Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Review: The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

The Book of Lost Names
Inspired by an astonishing true story from World War II, a young woman with a talent for forgery helps hundreds of Jewish children flee the Nazis in this unforgettable historical novel from the international bestselling author of the “epic and heart-wrenching World War II tale” (Alyson Noel, #1 New York Times bestselling author) The Winemaker’s Wife.

Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librarian in Florida, is shelving books one morning when her eyes lock on a photograph in a magazine lying open nearby. She freezes; it’s an image of a book she hasn’t seen in sixty-five years—a book she recognizes as The Book of Lost Names.

The accompanying article discusses the looting of libraries by the Nazis across Europe during World War II—an experience Eva remembers well—and the search to reunite people with the texts taken from them so long ago. The book in the photograph, an eighteenth-century religious text thought to have been taken from France in the waning days of the war, is one of the most fascinating cases. Now housed in Berlin’s Zentral- und Landesbibliothek library, it appears to contain some sort of code, but researchers don’t know where it came from—or what the code means. Only Eva holds the answer—but will she have the strength to revisit old memories and help reunite those lost during the war?

As a graduate student in 1942, Eva was forced to flee Paris after the arrest of her father, a Polish Jew. Finding refuge in a small mountain town in the Free Zone, she begins forging identity documents for Jewish children fleeing to neutral Switzerland. But erasing people comes with a price, and along with a mysterious, handsome forger named Rémy, Eva decides she must find a way to preserve the real names of the children who are too young to remember who they really are. The records they keep in The Book of Lost Names will become even more vital when the resistance cell they work for is betrayed and Rémy disappears.

An engaging and evocative novel reminiscent of The Lost Girls of Paris and The Alice Network, The Book of Lost Names is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of bravery and love in the face of evil.

Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Expected publication: July 21st 2020
by Gallery Books
4/5 stars

I love reading about strong women from the past, not just during the war but anytime. This book takes place during WW2 along with a few chapters in current time (but with no pandemic). There are a number of books that portray spies, those that infiltrate inner circles of the enemy, Book of Lost Names takes on a different view. Eva forges documents to help children escape Nazi terror, to keep them safe and give them a future. No spoiler, blurb says that. The process was intriguing, learning some of the tricks of the trade, educational and the risks was compelling.

This book is a story of Eva, her desire to not sit by but use her talents to help thousands of children escape France.  It's a realistic look at the times, to feel the heartache of what the citizens of France endured. Eva's mother is with her, I really felt for her. Her fear and confusion shines through, she ages so much that I can’t imagine what she is going through. The fear of what was happening, what the future holds when they planned and work so hard for the life they had and then taken away like that with just the clothes on their backs. Great character development!

Eva's passion to remember these children, to record them with the hope of reuniting families is evident and commendable. Whether that book actually exists, I'd like to believe it does.  The author notes highlight facts of the time, the forgers and sadly how many families were ripped apart.

Kristin Harmel has written a number of books now taking placing during WW2 (this is my 2nd), her knowledge of the time shines through. This is a book and author I recommend.

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

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Review: Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella

A Harvard freshman becomes obsessed with her schizophrenic brother’s suicide. Then she starts hearing voices.

Cadence Archer arrives on Harvard’s campus desperate to understand why her brother, Eric, a genius who developed paranoid schizophrenia took his own life there the year before. Losing Eric has left a black hole in Cady’s life, and while her decision to follow in her brother’s footsteps threatens to break her family apart, she is haunted by questions of what she might have missed. And there’s only one place to find answers.

As Cady struggles under the enormous pressure at Harvard, she investigates her brother’s final year, armed only with a blue notebook of Eric’s cryptic scribblings. She knew he had been struggling with paranoia, delusions, and illusory enemies—but what tipped him over the edge? With her suspicions mounting, Cady herself begins to hear voices, seemingly belonging to three ghosts who walked the university’s hallowed halls—or huddled in its slave quarters. Among them is a person whose name has been buried for centuries, and another whose name mankind will never forget.

Does she share Eric’s illness, or is she tapping into something else? Cady doesn’t know how or why these ghosts are contacting her, but as she is drawn deeper into their worlds, she believes they’re moving her closer to the truth about Eric, even as keeping them secret isolates her further. Will listening to these voices lead her to the one voice she craves—her brother’s—or will she follow them down a path to her own destruction?

Hardcover, 480 pages
Published May 5th 2020
by Random House
4/5 stars

Have you ever seen a book and just by the title know you want to read it? That gut instinct that triggers something. That’s the way it was for me with this book, then a couple of zoom meetings with various authors clinched it.

