Sunday, June 30, 2019

Review: Home for Erring and Outcast Girls by Julie Kibler

An emotionally raw and resonant story of love, loss, and the enduring power of friendship, following the lives of two young women connected by a home for “fallen girls,” and inspired by historical events.

 In turn-of-the-20th century Texas, the Berachah Home for the Redemption and Protection of Erring Girls is an unprecedented beacon of hope for young women consigned to the dangerous poverty of the streets by birth, circumstance, or personal tragedy. Built in 1903 on the dusty outskirts of Arlington, a remote dot between Dallas and Fort Worth’s red-light districts, the progressive home bucks public opinion by offering faith, training, and rehabilitation to prostitutes, addicts, unwed mothers, and “ruined” girls without forcibly separating mothers from children. When Lizzie Bates and Mattie McBride meet there—one sick and abused, but desperately clinging to her young daughter, the other jilted by the beau who fathered her ailing son—they form a friendship that will see them through unbearable loss, heartbreak, difficult choices, and ultimately, diverging paths.

A century later, Cate Sutton, a reclusive university librarian, uncovers the hidden histories of the two troubled women as she stumbles upon the cemetery on the home’s former grounds and begins to comb through its archives in her library. Pulled by an indescribable connection, what Cate discovers about their stories leads her to confront her own heartbreaking past, and to reclaim the life she thought she'd let go forever. With great pathos and powerful emotional resonance, Home for Erring and Outcast Girls explores the dark roads that lead us to ruin, and the paths we take to return to ourselves.

 Kindle Edition, 368 pages
 Expected publication: July 30th, 2019
 by Crown

I was drawn to this book by its cover and a synopsis that sounded intriguing.  Stories around real historical events are a favorite of mine and this one appears to have a unique twist.  Rather than having unwed mothers separated from their newborn they were offered a place to recover, build a new life that included their infant. Usually, babies were separated, adopted out and moms told to forget about them. This home changed that and I was curious to read about it.

Told in dual time periods, it's 1904 when Lizzie and Mattie are introduced and tell of how they ended up at Berachah Home.  Their friendship takes off as they get closer and go through a lot together.

Current day we have Cate and I was really interested in her story.  Her fascination with the Berachah Home and her mysterious past kept me reading.

The first half of the story had me intrigued but after that, it kinda flattened out, not for lack of plot but maybe because the characters just didn't talk to me anymore or a plot while still interesting but not enough to keep me glued to the pages.  It doesn't usually take me 2 weeks to finish a book but I didn't have that burning desire to know the outcome.

I did love the author's descriptions, the amount of research is evident as she vividly portrayed the times at the turn of the century, the poverty, struggles, and hardships that women went through. I know I am going against the flow here, it started out as 4 star read but even though I am giving it 3 stars still means I liked it.  I have heard good this about Julie Kibler's previous book Calling Me Home and will read it at some point.

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

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Review: The Last Resort by Marissa Stapley

“Marissa Stapley’s writing is a gift.”—Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan’s Tale

 The Harmony Resort promises hope for struggling marriages. Run by celebrity power couple Drs. Miles and Grace Markell, the "last resort" offers a chance for partners to repair their relationships in a luxurious setting on the gorgeous Mayan Riviera.

 Johanna and Ben have a marriage that looks perfect on the surface, but in reality, they don’t know each other at all. Shell and Colin fight constantly: after all, Colin is a workaholic, and Shell always comes second to his job as an executive at a powerful mining company. But what has really torn them apart is too devastating to talk about. When both couples begin Harmony's intensive therapy program, it becomes clear that Harmony is not all it seems—and neither are Miles and Grace themselves. What are they hiding, and what price will these couples pay for finding out?

 As a deadly tropical storm descends on the coast, trapping the hosts and the guests on the resort, secrets are revealed, loyalties are tested and not one single person—or their marriage—will remain unchanged by what follows.

 Marissa Stapley is a journalist and the author of the acclaimed novel Things to Do When It's Raining. She writes page-turning, deeply emotional fiction about families, friends and women's lives. Visit her at or follow her on Twitter, @marissastapley.

