Friday, April 28, 2017

Spotlight: Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

 A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

 Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can’t accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.

 Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family's home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers. "So little is permissible for a woman," writes Lilli, “yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”

Publication Date: May 16, 2017 
Nan A. Talese Hardcover & eBook; 352 Pages 
Genre: Fiction/Historical/Literary
   

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Available for Pre-Order at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | iTunes | IndieBound | Kobo | Powell's


Praise for Lilli de Jong


 “A powerful, authentic voice for a generation of women whose struggles were erased from history—a heart-smashing debut that completely satisfies.” —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

 “Beautifully written, emotionally resonant, and psychologically astute, Lilli de Jong is the story of an unwed mother in late 19th-century Philadelphia who, facing peril at every turn, will do almost anything to keep her daughter alive. Benton turns a laser eye to her subject, exposing the sanctimony, hypocrisies, and pervasive sexism that kept women confined and unequal in the Victorian era—and that still bedevil many women today. A gripping read.” —Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World

 “A stunning ode to motherhood. Lilli de Jong reminds us that there is no formula to being a good mother. Love is the essential ingredient, and only it gives everlasting life to our legacies. A debut of robust heart that will stay with me for a very long time.” —Sarah McCoy, author of The Mapmaker’s Children

 “Janet Benton’s remarkable novel Lilli de Jong is historical fiction that transcends the genre and recalls a past world so thoroughly that it breathes upon the page. From the first sentence, Lilli’s sensitive, observant, determined voice casts an irresistible spell. Benton combines rich, carefully researched detail with an imaginative boldness that is a joy to behold—though reader, be warned: Lilli’s story may break your heart.” —Valerie Martin, author of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

 “[A] gorgeously written debut . . . Lilli’s fight to craft her own life and nurture her bond with her baby is both devastatingly relevant and achingly beautiful. A stunning read about the fierceness of love triumphing over a rigid society.” —Caroline Leavitt, author of Is This Tomorrow

 “A harrowing look at the strictures of nineteenth-century American society. . . . [Lilli] is a full-fledged heroine, persevering despite seemingly insurmountable odds. . . her voice is distinctive, her fierceness driven by a mother’s love.” —Booklist “I loved this novel. Lilli de Jong is deeply moving and richly imagined, both tragic and joyous. Janet Benton has an exceptional ability to bring history to life . . . It's not only a compelling, beautifully crafted historical novel, however: it's also important . . . Lilli's life-and-death struggle is shockingly common to women even today.” —Sandra Gulland, author of the internationally bestselling Josephine B. Trilogy

 “Writing with a historical eye akin to Geraldine Brooks and incisive prose matching that of Anthony Doerr, debut novelist Janet Benton magically weaves a gripping narrative of hardship, redemption, and hope while illuminating a portrait of little-known history. The result is an unforgettable and important reflection on the maternal and, ultimately, the human bond. Stunning!” —Pam Jenoff, author of The Kommandant’s Girl

 “A confident debut . . . Sentence by carefully-crafted sentence, Benton ensnares the reader.” —The Millions


Janet Benton’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Glimmer Train, and many other publications. She has co-written and edited historical documentaries for television. She holds a B.A. in religious studies from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and for decades she has taught writing and helped individuals and organizations craft their stories. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter.

Lilli de Jong is her first novel.

Visit Janet Benton's website for more information and updates.

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

 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review: I Found You by Lisa Jewell

A young bride, a lonely single mother, and an amnesiac man of dubious origin lie at the heart of New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell’s next suspenseful drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty and Paula Hawkins.

In a windswept British seaside town, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside.

Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. Their annual trip to the quaint seaside town is passing by uneventfully, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just that he’s playing the role of protective older brother.

