Saturday, April 27, 2019

Review: Wunderland by Jennifer Cody Epstein

An intimate portrait of a friendship severed by history, and a sweeping saga of wartime, motherhood, and legacy by an award-winning novelist 

 East Village, 1989

Things had never been easy between Ava Fisher and her estranged mother Ilse. Too many questions hovered between them: Who was Ava's father? Where had Ilse been during the war? Why had she left her only child in a German orphanage during the war's final months? But now Ilse's ashes have arrived from Germany, and with them, a trove of unsent letters addressed to someone else unknown to Ava: Renate Bauer, a childhood friend. As her mother's letters unfurl a dark past, Ava spirals deep into the shocking history of a woman she never truly knew.

 Berlin, 1933

As the Nazi party tightens its grip on the city, Ilse and Renate find their friendship under siege--and Ilse's increasing involvement in the Hitler Youth movement leaves them on opposing sides of the gathering storm. Then the Nuremburg Laws force Renate to confront a long-buried past, and a catastrophic betrayal is set in motion... An unflinching exploration of Nazi Germany and its legacy, Wunderland is an at once a powerful portrait of an unspeakable crime history and a page-turning contemplation of womanhood, wartime, and just how far we might go in order to belong.

Kindle, 384 pages
 Published April 23rd, 2019
 by Crown Publishing Group

Wunderland is a powerful story of relationships, whether between mother/daughter or girlfriends. The first chapter was captivating, the next few left me wondering - with big jumps in time, what was going on but after that, I was glued to my kindle...well sorta. Knowing I had some driving to do and with my need to continue reading I grabbed the audiobook (from Scribd) and listened to parts. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning I finished reading. This book got better the deeper I went.

While there are a number of books in the HF WW2 era I don’t recall too many books from the other side.  Beginning in 1933 Berlin things are changing and spiraling out of control for these 2 friends. The author vividly showcased the changes as Hilter started to take control, how the youth got caught up in the changing tide. The choices both Ilse and Renate make, have ramifications through the years.  Secrets don't always stay buried, it's through a series of letters delivered 50 years later that questions are answered.

Wunderland was a well written, well-researched story, heartbreaking in parts there were twists and turns to keep me on my toes. I'm still giving this book 5 stars for the captivating and unique storyline.  It's an emotional story and one that will stay with me for a long time.  Wunderland is a book I highly recommend.

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

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Review: The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

Someone once told me that you have two families in your life - the one you are born into and the one you choose. Yes, you may get to choose your partner, but you don't choose your mother-in-law. The cackling mercenaries of fate determine it all.

 From the moment Lucy met Diana, she was kept at arm's length. Diana is exquisitely polite, but Lucy knows, even after marrying Oliver, that they'll never have the closeness she'd been hoping for.

 But who could fault Diana? She was a pillar of the community, an advocate for social justice, the matriarch of a loving family. Lucy had wanted so much to please her new mother-in-law.

 That was ten years ago. Now, Diana has been found dead, leaving a suicide note. But the autopsy reveals evidence of suffocation. And everyone in the family is hiding something...

 From the bestselling author of The Family Next Door comes a new page-turner about that trickiest of relationships.

Kindle, 352 pages
Published April 23rd, 2019
by St. Martin's Press

The Mother-in-Law releases today and thanks to St. Martin's press I was given an advanced copy. I read this book over the space of a couple days and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Told in present day, the past and some snippets of the very past the author weaved a story about relationships. Beginning with the death of Diana the author went back to the beginning of the relationship between daughter-in-law and mother-in-law, Lucy and Diana. It was a weird relationship and seeing it from both points of view gives a clear picture of what happened. How different everything could be if we just walked in other people's shoes for a bit and knew their true stories.

This is a great read that kept me captivated and as the story unfolded I found myself enjoying a storyline that was unique, authentic and believable.

The Mother-in-Law is the story of relationships, it was not just between daughter in law and mother-in-law but also mother and daughter, husband and wife as well as siblings. It’s about discovering who you are, purpose and who you can count on.

The ending was perfect and well....yeah I guess I should stop there. Definitely a book and author I recommend.

This is Sally Hepworth’s 5th novel. Click on covers below to take you to my thoughts.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Review: The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

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.

Kindle, 389 pages
Published March 19th 2019
by Berkley

As much as I have been trying to steer away from books involving either of the World Wars I somehow end up there. Susan Meissner is a favorite of mine so it stands to reason I’d be grabbing her latest.

 One of the things I loved about this one is the educational part. Having heard of interment camps but never fully grasped how they function this was an eye opener for me. Deemed traitors of war these 2 families meet and friendship between the daughters is forged.

 Sometimes told in a matter of fact way I still found myself immersed in the story. The amount of research is evident and while some might find it lengthy I found it gave room to get to know Elise as well as feel the affects this war had on her and the family.

With a unique subject The Last Year of the War is a story of friendship, family and searching. Definitely a book and author I recommend.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Review: Before She Was Found: A Novel by Heather Gudenkauf

A gripping thriller about three young girlfriends, a dark obsession and a chilling crime that shakes up a quiet Iowa town, from the New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence.

 For twelve-year-old Cora Landry and her friends Violet and Jordyn, it was supposed to be an ordinary sleepover—movies and Ouija and talking about boys. But when they decide to sneak out to go to the abandoned rail yard on the outskirts of town, little do they know that their innocent games will have dangerous consequences.

