Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Review: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue



An eleven-year-old girl stops eating, but remains miraculously alive and well. A nurse, sent to investigate whether she is a fraud, meets a journalist hungry for a story.

Set in the Irish Midlands in the 1850s, The Wonder—inspired by numerous European and North American cases of “fasting girls” between the sixteenth century and the twentieth—is a psychological thriller about a child’s murder threatening to happen in slow motion before our eyes. Pitting all the seductions of fundamentalism against sense and love, it is a searing examination of what nourishes us, body and soul.




Hardcover, Canadian Edition, 291 pages 
Published September 20th 2016 
by HarperCollins Publishers
***

This is a book I have been wanting to read for a while, I have never read anything by Emma Donahue but I have heard many good things about her books.

The Wonder begins as nurse Lib makes her way to a small Irish Village, she is hired to watch over Anna, a young 11-year-old who has supposedly not eaten for four months and does not show signs of it, her task is to see if this is true or if someone is secretly feeding her.

The first part of the book was interesting enough as we meet the players and get a good sense of the landscape and the family members involved. But I really struggled with the next bit as I found it a bit dry and flat to the point where I was ready to give up. But I did something I very rarely do and that is look at other reviews before I finished it.  A number of them said the book picks up in the last third or so I persevered and got to that point, then I could not put the book down.

There is a lot of emotion in the story whether it be Nurse Lib, Anna's mother, the Sister or the reporter you can feel the tension in the air as they all have different reasons for wanting to be close to Anna. Superstition and religious convictions plays a big role here as does skepticism. Like I said it was the last part of the book that I found most interesting and the ending was satisfying even if somewhat improbable.

I will read more by this author, it wasn't hard to feel her dedication to this story and amount of research also.

This book was from my personal library and part of my 'reading off my TBR' challenge for 2017.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Review: Between Heaven and the Real World: My Story by Steven Curtis Chapman

For decades, Steven Curtis Chapman's music and message have brought hope and inspiration to millions around the world. Now, for the first time, Steven openly shares the experiences that have shaped him, his faith, and his music in a life that has included incredible highs and faith-shaking lows.

Readers will be captivated by this exclusive look into Steven's childhood and challenging family dynamic growing up, how that led to music and early days on the road, his wild ride to the top of the charts, his relationship with wife Mary Beth, and the growth of their family through births and adoptions. In addition to inside stories from his days of youth to his notable career, including the background to some of his best-loved songs, readers will walk with Steven down the devastating road of loss after the tragic death of five-year-old daughter Maria. And they'll experience his return to the stage after doubting he could ever sing again.

 Poignant, gut-wrenchingly honest, yet always hopeful, Steven offers no sugary solutions to life's toughest questions. Yet out of the brokenness, he continues to trust God to one day fix what is unfixable in this life. This backstage look at the down-to-earth superstar they've come to love will touch fans' lives and fill their hearts with hope. Includes black-and-white photos throughout.

 Hardcover, 448 pages
 Published March 7th 2017 
by Fleming H. Revell Company
*****

"We'll travel over mountains so high, we'll go through valleys so low.  Still through it all we'll find that this is the greatest journey the human heart will ever see.  The love of God will take us far beyond our wildest dreams."


Between Heaven & the Real World is an authentic, emotional story of the life of Christian musician Steven Curtis Chapman. It is hard for me to add much to this review that isn't covered in the synopsis above.  Gut-wrenchingly honest is the perfect phrase that comes to mind.

From Chapman's growing up years, his relationship to Mary Beth and the tragic death of their young daughter, he doesn't hold back. There is more about his career here as well, the songs he has written and there meaning, the early days of his musical career right up to the adoption of his 3 daughters from China.  A down to earth guy with the same struggles and challenges as everyone else, who is brutally honest and doesn't hold back when faced with a parents worst nightmare.

I don't read non fiction as often as I would like and reading this one proved that I need to venture in that direction more often.

 Book provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications Inc.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Review: Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf

A shocking discovery and chilling secrets converge in this latest novel from New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf.

