Sunday, December 29, 2019

Preview of 2020

It looks like a bumper crop in the literary world for 2020.  Here is a sampling of 20 of my most anticipated books. Do you see any familiar?  Did I miss some?  What books are you looking forward to reading?

---clicking on the cover will take you right over to Goodreads where you can add to your TBR pile--


Saturday, December 28, 2019

Audio Review: Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast (Folktales) by Robin McKinley

A strange imprisonment...

Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.

When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, "Cannot a Beast be tamed?"

Robin McKinley's beloved telling illuminates the unusual love story of a most unlikely couple, Beauty and the Beast.

Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 30th 1993
by HarperCollins (first published October 25th 1978)
*** 1/2

As much as I love fairy tale retellings I really don't read a lot of them.  I've heard plenty of good things about this book, so on a whim I grabbed the audiobook (via Scribd) and dove in for the 7 plus hours of being mesmerized. 

There is a lot of background story before I met the Beast and his enchanted castle, for some that might be distracting, but I enjoyed learning more about Beauty - her family, the world and their situation.

I would call this somewhat of a cozy read, it was charming, descriptive and great for someone looking for a light-hearted read that is captivating and endearing.

This was part of my 2019 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge. 

Friday, December 27, 2019

Review: One More River to Cross by Jane Kirkpatrick

In 1844, two years before the Donner Party, the Stevens-Murphy company left Missouri to be the first wagons into California through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Mostly Irish Catholics, the party sought religious freedom and education in the mission-dominated land and enjoyed a safe journey--until October, when a heavy snowstorm forced difficult decisions. The first of many for young Mary Sullivan, newlywed Sarah Montgomery, the widow Ellen Murphy, and her pregnant sister-in-law Maolisa.

When the party separates in three directions, each risks losing those they loved and faces the prospect of learning that adversity can destroy or redefine. Two women and four men go overland around Lake Tahoe, three men stay to guard the heaviest wagons--and the rest of the party, including eight women and seventeen children, huddle in a makeshift cabin at the headwaters of the Yuba River waiting for rescue . . . or their deaths.

Award-winning author Jane Kirkpatrick plunges you deep into a landscape of challenge where fear and courage go hand in hand for a story of friendship, family, and hope that will remind you of what truly matters in times of trial.

Kindle Edition, 344 pages
Published September 3rd 2019
by Revell

Jane Kirkpatrick is a relatively new author for me, I’ve already come to realize that she takes historical events and expounds on it. Drawing in real people she brings them to life.

That is exactly what happened with One More River to Cross, in 1844 some of the first wagons travel over the mountains from Missouri to California. My mind just can’t imagine what this journey would be like, horse and wagons all the way across just sounds so cold and discouraging. The author researched well and then wrote a story that put me right there. It isn’t fast-paced and I'll admit to being confused a few times due to the large cast of characters which sometimes had me stopping to remember the connections to each other.

The author notes were extensive and welcomed. Kirkpatrick drew on history with real people mentioned and even went a little further and told about their future.

One More River to Cross is a look at brave men, women, and children who endured so much for a new life.

Thanks to Revell for a complimentary digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Review: The Whisper Man by Alex North

In this dark, suspenseful thriller, Alex North weaves a multi-generational tale of a father and son caught in the crosshairs of an investigation to catch a serial killer preying on a small town. After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed "The Whisper Man," for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter's crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window...

Paperback, 368 pages
Published August 20th, 2019
by Celadon Books 

The Whisper Man is a rather creepy story with a subject matter not for the faint of heart. I’ll admit on one hand being curious about this one and on the other a little nervous about any story that involves kids, not just because I’m a mom but a human being. Also, I should have reviewed it when I finished the book last month just to stop thinking about it.

So my thoughts. There is a lot going on within the pages, it wasn’t just a story of missing boys but also of grief and loss, relationships, coping and of course police procedures. The author uses not just the main characters backgrounds and struggles but also some of the secondary characters and while it was interesting I did struggle to connect. The mystery itself was interesting enough with some twists and turns I didn't anticipate and I will say the it took me almost to the end until I figured things out, so hats off to the author for that one.