 Paperback, 368 pages
Published June 18th, 2019
by Graydon House

Marissa Stapley is a new-to-me author, but one I have heard about through social media. When the opportunity presented itself to attend an author event (thank you TheBakingBookworm) I took that as a sign to grab this her latest book.

With the setting in the Mayan Riviera how can one not help but be captivated?  I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, there were a couple different format methods the author used - different POV’s, news stories and an interview with unknown people weaved throughout, this is where the reader has to trust that the author knew what she was doing. She did and it all worked out nicely and I even found myself looking forward to the changes. As the guests make their appearance the author didn’t waste time but dove right in with their characterization,  and the story just took off.

The Last Resort is as much a mystery as it is suspenseful, it’s a story of secrets, relationships, and trust - not just of others but yourself also. With the twists and turns I was entertained and thankful to discover another author and more books to add to my TBR pile.

This book was from my personal library and part of my ‘2019 reading off my shelf’ challenge.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Review: The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati

The year is 1883, and in New York City, it’s a time of dizzying splendor, crushing poverty, and tremendous change. With the gravity-defying Brooklyn Bridge nearly complete and New York in the grips of anti-vice crusader Anthony Comstock, Anna Savard and her cousin Sophie—both graduates of the Woman’s Medical School—treat the city’s most vulnerable, even if doing so may put everything they’ve strived for in jeopardy.

 Anna's work has placed her in the path of four children who have lost everything, just as she herself once had. Faced with their helplessness, Anna must make an unexpected choice between holding on to the pain of her past and letting love into her life.

 For Sophie, an obstetrician and the orphaned daughter of free people of color, helping a desperate young mother forces her to grapple with the oath she took as a doctor—and thrusts her and Anna into the orbit of Anthony Comstock, a dangerous man who considers himself the enemy of everything indecent and of anyone who dares to defy him.

  Hardcover, 741 pages
 Published September 1st 2015
 by Berkley
**** 1/2

Sara Donati wrote the Into The Wilderness Series and I loved it! Six big books to get lost in, that follow the lives of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Bonner. The Gilded Hour is a stand-alone but it continues many, many, many years later with descendants of the Bonner's.

One of first things I love is the blurb, there is no hint possibility of spoilers but just enough to whete the senses.

Originally I had planned on going the audio route but read it instead. I'm glad for that decision, not just for the number of characters but the many layers to this story. Sara Donati is a wonderful storyteller, her words put me right in New York City in the year 1883. Anthony Comstock is a real historical figure (as are a few others) and one unknown to me and I love reading about the past, learning the history and being served a great story.  As I said many layers here and without revealing too much The Gilded Hour is a story of mystery, suspense, perseverance, heartache and love.  It’s about relationships and a city that can’t take care of their own and those that step in to help.

The character development was spot on, getting to know not just Anna but other key players - seeing what made them tick and the unique personalities. A woman doctor was a rare thing and not easily accepted by some. Times are changing but not quickly enough for some and too quickly for others.

I had been hesitant to pick this up because of its size - 730 pages, but they flew by. With the sequel, Where the Light Enters, set to release September 10th, 2019 I knew it was time.  This book ended with some unresolved issues making a sequel necessary and I am truly grateful my wait won’t be as long as those that read this at its release.

Sara Donati is an author I highly recommend, especially to those that love an epic-sized series that takes the reader to different places.

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

Monday, June 24, 2019

Audio Review: The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

The author of The Girl Who Came Home turns the clock back one hundred years to a time when two young girls from Cottingley, Yorkshire, convinced the world that they had done the impossible and photographed fairies in their garden. Now, in her newest novel, international bestseller Hazel Gaynor reimagines their story.

 1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.

 One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?

Audio 10 hours, 9 minutes
Paperback, 383 pages
Published August 1st, 2017
by William Morrow
*** 1/2

I thought that Hazel Gaynor was a relatively new author for me, but in going back I see there are 3 of her books I have already read - see below for covers with links.  The Cottingley Secret piqued my interest not just for the stunning cover but the interesting plot. It's one of the treads in her books that I enjoy, those unknown pieces of history that make for unique stories.

Told in dual time periods the author takes us back to 1917 in a little place called Cottingley during World War 1. Drawing on real historical events and the story of 2 young girls and fairies, was it real or a hoax? Even the famous Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got involved (though only with cameos throughout).

