Saturday, March 23, 2019

Review: Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

Winner of the 2018 Newbery Medal

In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways.

Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his loud and boisterous family.

Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and loves everything about nature.

Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister Gen is always following her around.

And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just act normal so that he can concentrate on basketball.

They aren’t friends -- at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find the missing Virgil. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms.

 Hardcover, 320 pages
 Published March 14th 2017 
by Greenwillow Books
**** 1/2

"It's not being brave if you aren't scared."

Winner of the 2018 John Newbery Medal Hello, Universe was a fun read, it's also a book easily polished off in a day  - for an adult, maybe longer for a younger reader.  The story itself takes place over one afternoon.

The characters are quirky, each with social issues, some confident others not so much, one pretending to be.  Each has dreams and obstacles in the way. All of them very likable though Chet not so much.

I loved the writing, the witty one-liners, conversations that make no sense but that I totally got.  It was so easy to be walking along in the woods with this group of kids. Smile at their way of thinking and antics.

Hello, Universe is a story of friendship, bullying, standing up and searching.  It is part of my '2019 reading off my shelf' challenge.  As well as reading the Newbery Medal Winners.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Review: The Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley

Tiggy D’Aplièse spends her days experiencing the raw beauty of the Scottish Highlands doing a job she loves at a deer sanctuary. But when the sanctuary is forced to close, she is offered a job as a wildlife consultant on the vast and isolated estate of the elusive and troubled laird, Charlie Kinnaird. She has no idea that the move will not only irrevocably alter her future, but also bring her face-to-face with her past.

 At the estate, she meets Chilly, an elderly Romani man who fled from Spain seventy years before. He tells her that not only does she possess a sixth sense passed down from her ancestors, but it was foretold long ago that he would be the one to send her back home…

In 1912, in the poor Romani community outside the city walls of Granada, Lucía Amaya-Albaycin is born. Destined to be the greatest flamenco dancer of her generation—and named La Candela, due to the inner flame that burns through her when she dances— Lucía is whisked away by her ambitious and talented guitarist father at the tender age of ten to dance in the flamenco bars of Barcelona. Her mother is devastated by the loss of her daughter and as civil war threatens in Spain, tragedy strikes the rest of her family. Now in Madrid, Lucía and her troupe of dancers are forced to flee for their lives, their journey taking them far across the water to South America and eventually, to North America and New York—Lucía’s long-held dream. But to pursue it, she must choose between her passion for her career and the man she adores.

Featuring Lucinda Riley’s “addictive storytelling with a moving, emotional heart” (Dinah Jeffries), THE MOON SISTER follows these two women bound across time and distance on their journey to discover their true futures—but at the risk of potentially losing the men they had hoped to build futures with.

Kindle, 533 pages
 Published February 19th, 2019
by Atria Books
**** 1/2

The Seven Sisters series is a favorite and one I have kept up to date on. One of the things I have really enjoyed is the different locations of the past storylines. We’ve been to Brazil, Norway, England, Australia and with The Moon Sister, Spain.

The Moon Sister isn’t a small book, coming in at 533 pages and Riley tells a great story. As with the other books she shows her uniqueness in the plots (both past and present) with interesting characters and just enough hints to anticipate the next book.

The blurb does a great job of outlining the story, thankfully I rarely read the whole blurb as I find it sometimes it gives too much of the story away - like it does here. I went into this one blind because I knew I’d be in for a treat. The Moon Sister was a wonderful ride, the historical aspect in Spain with its gypsy/flamenco dancing community was captivating. The author has a knack for creating both likable and unlikable characters.

The Moon Sister (as are the other books) is a journey of self-discovery with some mystery and a touch of romance. While this book could work as a stand-alone I recommend reading the whole series.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Review: Brandon by Tony Riches

From the author of the international bestselling Tudor Trilogy comes a true story of adventure, courtly love, and chivalric loyalty. 

Handsome, charismatic and a champion jouster, Sir Charles Brandon is the epitome of a Tudor Knight. A favourite of King Henry VIII, Brandon has a secret. He has fallen in love with Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor, the beautiful widowed Queen of France, and risks everything to marry her without the King’s consent.

 Brandon becomes Duke of Suffolk, but his loyalty is tested fighting Henry’s wars in France. Mary’s public support for Queen Catherine of Aragon brings Brandon into dangerous conflict with the ambitious Boleyn family and the king’s new right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell. 

Torn between duty to his family and loyalty to the king, Brandon faces an impossible decision: can he accept Anne Boleyn as his new queen?

Publication Date: December 3, 2018
Preseli Press
Genre: Historical/Tudor/Biographical

It’s such a refreshing treating reading a Tudor era book without good old Henry VIII playing center stage. That being said Charles Brandon is a close friend and confidante so his life revolves around the King but here Brandon’s life is vividly portrayed. 

This is my second book by Tony Riches, Jasper being my first, and again it’s evident that he knows his stuff. His attention to detail shows his research and passion for the time period. I knew very little about the life of Charles Brandon and was thoroughly entertained and educated, not only on Brandon's life but with Court, politics and jousting.

There is a big space of time that is cover in this book the pacing wasn’t rushed, I found it to be well written definitely an author I recommend and will continue to read more of.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

Tony Riches is a full-time writer and lives with his wife in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. After several successful non-fiction books, Tony turned to novel writing and wrote ‘Queen Sacrifice’, set in 10th century Wales, followed by ‘The Shell’, a thriller set in present-day Kenya.

A specialist in the history of the early Tudors, he is best known for his Tudor Trilogy. Tony’s other international bestsellers include ‘Warwick ~ The Man Behind the Wars of the Roses’ and ‘The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham’.

For more information please visit Tony’s website and his blog The Writing Desk.