Coming in at 480 pages it's a size I can sink my teeth into. There is time to develop characters, create the setting with depth and cast suspicions all around. So yes Ghosts is a slow burn that managed to keep my attention and bond with Cady.

Ghosts of Harvard is a book about grief and the different ways people handle it. For Cady she wanted to walk in her brother’s footsteps at Harvard, feel his experiences but she got way more than she bargained for. There is suspicion, mystery, healing and family drama that make this a well-rounded story. Oh and one can’t forget about the ghosts, who doesn’t love a good ghosty story?

Mental illness does take center stage here. As someone that has little experience with it I always appreciate the reminder of how it affects individuals, family, friends and society. 

Ten years in the making this is a solid debut for Francesca Serritella - though she has written nonfiction and collaborated with her mother Lisa Scottoline. I'm looking forward to reading more in the future.

My copy obtained from the public library in print form - been craving print format these days.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Review/Giveaway: The Imperfects by Amy Meyerson

From the bestselling author of The Bookshop of Yesterdays comes a captivating new novel about a priceless inheritance that leads one family on a life-altering pursuit of the truth.

The Millers are far from perfect. Estranged siblings Beck, Ashley and Jake find themselves under one roof for the first time in years, forced to confront old resentments and betrayals, when their mysterious, eccentric matriarch, Helen, passes away. But their lives are about to change when they find a secret inheritance hidden among her possessions--the Florentine Diamond, a 137-carat yellow gemstone that went missing from the Austrian Empire a century ago.

Desperate to learn how one of the world's most elusive diamonds ended up in Helen's bedroom, they begin investigating her past only to realize how little they know about their brave, resilient grandmother. As the Millers race to determine whether they are the rightful heirs to the diamond and the fortune it promises, they uncover a past more tragic and powerful than they ever could have imagined, forever changing their connection to their heritage and each other.

Inspired by the true story of the real, still-missing Florentine Diamond, The Imperfects illuminates the sacrifices we make for family and how sometimes discovering the truth of the past is the only way to better the future.

Paperback, 384 pages
Published May 5th 2020
by Park Row
4/5 stars

The Millers are a dysfunctional family who reunite at a grave site - no spoiler here, aside from the blurb what else brings a group of estranged family members together? Each with their own personal issues both inside and outside of the family circle, but together... let’s just say I’m was looking forward to seeing how this was going to play out. What happened to make everyone at odds with each other?

It was a slow start to this story but it was also time to get to know everyone.  The story is weaved with memories making it easy to get inside everyone's head and know what the issues are/were.  The author did a great job of weaving making this a well written book with characters that are flawed and at times not really likeable.

The historical aspect of the Florentine Diamond had me googling, seeing pictures and learning more about it.  I would have loved that time period to have taken up more pages - that's the history nerd in me talking.  But I loved the back story and how Helen acquired it.

The Imperfects is a book of secrets - everyone had secrets, family dynamics - such a wide range of personalities, and history - to know what really happened to the diamond would be so cool.

Amy Meyerson is a new author for me, this is her 2nd book, The Book Shop of Yesterdays being her debut (on my TBR pile).

I have an extra copy of this book, if you pop on over to my Instagram account you can enter to win. Sorry but due to postage rates I can only ship to a Canadian address.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Audio Review: Good in Bed (Cannie Shapiro #1) by Jennifer Weiner

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Review: The Winter Rose (The Tea Rose #2) by Jennifer Donnelly

Another strong, satisfying novel, full of rich storytelling, by the author of the favourite The Tea Rose.

An epic tale of secret love and hidden passions.

It is 1900 and the dangerous streets of East London are no place for a well-bred woman. But India Selwyn Jones is headstrong: she has trained as one of a new breed, a woman doctor, and is determined to practice where the need is greatest. It is in these grim streets where India meets - and saves the life of - London's most notorious gangster, Sid Malone. Hard, violent, devastatingly attractive, Malone is the opposite of India's cool, aristocratic fiance.

Though Malone represents all she despises, India finds herself unwillingly drawn ever closer to him - enticed by his charm, intrigued by his hidden, mysterious past. The Winter Rose brings the beginning of the turbulent twentieth century vividly to life, drawing the reader into its wretched underworld, its privileged society, and the shadowland between the two, where the strict rules of the time blur into secret passions.

Praise for The Tea Rose: 'Most seductive . . . the writing is so fluid you feel the author simply loves telling her story' Frank McCourt

'I loved this vividly researched and wonderfully rumbustious yarn - brilliantly told, great fun to read' Simon Winchester

Paperback, 736 pages
Published November 30th 2006
by Harper Collins
4/5 stars

This book is not for the faint of heart in terms of size. Coming it at 736 pages and 35 hours as an audiobook, be prepared.

