Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Beyond the Orchard by Anna Romer

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:

Anna Romer is a favorite of mine, I discovered her while research Australian authors, though her books are hard to find this side of the globe they are well worth the hunt.

Paperback, 464 pages 
Expected publication: November 1st 2016 by Simon & Schuster

A haunting story of yearning, love and betrayal from the bestselling author of Thornwood House

Lucy Briar has arrived home in turmoil after years overseas. She’s met her fiancé in London and has her life mapped out, but something is holding her back.

Hoping to ground herself and find answers, Lucy settles into once familiar routines. But old tortured feelings flood Lucy’s existence when her beloved father, Ron, is hospitalised and Morgan – the man who drove her away all those years ago – seeks her out.

Worse, Ron implores Lucy to visit Bitterwood Estate, the crumbling historic family guesthouse now left to him. He needs Lucy to find something– an old photograph album, the very thing that drove Ron and his father apart.

Lucy has her own painful memories of Bitterwood, darkness that has plagued her dreams since she was young. But as Lucy searches for the album, the house begins to give up its ghosts and she is driven to put them to rest.

And there, held tightly between the house, the orchard and the soaring cliffs, Lucy uncovers a long-hidden secret that shattered a family’s bond and kept a frightened young girl in its thrall ... and Lucy discovers just how fierce the lonely heart can be.

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: The Undoing of Saint Silvanus by Beth Moore

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 received a sampler (from netgalley) for this book.  The first 32 pages were enough to peak my interest and I look forward to this book.  Beth Moore is a gifted writer of nonfiction and I find her transition to fiction intriguing.

Hardcover, 480 pages
Expected publication: September 20th 2016
by Tyndale House Publishers

Exciting fiction premiere from beloved "New York Times" bestselling author Beth Moore.Only God knew why Jillian Slater agreed to return to New Orleans on the news that her father had finally drunk himself to death. It's not like they were close. She hadn't seen him--or her grandmother, the ice queen--in almost 20 years. But when Adella Atwater, the manager of her grandmother's apartment house, called and said Jillian's expenses would be paid if she'd fly in for the burial, a free trip to New Orleans was too intriguing to resist.

What Adella didn't tell her was that the apartment house wasn't a house at all and, whatever it was, bore the dead weight of a long and painful history. As soon as Jillian meets the odd assortment of renters and realizes that her grandmother had no idea she was coming, she hatches a plan to escape. But the investigation into her father's death quickly unfolds and Jillian is drawn into the lives of the colorful collection of saints and sinners who pass through Saint Silvanus. She soon discovers there is more at stake than she ever imagined. Who is behind the baffling messages and the strange relics left on the steps? Is it possible that her family is actually cursed? Or is it just this crazy old house that holds them all under its spell?

Jillian walks into a web of spiritual and personal danger borne out of her family's broken history, and despite Adella's wiliest efforts, only God himself can orchestrate the undoing of all that is going on at Saint Silvanus.

What are you waiting for?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Karolina's Twins by Ronald H. Balson

From the author of Once We Were Brothers comes a saga inspired by true events of a Holocaust survivor’s quest to fulfill a promise, return to Poland and find two sisters lost during World War II.

Lena Woodward, an elderly woman, enlists the help of both lawyer Catherine Lockhart and private investigator Liam Taggart to appraise the story of her harrowing past in Nazi occupied Poland.

At the same time, Lena’s son Arthur presents her with a hefty lawsuit under the pretense of garnering her estate—and independence—for his own purposes. Where these stories intersect is through Lena’s dubious account of her life in war-torn Poland, and her sisterhood with a childhood friend named Karolina. Lena and Karolina struggled to live through the atrocity of the Holocaust, and at the same time harbored a courageous, yet mysterious secret of maternity that has troubled Lena throughout her adult life.

In telling her story to Catherine and Liam, Lena not only exposes the realities of overcoming the horrors of the Holocaust, she also comes to terms with her own connection to her dark past.

Karolina’s Twins is a tale of survival, love, and resilience in more ways than one. As Lena recounts her story, Catherine herself also recognizes the unwavering importance of family as she prepares herself for the arrival of her unborn child. Through this association and many more, both Lena and Catherine begin to cherish the dogged ties that bind not only families and children, but the entirety of mankind.

 Hardcover, 320 pages
 Expected publication: September 6th 2016
 by St. Martin's Press

There is this thing called show and tell when it comes to books. I prefer books that show me the story where I can feel the emotional part and visualize what is taking place. Karolina's Twins is very much a 'tell' book and I struggled with that at the beginning.  After a long second chapter, that almost read like a textbook. I was questioning whether I should continue.  I hate giving up on a book, so I gave myself another 10% before throwing in the towel.  That little bit more pulled me back in, and while I still struggled with the writing  the story had me captivated.

