Sunday, September 30, 2018

Review: The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain


From bestselling author, 
Diane Chamberlain comes an irresistible new novel.

When Caroline Sears receives the news that her unborn baby girl has a heart defect, she is devastated. It is 1970 and there seems to be little that can be done. But her brother-in-law, a physicist, tells her that perhaps there is. Hunter appeared in their lives just a few years before—and his appearance was as mysterious as his past. With no family, no friends, and a background shrouded in secrets, Hunter embraced the Sears family and never looked back.

Now, Hunter is telling her that something can be done about her baby's heart. Something that will shatter every preconceived notion that Caroline has. Something that will require a kind of strength and courage that Caroline never knew existed. Something that will mean a mind-bending leap of faith on Caroline's part.

And all for the love of her unborn child.

A rich, genre-spanning, breathtaking novel about one mother's quest to save her child, unite her family, and believe in the unbelievable. Diane Chamberlain pushes the boundaries of faith and science to deliver a novel that you will never forget.

Hardcover, 384 pages
 Expected publication: October 2nd, 2018
by St. Martin's Press
****

I have read 4 books by Diane Chamberlain, though she has written quite a few more, and have thoroughly enjoyed each of them. The Dream Daughter is different with the added fantasy element.

How far will a mother go to save the life of her child, for Carly Sears it was taking an enormous leap of faith.  It was also a leap of faith for me as a reader to suspend my disbelief and just go with the flow of the story - probably why fantasy and sci-fi aren't favorites of mine. Leaving the comforts and security of home Carly sets a course to save the life of her child. 

The Dream Daughter is a captivating novel about courage, heartache, and acceptance. This is my 5th novel by Diane Chamberlain, it's a tie between Necessary Lies and The Midwife's Confession as to which one is my favorite. This earns a solid 4 stars. I was glued to the pages and anxious for Carly and her baby - finished this off in a couple days. It didn’t have the depth of those previous books with their multiple layers (remember just my opinion) that I love but still a book I will recommend.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy in exchange for honest review.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Review: The Swallow: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter

In 1960s Toronto, two girls retreat to their attics to escape the loneliness and isolation of their lives.

Polly lives in a house bursting at the seams with people, while Rose is often left alone by her busy parents. Polly is a down-to-earth dreamer with a wild imagination and an obsession with ghosts; Rose is a quiet, ethereal waif with a sharp tongue. Despite their differences, both girls spend their days feeling invisible and seek solace in books and the cozy confines of their respective attics. But soon they discover they aren't alone--they're actually neighbors, sharing a wall. They develop an unlikely friendship, and Polly is ecstatic to learn that Rose can actually see and talk to ghosts. Maybe she will finally see one too! But is there more to Rose than it seems? Why does no one ever talk to her? And why does she look so... ghostly? When the girls find a tombstone with Rose's name on it in the cemetery and encounter an angry spirit in her house who seems intent on hurting Polly, they have to unravel the mystery of Rose and her strange family... before it's too late.

 Hardcover, 318 pages 
Published September 9th, 2014 
by Tundra Books
**** 1/2

Polly - "There's no place for me. I'm getting squeezed out of my own house.  My parents want to save the world, and they're doing it one unwanted kid at a time."

Rose - "I don't fit in.  There's no place for me.  Not at school, not with Mother and Father, not in this new house, not anywhere."

It's 1963 in Toronto and these two 12-year-olds are searching. Where one wants to see ghosts the other wants to stop seeing them.  Where one wants to be alone the other is tired of it.  Such begins The Swallow and how could I not get draw right in. This story weaves back and forth to the voices of Polly and Rose, relatively short chapters making it a perfect fit for middle grade, also made it very easy to think, hmmm just one more chapter. 

It's been a while since I've read a really good ghost story and this one fit the bill.  While The Swallow is a story of friendship it is also a mystery and this reader kept trying to unravel what was going on.  Hats off to the author for keeping me guessing right till the end. 

