Sunday, January 31, 2016

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.  This weekly gathering is hosted by Mailbox Monday.

Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy,
toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

Got some gems this week.


“Seventy-two hours, then we have to be back at the clearing. Sunrise on the third day.”

Being “the homeschooled girl,” in a small town, Hope Walton's crippling phobias and photographic memory don't help her fit in with her adoptive dad's perfectly blonde Southern family. But when her mother is killed in a natural disaster thousands of miles from home, Hope's secluded world crumbles. After an aunt she's never met invites her to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic. She's a member of a secret society of time travelers, and is actually trapped in the twelfth century in the age of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Now Hope must conquer her numerous fears and travel back in time to help rescue her mother before she's lost for good. Along the way, she'll discover more family secrets, and a mysterious boy who could be vital to setting her mother free… or the key to Hope's undoing.

Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail,  is an Outlander for teens.

Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare’s Sister in this novel of England’s first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.

London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.

Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country — and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.

The Dark Lady’s Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word.


Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds.

Told from the alternating viewpoints of Peter and Pax.

What arrived in your mailbox last week?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Review & Giveaway: Follow the River by James Alexander Thom

Woman of Dignity
Woman of Spirit
Woman of Courage

Here is the magnificent saga of Mary Ingles' daring escape from Indian captivity and her remarkable journey home.

Mary Ingles was twenty-three, married, and pregnant, when Shawnee Indians invaded her peaceful Virginia settlement in 1755, kidnapped her leaving behind a bloody massacre. For months they held her captive.  But nothing could imprison her spirit.

With the rushing Ohio River as her guide, Mary Ingles walked one thousand miles through an untamed wilderness no white woman had ever seen.  Her story lives on, extraordinary testimony to the indomitable strength of a pioneer woman struggling to return to the comfort of her own people, the arms of her own man.

Paperback, 406 pages
Published November 12th 1986 by Ballantine Books(first published 1981)
personal library

Well here you have it, my first 'Best of 2016'.  I would never have discovered this book on my own, but thanks to a friend on Goodreads I discovered it on the list 'The Unknown, Hidden Gems of Historical Fiction'.  Follow the River is number one.

It's great as a reader when you have your favorite authors, those trusted ones your go to and aren't disappointed.  On the other hand it is great to discover new talent out there.  Such is the case here with James Alexander Thom, though not a new author but new to me.

Follow the River is a story that showed a raw and violent side of early America.  It's the story of a remarkable young woman named Mary Ingles and her unrelenting determination in what looks to be a hopeless situation, she is forced to make decisions no mother should ever have to make, but was courageous in her quest for freedom.  When the Shawnee seeked to take revenge on white people, they targeted the settlers in Drapers Meadow, where Mary and her family lived.   

Thom's writing style was one I enjoyed, he didn't tell the story but rather showed it.  Told in vivid detail the author didn't hold anything back.  From the various aspects of the life style of the Shawnee to Mary's journey home I could visual and feel so much. It wasn't just Mary's emotional state but others as well, how they struggled to adapt to what was happening.  Be warned there were a couple of graphic/disturbing scenes that I had a hard time with (especially the opening massacre).  
"It seemed very important somehow, though she knew she was presuming things about the Indian character, that she and the others should exhibit all the dignity their destitute circumstances would allow. Somehow, she felt, dignity might be all that could keep them alive. It was a notion she had arrived at largely by watching the straight-backed carriage of the tall chieftain."
For Mary it wasn't just herself but 2 young sons and newborn baby as well.  Based on a true story makes it all the more heart wrenching, but at the same time to marvel at her determination and strength made this a very captivating story.

The authors knowledge and research is evident, he even hiked part (all?) of the route himself, showing his desire to tell Mary's story in a realistic manner (which were spot on).  The historical/author notes I enjoyed as much as the book itself.  Definitely an author I will be reading more of.