The 89-year-old Lena tells her life story, feeling the need to unburden herself from the secrets of the past. She describes her life as a Polish Jewish teen before and during Hitler's reign. Her story interested me as did the mystery surrounding the twins. While I struggled to feel an emotional attachment to Lena as a character until the last half of the book (the Lena from the past)  the author was able to convey visual aspects of the atrocious events taking place.

"You are a Jew. They cannot take that from you.  The Nazis can take away your house, they can take away your bread, they can even take your body, but they cannot take away who you are."

Why am I giving this book 4 stars if I struggled with it? Basically because I read the last 60% in one day. For an author to create a story that does that, making me overlook flaws, to find out what happens earns that extra star.  The author was able to 'show' the story in the 'telling' and I thought that was great.  The past story was emotional and it is one that has stayed with me long after I finished reading it.

It wasn't till I finished reading that I discovered this is the third book in the Liam & Catherine Series. While it definitely works as a standalone, there were references to the past that stood out that I didn't understand.

Karolina's Twins is one that I will recommend, thank you to St. Martin's Press for an advanced copy (via Netgalley).

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: The Autumn Throne by Elizabeth Chadwick

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, 512 pages
 Expected publication: September 1st 2016 by Sphere 

England, 1176

Imprisoned by her husband, King Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of England, refuses to let her powerful husband bully her into submission, even as he forces her away from her children and her birthright. Freed only by Henry's death, Eleanor becomes dowager Queen of England. But the competition for land and power that Henry stirred up among his sons has intensified to a dangerous rivalry.

Eleanor will need every ounce of courage and fortitude as she crosses the Alps in winter to bring Richard his bride, and travels medieval Europe to ransom her beloved son. But even her indomitable spirit will be tested to its limits as she attempts to keep the peace between her warring sons, and find a place in the centres of power for her daughters.

 Eleanor of Aquitaine's powerful story is brought to a triumphant and beautiful close by much-loved author Elizabeth Chadwick.

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Review: The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine

Kate Morton meets Daphne du Maurier in this atmospheric debut novel about a woman who discovers the century-old remains of a murder victim on her family’s Scottish estate, plunging her into an investigation of its mysterious former occupants.

Following the death of her last living relative, Hetty Deveraux leaves London and her strained relationship behind for Muirlan, her ancestral home in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. She intends to renovate the ruinous house into a hotel, but the shocking discovery of human remains brings her ambitious restoration plans to an abrupt halt before they even begin. Few physical clues are left to identify the body, but one thing is certain: this person did not die a natural death.

Hungry for answers, Hetty discovers that Muirlan was once the refuge of her distant relative Theo Blake, the acclaimed painter and naturalist who brought his new bride, Beatrice, there in 1910. Yet ancient gossip and a handful of leads reveal that their marriage was far from perfect; Beatrice eventually vanished from the island, never to return, and Theo withdrew from society, his paintings becoming increasingly dark and disturbing.

What happened between them has remained a mystery, but as Hetty listens to the locals and studies the masterful paintings produced by Theo during his short-lived marriage, she uncovers secrets that still reverberate through the small island community—and will lead her to the identity of the long-hidden body.

 Paperback, 400 pages
 Published August 2nd 2016 by Atria Books
ARC via Netgalley
"Could families simply bury secrets? And then forget them--Surely there would be something, some hint of wrongness of something off-key."
Kate Morton meets Daphne du Maurier is what attracted me to this book, the cover didn't hurt either.  I am a big fan of Kate Morton and there are times all the hype of mentioning the likes of her could lead to a big letdown.  Thankfully that is not the case with this one.   I don't go out of my way to read anything dark and Gothic, but this one had so many things going for it that I couldn't help but request an ARC (via netgalley).

The House Between Tides begins with a prologue in 1945.  Then it alternates between 2010 and 1910 for the rest of the book.  I usually love a good prologue, one that lets the reader get a glimpse of what is to come, igniting the imagination and staying in the back of my mind as the story unfolds. I enjoyed this one, it grabbed my attention, as I immersed myself in this story pieces slowly came together.

With an island holding secrets of its own and a dark crumbling isolated manor The House Between Tides was a story about forbidden love with characters that came to life, it was suspenseful and mysterious and hard to put down.  It's the type of book where you can forget what's going on around you, getting totally absorbed and it's one of those books that will stay with me long after I finished.

