Monday, October 31, 2016

Spotlight & Giveaway: Roma Amor: A Novel of Caligula's Rome by Sherry Christie

02_Roma Amor

 Marcus Carinna hears a voice whisper, "Your turn," as he rides past his family tomb. An unseen presence also startles the Germanic priestess Aurima, whom he is bringing to Rome. But hardheaded Romans scoff at ghosts, and Marcus can't believe it's a warning from his brother, who killed himself three years earlier.

 37 AD: To great acclaim, 25-year-old Caligula Caesar has become Rome's new master. No one is more pleased than Senator Titus Carinna, who helped him succeed to the throne. It's a shame the Senator's older son--Caligula's closest friend--committed suicide after being charged with treason. But that still leaves Marcus, his second son.

 Headstrong and hot-tempered, Marcus would rather prove his courage by leading legions against Rome's enemies than take his brother's place. Yet when his father orders him to befriend Caligula, he has no choice.

 Caught in a web of deceit, conspiracy, and betrayal, he will uncover a secret that threatens his family, the woman he desires, even his life... and may bring chaos to the young Roman Empire.

"The first installment in a page-turning saga that revisits the heroes and villains of the grandest city of the ancient world.... Comes alive with the long gone characters who were its lifeblood" -Kirkus Reviews

''Combines current political concerns, the wide lens of the serious historical novel, and emotional maturity and realism with an utterly splendid grasp of what it must have been like to live in Rome under Caligula's reign.'' -Sarah Smith, Agatha Award winner and New York Times Notable author

Publication Date: April 15, 2016
 Bexley House Books 
Paperback; 496 Pages
 Genre: Historical Fiction
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Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

03_Sherry Christie

After earning a Phi Beta Kappa creative award in college for an early draft about a nobly born charioteer, Sherry Christie spent many years of research and revision developing ROMA AMOR into the story about fathers and sons that it wanted to be. It's a joy to immerse myself in the lives of first-century Romans--and a distinct change from my day job.

 In addition to writing, Sherry is a professional copywriter.

She lives on the coast of Maine with a native-born Viking and two cats.
For more information, please visit Sherry Christie's website.

You can also connect with her on Twitter, and Goodreads.


Giveaway

To win a paperback copy of Roma Amor: A Novel of Caligula's Rome by Sherry Christie, please enter via the Gleam form below. 2 copies are up for grabs!

  Rules
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 11th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

  Roma Amor

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Review: Duty to the Crown (Daughters of New France #2) by Aimie K. Runyan

Set amid the promise and challenge of the first Canadian colonies, Aimie K. Runyan’s vividly rendered novel provides a fascinating portrait of the women who would become the founding mothers of New France.

In 1667, an invisible wall separates settlers in New France from their Huron neighbors. Yet whether in the fledgling city of Quebec or within one of the native tribes, every woman’s fate depends on the man she chooses—or is obligated—to marry.

 Although Claudine Deschamps and Gabrielle Giroux both live within the settlement, their prospects are very different. French-born Claudine has followed her older sister across the Atlantic hoping to attract a wealthy husband through her beauty and connections. Gabrielle, orphan daughter of the town drunkard, is forced into a loveless union by a cruel law that requires her to marry by her sixteenth birthday. And Manon Lefebvre, born in the Huron village and later adopted by settlers, has faced the prejudices of both societies and is convinced she can no longer be accepted in either. Drawn into unexpected friendship through their loves, losses, and dreams of home and family, all three women will have to call on their bravery and resilience to succeed in this new world…

 Praise for Promised to the Crown “A heart-wrenching and timeless tale of friendship, love and hope that skillfully blends history and romance to educate, entertain and inspire.” --Pam Jenoff, author of The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach

Book, 352 pages
Expected publication: October 25th 2016 by Kensington
print copy given to me by author
****
  
 "People are capable of far more than they give themselves credit for. Once you start on the impossible journey you'll be amazed at how far you travel."

 I think I am starting this review the same way I started the previous book,  Promised to the Crown, by stating my love of Canadian historical fiction. It's a location as well as a time period not easily found. I was super excited when book one was first released in May and that I didn't have to wait long for book 2 (hopefully there will be a book 3).