 When a tragic accident leaves nurse Amelia Winn deaf, she spirals into a depression that ultimately causes her to lose everything that matters--her job, her husband, David, and her stepdaughter, Nora. Now, two years later and with the help of her hearing dog, Stitch, she is finally getting back on her feet. But when she discovers the body of a fellow nurse in the dense bush by the river, deep in the woods near her cabin, she is plunged into a disturbing mystery that could shatter the carefully reconstructed pieces of her life all over again.

As clues begin to surface, Amelia finds herself swept into an investigation that hits all too close to home. But how much is she willing to risk in order to uncover the truth and bring a killer to justice? 

New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf has been described as "masterful" and "intelligent" and compared to Lisa Scottoline and Jodi Picoult. Introducing her most compelling heroine yet, she delivers a taut and emotional thriller that proves she's at the top of her class.

 Paperback, 352 pages
 Expected publication: May 30th 2017 
by Park Row Books
****
Heather Gudenkauf is a favorite of mine I think I have read all of her books, but one. See end of post for list and review links.

One of the things I love about her books is that she has unique plots, settings and characters. Not a Sound starts with the bang and quickly drew me. Amelia is putting her life back together after a hit and run accident that claimed her hearing, this book is told from her point of view.

I found this to be a fast paced story and while I enjoyed the mystery part and how that was resolved I really enjoyed getting to know Amelia and seeing what life is like for her on a day to day basis. Not being born deaf but as a result of an accident, the author did a great job with her struggles and coming to terms with her new way of life. I don't think I've ever read a book featuring a deaf protagonist, and I was interested in how she had to modify her surroundings - special phones, service dog and learning to lip read (just to name a few). Stitch was great and added the extra spark to the story.

 Not a Sound is a suspenseful story with an interesting cast of characters in a unique setting. The ending wasn't what I expected, they were twists and turns along the way that have me guessing at the outcome. Definitely a book I highly recommend. 

Thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for an advanced e-book copy.





Saturday, May 27, 2017

Review: Beyond the Wild River: A Novel by Sarah Maine

For fans of Kate Morton and Beatriz Williams, a highly atmospheric and suspenseful historical novel, set in the 1890s about a Scottish heiress who unexpectedly encounters her childhood friend in North America, five years after he disappeared from her family’s estate the night of a double murder. 

Nineteen-year-old Evelyn Ballantyre has rarely strayed from her family’s estate in the Scottish Borderlands, save for the occasional trip to Edinburgh, where her father, a respected magistrate, conducts his business—and affairs of another kind. Evelyn has always done her duty as a daughter, hiding her boredom and resentment behind good manners—so when an innocent friendship with a servant is misinterpreted by her father as an illicit union, Evelyn is appalled.

Yet the consequence is a welcome one: she is to accompany her father on a trip to North America, where they’ll visit New York City, the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and conclude with a fishing expedition on the Nipigon River in Canada. Now is her chance to escape her cloistered life, see the world, and reconnect with her father.

Once they’re on the Nipigon, however, Evelyn is shocked to discover that their guide is James Douglas, the former stable hand and her one-time friend who disappeared from the estate after the shootings of a poacher and a gamekeeper. Many had assumed that James had been responsible, but Evelyn never could believe it. Now, in the wilds of a new world, far from the constraints of polite society, the truth about that day, James, and her father will be revealed…to stunning consequences.

Paperback, 336 pages 
Expected publication: April 18th 2017 
by Atria Books
***

I loved Sarah Maine's debut novel, The House Between Tides and got very excited when I heard there was a new one being released. While reading the blurb for this new book I was immediately drawn to references to Kate Morton and Beatrice Williams, both are favorites of mine and each have a unique, intricate and mesmerizing writing style that draws me right in. Those are mighty big shoes to be compared with, making me somewhat apprehensive now on whether this book could deliver the same feelings.

