Sunday, November 17, 2019

Review: This Son of York by Anne Easter Smith

"Now is the winter of our discontent, Made glorious summer by This Son of York..." -- William Shakespeare, Richard III 

Richard III was Anne's muse for her first five books, but, finally, in This Son of York he becomes her protagonist. 

The story of this English king is one of history's most compelling, made even more fascinating through the discovery in 2012 of his bones buried under a car park in Leicester. 

This new portrait of England's most controversial king is meticulously researched and brings to vivid life the troubled, complex Richard of Gloucester, who ruled for two years over an England tired of war and civil strife. 

The loyal and dutiful youngest son of York, Richard lived most of his short life in the shadow of his brother, Edward IV, loyally supporting his sibling until the mantle of power was thrust unexpectedly on him. Some of his actions and motives were misunderstood by his enemies to have been a deliberate usurpation of the throne, but throughout his life, Richard never demonstrated any loftier ambitions than to honorably discharge his duty to his family and his country.

 In a gentler vein, despite the cruel onset of severe scoliosis in his teens, Richard did find love, first with a lover and then in his marriage to Anne Neville. Between these two devoted women in his life, he sired three and perhaps four children. Bringing the Plantagenet dynasty to a violent end, Richard was the last king of England to die in battle.

 This Son of York is a faithful chronicle of this much-maligned man. 

Publication Date: November 10, 2019
Bellastoria Press
eBook & Paperback; 504 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

I’m struggling to find the right words to describe my thoughts on this book without sounding like a blubbering idiot. It’s a book that puts so much pressure on the next one I pick up to read (and being a bigamist reader my audio and print books are 5+ stars also), poor poor next book. 

This is my fourth book by Anne Easter Smith, the previous three were audiobooks, I went that route because of the size. The Son of York comes in at 500 pages and from past experience, I knew I was in for a real big treat.  

Beginning when Richard was a wee little lad, watching him grow up, his relationship with his siblings and parents shaped who he was, as did the era and environment - with its unrest and battle for the crown. Not only was his character development spot on but also the entire cast of characters. Which in turn reflected in the story.  

I can see why it takes a bit for a new Anne Easter Smith book to be released. Her attention to detail, the emotional aspects and dare I mention the research, to say the research is evident doesn’t really give the statement the respect it deserves. Lets just say she knows her history.

I was placed in the time period and felt the drama.  I knew how this book would end, with each page I was hoping for a different outcome. I connected with Richard III and now have a new appreciation for what might have transpired. Definitely, an author I highly recommend, not just those that love HF but those that love an epic-sized book to get lost in the pages of. 

My thanks to Amy at HFVBT for the invite to be part of this tour and an arc in exchange for an honest review. 

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound


Anne is the award-winning author of The King's Grace and the best-selling A Rose for the Crown, Daughter of York, Queen By Right, and Royal Mistress. She is an expert on Richard III, having studied the king and his times for decades. Her sixth book, This Son of York, will be published soon. She grew up in England, Germany and Egypt, and has been a resident/citizen of the US since 1968. Anne was the Features Editor at a daily newspaper in northern New York State for ten years, and her writing has been published in several national magazines.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Friday, November 15, 2019

Audio Review: The Arrangement by Robyn Harding

A Pretty Woman tale turns toxic and deadly in this provocative and riveting thriller of sex, obsession, and murder from Robyn Harding, the “master of domestic suspense” (Kathleen Barber) and the USA TODAY bestselling author of The Party and Her Pretty Face

 Natalie, a young art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not go online and find a sugar daddy—a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates, and even give her a monthly allowance? Lots of girls do it, Nat learns. All that’s required is to look pretty and hang on his every word. Sexual favors are optional.

 Though more than thirty years her senior, Gabe, a handsome corporate finance attorney, seems like the perfect candidate, and within a month, they are madly in love. At least, Nat is…Gabe already has a family, whom he has no intention of leaving.

 So when he abruptly ends things, Nat can’t let go. She begins drinking heavily and stalking him: watching him at work, spying on his wife, even befriending his daughter, who is not much younger than she is. But Gabe’s not about to let his sugar baby destroy his perfect life. What was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception, obsession, and, when a body is found near Gabe’s posh Upper East Side apartment, murder.

 Emotionally powerful and packed with page-turning suspense, The Arrangement delves into the sordid, all-too-real world of shadowy relationships between wealthy, powerful men and the young women who are caught in their web.

 Audiobook, Unabridged, 352 pages
 Amanda Dolan (Narrator )
 9 hours, 15 minutes
Published July 30th 2019
by Simon & Schuster Audio
**** 1/2

Robyn Harding is a new author to me and a fellow Canadian to boot. The Arrangement has been getting rave reviews amongst my peeps so I jumped on the bandwagon and went the audio route.

Coming in at 9 hours 15 minutes it was a fast-paced addicting story that kept my earbuds in place. With a prologue that hooked me, it was the characters that made this a wonderful listen, well the characters go hand in hand with a suspenseful plot. What I loved was watching the characters evolve, how the story changed them.

The Arrangement is a well-written suspenseful thriller with an ending that fit nicely without being too neatly wrapped up.  Definitely an author I will be reading more of.

This audio was obtained via Scribd.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Review: The Painted Castle by Kristy Cambron

A lost painting of Queen Victoria. A library bricked off from the world. Three women, separated by time, whose lives are irrevocably changed.

 When art historian Keira Foley is hired to authenticate a painting at a centuries-old East Suffolk manor, she hopes this is just the thing to get her career and life back on track. But from the time she arrives at Parham Hill Estate and begins working alongside rumored art thief Emory Scott, she’s left with far more questions than answers. Could this lost painting of Queen Victoria be a duplicate of the original Winterhalter masterpiece, and if so, who is the artist?

 As Keira begins to unravel the mystery behind the portrait of the queen, two women emerge from the estate’s forgotten past. In Victorian England, talented sketch artist Elizabeth Meade is engaged to Viscount Huxley, then owner of Parham Hill. While there, master portrait artist Franz Winterhalter takes her under his wing, but Elizabeth’s real motive for being at Parham Hill has nothing to do with art. She’s determined to avenge her father’s brutal murder—even if it means feigning an engagement to the very man she believes committed the crime.

 A century later, Amelia Woods—a WWII widow who has turned Parham Hill Estate and its beloved library into a boarding school for refugee children—receives military orders to house a troop of American pilots. She is determined that the children in her care remain untouched by the war, but it’s proving difficult with officers taking up every square inch of their world… and one in particular vying for a space in her long shut up heart.