Two decades of secrets, a missing husband, and a man with no memory are at the heart of this brilliant new novel, filled with the “beautiful writing, believable characters, pacey narrative, and dark secrets” (London Daily Mail) that make Lisa Jewell so beloved by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

Hardcover, 352 pages 
Expected publication: April 25th 2017 by Atria Books
****

Lisa Jewell is a new author to me, I've heard nothing but good things about her books - full of suspense and intrigue.  I jumped at the chance when netgalley promoted I Found You.  Right from the beginning I was captivated with 2 different storylines and a jump back to 1993 kept me reading.

The synopsis outlines the story nicely, the characters were interesting, flawed and somewhat believable.  That being said I would have loved to know more about Alice, while I was given snippets of her background I had more questions about why she seemed so desperate for love. Same thing with Lily, while I could understand her situation she seemed to change into a different person once she meets Alice and Frank and I didn't really feel the progression taking place.

As the story unfolded I had a hard time putting my kindle down.  The mystery surrounding 'Frank' is what kept me going especially as the back story started to take shape.  While I thought I had solved the mystery it twisted and turned around.  It was after Frank's past was revealed and the mystery solved that it floundered for me.  While the last pages brought closure it wasn't done in a matter that appealed to me.  It almost seemed rush and didn't match the smooth flow this book had.

Why am I giving this book 4 stars if I had a few issues?  Because I did enjoy reading it (only took 2 days) the author created a mysterious setting that had me wanting to find out what was going on.  I would recommend this one and read more by this author.

Thanks to the publisher via Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Review: Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

In present-day Boston, Nina Revskaya, once a great star of the Russian ballet, has decided to auction her jewellery collection and donate the proceeds to the Boston Ballet Foundation. It is a mysterious gesture that has piqued the interest of two particular individuals: a rising associate director at the auction house, Drew Brooks, who seeks to unravel the provenance of the pieces; and a professor and Russian translator at the nearby university, Grigori Solodin, who believes the jewels might hold the key to his past.

The stakes are raised when an anonymous individual donates a necklace that perfectly matches the bracelet and earrings in Nina’s collection, claiming the pieces belong together. It is this donation that will bring Drew and Grigori together in unexpected ways to uncover the story behind Nina’s fabulous jewels—a bounty said to have been smuggled out of Stalinist Russia when she defected from the country in the early 1950s.

It was there, in Russia, that Nina first learned to dance, fell in love with the handsome poet Viktor Elsin, and struggled with the choice to pursue her craft or begin a family. Nina and her circle of free-thinking artist friends lived in constant fear of Stalin’s disapproval, of arrest and torture by the secret police for unpatriotic behaviour and so-called crimes against the state. Yet when their circle was broken by just such an arrest, a devastating misunderstanding parted the four friends and lovers forever.

Paperback, 560 pages 
Published March 28th 2017 
by HarperCollins Publishers
*****

Daphne Kalotay a new author to me and for reasons unknown I rarely venture into Russian HF.  Not totally sure why that is, maybe because it's such a vast country and I don't really know where to start.

Russian Winter tells the story of Nina a Russian ballerina who defects to America in the 1950's.  The author detailed what life was life, starting as a young girl taking her first dance steps. The era was vivid with a writing style that had me feeling and absorbing the life style as well as her struggles and frustrations.

In present day Nina is aged, wheelchair bound and ready to auction of pieces of her past. Alternating between 3 different characters, Nina, Grigori and Drew the reader is given a broader view of not just the past but the repercussions decades later.

The mystery surrounding the amber necklace was interesting, where I though to have solved it myself, it's always nice when it twists and turns in a different direction.

The author wrote in a lyrical and mesmerizing way that had me captives.  I found myself enjoying my time spend reading this book.  It wasn't one I rushed through but rather savoured the journey.  Definitely a book I highly recommend and an author I will read more of.

Thanks to TLC Tours for The opportunity to review this book.








Thank you to TLC Tours for the opportunity to review this book and a print copy.


Goodreads

 Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon

 Author Links: website and Facebook

Friday, April 7, 2017

Review: The Shadow Sister (The Seven Sisters #3) by Lucinda Riley

Travel through the lush English countryside and explore the magnificent estates of the British aristocracy in this next spellbinding love story in The Seven Sisters series by #1 internationally bestselling author Lucinda Riley.