I loved the quaint little villages, the easy way of life but with these smaller places everyone knows everyone and their story.

The current story is a journey for Olivia as she comes to grip with her future while discovering a past she knew nothing about. I enjoyed taking this journey with her as she came into her own.

The Cottingley Secret is a story of self-discovery, of secrets and friendship, it isn't filled with insta- love which I really appreciated.

Though I went with the audiobook I followed along with my print copy and is part of my 2019 reading off my shelf challenge:

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Audio Review: The Traitor's Wife by Allison Pataki

A riveting historical novel about Peggy Shippen Arnold, the cunning wife of Benedict Arnold and mastermind behind America’s most infamous act of treason . . .

 Everyone knows Benedict Arnold—the Revolutionary War general who betrayed America and fled to the British—as history’s most notorious turncoat. Many know Arnold’s co-conspirator, Major John André, who was apprehended with Arnold’s documents in his boots and hanged at the orders of General George Washington. But few know of the integral third character in the plot: a charming young woman who not only contributed to the betrayal but orchestrated it.

Socialite Peggy Shippen is half Benedict Arnold’s age when she seduces the war hero during his stint as military commander of Philadelphia. Blinded by his young bride’s beauty and wit, Arnold does not realize that she harbors a secret: loyalty to the British. Nor does he know that she hides a past romance with the handsome British spy John André. Peggy watches as her husband, crippled from battle wounds and in debt from years of service to the colonies, grows ever more disillusioned with his hero, Washington, and the American cause. Together with her former love and her disaffected husband, Peggy hatches the plot to deliver West Point to the British and, in exchange, win fame and fortune for herself and Arnold.

 Told from the perspective of Peggy’s maid, whose faith in the new nation inspires her to intervene in her mistress’s affairs even when it could cost her everything, The Traitor’s Wife brings these infamous figures to life, illuminating the sordid details and the love triangle that nearly destroyed the American fight for freedom.

  Audiobook, 16 hours, 11 minutes
Paperback, 482 pages
Published April 29th, 2014
by Simon Schuster Audio
(first published January 1st, 2014)

I have had this book on my TBR pile since it was released back in 2014. Not knowing anything about Benedict Arnold I wanted to know his past and what he did to earn him the traitor title.

I have read the author’s subsequent books, The Accidentally Empress and Sisi both of which I enjoyed as well and her nonfiction Beauty in the Broken Places,  as she talks candidly about her husband's stroke and the next year of their lives.

It’s 1778 when The Traitor’s Wife begins with a smattering of 1780 thrown in, told from the POV of Peggy Shippen’s maid/servant. If the author’s intent was to portray Peggy as a spoiled, self indulgent immature girl (she was only 18 years old) then she did that spot on. I didn’t like her at all, her obsession with herself got on my nerves, as did the endless clothing discussions. The first 100 plus pages were devoted to 2 balls, making me glad I went the audio route - it might have been a dnf at that point. I know I am going against the flow with my feeling here but wouldn’t life be boring if we all shared the same thoughts.

While I did learn from this book, intrigued in the historical aspects and how it played out I felt it could have been a little shorter.

 click on cover to see my review

Friday, June 21, 2019

Spotlight/Giveaway: Lacewood by Jessica James

Lacewood by Jessica James

Publication Date: June 18, 2019
Patriot Press
eBook; 348 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Sometimes love is just too powerful for one lifetime…

Part love story, part ghost story, Lacewood is a timeless novel about trusting in fate, letting go of the past, and believing in things that can’t be seen.

 MOVING TO A SMALL TOWN in Virginia is a big change for New York socialite Katie McCain. But when she stumbles across an abandoned 200-year-old mansion, she’s enthralled by the enduring beauty of the neglected estate—and captivated by the haunting portrait of a woman in mourning.

 Purchasing the property on a whim, Katie attempts to fit in with the colorful characters in the town of New Hope, while trying to unravel the mystery of the “widow of Lacewood.” As she pieces together the previous owner’s heartrending story, Katie uncovers secrets the house has held for centuries, and discovers the key to coming to terms with her own sense of loss.

 The past and present converge when hometown hero Will Durham returns and begins his own healing process by helping the “city girl” restore the place that holds so many memories. As the mystic web of destiny is woven, a love story that might have been lost forever is exposed, and a destiny that has been waiting in the shadows for centuries is fulfilled.