 I love the plot for this book it sounded interesting, beginning in Scotland and traveling to New York Chicago and then up to Canada, Lake Nipigon which is an area I am familiar with. The book starts out with a double murder and the disappearance of a young man, then the drama when he just happens to be at this location in Canada. 

I wanted to love this book I wanted it to be the type of book I had a hard time putting down and based on her previous novel I kind of expected it. However I found the book moved a bit slow for my liking and I struggled to connect with the characters. It wasn't until the last quarter of the book that things picked up both with the plot and character building. While I found the first part over descriptive I did joy the setting in northern Ontario and I loved a glimpse of the history from that area. Definitely some serious research took place here.

All in all an interesting mystery that played out differently from what I expected  The author's notes were great, I love Canadian history and enjoyed the links and references to this countries past.  I never realized that trips to northern Ontario by Europeans were popular in that time period.

My thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for an advanced e-book copy of this book.

click on cover to see review


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Review: Novel Destinations

Follow in the footsteps of much-loved authors, including Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, Jane Austen, and many more.

 For vacationers who crave meaningful trips and unusual locales, cue National Geographic's Novel Destinations—a guide for bibliophiles to more than 500 literary sites across the United States and Europe.

Check into Hemingway's favorite hotel in Sun Valley, or stroll about Bath's Royal Crescent while entertaining fantasies of Lizzie Bennett and her Mr. Darcy.

The fully revised second edition includes all of the previous sites—with updated locations—plus color images and an expanded section on all things BrontĂ«.

The book begins with thematic chapters covering author houses and museums, literary festivals and walking tours. Then, in-depth explorations of authors and places take readers roaming Franz Kafka's Prague, James Joyce's Dublin, Louisa May Alcott's New England, and other locales.

Peppered with great reading suggestions and little-known tales of literary gossip, Novel Destinations is a unique travel guide, an attractive gift book, and the ultimate bibliophile's delight.

• Hardcover: 392 pages 
• Publisher: National Geographic
   
****

I love to travel and when I do I am always on the lookout for anything bookish to check out. Whether it's bookstores, museums or local hangouts of authors, I scour the net before leaving. I jumped at the chance to review this book, it's exactly what I am interested in and everything is in one neat package. Now it's a little big to take along but it is great for planning. Novel Destinations is also great to sit back and browse, not just to get ideas and plan your next great adventure but for curiosity's sake as well.

Divided into 2 parts with Travel by the Book: the best literary experiences at home and abroad being the first one. 
     Chapter headings like: Read 'Em and See: Author Houses
                                         Museums, Literary Festivals, Tours and More
                                         Booked Up: Literary Places to Drink, Dine and Doze
...just to name a few.

Part Two: Journeys between the Pages - the pages of literature come to life in the following 11 locales immortalized by famed novelists. These locations are mainly in Europe and the east coast of the US (and one stop in California).  All of them are authors that I have heard of but some I've never read. Reading about their story, seeing pictures of the places they would hang out has peaked my interest. From The House of the Seven Gables (Nathaniel Hawthorne) to A Sacred Place (Victor Hugo) and 9 more famous authors this book was insightful and a nice glimpse into their lives.  

Part of me feels that I liked Part Two better just because of the opportunity to get to know new authors better and see their background but then Part One journeys to museums, coffee shops and other places to visit and walk in their footsteps.  Each section was unique and interesting.

Thank you to TLC Tours for the opportunity to review this one.


Purchase Links


National Geographic StoreAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Shannon McKenna Schmidt is the co-author with Joni Rendon of Writers Between the Covers: The Scandalous Romantic Lives of Legendary Literary Casanovas, Coquettes, and Cads.

She has written for Arrive, National Geographic Traveler, Shelf Awareness, Gothamist.com, and other publications and websites. A former Hoboken, New Jersey, resident, she is traveling full-time in the United States and abroad and can be found on the web at EverywhereOnce.com and NovelDestinations.wordpress.com.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Coming Soon: The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

Diane Chamberlain is a favorite of mine and come this fall she has a new book out.