On that note I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader.  This is a mass paperback, used but loved.  Just leave a comment, tell me about a new author you've discovered.  It's open for a week, you can enter once a day and more entries if you spread the word and follow this blog.  Contest ends Feb 7th.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: End of Watch by Stephen King

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill  at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

This week I am waiting for:

Hardcover496 pages
Expected publication: June 7th 2016 by Scribner

Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic for five years, in a vegetative state. According to his doctors, anything approaching a complete recovery is unlikely. But behind the drool and stare, Brady is awake, and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

Retired police detective Bill Hodges, the unlikely hero of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, now runs an investigation agency with his partner, Holly Gibney, who delivered the blow to Hartsfield's head that put him on the brain injury ward. Brady also remembers that. When Bill and Holly are called to a murder-suicide with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put not only their lives at risk, but those of Hodges’s friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Because Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on Bill Hodges and his friends, but on an entire city.

In End of Watch, Stephen King brings the Hodges trilogy to a sublimely terrifying conclusion, combining the detective fiction of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers with the supernatural suspense that has been his trademark. The result is an unnerving look at human vulnerability and up-all-night entertainment.

What are you waiting for?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Review: Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

A woman uncovers earth-shattering secrets about her husband's family in this chilling page-turner from New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf

Sarah Quinlan's husband, Jack, has been haunted for decades by the untimely death of his mother when he was just a teenager, her body found in the cellar of their family farm, the circumstances a mystery. The case rocked the small farm town of Penny Gate, Iowa, where Jack was raised, and for years Jack avoided returning home. But when his beloved aunt Julia is in an accident, hospitalized in a coma, Jack and Sarah are forced to confront the past that they have long evaded.

Upon arriving in Penny Gate, Sarah and Jack are welcomed by the family Jack left behind all those years ago—barely a trace of the wounds that had once devastated them all. But as facts about Julia's accident begin to surface, Sarah realizes that nothing about the Quinlans is what it seems. Caught in a flurry of unanswered questions, Sarah dives deep into the puzzling rabbit hole of Jack's past. But the farther in she climbs, the harder it is for her to get out. And soon she is faced with a deadly truth you are in frshe may not be prepared for.

Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: February 2nd 2016 by MIRA 
arc via netgalley 

There are some authors that are automatic 'must reads', those that you have read enough times to know you are in for a real treat.  Heather Gudenkauf is one of those authors.  Her books have always kept me engaged and I love her writing style.  With Missing Pieces I didn't even read the synopsis but just dove right in.

Missing Pieces is a murder mystery that reopens events from years ago.  It's about a husband who kept his true past a secret from his wife, telling lie after lie to conceal a past that he didn't want exposed. But now that all explodes with dire consequences.

Told from the point of view of Jack's wife Sarah the story begins with them returning to Jack's hometown when tragedy strikes.  I had a hard time getting into this book initially, but when it took off I was hooked.  The story line kept me engaged, dawning my sleuth cap trying to figure out what took place years ago and what might happen next.  Heather Gudenkauf has a nice ability to ingrain twists and turns to keep one guessing.

But I did have a hard time connecting with some of the characters here - I was suspicious of the whole lot, which I suppose is a good thing.  I didn't really feel any sympathy for any of them. But the thing that I really struggled with here was Jack and Sarah's relationship.  Being together for over 20 years and with the strong bond (I was lead to believe they had), it was hard to see her doubt him.  To think him capable of such violent acts and to actually fear him, that didn't resonate well with me.

That being said I can't say that this is her best, but it was still an entertaining book.

Here are some of her other books that I have enjoyed (Little Mercies being one of my favorites of 2014)

Review: Solitary by Travis Thrasher

His Loneliness Will Soon Turn to Fear….

 When Chris Buckley moves to Solitary, North Carolina, he faces the reality of his parents’ divorce, a school full of nameless faces—and Jocelyn Evans. Jocelyn is beautiful and mysterious enough to leave Chris speechless. But the more Jocelyn resists him, the more the two are drawn together. Chris soon learns that Jocelyn has secrets as deep as the town itself. Secrets more terrifying than the bullies he faces in the locker room or his mother’s unexplained nightmares. He slowly begins to understand the horrific answers. The question is whether he can save Jocelyn in time.

This first book in the Solitary Tales series will take you from the cold halls of high school to the dark rooms of an abandoned cabin—and remind you what it means to believe in what you cannot see. 

