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

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Spotlight: Distant Signs by Anne Richter

Publication Date: November 7, 2019
Neem Tree Press
Hardcover; 240 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance/Saga

Distant Signs is an intimate portrait of two families spanning three generations amidst turbulent political change, behind and beyond the Berlin Wall.

In 1960s East Germany, Margret, a professor's daughter from the city, meets and marries Hans, from a small village in Thuringia. The couple struggle to contend with their different backgrounds, and the emotional scars they bear from childhood in the aftermath of war. As East German history gradually unravels, with collision of the personal and political, their two families' hidden truths are quietly revealed.

An exquisitely written novel with strongly etched characters that stay with you long after the book is finished and an authentic portrayal of family life behind the iron curtain based on personal experience of the author who is East German and was 16 years old at the fall of the Berlin Wall. Why do families repeat destructive patterns of behaviour across generations? Should the personal take precedence over the political? Can we rise above our histories and political identities to forge a new understanding of the past and to welcome change?

Available on Amazon

Anne Richter was born in 1973 in Jena, in the former German Democratic Republic. Her degree in Romance languages and English included study periods in England, Italy and France. In 2011, Anne was nominated for the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, a highly regarded German-language literary award. Her debut novel, Distant Signs, was published in Germany in 2013. Anne is currently writing her second novel. Douglas Irving is Scottish. He studied German and Spanish at Aberdeen University. In 2014 he completed a Masters in Translation at Glasgow University. His first translation, Crossing: A Love Story by Anna Seghers was published in 2016 in the US to positive reviews. His translation of Anna Seghers’ last work published in her lifetime, Three Women from Haiti, is set to follow.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Review: The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan

The New York Times bestselling author of What She Knew conjures a dark and unpredictable tale of family secrets that explores the lengths people will go to hurt one another.

When her beloved nanny, Hannah, left without a trace in the summer of 1988, seven-year-old Jocelyn Holt was devastated. Haunted by the loss, Jo grew up bitter and distant, and eventually left her parents and Lake Hall, their faded aristocratic home, behind.

Thirty years later, Jo returns to the house and is forced to confront her troubled relationship with her mother. But when human remains are accidentally uncovered in a lake on the estate, Jo begins to question everything she thought she knew.

Then an unexpected visitor knocks on the door and Jo’s world is destroyed again. Desperate to piece together the gaping holes in her memory, Jo must uncover who her nanny really was, why she left, and if she can trust her own mother…

In this compulsively readable tale of secrets, lies, and deception, Gilly Macmillan explores the darkest impulses and desires of the human heart. Diabolically clever, The Nanny reminds us that sometimes the truth hurts so much you’d rather hear the lie.

Paperback, 400 pages
 Published September 10th 2019
by William Morrow

This book has been on my radar before it was even released, not just because of its interesting cover but also an author that I have been hearing good things about and have never read before.

The Nanny is what I would call a slow burn, meaning it is not a fast-paced hang onto your seat type of thriller but rather the author slowly weaves the past to present day.  It is well written with characters that are flawed, each with ghosts haunting them and the secrets, oh the secrets!  The plot had a number of twists and turns, very much a whodunnit that kept me guessing with its unexpected twists and turns.

So another author that I get to explore more of their books.  The Nanny is a book I recommend to those that love a mystery that is hard to predict and one that kept me glued to the pages. 

This book was part of my ‘2019 reading off my shelf’ challenge and obtained by SweetReads in my October box.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Review: New Boy (Hogarth Shakespeare) by Tracy Chevalier

"O felt her presence behind him like a fire at his back.”

Arriving at his fourth school in six years, diplomat’s son Osei Kokote—“O” for short—knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day, so he is lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one boy, used to holding sway in the world of the school­yard, can’t stand to witness the budding relationship. When Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl, the school and its key players—teachers and pupils alike—will never be the same again.

The tragedy of Othello is vividly transposed to a 1970s suburban Washington school, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practice a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. The world of preadolescents is as passionate and intense, if not more so, as that of adults. Drawing us into the lives and emotions of four eleven-year-olds—Osei, Dee, Ian and his reluctant girlfriend Mimi—Tracy Chevalier’s powerful drama of friends torn apart by love and jealousy, bullying and betrayal, is as moving as it is enthralling. It is an unfor­gettable novel.