From perennial bestseller Diane Chamberlain, a compelling new novel  


Hardcover, 384 pages 
Expected publication: October 3rd 2017
 by St. Martin's Press

In 1944, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly ends her engagement to the love of her life when she marries a mysterious stranger and moves to Hickory, North Carolina, a small town struggling with racial tension and the hardships imposed by World War II. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows no interest in making love. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.

 The people of Hickory love and respect Henry and see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain, especially after one of the town’s prominent citizens dies in a terrible accident and Tess is blamed. Tess suspects people are talking about her, plotting behind her back, and following her as she walks around town. What does everyone know about Henry that she does not? Feeling alone and adrift, Tess turns to the one person who seems to understand her, a local medium who gives her hope but seems to know more than he’s letting on.

 When a sudden polio epidemic strikes the town, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess, who has a nursing degree, bucks Henry’s wishes and begins to work at the hospital, finding meaning in nursing the young victims. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle her husband’s mysterious behavior and save her own life?



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Review: Evergreen Falls by Kimberley Freeman


From internationally bestselling author Kimberley Freeman comes a captivating new novel about a scandalous attraction, a long-forgotten secret, and a place where two women’s lives are changed forever. 

It’s 1926 and Violet Armstrong is a waitress at the grand Evergreen Spa Hotel, where Australia’s glitterati are spending a winter vacation. Among the guests who remain are Sam and Flora Honeychurch-Blacks, a wealthy brother and sister ensconced in the hotel for an extended stay. Violet and Sam have an attraction that is as passionate as it is forbidden as the hotel closes down for the winter season. When a snowstorm moves in, trapping them all, no one could have imagined what would unfold. The group must let their secrets be buried by the snow, but all snow melts, exposing the truth beneath…

Eighty-eight years later, Lauren Beck takes a job at a cafĂ© in the Blue Mountains, built as the first stage of the Evergreen Spa Hotel’s return to grandeur. There she meets Tomas, the Danish architect overseeing the project. As their budding relationship grows, Lauren discovers a series of passionate love letters dating back to 1926 that allude to a whirlwind affair—and a tragic secret. Lauren begins to unravel this long-forgotten mystery, but will discovering the truth finally make her brave enough to take a risk that could change her entire life?

Inspired by elements of her grandmother’s life, Kimberley Freeman has created a complex tale of mystery, heartbreak, and love that will keep you guessing with every twist until the very last page.

 Paperback, 416 pages 
Published August 4th 2015 
by Touchstone
**** 1/2

I discovered Kimberly Freeman on my search for Australian authors. Previously I have read her book Wildflower Hill in the audio format. The reader did a great job with that book and I was hoping that more of her works would be available in that format, sadly that is the only one. I took the plunge with Evergreen Falls hoping it would yield the same results.

I love books that have dual time periods, the ones that have a common denominator connecting the two time periods. With Evergreen Falls the connecting thread is the grand Evergreen Spa Hotel. Beginning in 1926, with a prologue that sucked me right in, to present day, as this once magnificent hotel is being returned to its former glory days. Usually with these type of books I find myself favoring one storyline over the other, but with Evergreen Falls I found myself immersed in both of them though more time seems to be focussed on the past.

While there was some predictability to this book it did not take away from my enjoyment as I found the authors writing style kept me reading. This was atmospheric in that I could get a real sense of this hotel, those it caters to and the staff, feeling the hostility, prejudice and natural elements that all played a strong role here.

I enjoyed watching the transformation of both Violet and Lauren, both growing up with overbearing parents, confused about their place in the world.  They make mistakes  and are forced to deal with what life throws at them, both realistic and believable.

Kimberly Freeman is definitely an author I will continue to read and recommend. My copy of this book is from my personal library and part of my '2017 read from my TPR pile' challenge.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Review/Giveaway: Under the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage

 
 Adam de Guirande has cause to believe the turbulent times are behind him: Hugh Despenser is dead and Edward II is forced to abdicate in favour of his young son. 

It is time to look forward, to a bright new world in which the young king, guided by his council, heals his kingdom and restores its greatness. But the turmoil is far from over.

