Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Review: Before She Was Found: A Novel by Heather Gudenkauf

A gripping thriller about three young girlfriends, a dark obsession and a chilling crime that shakes up a quiet Iowa town, from the New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence.

 For twelve-year-old Cora Landry and her friends Violet and Jordyn, it was supposed to be an ordinary sleepover—movies and Ouija and talking about boys. But when they decide to sneak out to go to the abandoned rail yard on the outskirts of town, little do they know that their innocent games will have dangerous consequences.

Later that night, Cora Landry is discovered on the tracks, bloody and clinging to life, her friends nowhere to be found. Soon their small rural town is thrust into a maelstrom. Who would want to hurt a young girl like Cora—and why? In an investigation that leaves no stone unturned, everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted—not even those closest to Cora.

 Before She Was Found is a timely and gripping thriller about friendship and betrayal, about the power of social pressure and the price of needing to fit in. It is about the great lengths a parent will go to protect their child and keep them safe—even if that means burying the truth, no matter the cost.

Kindle, 336 pages
Published April 16th, 2019
by Park Row

Right from the beginning, I was captivated with this story. The opening pulled at my heartstrings and then I spent my time dawning my sleuth hat trying to unravel this mystery.

There are many layers and different methods as to how this story plays out. Whether it’s a mother or grandfather's voice, pages from Cora's journal along with texting and chat rooms, I was not overwhelmed or distracted reading this book. The story flowed smoothly. It also helped that I really wanted to find out what was going on and found myself lost in the pages.

Before She Was Found is a story of friendship, trust, the need to fit in and how far will a parent go to protect their children. At times it had a YA feel to it, given the ages of the main players that makes perfect sense.

I have been a fan of Heather Gudenkauf's forever, her book Little Mercies (the audio is amazing!) is one of my favorites.

 My thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for an advanced digital copy of this book.

Review: The Strangers (The Greystone Secrets #1) by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Told in alternating points of view from Chess, Emma, and Finn Greystone, Greystone Secrets #1: The Strangers is the beginning of a new page-turning adventure that examines assumptions about identity, family, and home, from the master of middle-grade

What makes you you?

 The Greystone kids thought they knew. Chess has always been the protector over his younger siblings, Emma loves math, and Finn does what Finn does best—acting silly and being adored. They’ve been a happy family, just the three of them and their mom.

But everything changes when reports of three kidnapped children—who share the same first and middle names, ages, and exact birth dates as the Greystone kids—reach the Greystone family. This bizarre coincidence makes them wonder: Who exactly are these strangers? Before Chess, Emma, and Finn can question their mom about it, she takes off on a mysterious work trip. But puzzling clues left behind lead to complex codes, hidden rooms, and a dangerous secret that will turn their world upside down.

Hardcover, 416 pages
Published April 2nd 2019
by Katherine Tegen Books
*** 1/2

The Greystone Secrets is a new series by author Margaret Peterson Haddix geared towards the middle grade age.

It’s not a little book, coming at 416 pages (for the hardcover edition). Imagine one day waking up to these crazy coincidences regarding the kidnapping of 3 siblings with the same names, birthdays and even looking like you. Then everything in your life is turned upside down. That’s what happens to Chess, Emma and Finn.

Told from the pov’s of these siblings, they dig for clues as they try to understand what is happening. While at times it tagged a little towards the end this was still a fun story, unique premise setting the ground work for future books in this series.

I'm lovin' the cover, which is what drew me to this book.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Review: The Binding by Bridget Collins

Imagine you could erase grief.
Imagine you could remove pain.
Imagine you could hide the darkest, most horrifying secret.

Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder—a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice among their small community but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one, they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored.

But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends—and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.

 Hardcover, 448 pages
Published January 10th, 2019
by The Borough Press

This was such an interesting story, the plot was unique and original. Imagine being able to erase those horrible memories and not feel the pain anymore. But that brings up the question - which is worse? To feel nothing or to grieve for something you no longer remember.

And while I found this book got off to a slow start I soon became so enamored with the direction this story took.  Divided into 3 parts with different pov's brought this story full circle, the writing was vivid setting me there, feeling the cold, silence and emotions.
“The house was so quiet it was as if the walls were holding their breath. Every few hours, during that day and the days that followed, I had to go outside and listen to the dry wind in the reeds, just to make sure I hadn’t gone deaf.”
It's not that often (at least in books I've read) that there is a male protagonist and I enjoyed that aspect here.  Even the fact that I really didn't like Emmett that much, or his friend, I couldn't turn my back on them.

