession. While I haven’t caught up with all her books I am working at it. She takes snippets of history and weaves some wonderful stories. I’ll confess that after reading a couple flips of my kindle screen I actually sighed, it felt like being back with old friends ready for an adventure that I would love.

Big Lies in a Small Town is a hefty title, the theme is obvious and it delivered on all levels. I started Tuesday and finished Friday which lately for me is good, especially coming in at 400 pages. It’s a slow burn as the 2 storylines play out. The character development was spot on, not only for the main players but for others as well. I saw what made them tick and why.

The plot was intricate and unique as it revolves around a time and place where prejudices ran amuck. The research is evident and the author's writing style is why she is a favorite of mine.

Big Lies in a Small Town is a richly detailed story of secrets and lies, mental health, injustice, racism, abuse and more. It’s about connecting two time periods with a conclusion that I loved (while unexpected).

This book will hit bookshelves January 14th, 2020 - perfect to beat away the winter blues.

My sincere thanks to Naureen at St. Martin’s press for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Review: The Chain by Adrian McKinty

You just dropped off your child at the bus stop. A panicked stranger calls your phone. Your child has been kidnapped, and the stranger explains that their child has also been kidnapped, by a completely different stranger. The only way to get your child back is to kidnap another child within 24 hours. Your child will be released only when the next victim's parents kidnap yet another child, and most importantly, the stranger explains, if you don't kidnap a child, or if the next parents don't kidnap a child, your child will be murdered. 

You are now part of The Chain.

 Hardcover, 357 pages
 Published July 9th 2019
by Mulholland Books
*** 1/2

I first heard about this book from The Tonight Show, it being one of the 5 finalists for the summer read.

 The reviews for this one are all over the place as are my feelings. The Chain got off to a slow start, it didn’t grab me right away but when it did, maybe at the 10% mark, it didn’t let go.

A take off of those dreaded chain letters with a deadly repercussions if the chain is broken.  It’s a unique concept and as this story progresses it shows how far a parent will go and what they will do for their child. This was an addicting read for me, anything that involves the welfare of a child has me turning the pages. The story is told through a couple POV’s where I got to see the story unfold from different angles. There were times I had to suspend my believe and just go with the flow.

As for the execution it worked, even the ending had a fitting, and somewhat expected conclusion but it was the last 2 pages that really blew it for me - honestly I didn’t find it plausible or even necessary (my opinion only).

 3 1/2 stars but would have been 4 but for those final pages.

 My copy obtained from public library.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Review: Woman on the Edge by Samantha M. Bailey

A moment on the platform changes two lives forever. But nothing is as it seems...

 'Take my baby.'

 In a split second, Morgan's life changes forever. A stranger hands her a baby, then jumps in front of a train.

 Morgan has never seen the woman before and she can't understand what would cause a person to give away her child and take her own life.

 When the police question Morgan, she discovers none of the witnesses can corroborate her version of events. And when they learn Morgan longs for a baby of her own, she becomes a suspect.

To prove her innocence, Morgan frantically tries to retrace the last days of the woman's life. She begins to understand that Nicole Markham believed she and her baby were in danger. Now Morgan might be in danger, too.

Was Nicole a new mother struggling with paranoia?

Or was something much darker going on?

Pulse-pounding, heartrending, shocking, thrilling. This is one book you won't be able to stop thinking about.

Paperback, 272 pages
Published November 26th, 2019
by Simon and Schuster Canada
**** 1/2

Did you get the last line of the blurb above? This is one of those books that is embedded in my brain right now on so many levels. It starts with a bang and literally doesn’t let go until the end. And even then I still think about Nicole, I feel for her and can’t help thinking things that I can’t even talk about in this review (keeping it spoiler-free is hard when there is much I want to say).

So suffice to say Woman on the Edge is a fast-paced story that kept me glued to my kindle. It had me trying to solve the puzzle before all the pieces were put together. It dealt with issues though common -  guilt, fear and loneliness but the deeper emotional changes after giving birth.

Every book affects the individual reader in different ways, this one touched me maybe more so with one of the layers than others, making this an emotional read as well as being suspenseful and an addicting book.

This is the author's debut and I am impressed, sure hope we don't have to wait 6 years for her next one.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for an e-arc (via Netgalley) in exchange for honest review.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Review: Bone China by Laura Purcell

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft's family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

 Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralyzed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last.

