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


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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).