With so many glowing reviews it was a 3 star for me, meaning I liked it (and that’s a good thing, right?)

Monday, December 9, 2019

Review: The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne

Barnaby Brocket is an ordinary 8-year-old boy in most ways, but he was born different in one important way: he floats. Unlike everyone else, Barnaby does not obey the law of gravity. His parents, who have a horror of being noticed, want desperately for Barnaby to be normal, but he can't help who he is. And when the unthinkable happens, Barnaby finds himself on a journey that takes him all over the world. From Brazil to New York, Canada to Ireland, and even to space, the floating boy meets all sorts of different people—and discovers who he really is along the way.

This whimsical novel will delight middle graders, and make readers of all ages question the meaning of normal.

Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published January 8th 2013
by Knopf Books for Young Readers
**** 1/2

I’m a relatively new John Boyne fan and while his books The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and The Boy at the Top of the Mountain are etched vividly in my brain, leaving their mark on my heart that I couldn't help jumping into The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket. It’s been on my kindle since being released in 2012 and I figured from the blurb I was in for a fun read.

Again the author’s writing style kept me entertained, it was whimsical, engaging with a pace that kept me reading. The characters aren’t just flawed but realistic and well developed, especially Barnaby’s parents - while I understood why they were the way they were it doesn’t mean I had to like them (if you read the story you’ll understand).

Barnaby Brocket is an adventure story that was fun with interesting stops on the way. But it also has a serious side that will pull at the heartstrings, it’s a story of acceptance, abandonment, and searching. I loved Barnaby, his thoughts and the ending was perfect. Sad at times I’m glad to have read this one.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Review: The Light Over London by Julia Kelly

Reminiscent of Martha Hall Kelly's Lilac Girls and Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, this sweeping, entrancing story is a must-read for fans of remarkable women rising to challenges they could never have predicted.

It’s always been easier for Cara Hargraves to bury herself in the past than confront the present, which is why working with a gruff but brilliant antiques dealer is perfect. While clearing out an estate, she pries open an old tin that holds the relics of a lost relationship: among the treasures, a World War II-era diary and a photograph of a young woman in uniform. Eager to find the author of the hauntingly beautiful, unfinished diary, Cara digs into this soldier’s life, but soon realizes she may not have been ready for the stark reality of wartime London she finds within the pages.

In 1941, nineteen-year-old Louise Keene’s life had been decided for her—she’ll wait at home in her Cornish village until her wealthy suitor returns from war to ask for her hand. But when Louise unexpectedly meets Flight Lieutenant Paul Bolton, a dashing RAF pilot stationed at a local base, everything changes. And changes again when Paul’s unit is deployed without warning.

Desperate for a larger life, Louise joins the women’s branch of the British Army in the anti-aircraft gun unit as a Gunner Girl. As bombs fall on London, she and the other Gunner Girls relish in their duties to be exact in their calculations, and quick in their identification of enemy planes during air raids. The only thing that gets Louise through those dark, bullet-filled nights is knowing she and Paul will be together when the war is over. But when a bundle of her letters to him are returned unanswered, she learns that wartime romance can have a much darker side.

Illuminating the story of these two women separated by generations and experience, Julia Kelly transports us to World War II London in this heartbreakingly beautiful novel through forgotten antique treasures, remembered triumphs, and fierce family ties.

Kindle Edition, 305 pages
Published February 2019
by Gallery Books

My first book by Julia Kelly was a success and I am eager to read more.

The tread these days is books about strong women though they don’t always start that way. It’s during the challenges life throws at them where their drive comes through, where obstructs, because of their sex, gets in the way only making them all the more determined and to realize how strong they really are.

The other tread I love is those parts of history that have been unknown to me, being educated and entertained at the same time. My knowledge of some of the roles women filled during the war are limited, I’ve never heard of a Gunner Girl and that aspect I found very interesting. What a responsibility to shoulder. Sorry, you will have to read the book to find out what a Gunner Girl is :)

The Light Over London is a well written dual time period story. An old diary and mysterious picture are the start Cara needs and it was her journey as well as Louise’s, during WW2, that kept me captivated. Each with their issues and finding their way in the world. The research is evident and in a market that at times feels saturated with WW2 HF, I enjoyed this one as well as discovering a new to me author.

