Thursday, November 29, 2018

Review: The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman

Two estranged sisters, raised in Brooklyn and each burdened with her own shocking secret, are reunited at the Springfield Armory in the early days of WWII. While one sister lives in relative ease on the bucolic Armory campus as an officer’s wife, the other arrives as a war widow and takes a position in the Armory factories as a “soldier of production.” Resentment festers between the two, and secrets are shattered when a mysterious figure from the past reemerges in their lives.

Kindle Edition, 304 pages
 Expected publication: January 22nd, 2019
by St. Martin's Press
*****


I love it when I book takes over my day, it’s been a while since I’ve read anything as fast as this one. To say the author has a knack for character development would be an understatement. While I found the story interesting, compelling and full of secrets it was the characters that stood out. It wasn't that they were just real, believable and struggling but I got to know them so well. I knew what made them tic, their fears and struggles, they became friends I wanted to help.

Sisters Ruth and Millie have never been close, their's is a complicated relationship and as time goes by they grow farther and farther apart. With the added voices of Arietta and Lillian, this book was well rounded.

The Wartime Sisters is a book of secrets, lies, and family - not necessarily blood-related either. My take away is that this is a story of not judging or assuming but rather having compassion, we don’t know what others are going through, so think before speaking and show some love instead. A powerful story that will stay with me and a new author I highly recommend.

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

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Review: Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

From the author of the award-winning international bestseller Half-Blood Blues comes a dazzling new novel, about a boy who rises from the ashes of slavery to become a free man of the world.

Washington Black is an eleven-year-old field slave who knows no other life than the Barbados sugar plantation where he was born. When his master's eccentric brother chooses him to be his manservant, Wash is terrified of the cruelties he is certain await him. But Christopher Wilde, or "Titch," is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor, and abolitionist. He initiates Wash into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky; where two people, separated by an impossible divide, might begin to see each other as human; and where a boy born in chains can embrace a life of dignity and meaning. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash's head, Titch abandons everything to save him.

What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic, where Wash, left on his own, must invent another new life, one which will propel him further across the globe. From the sultry cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, Washington Black tells a story of friendship and betrayal, love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again--and asks the question, what is true freedom?

Hardcover, 432 pages
Published August 28th 2018
by Patrick Crean Editions
***

Washington Black is the winner of the 2018 Giller Award and a few others, I am not one that is attracted by awards in fact past experience usually has me steering clear of them.  What attracted me to Washington Black was the blurb, Barbados is one of my favorite places and I love to read of places I've visited.  Maybe if I had read more of the blurb I might have taken a second look but I was smitten right away.  I will confess to not always reading entire blurbs, sometimes I feel they give too much of the story away and take away the element of surprise. 

was drawn into Washington's story right away, I loved the Barbados setting and reading about the island, the lifestyle and running of a sugar plantation.  The writing was exquisite, I could visualize the land and got to know the characters.  Even as the story progressed to different locations it was well written, but there were a number of different locations and after a while, I found my interest waning.  

So why only 3 stars?  A number of reasons, I found it too long and started to lose interest just past the halfway mark. There are a number of locations with its own set of characters after a while it just got a bit much for me.  Some of the coincidences seemed a little unbelievable as well. The author touches on real historical situations here (ie the Underground Railroad, outposts in the Arctic and even Aquariums in London) I would have loved some author notes to expound on those topics.

Told from Washington's POV I wondered if going the audio route might have worked better for me.

'... if I acquired any wisdom from Kit, it is to live always with your eyes cast forward, to see what will be, for the path behind can never be retaken.'


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Spotlight: The Darkest Corners by Sydney Jamesson

The Darkest Corners by Sydney Jamesson

Publication Date: November 20, 2018 SJ Publishing eBook; 332 Pages
Genre: Psychological Suspense


This standalone novel is not a romance. It is psychological suspense with a complex love story woven through it. Expect lots of angst, emotional scenes and edge of your seat suspense as a single father and a troubled young woman confront their deepest, darkest fears together.