I found the writing to be atmospheric, witty and suspenseful. Charis Cotter is a new author to me and one I will be reading again.
"When you see a swallow, it means that spring is coming, and with spring comes new life and hope."
The Swallow comes from my personal library and part of my 'reading my shelf challenge'

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Audio Review: Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird

From author Sarah Bird comes the compelling, hidden story of Cathy Williams, a former slave and the only woman to ever serve with the legendary Buffalo Soldiers.

 Here’s the first thing you need to know about Miss Cathy Williams: I am the daughter of a daughter of a queen and my mama never let me forget it.

 Though born into bondage on a “miserable tobacco farm” in Little Dixie, Missouri, Cathy Williams was never allowed to consider herself a slave. According to her mother, she was a captive, bound by her noble warrior blood to escape the enemy. Her means of deliverance is Union general Phillip Henry “Smash ‘em Up” Sheridan, the outcast of West Point who takes the rawboned, prideful young woman into service. At war’s end, having tasted freedom, Cathy refuses to return to servitude and makes the monumental decision to disguise herself as a man and join the Army’s legendary Buffalo Soldiers.

 Alone now in the ultimate man’s world, Cathy must fight not only for her survival and freedom, but she vows to never give up on finding her mother, her little sister, and the love of the only man strong and noble enough to win her heart. Inspired by the stunning, true story of Private Williams, this American heroine.

 Audible - 16 hours, 31 minutes
Published September 4th, 2018
by Macmillan Audio
**** 1/2
“Here’s the first thing you need to know about Miss Cathy Williams: I am the daughter of the daughter of the queen and my mama never let me forget it.”
One of the things I love about reading historical fiction is discovering people, places, and events that are new to me. Cathy Williams - doesn’t ring any bells. The Buffalo Soldiers - nope nothing, even General Sheridan offers no recognition. Mind you I am Canadian but I have heard my fair share of US history. Now I do know the time, slavery has been abolished, and though I’ve heard of former slaves joining the army, a women doing this, yea that’s a new one. Part of me was skeptical, not even believing it could actually happen, let alone go on for 2 years. It was my friend Stephanie and fellow blogger from Layered Pages that changed my mind. I always notice when 5 stars come from her.

This book was told from Cathy’s POV, and I went the audio route here. I say that because audio in first person is wonderful. It’s like Cathy was sitting right there telling me her story and what a story it is. Every time I had a question she answered it, she shared the struggles and horrors the troop encountered. The reader was Bahni Turpin, she did a great job capturing Cathy’s voice, it was like I was right in the action.

Sarah Bird is a new author to me, how she came about writing this book was a bonus feature in the audio version and I loved it. Her research shines through, and she doesn’t hold back but tells it like it was.

Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen is definitely a book I recommend, especially for those looking for strong female figures from the past.

My thanks to the publisher for an advanced copy (via Netgalley).

Monday, September 24, 2018

Review: In Her Bones by Kate Moretti

“A higher level than the standard thriller. Readers will enjoy this book for the suspense…[and] love it for the skill and mastery Moretti has for her craft.” —New York Journal of Books

 “Morbid…Moretti pulls some tricky tricks.” —The New York Times

 New York Times bestselling author Kate Moretti’s next “exceptional…emotionally astute, [and] deliciously sinister” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) thriller follows the daughter of a convicted serial killer who finds herself at the center of a murder investigation.

Fifteen years ago, Lilith Wade was arrested for the brutal murder of six women. After a death row conviction, media frenzy, and the release of an unauthorized biography, her thirty-year-old daughter Edie Beckett is just trying to survive out of the spotlight. She’s a recovering alcoholic with a dead-end city job and an unhealthy codependent relationship with her brother.

Edie also has a disturbing secret: a growing obsession with the families of Lilith’s victims. She’s desperate to see how they’ve managed—or failed—to move on. While her escalating fixation is a problem, she’s careful to keep her distance. That is, until she crosses a line and a man is found murdered.

Edie quickly becomes the prime suspect—and while she can’t remember everything that happened the night of the murder, she’d surely remember killing someone. With the detective who arrested her mother hot on her trail, Edie goes into hiding. She’s must get to the truth of what happened that night before the police—or the real killer—find her.