400 pages
Published August 1st 2010 by David C. Cook
ebook via Netgalley
*** (I liked it)

Young adult has always been a favorite of mine, and I think I requested this book because I heard it would appeal to fans of Frank Peretti (his earlier books were favorites of mine).  Though the synopsis does not make any reference to this being Christian fiction knowing the publisher made that evident to myself.

Solitary was an enjoyable enough story, it wasn't hard to feel the loneliness of Chris's new found situation.  Trying to fit in in the mist of his parents divorce and being forced to move away from all he had ever know,  High School is hard enough but doing it without a friendly face just adds more pressure.

The author filled in the background of Solitary, NC with just enough hints to show that something weird was going on.  I didn't really connect or trust many characters here and some of the situation didn't always ring true to me.  But then I remind myself that this is book 1 of 4, so not all my questions/doubts will be answered right away.

All in all a solid start to this series.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.  This weekly gathering is hosted by Mailbox Monday.

Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy,
toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

My first Mailbox Monday post, a little late to the party but I am here.  So being late this post will include the past 3 weeks hopefully future mail boxes won't be this full.

Kindle deals


Book Tours


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Guestpost: Grounded in History by Kaaren Christopherson, author of Decorum

Grounded in History: the history–fiction mix in historical fiction
By Kaaren Christopherson, author of Decorum

Chief among the many questions a writer of historical fiction must ask herself is, How much history and how much fiction? Historical fiction runs a very wide gamut on the history–fiction continuum. A particular era may form the backdrop for a story that is largely fictional. Another story may recreate a historical event so faithfully that it reads more like creative non-fiction, only inserting a minimum of fiction into the plot or cast of characters. A story may incorporate one or two (or more) historical figures into a fictional plot, or the reverse—a fictional character may be a witness to a momentous event. In writing my first novel, Decorum, a story of deception, love, bigamy, and murder in Gilded Age New York, I chose to create fictional characters who lived out a fictional plot in a real time and place amid real events.

Before you think this option is easy or doesn’t require much research, let me assure you that historical research may be even more critical to making a fictional work believable. Though we may find the corsets and petticoats, top hats and walking sticks we read about alluring, the author also must capture the world in which the characters move and function: Gas lamps or electricity? Horse-drawn carriages or motor cars? A lavish mansion or a sweat shop fire trap? When a character approaches a house, does he use the tradesman’s entrance or the front door—and if it’s the front door, is there a bell chain to pull, a buzzer to push, or a door knocker to tap? Often tiny details are the very things that transport the reader to the time and place.

I like to say that Decorum’s fictional characters chose me and I stuck with them and their surroundings. Tycoon Connor O’Casey and his paramour Blanche Wilson de Alvarado were the first to appear in my imagination, in full dress of the 1890s outside a New York hotel, quickly followed by heiress Francesca Lund and a host of others who began spinning their tale. As their story unfolded, no historical figures were present; I decided not to force the issue for a couple of reasons. First, since Decorum was my first novel, I wanted to concentrate on making the characters as three-dimensional as possible. I created backstories and biosketches that told me about their parents, siblings, birthplaces, marital status, education, employment, religious beliefs, and favorite pastimes to help me give the characters depth. Second, I was concerned that working a real historical figure into the story might throw the book off balance—either the person would be flat and wooden next to my well-developed fictional characters, or the historical figure would be so larger than life that he or she would overwhelm the story. This was the right choice for Decorum, a choice I made deliberately.

Similarly, the plot of Decorum is fictional. To help ground the story in history, however, I used a few events judiciously to advance the fictional plot. For example, Nellie Bly completed her round-the-world-challenge in early 1891. I used her success as the impetus for one of the fictional characters landing a job. The modern hotel business was booming in 1890s New York. I used Flagler and Vanderbilt as unseen competitors to the fictional characters’ hotel aspirations. Moreover, the trip to Banff was ostensibly a chance to see what W. Cornelius VanHorne and the Canadian Pacific Railway were up to in dotting the continent with hotels. Decorum’s fictional tycoon O’Casey tells the guests at Thanksgiving dinner about witnessing the historic 1889 fight between John L. Sullivan and Jake Kilrain. In the case of Connor O’Casey, having done the extensive background on him early on made including the mention of the Sullivan–Kilrain fight a natural.