After surviving a life changing event, celebrated artist Maxwell Grant has not touched a paintbrush or a woman in four years. During that time, he has tormented himself over an unspeakable act he dare not admit to, even to himself.
His one chance at redemption comes through a journal left behind by Harriet Harper, a mysterious woman in his night school class.
Shocked by what he reads about her tortured existence, he becomes obsessed by her and falls headfirst into a dangerous game of he said, she said, not knowing who to believe—who to trust.
When a dangerous character from Harriet’s past appears, events take a turn for the worse and he must say and do whatever necessary to save his sanity and, more importantly, his four year old daughter, Poppy.
Some secrets never get to see the light of day; others are just waiting to be uncovered … with shocking consequences.

Nook | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAN


[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JT_9G9JK4s]

Excerpt

Max I PLACED THE JOURNAL on the pillow to my right, deep in thought, disbelieving that unassuming young woman I had met just over twenty-four hours ago could have lived such a life. It occurred to me that her life experiences had shaped her into an uncompromising, plain-spoken woman. No wonder she took it upon herself to speak up; to say what needed to be said to an arrogant, insensitive sod like me.
In my mind’s eye, I pictured her sitting nervously on that ten thirty-six train to Brighton, venturing into the unknown, starting over—alone—having experienced … who knows what?
At least I had a home to come back to; one Hope and I had designed together with an architect, shaping our ideas into something tangible and practical, reflecting both our personalities: my need for privacy and light, Hope’s need for satin cushions, storage and space for us to grow as a family. We had created our own piece of heaven, blissfully unaware that fate would see to it that she did not get to experience it for more than a couple of months.
And there was Harriet, courageously moving on, which is more than I had done.
As bad as it appeared—stealing a look into Harriet’s world, her private thoughts, her fears and aspirations—I could not help myself. Sure, her world was alien to me; the landscape was foreign, unrecognisable, but her emotions and sense of displacement were not. We had both loved passionately, and been forced to inhabit an unfamiliar world, forever altered.
I trotted back into the lounge, topped up my drink and threw in a couple of ice cubes, allowing them to chill the golden liquid before tasting it. Glass in hand I headed to bed, stopping to check in on Poppy first.
She was sleeping; gentle wisps of air escaped her lips as she dreamed of more precious trinkets, shopping trips, and colouring books awash with fluorescent shades that reflected a world filled with laughter and love—exactly where she belonged.
I could not sleep
Two brief encounters, and there I was allowing a young woman I barely knew to invade my psyche. Without even trying, Harriet had caused a chain reaction: what started out as annoyance and mild curiosity had morphed into something inexplicably provocative.
My skin was warm and prickly, as if it had been scrubbed clean. After my four-year hiatus, my entire body was throbbing. I turned on the bedside lamp, knocking my glasses to the floor, still trembling from what I assumed was a panic attack, or was it arousal? It had been so long since I’d felt something so visceral and unexpected, it was hard to tell. Whatever it was, there was no way I was going back to sleep.
I put Harriet’s journal to one side, deciding to ration out the entries. The last thing I needed was to become obsessed by it—by her. In hindsight, if I’d known how reading about her life was going to affect me and my life, I might have thought twice about opening what was turning into Pandora’s Box.
Then again, I wonder what would have become of me if I had not opened it and turned the pages, devouring her words like a starving man.
At least I was lucid enough to notice that the glass of Scotch I had poured myself was still there by the lamp, its contents luminescent in the light cast from beneath the shade. If nothing else, my liver was grateful for her disclosures.
Mildly anesthetized by the alcohol in my veins, I longed for sleep but it came in waves, angry tidal waves that stirred my soul and stole my breath. Like so many nights before, I began to feel ensnared, sandwiched between those browbeating buddies, Loneliness and Guilt. They were at their most potent in the hours between dusk and dawn, terrorising me with images from my past that I was still in no shape to confront. From the bottom of a glass they stared back at me, insistent and unforgiving.
My nightmare was always the same; it involved a bloodied hand reaching out to me. No matter how I fought I could not escape it. I could not see whose hand it was, but I knew the name of the phantom who haunted all my dreams. I just could not bring myself to say it out loud.
I woke, disorientated, drowning in perspiration.
Biting back frustration, I swallowed what was left of the elixir, inviting it to numb my senses, needing the deadening effect that it alone could produce in my body, in my mind.
I did not want to think.
I did not want to feel.
I wanted to forget. Not only my past but Harriet‘s too, for a couple of hours, at least.
All I had wanted to do was to step out of my shoes and into those of a free-spirited human being for a day or two, without dragging my heels or stumbling over obstacles only I could see.
In my desperation, I assumed Harriet was that person. I had her all mapped out.
She was at least six years younger than me. Her life was filled with parties, dates with twenty-something bartenders with a penchant for homemade wine and staying up all night watching boxed sets of The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones.
With every new entry I was being drawn in deeper. I bent down to pick up her journal, snatching my glasses from beneath the bed where they had landed. I decided I should do no more than flick through the pages to the very last entry, like a teenage boy about to fail a maths assignment; going straight to the answers without even trying to solve the problem.
But … that would be cheating.
Harriet was clearly a woman of many parts, an enigma with hidden depths and a past that I could either descend into, at my peril, or walk away from. She had fallen in love, experienced the joy of devotion, and yet, she’d ended up alone—like me.
So, taking a deep breath, I dived in…