Unless, of course, she has more in common with her mother than she’s willing to admit…

Perfect for fans of Ruth Ware, In Her Bones features Moretti’s “riveting and insightful” (Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author) prose and “chillingly satisfying” (Publishers Weekly) twists, and will leave you questioning the nature of guilt, obsession, and the toxicity of familial ties.

Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 4th, 2018
by Atria Books
****

There seems to be a lot of hype with serial killer books, but what about the family left behind? Those stunned with what they missed and was there something they could have done to prevent a loved one's crimes? Kate Moretti tackles that very subject with her latest, In Her Bones.

Edi's mother is on death row for her horrible crimes. In Her Bones isn’t just a present day story but weaves back in time with Edi’s growing up years and what turned her into the woman she is. Getting inside her brain as she becomes obsessed with the ‘remainders’ - the loved ones of her mother's victims. But when tragedy strikes again she is forced to come to grips with the past if she wanted a future.

This is my third book by Moretti and I think my favourite. With plenty of twists and turns I was kept on my toes. While this wasn’t a fast-paced story I still managed to read in a couple days. The ending is always important in these types of books, are they believable even plausible? Or just something pulled out of the air. This one worked and loose ends were tied up nicely.

In Her Bones isn’t just a murder mystery but also a story of healing, acceptance, and trust, one I recommend, my thanks to Atria Books for an advanced copy in exchange for honest review.


click on the cover to take you to my review

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Review: Louisiana's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

From two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo comes a story of discovering who you are — and deciding who you want to be.

When Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return. Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home. But as Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of a small Georgia town — including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder — she starts to worry that she is destined only for good-byes. (Which could be due to the curse on Louisiana’s and Granny’s heads. But that is a story for another time.)

Called “one of DiCamillo’s most singular and arresting creations” by The New York Times Book Review, the heartbreakingly irresistible Louisiana Elefante was introduced to readers in Raymie Nightingale — and now, with humor and tenderness, Kate DiCamillo returns to tell her story.

Hardcover, 240 pages
Expected publication: October 2nd, 2018
 by Candlewick Press (MA) 
*****

~~~~~~~~~~
The beginning is that my great-grandfather was a magician, and long, long ago he set into motion a most terrible curse.
~~~~~~~~~~

I read this over the summer when I needed something light, whimsical and almost magical. I enjoyed  Flora & Ulysses and The Tale of Despereaux also by Kate DiCamillo, so I had a rough idea that I was in for a real treat with this one.

The blurb above tells you what takes place for Louisiana, she is only 10 years old as she tells her story, of being pulled out of bed in the middle of the night and the terrible curse that seems to be following them.  She is quite the character with a vivid imagination, vocabulary beyond her years and amazing reasoning skills. I loved Louisiana, she made me smile and I just wanted to give her a hug (along with some milk and cookies).