Finally, using my great-grandmother’s etiquette book for research turned out to be a great bit of serendipity when it comes to grounding Decorum in history. Starting each chapter with a short quotation was a reminder to the reader of how characters were supposed to act—not necessarily how they do act. With attention to historical events and using resources like the etiquette book, Decorum’s fictional plot and characters became grounded in the life and events of the 1890s.

To read the Thanksgiving chapter of Decorum for free, go to
To see more backstories and bios for the characters and stories of historical events, go to

To see more about my great-grandmother’s etiquette book, go to

Waiting on Wednesday: Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill  at  Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.   

 This week I am waiting for:

Hardcover, 320 pages

Expected publication: February 9th 2016 by Simon Pulse

Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything. This is their story.

Edward "Teach" Drummond, son of one of Bristol's richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There's just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.

Following her parents' deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to Curaçao—where her mother was born—when she's stuck in England?

From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay.

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Review: The Secret Life of Anna Blanc by Jennifer Kincheloe

It's 1907 Los Angeles. Mischievous socialite Anna Blanc could match wits with Sherlock Holmes, but in her world women are not allowed to hunt criminals. Determined to break free of the era's rigid social roles, she buys off the chaperone assigned by her domineering father and, using an alias, takes a job as a police matron with the Los Angeles Police Department. There she discovers a string of brothel murders, which the cops are covering up. Seizing her one chance to solve a crime, she takes on the investigation herself. 

If the police find out, she'll get fired; if her father finds out, he'll disown her; and if her fiancé finds out, he'll cancel the wedding.

Anna must choose--either hunt the villain and risk losing her father, fiancé, and wealth, or abandon her dream and leave the killer on the loose.

Paperback375 pages
Published November 3rd 2015 by Seventh Street Books
Historical fiction is my chosen genre, it usually involves a known historical figure and I learn a bit about the past at the same time.  There seems to be a trend these days in the HF field with fictional characters rather than real one, but with authentic time periods.  It's new to me and actually one that I haven't really paid much attention to.  Thank you to the publicist of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc for providing a copy to review.  It's always fun to go outside of your comfort zone, right?  Notice how many stars I gave this book?  Yup, that is correct 5 of them.

 I absolutely adored this book!  It was a new experience for me, not only was it a refreshing change, it was fun, witty, entertaining and rather addicting. It was like Sherlock Holmes meets Melissa McCarthy (from the Spy) and I am very grateful for the opportunity to review it.

I loved Anna, how could one not?  She has an explanation for everything as well as the perfect plan. She wanted a life outside of her fathers plans and went after it, some of her methods were rather shrewd, others a tad far fetched but here it totally worked, because Anna made it work. Being naive in the ways of the world made this all the more enjoyable.

The author, Jennifer Kincheloe, knows the time period well, from the social stigmas, rights of women (what rights!) and the life style.  I enjoyed her writing style, it wasn't hard to get lost in this book.

A solid debut that has me missing Anna, is it possible for a sequel?   

Sunday, January 17, 2016

My best of 2015

I surprised myself with how many books I read last year,150 to be exact. I didn't plan on that many it just happened.

Some interesting facts:

-the longest was 1059 pages with Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gaboldon and the short with 34 pages was Kika the Upside Down Girl 
-43 were audio books
-54 were new authors to me
-12 new series started
-12 series that I got caught up with or finished
-still plugging away at (Outlander)
-51 books reviewed for netgalley

My top 10 audio books of 2015 - in random order

1) The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams
2) Lyrebird Hill by Anna Romer
3) The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth
4) Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell
5) The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
6)  Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova
7) Castles, Customs and Kings by various authors
8) Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King
9) Misery by Stephen King
10) Mr. Mercedes/Finders Keepers by Stephen King
notice a tread there, sadly that trend was broken when I tried Revival in audio

My top 10 (actually 13) books of 2015 - remember in random order

1) A King's Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman
2) The Lake House by Kate Morton
3)  Lost in the Barrons by Farley Mowat
4) The Ones We Trust by Kimberly Belle
5) The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley by Susan Ornbratt
6) Helen of Sparta byAmalia Carosella          
7) The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth
8) Medici's Daughter by Sophie Perinot
9) Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole
10) Lady of the Eternal City by Kate Quinn
11) The Tapestry by Nancy Bilyeau
12) The Voyager by Diane Gabaldon
13) To Catch a Falling Star by Anna Belfrage

So that's my year, how was yours?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Review: The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig

New York Times bestselling authors Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig present a masterful collaboration—a rich, multigenerational novel of love and loss that spans half a century....