Continuing 6 or so years after The Tea Rose ends it follows the Finnegan family. Plus India Jones joins the casts at the turn of the 20th century, one of the first female doctors with a passion for those who cannot afford medical treatment. She has plans and goals with a character to make it happen.

I won’t go into detail as to what happens but suffice to say this epic read is full of drama. Forbidden love, greed, treachery, money and actually this list could go on and on. Yes there is a lot going on and I’m glad I split my time between both the ebook and audiobook.

Yes it is long winded and honestly could have been a little shorter but I’m at a lose as to what could be omitted. The characters are well developed, the classes of society well defined and yes there is another epic sized sequel, The Wild Rose, waiting in the wings.

This could have been a 5 star read for me if not for some of the coincidences that take place towards the end. I get it, but...

Jennifer Donnelly is a favorite author of mine. Not all her books are that size. Revolution and The Northern Light are my favorites, both YA historical reads.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Review: A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry

Acclaimed author Lois Lowry's first novel, A Summer to Die is a poignant and perceptive tale of love and tragedy.

Meg isn't thrilled when she gets stuck sharing a bedroom with her older sister Molly. The two of them couldn't be more different, and it's hard for Meg to hide her resentment of Molly's beauty and easy popularity. But now that the family has moved to a small house in the country, Meg has a lot to accept.

Just as the sisters begin to adjust to their new home, Meg feels that Molly is starting up again by being a real nuisance. But Molly's constant grouchiness, changing appearance, and other complaints are not just part of a new mood. And the day Molly is rushed to the hospital, Meg has to accept that there is something terribly wrong with her sister. That's the day Meg's world changes forever. Is it too late for Meg to show her true feelings?

Paperback, 192 pages
Published May 10th 2016
by HMH Books for Young Readers
4.5/5 stars

Having never read a Lois Lowry book before, for some reason I was drawn to this one. Judging by the title you can get a feel what this book is about. This is also the author's debut, first published in 1977.

I went in with an open mind but at the same time bracing myself as the story developed and I got to know Meg and her sister Molly. Written in 1977 one must remember what times were like back then, especially when mixing children, illness and hospitals. Definitely not the openness we see today.

Sisters and a heartbreaking summer pretty well sum up this story. It’s up there with The Boy in the Striped Pajamas in terms of the emotional impact it left on this reader. A Summer to Die is a well-written book with a pretty serious subject matter for a younger child.  It's an authentic look at two sisters doing what sisters do -  bicker, draw lines and are best friends (but not always). It had that coming of age feel as Meg navigated that summer with her camera focusing on relationships and making new friends.

The author notes tell what inspired the author to write this story making it all the more endearing and heartfelt. I have both Number the Stars and The Giver waiting patiently on my TBR pile, hopefully this summer.

This book was part of my 2020 Reading off my Shelf Challenge.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Review: Red Sky Over Hawaii by Sara Ackerman

Inspired by real places and events of WWII, Red Sky Over Hawaii immerses the reader in a time of American history full of suspicion and peril in this lush and poignant tale about the indisputable power of doing the right thing against all odds.

The attack on Pearl Harbor changes everything for Lana Hitchcock. Arriving home on the Big Island too late to reconcile with her estranged father, she is left alone to untangle the clues of his legacy, which lead to a secret property tucked away in the remote rain forest of Kilauea volcano. When the government starts taking away her neighbors as suspected sympathizers, Lana shelters two young German girls, a Japanese fisherman and his son. As tensions escalate, they are forced into hiding—only to discover the hideaway house is not what they expected.

When a detainment camp is established nearby, Lana struggles to keep the secrets of those in her care. Trust could have dangerous consequences. As their lives weave together, Lana begins to understand the true meaning of family and how the bonds of love carry us through the worst times.

Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published June 9th 2020
3.5/5 stars

I'll confess to be drawn to this book by the cover along with the chance to read with a Hawaiian setting.  It isn't often I read with a point of view from that side of the ocean during WW2.

Red Sky over Hawaii was a slow burn that took its time in developing into something that grabbed my attention.  The first few chapters were a little long winded, just getting Lana to where my interest peaked. After that this book showed what life was like for those deemed the enemy, no matter the age. I didn't realize that there were detainment camps on the islands not just the mainland. The author notes expounded on that a bit.

With vivid descriptions of the Island, nature and the struggle to survive when always watching every step, I enjoyed my time reading this book. Secrets were key to protect those more vulnerable and there are always repercussions.

Sara Ackerman is a new author for me, I be checking out her back list.