He can also be found on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Review: At the Mountain's Edge by Genevieve Graham

From bestselling author, Genevieve Graham comes a sweeping new historical novel of love, tragedy, and redemption set during the height of the Klondike Gold Rush.

In 1897, the discovery of gold in the desolate reaches of the Yukon has the world abuzz with excitement, and thousands of prospectors swarm to the north seeking riches the likes of which have never been seen before.

For Liza Peterson and her family, the gold rush is a chance for them to make a fortune by moving their general store business from Vancouver to Dawson City, the only established town in the Yukon. For Constable Ben Turner, a recent recruit of the North-West Mounted Police, upholding the law in a place overrun with guns, liquor, prostitutes, and thieves is an opportunity to escape a dark past and become the man of integrity he has always wanted to be. But the long, difficult journey over icy mountain passes and whitewater rapids is much more treacherous than Liza or Ben imagined, and neither is completely prepared for the forbidding north.

As Liza’s family nears the mountain’s peak, a catastrophe strikes with fatal consequences, and not even the NWMP can help. Alone and desperate, Liza finally reaches Dawson City, only to find herself in a different kind of peril. Meanwhile, Ben, wracked with guilt over the accident on the trail, sees the chance to make things right. But just as love begins to grow, new dangers arise, threatening to separate the couple forever.

Inspired by history as rich as the Klondike’s gold, At the Mountain’s Edge is an epic tale of romance and adventure about two people who must let go of the past not only to be together but also to survive.

Paperback, 368 pages
Expected publication: April 2nd, 2019
by Simon & Schuster 

Genevieve Graham is one of my go-to authors for Canadian historical fiction. Her previous 3 books take place in the East coast of Canada, with At The Mountain's Edge she took me clear across the country to the Yukon during the Gold Rush.

Told from 2 different pov’s, which isn’t unusual for her books, I was treated to both sides of the law during the mad frenzy to strike it rich. I loved learning about the journey, in 1897, to reach the Klondike. It was harsh, cold and I can totally see the struggles they had to endure when in reality I’m sure they thought it would be an easy trek in the bush. Liza is taken on a journey she doesn't want but really isn't given a choice in the matter.  Ben wants to escape his past only to realize he can't run from it.

The early years of the North West Mounties, later to become the RCMP, was interesting to read about. The author notes always fascinate me, it’s where the author tells her inspiration, what’s real and the research used. Drawing on documentation from those years Graham has woven a tale of adventure, survival and discovering one's self. 

My thanks to Simon & Schuster for an ARC in exchange for honest review.

Audio Review: Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis by Patti Callahan

In a most improbable friendship, she found love. In a world where women were silenced, she found her voice.

From New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan comes an exquisite novel of Joy Davidman, the woman C. S. Lewis called “my whole world.” When poet and writer Joy Davidman began writing letters to C. S. Lewis—known as Jack—she was looking for spiritual answers, not love. Love, after all, wasn’t holding together her crumbling marriage. Everything about New Yorker Joy seemed ill-matched for an Oxford don and the beloved writer of Narnia, yet their minds bonded over their letters. Embarking on the adventure of her life, Joy traveled from America to England and back again, facing heartbreak and poverty, discovering friendship and faith, and against all odds, finding a love that even the threat of death couldn’t destroy.

In this masterful exploration of one of the greatest love stories of modern times, we meet a brilliant writer, a fiercely independent mother, and a passionate woman who changed the life of this respected author and inspired books that still enchant us and change us. Joy lived at a time when women weren’t meant to have a voice—and yet her love for Jack gave them both voices they didn’t know they had.

At once a fascinating historical novel and a glimpse into a writer’s life, Becoming Mrs. Lewis is above all a love story—a love of literature and ideas and a love between a husband and wife that, in the end, was not impossible at all.

Kindle Edition, 432 pages
Published October 2nd 2018
by Thomas Nelson

Becoming Mrs. Lewis was released last October, I’ve heard nothing but good things about it but waited until the initial hype was over and grabbed the audiobook (via Scribd).

I know very little about the life of CS Lewis and less than that about his wife Joy. Told from Joy’s point of view, which I love in audio format, I was quickly immersed in her story.

There are many layers here, Becoming Mrs. Lewis isn’t just about her relationship with Jack (though it does play center stage) but it’s Joy’s journey of self-discovery, coming to terms with a marriage that wasn’t working, her writing career and spiritual matters.

This is my first time reading a Patti Callahan book, I appreciated the amount of research that was undertaken, the time period was vivid, the characters were flawed and a few times unlikable but authentic. Definitely an author I will be reading more of.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Audio Review: Claiming My Place By Planaria Price with Helen Reichmann West

A Junior Library Guild selection 

Claiming My Place is the true story of a young Jewish woman who survived the Holocaust by escaping to Nazi Germany and hiding in plain sight. 

Meet Gucia Gomolinska: smart, determined, independent, and steadfast in the face of injustice. A Jew growing up in predominantly Catholic Poland during the 1920s and ’30s, Gucia studies hard, makes friends, falls in love, and dreams of a bright future. Her world is turned upside down when Nazis invade Poland and establish the first Jewish ghetto of World War II in her town of Piotrkow Trybunalski. As the war escalates, Gucia and her family, friends, and neighbors suffer starvation, disease, and worse. She knows her blond hair and fair skin give her an advantage, and eventually she faces a harrowing choice: risk either the uncertain horrors of deportation to a concentration camp, or certain death if she is caught resisting. She decides to hide her identity as a Jew and adopts the gentile name Danuta Barbara Tanska. Barbara, nicknamed Basia, leaves behind everything and everyone she has ever known in order to claim a new life for herself. 