I was drawn to this book by that yummy cover, it's even better in person.  Bridget Collins is a new author to me, I will be checking out her other books. 

My copy was from my personal library - yea it has to grace my shelves.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Anna of Kleve: The Princess in the Portrait (Six Tudor Queens #4) by Alison Weir

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly post to showcase upcoming releases that I am anxious to get my hands on.

Hardcover, 288 pages
 Expected publication: May 14th 2019
 by Ballantine Books

 Bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir tells the little-known story of Henry VIII’s fourth wife, as a grieving king chooses a bride sight unseen in the fourth novel in the epic and intrigue-filled Six Tudor Queens series.

Newly widowed and the father of an infant son, Henry VIII realizes he must marry again to insure the royal succession. Now forty-six, overweight and unwell, Henry is soundly rejected by some of Europe’s most eligible princesses, but Anna of Kleve—a small German duchy—is twenty-four and eager to wed. Henry requests Anna’s portrait from his court painter, who enhances her looks, painting her straight-on in order not to emphasize her rather long nose. Henry is entranced by the lovely image, only to be bitterly surprised when Anna arrives in England and he sees her in the flesh. She is pleasant looking, just not the lady that Henry had expected.

What follows is a fascinating story of this awkward royal union that had to somehow be terminated tactfully. Alison Weir takes a fresh and surprising look at this remarkable royal marriage by describing it from the point of view of Queen Anna, a young woman with hopes and dreams of her own, alone in a royal court that rejected her from the day she arrived.

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Spotlight: Justice Mission (True Blue K-9 Unit #1) by Lynette Eason

Caught in a killer’s sights… 

 Introducing the True Blue K-9 Unit series 

After K-9 unit administrative assistant Sophie Walters spots a suspicious stranger lurking at the K-9 graduation, the man kidnaps her—and she barely escapes. With Sophie’s boss missing and someone determined to silence her, NYPD officer Luke Hathaway vows he and his K-9 partner will guard her. But he must keep an emotional distance to ensure this mission ends in justice…not cold-blooded murder.

 Paperback, 288 pages 
Expected publication: April 2nd, 2019 
by Love Inspired Suspense LP

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Monday, March 25, 2019

Review:The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

A new novel from Lisa See, the New York Times bestselling author of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, about female friendship and family secrets on a small Korean island.

Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls living on the Korean island of Jeju, are best friends that come from very different backgrounds. When they are old enough, they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective, led by Young-sook’s mother. As the girls take up their positions as baby divers, they know they are beginning a life of excitement and responsibility but also danger.

Despite their love for each other, Mi-ja and Young-sook’s differences are impossible to ignore. The Island of Sea Women is an epoch set over many decades, beginning during a period of Japanese colonialism in the 1930s and 1940s, followed by World War II, the Korean War and its aftermath, through the era of cell phones and wet suits for the women divers. Throughout this time, the residents of Jeju find themselves caught between warring empires. Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, and she will forever be marked by this association. Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother’s position leading the divers in their village. Little do the two friends know that after surviving hundreds of dives and developing the closest of bonds, forces outside their control will push their friendship to the breaking point.

This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a world turned upside down, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children. A classic Lisa See story—one of women’s friendships and the larger forces that shape them—The Island of Sea Women introduces readers to the fierce and unforgettable female divers of Jeju Island and the dramatic history that shaped their lives.

 Kindle, 374 pages
Published March 5th, 2019
by Simon & Schuster
**** 1/2

This is my first time reading anything by Lisa See, The Island of Sea Women released earlier this month and was my introduction to HF taking place in Korea.

Taking place on a small island off the coast of Korea this book opened my eyes to the vast history and extraordinary events that were totally unfamiliar to me. Following the lives of best friends, Mi-ja and Young-sook, the author drew from the pages of history to weave a wonderful story. Beginning in the 1930s the country goes through so much as does the relationship of these 2 girls/women.

I learned so much with this read. Having never heard of a haenyeo before I found it fascinating that such an occupation existed.  The Japanese occupation and other atrocities of war gave a vivid picture of the struggles and hardships the residents faced.

