Sunday, February 26, 2017

Audio review: The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

East London, 1888 - a city apart. A place of shadow and light where thieves, whores, and dreamers
mingle, where children play in the cobbled streets by day and a killer stalks at night, where bright hopes meet the darkest truths.

Here, by the whispering waters of the Thames, Fiona Finnegan, a worker in a tea factory, hopes to own a shop one day, together with her lifelong love, Joe Bristow, a costermonger's son. With nothing but their faith in each other to spur them on, Fiona and Joe struggle, save, and sacrifice to achieve their dreams.

But Fiona's life is shattered when the actions of a dark and brutal man take from her nearly everything-and everyone-she holds dear. Fearing her own death, she is forced to flee London for New York. There, her indomitable spirit propels her rise from a modest West Side shop-front to the top of Manhattan's tea trade. But Fiona's old ghosts do not rest quietly, and to silence them, she must venture back to the London of her childhood, where a deadly confrontation with her past becomes the key to her future.

Paperback, 557 pages 
Published December 10th 2007 
by St. Martin's Griffin (first published March 11th 2002)
audio book 28 hours 35 minutes

I became a fan of Jennifer Donnelly after reading Revolution and continued with The Northern Lights.  Both books drew me right in and didn't let go until I finished.  The Tea Rose has been on my TBR pile for so long, but I think the print copy I bought was too intimating.  An over sized trade paperback with tiny tiny print is why I went the audio version.  Coming in over 28 hours I was a little nervous hoping it would keep my attention all the way.  Jill Tanner was the reader and she did a great job.

I really enjoyed this book, the author painted a vivid picture of London during the time of Jack the Ripper, though his role isn't predominant, it does have a part.  The first couple of hours Donnelly spends times introducing not just the family but what life was like for the lower class.  Not just the struggles just to survive but the hopes and dreams of those ambitious enough to think they can overcome so many obstacles.

Centering mostly around Fiona it wasn't hard to sympathize and feel for her.  Her heartbreak was real as were her dreams.  As tragedy forces her to take a stand for herself and little brother she bravely ventures across the ocean to begin life a new in New York.

While at times I got the feeling of predictability the author surprised me with twists and turns I didn't see coming.

There were a couple things preventing me from giving this book 5 stars, things I won't mention as they would be spoilers.  

This book has it all, murder, romance, mystery, heartbreak, love and adventure (plus more).  The first book in Jennifer Donnelly's The Tea Rose Series, definitely one I highly recommend to those that love getting lost in a doorstopper sized book.

click on cover to see my review

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Review: The Blue Hour by Isabelle Simler

A lovely and tranquil celebration of nature The sun has set, the day has ended, but the night hasn't quite arrived yet. This magical twilight is known as the blue hour. Everything in nature sky, water, flowers, birds, foxes comes together in a symphony of blue to celebrate the merging of night and day.

With its soothing text and radiant artwork, this elegant picture book displays the majesty of nature and reminds readers that beauty is fleeting but also worth savoring."

Hardcover Expected publication: February 20th 2017 
by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

This is a very blue book, as the sunsets the world turns blue.  There are wonderful illustrations here, bright, realistic and sure to keep the attention of readers.  With a wonderful array of unique animals and plants showing this wonderful planet.  The map at the end finished this book off nicely depicting each critter and where they live.

The Blue House is a perfect bedtime story while at the same time great for older children introducing them to different, colorful and animals they might not be familiar with.

Thanks to the publisher via Netgalley for an advanced copy.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Review/Giveaway: Daughter of a Thousand Years by Amalia Carosella

02_daughter-of-a-thousand-yearsGreenland, AD 1000 

 More than her fiery hair marks Freydís as the daughter of Erik the Red; her hot temper and fierce pride are as formidable as her Viking father’s. And so, too, is her devotion to the great god Thor, which puts her at odds with those in power—including her own brother, the zealous Leif Eriksson. Determined to forge her own path, she defies her family’s fury and clings to her dream of sailing away to live on her own terms, with or without the support of her husband. 