Writing in the first person, author Planaria Price brings the immediacy of Barbara’s voice to this true account of a young woman whose unlikely survival hinges upon the same determination and defiant spirit already evident in the six-year-old girl we meet as this story begins. The final portion of this narrative, written by Barbara’s daughter, Helen Reichmann West, completes Barbara’s journey from her immigration to America until her natural, timely death. Includes maps and photographs.

Publication Date: March 13, 2018
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Hardcover, eBook, AudioBook
Genre: YA/NF/History/Holocaust/WWII

Gucia grows up during the 1920-30s in Poland and this YA memoir tells her story as Hitler and his party rise to power. We know the horrible things that happen to Jews and her circle is not immune.

 I went the audio route and am glad I did. It was an enjoyable story (though that does sound kinda horrible to say), but told in the first person it was like she was telling me her story. What a story it was, she does not hold back when describing the years as Hilter rises in power and its impact on her family and friends. Hiding in plain sight is what saved her, all that she went through made this for a gripping story.


With attention to detail Claiming My Place was an addictive read, I highly recommend the audio version - available both via Audible and Scribd.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble

After graduating from Berkeley and earning a Master's Degree in English Literature from UCLA, Planaria Price began her career teaching English to adult immigrants in Los Angeles. She has written several textbooks for University of Michigan Press and has lectured at over 75 conferences. In addition to her passion for teaching and writing, Planaria has worked with her husband to save and restore over 30 Victorian and Craftsman homes in her historic Los Angeles neighborhood. Claiming My Place is her first book for young adults. For more information, please visit Planaria's website at


During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away a signed copy of CLAIMING MY PLACE! To enter, please use the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 13th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to the US only. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. – The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Claiming My Place Tour

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Trailer Reveal: The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Walherr

The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr

Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Atria Books
Hardcover & eBook; 320 Pages
Genre: Historical/Gothic/Mystery

A post-mortem photographer unearths dark secrets of the past that may hold the key to his future, in this captivating debut novel in the gothic tradition of Wuthering Heights and The Thirteenth Tale.

 All love stories are ghost stories in disguise.

When famed Byronesque poet Hugh de Bonne is discovered dead of a heart attack in his bath one morning, his cousin Robert Highstead, a historian turned post-mortem photographer, is charged with a simple task: transport Hugh’s remains for burial in a chapel. This chapel, a stained glass folly set on the moors of Shropshire, was built by de Bonne sixteen years earlier to house the remains of his beloved wife and muse, Ada. Since then, the chapel has been locked and abandoned, a pilgrimage site for the rabid fans of de Bonne’s last book, The Lost History of Dreams.

However, Ada’s grief-stricken niece refuses to open the glass chapel for Robert unless he agrees to her bargain: before he can lay Hugh to rest, Robert must record Isabelle’s story of Ada and Hugh’s ill-fated marriage over the course of five nights. As the mystery of Ada and Hugh’s relationship unfolds, so does the secret behind Robert’s own marriage—including that of his fragile wife, Sida, who has not been the same since the tragic accident three years ago, and the origins of his own morbid profession that has him seeing things he shouldn’t—things from beyond the grave.

Kris Waldherr effortlessly spins a sweeping and atmospheric gothic mystery about love and loss that blurs the line between the past and the present, truth and fiction, and ultimately, life and death.

Here is the exclusive Book Trailer...

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

About the Author

Kris Waldherr is an award-winning author, illustrator, and designer. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, and her fiction has been awarded with fellowships by the Virginia Center of the Creative Arts and a reading grant by Poets & Writers. Kris Waldherr works and lives in Brooklyn in a Victorian-era house with her husband, the anthropologist-curator Thomas Ross Miller, and their young daughter.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | BookBub


Kris is hosting a The Lost History of Dreams giveaway worth $220! The gift package includes a Campo Marzio pen gift box with calligraphy nibs and ink, a handcrafted Lover's Eye pendant, bookmark and bookplate, and a signed copy of The Lost History of Dreams.

Learn more at

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Review: American Princess: A Novel of First Daughter Alice Roosevelt by Stephanie Marie Thornton

A sweeping novel from renowned author Stephanie Marie Thornton...

Alice may be the president's daughter, but she's nobody's darling. As bold as her signature color Alice Blue, the gum-chewing, cigarette-smoking, poker-playing First Daughter discovers that the only way for a woman to stand out in Washington is to make waves--oceans of them. With the canny sophistication of the savviest politician on the Hill, Alice uses her celebrity to her advantage, testing the limits of her power and the seductive thrill of political entanglements.

But Washington, DC is rife with heartaches and betrayals, and when Alice falls hard for a smooth-talking congressman it will take everything this rebel has to emerge triumphant and claim her place as an American icon. As Alice soldiers through the devastation of two world wars and brazens out a cutting feud with her famous Roosevelt cousins, it's no wonder everyone in the capital refers to her as the Other Washington Monument--and Alice intends to outlast them all.

Kindle, 448 pages
 Expected publication: March 12th 2019
by Berkley Books

Stephanie Thornton is another go to author for me. Her books are rich in detail showing her passion for the story and the enormous amount of research involved.

I knew nothing about Alice Roosevelt and this book showed her to be a woman ahead of her time. Spanning her life she was a force to be reckoned with, she did things her way whether they made sense or not. I loved her spunky attitude, fierce loyalty and determination with no qualms about taking a stand. But if you got on her bad side, she didn’t keep that a secret either.

Alice is only 17 when introduced here with the author drawing from historical events and actual documention. American Princess is a fascinating story of the life of Alice Roosevelt, her crazy escapades both at home and abroad made for an entertaining read. Definitely a book and author I highly recommend.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Audio Review: In Another Time by Jillian Cantor

A sweeping historical novel that spans Germany, England, and the United States and follows a young couple torn apart by circumstance leading up to World War II—and the family secret that may prove to be the means for survival.