My thanks to the publisher for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Review: A Murder in Time (Kendra Donovan #1) by Julie McElwain

Beautiful and brilliant, Kendra Donovan is a rising star at the FBI. Yet her path to professional success hits a speed bump during a disastrous raid where half her team is murdered, a mole in the FBI is uncovered and she herself is severely wounded. As soon as she recovers, she goes rogue and travels to England to assassinate the man responsible for the deaths of her teammates.

While fleeing from an unexpected assassin herself, Kendra escapes into a stairwell that promises sanctuary but when she stumbles out again, she is in the same place - Aldrich Castle - but in a different time: 1815, to be exact.

Mistaken for a lady's maid hired to help with weekend guests, Kendra is forced to quickly adapt to the time period until she can figure out how she got there; and, more importantly, how to get back home. However, after the body of a young girl is found on the extensive grounds of the county estate, she starts to feel there's some purpose to her bizarre circumstances. Stripped of her twenty-first century tools, Kendra must use her wits alone in order to unmask a cunning madman.

Kindle Edition, 513 pages
Published April 15th 2016
by Pegasus
3/5 stars

I can't believe its been 4 years since A Murder in Time has been released.  I remember when so many of my blogger friends recommended this one and I jumped to grab at an ARC when it was offered.  Unfortunately life got in the way and its only been recently that I did a buddy read with Laurie aka The Baking Bookworm. Here is the thing with Laurie and I, there are some books that we both love, some I love and she doesn't and visa versa and ya know what? That's okay, because wouldn't life be boring if we all loved the same thing.  Follow the link above for her review.

A Murder in Time started out great, a feisty Kendra was an instant like for me.  She took no guff, was confident and as her past was revealed I really felt for her. I enjoyed the writing, it was engaging and had me wanting to read more. 

Things changed though once she is hurtled back in time to 1815. That in itself was done nicely and actually felt authentic. As the story progressed the tone did also. I get that she struggled to adapt and even accept what happened.  Dawning her FBI profiler hat didn't help when the actions and language were too modern for the times. I was tired of hearing unsub over and over again.

The mystery was interesting, a wide case of characters to keep my eyes on and with no modern forensic methods made this case very interesting.  Now that it's been a while since A Murder of Time has been released I know there is a sequel or two out there.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Review: The Paper Girl of Paris by Jordyn Taylor

Sixteen-year-old Alice is spending the summer in Paris, but she isn’t there for pastries and walks along the Seine. When her grandmother passed away two months ago, she left Alice an apartment in France that no one knew existed. An apartment that has been locked for more than seventy years.

Alice is determined to find out why the apartment was abandoned and why her grandmother never once mentioned the family she left behind when she moved to America after World War II. With the help of Paul, a charming Parisian student, she sets out to uncover the truth. However, the more time she spends digging through the mysteries of the past, the more she realizes there are secrets in the present that her family is still refusing to talk about.

Sixteen-year-old Adalyn doesn’t recognize Paris anymore. Everywhere she looks, there are Nazis, and every day brings a new horror of life under the Occupation. When she meets Luc, the dashing and enigmatic leader of a resistance group, Adalyn feels she finally has a chance to fight back. But keeping up the appearance of being a much-admired socialite while working to undermine the Nazis is more complicated than she could have imagined. As the war goes on, Adalyn finds herself having to make more and more compromises—to her safety, to her reputation, and to her relationships with the people she loves the most.

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published May 26th 2020
by HarperTeen
4/5 stars

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Review: The Swap by Robyn Harding

“No list of thrillers is complete without Robyn Harding,” proclaims Real Simple. Now the USA TODAY bestselling author of The Party delivers a riveting tale about the toxic relationship between two couples after a night of sexual shenanigans, and the manipulative teenager with an explosive secret at the center of it all.

Low Morrison is not your average teen. You could blame her hippie parents or her looming height or her dreary, isolated hometown on an island in the Pacific Northwest. But whatever the reason, Low just doesn’t fit in—and neither does Freya, an ethereal beauty and once-famous social media influencer who now owns the local pottery studio.

After signing up for a class, Low quickly falls under Freya’s spell. And Freya, buoye
d by Low’s adoration, is compelled to share her darkest secrets and deepest desires. Finally, both feel a sense of belonging...that is, until Jamie walks through the studio door. Desperate for a baby, she and her husband have moved to the island hoping that the healthy environment will result in a pregnancy. Freya and Jamie become fast friends, as do their husbands, leaving Low alone once again.

Then one night, after a boozy dinner party, Freya suggests swapping partners. It should have been a harmless fling between consenting adults, one night of debauchery that they would put behind them, but instead, it upends their lives. And provides Low the perfect opportunity to unleash her growing resentment.

Robyn Harding brings her acclaimed storytelling, lauded as “fast-paced, thrilling, gut-wrenching” by Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six, to this dark and suspenseful thriller for fans of Megan Miranda and Lisa Jewell.