 Set in three time periods—the rapid change of Victorian England, the peak of England’s home front tensions at the end of World War II, and modern day—The Painted Castle unfolds a story of heartache and hope and unlocks secrets lost for generations, just waiting to be found.

 The Painted Castle is a sweet romance, the third in the Lost Castle series. It can be read as a stand-alone but is better if read with The Lost Castle and Castle on the Rise.

Paperback, 400 pages
 Published October 15th, 2019
 by Thomas Nelson

The Painted Castle is book 3 in the Lost Castle Series, I have only read the first book and think these work well as standalone even though there are brief mentions of the previous books here, not enough to spoil book 2 (yea I gotta read it soon).

Dual time periods are my favorites and when it turns into a triple feature, well I’m in my happy place. It takes a talented author that can pull off 3 storylines that come together. Kristy Cambron has done it with this book.

The setting was an old English Manor from the days of Victorian England to WW2 and then-current day. The Painted Castle is a story of the mystery surrounding a painting - it’s authenticity, why it was hidden for so long and how did it become hidden.

The characters are real with hurts, secrets, and hearts hardened because of said hurts and secrets. There are the historical elements that I always enjoy, especially seeing another glimpse of strong women not just during WW2 but in the past when women weren't supposed to be strong and have a mind of their own. The art world, both past and present added something different and the plot woven around it was unique and realistic- definitely shows the authors' research was done.

The Lost Castle is a series I recommend, I was entertained and totally absorbed in the pages.

My thanks to TLC Tours for the opportunity to be part of this tour and an ARCin exchange for honest review.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher's life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women's Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

 North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn't expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

 What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?

 Kindle Edition, 400 pages
 Expected publication: January 14th 2020
 by St. Martin's Press

Diane Chamberlain had me at The Midwife’s Confession. While I haven’t caught up with all her books I am working at it. She takes snippets of history and weaves some wonderful stories. I’ll confess that after reading a couple flips of my kindle screen I actually sighed, it felt like being back with old friends ready for an adventure that I would love.

Big Lies in a Small Town is a hefty title, the theme is obvious and it delivered on all levels. I started Tuesday and finished Friday which lately for me is good, especially coming in at 400 pages. It’s a slow burn as the 2 storylines play out. The character development was spot on, not only for the main players but for others as well. I saw what made them tick and why.

The plot was intricate and unique as it revolves around a time and place where prejudices ran amuck. The research is evident and the author's writing style is why she is a favorite of mine.

Big Lies in a Small Town is a richly detailed story of secrets and lies, mental health, injustice, racism, abuse and more. It’s about connecting two time periods with a conclusion that I loved (while unexpected).

This book will hit bookshelves January 14th, 2020 - perfect to beat away the winter blues.

My sincere thanks to Naureen at St. Martin’s press for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Review: The Chain by Adrian McKinty

You just dropped off your child at the bus stop. A panicked stranger calls your phone. Your child has been kidnapped, and the stranger explains that their child has also been kidnapped, by a completely different stranger. The only way to get your child back is to kidnap another child within 24 hours. Your child will be released only when the next victim's parents kidnap yet another child, and most importantly, the stranger explains, if you don't kidnap a child, or if the next parents don't kidnap a child, your child will be murdered. 

You are now part of The Chain.

 Hardcover, 357 pages
 Published July 9th 2019
by Mulholland Books
*** 1/2

I first heard about this book from The Tonight Show, it being one of the 5 finalists for the summer read.

 The reviews for this one are all over the place as are my feelings. The Chain got off to a slow start, it didn’t grab me right away but when it did, maybe at the 10% mark, it didn’t let go.

A take off of those dreaded chain letters with a deadly repercussions if the chain is broken.  It’s a unique concept and as this story progresses it shows how far a parent will go and what they will do for their child. This was an addicting read for me, anything that involves the welfare of a child has me turning the pages. The story is told through a couple POV’s where I got to see the story unfold from different angles. There were times I had to suspend my believe and just go with the flow.

As for the execution it worked, even the ending had a fitting, and somewhat expected conclusion but it was the last 2 pages that really blew it for me - honestly I didn’t find it plausible or even necessary (my opinion only).

 3 1/2 stars but would have been 4 but for those final pages.

 My copy obtained from public library.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Review: Woman on the Edge by Samantha M. Bailey

A moment on the platform changes two lives forever. But nothing is as it seems...

 'Take my baby.'

 In a split second, Morgan's life changes forever. A stranger hands her a baby, then jumps in front of a train.

 Morgan has never seen the woman before and she can't understand what would cause a person to give away her child and take her own life.

 When the police question Morgan, she discovers none of the witnesses can corroborate her version of events. And when they learn Morgan longs for a baby of her own, she becomes a suspect.

To prove her innocence, Morgan frantically tries to retrace the last days of the woman's life. She begins to understand that Nicole Markham believed she and her baby were in danger. Now Morgan might be in danger, too.

Was Nicole a new mother struggling with paranoia?

Or was something much darker going on?

Pulse-pounding, heartrending, shocking, thrilling. This is one book you won't be able to stop thinking about.

Paperback, 272 pages
Published November 26th, 2019
by Simon and Schuster Canada
**** 1/2

Did you get the last line of the blurb above? This is one of those books that is embedded in my brain right now on so many levels. It starts with a bang and literally doesn’t let go until the end. And even then I still think about Nicole, I feel for her and can’t help thinking things that I can’t even talk about in this review (keeping it spoiler-free is hard when there is much I want to say).

So suffice to say Woman on the Edge is a fast-paced story that kept me glued to my kindle. It had me trying to solve the puzzle before all the pieces were put together. It dealt with issues though common -  guilt, fear and loneliness but the deeper emotional changes after giving birth.

Every book affects the individual reader in different ways, this one touched me maybe more so with one of the layers than others, making this an emotional read as well as being suspenseful and an addicting book.

This is the author's debut and I am impressed, sure hope we don't have to wait 6 years for her next one.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for an e-arc (via Netgalley) in exchange for honest review.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Review: Bone China by Laura Purcell

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft's family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

 Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralyzed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last.

Hardcover, 384 pages
 Published September 19th, 2019
 by Raven Books

This month I have been reading suspense thriller books. Laura Purcell has written a couple historical fiction and then ventured into Gothic historical that sends chills up my spine. 

Her latest Bone China had the same dark atmospheric quality I was craving. Set in an isolated house on the coast of Cornwall I felt the unknown vibe as this book played out. Told from the POV of Hester Why and Louise Pinecroft it weaves back and forth in time smoothly as the stories of these two women were revealed.