Where book one introduces us to Rose, Nicole and Elizabeth, their journey and introduction to New France, Duty to the Crown continues in 1667 focusing on Claudine Deschamps, Gabrielle Giroux and Manon. Though this book does work as a standalone I highly recommend starting with book one, the journey that was originally made as well as the connections will further enhance the enjoyment of this one.

The author's writing style made it very easy to get lost in this story. While these three young women come from totally different life styles and social classes they form a special bond through the trials that women faced during this time period.  They lives aren't their own, with little rights and the ability to decide their own future. This special friendship was conveyed in a believable and unique manner making this reader connect not just with those 3 women but others in this book as well.

Duty to the Crown is a wonderful story of friendship, heartache and family - whether blood related or not. With its many layers and different story lines it was easy to visualize the setting and feel the emotional part of this book.  A compelling story steeped with rich details brought the time period to life.  While the conclusion was fitting my connection had me wanting to read more and can only hope that the Daughters of New France series continues in book #3.

Definitely a series I highly recommend.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Spotlight & Giveaway: Come Next Spring by Alana White

    It’s 1949 in Tennessee Smoky Mountain country, and everything in pre-teen Salina’s life seems suddenly different. Her sister is engaged, her brother is absorbed in caring for his sickly foal, and salina feels she has nothing in common anymore with her best friend. This novel for young people captures the insular spirit of the mountain people, the breathtaking country itself, and a girl’s struggle to accept the inevitability of change.

"An evocative first novel....the message is rounded out with lively characters, period details, and the sustained use of Salina's childlike point of view." - Kirkus
“. . . .A story as intricately patterned and multicolored as a practical, quilted coat—one that will warm readers, too.” -ALA Booklist Starred Review

“This finely crafted first novel engagingly depicts early adolescent feelings. All the events in the story occur between the first day of school and Christmas, in a year when Salina Harris moves beyond her concerns for popularity to an unfolding friendship with Scooter Russell, an unwelcome new-comer. . . .It is well paced, building to a dramatic climax; it creates a strong sense of time and place; and the novel includes a likable cast of characters and even a romance.” -Horn Book Magazine

“Salina is a wonderfully drawn character (who), with the help of loving parents and a teacher who challenges her to see a larger picture, realizes that change is inevitable, and that she will be able to accept it.” -School Library Journal

Publication Date: August 23, 2016 
Open Road Media eBook & Paperback; 178 Pages 
ISBN: 978-1-504034234 
 Genre: Historical Fiction/Young Adult
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Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (Paperback)

03_Alana White

Alana White is the author of fiction and nonfiction for adults and young readers. Her most recent publications are the adult historical mystery novel, The Sign of the Weeping Virgin, set at the height of the Italian Renaissance in Florence, Italy, and Come Next Spring, a coming of age novel set in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee in the 1940s.

She is also the author of a biography of Sacagawea, Sacagawea: Westward With Lewis and Clark.

She is a longtime member of the Historical Novel Society and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

She lives in Nashville, TN. Alana welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats.

Please visit her at www.AlanaWhite.com for more information. As well as HNS and SCBWI, she is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, the Author's Guild, and the Women's National Book Association.

For more information, please visit Alana White's website.

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

Giveaway

To win a paperback copy of Come Next Spring by Alana White, please enter via the Gleam form below. 2 copies are up for grabs!

  Rules
 – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on October 24th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

  Come Next Spring

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Review & Giveaway: A Song of War: A Novel of Troy

02_A Song of War

Troy: city of gold, gatekeeper of the east, haven of the god-born and the lucky, a city destined to last a thousand years.

But the Fates have other plans—the Fates, and a woman named Helen. In the shadow of Troy's gates, all must be reborn in the greatest war of the ancient world: slaves and queens, heroes and cowards, seers and kings . . . and these are their stories.

A young princess and an embittered prince join forces to prevent a fatal elopement.

A tormented seeress challenges the gods themselves to save her city from the impending disaster.

A tragedy-haunted king battles private demons and envious rivals as the siege grinds on.