Star D’Aplièse is at a crossroads in her life after the sudden death of her beloved father—the elusive billionaire, affectionately called Pa Salt by his six daughters, all adopted from across the four corners of the world. He has left each of them a clue to her true heritage, and Star nervously decides to follow hers, which leads her to an antiquarian bookshop in London, and the start of a whole new world.

A hundred years earlier, headstrong and independent Flora MacNichol vows she will never marry. She is happy and secure in her home in England’s picturesque Lake District—just a stone’s throw away from the residence of her childhood idol, Beatrix Potter—when machinations lead her to London, and the home of one of Edwardian society’s most notorious society hostesses, Alice Keppel. Flora is torn between passionate love and her duty to her family, but finds herself a pawn in a larger game. That is, until a meeting with a mysterious gentleman unveils the answers that Flora has been searching for her whole life...

As Star learns more of Flora’s incredible journey, she too goes on a voyage of discovery, finally stepping out of the shadow of her sister and opening herself up to the possibility of love.

The Shadow Sister is the third in the sweeping Seven Sisters series, “soaked in glamour and romance” (Daily Mail) and perfect for fans of Downton Abbey and the novels of Kate Morton.

Kindle Edition, 528 pages 
Expected publication: April 25th 2017 by Atria Books
****
This is book three in The Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley. It's one of the books I have been anxiously waiting to read, Star and her sister CeCe have such a tight relationship that it has made me very curious about their story and why they are so close. Actually it isn't that they are so close it almost feels like they cannot function without each other.

This is Star's side of the story (so far) and I enjoyed watching her take on the quest to discover her past.  Her search begins in an old bookstore in London which was a great place to start and made the story all the more endearing. Sometimes stepping out of her comfort zone can be scary but when the desire is so strong she does what needs to be done.  I loved where the author took Star. 

The past story deals with Flora and as usual it's always the part I enjoy most. Maybe it's just because I am a sucker for that time period, I love reading about high society and their way of life. Though Beatrix Potter does not have a huge role in this book her inclusion developed  Flora's character and made me want to read her books, I can envision the setting where she wrote them with the wide arrangement of critters about. 

I will be honest when I say I had reservations when this series began wondering how the author could pull off seven unique story's for seven totally different sisters and bring something new and fresh with each one. But she has managed to do quite nicely.  I am reading the series in order keeping my fingers crossed that Cece's story will be the next one, after getting a better look at her character I am really curious about her background and what makes her really tick.

Thank you to Atria Books (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.



Lucinda Riley is the #1 internationally bestselling author of sixteen novels, including The Seven Sisters and The Storm Sister. Her books have sold more than eight million copies in thirty four languages.

Lucinda lives with her husband and four children on the North Norfolk coast in England and West Cork, Ireland.

Visit her online at LucindaRiley.com. 






Thursday, April 6, 2017

Review: Promises to Keep by Genevieve Graham

An enchanting and poignant story about the unfailing power of love in a world turned upside down by war—from the bestselling author of Tides of Honour.

Summer 1755, Acadia Young, beautiful Amélie Belliveau lives with her family among the Acadians of Grande Pré, Nova Scotia, content with her life on their idyllic farm. Along with their friends, the neighbouring Mi’kmaq, the community believes they can remain on neutral political ground despite the rising tides of war. But peace can be fragile, and sometimes faith is not enough. When the Acadians refuse to pledge allegiance to the British in their war against the French, the army invades Grande Pré, claims the land, and rips the people from their homes. Amélie’s entire family, alongside the other Acadians, is exiled to ports unknown aboard dilapidated ships.

Fortunately, Amélie has made a powerful ally. Having survived his own harrowing experience at the hands of the English, Corporal Connor MacDonnell is a reluctant participant in the British plan to expel the Acadians from their homeland. His sympathy for Amélie gradually evolves into a profound love, and he resolves to help her and her family in any way he can—even if it means treason. As the last warmth of summer fades, more ships arrive to ferry the Acadians away, and Connor is forced to make a decision that will alter the future forever.