1945: When the critically wounded Captain Cooper Ravenal is brought to a private hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, young Dr. Kate Schuyler is drawn into a complex mystery that connects three generations of women in her family to a single extraordinary room in a Gilded Age mansion.

Who is the woman in Captain Ravenel's portrait miniature who looks so much like Kate?  And why is she wearing the ruby pendant handed down to Kate by her mother?  In their pursuit of answers, they find themselves drawn into the turbulent stories of Gilded Age. Olive Van Alen, driven from riches to rags, who hired out as a servant in the very house her father designed, and Jazz Age Lucy Young, who came from Brooklyn to Manhattan in pursuit of the father she had never known.  But are Kate and Cooper ready for the secrets that will be revealed in the Forgotten Room?

The Forgotten Room, set in alternating time periods, is a sumptuous feast of a novel brought to vivid life by three brilliant storytellers.

Hardcover384 pages
Expected publication: January 19th 2016 by NAL
arc via publisher through netgalley 
I am relatively new to some of these authors.  Karen White is brand new to me, I read Lauren Willig only once previously (The Other Daughter) and Beatriz Williams has turned into a favorite of mine since reading about a couple of the Schuyler sisters (hummm, same name coincidence there?).  Also reading one book by more than one author is also a new experience, seems to be a trend these days.

To be very honest when I requested this book I think I was caught up in all the media hype surrounding it that I really didn't even pay attention to the synopsis.  Sometimes going blind into a book is a good thing and other times not so much.  With The Forgotten Room is was a good thing.

This book grabbed me right from the beginning and didn't let go.  Well, that is once I got over the urge to solve the mystery and figure out the connections within the first three chapters, then I just sat back and enjoyed watching the stories unfold.  Half way through The Forgotten Room it finally dawned on me that this was penned by 3 different authors and I had forgotten that just because of the simple fact that I couldn't tell when one finished and another began, the story just flowed along at a nice pace and with no glaring disjointed scenes.

The Forgotten Room is a story about forbidden love and not being true to yourself.  There are secrets, deception and heartache in the lives of Olive, Lucy and Kate and it wasn't hard to feel their pain and frustrations.  Dual time periods are a favorite of mine, it keeps me on my toes and usually I am trying to figure the connections before revealed by the author(s).   The Forgotten Room had me captivated right from the beginning and keep me guessing with the twists and turns.

I would have loved some authors notes here, not just about the story or time period but about process, how 3 authors penning this. (ie who wrote what? Did each take a character and share them?)

As much as I loved the cover, it is subtle and rather romantic but I didn't really think it matched the story.  I am thinking narrow curved stairway, that ruby pendant or even the wall mural would have done justice here.  Remember just my opinion.

All in all a great read and great way to start my reading for 2016 and thank you to the publishers for the chance to review this one.

Waiting on Wednesday: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill  at  Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.   

 This week I am waiting for:


Hardcover, 400 pages
Expected publication: February 2nd 2016 by Philomel Books

The author of Between Shades of Gray returns to WWII in this epic novel that shines a light on one of the war's most devastating—yet unknown—tragedies.

In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

What are you waiting for?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Review: the things we keep by Sally Hepworth

Anna Forster, in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease at only thirty-eight years old, knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility. She also knows there's just one another resident her age, Luke. What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life at Rosalind House. As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.

When Eve Bennett is suddenly thrust into the role of single mother she finds herself putting her culinary training to use at Rosalind house. When she meets Anna and Luke she is moved by the bond the pair has forged. But when a tragic incident leads Anna's and Luke's families to separate them, Eve finds herself questioning what she is willing to risk to help them.

Kindle edition, 352 pages
January 19th, 2016, St. Martin's Press
arc from publisher via netgalley
**** 1/2
I finished this book last week, but had to give myself some time to write this review up - it had that much of an affect on me.