A captured slave girl seizes the reins of her future as two mighty heroes meet in an epic duel.

A grizzled archer and a desperate Amazon risk their lives to avenge their dead.

A trickster conceives the greatest trick of all.

A goddess' son battles to save the spirit of Troy even as the walls are breached in fire and blood. 

Seven authors bring to life the epic tale of the Trojan War: its heroes, its villains, its survivors, its dead. Who will lie forgotten in the embers, and who will rise to shape the bloody dawn of a new age?

Publication Date: October 18, 2016
 Knight Media, LLC 
eBook & Paperback; 483 Pages 
Genre: Historical Fiction/Ancient History/Anthology
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*****


Seven different authors penned this anthology, some of them  am familiar with and others are new to me.  This is only my second experience reading an anthology and I still wonder what the best approach is to writing up a review.  A Song of War is divided into 7 Songs, do I go through each one individual making this review longer than usual or would a general overview (spoiler free) do this book justice?  While I am fascinated with the time period,  I've really only read about Paris and Helen.  With A Song of War it's like getting the other side of the story from different points of view.

Kate Quinn starts this book off with the first Song, called The Apple and clearly demonstrated why she is a favorite of mine.  She knows how to grab the reader right from the beginning, she creates the characters of Hector, Andromache, Hellenus, Paris and Helen with unique personalities and I loved what transpired especially with Paris and Priam, it was original and totally plausible, not what I was expecting at all and it worked; I love when an author does that.

Stephanie Thornton  continues with The Prophecy and the story of Cassandra, someone I have never heard of before.  Thornton likes to take unknown women of history and breathe life into their story, which is exactly what she has done here.  I loved this chapter and I loved Cassandra, the misunderstood, frustrated daughter of Priam who can foresee 'truths no one wishes to hear'.

Russell Whitfield takes on Agamemnon with The Sacrifice and I will admit to actually knowing nothing about him except that he is the brother of Menelaus.  This Song opens with an emotional scene totally drawing my feelings for him in the opposite directions of what I anticipated. I saw what made him tick, Whitfield made be care and empathize about him.

Christian Cameron is a new author to me and he continues with The Duel.  Briseis, I love what I have read about her, a tragic past that has made her a slave in this war.  This is one of the bigger Songs and one of my favorites.  She had guts and determination I was anxious to read her story, I think I read it in one sitting, I couldn't help myself, she just drew me right in.   

Libbie Hawker is a new author to me, her Song, The Bow has me looking for her other works.  
Penthesilea, a Cimmerian, not really part of the Trojan Wars, is again another character I am unfamiliar with as was Philoctetes.  I loved seeing the War unfold through the eyes of other, which was the case here. 

"He that fights fares no better than he that does not; coward and hero are held in equal honor, and death deals like measure to him who works and him who is idle."

Vicky Alvear Shecter tackles the giant Odysseus in The Horse, what a job that was. She did it flawlessly, it was a pleasure to read.

 SJA Turney wrote with some of the same authors here as in A Year of Ravens, so I was looking forward to her Song, she doesn't disappoint.  This was the perfect conclusion to an awesome book.

My favorite, The Authors Note, was a fitting conclusion.  This was just as entertaining as the book itself.  I loved hearing from each of the authors with their thoughts and the tweaking necessary for all the pieces to fit nicely here.  

While I wasn't exactly sure what to expected with A Song of War, I got much more than anticipated and another book to add to my 'best of 2016'.  Hats off to this great team, while written by 7 different individuals with 7 different writing styles this book flowed together perfectly, the transition from Songs seemed effortless.  I loved this book, it was a pleasure to read.

Thank you to Amy at HFVBT for the invite to be part of this tour and to Stephanie Thornton for a digital copy of A Song of Fire.

Amazon | Amazon UK | Kobo


CHRISTIAN CAMERON was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1962. He grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, Iowa City, Iowa,Christian Cameron and Rochester, New York, where he attended McQuaid Jesuit High School and later graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in history. After the longest undergraduate degree on record (1980-87), he joined the United States Navy, where he served as an intelligence officer and as a backseater in S-3 Vikings in the First Gulf War, in Somalia, and elsewhere. After a dozen years of service, he became a full time writer in 2000. He lives in Toronto (that’s Ontario, in Canada) with his wife Sarah and their daughter Beatrice, currently age four. And a half.