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: June 23rd 2020
by Simon & Schuster
3/5 stars

Last year I listened to the audio of Robyn Harding's The Arrangement and quite enjoyed myself.  It was a nice mix of mystery, psychological thriller that kept me on my toes the whole way through.  This, The Swap, her new book releases on the 23rd of June.

The Swap is a book about obsession taking place on an island off the Pacific Northwest. Told from the point of view of both Low and Jaime,  with the majority being from Low. I got to know her more then the others, it confirmed her obsessive behavior but not really the why, what made Freya so enticing to these women was lost on me.  She was mean, manipulative and I would have loved to see glimpses of Freya's thoughts, just for balance and maybe some insight into what made her so special.  For that reason I did struggle to connect with these women.  There were also snippets from the men, and again I would have loved more but then again this is the women's story.

Labeled as a thriller it was more of a slow burn story that lacked the 'I gotta sit and read, feed yourself family' feel that usually accompanies that label.  Don't get me wrong, the author made me want to keep reading to see what was going on but it wasn't dark and twisty that makes up a good thriller.  This book took a couple twists and turns I didn't expect, while at times a little predictable.

I still consider myself a new Robyn Harding fan and will continue to search out her back list.

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Review: The Second Home: A Novel by Christina Clancy

After a disastrous summer spent at her family summer home on Cape Cod, seventeen-year-old Ann Gordon was left with a secret that changed her life forever, and created a rift between her sister, Poppy, and their adopted brother, Michael.

Now, fifteen years later, her parents have died, leaving Ann and Poppy to decide the fate of the Wellfleet home that's been in the Gordon family for generations. For Ann, the once-beloved house is tainted with bad memories. Poppy loves the old saltbox, but after years spent chasing waves around

the world, she isn't sure she knows how to stay in one place.

Just when the sisters decide to sell, Michael re-enters their lives with a legitimate claim to the house. But more than that, he wants to set the record straight about that long ago summer. Reunited after years apart, these very different siblings must decide if they can continue to be a family—and the house just might be the glue that holds them together.

Told through the shifting perspectives of Ann, Poppy, and Michael, this assured and affecting debut captures the ache of nostalgia for summers past and the powerful draw of the places we return to again and again. It is about second homes, second families, and second chances. Tender and compassionate, incisive and heartbreaking, The Second Home is the story of a family you'll quickly fall in love with, and won't soon forget.

Kindle Edition, 340 pages
Published June 2nd 2020
by St. Martin's Press
4/5 stars

Confession time.  While the fine folks at St. Martin's press gifted me with the Kindle file for this book I just could not concentrate on reading this book - it was me not the book (actually the time we are living if truth be told).  So I used one of my Audible credits and grabbed the audio book, it didn't take long before I was totally immersed.

The Second Home is told from a few different point of views.  Mostly Ann's but Poppy and Michael's also, between 1999 and current day.  A lot of the story takes place in the Wellfleet area which had me itching for a summer by the water. From the rustic cottage, surfing and just the relaxing way of life this book was atmospheric.

This is the author's debut and while there were a few things that didn't fly with me I still enjoyed the 12 plus hours spent with this family.

One of the benefits of the audio was a nice interview with the author concluding the listen.  It was great hearing Christina Clancy talk about her inspiration and thoughts.  Thank you.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Review: Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle

Charlotte didn’t know her greatest risk was saying, “I do.”

When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned.

At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two.

As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.

Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Expected publication: June 9th 2020
by Park Row
3.5/5 stars

Kimberly Belle had me with The Last Breath, published back in 2014.  She is one of my go-to authors, I don't even need to read the blurb, I'll be reading her books. She has a knack for keeping me on my toes, with twists and turns.  Stranger in the Lake hits book stores next week.

Stranger in the Lake is a rag to riches story about a young woman, Charlotte. I loved the setting, the house overlooking the lake, taking the boat into town and lots of hiking/running trails. I could just smell the dirt and Mother Nature.

This is a book about the death of another young woman that sets in motion a journey of not just self discovery but of secrets . Drawing on a couple of story-lines Belle puts the puzzle pieces together in a way that connected them all. With the bodies of 2 women, close to the same age and found in the same spot, it’s an invitation for suspicion.

This is a hard book for me to rate. While I loved the writing and atmospheric feel I found the story a little predictable and just struggled to connect with the characters. Though I will admit to be suspicious of the whole lot of them, unsure who to believe and who could be trusted. So hats off to the author for creating that environment. The ending wasn't totally predictable, in true Belle fashion she threw a couple curve balls.

While this might not be my favorite Belle book - The Ones We Trust still holds that spot, this was a entertaining read.