 Love brought them together. But only time can save them… 

1931, Germany. Bookshop owner Max Beissinger meets Hanna Ginsberg, a budding concert violinist, and immediately he feels a powerful chemistry between them. It isn’t long before they fall in love and begin making plans for the future. As their love affair unfolds over the next five years, the climate drastically changes in Germany as Hitler comes to power. Their love is tested with the new landscape and the realities of war, not the least of which is that Hanna is Jewish and Max is not. But unbeknownst to Hanna is the fact that Max has a secret, which causes him to leave for months at a time—a secret that Max is convinced will help him save Hanna if Germany becomes too dangerous for her because of her religion.

In 1946, Hanna Ginsberg awakens in a field outside of Berlin. Disoriented and afraid, she has no memory of the past ten years and no idea what has happened to Max. With no information as to Max’s whereabouts—or if he is even still alive—she decides to move to London to live with her sister while she gets her bearings. Even without an orchestra to play in, she throws herself completely into her music to keep alive her lifelong dream of becoming a concert violinist. But the music also serves as a balm to heal her deeply wounded heart and she eventually gets the opening she long hoped for. Even so, as the days, months, and years pass, taking her from London to Paris to Vienna to America, she continues to be haunted by her forgotten past, and the fate of the only man she has ever loved and cannot forget.

Told in alternating viewpoints—Max in the years leading up to WWII, and Hanna in the ten years after—In Another Time is a beautiful novel about love and survival, passion and music, across time and continents.

Audiobook, 8 hours 47 minutes
Published March 5th, 2019
by Harper Perennial

Romance novels are not my thing but a good love story packed full of history, with a unique plot is right up my alley. In Another Time is that kind of story.

This book was an audio read for me. The story alternated between Max and Hanna and I loved the use of two distinct voices, one male and one female - a female trying to imitate a male voice can be awkward and distracting. The story also alternated between time periods giving me a glimpse of both pre and post war eras. I’ve read my fair share of WW2 books but rarely have I read any that actually takes place in Germany itself.

German is changing so much during the 1930s, I was drawn in and captivated by this story. In Another Time is a mysterious story of survival, love, and music spanning across time. Jillian Cantor is a new author for me and definitely one I will read more of.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Cover Reveal: Shakespeare's Witch by Samantha Grosser

Shakespeare's Witch by Samantha Grosser

Publication Date: March 20, 2019
Sam Grosser Books
Genre: Historical Fiction

Love, Witchcraft, Sorcery, Madness. A fortune told …

When Sarah Stone foresees Will Shakespeare’s latest play has opened doors to evil, she begs the playwright to abandon it. But Will refuses, aware the play is one of his best. And so rehearsals for Macbeth begin.

Forbidden desires …

After her vision, Sarah fears for her life – she has never known the shewstone to lie, and she turns to her brother Tom for comfort. A strange darkness seems to haunt the playhouse, and when Tom sets out to seduce John Upton, the boy actor who plays Lady Macbeth, the boy sees the hand of witchcraft in his own forbidden desires for men. Then Sarah weaves a spell to win the love of the new lead actor, and John, terrified for the safety of his soul, begins to make his accusations.

The Spirits have spoken … As rehearsals continue, Sarah and Tom must struggle to convince John he is mistaken and that his sins are his own – their lives and the fortune of the play are at stake. But the Spirits have spoken – will the fate that Sarah foresaw come to pass or is their destiny their own to decide?

Set against the first production of Macbeth in 1606, Shakespeare’s Witch is a seductive tale of the origins of the curse of the Scottish Play.

Available for Pre-Order on Amazon US and Amazon UK

About the Author

Historical fiction author Samantha Grosser originally hails from England, but now lives on the sunny Northern Beaches of Sydney with her husband, son and a very small dog called Livvy. Combining a lifelong love of history with a compulsion to write that dates from childhood, Samantha is now bringing her passion for telling compelling stories to the world. Samantha has an Honours Degree in English Literature and taught English for many years in Asia and Australia. She is the author of wartime dramas Another Time and Place and The Officer’s Affair, and The King James Men, set during the turbulent early years of 17th Century.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | BookBub | Pinterest | Instagram

Cover Reveal Schedule

Monday, March 4 Passages to the Past CelticLady's Reviews Tuesday, March 5 Amy's Booket List Donna's Book Blog For the Sake of Good Taste Wednesday, March 6 A Book Geek Coffee and Ink Clarissa Reads it All Thursday, March 7 Hisdoryan Chicks, Rogues, and Scandals So Many Books, So Little Time Friday, March 8 Pursuing Stacie Just One More Chapter To Read, Or Not to Read

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly post to showcase upcoming releases that I am anxious to get my hands on.

Kindle Edition, 448 pages 
Expected publication: April 9th 2019
 by Ballantine Books

The runaway bestseller Lilac Girls introduced the world to the real-life heroine Caroline Ferriday. Now, a generation earlier, this sweeping new novel featuring Caroline's mother, Eliza, follows three equally indomitable women from St. Petersburg to Paris under the shadow of World War I.

It is 1914 and the world has been on the brink of war so many times, many New Yorkers treat the subject with only passing interest. Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanovs. The two met years ago one summer in Paris and became close confidantes. Now Eliza embarks on the trip of a lifetime, home with Sofya to see the splendors of Russia: the church with the interior covered in jeweled mosaics, the Rembrandts at the Tsar's Winter Palace, the famous ballet. But when Austria declares war on Serbia and Russia's Imperial dynasty begins to fall, Eliza escapes back to America, while Sofya and her family flee to their estate outside the city. In need of domestic help, they hire the local fortuneteller's daughter, Varinka, unknowingly bringing intense danger into their home. On the other side of the Atlantic, Eliza is doing her part to help the White Russian families find safety as they escape the revolution. But when Sofya's letters suddenly stop coming she fears the worst for her best friend.