Later that night, Cora Landry is discovered on the tracks, bloody and clinging to life, her friends nowhere to be found. Soon their small rural town is thrust into a maelstrom. Who would want to hurt a young girl like Cora—and why? In an investigation that leaves no stone unturned, everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted—not even those closest to Cora.

 Before She Was Found is a timely and gripping thriller about friendship and betrayal, about the power of social pressure and the price of needing to fit in. It is about the great lengths a parent will go to protect their child and keep them safe—even if that means burying the truth, no matter the cost.

Kindle, 336 pages
Published April 16th, 2019
by Park Row

Right from the beginning, I was captivated with this story. The opening pulled at my heartstrings and then I spent my time dawning my sleuth hat trying to unravel this mystery.

There are many layers and different methods as to how this story plays out. Whether it’s a mother or grandfather's voice, pages from Cora's journal along with texting and chat rooms, I was not overwhelmed or distracted reading this book. The story flowed smoothly. It also helped that I really wanted to find out what was going on and found myself lost in the pages.

Before She Was Found is a story of friendship, trust, the need to fit in and how far will a parent go to protect their children. At times it had a YA feel to it, given the ages of the main players that makes perfect sense.

I have been a fan of Heather Gudenkauf's forever, her book Little Mercies (the audio is amazing!) is one of my favorites.

 My thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for an advanced digital copy of this book.

Review: The Strangers (The Greystone Secrets #1) by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Told in alternating points of view from Chess, Emma, and Finn Greystone, Greystone Secrets #1: The Strangers is the beginning of a new page-turning adventure that examines assumptions about identity, family, and home, from the master of middle-grade

What makes you you?

 The Greystone kids thought they knew. Chess has always been the protector over his younger siblings, Emma loves math, and Finn does what Finn does best—acting silly and being adored. They’ve been a happy family, just the three of them and their mom.

But everything changes when reports of three kidnapped children—who share the same first and middle names, ages, and exact birth dates as the Greystone kids—reach the Greystone family. This bizarre coincidence makes them wonder: Who exactly are these strangers? Before Chess, Emma, and Finn can question their mom about it, she takes off on a mysterious work trip. But puzzling clues left behind lead to complex codes, hidden rooms, and a dangerous secret that will turn their world upside down.

Hardcover, 416 pages
Published April 2nd 2019
by Katherine Tegen Books
*** 1/2

The Greystone Secrets is a new series by author Margaret Peterson Haddix geared towards the middle grade age.

It’s not a little book, coming at 416 pages (for the hardcover edition). Imagine one day waking up to these crazy coincidences regarding the kidnapping of 3 siblings with the same names, birthdays and even looking like you. Then everything in your life is turned upside down. That’s what happens to Chess, Emma and Finn.

Told from the pov’s of these siblings, they dig for clues as they try to understand what is happening. While at times it tagged a little towards the end this was still a fun story, unique premise setting the ground work for future books in this series.

I'm lovin' the cover, which is what drew me to this book.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Review: The Binding by Bridget Collins

Imagine you could erase grief.
Imagine you could remove pain.
Imagine you could hide the darkest, most horrifying secret.

Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder—a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice among their small community but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one, they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored.

But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends—and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.

 Hardcover, 448 pages
Published January 10th, 2019
by The Borough Press

This was such an interesting story, the plot was unique and original. Imagine being able to erase those horrible memories and not feel the pain anymore. But that brings up the question - which is worse? To feel nothing or to grieve for something you no longer remember.

And while I found this book got off to a slow start I soon became so enamored with the direction this story took.  Divided into 3 parts with different pov's brought this story full circle, the writing was vivid setting me there, feeling the cold, silence and emotions.
“The house was so quiet it was as if the walls were holding their breath. Every few hours, during that day and the days that followed, I had to go outside and listen to the dry wind in the reeds, just to make sure I hadn’t gone deaf.”
It's not that often (at least in books I've read) that there is a male protagonist and I enjoyed that aspect here.  Even the fact that I really didn't like Emmett that much, or his friend, I couldn't turn my back on them.

I was drawn to this book by that yummy cover, it's even better in person.  Bridget Collins is a new author to me, I will be checking out her other books. 

My copy was from my personal library - yea it has to grace my shelves.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Anna of Kleve: The Princess in the Portrait (Six Tudor Queens #4) by Alison Weir

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

Hardcover, 288 pages
 Expected publication: May 14th 2019
 by Ballantine Books

 Bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir tells the little-known story of Henry VIII’s fourth wife, as a grieving king chooses a bride sight unseen in the fourth novel in the epic and intrigue-filled Six Tudor Queens series.

Newly widowed and the father of an infant son, Henry VIII realizes he must marry again to insure the royal succession. Now forty-six, overweight and unwell, Henry is soundly rejected by some of Europe’s most eligible princesses, but Anna of Kleve—a small German duchy—is twenty-four and eager to wed. Henry requests Anna’s portrait from his court painter, who enhances her looks, painting her straight-on in order not to emphasize her rather long nose. Henry is entranced by the lovely image, only to be bitterly surprised when Anna arrives in England and he sees her in the flesh. She is pleasant looking, just not the lady that Henry had expected.

What follows is a fascinating story of this awkward royal union that had to somehow be terminated tactfully. Alison Weir takes a fresh and surprising look at this remarkable royal marriage by describing it from the point of view of Queen Anna, a young woman with hopes and dreams of her own, alone in a royal court that rejected her from the day she arrived.

What are you waiting for?