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) 
*****

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

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