After years of strife, England in the early months of 1327 is a country in need of stability, and many turn with hope towards the new young king, Edward III. But Edward is too young to rule, so instead it is his mother, Queen Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, who do the actual governing, much to the dislike of barons such as Henry of Lancaster.

In the north, the Scots take advantage of the weakened state of the realm and raid with impunity. Closer to court, it is Mortimer’s increasing powers that cause concerns – both among his enemies, but also for men like Adam, who loves Mortimer dearly, but loves the young king just as much.

When it is announced that Edward II has died in September of 1327, what has so far been a grumble grows into voluble protests against Mortimer. Yet again, the spectre of rebellion haunts the land, and things are further complicated by the reappearance of one of Adam’s personal enemies. Soon enough, he and his beloved wife Kit are fighting for their survival – even more so when Adam is given a task that puts them both in the gravest of dangers.

"The writing is impeccable. The story has everything. Under the Approaching Dark is just perfect in every sense" - Sharon Bennett Connolly, History The Interesting Bits

Publication Date: April 28, 2017 
Matador eBook & 
Paperback; 424 Pages 
Genre: Historical Fiction
*****
I don't think it's a secret that I have been a fan of this author since reading her Graham Saga and I am equally enamoured with The King's Greatest Enemy Series.. Under the Approaching Dark is book three in this series and though you can read as a standalone I highly recommend going back to the beginning with In The Shadow of the Storm as well as Days of Sun and Glory - trust me you won't be disappointed.

The year is 1327, it's a time that I am unfamiliar with making my reading all the more enjoyable as I have no idea what will take place. So I get my dose of entertainment at the same time as being educated . The synopsis above does a great job with the storyline and as usual I will not add to it. Suffice to say my only disappointment with this series is that Adam and Kit are fictional characters. I would've loved for them to be real. They are put in the middle of real historical events with real historical figures bringing history to life. 

It is evident the author has done her research not just with this book but with the series. With her attention to detail and her superb descriptive writing I didn't just read the story but I felt it as well. England is in turmoil, a young King is on the throne (before his time) as his father sits in prison and to add more drama the Queen has taken a lover and not just any man but her husband's greatest enemy.  It isn't just the country but those around the court who wait and see what takes place next. 

Under the Approaching Dark is not just a political story, it is full of tension, uncertainty, bloodshed, and no Anna Belfrage is complete without romance.  Her writing style always draws me in, not just with a story I find entertaining but a pose that makes me appreciate her talent as a writer.

Definitely a series and author I highly recommend.


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Chapters | IndieBound | Kobo


Anna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she's multilingual and most of her reading is historical- both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer - or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveler, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive… For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she's still there.

Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel.

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

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Giveaway


To win a copy of Under the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 30th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open internationally.
– 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.

  Under the Appraoching Dark


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Spotlight: The Hidden Thread by Liz Trenow

Today I had planned on reviewing this book, but life just got in the way and I haven't had a chance to finish it yet.  Instead I will showcase The Hidden Thread which released on May 1st, 2017.


The Hidden Thread is a breathtaking novel about the intricate craft of silk and the heartbreak of forbidden love. 



Paperback, 384 pages
 Published May 1st 2017 
by Sourcebooks Landmark

When Anna Butterfield's mother dies, she's sent to live with her uncle, a silk merchant in London, to make a good match and provide for her father and sister.

A chance encounter with a local silk weaver, French immigrant Henri, throws her from her privileged upbringing to the darker, dangerous world of London's silk trade. Henri is working on his 'master piece' to make his name as a master silk weaver; Anna meanwhile is struggling against the constraints of her family and longing to become an artist. Henri realizes that Anna's designs could lift his work above the ordinary, and give them both an opportunity for freedom . . .

This is a charming story of illicit romance, set against the world of the burgeoning silk trade in 18th century Spitalfields - a time of religious persecution, mass migration, racial tension and wage riots, and ideas of what was considered 'proper' for women.