Taking on the subject of Alzheimer's is no small task.  It is a disease that we see far to often with its affects reaching past the one diagnosed.

I found The Things we Keep to be a meaningful and compelling story.  Here are 2 adults in their mid 30's when the symptoms start.  There are 3 different POV's here, one of them is Anna, which I found very interesting, the author showed her frame of mind, thoughts and feelings as the disease took a stronger hold on her.  It wasn't hard to feel her confusion. I loved that special relationship with Luke and the way it played out, definitely an eye opener.

The other POV's were from Eve and her young daughter Clem. There was the added time change - Eve's begins 16 months after Anna's which I found unique especially at the end of the book.  Clem is only 7 years old and her young age provided the innocence that meshed well here, especially when interacting with the other residences.

I was totally captivated here, taking only 2 days to read this book.  The authors writing style made it hard to put down.  This is Sally Hepworth's 2nd book, my review of The Secrets of Midwives can be viewed by clicking on the title.

Be sure to visit the authors website.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Review: Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner

In this new novel from the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life, two women working in Hollywood during its Golden Age discover the joy and heartbreak of true friendship.

Los Angeles, Present Day. When an iconic hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind  ends up in Christine McAllister’s vintage clothing boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner take her on a journey more enchanting than any classic movie…

Los Angeles, 1938.  Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Hollywood after her  dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart, and lands a job on the film-set of Gone With the Wind. There, she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires collide.  What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future.

Paperback, 400 pages
Expected publication: January 5th 2016 by NAL 
arc via netgalley
*** (I liked it)

I have been a fan of Susan Meissner for a number of years.  Secrets of a Charmed Life was one of my favourites for 2015 and I adored Lady in Waiting.

Stars over Sunset Boulevard is a story about friendship.  How strong that friendship is and the binds that tie them together.  It's during the filming of Gone With the Wind that Violet and Audrey meet and evidently become room mates.  Each of them has a past they are reluctant to share but when circumstances bring those issues out in the open then this book picked up for me.

Susan Meissner has taken on many different era's with her writing and I marvel at her ability to research such different time periods - from Tudor England to Salem Witch Trials to World War II (to name a few). Here she has taken on Hollywood in the 1930's.  Though part of the story is present day the vast majority begins in 1938.  This book had the feel of the time and life style, it wasn't hard to visual at all.  Though Gone With the Wind was just the backdrop here, I found the workings of the filming interesting as well as name dropping.

Violet and Audrey were likeable characters, though I will admit at times I didn't exactly feel the connection between them.  I found the emotional attachment lacking at times.  But the story was interesting, it keep my attention and desire to see the outcome.

Not one of my favourites by Meissner, whether that is because she has delivered 5 star books for me in the past and my expectation level is elevated I am not sure.   But still I am glad to have read it and of course will continue to grab her books when I can.

Thank you to the Penguin/Random House for an advanced copy for review purposes only.

Waiting on Wednesday: Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill  at  Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating. 
 This week I am waiting for:


 (I can't decide which cover I like best)

Hardcover, 432 pages
Expected publication: March 1st 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers

When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing.      Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail, Into the Dim is an Outlander for teens.

"Instantly engaging, constantly suspenseful, ultimately poignant and satisfying" --DIANA GABALDON, author of OUTLANDER

"Book II:An Into The Dim Novel" comes out Spring 2017 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

What are you waiting for?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Review: The First Lie by Diane Chamberlain

Prequel to Necessary Lies (September 2013).

The First Lie gives readers an early glimpse into the life of thirteen-year-old Ivy Hart. It’s 1958 in rural North Carolina, where Ivy lives with her grandmother and sister on a tobacco farm. As tenant farmers, Ivy and her family don’t have much freedom, though she and her best friend, Henry, often sneak away in search of adventure…and their truest selves. But life on the farm takes a turn when Ivy’s teenage sister gives birth—all the while maintaining her silence about the baby’s father. Soon Ivy finds herself navigating the space between adolescence and adulthood as she tries to unravel a dark web of family secrets and make sense of her ever-evolving life in the segregated South. 

ebook35 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by St. Martin's Press
arc via netgalley

A short and sweet review for a short and gripping prequel.  Necessary Lies was released a few months after The First Lie back in 2013, I haven't read it yet but plan to do does in the not to distant future.  The First Lie though short was a powerful little story that has me anxious to see what the future holds for Ivy, Henry and the rest of the family.  In only 35 pages the author managed to pull at my heart strings and made me care about them all, I want to know what the next chapter of their live brings.