 Kindle Edition, 208 pages
Published May 16th 2017
by Knopf Canada

I knew nothing about this book going in, not about Othello and that it’s part of a series, though each works as a stand-alone. It’s the author that drew me in, I’ve read some of her previous books and liked them.

New Boy takes place in the 1970s during a normal day at school for a group of 10/11-year-olds. But there is nothing normal about it. Again I was treated to great writing, a very fast-moving plot and a look at racism, friendship, and bullying (plus other social issues).  However, my problem with the issues here and the feel of the story were more in line with 16 years old, the strong sexual tensions didn’t match the ages nor the time period. 

So for me I struggled with that aspect a lot. Also, the new boy is Osei shortened to O and that distracted me because at times he’d be Osei and other times O, just disrupted my flow.

All in all an interesting and quick read.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Audio Review: Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors (The Rajes #1) by Sonali Dev

Award-winning author Sonali Dev launches a new series about the Rajes, an immigrant Indian family descended from royalty, who have built their lives in San Francisco...

It is a truth universally acknowledged that only in an overachieving Indian American family can a genius daughter be considered a black sheep.

Dr. Trisha Raje is San Francisco’s most acclaimed neurosurgeon. But that’s not enough for the Rajes, her influential immigrant family who’s achieved power by making its own non-negotiable rules:

· Never trust an outsider

· Never do anything to jeopardize your brother’s political aspirations

· And never, ever, defy your family

Trisha is guilty of breaking all three rules. But now she has a chance to redeem herself. So long as she doesn’t repeat old mistakes.

Up-and-coming chef DJ Caine has known people like Trisha before, people who judge him by his rough beginnings and place pedigree above character. He needs the lucrative job the Rajes offer, but he values his pride too much to indulge Trisha’s arrogance. And then he discovers that she’s the only surgeon who can save his sister’s life.

As the two clash, their assumptions crumble like the spun sugar on one of DJ’s stunning desserts. But before a future can be savored there’s a past to be reckoned with...

A family trying to build a home in a new land.

A man who has never felt at home anywhere.

And a choice to be made between the two.

Paperback, 481 pages
Published May 7th, 2019
by William Morrow Paperbacks
This is my first time reading this author and though I started out with the book I transferred over to the audio version, not just because of time restrictions but I had a feeling I would like this route better, and I was correct. The audio version comes in just over 15 hours and I was enraptured with it the whole time. The reader was Soneela Nankani, she added that extra pizzazz with the various accents and emotions.

Just going by the cover it’s a book that I wouldn’t usually be attracted to but after meeting the author and hearing a keynote address she did recently had me intrigued to read her books.

There are many layers to this story which I loved. it wasn’t just the story of Trisha and DJ but rather a book of trust issues, guilt and mortality adding in a heavy dose of family as well.

Part of me wonders if I would have enjoyed reading this as much as I did listening to the story, I think some books lend themselves better in audio format and for me this was a perfect listen.

This book is part of my ‘2019 reading off my shelf’ challenge. Audiobook via Scribd.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Review: This Son of York by Anne Easter Smith

"Now is the winter of our discontent, Made glorious summer by This Son of York..." -- William Shakespeare, Richard III 

Richard III was Anne's muse for her first five books, but, finally, in This Son of York he becomes her protagonist. 

The story of this English king is one of history's most compelling, made even more fascinating through the discovery in 2012 of his bones buried under a car park in Leicester. 

This new portrait of England's most controversial king is meticulously researched and brings to vivid life the troubled, complex Richard of Gloucester, who ruled for two years over an England tired of war and civil strife. 

The loyal and dutiful youngest son of York, Richard lived most of his short life in the shadow of his brother, Edward IV, loyally supporting his sibling until the mantle of power was thrust unexpectedly on him. Some of his actions and motives were misunderstood by his enemies to have been a deliberate usurpation of the throne, but throughout his life, Richard never demonstrated any loftier ambitions than to honorably discharge his duty to his family and his country.