From the turbulent streets of St. Petersburg and aristocratic estates of the countryside to the avenues of Paris and the society of fallen Russian émigrés there to the mansions of Long Island, the lives of Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka will intersect in profound ways, taking readers on a breathtaking ride through a momentous time in history.

What are you waiting for?

Monday, March 4, 2019

Review: Between Two Shores by Jocelyn Green

The daughter of a Mohawk mother and French father in 1759 Montreal, Catherine Duval finds it is easier to remain neutral in a world that is tearing itself apart. Content to trade with both the French and the British, Catherine is pulled into the fray against her wishes when her British ex-fiance, Samuel Crane, is taken prisoner by her father. Samuel asks her to help him escape, claiming he has information that could help end the war.

Peace appeals to Catherine, but helping the man who broke her heart does not. She delays . . . until attempts on Samuel's life convince her he's in mortal danger. Against her better judgment she helps him flee by river, using knowledge of the landscape to creep ever closer to freedom. Their time together rekindles feelings she thought long buried, and danger seems to hound their every mile. She's risked becoming a traitor by choosing a side, but will the decision cost her even more than she anticipated?

 Paperback, 400 pages
Published February 5th, 2019
by Bethany House Publishers

If we don’t know sorrow, joy holds no meaning at all. We need to feel our losses so we can deal with them. 
Between Two Shores is my third Jocelyn Green book, having loved The Mark of the King and A Refuge Assured I was giddy with anticipation to read this one. To further my excitement this is Canadian HF, a favorite genre of mine and one I want to read more of.

What is courage? But moving forward in the face of fear? If there’s nothing to be afraid of, we would have no need to be brave.

This book takes place in the year 1759 as the British and French fought, taking place on the Canadian side, it’s a time and place I haven’t seen much of. I loved this book, it had the historical elements that I love - from the author’s notes it’s easy to see to what extent she went in her research and it shines through. The way of life, the struggle to survive in the harsh environment, the relationship between Mohawk, French and British, both good and bad shined through.

There were twists and turns in the plot that took me by surprise and I love it when a book does that. The authors writing style weaves a wonderful story of adventure, emotion, and faith, of relationships and finding oneself. Definitely a book I highly recommend.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Review: Woman 99 by Greer Macallister

She's only a number now.

When Charlotte Smith's wealthy parents commit her beloved sister Phoebe to the infamous Goldengrove Asylum, Charlotte knows there's more to the story than madness. She risks everything and follows her sister inside, surrendering her real identity as a privileged young lady of San Francisco society to become a nameless inmate, Woman 99.

The longer she stays, the more she realizes that many of the women of Goldengrove aren't insane, merely inconvenient — and that her search for the truth threatens to dig up secrets that some very powerful people would do anything to kep.

A historical thriller rich in detail, deception, and revelation, Woman 99 honors the fierce women of the past, born into a world that denied them power but underestimated their strength.

 Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Expected publication: March 5th, 2019
 by Sourcebooks Landmark

How far would you go to save one you loved?

Charlotte sacrificed her freedom to save her sister Phoebe. She thought it would be an easy venture, made at the spur of the moment. Little does she know the ride she will be taken on.

Woman 99 was an engaging story that gave vivid descriptions of life inside an asylum. With flashbacks to the past, as well as twists I didn’t anticipate this book kept my attention, piqued my curiosity as to the outcome.

There were times when the emotional energy seemed to lag, but overall Woman 99 held my interest with historical details true to the times and a learning experience as to what woman endured at the hands of men.

Greer Macallister is a new author for me and one I will continue to read more of. 

My thanks to the publisher (via NetGalley) for an advanced copy in exchange for honest review.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Review: The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane (Black Hollow Lane #1) by Julia Nobel

Emmy's dad disappeared years ago, and with her mother too busy to parent, she's shipped off to Wellsworth, a prestigious boarding school in England. But right before she leaves, a mysterious box arrives full of medallions and a note reading: These belonged to your father.

Just as she's settling into life at Wellsworth, Emmy begins to find the strange symbols from the medallions etched into the walls and stumbles upon the school's super-secret society, The Order of Black Hollow Lane. As Emmy and her friends delve deeper into the mysteries of The Order, she can't help but wonder—did this secret society have something to do with her dad's disappearance?

 Kindle, 320 pages
Expected publication: March 5th 2019
 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

It was the cover that drove me to request this one from Netgalley. Look at it, kinda creepy, mysterious and yet inviting at the same time.

It wasn’t until I was almost finished that I realized this is the first book in series and any misgivings I had about unresolved issues made sense. The author laid the foundation for further book(s) with this layered story revolving around Emmy and the mysterious disappearance of her father. The story was interesting enough with a unique cast of characters, at times reminiscent of Harry Potter, a boarding school with a secret society, hidden passageways and a dark secret.

With a targeted audience of middle grade, I found it to be a fun read that focused on friendship, courage, and determination. I’ll continue with this series though no date yet of the sequel. 

My thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy in exchange for honest review.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Review: Searching for You (Orphan Train #3) by Jody Hedlund

Despite years on the run, Sophie Neumann is determined to care for two young children. She won't abandon them the way she thinks her older sisters abandoned her. But times are growing desperate, and when she falls in with the wrong crowd and witnesses a crime, she realizes fleeing 1850s New York is her only option.

Disappearing with her two young charges into a group of orphans heading west by train, Sophie hopes to find safety and a happy life. When the train stops in Illinois for the first placement of orphans, Sophie faces the most difficult choice of her life.