The author's writing style made it all the easier to be drawn in.  The descriptions had me visualizing so much here and anticipating what was going to happen next. Hard to believe that this is a debut, but it makes me anxious to see what Sarah Maine is working on next.

Definitely a book I highly recommend and thank you to Atria Books for an advanced copy.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Spotlight: The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War by Phyllis Edgerly Ring

Anna Dahlberg grew up eating dinner under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Eva Braun.

Fifty years after the war, she discovers what he never did—that her mother and Hitler’s mistress were friends. The secret surfaces with a mysterious monogrammed handkerchief, and a man, Hannes Ritter, whose Third Reich family history is entwined with Anna’s.

Plunged into the world of the “ordinary” Munich girl who was her mother’s confidante—and a tyrant’s lover—Anna finds her every belief about right and wrong challenged. With Hannes’s help, she retraces the path of two women who met as teenagers, shared a friendship that spanned the years that Eva Braun was Hitler’s mistress, yet never knew that the men they loved had opposing ambitions. Eva’s story reveals that she never joined the Nazi party, had Jewish friends, and was credited at the Nuremberg Trials with saving 35,000 Allied lives.

As Anna’s journey leads back through the treacherous years in wartime Germany, it uncovers long-buried secrets and unknown reaches of her heart to reveal the enduring power of love in the legacies that always outlast war.

 Ring Publication Date: November 14, 2015
 Whole Sky Books eBook & Paperback; 356 Pages 
Genre: Historical Fiction 

“I was drawn in by Phyllis Ring’s economical and expressive language. Then the story took over! Protagonist Anna Dahlberg must face the emotional fallout from a traumatic plane crash, while simultaneously uncovering the first clues in a shocking generational mystery involving key players in the Third Reich. Everything’s complicated by a new romance that may help her overcome the past and find her true inner strength. But is it real? Love can manifest itself in enigmatic–and unexpected–ways.” -Elizabeth Sims, author and contributing editor at Writer’s Digest magazine

 “… fresh perspective of German women at opposing ends of the warring spectrum … a beautiful story of enduring friendship and the lengths people will go to for love.” -The Stellar Review “So persuasive is this novel that, before I could believe it was in fact a piece of fiction, I contacted the author and asked where she did her research and where she came up with the idea.” -Leslie Handler, The Philadelphia Inquirer

 Phyllis Edgerly Ring writes fiction and non-fiction. She left a part of her heart in her childhood home of Germany, which she visits as often as she can.

Her newest release, The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War, follows the lives of three women there before, during, and after the Second World War. The novel’s protagonist begins a journey that links past and present when she discovers that her mother shared a secret friendship with Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun. The New Hampshire author loves writing, travel, and the noblest possibilities in the human heart and is always curious to discover how history, culture, relationship, spirituality, and the natural world influence us and guide the human family on its shared journey.

For more information, please visit Phyllis Edgerly Ring’s website.
You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Review: A Boy Called Duct Tape by Christopher Cloud

Andy Sweet is a 12-year-old kid without much going for him. His classmates have dubbed him “Duct Tape” because his tattered discount-store sneakers are held together with…you guessed it, duct tape. He can’t escape the bullying.

Andy’s luck changes after he finds a $20 gold coin while swimming with his sister in a river near their home. Andy later buys a $1 treasure map at the county fair. The map shows the route to the “lost treasure” of the notorious outlaw Jesse James. Andy can’t help but wonder: Is there a link between the map and the gold coin?

He is determined to find out, and he, his nine-year-old sister, Allie, and thirteen-year-old cousin, Drew, hire an ill-mannered cave guide and begin a treacherous underground adventure in search of treasure. Their treasure hunt is made more perilous because they are being followed by the evil Blood brothers, who want the treasure for themselves. The Blood brothers will stop at nothing to claim the treasure as their own.

(A Boy Called Duct Tape won First Place in the fall-2012 NABE Pinnacle Achievement Award for Juvenile Fiction.)

 Kindle Edition, 188 pages
 Published March 26th 2012 by Ron Hutchison
kindle version from personal library

I discovered this book when Stephanie from indieBRAG asked me to host a cover crush. This cover jumped out at me and you can read my blurb here. Once I read the synopsis it wasn't just added to my TBR pile but purchased from Amazon. Though the target audience is middle grade I think it would appeal to all ages.

The author does a great job of explaining the duct tape shoes and once I heard that there was an instant bond to this family and the struggles they were facing.
"Maybe I didn't trust him because of the way he looked.  That was pretty shallow.  Not much different between that and not liking someone because they wore duct-taped sneakers."
This was a great adventure story that I think every boy (and girl) dreams about, a hidden treasure along with a map and striking it rich. The author wove this story together in such a way that had me rooting for Andy, Allie and Drew. With clues along the way and interspersed with old legends of Jesse James this action packed book was highly entertaining. There was more to it than just a treasure hunt, while Andy dreams of this treasure not for himself but for his mother, for his sister - to help others first and that's something great for kids to read about these days.

