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


Giveaway
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.