The research into this book was evident and the author notes wonderful - yes pages of them and well worth the read.

The Island of Sea Women is a story of friendship, survival, relationships and so much more. Definitely an author I will read more of and highly recommend to those who like HF off the beaten track.

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending an author event with Lisa See and it was wonderful. I read this book in anticipation and was pleased to hear more about it.

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

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Review: Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

Winner of the 2018 Newbery Medal

In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways.

Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his loud and boisterous family.

Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and loves everything about nature.

Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister Gen is always following her around.

And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just act normal so that he can concentrate on basketball.

They aren’t friends -- at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find the missing Virgil. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms.

 Hardcover, 320 pages
 Published March 14th 2017 
by Greenwillow Books
**** 1/2

"It's not being brave if you aren't scared."

Winner of the 2018 John Newbery Medal Hello, Universe was a fun read, it's also a book easily polished off in a day  - for an adult, maybe longer for a younger reader.  The story itself takes place over one afternoon.

The characters are quirky, each with social issues, some confident others not so much, one pretending to be.  Each has dreams and obstacles in the way. All of them very likable though Chet not so much.

I loved the writing, the witty one-liners, conversations that make no sense but that I totally got.  It was so easy to be walking along in the woods with this group of kids. Smile at their way of thinking and antics.

Hello, Universe is a story of friendship, bullying, standing up and searching.  It is part of my '2019 reading off my shelf' challenge.  As well as reading the Newbery Medal Winners.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Review: The Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley

Tiggy D’Aplièse spends her days experiencing the raw beauty of the Scottish Highlands doing a job she loves at a deer sanctuary. But when the sanctuary is forced to close, she is offered a job as a wildlife consultant on the vast and isolated estate of the elusive and troubled laird, Charlie Kinnaird. She has no idea that the move will not only irrevocably alter her future, but also bring her face-to-face with her past.

 At the estate, she meets Chilly, an elderly Romani man who fled from Spain seventy years before. He tells her that not only does she possess a sixth sense passed down from her ancestors, but it was foretold long ago that he would be the one to send her back home…

In 1912, in the poor Romani community outside the city walls of Granada, Lucía Amaya-Albaycin is born. Destined to be the greatest flamenco dancer of her generation—and named La Candela, due to the inner flame that burns through her when she dances— Lucía is whisked away by her ambitious and talented guitarist father at the tender age of ten to dance in the flamenco bars of Barcelona. Her mother is devastated by the loss of her daughter and as civil war threatens in Spain, tragedy strikes the rest of her family. Now in Madrid, Lucía and her troupe of dancers are forced to flee for their lives, their journey taking them far across the water to South America and eventually, to North America and New York—Lucía’s long-held dream. But to pursue it, she must choose between her passion for her career and the man she adores.

Featuring Lucinda Riley’s “addictive storytelling with a moving, emotional heart” (Dinah Jeffries), THE MOON SISTER follows these two women bound across time and distance on their journey to discover their true futures—but at the risk of potentially losing the men they had hoped to build futures with.

Kindle, 533 pages
 Published February 19th, 2019
by Atria Books
**** 1/2

The Seven Sisters series is a favorite and one I have kept up to date on. One of the things I have really enjoyed is the different locations of the past storylines. We’ve been to Brazil, Norway, England, Australia and with The Moon Sister, Spain.

The Moon Sister isn’t a small book, coming in at 533 pages and Riley tells a great story. As with the other books she shows her uniqueness in the plots (both past and present) with interesting characters and just enough hints to anticipate the next book.

The blurb does a great job of outlining the story, thankfully I rarely read the whole blurb as I find it sometimes it gives too much of the story away - like it does here. I went into this one blind because I knew I’d be in for a treat. The Moon Sister was a wonderful ride, the historical aspect in Spain with its gypsy/flamenco dancing community was captivating. The author has a knack for creating both likable and unlikable characters.

The Moon Sister (as are the other books) is a journey of self-discovery with some mystery and a touch of romance. While this book could work as a stand-alone I recommend reading the whole series.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Review: Brandon by Tony Riches

From the author of the international bestselling Tudor Trilogy comes a true story of adventure, courtly love, and chivalric loyalty. 