 New York Times bestselling author Liz Trenow weaves a luminous tale of class struggle and star-crossed love.



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: The Illusionist's Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

Harry Houdini’s one-time apprentice holds fantastic secrets about the greatest illusionist in the world. But someone wants to claim them . . . or silence her before she can reveal them on her own.

 Boston, 1926. Jenny “Wren” Lockhart is a bold eccentric—even for a female vaudevillian. As notorious for her inherited wealth and gentleman’s dress as she is for her unsavory upbringing in the back halls of a vaudeville theater, Wren lives in a world that challenges all manner of conventions.

 In the months following Houdini’s death, Wren is drawn into a web of mystery surrounding a spiritualist by the name of Horace Stapleton, a man defamed by Houdini’s ardent debunking of fraudulent mystics in the years leading up to his death. But in a public illusion that goes terribly wrong, one man is dead and another stands charged with his murder. Though he’s known as one of her teacher’s greatest critics, Wren must decide to become the one thing she never wanted to be: Stapleton’s defender.

 Forced to team up with the newly formed FBI, Wren races against time and an unknown enemy, all to prove the innocence of a hated man. In a world of illusion, of the vaudeville halls that showcase the flamboyant and the strange, Wren’s carefully constructed world threatens to collapse around her.

 Layered with mystery, illusion, and the artistry of the Jazz Age’s bygone vaudeville era, The Illusionist’s Apprentice is a journey through love and loss and the underpinnings of faith on each life’s stage.

Paperback, 356 pages
 Published March 2017 
by HarperCollins Christian Publishing
***


I think it was the cover for this book that drew me towards it, isn't it gorgeous!? As well as being introduced to a new to me author - who doesn't love discovering a new author?

Wren Lockhart is a fictional apprentice of Harry Houdini. Although this book takes place after his death there are flashbacks to her time with him. The synopsis does a great job outlining the plot here so I won't go into what takes place. This book doesn't just jump back and forth in time between Houdini and the present (1927) but also to Wren's childhood.

The author was able to describe Boston and the vaudeville era nicely as well as some of the illusionist details. This was an interesting read but I will confess that I wasn't totally enamored with the mystery part here. It didn't really grab my attention and at times my mind wandered.  With many 4/5 star ratings here it seems like I am in minority here.

I am giving this book 3 stars because I did like it and will read more by this author (they are patiently waiting on my kindle).  Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the invite to be part of this tour.



 Amazon | Apple/iBooks | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble


Kristy Cambron fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller.

Her debut novel, The Butterfly and the Violin, was named to Library Journal’s Best Books of 2014 and nominated for RT Book Reviews’ Choice Awards Best Inspirational Novel of 2014 and for the 2015 INSPY Awards for Best Debut Novel. Her second novel, A Sparrow in Terezin, was named Library Journal’s Pick of the Month (Christian Fiction) for February 2015 and a Top Pick for RT Book Reviews.

Kristy holds a degree in Art History from Indiana University. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three young sons.


Connect with Kristy

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Review: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

You never know what's happening on the other side of the wall.

Your neighbour told you that she didn't want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn't stand her crying.

 Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door.

 You'll have the baby monitor and you'll take it in turns to go back every half hour. Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last.

But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She's gone.

 You've never had to call the police before. But now they're in your home, and who knows what they'll find there. What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?

Paperback, 308 pages
 Published August 23rd 2016 
by Pamela Dorman Books
****
I try not to let myself get caught up in the hype these days of the suspense thriller type books that seem to be everywhere. I read one and wasn't overly impressed so when new books come out that say 'hey if you read that book you would really enjoy this one'. I found The Couple Next Door  at a thrift shop for a cheap price, it has been sitting on top of my TBR, which I really need to clean out so I grabbed it and started reading.

I had a hard time putting it down, maybe because a missing baby took center stage and my curiosity was peaked as to what happened. I put on my sleuth hat, got the magnifying glasses out and set about looking for clues, seeing how long it would take to unravel this mystery. There are many twists and turns throughout this book, which I found to be very plot driven and will admit that I had a hard time connecting with the characters. Anne would've been the only one that I really felt any empathy for, as a mother I can only imagine what she was going through when her baby mysteriously disappears.