 In a gentler vein, despite the cruel onset of severe scoliosis in his teens, Richard did find love, first with a lover and then in his marriage to Anne Neville. Between these two devoted women in his life, he sired three and perhaps four children. Bringing the Plantagenet dynasty to a violent end, Richard was the last king of England to die in battle.

 This Son of York is a faithful chronicle of this much-maligned man. 

Publication Date: November 10, 2019
Bellastoria Press
eBook & Paperback; 504 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

I’m struggling to find the right words to describe my thoughts on this book without sounding like a blubbering idiot. It’s a book that puts so much pressure on the next one I pick up to read (and being a bigamist reader my audio and print books are 5+ stars also), poor poor next book. 

This is my fourth book by Anne Easter Smith, the previous three were audiobooks, I went that route because of the size. The Son of York comes in at 500 pages and from past experience, I knew I was in for a real big treat.  

Beginning when Richard was a wee little lad, watching him grow up, his relationship with his siblings and parents shaped who he was, as did the era and environment - with its unrest and battle for the crown. Not only was his character development spot on but also the entire cast of characters. Which in turn reflected in the story.  

I can see why it takes a bit for a new Anne Easter Smith book to be released. Her attention to detail, the emotional aspects and dare I mention the research, to say the research is evident doesn’t really give the statement the respect it deserves. Lets just say she knows her history.

I was placed in the time period and felt the drama.  I knew how this book would end, with each page I was hoping for a different outcome. I connected with Richard III and now have a new appreciation for what might have transpired. Definitely, an author I highly recommend, not just those that love HF but those that love an epic-sized book to get lost in the pages of. 

My thanks to Amy at HFVBT for the invite to be part of this tour and an arc in exchange for an honest review. 

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound


Anne is the award-winning author of The King's Grace and the best-selling A Rose for the Crown, Daughter of York, Queen By Right, and Royal Mistress. She is an expert on Richard III, having studied the king and his times for decades. Her sixth book, This Son of York, will be published soon. She grew up in England, Germany and Egypt, and has been a resident/citizen of the US since 1968. Anne was the Features Editor at a daily newspaper in northern New York State for ten years, and her writing has been published in several national magazines.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Friday, November 15, 2019

Audio Review: The Arrangement by Robyn Harding

A Pretty Woman tale turns toxic and deadly in this provocative and riveting thriller of sex, obsession, and murder from Robyn Harding, the “master of domestic suspense” (Kathleen Barber) and the USA TODAY bestselling author of The Party and Her Pretty Face

 Natalie, a young art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not go online and find a sugar daddy—a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates, and even give her a monthly allowance? Lots of girls do it, Nat learns. All that’s required is to look pretty and hang on his every word. Sexual favors are optional.

 Though more than thirty years her senior, Gabe, a handsome corporate finance attorney, seems like the perfect candidate, and within a month, they are madly in love. At least, Nat is…Gabe already has a family, whom he has no intention of leaving.

 So when he abruptly ends things, Nat can’t let go. She begins drinking heavily and stalking him: watching him at work, spying on his wife, even befriending his daughter, who is not much younger than she is. But Gabe’s not about to let his sugar baby destroy his perfect life. What was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception, obsession, and, when a body is found near Gabe’s posh Upper East Side apartment, murder.

 Emotionally powerful and packed with page-turning suspense, The Arrangement delves into the sordid, all-too-real world of shadowy relationships between wealthy, powerful men and the young women who are caught in their web.

 Audiobook, Unabridged, 352 pages
 Amanda Dolan (Narrator )
 9 hours, 15 minutes
Published July 30th 2019
by Simon & Schuster Audio
**** 1/2

Robyn Harding is a new author to me and a fellow Canadian to boot. The Arrangement has been getting rave reviews amongst my peeps so I jumped on the bandwagon and went the audio route.

Coming in at 9 hours 15 minutes it was a fast-paced addicting story that kept my earbuds in place. With a prologue that hooked me, it was the characters that made this a wonderful listen, well the characters go hand in hand with a suspenseful plot. What I loved was watching the characters evolve, how the story changed them.

The Arrangement is a well-written suspenseful thriller with an ending that fit nicely without being too neatly wrapped up.  Definitely an author I will be reading more of.