New Hampshire, 2016 

Like her Icelandic ancestors, history professor Emma Moretti is a passionate defender of Norse mythology. But in a small town steeped in traditional values, her cultural beliefs could jeopardize both her academic career and her congressman father’s reelection. Torn between public expectation and personal identity, family and faith, she must choose which to honor and which to abandon. In a dramatic, sweeping dual narrative that spans a millennium, two women struggle against communities determined to silence them, but neither Freydís nor Emma intends to give up without a fight.

Publication Date: February 21, 2017
Lake Union Publishing
eBook & Paperback; 442 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Medieval Romance
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Amalia Carosella is an author I discovered from her Helen of Sparta series, both of which are favorites of mine.  Click on the titles to see my reviews Helen of Sparta and By Helen's Hand.

The author has written Daughter of a Thousand Years in dual time periods.  Here we have two women born a thousand years apart and yet have the same struggles.

In present day there is Emma, daughter of a congressman up for reelection.  Being raised in a Catholic home has not automatically made her what her parents want, secretly converting to follow the path of Heathen she is forced to open up when word leaks to the media.  The timing couldn't be worse and she is forced to make decisions that affect not just herself but the rest of the family.

A thousand years ago there is Freydis, daughter of Eric the Red.  Christianity has just started to spread on the island and she isn't buying it, doing whatever she can to follow her heart and worship whom she wants to.  It's a struggle, as the family converts and being a daughter she is still expected to do what the family says.  Determined to follow her own path there are many struggles, decisions and conflicts she is forced to deal with.

It sometimes seems in dual time period books that I have a favorite setting and with this one I enjoyed reading the past story line.  With the historical elements, customs and lifestyle I found this part very interesting.  The immersion of Christianity onto these people and being Christian I would have loved to read more about that.  It has perked my interest in that area and I love when a book does that.  Freydis was a woman ahead of her time, she didn't want to waiver from her beliefs and yield to society demands but to forge her own destiny even when they could end with dire consequences.  If the whole book has been about Freydis I would have been satisfied with that.

I struggled with Emma's plight, she got off to a slow start but I loved how it picked up at the end.  I didn't alway feel her conviction in her beliefs, at times she was strong and other times her actions seem too impulsive. 

All in all a nice story and one I would recommend.  Thanks to Amy from HVBFT for the invite to be part of this tour and Lake Union for an advanced copy (via Netgalley).

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

03_amalia-carosella-authorAmalia Carosella graduated from the University of North Dakota with a bachelors degree in Classical Studies and English. An avid reader and former bookseller, she writes about old heroes and older gods. She lives with her husband in upstate New York and dreams of the day she will own goats (and maybe even a horse, too).

For more information, visit her blog at

She also writes myth-steeped fantasy and paranormal romance under the name Amalia Dillin. Learn more about her other works at

You can connect with Amalia Carosella on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Google+.
Sign up for her newsletter, The Amaliad, for news and updates.


To win a $25 Amazon Gift Card & a Thor's Hammer/Mjölnir Pewter Pendant, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 10th.
Giveaway is open to residents in the US only.
Only one entry per household.
Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Daughter of a Thousand Years


Monday, February 13, 2017

Spotlight: Berlin Calling by Kelly Durham

Happy Release Day to Kelly Durham on the release of Berlin Calling.  I was given an ARC but time just got away from me, rather than let the day go by here is a spotlight on Berlin Calling.

Germany 1938

While young and old are captivated by the country’s rapid ascent under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, naive Maggie O’Dea, an American studying abroad, finds her own fortunes turning after falling in love with a handsome soldier and landing a job with the Propaganda Ministry. Embodying the infectious spirit of nationalism sweeping the country, her powerful dispatches launch her broadcasting career as a champion of the Fatherland.

But as Germany invades one peaceful neighbor after another and the wheels of World War II are set in motion, Maggie starts opening her eyes to the grim reality of Hitler’s intentions. Torn between her successful career rooted in the allegiance to her adopted land and a growing dread over her role in a tyrant’s ruthless reign, Maggie—supported by a new love—must fight her own war of conscience. Will she survive a conflict threatening the world…and her own life?