I loved Andy, he is older than his years, he is protective of his little sister and thinks of others before himself.  Monroe was a great addition to this story, his character was rough and gruff with a gentle heart.

I've given this book 4 1/2 stars and there was only one little thing that prevented me from giving it a 5. I am not sure how to say it without spoilers but suffice to say there was a conversation between Andy's mother and Monroe that I would've loved to hear. While I totally understand why the author did this and it fit perfectly, I wanted to know what was said (might be the mom in me that has me curious and if you've read the book you might understand my interest).  That being said I always round my half points up one so it still ends up being five stars on GR and Amazon.

All in all this was a fun story that I highly recommend, there was adventure, mystery and suspense and will appeal to those that like middle grade age books with that historical fiction element to it.  A Boy Called Duct Tape was hard to put down and took me back to my childhood reminding me of the lazy hazy days of summer when we gathered outside and used our imagination to keep us entertained.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn

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:

Veronica Speedwell returns in a brand new adventure from Deanna Raybourn, the "New York Times" bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries...

"London, 1887."

Victorian adventuress and butterfly hunter Veronica Speedwell receives an invitation to visit the Curiosity Club, a ladies-only establishment for daring and intrepid women. There she meets the mysterious Lady Sundridge, who begs her to take on an impossible task saving society art patron Miles Ramsforth from execution. Accused of the brutal murder of his artist mistress Artemisia, Ramsforth will face the hangman s noose in a week s time if Veronica cannot find the real killer.

But Lady Sundridge is not all that she seems, and unmasking her true identity is only the first of the many secrets Veronica must uncover. Together with her natural historian colleague Stoker, Veronica races against time to find the true murderer a ruthless villain who not only took Artemisia s life in cold blood but is happy to see Ramsforth hang for the crime. From a Bohemian artists colony to a royal palace to a subterranean grotto with a decadent history, the investigation proves to be a very perilous undertaking indeed...." 

Hardcover, 352 pages 
Expected publication: January 10th 2017 by Berkley Books

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Spotlight: The Ninja's Daughter: A Hiro Hattori Novel by Susan Spann

02_The Ninja's Daughter

 Autumn, 1565

When an actor's daughter is murdered on the banks of Kyoto's Kamo River, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo are the victim's only hope for justice.

As political tensions rise in the wake of the shogun's recent death, and rival warlords threaten war, the Kyoto police forbid an investigation of the killing, to keep the peace--but Hiro has a personal connection to the girl, and must avenge her. The secret investigation leads Hiro and Father Mateo deep into the exclusive world of Kyoto's theater guilds, where they quickly learn that nothing, and no one, is as it seems. With only a mysterious golden coin to guide them, the investigators uncover a forbidden love affair, a missing mask, and a dangerous link to corruption within the Kyoto police department that leaves Hiro and Father Mateo running for their lives.

In The Ninja’s Daughter, Susan Spann’s poetic voice brilliantly captures the societal disparities, political intrigues, and martial conflicts of sixteenth-century Japan through the persevering efforts of ninja detective Hiro Hattori to solve a murder authorities consider of no consequence.” -JEFFREY SIGER, International Bestselling Author

Publication Date: August 2, 2016 
Seventh Street Books eBook & 
Paperback; 230 Pages
 Series: Hiro Hattori Novels/Shinobi Mysteries 
Genre: Historical Mystery
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03_Susan SpannSusan Spann is the author of three previous novels in the Shinobi Mystery series: Claws of the Cat, Blade of the Samurai, and Flask of the Drunken Master. She has a degree in Asian Studies and a lifelong love of Japanese history and culture. . When not writing, she works as a transactional attorney focusing on publishing and business law, and raises seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium.

For more information please visit Susan Spann's website.

You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Review: Mata Hari's Last Dance by Michelle Moran

From the international bestselling author of Rebel Queen and Nefertiti comes a captivating novel about the infamous Mata Hari, exotic dancer, adored courtesan, and, possibly, relentless spy.

Paris, 1917. The notorious dancer Mata Hari sits in a cold cell awaiting freedom…or death. Alone and despondent, Mata Hari is as confused as the rest of the world about the charges she’s been arrested on: treason leading to the deaths of thousands of French soldiers.