Louisiana's Way Home was a delight to read, it's a story of self-discovery, hope, and forgiveness. Told with wit and compassion, Kate DiCamillo has landed as one of my favorite children's author.

~~~~~~~~~~
“Perhaps what matters when all is said and done is not who put us down but who picks us up”
~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you to the publisher (via NetGalley) for an advanced e-arc. 

click on cover to see my review

Monday, September 10, 2018

Review: Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson

From the award-winning author of Catching the Wind, which Publishers Weekly called “unforgettable” and a “must-read,” comes another gripping time-slip novel about hidden treasure, a castle, and ordinary people who resisted evil in their own extraordinary way.

The year is 1938, and as Hitler’s troops sweep into Vienna, Austrian Max Dornbach promises to help his Jewish friends hide their most valuable possessions from the Nazis, smuggling them to his family’s summer estate near the picturesque village of Hallstatt. He enlists the help of Annika Knopf, his childhood friend and the caretaker’s daughter, who is eager to help the man she’s loved her entire life. But when Max also brings Luzia Weiss, a young Jewish woman, to hide at the castle, it complicates Annika’s feelings and puts their entire plan―even their very lives―in jeopardy. Especially when the Nazis come to scour the estate and find both Luzia and the treasure gone.

Eighty years later, Callie Randall is mostly content with her quiet life, running a bookstore with her sister and reaching out into the world through her blog. Then she finds a cryptic list in an old edition of Bambi that connects her to Annika’s story . . . and maybe to the long-buried story of a dear friend. As she digs into the past, Callie must risk venturing outside the safe world she’s built for a chance at answers, adventure, and maybe even new love.

Kindle ebook, 400 pages
Published September 2018
by Tyndale House Publishers
*** 1/2

Opening Line:
The blade of a shovel, cutting through frosted grass. That’s what she remembered most from the spring of 1938.

I have been a fan of Melanie Dobson since reading her books Catching the Wind, Ch√Ęteau of Secrets and Shadows of Ladenbrook Manor - all historical fiction.

It is 1938 and Austria is getting overtaken by the Nazis, three young people’s lives are about to get entwined together as family secrets are uncovered and friendships are put to the test. How an original copy of Bambi, gifted from mother to daughter, ignites a journey for the present day story. 

Hidden Among the Stars weaves between 3 women with 3 vastly different stories to tell. Again I found myself drawn to the past story (nothing new there). Set around a castle, hidden treasure and forbidden love I couldn’t help feeling for these young women. It was a brutal time with the author not holding back on the atrocities that took place. While I enjoyed this book I was able to predict the outcome as the story unfolded - which isn't a bad thing.

Sometimes it’s the little tidbits I glean from certain books that stay with me, such is the case here. Callie works in a bookstore and it’s her knowledge of children’s literature and the past that did interest me.  References to some of my favorite kids' books even adding a few to my tbr pile. The author of Bambi and Curious George both Jewish fled hours before Nazis invaded (I’m still googling).

This is Christian fiction and heavy in both time periods, more so than in the author’s previous books. I feel there is a fine line where it can be too over-the-top, just right or not enough, in terms of sharing the faith of the characters, without sounding overly preachy and taking away from the story. With this book I think it was just the right blend, especially the past story. The  nightmarish path these girls faced, the struggles, it was authentic and believable. For Callie while her story was not as devastating as the other two she clung to her faith.

All in all an entertaining read, my thanks to the publisher (via netgalley) for an advanced copy of this book.


click on cover to take you to make review (except Catching the Wind - review coming soon -how did I miss that!?)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Spotlight: The Jinni's Last Wish by Zenobia Neil

Publication Date: September 13, 2018

eBook; 283 pages
ASIN: B07FLDRY4V
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy

As a eunuch in the Ottoman Imperial Harem, Olin has already lost his home, his freedom, and his manhood. His only wish is for a painless death, until he meets Dark Star, a beautiful odalisque who promises to give him his deepest desire. He refuses to believe her claim to possess a jinni in a bottle. But when Dark Star is accused of witchcraft, Olin rubs the bottle in desperation and discovers she’s told the truth.

Olin becomes the jinni’s master to save Dark Star, but it's not enough. In the complex world of the Topkapi Palace, where silk pillows conceal knives, sherbets contain poison, and jewels buy loyalty, no one is safe. With each wish, Olin must choose between becoming like the masters he detests or risk his life, his body, and his sanity to break the bonds that tie them all.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Chapters


About the Author

Zenobia Neil was named after an ancient warrior queen who fought against the Romans. She writes about the mythic past and Greek and Roman gods having too much fun. Zenobia spends her free time imagining interesting people and putting them in terrible situations. She lives with her husband, two children, and dog in an overpriced hipster neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Visit her at ZenobiaNeil.com.