This book is from my personal kindle library.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Spotlight & Giveaway: The Lords of the Wind by C.J. Adrien

Publication Date: July 3, 2019
Runestone Books
eBook & Paperback; 339 Pages
Series: The Saga of Hasting the Avenger, Book One
Genre: Historical Fiction

“For indeed the Frankish nation, which was crushed by the avenger Hasting, was full of filthy uncleanness. Treasonous and oath-breaking, they were deservedly condemned; unbelievers and faithless, they were justly punished.”

 Orphaned as a child by a blood-feud, and sold as a slave to an exiled chieftain in Ireland, the boy Hasting had little hope of surviving to adulthood. The gods had other plans. A ship arrived at his master's longphort carrying a man who would alter the course of his destiny, and take him under his wing to teach him the ways of the Vikings. His is a story of a boy who was a slave, who became a warlord, and who helped topple an empire. A supposed son of Ragnar Lodbrok, and referred to in the Gesta Normanorum as the Scourge of the Somme and Loire, his life exemplified the qualities of the ideal Viking. Join author and historian C.J. Adrien on an adventure that explores the coming of age of the Viking Hasting, his first love, his first great trials, and his first betrayal.

Available on Amazon

C.J. Adrien is a French-American author of Viking historical fiction with a passion for Viking history. His Kindred of the Sea series was inspired by research conducted in preparation for a doctoral program in early medieval history as well as his admiration for historical fiction writers such as Bernard Cornwell and Ken Follett. C.J. Adrien’s novels and expertise have earned him invitations to speak at several international events, including the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds. For more information, please visit C.J. Adrien's website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a copy of The Lords of the Wind! To enter, please use the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on December 13th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Paperback giveaway is open to US residents only. – Only one entry per household.

 The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

  The Lords of the Wind

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Review: Echoes among the Stones by Jaime Jo Wright

After Aggie Dunkirk's career is unceremoniously ended by her own mistakes, she finds herself traveling to Wisconsin, where her grandmother, Mumsie, lives alone in her rambling old home. She didn't plan for how eccentric Mumsie has become, obsessing over an old, unsolved crime scene--even going so far as to re-create it in the attic.

Mystery seems to follow her when she finds work as a secretary helping to restore the flooded historical part of the cemetery. Forced to work with the puzzling, yet attractive museum curator to contact living family members of those in the disturbed graves, Aggie stumbles upon the unsolved murder of a young woman--the details of which match Mumsie's case. As Aggie exhumes the past's secrets, she uncovers a crime that some will go to any length to keep quiet--even if it means silencing Aggie.

In 1946, Imogene Flannigan works in a local factory and has eyes on owning her own beauty salon. But coming home to discover her younger sister's body in the attic changes everything. Unfamiliar with the newly burgeoning world of criminal forensics and not particularly welcomed as a woman, Imogene is nonetheless determined to stay involved. As her sister's case grows cold, Imogene vows to find justice . . . even if it costs her everything.

Kindle Edition, 380 pages
Expected publication: December 3rd, 2019
by Bethany House Publishers
**** 1/2

Jaime Jo Wright is one of my go-to authors.  Her previous books kept me glued to my kindle, I get excited when I find out a new one is on the way.  Why is that you ask?  She has characters that are flawed, struggling with real-life situations and a yummy mystery - I might add that when I think I've figured things out she comes up with twists and turns that make total sense and totally different from my thoughts (I love it when an author does that).

With Echoes Among the Stones I was treated again to a story that had the right pace where I got to know the characters, Mumsie is a hoot and the curator, well I even heard his British accent in my head - how did Jaime Jo Wright do that? 

Told in dual time periods, usually I am drawn to the past story over present this book had me equally intrigued with both of them.  It wasn't rushed but captivating, an old murder and a sister's determination to solve it that travels to current day.

Echoes is a story of grief and how there are no time limits on it, I loved how this played out, it was authentic and heartfelt and so relatable. I am quick to recommend this author whenever I get the chance.

My thanks to Bethany House for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

 clicking on the cover will take you to my review