As Mata Hari waits for her fate to be decided, she relays the story of her life to a reporter who is allowed to visit her in prison. Beginning with her carefree childhood, Mata Hari recounts her father’s cruel abandonment of her family as well her calamitous marriage to a military officer. Taken to the island of Java, Mata Hari refuses to be ruled by her abusive husband and instead learns to dance, paving the way to her stardom as Europe’s most infamous dancer.

From exotic Indian temples and glamorous Parisian theatres to stark German barracks in war-torn Europe, international bestselling author Michelle Moran who “expertly balances fact and fiction” (Associated Press) brings to vibrant life the famed world of Mata Hari: dancer, courtesan, and possibly, spy.

Paperback, 288 pages 
Published July 19th 2016 by Touchstone
I can honestly say when I started this book I knew absolutely nothing about Mata Hari, I've heard the name before but that is about it. My reason for requesting this from Netgalley was the author, Michelle Morin, as I have always enjoyed her books in the past.

This is not a long book, coming in under 300 pages. Mata Hari being her stage name, her real name Margaretha Zelle MacLeod "M'greet" and this book is told from her point of view. It's a fast-moving story that tells how she came to be the famous exotic dancer that scandalized Parisian society. The story progresses jumping from her seductive dance routines to a string of wealthy lovers along with her reminiscing about childhood, marriage and motherhood.  Concluding with charges of treason for being a World War I spy. That is a lot to fill in in under 300 pages and I would have loved for it to be a little longer with  more depth and detail.

That being said I found the author was still able to write about Mata Hari's life keeping me captivated with her story and feeling empathy. At times I found her to be naïve and even a little immature in her actions and her shopping habits, she gave off the impression of being a lost soul searching for something but not knowing what it was, making the outcome that much more heartbreaking.

Mata Hari's Last Dance is a book that I will recommend to lovers of historical fiction.  Thank you to Touchstone (via Netgalley) for an ARC.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Audio Review: The Valley by Helen Bryan

 Left suddenly penniless, the Honorable Sophia Grafton, a viscount’s orphaned daughter, sails to the New World to claim the only property left to her name: a tobacco plantation in the remote wilds of colonial Virginia. Enlisting the reluctant assistance of a handsome young French spy—at gunpoint— she gathers an unlikely group of escaped slaves and indentured servants, each seeking their own safe haven in the untamed New World.

What follows will test her courage and that of her companions as they struggle to survive a journey deep into a hostile wilderness and eventually forge a community of homesteads and deep bonds that will unite them for generations.

The first installment in an epic historical trilogy by Helen Bryan, the bestselling author of War Brides and The Sisterhood, The Valley is a sweeping, unforgettable tale of hardship, tenacity, love, and heartache.

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: July 19, 2016

This review is for the audio version, it came in at just over 20 hours, with the actual book being over 600 pages long. It was discovering that Kate Reading was the reader that pushed me in that direction. She has a wonderful way of bringing a story to life with the right mix of feeling. When she changes characters the tone of voice is authentic and not overly dramatized.

This is the first in a planned trilogy, involving the author's ancestors. The Valley begins in 1754 as Sophie begins her journey to America, then jumping back in time as we discover why this is taking place. This is the kind of historical fiction that I usually enjoy, an epic story, journey to the unknown involving real time periods and historical figures. It's evident that the author has a passion for this era, especially being the family history and I could tell she wanted to share that with her readers. Her descriptions of the land, both in England and America, made it easy to visualize Sophie's journey and early America as well as cultural struggles in England.

I enjoyed the middle part of this book the most as I found parts in the beginning and end were mundane, they could have been minimized or deleted all together.  Whereas other parts I would have loved to hear more about and to be expounded on, especially with Sophie's arrival in America and once settled in Wild Wood. Towards the end of the book more characters were introduced and I struggled connecting with them.  My thoughts are that they will play a bigger role in book #2.

There are many mixed reviews for this book which just shows what doesn't tickle one persons fancy will another.  I am glad that I went the audio route here and may continue the series that way.

Thank you to TLC Tours for the invite to be part of this tour and the publisher for the audiobook.

Helen Bryan is a Virginia native who grew up in Tennessee. After graduating from Barnard College, she moved to England, where she studied law and was a barrister for ten years before devoting herself to writing full-time.

A member of the Inner Temple, Bryan is the author of four previous books: the World War II novel War Brides; the historical novel The Sisterhood; the biography Martha Washington: First Lady of Liberty, which won an Award of Merit from the Colonial Dames of America; and the legal handbook Planning Applications and Appeals.

The Valley is the first in a planned trilogy based on her childhood stories of ancestors who settled in Virginia and Maryland before Tennessee became a state. Bryan resides in London with her family.

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