Kindle Edition, 430 pages
 Expected publication: February 14th 2017 
by Lake Union Publishing

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Review: My (not so) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

Part love story, part workplace drama, this sharply observed novel is a witty critique of the false judgments we make in a social-media-obsessed world. New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella has written her most timely novel yet.

 Everywhere Katie Brenner looks, someone else is living the life she longs for, particularly her boss, Demeter Farlowe. Demeter is brilliant and creative, lives with her perfect family in a posh townhouse, and wears the coolest clothes. Katie’s life, meanwhile, is a daily struggle—from her dismal rental to her oddball flatmates to the tense office politics she’s trying to negotiate. No wonder Katie takes refuge in not-quite-true Instagram posts, especially as she's desperate to make her dad proud.

 Then, just as she’s finding her feet—not to mention a possible new romance—the worst happens. Demeter fires Katie. Shattered but determined to stay positive, Katie retreats to her family’s farm in Somerset to help them set up a vacation business. London has never seemed so far away—until Demeter unexpectedly turns up as a guest. Secrets are spilled and relationships rejiggered, and as the stakes for Katie’s future get higher, she must question her own assumptions about what makes for a truly meaningful life.

 Sophie Kinsella is celebrated for her vibrant, relatable characters and her great storytelling gifts. Now she returns with all of the wit, warmth, and wisdom that are the hallmarks of her bestsellers to spin this fresh, modern story about presenting the perfect life when the reality is far from the truth.

Paperback, 400 pages 
Expected publication: February 7th 2017 
by Bantam Press

Sophie Kinsella is my go to author when I need something light, witty and entertaining. Her Shopaholic books are favorites of mine in audio format, with the reader bringing so much life to the story. I don't know if I would have the same reaction if I read them but they were great in that format. When I started My (not so) Perfect Life my first thought was that it would also be great in audio and I actually debated about waiting until the release day to go that route. But I sat and read a little lot more and then a little more, eventually I was so immersed in Katie's life that I couldn't put it down.

Katie also known as Cat, has goals dreams and lives those dreams through her Instagram account. She has a career she wants and is apparently very good at it and a lifestyle she dreams about. But when things don't always go the way planned the real adventure begins.  Secrets take over, and a little revenge.  

The authors authors writing style brings this story together perfectly, her dialogue makes me smile and laugh out loud, her characters are not perfect and she does this all in a believable and realistic manner.

One of the things I really love is that this is not book was not over run with romance but it's about Katie who is trying to find her place in society.

This was a very enjoyable read and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a fun story with twists, turns and an unexpected ending.

Thank you to the publisher for an andvanced copy (via Netgalley).

Friday, February 3, 2017

Review: Mrs. White Rabbit by Gilles Bachelet

A hilarious twist on a classic tale Alice in Wonderland is one of the great classics of children's literature, but what does anyone actually know about Wonderland?

Through the diary of the White Rabbit's extremely busy wife, readers finally get to see what happens in the background during Alice's adventures.

 Mrs. White Rabbit loves her husband and their many children, but with an invisible housecat from Cheshire and a young female visitor who frequently changes size, living in Wonderland comes with a number of challenges.

 With an abundance of wit and charm, Mrs. White Rabbit gives Lewis Carroll's famous tale a refreshingly modern twist.

ebook - 32 pages
 Expected publication: Feb. 6th 2017
 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

I have a grandson who loves to sit and read books with Grandma.  When I see something interesting on Netgalley I try to grab for our special time together.  The cover for this one drew my attention and reading the synopsis I figured this was another great choice.  I have never read Alice in Wonderland, but know enough that I didn't think it would matter.

I downloaded this to my iPad to get the full effect of the color illustrations.  You can see from the cover how bright and colorful they are.  That continued throughout the book making the visual part of this book very enticing, the story matched the pictures nicely.

The book is written as a Dear Diary by an unhappy wife/mother. Some of the wording wouldn't have been understood by a younger child as well as some of the mothers issues as she rants on about her unhappy life.  While there were funny moments I think this book is for an older audience and those enthusiast fans of Alice in Wonderland.  

I rated this 2 stars but because of the wonderful illustrates went to 3 stars.