Reinhold Weiss has finally purchased his own small farm. With mounting debts, a harvest to bring in, and past scars that haunt him, he's in no position to give his heart away . . . but can he say no when his long-lost friend shows up on a nearby train pleading for his help?

 Paperback, 341 pages
 Published December 4th, 2018
by Bethany House Publishers
*** 1/2

Book 3 in the Orphan Train Series concludes with Sophie's story.  Introduced in book 1 - With You Always along with her sisters Marianne and Elise, it's now time to hear from Sophie.  While this book can work as a standalone I highly recommend reading this series in order - things will fit together nicely and make more sense.

The author definitely captured the era with this series and Searching for You also highlights the struggles, both physical, mental and spiritual in what farmers went through.  It's a lot of work just to survive, more so when running from the past with no idea where to head. I liked Sophie, the youngest of the 3 sisters she was easily hurt and left out which took her to New York City.  A fierce determination to take care of Olivia and Nicholas (on her own) and trouble in the City sent her running with some tough decisions to be made.

It wasn't just Sophie's story here but also Reinhold who appears in the 2 previous books, which rounded out this book nicely.  The conclusion was fitting, wrapping up loose ends.

This was my first time reading Jody Hedlund, I will continue with more of her books, I like her writing style, attention to detail and ability to put me right in the setting.  Thank you to the publisher for an advanced copy (via Netgalley).

 click on the cover to take you to my review

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Review: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Berlin 1942

When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

Paperback, 10th Anniversary Edition,
216 pages
 Published 2016 by Ember
 (first published January 5th 2006)

This review might be more of a spotlight, I am somewhat at a loss of what to say here. I probably shouldn't say that the ending is one that will stay with me for a long time (kinda like My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult, but in that case, I wanted to throw the book across the room, here I just sat taken totally my surprise).  I read the author's book The Boy at the Top of the Mountain which made me a little apprehensive of starting this one. Where the Mountain had a bit more depth and drama into what was taking place Striped Pajamas had that air of mystery for anyone not familiar with the time, which would make sense for younger readers.

While some may find the writing juvenile and simple one must remember the target audience is children, with a subject matter that opens the door for discussion and a chance to talk about this dark period in history, which personally I feel by parent (vs teacher) who really knows what the child can handle at their age.

I will continue to read Boyne books, I like his writing style, his uniqueness and how he isn’t afraid to cross the line.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Spotlight & Giveaway: A Guardian of Slaves by Naomi Finley

A Guardian of Slaves by Naomi Finley

Publication Date: January 30, 2019
Huntson Press Inc.
eBook & Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction

Willow Hendricks is now the Lady of Livingston. She manages this plantation with her father and best friend Whitney Barry. The two women continue her parents’ secret abolitionist mission. They use the family’s ships and estates to transport escaped slaves along the channels to freedom. Willow’s love for Bowden Armstrong is as strong as ever, but she is not ready to marry and have a family because of her attention to these noble pursuits. Torn by her love for him, can their bond survive his reluctance to support her efforts with the Underground Railroad?

Meanwhile, whispers among the quarters sing praises of a mysterious man in the swamps helping slaves escape. He is called the Guardian. They believe he will save them from brutal slave catchers and deliver them to the promised land. Masked bandits roam the countryside, but the Guardian and the criminals evade capture. A series of accidents and mysterious disappearances raise alarm throughout the region. Who can Willow and Whitney trust? One false move or slip could endanger the lives of everyone they love and bring ruin to the Livingston Plantation.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iTunes


Naomi lives in Northern Alberta. Her love for travel means her suitcase is always on standby while she awaits her next plane ticket and adventure. Her love for history and the Deep South is driven by the several years she spent as a child living in a Tennessee plantation house. She comes from a family of six sisters. She married her high school sweetheart and has two teenage children and two dogs named Ginger and Snaps. Creativity and passion are the focus of her life. Apart from writing fiction, her interests include interior design, cooking new recipes, throwing lavish dinner parties, movies, health, and fitness.

For more information, please visit Naomi Finley's website

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


During the Blog Tour we will be giving a paperback copy of A Guardian of Slaves!

 To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

click on banner for more stops on this tour

Monday, February 18, 2019

Excerpt & Giveaway: The Chef's Secret by Crystal King

The Chef's Secret by Crystal King
 Adult fiction, 352 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
 Atria/Simon & Schuster
Release date: Feb 12, 2019
Tour dates: Feb 11 to 28, 2019
Content Rating: R (for a couple of explicit, but loving, sex scenes (no abuse or rape) and minor curse words)

Book Description:

A captivating novel of Renaissance Italy detailing the mysterious life of Bartolomeo Scappi, the legendary chef to several popes and author of one of the bestselling cookbooks of all time, and the nephew who sets out to discover his late uncle’s secrets—including the identity of the noblewoman Bartolomeo loved until he died.

When Bartolomeo Scappi dies in 1577, he leaves his vast estate—properties, money, and his position—to his nephew and apprentice Giovanni. He also gives Giovanni the keys to two strongboxes and strict instructions to burn their contents. Despite Scappi’s dire warning that the information concealed in those boxes could put Giovanni’s life and others at risk, Giovanni is compelled to learn his uncle’s secrets. He undertakes the arduous task of decoding Scappi’s journals and uncovers a history of deception, betrayal, and murder—all to protect an illicit love affair.

As Giovanni pieces together the details of Scappi’s past, he must contend with two rivals who have joined forces—his brother Cesare and Scappi’s former protégé, Domenico Romoli, who will do anything to get his hands on the late chef’s recipes.