 Rich in emotion and poignant in its telling, Lacewood is an unforgettable story about love and loss, roots and belonging…and spirits of the past that refuse to be quieted.

A haunting story from award-winning author Jessica James that connects the past with the present—and the present with eternity.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

About the Author

Jessica James is an award-winning author of suspense, historical fiction, and military fiction ranging from the Revolutionary War to modern day. Her highly acclaimed Civil War novel Shades of Gray won numerous national literary awards, and is often compared to Gone with the Wind. By weaving the principles of courage, devotion, duty, and dedication into each book, James attempts to honor the unsung heroes of the American military--past and present--and to convey the magnitude of their sacrifice and service. Her novels appeal to both men and women and are featured in library collections all over the United States including Harvard and the U.S. Naval Academy. James resides in Gettysburg, Pa., and is a member of the Military Writers Society of America, NINC, Sisters in Crime, and the Romance Writers of America. She is a two-time winner of the John Esten Cooke Award for Southern Fiction, and was featured in the book 50 Authors You Should Be Reading, published in 2010.

 Sign up for her free newsletter at and ask for a free copy of From the Heart: Civil War Love Letters and Stories.

You can also find Jessica on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, please use the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on June 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to 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 a new winner is chosen.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Spotlight/Giveaway: Of Knights and Dogfights: A WWII Novel by Ellie Midwood

Of Knights and Dogfights: A WWII Novel by Ellie Midwood

Publication Date: January 4, 2019
eBook & Paperback; 426 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

“Has it ever occurred to you, Johann; the fact that we’re fighting on the wrong side?”

 Austria, 1938

 On the verge of the most devastating war of all times, four young men found themselves sharing a room in a flying school dormitory. A bohemian Berliner, a Flieger-Hitlerjugend member, a prodigy pilot, and a butcher’s son, with nothing in common but their love for the Luftwaffe and the freedom the sky has to offer. The bond they develop is put to the test by what might be a stronger adversary - war itself.

Over the English Channel, in the dusty skies of Africa, on the brutal Eastern front, they will discover where their loyalty lies, and what true bravery means. “It’s Großdeutsches Reich, soldier. When one has a family at home, it doesn’t leave him many chances for the revolt.”

 As the war progresses, Willi and Johann grow more and more disillusioned with the regime they’re protecting with their lives. An SS unit appearing on their base to claim one of their own; bits of conversation revealing the truth about the extermination program accidentally overheard during the official reception - the pieces of the puzzle are slowly coming together, but it’s too late to do anything but fight to the bitter end, whatever it may bring.

 Set during one of the bloodiest wars in history, “Of Knights and Dogfights” is the story of the shattered illusions of youth, tyranny and freedom, friendship and love guiding one out of the darkest hell of Soviet captivity.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble

About the Author

Ellie Midwood is a best-selling, award-winning historical fiction writer. She's a health-obsessed yoga enthusiast, a neat freak, an adventurer, Nazi Germany history expert, polyglot, philosopher, a proud Jew and a doggie mama. Ellie lives in New York with her fiancé and their Chihuahua named Shark Bait. Readers' Favorite - winner in the Historical Fiction category (2016) - "The Girl from Berlin: Standartenfuhrer's Wife" Readers' Favorite - winner in the Historical Fiction category (2016) - "The Austrian" (honorable mention) New Apple - 2016 Award for Excellence in Independent Publishing - "The Austrian" (official selection)

 For more information on Ellie and her novels, please visit her website.

You can also find her on Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads.


We have one paperback copy of Of Knights and Dogfights up for grabs! To enter, please use the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on June 21st. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to 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 a new winner is chosen.

  Of Knights and Dogfights

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Review: Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle

From the bestselling author of The Marriage Lie and Three Days Missing comes a riveting new novel of suspense about a woman who, in a fight for survival, must decide just how far she'll go to escape the person she once loved

 Beth Murphy is on the run...

 For nearly a year, Beth has been planning for this day. A day some people might call any other Wednesday, but Beth prefers to see it as her new beginning--one with a new look, new name and new city. Beth has given her plan significant thought because one small slip and her violent husband will find her.