It was a satisfying ending, while I will admit I'm still trying to process the last chapter and not sure how I feel about that one yet. I still have a couple questions that were never resolved. If you're curious about what they are you can check out my Goodreads review where I can use a spoiler button.

All in all a quick and entertaining read that would be perfect for the beach, but be warned once you start it will be hard to put down.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Review: The Mourning Ring by Sarah Parke

 Sixteen-year-old Charlotte Bronte lives to tell stories. She longs to improve her fortunes through her writing. Charlotte’s father expects her to leave behind her childish fantasies in order to set an example for her three younger siblings.

 But the Bronte children hold a secret in their veins—a smidgen of fairy blood that can bring their words to life.

 When Charlotte discovers that the characters from their childish stories exist in an alternate world called Glass Town, she jumps at the opportunity to be the heroine of her own tale.

 The city of Angria teeters on the brink of civil war and Charlotte and her siblings must use their magic and their wits to save its people from a tyrant with magic abilities. But entering the fictional world means forfeiting control of their own creations. If they fail, the characters they have come to know and love will be destroyed.

 Charlotte is determined to save the city and characters she loves, but when the line between creator and character becomes blurred, will she choose her fantasy or her family?

Publication Date: October 10, 2016 
CreateSpace eBook & Paperback; 350 Pages 
Genre: Young Adult/Historical Fantasy
    
   READ AN EXCERPT
****

The Mourning Ring is not your average book about Charlotte Bronte.  I will be totally honest here and say I have never read any books written by a Bronte, it isn't for lack of desire but rather lack of time.  I jumped at the chance to review this one and my sincere apologies for being late with my review.  

Charlotte Bronte is only 16 years old returning home from school. Stories are not just in her blood but her siblings as well, together they have created the world of Glass Town.   This wasn't your average magical adventure but rather a story of deception, intrigue and kinda whimsically.  I was drawn in with rich descriptions and a story both captivating and a wonderful introduction to the Bronte's.

The synopsis above gives a wonderful description of this book and for fear of giving away any part of this charming story I won't say too much.  Angria is a creation of the Bronte's and they face a terrible dilemma now.  The author's writing style was engaging and a pleasure to read.

The Mourning Ring is a solid debut by Sarah Parke, it is a great mix of historical fiction, adventure and fantasy. Targeted for a young adult audience, I quite enjoyed it.

Thank you to HFVBT for the invite to be part of this tour, I love discovering new authors that I might have missed otherwise.

Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (Paperback) | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Sarah Parke writes fantasy and historical fiction (sometimes at the same time) for young adult readers and those young at heart. She has a MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine's Stonecoast MFA program. Her work has been published internationally, most recently in the July 2015 issue of The Writer magazine.

For more information, please visit Sarah Parke's website.

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


Friday, May 5, 2017

Review: The Fisherman's Bride by Catherine Magia

She has no name. She is not even a footnote. Her tale is hidden behind the well-told fable of her husband, the man who would become Simon Peter, the first Apostle.

 Cast off by her family after shunning a wealthy suitor to marry a humble fisherman, her life is fraught with hardship. She endures her husband’s growing restlessness, fish shortages from the Sea of Galilee, and the oppression of an all-powerful Roman Empire over her people. Then her life is forever changed when her dying mother is saved by a miracle performed by a young carpenter—a man who speaks with understanding and acts with compassion. A man who can inspire the extraordinary.

 Simon Peter lives on in history as the undaunted martyr of the carpenter. This is the untold story of his young bride. Her journey traverses villages and deserts, love and tradition, and a brewing revolution, to an awakening of faith that challenges everything she has ever known.