Hardcover, 384 pages
 Published September 19th, 2019
 by Raven Books

This month I have been reading suspense thriller books. Laura Purcell has written a couple historical fiction and then ventured into Gothic historical that sends chills up my spine. 

Her latest Bone China had the same dark atmospheric quality I was craving. Set in an isolated house on the coast of Cornwall I felt the unknown vibe as this book played out. Told from the POV of Hester Why and Louise Pinecroft it weaves back and forth in time smoothly as the stories of these two women were revealed.

I enjoyed this (and all of Laura Purcell’s books) story, it was eerie and I felt the tension the plot created. With its many layers being pulled away this was a story that kept me on my toes. The characters made this book, they are flawed, creepy and rather sinister each hiding something.
The ending wasn’t what I expected but it worked and fit the story.

If you haven’t read Laura Purcell, I highly recommend her books.

Bone China is part of my 2019 reading off my shelf challenge

Monday, October 21, 2019

Review: The Body in Griffith Park (Anna Blanc Mysteries #3) by Jennifer Kincheloe

Los Angeles, 1908. Anna Blanc is a former so-so socialite, a flailing police matron, and a killer detective.

 Ex-heiress, Anna Blanc, is precariously employed by the Los Angeles Police Department, reforming delinquent children and minding lady jailbirds. What she really wants is to hunt criminals and be alone with Detective Joe Singer--both no-nos that could get her fired. On a lover's tryst in Griffith Park, Anna and Joe discover the body of a young gambler. Anna can't resist. She's on the case.

 With a murder to solve and her police matron duties piling up, a young girl shows up at Central Station claiming to have been raped by a man from Mars. The men at the station scoff, but Anna is willing to investigate. Meanwhile, Anna begins getting strange floral arrangements from an unknown admirer. Following the petals leads her to another crime--one close to home. Suddenly pitted against Joe, Anna must examine her loyalties and solve the crimes, even if it means losing the man she loves.

 Paperback, First Edition, 304 pages
 Published July 16th, 2019
 by Seventh Street Books

Anna Blanc is back. First introduced In The Secret Life of Anna Blanc I loved her quirky personality, spontaneous nature, and illogical reasoning. Now she is back in book 3 for another romp around as Matron, though she’d rather be a police detective.

Set in the 1908s the author created a setting that made Los Angeles real and its ways authentic. An interesting plot that kept me guessing, filled with wacky adventures that only Anna can worm her way into (and out of). Some might have felt a little over the top but still an enjoyable read.

I don't think we've seen the end of Anna, with some issues left hanging one can only wonder what mischief there is left for her to get caught up in.

My thanks to the author and Seventh Street Books for a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Review: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

From the New York Times bestselling author and master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) comes another page-turning look inside one family’s past as buried secrets threaten to come to light. 

 Gifted musician Clemency Thompson is playing for tourists on the streets of southern France when she receives an urgent text message. Her childhood friend, Lucy, is demanding her immediate return to London.

 It’s happening, says the message. The baby is back.

 Libby Jones was only six months old when she became an orphan. Now twenty-five, she’s astounded to learn of an inheritance that will change her life. A gorgeous, dilapidated townhouse in one of London’s poshest neighborhoods has been held in a trust for her all these years. Now it’s hers.

 As Libby investigates the story of her birth parents and the dark legacy of her new home, Clemency and Lucy are headed her way to uncover, and possibly protect, secrets of their own. What really happened in that rambling Chelsea mansion when they were children? And are they still at risk?

 Jewell’s novels have been praised as “sure to please fans of Ruth Ware and A.J. Finn” (Library Journal, starred review) and her latest is no exception. The Family Upstairs will keep you guessing until the very last page.

 Kindle Edition, 320 pages
 Expected publication: October 29th 2019
 by Atria Books

Lisa Jewell has turned into one of my gotos even though I am a relatively new fan. With books like Then She Was Gone and I Found You she has cemented herself with unique plots, flawed characters and lots of twists and turns.

The Family Upstairs is a fast-paced book that delivered on all levels I love. While this one was a little darker with an almost Gothic feel I struggled to put it down. With its (sorta) mansion style home and told from a number of POVs I was introduced to a cast of characters where not many were likable but they were well developed making the story all the more intense.

There are a number of characters, predominately in the back story, and it wasn’t hard to follow along. Again I found a unique plot that kept me guessing, with lots of twists and turns just reinforced my feelings about Lisa Jewell, definitely an author I highly recommend.

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