 Sabine Hardison is missing...

 A couple hundred miles away, Jeffrey returns home from a work trip to find his wife, Sabine, is missing. Wherever she is, she's taken almost nothing with her. Her abandoned car is the only evidence the police have, and all signs point to foul play.

 As the police search for leads, the case becomes more and more convoluted. Sabine's carefully laid plans for her future indicate trouble at home and a husband who would be better off with her gone. The detective on the case will stop at nothing to find out what happened and bring this missing woman home. Where is Sabine? And who is Beth? The only thing that's certain is that someone is lying and the truth won't stay buried for long.

Kindle, 384 pages
 Expected publication: June 25th, 2019
 by Park Row
**** 1/2

Dear Wife releases June 25th and is a wonderful mix of mystery, suspense, and intrigue. With one woman, Beth, on the run and another, Sabine, missing there is plenty that kept me on my toes.

The characters are flawed, believable and even unlikeable - this is a story of dysfunction and abuse, of relationships, secrets and fresh starts. I read this one in a matter of days and again Kimberly Belle did not disappoint, she kept me glued right till the last page.

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

Spotlight: The Impaler's Wife by Autumn Bardot

The Impaler's Wife by Autumn Bardot

Publication Date: April 2, 2019
Flores Publishing
eBook; 452 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance

Legend, history, and passion collide in this gritty, evocative, and sensual story about history's most notorious price and the woman who paid love's ultimate price.

 The year is 1464, and young King Matthias controls Hungary, his family, and the fate of the world’s most notorious political prisoner, Prince Vlad Dracula.

 Ilona Szilágy, the king’s cousin, is young and ambitious. Dracula is determined to marry into the Hunyadi family. It is love at first sight…but the king has other plans. The Impaler Prince, however, never takes no for an answer.

 This begins Ilona’s journey into the treacherous world of court intrigues, family betrayals, and her husband’s dark desires. Eager to become Vlad’s trusted confidant, Ilona soon discovers that marriage to a man tortured by his past comes with a price.

 Woven throughout is a peek into the life and times of one of the world’s most enigmatic and maligned rulers…the man before the legend.

 With Bardot’s decadent period detail and a cast of gritty evocative characters, The Impaler’s Wife offers a fierce yet sensuous glimpse into the violent 15th century.

Available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

About the Author

Autumn Bardot writes historical fiction and erotica about sassy women and daring passions! Her erotic fiction includes Legends of Lust, Erotic Myths from around the World, published by Cleis Press. Confessions of a Sheba Queen (erotica) will be available Jan 2020. The Impaler's Wife is her debut historical fiction, releasing in April 2019. Autumn has a BA in English literature and a MaEd in curriculum and instruction. She’s been teaching literary analysis for fourteen years When Autumn’s not writing or working, you'll find her hanging out with her ever-growing family, spoiled husband, and pampered rescue pooch. Her favorite things include salty French fries, coffee, swimming, and a great book.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest


During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away one paperback copy of the Impaler's Wife! To enter, please use the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on July 5th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to 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 a new winner is chosen. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Cover Reveal: The Work of Art by Mimi Matthews

The Work of Art by Mimi Matthews

Publication Date: July 23, 2019
Perfectly Proper Press
Genre: Historical Romance

An Uncommon Beauty…

Hidden away in rural Devonshire, Phyllida Satterthwaite has always been considered more odd than beautiful. But in London, her oddity has made her a sensation. Far worse, it’s caught the eye of the sinister Duke of Moreland—a notorious art collector obsessed with acquiring one-of-a-kind treasures. To escape the Duke's clutches, she’s going to need a little help.

  An Unlikely Hero…

Captain Arthur Heywood’s days of heroism are long past. Grievously injured in the Peninsular War, he can no longer walk unaided, let alone shoot a pistol. What use can he possibly be to a damsel in distress? He has nothing left to offer except his good name.

 Can a marriage of convenience save Philly from the vengeful duke? Or will life with Arthur put her—and her heart—in more danger than ever?

Available for Pre-Order: 

Amazon | Apple | Barnes and Noble | Kobo

About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews (A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty, The Matrimonial Advertisement) writes both historical non-fiction and traditional historical romances set in Victorian England. Her articles on nineteenth century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and two Siamese cats.