About the Author


Sydney Jamesson is an English teacher by day and a USA Today bestselling author of romance, suspense by night. She is nocturnal by nature and loves nothing more than staying up late, listening to music and being inspired to write. She has always scribbled things down; in her home is one enormous wastepaper basket full of discarded phrases, opening lines and pieces of dialogue that have hit her like lightning in the middle of the night or whilst parked up at a set of traffic lights. 

Her bestselling trilogy, The Story of Us is available worldwide, and she has been thrilled to continue Ayden Stone and Beth Parker's epic love story in The Story of Us Series: Into the Blue, comprising: Blue Genes, Blue Hearts, Blue Moon. More recently, Sydney has focused on psychological suspense.

THE DARKEST CORNERS is a complex love story filled with lots of angst, emotional scenes and edge of your seat suspense as a single father and a troubled young woman confront their deepest, darkest fears together.


Connect With Sydney Jamesson

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Monday, November 19, 2018

Review and Giveaway (signed copy): The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman

Philomena meets The Orphan Train in this suspenseful, provocative novel filled with love, secrets, and deceit—the story of a young unwed mother who is forcibly separated from her daughter at birth and the lengths to which they go to find each other.

In 1950s Quebec, French and English tolerate each other with precarious civility—much like Maggie Hughes’ parents. Maggie’s English-speaking father has ambitions for his daughter that don’t include marriage to the poor French boy on the next farm over. But Maggie’s heart is captured by Gabriel Phénix. When she becomes pregnant at fifteen, her parents force her to give baby Elodie up for adoption and get her life ‘back on track’.

Elodie is raised in Quebec’s impoverished orphanage system. It’s a precarious enough existence that takes a tragic turn when Elodie, along with thousands of other orphans in Quebec, is declared mentally ill as the result of a new law that provides more funding to psychiatric hospitals than to orphanages. Bright and determined, Elodie withstands abysmal treatment at the nuns’ hands, finally earning her freedom at seventeen, when she is thrust into an alien, often unnerving world.

Maggie, married to a businessman eager to start a family, cannot forget the daughter she was forced to abandon, and a chance reconnection with Gabriel spurs a wrenching choice. As time passes, the stories of Maggie and Elodie intertwine but never touch, until Maggie realizes she must take what she wants from life and go in search of her long-lost daughter, finally reclaiming the truth that has been denied them both.

Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 17th, 2018
by Harper Paperbacks
****

I read this book back in June and somehow neglected to not just post a review but also host a giveaway. Harper Collins Canada very graciously provided me with an extra copy of this book during an author event they hosted. This copy is also signed by the author - scroll down for a giveaway.