I enjoyed this (and all of Laura Purcell’s books) story, it was eerie and I felt the tension the plot created. With its many layers being pulled away this was a story that kept me on my toes. The characters made this book, they are flawed, creepy and rather sinister each hiding something.
The ending wasn’t what I expected but it worked and fit the story.

If you haven’t read Laura Purcell, I highly recommend her books.

Bone China is part of my 2019 reading off my shelf challenge

Monday, October 21, 2019

Review: The Body in Griffith Park (Anna Blanc Mysteries #3) by Jennifer Kincheloe

Los Angeles, 1908. Anna Blanc is a former so-so socialite, a flailing police matron, and a killer detective.

 Ex-heiress, Anna Blanc, is precariously employed by the Los Angeles Police Department, reforming delinquent children and minding lady jailbirds. What she really wants is to hunt criminals and be alone with Detective Joe Singer--both no-nos that could get her fired. On a lover's tryst in Griffith Park, Anna and Joe discover the body of a young gambler. Anna can't resist. She's on the case.

 With a murder to solve and her police matron duties piling up, a young girl shows up at Central Station claiming to have been raped by a man from Mars. The men at the station scoff, but Anna is willing to investigate. Meanwhile, Anna begins getting strange floral arrangements from an unknown admirer. Following the petals leads her to another crime--one close to home. Suddenly pitted against Joe, Anna must examine her loyalties and solve the crimes, even if it means losing the man she loves.

 Paperback, First Edition, 304 pages
 Published July 16th, 2019
 by Seventh Street Books

Anna Blanc is back. First introduced In The Secret Life of Anna Blanc I loved her quirky personality, spontaneous nature, and illogical reasoning. Now she is back in book 3 for another romp around as Matron, though she’d rather be a police detective.

Set in the 1908s the author created a setting that made Los Angeles real and its ways authentic. An interesting plot that kept me guessing, filled with wacky adventures that only Anna can worm her way into (and out of). Some might have felt a little over the top but still an enjoyable read.

I don't think we've seen the end of Anna, with some issues left hanging one can only wonder what mischief there is left for her to get caught up in.

My thanks to the author and Seventh Street Books for a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Review: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

From the New York Times bestselling author and master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) comes another page-turning look inside one family’s past as buried secrets threaten to come to light. 

 Gifted musician Clemency Thompson is playing for tourists on the streets of southern France when she receives an urgent text message. Her childhood friend, Lucy, is demanding her immediate return to London.

 It’s happening, says the message. The baby is back.

 Libby Jones was only six months old when she became an orphan. Now twenty-five, she’s astounded to learn of an inheritance that will change her life. A gorgeous, dilapidated townhouse in one of London’s poshest neighborhoods has been held in a trust for her all these years. Now it’s hers.

 As Libby investigates the story of her birth parents and the dark legacy of her new home, Clemency and Lucy are headed her way to uncover, and possibly protect, secrets of their own. What really happened in that rambling Chelsea mansion when they were children? And are they still at risk?

 Jewell’s novels have been praised as “sure to please fans of Ruth Ware and A.J. Finn” (Library Journal, starred review) and her latest is no exception. The Family Upstairs will keep you guessing until the very last page.

 Kindle Edition, 320 pages
 Expected publication: October 29th 2019
 by Atria Books

Lisa Jewell has turned into one of my gotos even though I am a relatively new fan. With books like Then She Was Gone and I Found You she has cemented herself with unique plots, flawed characters and lots of twists and turns.

The Family Upstairs is a fast-paced book that delivered on all levels I love. While this one was a little darker with an almost Gothic feel I struggled to put it down. With its (sorta) mansion style home and told from a number of POVs I was introduced to a cast of characters where not many were likable but they were well developed making the story all the more intense.

There are a number of characters, predominately in the back story, and it wasn’t hard to follow along. Again I found a unique plot that kept me guessing, with lots of twists and turns just reinforced my feelings about Lisa Jewell, definitely an author I highly recommend.

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Review: A Reluctant Bride (The Bride Ships #1) by Jody Hedlund

Living in London's poorest slum, Mercy Wilkins has little hope of a better life. When she's offered an opportunity to join a bride ship sailing to British Columbia, she agrees. After witnessing so much painful heartache and loss in the slums, the bride ship is her only prospect to escape a bleak future, not only for herself but, she hopes, someday for her sister.

 Wealthy and titled Joseph Colville leaves home and takes to the sea in order to escape the pain of losing his family. As ship's surgeon, he's in charge of the passengers' welfare aboard the Tynemouth, including sixty brides-to-be. He has no immediate intention of settling down, but when Mercy becomes his assistant, the two must fight against a forbidden love.

 With hundreds of single men congregating on the shore eager to claim a bride from the Tynemouth, will Mercy and Joseph lose their chance at true love, or will they be able to overcome the obstacles that threaten to keep them apart?

Paperback Edition, 329 pages
Published June 4th, 2019
by Bethany House Publishers

I was drawn to The Reluctant Bride because of the reference to Canadian history. I knew of bride ships heading to Australia but unaware the west coast of Canada was also a destination. I knew that sea voyages across the Atlantic were wroth with danger but my mind has a hard time wrapping itself around a voyage of this magnitude, not just the time span but the perils of the sea and food supply makes me glad to be born when I was. It was portrayed vividly here.

While I was hoping for more history on Canadian soil the majority of this story takes place on the sea. Just like the titanic this ship is divided by class and gender. The author notes were great and I loved that much of this story is based on fact - like the Columbia Mission Society, certain characters and quite a number of events came from the history books.  The scenes in England vividly showed the reasoning why these girls made the journey.

Jody Hedlund is not a new author for me, she takes those seldom heard of bits in history and weaves some intriguing stories, her research is impeccable which shines through.

This is the first book in series with The Runaway Bride slated for a March 2020 release.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Audio Review: The Scribe's Daughter by Stephanie Churchill

Kassia is a thief and a soon-to-be oath breaker. Armed with only a reckless wit and sheer bravado, seventeen-year-old Kassia barely scrapes out a life with her older sister in a back-alley of the market district of the Imperial city of Corium. When a stranger shows up at her market stall, offering her work for which she is utterly unqualified, Kassia cautiously takes him on. Very soon, however, she finds herself embroiled in a mystery involving a usurped foreign throne and a vengeful nobleman. Most intriguing of all, she discovers a connection with the disappearance of her father three years prior.