This audio was obtained via Scribd.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Review: The Painted Castle by Kristy Cambron

A lost painting of Queen Victoria. A library bricked off from the world. Three women, separated by time, whose lives are irrevocably changed.

 When art historian Keira Foley is hired to authenticate a painting at a centuries-old East Suffolk manor, she hopes this is just the thing to get her career and life back on track. But from the time she arrives at Parham Hill Estate and begins working alongside rumored art thief Emory Scott, she’s left with far more questions than answers. Could this lost painting of Queen Victoria be a duplicate of the original Winterhalter masterpiece, and if so, who is the artist?

 As Keira begins to unravel the mystery behind the portrait of the queen, two women emerge from the estate’s forgotten past. In Victorian England, talented sketch artist Elizabeth Meade is engaged to Viscount Huxley, then owner of Parham Hill. While there, master portrait artist Franz Winterhalter takes her under his wing, but Elizabeth’s real motive for being at Parham Hill has nothing to do with art. She’s determined to avenge her father’s brutal murder—even if it means feigning an engagement to the very man she believes committed the crime.

 A century later, Amelia Woods—a WWII widow who has turned Parham Hill Estate and its beloved library into a boarding school for refugee children—receives military orders to house a troop of American pilots. She is determined that the children in her care remain untouched by the war, but it’s proving difficult with officers taking up every square inch of their world… and one in particular vying for a space in her long shut up heart.

 Set in three time periods—the rapid change of Victorian England, the peak of England’s home front tensions at the end of World War II, and modern day—The Painted Castle unfolds a story of heartache and hope and unlocks secrets lost for generations, just waiting to be found.

 The Painted Castle is a sweet romance, the third in the Lost Castle series. It can be read as a stand-alone but is better if read with The Lost Castle and Castle on the Rise.

Paperback, 400 pages
 Published October 15th, 2019
 by Thomas Nelson

The Painted Castle is book 3 in the Lost Castle Series, I have only read the first book and think these work well as standalone even though there are brief mentions of the previous books here, not enough to spoil book 2 (yea I gotta read it soon).

Dual time periods are my favorites and when it turns into a triple feature, well I’m in my happy place. It takes a talented author that can pull off 3 storylines that come together. Kristy Cambron has done it with this book.

The setting was an old English Manor from the days of Victorian England to WW2 and then-current day. The Painted Castle is a story of the mystery surrounding a painting - it’s authenticity, why it was hidden for so long and how did it become hidden.

The characters are real with hurts, secrets, and hearts hardened because of said hurts and secrets. There are the historical elements that I always enjoy, especially seeing another glimpse of strong women not just during WW2 but in the past when women weren't supposed to be strong and have a mind of their own. The art world, both past and present added something different and the plot woven around it was unique and realistic- definitely shows the authors' research was done.

The Lost Castle is a series I recommend, I was entertained and totally absorbed in the pages.

My thanks to TLC Tours for the opportunity to be part of this tour and an ARCin exchange for honest review.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher's life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women's Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

 North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn't expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

 What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?

 Kindle Edition, 400 pages
 Expected publication: January 14th 2020
 by St. Martin's Press

Diane Chamberlain had me at The Midwife’s Confession. While I haven’t caught up with all her books I am working at it. She takes snippets of history and weaves some wonderful stories. I’ll confess that after reading a couple flips of my kindle screen I actually sighed, it felt like being back with old friends ready for an adventure that I would love.

Big Lies in a Small Town is a hefty title, the theme is obvious and it delivered on all levels. I started Tuesday and finished Friday which lately for me is good, especially coming in at 400 pages. It’s a slow burn as the 2 storylines play out. The character development was spot on, not only for the main players but for others as well. I saw what made them tick and why.

The plot was intricate and unique as it revolves around a time and place where prejudices ran amuck. The research is evident and the author's writing style is why she is a favorite of mine.

Big Lies in a Small Town is a richly detailed story of secrets and lies, mental health, injustice, racism, abuse and more. It’s about connecting two time periods with a conclusion that I loved (while unexpected).

This book will hit bookshelves January 14th, 2020 - perfect to beat away the winter blues.

My sincere thanks to Naureen at St. Martin’s press for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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.