My thanks to Park Row (via Netgalley) for an advance digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Review: How a Woman Becomes a Lake by Marjorie Celona

From the Giller-nominated author of
Y comes a suspenseful novel about the dark corners of a small town

It's New Year's Day and the residents of a small fishing town are ready to start their lives anew. Leo takes his two young sons out to the lake to write resolutions on paper boats. That same frigid morning, Vera sets out for a walk with her dog along the lake, leaving her husband in bed with a hangover.

But she never returns. She places a call to the police saying she's found a boy in the woods, but the call is cut short by a muffled cry. Did one of Leo's sons see Vera? What are they hiding from the police? And why are they so scared of their own father?

In the months ahead, Vera's absence sets off a chain of reverberating events in Whale Bay. Her apathetic husband succumbs to grief. Leo heads south and remarries. And the cop investigating the case falls for Leo's ex-wife but finds himself slipping further away from the truth.

Told from shifting perspectives, How a Woman Becomes a Lake is about childhood, familial bonds, new beginnings, and costly mistakes. A literary novel with the pull and pace of a thriller, told in taut illuminating prose, it asks, what do you do when the people who are supposed to love you the most fail? 

Paperback, 272 pages
Published March 3rd 2020
by Hamish Hamilton
4/5 stars

This book was part of my April SweetReadsBox. I was not familiar with this one and that’s what makes these book boxes so much fun, reading something I wouldn’t ordinary pick up.

Labeled as a thriller/mystery I was expecting a suspenseful story that would keep me on my toes and be hard to put down. That being said I read 50% on Sunday afternoon. The different story lines weaved a tale of dysfunction, secrets and longing. I was intrigued.

The different characters carried baggage that were authentic and emotional. But the pacing slowed down and maybe because I was expecting something thrillerish (is that a word?) it flattened out for me. Not that it didn’t keep my attention, I was genuinely interested in reading and finding out what happened.  While the ending was satisfying I wanted more in terms of what happened to a couple players here. This book left me feeling sad and with an aching heart actually. It could be what’s been going on in the world that exasperated that for me though.

But all in all, a good read. 5 stars for the first half of book and 3.5 for the last, rounding out at 4.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Spotlight/Giveaway: Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey by Abigail Wilson

Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey by Abigail Wilson

Publication Date: May 26, 2020
Thomas Nelson
Paperback & eBook; 336 Pages
Genre: Historical/Regency/Christian

In this new Regency romance, Elizabeth knows she must protect her heart from the charm of her new husband, Lord Torrington. She is not, however, prepared to protect her life.

When the widowed Lord Torrington agreed to spy for the crown, he never planned to impersonate a highwayman, let alone rob the wrong carriage. Stranded on the road with an unconscious young woman, he is forced to propose marriage to protect his identity and her reputation, as well as his dangerous mission.

Trapped not only by her duty to her country but also by her limited options as an unwed mother, Miss Elizabeth Cantrell and her infant son are whisked away to Middlecrest Abbey by none other than the elder brother of her son’s absent father. There she is met by Torrington’s beautiful grown daughters, a vicious murderer, and an urgent hunt for the missing intelligence that could turn the war with France. Meanwhile she must convince everyone that her marriage is a genuine love match if her new husband has any hope of uncovering the enemy.

Determined to keep her son’s true identity a secret, Elizabeth will need to remain one step ahead of her fragile heart, her uncertain future, and the relentless fiend bent on her new family’s ruin.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

About the Author

Abigail Wilson combines her passion for Regency England with intrigue and adventure to pen historical mysteries with a heart. A registered nurse, chai tea addict, and mother of two crazy kids, Abigail fills her spare time hiking the national parks, attending her daughter’s gymnastic meets, and curling up with a great book. In 2017, Abigail won WisRWA’s Fab Five contest and in 2016, ACFW’s First Impressions contest as well as placing as a 2017 finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense.

She is a cum laude graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and currently lives in Dripping Springs, Texas, with her husband and children.

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Review: The Silent Songbird (Hagenheim #7) by Melanie Dickerson

The Silent Songbird (Hagenheim #7)
Evangeline longs to be free, to live in the world outside the castle walls. But freedom comes at a cost.

Evangeline is the ward and cousin of King Richard II, and yet she dreams of a life outside of Berkhamsted Castle, where she might be free to marry for love and not politics. But the young king betroths her to his closest advisor, Lord Shiveley, a man twice as old as Evangeline. Desperate to escape a life married to a man she finds revolting, Evangeline runs away from the king and joins a small band of servants on their way back to their home village.