 When Kassia is forced to flee her home, suffering extreme hardship, danger and personal trauma along the way, she feels powerless to control what happens around her. Rewarding revelations concerning the mysteries of her family’s past are tempered by the reality of a future she doesn’t want. In the end, Kassia discovers an unyielding inner strength, and that contrary to her prior beliefs, she is not defined by external things -- she discovers that she is worthy to be loved.

 Paperback, 423 pages
 Published September 4th, 2015
 by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Audiobook, 11 hours 41 minutes

The Scribe's Daughter at times reads like historical fiction but is actually a fictional world with that medieval feel.

This was an intriguing story with a likable heroine, Kassia. She is gutsy, caring and has drive. It wasn’t hard to feel her protection for her sister and drive to survive in an unfriendly world. Coming in at 423 pages there is plenty of room for the depth I love and the development of characters. The Scribe's Daughter is a gritty story with plenty of action, secrets, twists, and turns that kept me on my toes.

This was an audio read for me with Leonor A Woodworth reading it, my first experience with her and she added that extra spark making this an enjoyable listen - I would have liked The Scribe’s Daughter with either format.

I’m not sure if this is officially branded as YA but I think fans and nonfans of YA will enjoy this one.

There is a sequel to this book, which I will not mention (spoiler alert would be necessary), it’s already been added to my TBR list and available for purchase.

My thanks to the author for supplying me with this audiobook (via Audible) in exchange for honest review.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Review: Beverly, Right Here (Three Rancheros #3) by Kate DiCamillo

Revisiting once again the world of Raymie Nightingale, two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo turns her focus to the tough-talking, inescapably tenderhearted Beverly.

 Beverly put her foot down on the gas. They went faster still.

This was what Beverly wanted — what she always wanted. To get away. To get away as fast as she could. To stay away.

 Beverly Tapinski has run away from home plenty of times, but that was when she was just a kid. By now, she figures, it’s not running away. It’s leaving. Determined to make it on her own, Beverly finds a job and a place to live and tries to forget about her dog, Buddy, now buried underneath the orange trees back home; her friend Raymie, whom she left without a word; and her mom, Rhonda, who has never cared about anyone but herself. Beverly doesn’t want to depend on anyone, and she definitely doesn’t want anyone to depend on her. But despite her best efforts, she can’t help forming connections with the people around her — and gradually, she learns to see herself through their eyes.

In a touching, funny, and fearless conclusion to her sequence of novels about the beloved Three Rancheros, #1 New York Times best-selling author Kate DiCamillo tells the story of a character who will break your heart and put it back together again.

Kindle, 256 pages
Published September 24th, 2019
by Candlewick Press
**** 1/2

The third book in Kate DiCamillo series about 3 spunky girls, each on their own mission. Each book can definitely be read as a stand-alone, but I recommend reading them all in whatever order you choose but just read them.

Beverly is only 14 when this book begins in the late 1970s, she is sad and missing her dog so what else can she do but run away from home. Thus the adventure begins. Just like the other 2 books I loved the quirky situations she gets herself into, her thoughts and actions define her unique characteristics.

Beverly was a fun read, with an eclectic cast of characters, a heartfelt storyline that focused on friendship, loneliness and self-discovery. With humor mixed in Kate DiCamillo is one of my goto for middle-grade books.

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

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Review: The First Lady and the Rebel by Susan Higginbotham

From the celebrated author, Susan Higginbotham comes the incredible story of Lincoln's First Lady A Union's First Lady 

As the Civil War cracks the country in two, Mary Lincoln stands beside her husband praying for a swift Northern victory. But as the body count rises, Mary can't help but fear each bloody gain. Because her beloved sister Emily is across party lines, fighting for the South, and Mary is at risk of losing both her country and her family in the tides of a brutal war.

 A Confederate Rebel's Wife Emily Todd Helm has married the love of her life. But when her husband's southern ties pull them into a war neither want to join, she must make a choice. Abandon the family she has built in the South or fight against the sister she has always loved best. With a country's legacy at stake, how will two sisters shape history?

Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Sourcebooks Landmark
eBook & Paperback; 400 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

 Susan Higginbotham is an author I respect for the research in her historical novels. I’ve read a number of them and appreciate her attention to detail.

The First Lady and the Rebel is not just a story about sisters but of a country torn apart by war. It was informative on one hand and entertaining in the other. I learned a lot. I’ve read a number of books on Mary Todd Lincoln but not from her point of view, this was a nice change. While her character wasn’t as likable as her half-sister Emily I could still empathize with her bad decisions and heartache. I liked Emily and sensed her emotional conflict more.

The story is told with alternating POV’s, both Mary and Emily, which kept me on my toes. Beginning in 1939 and without saying when it ends this book does not shine on Abraham Lincoln, but rather on his wife and her struggles during the war, her grief and loss are profound and something I was not aware of. The Todd family in the South with its heartache as well is portrayed vividly. I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like for sisters to be in that situation.

I really enjoyed reading this book, thanks to Amy at HFVBT and the Publisher (via Netgalley) for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Chapters | IndieBound

About the Author

Susan Higginbotham is the author of seven historical novels, including Hanging Mary, The Stolen Crown, and The Queen of Last Hopes. The Traitor’s Wife, her first novel, was the winner of ForeWord Magazine’s 2005 Silver Award for historical fiction and was a Gold Medalist, Historical/Military Fiction, 2008 Independent Publisher Book wards. She writes her own historical fiction blog, History Refreshed. Higginbotham has worked as an editor and an attorney, and lives in Maryland with her family.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | BookBub


During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a paperback copy of The First Lady and the Rebel! To enter, please use the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on October 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Paperback 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 will be 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 a new winner is chosen. The First Lady and the Rebel

Monday, October 7, 2019

Review: The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

Sarah Piper's lonely, threadbare existence changes when her temporary agency sends her to assist a ghost hunter. Alistair Gellis—rich, handsome, scarred by World War I, and obsessed with ghosts—has been summoned to investigate the spirit of nineteen-year-old maid Maddy Clare, who is haunting the barn where she committed suicide.

 Since Maddy hated men in life, it is Sarah's task to confront her in death. Soon Sarah is caught up in a desperate struggle. For Maddy's ghost is real, she's angry, and she has powers that defy all reason. Can Sarah and Alistair's assistant, the rough, unsettling Matthew Ryder, discover who Maddy was, where she came from, and what is driving her desire for vengeance—before she destroys them all?

 Paperback, 318 pages
 Published March 6th 2012
by Berkley Books
*** 1/2

I read Simone St. James' latest book, The Broken Girls, and absolutely loved it. It’s the book I recommend whenever I get the chance. It was my first experience with this author so now I am backtracking to read her previous works.