With luscious prose that captures the full scale of the sumptuous feasts for which Scappi was known, The Chef’s Secret serves up power, intrigue, and passion, bringing Renaissance Italy to life in a delectable fashion.

To follow the tour, please visit Crystal King's page on Italy Book Tours.

Excerpt from THE CHEF’S SECRET (Atria/Simon & Schuster) By Crystal King 

Forty-three days after he first laid eyes upon the most beautiful girl in the world, Bartolomeo had the good fortune to overhear the maids talking about a girl at the palazzo. Two of the serving maids huddled in the pantry near his post where he was prepping nightingales for the cena. When they mentioned the dress she had worn the night before, Bartolomeo realized the principessa was the object of their admiration.

One of the maids was a thin slip of a girl who served the cardinale’s sister. The other was a young woman who had caught his fancy for a time the summer before, but soon bored Bartolomeo with her empty gossip.

“She’s here from Roma,” the first said, awe in her voice. They talked of the girl’s extraordinarily wealthy family, of her famed dressmaker, and of how long it took to wrangle her curls each morning.

When they said her name, Bartolomeo had to put his knife down for fear of cutting himself. Oh, to know her true name! Happiness filled him like a carafe of fine wine. Her name, he thought, was like the taste of strawberries sprinkled with sugar. It was like the summer sun touching the petal of a freshly bloomed flower. That evening, when he gazed out his little garret window, he wished he could shout her name across the rooftops, but he could never say it aloud. To do so was too dangerous, for her and for him. He would take a thousand lashings for his Stella [Author’s note, this is a pet name that Bartolomeo has for her], but he could not bear to have her come to harm.

The next morning, Stella stopped Bartolomeo in the loggia. The sky was bright and the October air was still gentle and warm. He was readying to leave the palazzo to go to market when she approached. He was so startled to see her there he stopped in his tracks, mouth agape.

The princess was radiant in a red velvet gown, her hair piled high upon her head. Her beauty was staggering, her skin so clear, her cheeks ruddy and fresh. What a sight he must seem in comparison, with his own hair a tussle of wild waves, a grease stain adorning one sleeve. He hadn’t bathed, and he was certain he smelled too much like onions and ham.

She recognized his discomfort and giggled, in a way that immediately eased his fear. She gently touched his arm with one hand, and with the other she pressed a piece of paper into his palm. “What is your name?”

He looked around to see who might be witnessing the exchange, but there were only a couple of gardeners in the vicinity, none of whom paid them any mind. “Bartolomeo,” he said, gathering courage.

She released his hand and shared her own name. Bartolomeo’s heart sang as she repeated the word he had been turning over and over in his mind since the day before.

“Please tell the cook how much I love his tourtes.”

Bartolomeo nodded his head vigorously. “I will, madonna, I will.”

She dazzled him with another smile. “I liked the radish flower the best, though.”

She winked and turned away. He stood there, staring at the curve of her departing body, wondering what had just happened. He stared until she rounded the corner of the loggia. He was light-headed and it felt like he was spinning, like a little bird on a spit, fire rising all around it. The piece of paper in his hand was small and warm. He hurried out of the palazzo and down the cobbled street lining the adjoining Rio di San Luca canal.

When he was sure no one could see, he stopped and unfolded the little piece of paper.

Buy the Book:

                            Google Play ~ Book Depository

Meet the Author:

Crystal King is an author, culinary enthusiast, and marketing expert. Her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language, and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at several universities including Harvard Extension School and Boston University, as well as at GrubStreet, one of the leading creative writing centers in the US.

A Pushcart Prize–nominated poet and former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her MA in critical and creative thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in medias res. She resides in Boston but considers Italy her next great love after her husband, Joe, and their two cats, Nero and Merlin. She is the author of Feast of Sorrow.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram

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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Review: A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-1832 by Joan W. Blos

The journal of a 14-year-old girl, kept the last year she lived on the family farm, records daily events in her small New Hampshire town, her father's remarriage, and the death of her best friend.

 Hardcover, 144 pages
Published September 1st 1979
by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

This is the 1980 John Newbery Medal Winner. It’s a short little book coming in at 144 pages written in diary/journal style.  It spans about 15 months in the life of Catherine Hall.   There are many changes and heartbreak that she goes through and while some of the entries are short other ones are longer at times I got a sense of her frame of mind as she deals with everything.

This wasn’t a book that kept me glued to the pages, for a Medal Winner my expectations might have been elevated but this one fell flat for me. I didn’t connect with Catharine and a month after finishing it I struggle to remember all but a few pieces. The time period of 1830-1832 sees much happening in that area and I would have loved to see more.

My copy from personal library and part of my 2019 reading my shelf challenge as well as Project Newbery (reading all the John Newbery Medal winners )

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly post to showcase upcoming releases that I am anxious to get my hands on.

Hardcover, 400 pages 
Expected publication: March 19th 2019
 by Berkley

Elise Sontag is a typical Iowa fourteen-year-old in 1943--aware of the war but distanced from its reach. Then her father, a legal U.S. resident for nearly two decades, is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to an internment camp in Texas, where, behind the armed guards and barbed wire, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar, including her own identity.

The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers. Together in the desert wilderness, Elise and Mariko hold tight the dream of being young American women with a future beyond the fences.

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Review: I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel

For so many people, reading isn't just a hobby or a way to pass the time--it's a lifestyle. Our books shape us, define us, enchant us, and even sometimes infuriate us. Our books are a part of who we are as people, and we can't imagine life without them.

 I'd Rather Be Reading is the perfect literary companion for everyone who feels that way. In this collection of charming and relatable reflections on the reading life, beloved blogger and author Anne Bogel leads readers to remember the book that first hooked them, the place where they first fell in love with reading, and all of the moments afterward that helped make them the reader they are today. Known as a reading tastemaker through her popular podcast What Should I Read Next?, Bogel invites book lovers into a community of like-minded people to discover new ways to approach literature, learn fascinating new things about books and publishing, and reflect on the role reading plays in their lives.