To keep her identity a secret, Evangeline pretends to be mute. Evangeline soon regrets the charade as she gets to know Wesley, the handsome young leader of the servants, whom she later discovers is the son of a wealthy lord. But she cannot reveal her true identity for fear she will be forced to return to King Richard and her arranged marriage.

Wesley le Wyse is intrigued by the beautiful new servant girl. When he learns that she lost her voice from a beating by a cruel former master, he is outraged. But his anger is soon redirected when he learns she has been lying to him. Not only is she not mute, but she isn't even a servant.

Weighed down by remorse for deceiving Wesley, Evangeline fears no one will ever love her. But her future is not the only thing at stake, as she finds herself embroiled in a tangled web that threatens England's monarchy. Should she give herself up to save the only person who cares about her? If she does, who will save the king from a plot to steal his throne?

Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published November 8th 2016
 by Thomas Nelson
3.5/5 stars

The Silent Songbird is a historical retelling of The Little Mermaid. I’m not familiar with this fairy tale so can’t really compare the two.

It’s an interesting story set during the time of King Richard II in the year 1384. A young woman with no desire for the arranged marriage thrust upon her takes matters into her own hands. Evangeline is daring, brave and wants her life to mean something more being so and so’s wife.

This is a well written story that isn’t just about Evangeline and the search to find her but also has mysterious aspects to keep one on their toes. Most retelling tend to have magical elements but not this one and that’s okay.

Melanie Dickerson is a new author for me, she came recommended for her retellings and is respected for her YA stories. This is Christian fiction and it is a large part of the story. This is book 7 in the Hagenheim Series, I am not sure if they need to be read in order, I didn’t feel like I missed anything by not reading the others.

This was an audio read for me, coming in just under 8 hours. It was read by Jude Mason, a new to me reader and one I'd definitely listen to again.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Review: The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

The Paris LibraryParis, 1939. Odile Souchet is obsessed with books and the Dewey Decimal System, which makes order out of chaos. She soon has it all – a handsome police officer beau, an English best friend, a beloved twin, and a job at the American Library in Paris, a thriving community of students, writers, diplomats, and book lovers. Yet when war is declared, there's also a war on words.

Montana, 1983. Widowed and alone, Odile suffers the solitary confinement of small-town life. Though most adults are cowed by her, the neighbor girl will not let her be. Lily, a lonely teenager yearning to break free of Froid is obsessed with the older French woman who lives next door and wants to know her secrets.

As the two become friends, Odile sees herself in Lily – the same love of language, the same longings, the same lethal jealousy. The Paris Library’s dual narratives explore the relationships that make us who we are – family and friends, first loves and favorite authors – in the fairy tale setting of the City of Light. It also explores the geography of resentment, the consequences of unspeakable betrayal, and what happens when the people we count on for understanding and protection fail us.

The wit, empathy, and deep research that brings The Paris Library to life also brings to light a cast of lively historical characters and a little-known chapter of World War II history: the story of the American librarian, Miss Reeder, who created the Soldiers’ Service to deliver books to servicemen, and who later faced the Nazi ‘Book Protector’ in order to keep her library open. She and her colleagues defied the Bibliotheksschutz by delivering books to Jewish readers after they were forbidden from entering the library.
Paperback, 416 pages

Expected publication: June 2nd, 2020 Feb 2, 2021
 by Simon & Schuster Canada 
4.5/5 stars

The Paris Library is more than a story about WW2. Oh it’s a very interesting, well written, and well-researched book.  I loved the historical aspects - a library kept open during the war, how it functioned as the Nazis take control of France. It only stands to reason that those who not just work there but those that patronize it are also affected.

But my take away is more. The Paris Library is an emotional story about human nature and what happens when confronted with the unimaginable and how one reacts. Who do you trust? Whom should you fear? When one is scared it's easy to lash out in anger and confusion, to make decisions not anticipating the consequences. 
Told in dual time periods, I am usually drawn to the past but I enjoyed the 1983 storyline also. The developing friendship between Lily and Odile added that little something extra and actually a nice diversion from the heartbreak of Paris life during the war. 

The author's note rounded this book out nicely.  So much of this story is based on historical facts along with a lot of real people from the past making this book all the more compelling.  Written with compassion The Paris Library is a book that will stay with me for a while.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster for a print ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Review: The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu comes a historical YA fantasy about a musical prodigy and the dangerous lengths she'll go to make history remember her—perfect for fans of Susanna Clarke and The Hazel Wood.

Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart.

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish—to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she'll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age—her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl's hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true—but his help may cost her everything.

In her first work of historical fiction, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu spins a lush, lyrically-told story of music, magic, and the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.

Hardcover, Owlcrate Exclusive Edition, 313 pages

Published 2020 
by G. P. Putnam's Sons
4/5 stars

Make them remember me.