It isn’t a secret that I love historical fiction, and I love reading books set in Canada. Those that help me learn more about this great country. Not only is Joanna Goodman a new author to me but so is this home for unwanted girls and the events surrounding it.  I knew nothing about what happened back in the 1950's when orphanages were changed to psychiatric hospitals merely because of financial gain.  With no thought to the residents, my heart broke for those lost in the system, those through no fault of their own did not receive the future they deserved.

This book is told by Maggie and Elodie, both gave vivid (and heartbreaking) detail of their lives.  For Maggie it wasn't just falling for a boy from 'the other side' but it was family situations that set the course for her life.

The Home for Unwanted Girls is an emotional read, it's a book about relationships whether, between father & daughter or mother & daughter, it will pull at your heartstrings as the author set me right there.  It didn't take long to read this one, my connection to little Elodie was immediate, watching her grow up and witnessing her treatment kept me going. I rooted for her wanting to grab her, give her a hug and take her home with me.

Author notes are a favorite of mine at the end of historical fiction books, there wasn't any here and in this instance, I don't think they were necessary, Joanna Goodman laid everything out in the telling of this story.  Definitely a book I recommend.

My copy provided by Harper Collins Canada (thank you).

For an extra vote tell me about a new author you discovered this year.  Rafflecopter is acting up and won't let me add that without doing some weird things to this post.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Sunday, November 18, 2018

Spotlight & Giveaway: A Light of Her Own by Carrie Callaghan

A Light of Her Own by Carrie Callaghan

Publication Date: November 13, 2018
Amberjack Publishing
Hardcover; 320 Pages
Genre: Fiction/Historical/Biographical

In Holland 1633, a woman’s ambition has no place. Judith is a painter, dodging the law and whispers of murder to become the first woman admitted to the prestigious Haarlem artist’s guild. Maria is a Catholic in a country where the faith is banned, hoping to absolve her sins by recovering a lost saint’s relic. Both women’s destinies will be shaped by their ambitions, running counter to the city’s most powerful men, whose own plans spell disaster. A vivid portrait of a remarkable artist, A Light of Her Own is a richly-woven story of grit against the backdrop of Rembrandt and an uncompromising religion.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Carrie Callaghan is a writer living in Maryland with her spouse, two young children, and two ridiculous cats. Her short fiction has appeared in Weave Magazine, The MacGuffin, Silk Road, Floodwall, and elsewhere. Carrie is also an editor and contributor with the Washington Independent Review of Books. She has a Master’s of Arts in International Affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 For more information, please visit Carrie Callaghan's website and blog.

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

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 2 signed hardcovers of A Light of Her Own! To enter, please see the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 7th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to US residents only.  – Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

 Light of Her Own


Saturday, November 17, 2018

Review: Playing With Fire by Tess Gerritsen

A beautiful violinist is haunted by a very old piece of music she finds in a strange antique shop in Rome.

The first time Julia Ansdell picks up The Incendio Waltz, she knows it’s a strikingly unusual composition. But while playing the piece, Julia blacks out and awakens to find her young daughter implicated in acts of surprising violence. And when she travels to Venice to find the previous owner of the music, she uncovers a dark secret that involves dangerously powerful people—a family who would stop at nothing to keep Julia from bringing the truth to light.

Paperback, 290 pages
Published October 27th, 2015
 by Ballantine Books 
****

Tess Gerritsen was a go-to for me back before historical fiction took over my reading life. It’s been many years since I’ve read her books with Rizzoli and Isles. It was last month when she was a keynote speaker at the 2018 Surrey International Writers Conference that had me purchasing Playing with Fire. She was talking about her inspiration for writing this book, from a trip to Venice, visiting an old Jewish ghetto and a dream that got the ball rolling.