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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Audio Review: The Secret of the Irish Castle (Deverill Chronicles #3) by Santa Montefiore

It is 1939 and peace has flourished since the Great War ended. But much has changed for the Deverill family and now a new generation is waiting in the wings.

Martha Wallace came to Dublin from her home in America to find her birth mother. But instead, she has lost her heart to the impossibly charming JP Deverill. Then she discovers that her mother comes from the same place as JP, and her fate seems sealed.

 Bridie Doyle, now Countess di Marcantonio and mistress of Castle Deverill, is determined to make the castle she used to work in her home. But her flamboyant husband Cesare has other ideas. And as his eye strays away from his wife, those close to them start to wonder if he really is who he says he is.

Kitty Deverill has come to terms with her life with her husband Robert, and their two children. But then Jack O’Leary, the love of her life, returns to Ballinakelly. And this time his heart belongs elsewhere…

This summer discover the dramatic conclusion to the bestselling Deverill Chronicles.

Audiobook
Published August 14th, 2018
by HarperAudio
****

Book 3 of The Deverill Chronicles has come to a fitting conclusion, I think this is the first time I have read a trilogy in as many months. I really enjoyed the first two books in this trilogy, the characters were interesting not always likable, the story was plausible and I love the Irish setting.

They were lots of loose ends that tied up nicely for some, not so much for others. But a fitting conclusion to a series that spanned from 1916 till after the Second World War. Three young girls began and what a life they have lived. Oh, and did I mention the curse, yes the Castle is cursed, it added that extra zip, it wasn't necessary but was a nice bonus. There were a few things I found a little too coincidental and predictable but not enough to spoil my enjoyment.

My only complaint would be the book titles, different from the UK edition and since collecting Santa Montefiore novels I’ve managed to acquirer many duplicates. This book is also known as The Last Secret of the Deverills.

My thanks to the publisher (via Edelweiss) for an advanced copy.


click on the cover to take you to review


Monday, September 3, 2018

Review: The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter by Hazel Gaynor

From The New York Times, bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home comes a historical novel inspired by true events and the extraordinary female lighthouse keepers of the past two hundred years
 “They call me a heroine, but I am not deserving of such accolades. I am just an ordinary young woman who did her duty.”
1838: Northumberland, England. Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands has been Grace Darling’s home for all of her twenty-two years. When she and her father rescue shipwreck survivors in a furious storm, Grace becomes celebrated throughout England, the subject of poems, ballads, and plays. But far more precious than her unsought fame is the friendship that develops between Grace and a visiting artist. Just as George Emmerson captures Grace with his brushes, she in turn captures his heart.

1938: Newport, Rhode Island. Nineteen-years-old and pregnant, Matilda Emmerson has been sent away from Ireland in disgrace. She is to stay with Harriet, a reclusive relative, and assistant lighthouse keeper, until her baby is born. A discarded, half-finished portrait opens a window into Matilda’s family history. As a deadly hurricane approaches, two women, living a century apart, will be linked forever by their instinctive acts of courage and love.

ebook, 416 pages
Expected publication: October 9th, 2018
by William Morrow Paperbacks
****

This is my first book but Hazel Gaynor, I’ve seen and heard many wonderful things about her books and jumped at the chance when Edelweiss was offering an advanced copy. This book will be released on October 9th.

One of the things I love about historical fiction is reading about brave women of the past, those ones that we don’t hear much about but for the mark they have left on the pages of history. Grace Darling is one such woman from the Victorian age. It’s 1838, on England's east coast when Grace and her father rescue survivors of the shipwreck during a terrible storm. Jump ahead 100 years to 1938 where Matilda Emerson has been sent away to prevent further disgrace to her family. It’s between these two stories, evolving around lighthouse keepers, that connects and plays central to this story.

It’s not a short book coming in just over 400 pages, it’s the story of courage, love, and strength. How the 2 storylines connect played out nicely. I found this to be a softer book, more romanticized with a calm pacing but still keep my attention. I loved how the author stayed true to history in what Grace endured after the rescue. I have never given much thought to lighthouse keepers and their role, my eyes well opened to what a heavy responsibility that was, especially in both time periods lacking in modern technology of today.

Definitely an author I will be reading more of.  This book will appeal to those that are looking for strong women and unknown stories of the past.

Thanks to the publisher via Edelweiss for an advanced copy.