Heart-wrenching and captivating, Promises to Keep is a gloriously romantic tale of a young couple forced to risk everything amidst the uncertainties of war.

Paperback, 336 pages 
Published April 4th 2017 by Simon & Schuster
*****

Genevieve Graham is a new author to me and she is Canadian to boot.  Anyone who knows me knows that I get excited while discovering not just new authors from this great country but when the subject matter is Canadian history too.  Canada is a great country with rich history and I'm always on the lookout for historical fiction taking place here and sadly they are hard to find, especially going back to the time period Promises to Keep deals with.

It's 1755 in Acadia (present day Nova Scotia) and even though Amelie and Connor are fictional characters what takes place is right out of the history books.  I had no idea that something like the Acadian Expulsion could and did in fact take place.  Believe me when I say I was googling as soon as I turned the last page. 

The author painted an idyllic picture of what life was like for the Acadian's.  Content in their way of life it wasn't hard to visualize the landscape with the vivid descriptions as well as their way of life. They are content until the British showed up.  The author made me feel for the Acadians.  As life turns I could feel the despair and heartache. While this book doesn't just stay in one place the Canadian wilderness is vast and at times unforgiving.

Both Amelie and Connor are unique, interesting and fully developed characters. Watching the relationship blossom as each struggles with their own personal convictions brought this story to life. 

I won't go into detail about what takes place here, having enjoyed the ride myself I would not want to spoil it for anyone else. This book kept me captivated and it's one I highly recommend to those that love their historical fiction with history off the beaten path.



Thank you to Simon and Schuster for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  













Monday, April 3, 2017

Audio Review: A Place Beyond Courage (William Marshal #1) by Elizabeth Chadwick

Sometimes Keeping Your Honor Means Breaking Your Word 

The early twelfth century is a time for ambitious men to prosper. John FitzGilbert is a man of honor and loyalty, sworn to royal service. When the old king dies, his successor rewards the handsome and ambitious John with castles and lands.

But King Stephen has a tenuous hold on both his reign and his barons, and when jealous rivals at court seek to destroy John, he backs a woman's claim to the crown, sacrifices his marriage, and eventually is forced to make a gamble that is perhaps one step too far.





545 pages 
Published September 1st 2012 by Sourcebooks Landmark
 (first published October 4th 2007)
audiobook  16 hours and 31 minutes
*****


I was first introduced to John FitzGilbert the Marshall and always wondered who this man was that gave the famous 'anvil and hammer' speech. If you are not familiar with it I won't recite as it would be a spoiler for this book.  Suffice to say his reputation was greatly tarnished because of it.  

The year is 1130 when King Henry I is on the throne, but not for long, England is about to enter a dark period in history since the King dies with no male heir.  As the battle for the crown ensues John FitzGilbert's story comes to life.  He needs a wife and heirs himself while at the same time John must also decide who to support, the usurper Stephen or the King's daughter Matilda. I loved the way John's character was portrayed here, I got to know him, feel his drive, struggles and understand his motivation.  It was a dangerous time and one had to be careful with each move you made, decisions had to be made with little time to think and the consequences could be deadly.

The reading world is dominated with female protagonists and this book is a refreshing change.  It just goes to show that you can still get a great story with all the some elements as with a female lead - action, romance, political intrigue and be thoroughly entertained.  

Elizabeth Chadwick is a favorite of mine, her writing seems to revolve around this time period and it's one I enjoy reading.  She brings history to life with interesting research methods that bring forth books that I find captivating and I can't help but get immersed.  The author notes goes into detail about her motivation for writing this book and other facts in history about John and the times.

This was an audio read for me, Peter Wickham is the reader and he does a great job.

I highly recommend this one to those that love a romp through Medieval England.



I received a physical copy of this book from Sourcebooks but the audio version is from my personal library.