Thank you to the publisher (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Review: The Revenant by Michael Punke

A thrilling tale of betrayal and revenge set against the nineteenth-century American frontier, the astonishing story of real-life trapper and frontiersman Hugh Glass

The year is 1823, and the trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company live a brutal frontier life. Hugh Glass is among the company’s finest men, an experienced frontiersman and an expert tracker. But when a scouting mission puts him face-to-face with a grizzly bear, he is viciously mauled and not expected to survive. Two company men are dispatched to stay behind and tend to Glass before he dies. When the men abandon him instead, Glass is driven to survive by one desire: revenge. With shocking grit and determination, Glass sets out, crawling at first, across hundreds of miles of uncharted American frontier.

Based on a true story, The Revenant is a remarkable tale of obsession, the human will stretched to its limits, and the lengths that one man will go to for retribution.

Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 6th 2015 
by Picador (first published June 20th 2002)

Another bookish cork of mine, I'd like to read the book before watching the movie. When the family got together to watch this one I promptly fell asleep within 10 minutes - so no rules broken, but I have have heard the movie version has taken some liberties. I still haven't seen the movie.

This isn't a huge book coming in around 270 pages, I don't think it could've been bigger otherwise it might have been too long and drawn out. One of the things I was a little apprehensive about was the all male cast. Could this work? Having never read anything with that particular situation I went in with an open mind, in fact I actually forgot all about that aspect the deeper I got into this story.

I really enjoyed this book, the author did a great job of relaying the story and it wasn't hard to visualize the settings, from the cold winter storms the frigid water and feel the fear and terror of Indian attacks. Plus one can't forget the bear attack and cringe with each swipe of those large claws. The fact that this was based on a true life event made it all the more realistic and believable.

I am not usually a fan of wild west books but lately I have discovered that there are some interesting stories out there of survival, determination and men (and women) of courage.

I read this book as part of my '2017 read off my shelf' challenge. It is scary how many books I have in my tbr pile and I hope this year to make a dent in it. One down and a vast unknown number to go.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Review: The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen

First Series from Bestselling Author Julie Klassen!

On a rise overlooking the Wiltshire countryside stands the village of Ivy Hill. Its coaching inn, The Bell, is its lifeblood--along with the coach lines that stop there daily, bringing news, mail, travelers, and much-needed trade.

Jane Bell lives on the edge of the inn property. She had been a genteel lady until she married the charming innkeeper who promised she would never have to work in his family's inn. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Jane finds herself The Bell's owner, and worse, she has three months to pay a large loan or lose the place.

Feeling reluctant and ill-equipped, Jane is tempted to abandon her husband's legacy and return to her former life of ease. However, she soon realizes there is more at stake than her comfort. But who can she trust to help her? Her resentful mother-in-law? Her husband's brother, who wanted the inn for himself? Or the handsome newcomer with secret plans of his own . . . ?

With pressure mounting from the bank, Jane struggles to win over naysayers and turn the place around. Can Jane bring new life to the inn, and to her heart as well?

Paperback, 445 pages 
Published December 6th 2016 
by Bethany House Publishers
Julia Klassen is a new author to me, having seen her books around I jumped at the chance to review this one.

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill is the first in The Tales of Ivyhill series, coming in at 445 pages it is long enough to get to know the characters and to provide depth to the story line.

If you read the synopsis above you get a good grasp of what the story is about and the struggles Jane Bell has to go through. But this isn't a story just about Jane Bell it's also about her mother-in-law Thora.  Not only is she a widow herself, but after the death of her son she finds out the Inn is left to her daughter-in-law and the relationship there isn't all that great.  Jane's friends, Rachel and Mercy are also in the picture, with flashbacks they paint a picture of the close friendship they used to have.

This was a great character driven book told from the various points of views. Reading it from these different angles was enjoyable and I got to know each of the characters, with their different struggles and fears as well as relationships to each other.

A great start to new series, it was well written showing the small town lifestyle for the time period. There were parts I thought I had figured out but the author surprised me with the ending, with enough closure to satisfy this reader but also making me anxious for the next installment.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.".