 For more information, please visit Mimi Matthews’ website and blog.

You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitterBookBubPinterestGoogle+, and Goodreads.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Review: Explorers: Amazing Tales of the World's Greatest Adventures by Nellie Huang

From the first people to leave Africa to the first to leave the planet, the urge to explore the unknown has driven human progress.

DK's Explorers tells the story of humanity's explorations, taking the reader into the lives of some of the most intrepid people ever known. Focusing on 50 of the world's greatest explorers, with shorter entries on 60 of their helpers and companions, the book is filled with first-person accounts in the explorers' own words, rare maps, specially commissioned photographs, and artworks re-create history's greatest expeditions. From trade and the search for lands to colonize, to scientific curiosity and missionary zeal, Explorers introduces history's most famous trail blazers-people whose courage opened frontiers, turned voids into maps, forged nations, connected cultures, and added to humankind's knowledge of the world by leaps and bounds.

Kindle, 144 pages
Expected publication: September 3rd, 2019
by DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley)

"Curiosity and thirst for knowledge motivated some early explorers”

For a book coming in at only 144 pages, it packs a lot of punch.  Divided into 3 sections, by sea, land, and air with colorful pictures, maps and illustrations its the perfect introduction to exploration.

Each explorer is given 2 pages with a little bio and their achievements along with maps outlining routes plus extras like - tools, the dark side of exploration and even pictures of boats that show the various parts and functions along with storage and living quarters. Giving the reader a sense of living conditions.

There are famous explorers - James Cook, Lief Erickson, Marco Polo and Lewis & Clark and the not so famous - Zheng He and many more.

This book doesn't just go back in time to the discovery of new lands but talks about contemporary explorers - Jacques Cousteau, Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh and even the Journey to the Moon, some that have passed and others still exploring this vast world.

This is a great book for the curious, adventurous and those wanting to know more about this great planet.  Geared towards the Middle-Grade age, this adult found it very interesting and feels it would best be read in print form.

 My thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for an advanced digital copy - best viewed using the Kindle app to enjoy the illustrations. 

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Review: Ollie Oxley and the Ghost: The Search for Lost Gold by Lisa Schmid

Twelve-year-old Ollie Oxley is moving — again. His mom is starting another new job, this time at the Bingham Theater in Granite City, California. Moving all the time means Ollie has struggled in the making friends department, but he quickly connects with a boy named Teddy. To Ollie's surprise, though, his first friend in town is a little more... unique than those he's made in the past. Teddy is a ghost.

 Befriending someone who lived during the famous California Gold Rush sure does make things interesting for Ollie. But when the school bully, Aubrey, targets Ollie, and it looks like the Bingham Theater might close, the stakes couldn't be higher. Can Teddy and Ollie work together to take down Aubrey, save his mom's job, and solve a mystery years in the making?

Kindle, 184 pages
 Expected publication: June 18th, 2019
by North Star Editions/Jolly Fish Press

Ollie Oxley and the Ghost was a fun read, the target audience is middle grade but I enjoyed myself. This is some humor while dealing with serious subjects such as loneliness, bullying and that search for belonging and purpose, especially when your past is filled with moving from one place to another. Never really settling down and making true friends.

Ollie is a likable character and one that I couldn’t help rooting for. The story isn’t always from his viewpoint, which roundabout the story nicely. The story while enjoyable was somewhat predictable, but it was well written, creative and one I think will appeal to the younger readers.

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

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Audio Review: Lighthouse Bay by Kimberley Freeman

From the author of Wildflower Hill, this breathtaking novel travels more than a century between two love stories set in the Australian seaside town of Lighthouse Bay.

 In 1901, a ship sinks off the coast of Queensland, Australia. The only survivor is Isabella Winterbourne, who clutches a priceless gift meant for the Australian Parliament. This gift could be her ticket to a new life, free from the bonds of her husband and his overbearing family. But whom can she trust in Lighthouse Bay?

 Fast-forward to 2011: after losing her lover, Libby Slater leaves her life in Paris to return to her hometown of Lighthouse Bay, hoping to gain some perspective and grieve her recent loss. Libby also attempts to reconcile with her sister, Juliet, to whom she hasn’t spoken in twenty years. Libby did something so unforgivable, Juliet is unsure if she can ever trust her sister again.