The Haunting of Maddie Clare was her debut, coming in at 318 pages I found it to be a quick read not just because of the size but rather I was drawn right in. I love a good ghost story, especially when there are mysterious and creepy elements. And this book had the right blend, from interesting characters, a good mystery and a restless spirit.

Taking place after WW1 ends and drawing from the aftermath there are layers here and relationship that creates bonds spanning social classes. It was atmospheric at times with flawed suspicious characters and the right balance of suspense and creepiness. The ending was fitting and satisfying.  Can't wait to dive into another St. James book.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Review: The Book Charmer (Dove Pond #1) by Karen Hawkins

The New York Times bestselling author of the wildly popular MacLean Curse series crafts a charming and evocative story about a picturesque Southern town, two fiercely independent women, and a magical friendship that will change their lives forever.

 The residents of Dove Pond, North Carolina, know three things: they have the finest bar-b-que this side of Atlanta, their Apple Festival is the best that ever was, and the town has phenomenal good luck whenever the Dove family has seven daughters. Fortunately, that time is now, because Dove Pond desperately needs a miracle.

 The seventh daughter, Sarah Dove, believes in all things magical. Books have whispered their secrets to her since she was a child. Now the town librarian, she makes sure every book finds the reader who most needs it. But recently the books have been whispering something different—that change is about to come to Dove Pond. Sarah is soon convinced that the legendary Dove Pond good luck has arrived in the form of new resident, Grace Wheeler.

 After the tragic death of her sister, Grace has moved to Dove Pond with her grieving young niece and ailing foster mother hoping to retrench financially and emotionally before returning to her fast-paced city life. But she soon learns that life in a not-so-sleepy town isn’t as quiet as she’d hoped. Despite her best efforts to focus on her family, she can’t avoid the townspeople, especially her next-door neighbors, the quirky and talkative Sarah Dove and cynical veteran Travis Parker. Grace’s situation grows more complicated when she assumes her duties as town clerk and discovers that Dove Pond is on the verge of financial ruin.

 Already overburdened by her own cares, Grace tries to stay aloof from the town’s issues, but she’s never been good at resisting a challenge. With Sarah’s encouragement, and inspired by the wise words of a special book, Grace decides to save her new town. And in her quest, she discovers the rich comfort of being a part of a loving community, the tantalizing promise of new love, the deep strength that comes from having a true friend, and the heartfelt power of finding just the right book.

Paperback, 368 pages
Published July 30th 2019
 by Gallery Books
**** 1/2

This book had me with that first chapter, well actually it had me with the cover - double whammy.

The Book Charmer was a fun quirky read, it was a relatively fast read in that I was immersed in the story with all its bookish charms. I laughed, I cried and fell in love with Dove Pond and the unique cast of characters. That being said this book deals with serious subject matter like PTSD and Alzheimer’s it was handled sensitively with the heartache that goes hand in hand.

The Book Charmer is about relationships, whether strangers, new friends, old friends, family and yes even with books - I loved their role.

Karen Hawkins is a new author for me, I adored her writing and characters, definitely will be checking out her other books and highly recommend this one.

“Love can't cure a broken heart, but it can hold the two sides together while they heal.”

This book is part of my 2019 reading off my shelf challenge

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Review: Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

How much can a family forgive?

 A profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the bond between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, the daily intimacies of marriage, and the power of forgiveness.

 Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, two rookie cops in the NYPD, live next door to each other outside the city. What happens behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne—sets the stage for the explosive events to come.

 Ask Again, Yes is a deeply affecting exploration of the lifelong friendship and love that blossoms between Francis and Lena’s daughter, Kate, and Brian and Anne’s son, Peter. Luminous, heartbreaking, and redemptive, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood—villains lose their menace and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story, while tested by echoes from the past, is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.

Paperback, 390 pages
 Published May 28th, 2019
by Scribner

This book was brought to my attention while watching Jimmy Fallon as he did his thing to pick the Tonight Show summer read - honestly I think all 5 nominees are now on my tbr pile. Mary Beth Keane is not a new author for me, her book Fever (about Typhoid Mary) I read back in 2013 and rather enjoyed.

While it took a little for me to become invested in this story I found myself absorbed more so as I got to know the Gleeson and Stanhope families. There are many layers that deal with mental illness, relationships, guilt, forgiveness and more. This book spans 4 decades, at times it speeds through time at a fast pace other times a little slow.

I loved the synopsis, it doesn’t give any details of the story away. Yes, we know something explosive is going to happen and we get to witness the aftermath, how it affects these 2 families. I love that it was up to the reader to discover what happens with no clue.

Definitely a book and author I recommend.

My copy from my TBR pile - via my SweetReadsBox (August).

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Cover Reveal: The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham

I am so excited for this March 2020 release! Genevieve Graham is one of my go-to for Canadian historical fiction.  Her love of history and dedication to the facts shines through in her books.  Today I'm thrilled to be part of the cover reveal for The Forgotten Home Child (available for preorder now) .

Paperback, 336 pages 
Expected publication: March 3rd 2020 by Simon Schuster

The Home for Unwanted Girls meets Orphan Train in this unforgettable novel about a young girl caught in a scheme to rid England’s streets of destitute children, and the lengths she will go to find her way home—based on the true story of the British Home Children.


 At ninety-seven years old, Winnifred Ellis knows she doesn’t have much time left, and it is almost a relief to realize that once she is gone, the truth about her shameful past will die with her. But when her great-grandson Jamie, the spitting image of her dear late husband, asks about his family tree, Winnifred can’t lie any longer, even if it means breaking a promise she made so long ago... 


 Fifteen-year-old Winny has never known a real home. After running away from an abusive stepfather, she falls in with Mary, Jack, and their ragtag group of friends roaming the streets of Liverpool. When the children are caught stealing food, Winny and Mary are left in Dr. Barnardo’s Barkingside Home for Girls, a local home for orphans and forgotten children found in the city’s slums. At Barkingside, Winny learns she will soon join other boys and girls in a faraway place called Canada, where families and better lives await them.

 But Winny’s hopes are dashed when she is separated from her friends and sent to live with a family that has no use for another daughter. Instead, they have paid for an indentured servant to work on their farm. Faced with this harsh new reality, Winny clings to the belief that she will someday find her friends again.