Told in 2 time periods, one current day as well as World War 2 in Venice. Coming in at approx 250 pages one would think there isn't a lot of time for depth and character development but this book packs a lot of punch, both on the mystery and emotional level. The view during the war had Venice playing center stage - a location not often visited in this time period.  It was told in an emotional manner that kept me guessing at the connection to the current story. The mystery was intriguing and kept me on my toes.

There are wonderful pages at the end with an author interview digging deeper into the history of the time as well as a link to The Incendio Waltz. Check out her page here.

I’m glad that I read this, think I’ll pick up more of her books again.


Friday, November 16, 2018

Review: The Black Donnellys by Thomas P. Kelley

"When that Donnelly glares at you, you hear the sound of shovels digging your grave." -- Donnellys first victim 

How could one family -- mom, dad, and seven sons -- terrorize an entire Canadian community for 33 years?

The Black Donnellys is the classic account of how James, Johannah and their sons used brute force to brawl, steal, burn, and murder their way into the dark side of Canadian history. A popular bestseller since 1954, this gripping book covers the family's horrific crimes in unflinching detail through to their decimation at the hands of a murderous vigilante mob.


Mass Market Paperback, 158 pages
Published August 1982
by Pagurian Press Limited
(first published August 1st, 1955)
***

The Hatfield and McCoy’s have nothing on the Donnelly family of Southern Ontario. Their reign of terror from 1850-1880 in the little town of Lucan, Ontario (just north of London) was vividly portrayed in this little book. I picked it up at a used bookstore out of curiosity, I’ve heard the name but didn’t know the story. Now that I know it I struggle with how this family got away with some much during that time. To put it very mildly they were a brash, arrogant and violent family - seemly lead by their mother, and it all started within days of setting foot on Canadian soil.

Arriving from Ireland in 1850 this family of consisted of parents, 7 sons and a daughter. They did as they pleased, took what they wanted and appeared to take pleasure in the suffering of others. This little book didn’t hold back but told the story from an outside point of view. I would really have loved to hear what the Donnelly’s had to say, what motivated them to me so nasty - and that’s putting it very mildly.  Because really there are always two sides to every story.

This book read very much like a textbook, matter of fact in tone.  Jumping back and forth in time was a little distracting at times.

There is another book on my shelf, Vengeance of the Black Donnelly’s, a fictional account of those that got away with murder. Sounds like it could be interesting reading.

I read this as part of my own Reading My Shelf Challenge

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Giveaway Winner: The Gown by Jennifer Robson

Thank you to all who entered to win a signed copy of The Gown by Jennifer Robson


Big congrats to:  

Colleen T.


Stayed tuned later on this month when I will be hosting giveaways for signed copies of:

The Huntress by Kate Quinn (ARC)

The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Spotlight: A Torch in His Heart by Anna Belfrage

A Torch in His Heart by Anna Belfrage

Publication Date: August 31, 2018
Timelight Press
eBook & Paperback 514 Pages
Series: The Wanderer, Book One
Genre: Romance/Erotica/Paranormal

In the long lost ancient past, two men fought over the girl with eyes like the Bosporus under a summer sky. It ended badly. She died. They died. Since then, they have all tumbled through time, reborn over and over again. Now they are all here, in the same place, the same time and what began so long ago must finally come to an end. Ask Helle Madsen what she thinks about reincarnation and she’ll laugh in your face. Besides, Helle has other stuff to handle, what with her new, exciting job in London and her drop-dead but seriously sinister boss, Sam Woolf. And then one day Jason Morris walks into her life and despite never having clapped eyes on him before, she recognises him immediately. Very weird. Even more weird is the fact that Sam and Jason clearly hate each other’s guts. Helle’s life is about to become extremely complicated and far too exciting.

Available on Amazon

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with three absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England. (Medieval knight was also high on Anna’s list of potential professions. Yet another disappointment…) With Jason and Helle, Anna has stepped out of her historical comfort zone and has loved doing so.

Find out more about Anna by visiting her website, www.annabelfrage.com,

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

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away one eBook and one paperback copy of A Torch in His Heart! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 16th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to residents 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.

  A Torch in His Heart


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