LIBBIE HAWKER was born in Rexburg, Idaho and divided her childhood between Eastern Idaho's rural environs and the greater Seattle area. She presently lives in Seattle, but has also been a resident of Salt Lake City, Utah; Bellingham, Washington; and Tacoma, Washington. She loves to write about character and place, and is inspired by the bleak natural beauty of the Rocky Mountain region and by the fascinating history of the Puget Sound. After three years of trying to break into the publishing industry with her various books under two different pen names, Libbie finally turned her back on the mainstream publishing industry and embraced independent publishing. She now writes her self-published fiction full-time, and enjoys the fact that the writing career she always dreamed of having is fully under her own control.

KATE QUINN is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages. Kate has succumbed to the blogging bug, and keeps a blog filled with trivia, pet peeves, and interesting facts about historical fiction. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

VICKY ALVEAR SHECTER is the author of the young adult novel, Cleopatra's Moon (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2011), based on the life of Cleopatra's only daughter. She is also the author of two award-winning biographies for kids on Alexander the Great and Cleopatra. She is a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University in Atlanta. The LA Times calls Cleopatra's Moon, "magical" and "impressive." Publisher's Weekly said it was "fascinating" and "highly memorable." The Wall Street Journal called it "absorbing."

STEPHANIE THORNTON is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel. Her novels, The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora, Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt, The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan, and The Conqueror's Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great, tell the stories of history's forgotten women.

SJA TURNEY lives with his wife, son and daughter, and two (close approximations of) dogs in rural North Yorkshire. Marius' Mules was his first full length novel. Being a fan of Roman history, SJA decided to combine his love of writing and love of the classical world. Marius' Mules was followed two years later by Interregnum - an attempt to create a new fantasy story still with a heavy flavour of Rome. These have been followed by numerous sequels, with three books in the fantasy 'Tales of the Empire' series and five in the bestselling 'Marius' Mules' one. 2013 has seen the first book in a 15th century trilogy - 'The Thief's Tale' - and will also witness several side projects seeing the light of day.

RUSSELL WHITFIELD was born in Shepherds Bush in 1971. An only child, he was raised in Hounslow, West London, but has since escaped to Ham in Surrey. Gladiatrix was Russ's first novel, published in 2008 by Myrmidon Books. The sequel, Roma Victrix, continues the adventures Lysandra, the Spartan gladiatrix, and a third book, Imperatrix, sees Lysandra stepping out of the arena and onto the field of battle.


Giveaway

To win a paperback copy of A Song of War: A Novel of Troy by the H Team, please enter via the Gleam form below. Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 12th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to US & Canada residents only. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. – Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

  A Song of War


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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Review: News of the World by Paulette Jiles

news-of-the-world-cover

It is 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows. 

Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forging a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.

Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself.

Exquisitely rendered and morally complex, News of the World is a brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.


 Hardcover: 224 pages
 Publisher: William Morrow (October 4, 2016)
 Longlisted for the National Book Award–Fiction
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****

Captain Jefferson Kidd travels through Texas reading newspapers to people, it actually makes sense with literacy relatively low how else does News of the World get around.  I thought this to be a very interesting concept and an original idea for a book. It's not really something I have thought of before but it's these little tidbits of history that I find intriguing and makes for the best stories. 

 The journey that Captain Kidd and Johanna begin is more than just about the miles traveled. What begins as two strangers put together, with very little in common, including language changes as the miles fade away. I don't want to say too much about the story itself for fear of ruining someones enjoyment of the book. Suffice to say this was written from the heart in a setting both realistic and true to the times.  News of the World is full of adventure, a little bit of humor and takes the reader on a journey, (and not just the physical kind).  The authors writing was descriptive and for a relatively short novel it has a lot going for it.   

 With a real lack in historical fiction for middle grade and young adult News of the World is a nice addition to the genre. I will definitely keep my eye out for the future books of Pauline Jile.  Thank you to TLC Book Tours for opportunity to be part of this tour.