 In these two adventurous love stories, both Isabella and Libby must learn that letting go of the past is the only way to move into the future. The answers they seek lie in Lighthouse Bay.

Audible Audio - Length: 16 hrs and 15 mins
Published January 1st 2017
by Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd (first published 2012)

Lighthouse Bay was original published in 2012 and follows two storylines set over 100 years apart. Dual time periods are a trademark of Kimberley Freeman that I love, usually, with a common factor she weaves together interesting tales of secrets, mysteries, and intrigue.

Lighthouse Bay has all the aspects that make a great read, an abandoned lighthouse, old photos, diaries with missing pages that adds to the mysterious factor.  Libby and Isabella have much in common, each having to navigate through changes and confront the past before they can move into the future.  Through different circumstances, Lighthouse Bay is a story of searching, relationships and discovering oneself.

Kimberley Freeman is a go-to for me (yes I have a lot of go-to authors). Though I have the print copy I did go the audio route here. The print copy had a number of pages of interview type questions which gave insight to motivation and writing process. While it isn’t one of my favorite Freeman books it is one I recommend.

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

click on cover to see my thoughts

Monday, June 3, 2019

Audio Review: The Beast's Garden by Kate Forsyth

A retelling of The Beauty and The Beast set in Nazi Germany 

 The Grimm Brothers published a beautiful version of the Beauty & the Beast tale called ‘The Singing, Springing Lark' in 1819. It combines the well-known story of a daughter who marries a beast in order to save her father with another key fairy tale motif, the search for the lost bridegroom. In ‘The Singing, Springing Lark,' the daughter grows to love her beast but unwittingly betrays him and he is turned into a dove. She follows the trail of blood and white feathers he leaves behind him for seven years, and, when she loses the trail, seeks help from the sun, the moon, and the four winds. Eventually, she battles an evil enchantress and saves her husband, breaking the enchantment and turning him back into a man.

 Kate Forsyth retells this German fairy tale as a historical novel set in Germany during the Nazi regime. A young woman marries a Nazi officer in order to save her father, but hates and fears her new husband. Gradually she comes to realize that he is a good man at heart, and part of an underground resistance movement in Berlin called the Red Orchestra. However, her realization comes too late. She has unwittingly betrayed him and must find some way to rescue him and smuggle him out of the country before he is killed.

 The Red Orchestra was a real-life organization in Berlin, made up of artists, writers, diplomats, and journalists, who passed on intelligence to the American embassy, distributed leaflets encouraging opposition to Hitler, and helped people in danger from the Nazis to escape the country. They were betrayed in 1942, and many of their numbers were executed.

 The Beast's Garden is a compelling and beautiful love story, filled with drama and intrigue and heartbreak, taking place between 1938 and 1943, in Berlin, Germany.

 Paperback, 512 pages
Audio, 16 hours, 21 minutes
 Published August 3rd, 2015
 by Random House Australia

 Kate Forsyth is one of my go to’s for fairy tale retellings based on historical events. This is also my second in as many months taking place inside Germany during the war.

 Beginning as Stormtroopers terrorized Germany on a night known as Night of Broken Glass (1938), life for the Jewish community changed forever.  Hilter's word cannot be trusted as treaties/promises are broken and turns against Germans he deems unfit. All told from inside the borders and through the eyes of a young woman struggling to make sense of the changes taking place. Especially when a Jewish family is like her own.

 This is my 3rd Forsyth book and again I was not disappointed, I went the audio route. Jennifer Vutetic is the reader - always a pleasure listening to her. Playing out with vivid detail and getting a real sense of what life was like for those in Germany during those terrible years Kate Forsyth has done her homework, drawing on real historical events and characters.  Vividly describing the horror and feeling the fear kept me attached to this audio.  While I didn't always feel the emotional connection between some of the players that did not take away from my enjoyment (though that does seem weird to say considering the subject matter).  But on the other hand, there were those at the mercy of the Nazis that just did what they could to survive - it was a horrible time, to say the least.

This is definitely a book I recommend, especially lovers of WW2 HF, also an author who brings stories to life.

click on covers to see what I thought of these two beauties