 Inspired by true events, The Forgotten Home Child is a moving and heartbreaking novel about place, belonging, and family—the one we make for ourselves and its enduring power to draw us home.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Audio Review: The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

A thrilling tale of secretaries turned spies, of love and duty, and of sacrifice—inspired by the true story of the CIA plot to infiltrate the hearts and minds of Soviet Russia, not with propaganda, but with the greatest love story of the twentieth century: Doctor Zhivago.

 At the height of the Cold War, two secretaries are pulled out of the typing pool at the CIA and given the assignment of a lifetime. Their mission: to smuggle Doctor Zhivago out of the USSR, where no one dare publish it, and help Pasternak's magnum opus make its way into print around the world. Glamorous and sophisticated Sally Forrester is a seasoned spy who has honed her gift for deceit all over the world--using her magnetism and charm to pry secrets out of powerful men. Irina is a complete novice, and under Sally's tutelage quickly learns how to blend in, make drops, and invisibly ferry classified documents.

 The Secrets We Kept combines a legendary literary love story—the decades-long affair between Pasternak and his mistress and muse, Olga Ivinskaya, who was sent to the Gulag and inspired Zhivago's heroine, Lara—with a narrative about two women empowered to lead lives of extraordinary intrigue and risk. From Pasternak's country estate outside Moscow to the brutalities of the Gulag, from Washington, D.C. to Paris and Milan, The Secrets We Kept captures a watershed moment in the history of literature—told with soaring emotional intensity and captivating historical detail. And at the center of this unforgettable debut is the powerful belief that a piece of art can change the world.

Audiobook, Unabridged
10 hours 55 minutes
Published September 3rd, 2019
 by Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group

This was an audio read which involved a cast of 7 readers, which was a new experience and it worked quite well.

I went into this book blind, it’s one of those books that was just popping up everywhere, I’m sure being a Reese Witherspoon Pick might have had something to do with that. The only thing I knew for certain was that this would be a book about strong women - it's Reese's trademark.

The Secrets We Kept reminded me why historical fiction is my favorite, learning about stories of the past that are totally unfamiliar to me. I’ve heard of Dr. Zhivago but had no idea how it came to be published and boy were my eyes opened. The author created an atmosphere of suspense and uncertainty, showing Russia during the Cold War where residents live in fear pretty well walking on eggshells just to survive.

I found the ending a little rushed but other than that this was a solid read and one I highly recommend. Hats off to Lara Prescott for a solid debut.

Audiobook via Scribd

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Review: The Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-el

An inquisitive polar bear named Duane befriends an array of animals as he discovers where he belongs in this charming classic-in-the-making that’s reminiscent of Winnie the Pooh.

 In the Very, Very Far North, past the Cold, Cold Ocean and just below the hill that looks like a baby whale, you’ll find Duane and his friends.

 Duane is a sweet and curious young bear who makes friends with everyone he meets—whether they’re bossy, like Major Puff the puffin, or a bit vain, like Handsome the musk ox, or very, very shy, like Boo the caribou. For these arctic friends, every day is a new adventure!

Kindle Edition, 272 pages 
Published September 3rd, 2019 
by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

This is a charming middle-grade chapter book. Some say it reminds them of Winnie the Pooh but that didn’t even cross my mind.

Duane the polar bear is a curious fellow and likes a good adventure. He meets and makes friends with a wide range of characters when living in the far far north. Each of these new friends is kinda quirky with their individual traits that added much to this book.

Kelly Pousette is the illustrator and did a great job. With each chapter reading like a mini-story it’s a fun read even for this adult.

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

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Review & Giveaway: The Spirit of Grace (Sarah Bennett Mysteries #1) by Terry Lynn Thomas

Sarah Bennett doesn’t remember the night her mother tumbled down the stairs at Bennett House, despite allegedly witnessing the fatal fall.

There was talk of foul play, dark whispers, and sidelong glances, all aimed at Sarah, prompting her family to send her to The Laurels, an exclusive asylum in San Francisco, under a cloud of suspicion.

 Now, on the one-year anniversary of her mother’s murder, Sarah has been summoned home. Convinced of her innocence, she returns to Bennett House, hoping to put the broken pieces of her life back together.

But when another murder occurs shortly after her arrival, Sarah once again finds herself a suspect, as she is drawn into a web of suspicion and lies.

 In order to clear her name, Sarah must remember what happened the fateful night her mother died.

But as she works to regain her memory, the real murderer watches, ready to kill again to protect a dark family secret.

 Kindle Edition, 274 pages
 Published November 26th 2017
*** 1/2

The first book in the Sarah Bennett Mysteries Series is also my first experience with Terry Lynn Thomas.

The Spirit of Grace takes place during WW2 and while I didn’t exactly get that feeling it was an enjoyable read, which I still place as a historical mystery. It’s a book full of both flawed and mysterious characters, sprinkled with ghosty sightings and a touch of romance.

Was it predictable? Not to me, there was enough going on that kept me guessing. It’s a fast-paced book which for some reason just makes me read all the faster (also I needed to know what was going on) and concluded with a satisfactory ending.

This book is part of my 2019 reading off my shelf.


TERRY LYNN THOMAS grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, which explains her love of foggy beaches and Gothic mysteries. When her husband promised to buy Terry a horse and the time to write if she moved to Mississippi with him, she jumped at the chance. Although she had written several novels and screenplays prior to 2006, after she relocated to the South she set out to write in earnest and has never looked back.

 Terry Lynn writes the Sarah Bennett Mysteries, set on the California coast during the 1940s, which feature a misunderstood medium in love with a spy. The Drowned Woman is a recipient of the IndieBRAG Medallion. She also writes the Cat Carlisle Mysteries, set in Britain during World War II. The first book in this series, The Silent Woman, came out in April 2018 and has since become a USA TODAY bestseller. The Family Secret is slated for release in March 2019.

When she’s not writing, you can find Terry Lynn riding her horse, walking in the woods with her dogs, or visiting old cemeteries in search of story ideas.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away one eBook of each title in the Sarah Bennett Mysteries series!

To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
 Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on October 7th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
 Giveaway is open to the US only.
 Only one entry per household.
The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

Sarah Bennett

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Review: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

 Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unraveling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

 It was everything.

 She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.

Kindle,  384 pages
Published August 6th 2019
by Simon & Schuster

I will freely admit to getting caught up in the hype for this book. Simon & Schuster graciously provided me with an ARC and I jumped in. I've never read anything by Ruth Ware before.

The book pretty well starts on a high with some letter writing, but it seems to go on and on, I honestly was afraid that would be the format for the whole book. Not that I have anything against this format, when done correctly it can be great.  But here it didn't exactly work for me and  I know I am going against the consensus with my thoughts.