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Paulette JilesPaulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World.

She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, TX.

Find out more about Paulette at her website.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Book Blast/Giveaway: They Were Like Family to Me by Helen Maryles Shankman

Critically praised, beloved by readers, In the Land of Armadillos has an evocative new cover and title, They Were Like Family to Me. 

1942. With the Nazi Party at the height of its power, the occupying army empties Poland's towns and cities of their Jewish citizens. As neighbor turns on neighbor and survival often demands unthinkable choices, Poland has become a moral quagmire—a place of shifting truths and blinding ambiguities.

 Blending folklore and fact, Helen Maryles Shankman shows us the people of Wlodawa, a remote Polish town. We meet a cold-blooded SS officer dedicated to rescuing the Jewish creator of his son's favorite picture book; a Messiah who appears in a little boy's bedroom to announce that he is quitting; a young Jewish girl who is hidden by the town's most outspoken anti-Semite—and his talking dog. And walking among these tales are two unforgettable figures: silver-tongued Willy Reinhart, commandant of the forced labor camp who has grand schemes to protect "his" Jews, and Soroka, the Jewish saddlemaker, struggling to survive.

Channeling the mythic magic of classic storytellers like Sholem Aleichem and Isaac Bashevis Singer and the psychological acuity of modern-day masters like Nicole Krauss and Nathan Englander, They Were Like Family to Me is a testament to the persistence of humanity in the most inhuman conditions.

Now in Paperback!
 Available October 4.

Connect with Helen

Website | Twitter | Pinterest Goodreads


“One of the most original and consistently captivating short story collections to have appeared in recent years…(They Were Like Family to Me) is a singularly inventive collection of chilling stark realism enhanced by the hallucinatory ingredient of top-drawer magical realism, interrogating the value of art, storytelling, and dreams in a time of peril and presenting hard truths with wisdom, magic, and grace.” Jewish Book Council

“Moving and unsettling…Like Joyce's Dubliners, this book circles the same streets and encounters the same people as it depicts the horrors of Germany's invasion of Poland through the microcosm of one village…Shankman's prose is inventive and taut… A deeply humane demonstration of wringing art from catastrophe.” Kirkus Reviews

“...by turns forthright and tender, oblique and intimate, brutal and ethereal…Though each story stands beautifully on its own, it is the completed tapestry of interwoven details that finally reveals the entire picture and provides the full emotional depth of the collected stories…The author’s greatest accomplishment is in leaving the horror to speak for itself, and instead giving voice to the enchantment.” Historical Novel Society

They Were Like Family to Me

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Review: The Returned by Jason Mott

Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago.

That's what all the Returned were. Harold and Lucille Hargrave's lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they've settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time ...

Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.

 All over the world people's loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it's a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he's their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.

 With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, award-winning poet Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in
contemporary fiction.

 Kindle Edition, 345 pages 
Published March 25th 2014
 by Harlequin MIRA 
(first published January 1st 2013)
** 1/2

I found the premise of this book very intriguing and that is what pulled me to it. When eight-year-old Jacob lands on the doorstep of his aged parents home 50 plus years after he drowned it causes quite the uproar. As the story unfolds we find out it isn't just him but quite a number of people from various ages, backgrounds and vastly different times of death and means, have returned.

Well I found the opening part very intriguing and had me wondering what was going on and looking forward to reading more. How could this happen? Why is it happening? And how is the world going to react to this? It was during the middle part of the book that the story lagged and I found myself losing interest. I couldn't connect with any of the characters and maybe that is why my interest waned. Towards the end it did pick up with a dramatic conclusion.

But still I was expecting more from this book, maybe a little about the afterlife and why they returned, what did China have to do with all this.  Too many questions and not enough answers. There was so much potential for more here, when a murdered family returns I would have loved to see the murderer caught, when Nazi's return and learn how they are hated...yea so much potential.

Remember this is just my opinion, there are plenty of 5 star ratings out there and it just goes to show what doesn't tickle one person's fancy does another.

Thanks to Harlequin MIRA for an ebook copy (via netgalley), in exchange for an honest review.