Handsome, charismatic and a champion jouster, Sir Charles Brandon is the epitome of a Tudor Knight. A favourite of King Henry VIII, Brandon has a secret. He has fallen in love with Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor, the beautiful widowed Queen of France, and risks everything to marry her without the King’s consent.

 Brandon becomes Duke of Suffolk, but his loyalty is tested fighting Henry’s wars in France. Mary’s public support for Queen Catherine of Aragon brings Brandon into dangerous conflict with the ambitious Boleyn family and the king’s new right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell. 

Torn between duty to his family and loyalty to the king, Brandon faces an impossible decision: can he accept Anne Boleyn as his new queen?

Publication Date: December 3, 2018
Preseli Press
Genre: Historical/Tudor/Biographical

It’s such a refreshing treating reading a Tudor era book without good old Henry VIII playing center stage. That being said Charles Brandon is a close friend and confidante so his life revolves around the King but here Brandon’s life is vividly portrayed. 

This is my second book by Tony Riches, Jasper being my first, and again it’s evident that he knows his stuff. His attention to detail shows his research and passion for the time period. I knew very little about the life of Charles Brandon and was thoroughly entertained and educated, not only on Brandon's life but with Court, politics and jousting.

There is a big space of time that is cover in this book the pacing wasn’t rushed, I found it to be well written definitely an author I recommend and will continue to read more of.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

Tony Riches is a full-time writer and lives with his wife in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. After several successful non-fiction books, Tony turned to novel writing and wrote ‘Queen Sacrifice’, set in 10th century Wales, followed by ‘The Shell’, a thriller set in present-day Kenya.

A specialist in the history of the early Tudors, he is best known for his Tudor Trilogy. Tony’s other international bestsellers include ‘Warwick ~ The Man Behind the Wars of the Roses’ and ‘The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham’.

For more information please visit Tony’s website and his blog The Writing Desk.

He can also be found on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Review: At the Mountain's Edge by Genevieve Graham

From bestselling author, Genevieve Graham comes a sweeping new historical novel of love, tragedy, and redemption set during the height of the Klondike Gold Rush.

In 1897, the discovery of gold in the desolate reaches of the Yukon has the world abuzz with excitement, and thousands of prospectors swarm to the north seeking riches the likes of which have never been seen before.

For Liza Peterson and her family, the gold rush is a chance for them to make a fortune by moving their general store business from Vancouver to Dawson City, the only established town in the Yukon. For Constable Ben Turner, a recent recruit of the North-West Mounted Police, upholding the law in a place overrun with guns, liquor, prostitutes, and thieves is an opportunity to escape a dark past and become the man of integrity he has always wanted to be. But the long, difficult journey over icy mountain passes and whitewater rapids is much more treacherous than Liza or Ben imagined, and neither is completely prepared for the forbidding north.

As Liza’s family nears the mountain’s peak, a catastrophe strikes with fatal consequences, and not even the NWMP can help. Alone and desperate, Liza finally reaches Dawson City, only to find herself in a different kind of peril. Meanwhile, Ben, wracked with guilt over the accident on the trail, sees the chance to make things right. But just as love begins to grow, new dangers arise, threatening to separate the couple forever.

Inspired by history as rich as the Klondike’s gold, At the Mountain’s Edge is an epic tale of romance and adventure about two people who must let go of the past not only to be together but also to survive.

Paperback, 368 pages
Expected publication: April 2nd, 2019
by Simon & Schuster 

Genevieve Graham is one of my go-to authors for Canadian historical fiction. Her previous 3 books take place in the East coast of Canada, with At The Mountain's Edge she took me clear across the country to the Yukon during the Gold Rush.

Told from 2 different pov’s, which isn’t unusual for her books, I was treated to both sides of the law during the mad frenzy to strike it rich. I loved learning about the journey, in 1897, to reach the Klondike. It was harsh, cold and I can totally see the struggles they had to endure when in reality I’m sure they thought it would be an easy trek in the bush. Liza is taken on a journey she doesn't want but really isn't given a choice in the matter.  Ben wants to escape his past only to realize he can't run from it.

The early years of the North West Mounties, later to become the RCMP, was interesting to read about. The author notes always fascinate me, it’s where the author tells her inspiration, what’s real and the research used. Drawing on documentation from those years Graham has woven a tale of adventure, survival and discovering one's self. 

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