I have a habit of not reading the blurb or forgetting some of the details when I get around to reading something, in this case it might have backfired. The death of a child is a touchy subject for me and I might have shied away from this one. But I persevered and after 10% I couldn’t get into the writing style. I like first-person POV’s but feel sometimes that lends itself perfectly in audiobook format. So that’s what I did, I bailed and grabbed the audio from Scribd.

I’m glad I went that route just for the simple fact that once I was invested I needed to know what was going on.  The audio was perfect in that I could finish it off faster and know what happened to put myself out of my misery, so to speak.  So kudos to the author for evoking that feeling in me. I had to suspend my belief too many times and that might have left a bad taste.  I found this book to be rather creepy and actually disturbing.  There is so much build-up and the ending was, disappointing. Oh, I get cliff hangers and all that but I didn't get the closure I craved and honestly needed. It almost felt like the author either had a deadline or word count to adhere to and wham it's done!

 All in all, it was an ok read, I'll probably try another Ware book sometime in the future.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster (via Netgalley) for an ARC.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Audio Review: Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

From Jennifer Weiner, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Who Do You Love and In Her Shoes comes a smart, thoughtful, and timely exploration of two sisters’ lives from the 1950s to the present as they struggle to find their places—and be true to themselves—in a rapidly evolving world.

 Do we change or does the world change us?

 Jo and Bethie Kaufman were born into a world full of promise.

 Growing up in 1950s Detroit, they live in a perfect “Dick and Jane” house, where their roles in the family are clearly defined. Jo is the tomboy, the bookish rebel with a passion to make the world more fair; Bethie is the pretty, feminine good girl, a would-be star who enjoys the power her beauty confers and dreams of a traditional life.

 But the truth ends up looking different from what the girls imagined. Jo and Bethie survive traumas and tragedies. As their lives unfold against the background of free love and Vietnam, Woodstock and women’s lib, Bethie becomes an adventure-loving wild child who dives headlong into the counterculture and is up for anything (except settling down). Meanwhile, Jo becomes a proper young mother in Connecticut, a witness to the changing world instead of a participant. Neither woman inhabits the world she dreams of, nor has a life that feels authentic or brings her joy. Is it too late for the women to finally stake a claim on happily ever after?

 In her most ambitious novel yet, Jennifer Weiner tells a story of two sisters who, with their different dreams and different paths, offer answers to the question: How should a woman be in the world?

 Audiobook Published
16 hours, 45 minutes
June 11th, 2019
 by Simon Schuster Audio
*** 1/2

This is my first time reading anything by Jennifer Weiner, it’s another book where all the hype had me intrigued and honestly there is nothing like discovering new authors.

This was an audio read for me and I’m glad I went that route. The reader was Ari Graynor and Beth Malone, both of which did a great job.

I will admit to struggling at times with this book. I found parts slow with scenes I didn't feel added to the story but that being said the author placed me right in the ‘50 and ’60s, from the music, prejudices and women’s roles I’ll say she nailed it. I grew up, well sorta, in the ’60s and remember the music, tv shows and hippie clothing. It was great revisiting that, but to me it could have been shortened, my opinion only as I seem to be in the minority here.

“When your mom and I were your age, there weren't a lot of options for girls. Like, you know how your mother's always telling you that you can be anything you want to be when you grow up? That wasn't what we heard. Men could be doctors or lawyers. We were just supposed to marry them.” 

What I loved about this book was the message it reflected and how it spoke to me (and hopefully lots of other women).

“She loved [her daughters]. More than that, she admired them. They would be better than she was: stronger and smarter, more capable and less afraid, and if the world displeased them, they would change it, cracking it open, reshaping it, instead of bending themselves to its demands.”

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Review: The Secret Hours (Deverill Chronicles #4) by Santa Montefiore

‘Let the wind take me and the soft rain settle me into the Irish soil from where I came. And may my sins be forgiven.’

 Arethusa Clayton has always been formidable, used to getting her own way. On her death, she leaves unexpected instructions.

 Instead of being buried in America, on the wealthy East Coast where she and her late husband raised their two children, Arethusa has decreed that her ashes be scattered in a remote corner of Ireland, on the hills overlooking the sea.

 All Arethusa ever told Faye was that she grew up in a poor farming family and left Ireland, alone, to start a new life in America as did so many in those times of hardship and famine. But who were her family in Ireland and where are they now? What was the real reason that she turned away from them? And who is the mysterious benefactor of a significant share of Arethusa’s estate?

 Arethusa is gone. There is no one left to tell her story. Faye feels bereft as if her mother’s whole family has died with her. Leaving her own husband and children behind, she travels to the picturesque village of Ballinakelly, determined to fulfil her mother’s last wish and to find out the reason for Arethusa’s insistence on being laid to rest in this faraway land.

Hardcover, 487 pages 
Published July 11th, 2019 
by Simon and Schuster UK Fiction
*** 1/2

Ever since reading (or audiobooking) the Deverill Chronicles Santa Montefiore has been a go-to author for me.  Imagine my surprise when I starting reading this and old friends showed up - I didn't read the blurb but just dove in.  

Coming in at 487 pages it's a fair size (as are the previous 3 books)  I'll confess to struggling with the first 100 pages or so.  The book started great, some mystery and intrigue right away but it seemed flat and it was hard to stay invested. Some parts I found unnecessary but over time it picked up as the past was slowly revealed.  

Since its been a few years when I finished off book 3 I think a little family tree would have been a great addition, though the author did refresh past plotlines for me.  Faye was an interesting character whose life in the 1960s is summed up here reflecting the time.

"I wish I had had her capacity for pleasure.  But I've always been too concerned with making everyone else happy that I've missed out on my own fun.  I've never put myself first.  But it's not too late.  Here I am, alone in Ireland, with only myself to think about.  I'm going to be selfish for the first time in my life.  I'm going to do as I please.  I'm going to be more like Mom."

You don't have to read the previous books, The Secret Hours works well as a standalone, but I recommend going back it's a great series.

This book is part of my 2019 reading off my shelf challenge.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Review: Hour Glass: A Novel of Calamity Jane by Michelle Rene

Set in the lawless town of Deadwood, South Dakota, Hour Glass shares an intimate look at the woman behind the legend of Calamity Jane told through the eyes of twelve-year-old Jimmy Glass.

 After their pa falls deathly ill with smallpox, Jimmy and his sister, Hour, travel into Deadwood to seek help. While their pa is in quarantine, the two form unbreakable bonds with the surrogate family that emerges from the tragedy of loss.