The perfect gift for the bibliophile in everyone's life, I'd Rather Be Reading will command an honored place on the overstuffed bookshelves of any book lover.

Hardcover, 160 pages
Published September 4th 2018
by Baker Books
When we share our favourite titles, we can’t help but share ourselves as well. Shakespeare said the eyes are the windows to the soul, but we readers know one’s bookshelves feel just as much.

This is a delightful little book that will reassure readers they are not alone in their reading lifestyle. It’s a small book from author Ann Bogel who also hosts a blog (The Modern Mrs. Darcy) and podcast (What should I read next?).

I didn’t read this all in one sitting but rather it’s a chapter a day type of book. There are some things that are repeated, there are new authors and books to discover. It’s the history of Anne's love and relationship with books and reading.

People read for a multiplicity of reasons. Nearly forty years in, I can tell you why I inhale books like oxygen: I’m grateful for my one life, but I’d prefer to live a thousand — and my favorite books allow me to experience more on the page than I ever could in my actual life. 

A fun little book, a perfect gift for any reader or yourself.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Review: The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne

When Pierrot becomes an orphan, he must leave his home in Paris for a new life with his Aunt Beatrix, a servant in a wealthy household at the top of the German mountains. But this is no ordinary time, for it is 1935 and the Second World War is fast approaching; and this is no ordinary house, for this is the Berghof, the home of Adolf Hitler.

Quickly, Pierrot is taken under Hitler's wing and is thrown into an increasingly dangerous new world: a world of terror, secrets,
and betrayal, from which he may never be able to escape.

Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 1st, 2015
 by Doubleday Childrens
**** 1/2

Lately, I have decided to stay away from books pertaining to World War I & 2, just to give my mind and emotions a break. The Boy at the Top of the Mountain is obviously an exception. In an endeavor to clear my Netgalley backlog, I found this one and dove right in without reading the blurb. Being there meant I wanted to read it and my memory isn’t always so good - this was released in 2015, my apologies to the author, publisher, and Netgalley for the late review.

Marked as children’s fiction coming in at approximately 224 pages I was immediately drawn in by the plight of poor little Pierrot. He’s had a hard life and it only gets worse as this story begins in 1935.

I finished this book last week and I am still thinking about it. The author has written a story where I didn’t anticipate the ride I would be taken on (remember I didn't read the blurb). Time elapses over the years as Pierrot grows into an inquisitive boy/teen searching for a place to belong. From the book blurb, you can see what direction he takes, I was taken by surprise at some of the things that took place. Like I said this is children’s HF but I feel it has mature scenes of violence that might offend some. It’s a rating I can understand as some YA might find the first half too juvenile to continue.

This is my first book by John Boyle, I was impressed with his writing style how he drew me in and how he depicted the times, bringing the emotion this time period evokes. This is the story with many layers some of which include grief, bullying, loneliness, friendship and searching for oneself - all packed into 224 pages, well done John Boyne! Definitely an author I will read more of.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Review: The Temptation of Gracie by Santa Montefiore

Never give up on your dreams, no matter how long you hold on to them . . .

 Gracie Burton is a grandmother, living quietly in Devon. She has rarely left the village over the past forty years. Her daughter, Carina, is immensely high-powered with her own fast-paced business in London. She has very little time for her 17-year-old daughter, Anastasia, away at boarding school, and even less time for her aging mother. In many ways, the three of them barely know each other. Then Gracie stumbles upon an advertisement for a weeklong cookery course in the heart of the Tuscan countryside. She cannot resist and ploughs her life savings into the trip.

Carina and Anastasia accompany her. They have no idea why Gracie has been drawn to this venture. They have no sense of her past; she has never spoken about it. They have no idea that Gracie is harboring the secret of an extraordinary life that preceded them . . .

 Hardcover, 400 pages 
Published July 12th 2018
 by Simon & Schuster
**** 1/2

I became a fan of the Santa Montefiore with her Secrets of the Lighthouse and the Deverill Chronciles. Those books were an audio read for me of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Last year while browsing through Bookdepository I stumbled across this book, The Temptation of Gracie and ordered it not realizing that it would not be released in Canada/US for another year. Once I spotted it on NetGalley I grabbed my copy, which had gotten buried under other books, and dove right in.

I was drawn in right away and one of the things that I really really loved was the blurb. As you can read above there is no hint, no clue at all as to what happened in Gracie's past. The secret of an extraordinary life that she lived was hidden and I loved that. Sometimes I find blurbs give too much information and at times can spoil the ride (which is why I rarely read them or skim the first paragraph or so) in this case, I found the blurb perfect.

It doesn’t take long to get a sense of who Gracie was, where she came from what her life is like now. Traveling back in time to when she is in her teen years her journey is interesting and takes place in a country that I absolutely love, Italy.

With rich detail, the author transported me to the Tuscan countryside, to the vineyards, cooking, pasta and more. The Temptation of Gracie is a story of relationships, trust and healing. How life can change in a second or evolve over the course of a week.

While there were a couple little things that rubbed me the wrong way it wasn’t enough to affect my enjoyment of this book if anything it’s made me very anxious for my trip to Italy in September and to read more books set in Italy.

Santa Montefiore is an author I highly recommend, maybe a little more on the romance side than I usually read but it balances out nicely with the historical aspects.

If you haven’t read her Deverill Chronicles yet, I recommend it. Click on the covers below to take you to my respective reviews.

This book was from my personal library and part of my reading off my shelf challenge.