Publication Date: November 2, 2016
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC, CreateSpace
Kindle & Paperback; 240 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Biblical Fiction/Christian Literature

****

The Fisherman's Bride is a relatively quick read, coming in at 240 pages but there is a lot packed into this little gem.  I was excited to be part of this tour as I love reading fiction with Biblical settings.  There is also that little bit of apprehension wondering if the author can make the book authentic and believable in a small amount of pages.  I am happy to say that Catherine Magia did a great job with this story.  Not only breathing life into a young woman that isn't mentioned in the Bible but also the early years of Simon Peter's life.

One of the things I really enjoyed reading was the detailed lifestyle of the times, the struggles between social classes and vivid descriptions of the land.  Written from the POV of Peter's wife (she is never named) it wasn't hard to connect and feel the struggles she encounters when she goes against her father's wishes in whom to marry.  Life is hard enough in this land and then to feel the repercussion when married to a follower of Christ takes its toll on this young woman.

 There were times I would have loved a little more depth in various situations and felt the book could have been longer, but all in all a solid debut with a sequel in the works.

Thank you to HFVBT for the invite to be part of this tour and an ebook copy.


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound


Catherine Magia was born in Brooklyn, New York, and moved to New Jersey as a teenager. Although her formal education was in the hard sciences, Catherine has always maintained a passion for the written word, publishing her poetry in several literary journals including the Michigan Quarterly Review. She discovered the voice of Simon Peter's wife on a soul-searching journey, a trek through the biblical lands of Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. She spent seven years researching and writing her debut novel, traveling as far as Ephesus, Turkey.

 She is working on her second book - the conclusion to The Fisherman's Bride. By day, she works as an associate director of marketing research in the development of new cancer medications. She is currently based in Boston.

 For more information please visit Catherine Magia's website and blog.



Monday, May 1, 2017

Review: All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg

An intricately crafted story of madness, magic and misfortune across three generations from the author of The Middle of Somewhere and House Broken...

 Vermont, 1972. Carole LaPorte has a satisfying, ordinary life. She cares for her children, balances the books for the family’s auto shop and laughs when her husband slow dances her across the kitchen floor. Her tragic childhood might have happened to someone else.

 But now her mind is playing tricks on her. The accounts won’t reconcile and the murmuring she hears isn’t the television. She ought to seek help, but she’s terrified of being locked away in a mental hospital like her mother, Solange. So Carole hides her symptoms, withdraws from her family and unwittingly sets her eleven-year-old daughter Alison on a desperate search for meaning and power: in Tarot cards, in omens from a nearby river and in a mysterious blue glass box belonging to her grandmother.

 An exploration of the power of courage and love to overcome a damning legacy, All the Best People celebrates the search for identity and grace in the most ordinary lives.

 Paperback, 368 pages
 Expected publication: May 2nd 2017 
by Berkley Books
*****

I know this is not the way to start a book review, but I have one pet peeve in regards to getting ARC copies and that is when it comes as a PDF, usually I am able read on my Kindle but a PDF means I would have to read on my iPad and I don't like doing that. My iPad is a regular sized one so it is larger than my Kindle and I just love my Kindle. Why am I saying this? Basically once I started reading All the Best People I didn't even realize where I was reading it, I was so absorbed in the story that my dislike for this reading app totally vanished. Any author that can do that totally deserves five stars.

This book centers around the lives of two women and a young girl but also jumps back in time to give the reader the background story of their mother/grandmother.

I loved the author's writing style right from the beginning and knew I was in for a real treat.  She created characters with depth, I was able to get to know them, feel their frustration, anxiety, fears and what makes them tick. Through reading with the various POV's and dealing with a subject matter of mental illness the author wrote with empathy, realism and did not hold back on the emotional level. She made me feel the frustration, defeat and determination of the various characters. We are talking both in the depression era as well as 1972 when dealing with mental illness was so different from today, showing the amount of research the author did to get it right.

All the Best People is a story of survival, heartache, love and support, it's one that will stay with me. This is my first book by Sonya Yoerg and I am a new fan on the search for more of her books. Definitely a book I highly recommend.

I was provided with a ARC through Penguin's First to Read program. Opinions are my own.