 In a place where life is fragile and families are ripped apart by disease, death, and desperation, a surprising collection of Deadwood’s inhabitants surround Jimmy, Hour, and Jane. There, in the most unexpected of places, they find a family protecting them from the uncertainty and chaos that surrounds them all.

 Paperback, 302 pages
 Published February 20th, 2018
 by Amberjack Publishing
*** 1/2

A chapter of Calamity Jane’s life is showcased here and if anything it has piqued my desire to know more about her. Told from the POV of a 30-year-old Jimmy Glass as well as a 12-year-old. It was an interesting read, gritty at times but heartfelt. I could say this was a coming of age story but with the language, it wouldn't be appropriate for the middle age reader.

I would have loved some author notes just to know what was fictionalized, but I did receive an ARC, hopefully, the final copy contained them.

My thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for a e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Spotlight: Footnotes: A Journey Round Britain in the Company of Great Writers by Peter Fiennes

Expected publication: September 5th 2019
 by Oneworld Publications

In each walk, a scene. In each journey, a story. To tread any well-travelled path is to step upon layers of history and to add to them. What was seen by yesterday's rambler? Who were they? What was their Britain?

 Peter Fiennes follows in the footsteps of writers, spiritualists, economists, farmers, churchmen and artists, from the eleventh century to the twentieth. Traversing past and present, he searches for signs of what his absent guides once saw and, through their words, opens up a new way of seeing what is there today. Footnotes is full of wonders and wanders, old stories and fresh connections, worn roads and wild places. It is a mesmerising quest to picture these isles anew.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Review: Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the river Thames, an extraordinary event takes place. The regulars are telling stories to while away the dark hours, when the door bursts open on a grievously wounded stranger. In his arms is the lifeless body of a small child. Hours later, the girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can science provide an explanation? These questions have many answers, some of them quite dark indeed.

 Those who dwell on the river bank apply all their ingenuity to solving the puzzle of the girl who died and lived again, yet as the days pass the mystery only deepens. The child herself is mute and unable to answer the essential questions: Who is she? Where did she come from? And to whom does she belong? But answers proliferate nonetheless.

 Three families are keen to claim her. A wealthy young mother knows the girl is her kidnapped daughter, missing for two years. A farming family reeling from the discovery of their son’s secret liaison, stand ready to welcome their granddaughter. The parson’s housekeeper, humble and isolated, sees in the child the image of her younger sister. But the return of a lost child is not without complications and no matter how heartbreaking the past losses, no matter how precious the child herself, this girl cannot be everyone’s. Each family has mysteries of its own, and many secrets must be revealed before the girl’s identity can be known.

 Once Upon a River is a glorious tapestry of a book that combines folklore and science, magic and myth. Suspenseful, romantic, and richly atmospheric, the beginning of this novel will sweep you away on a powerful current of storytelling, transporting you through worlds both real and imagined, to the triumphant conclusion whose depths will continue to give up their treasures long after the last page is turned.

 Hardcover, 464 pages
Published December 4th, 2018
 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books

I vaguely remember reading Diane Setterfield’s previous book Bellman & Black and will confess to not being overly impressed with the plot but I found her writing captivating. Once I started reading this book I was engrossed with her writing once again. Once Upon a River begins with a scene that dragged this reader right in and as the chapters flowed with different characters I was just drawn in all the more.

Once Upon a River has a folklore feel with exquisite writing that at times I had to stop and reread, it was magically - I didn’t want it to end. The author placed me by the river, in the Swan, walking the streets giving me a real sense of the place.

Who is this young girl? How did she survive that night? With twists and turns, unique characters and storylines that fit together perfectly, reminding me of a jigsaw puzzle - everything clicked perfectly. It came to a conclusion that I did not anticipate.

Basically, the last paragraph of the synopsis sums up exactly what I want to say.  If you haven't read this yet don't wait 6 months like I did.  Definitely made my best of 2019 list.

My copy from personal library and part of my ‘2019 reading off my shelf’ challenge.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Review: Tidelands (The Fairmile #1) by Philippa Gregory


 England 1648. A dangerous time for a woman to be different . . .

 Midsummer’s Eve, 1648, and England is in the grip of civil war between renegade King and rebellious Parliament. The struggle reaches every corner of the kingdom, even to the remote Tidelands – the marshy landscape of the south coast.

 Alinor, a descendant of wise women, crushed by poverty and superstition, waits in the graveyard under the full moon for a ghost who will declare her free from her abusive husband. Instead, she meets James, a young man on the run, and shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marsh, not knowing that she is leading disaster into the heart of her life.

Suspected of possessing dark secrets in superstitious times, Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her out from her neighbors. This is the time of witch-mania, and Alinor, a woman without a husband, skilled with herbs, suddenly enriched, arouses envy in her rivals and fear among the villagers, who are ready to take lethal action into their own hands.

Paperback, 448 pages
 Published August 20th, 2019
 by Simon & Schuster

Philippa Gregory ‘s The Other Boleyn Girl is what made me fall in love with historical fiction. I continued reading parts of her Tudor Series and The White Queen series but over time her style changed and I missed the depth and writing style that kept me glued to the pages. With this new series coming I was a little nervous to start but seeing the 400 plus pages and in an era I am unfamiliar with I was ready to give her another go.

The first 30 pages of Tidelands gave me a vivid picture of the tidelands, the marsh, the paths, and tides. By the time I got through 120 pages, I seriously wondered what the point was, nothing was happening and I was ready to call it quits - I was bored, I couldn’t find the plot and honestly none of the characters spoke to me.

Simon & Schuster graciously provided me with an ARC and I wanted to review before publication date (which was 3 days ago). Given that it took me 2 weeks to plow through 120 pages I was in trouble. I had some driving to do and thought to grab the audiobook (via Scribd) and see if that would help. Whether it was a coincidence that the story actually picked up or the reader added that missing spark I finally was invested. With a day full of appointments I alternated between reading and listening and finished this book off lickety-split. It turned into an interesting story and being the first in series the ending was fitting, opening the door to the next chapter.

With the King Charles/Cromwell conflict England is changing.  Like i said before I don't know the history of this conflict and reading Tidelands has peaked my interest.  Being a woman on your own is hard enough but add suspicious neighbors, gossip run amok and a missing husband Alinor has her hands full. By the end i came to connect with Alinor and her kids, I’m anxious to read what happens next.

There were no author notes in my copy and I missed that. I would have loved to know if Sealsea is a real place as well as the characters.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for an ARC in exchange for honest review