I have been a fan of Diane Chamberlain's since reading The Midwife's Confession,  The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes and more recently The Silent Sister.  Her writing style takes me to another place and keeps me captivated with her stories.

My thanks to St. Martin's press at Netgalley for a copy of this ebook for review purposes.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Challenges for 2016

I am not always big on challenges, sometimes I find when I set goals that I just set myself up for failure.  But I am hoping 2016 will be different.  Here are a few challenges that I will be taking up this year.

The 2016 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, hosted by Amy at Passages to the Past!

Each month, a new post dedicated to the HF Challenge will be created. To participate, you only have to follow the rules:
  • Everyone can participate, even those who don't have a blog (you can add your book title and thoughts in the comment section if you wish)
  • Add the link(s) of your review(s) including your name and book title to the Mister Linky we’ll be adding to our monthly post (please, do not add your blog link, but the correct address that will guide us directly to your review)
  • Any sub-genre of historical fiction is accepted (Historical Romance, Historical Mystery, Historical Fantasy, Young Adult, etc.)

During the following 12 months you can choose one of the different reading levels:

20th century Reader - 2 books
Victorian Reader - 5 books
Renaissance Reader - 10 books
Medieval - 15 books
Ancient History - 25 books
Prehistoric - 50+ books
Because I have a TBR a mile high I am going for Prehistoric (wish me luck)

2016 Mount TBR Reading Challenge

Hosted by My Reader's Block this will be my first year giving this a try.  Again books calling my name from the crowded bookcase 'read me read me' can you hear them?  Betcha you are hearing the same sounds too.  

Challenge Levels:  I am going to take the plunge, because I really need to attack this pile and take the Mt. Everest challenge.

Pike's Peak: Read 12 books from your TBR pile/s

Mount Blanc: Read 24 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Vancouver: Read 36 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Ararat: Read 48 books from your TBR piles/s
Mt. Kilimanjaro: Read 60 books from your TBR pile/s
El Toro: Read 75 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Everest: Read 100 books from your TBR pile/s

Mount Olympus (Mars): Read 150+ books from your TBR pile/s

And the rules:
*Once you choose your challenge level, you are locked in for at least that many books. If you find that you're on a mountain-climbing roll and want to tackle a taller mountain, then you are certainly welcome to upgrade.  All books counted for lower mountains carry over towards the new peak.

*Challenge runs from January 1 to December 31, 2016.
*You may sign up anytime from now until November 1st, 2016.
*Books must be owned by you prior to January 1, 2016. No library books. 

*Rereads may count only in the following circumstances: If you did not own the book when you read it long ago and far away [based on your age, you can decide what that might mean--definitely not within the last five arbitrary pick for a limit] and you bought the book pre-January 1, 2016 intending to reread it now that it's your very own.  [To clarify--the intention is to reduce the stack of books that you have bought for yourself or received as presents {birthday, Christmas, "just because," etc.}. Audiobooks and E-books may count if they are yours and they are one of your primary sources of backlogged books.]
*You may count any "currently reading" book that you begin prior to January 1--provided that you had 50% or more of the book left to finish in 2015.  I will trust you all on that. 
*You may count "Did Not Finish" books provided they meet your own standard for such things, you do not plan to ever finish it, and you move it off your mountain [give it away, sell it, etc. OR remove it from your e-resources]. For example, my personal rule (unless it's a very short book) is to give a book at least 100 pages. If I decide I just can't finish it and won't ever, then off the mountain it goes and I count it as a victory--the stack is smaller!  
*Books may be used to count for other challenges as well.
*Feel free to submit your list in advance (as incentive to really get those books taken care of) or to tally them as you climb.

*There will be quarterly check-ins and prize drawings!