A dark tale of longing to be someone when you live in a male-dominated world. When a girl was told to dream and hope for marriage and children. How frustrating it must have been for Maria Anna (aka Nannerl), talented like her younger brother but stifled because of her gender.

The Kingdom of Back is an interesting world Nannerl created with the promise of being remembered forever. For an 8-year-old her thoughts and an imagination are above her age. It's these dreams that develop and comes to life in a magical and lyrical manner.

I didn't even know of a sister to Mozart, the historical part of this story was a learning experience for me. It was an authentic world that Marie Lu created, how life revolved around the male members of society. Chasing success, Nannerl's father does all he can to promote Wolfgang's talents that left little time to be a child.  But that was the time.

The fantasy part was unique and showed a confused young girl who had to create her only world to hide in and forge her own path no matter the consequences.  

This is my first time reading a Marie Lu book, this is also her first piece of historical fiction.  She is off to a great start, I will be on the lookout for more in this genre.

The Kingdom of Back is part of my 2020 Reading off my Shelf challenge, it was also part of my March Owlcrate box.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Audio Review: Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

Big Summer
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the “nothing short of brilliant” (People) Mrs. Everything returns with an unforgettable novel about friendship and forgiveness set during a disastrous wedding on picturesque Cape Cod.

Six years after the fight that ended their friendship, Daphne Berg is shocked when Drue Cavanaugh walks back into her life, looking as lovely and successful as ever, with a massive favor to ask. Daphne hasn’t spoken one word to Drue in all this time—she doesn’t even hate-follow her ex-best friend on social media—so when Drue asks if she will be her maid-of-honor at the society wedding of the summer, Daphne is rightfully speechless.

Drue was always the one who had everything—except the ability to hold onto friends. Meanwhile, Daphne’s no longer the same self-effacing sidekick she was back in high school. She’s built a life that she loves, including a growing career as a plus-size Instagram influencer. Letting glamorous, seductive Drue back into her life is risky, but it comes with an invitation to spend a weekend in a waterfront Cape Cod mansion. When Drue begs and pleads and dangles the prospect of cute single guys, Daphne finds herself powerless as ever to resist her friend’s siren song.

A sparkling novel about the complexities of female friendship, the pitfalls of living out loud and online, and the resilience of the human heart, Big Summer is a witty, moving story about family, friendship, and figuring out what matters most.

Kindle Edition, 364 pages
Published May 5th, 2020
 by Atria Books 
4.5/5 Stars

I’ve only read Mrs Everything by Jennifer Weiner, which I really enjoyed but it’s this book that has me looking up Weiner’s backlist. I love a book with lots of layers, it makes the story so interesting, gives extra life to the characters and just makes for a well-balanced read. Which was what Big Summer was. There was social media mania, body shaming, and the joys of friendship when privilege is taken for granted.

One of the things I loved was the blurb, it doesn’t give anything about the story away. So when things happen I was taken by surprise and thoroughly enjoyed the plot. The audiobook comes in at almost 11 hours with

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Excerpt: Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon

Author: Hannah Mary McKinnon
ISBN: 9780778309550
Publication Date: May 26, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books


Chapter 1

The police didn’t believe me.

A jury wouldn’t have, either, if I’d gone on trial, and most definitely not the judge. My attorney had more than a few reservations about my story. Ms. Allerton hadn’t said as much. She didn’t need to. I saw it in her eyes, could tell by the way she shuffled and reshuffled her papers, as if doing so might shake my lies clean off the pages, leaving only the truth behind in her inky, royal blue swirls.

After our first meeting I’d concluded she must’ve known early on—before she shook my hand with her icy fingers—that I was a liar. Before she’d walked into the room in shiny, four-inch heels, she’d no doubt decided she’d heard my excuses, or a variation thereof, from countless clients already. I was yet another person claiming to be innocent. Another criminal who’d remained adamant they’d done nothing wrong, it wasn’t their fault, honest, despite the overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary, a wall of impending doom surrounding me.

And still, at the time I’d believed the only reason Ms. Allerton had taken on my case pro-bono was because of the amount of publicity it gave her firm. Reducing my sentence—for there would be one—would amplify her legacy as a hot-shot lawyer. I’d accepted her help. There was no other option. I needed her knowledge, her expertise, saw her as my final hope. I now know her motivations were something else I’d miscalculated. All hope extinguished. Game over.

If I’m being fair, the judgements Ms. Allerton and other people had made about me weren’t completely wrong. I had told lies, some, anyway. While that stripped away part of my claim to innocence, it didn’t mean I was entirely guilty. Not of the things everybody said I’d done. Things I’d had no choice but to confess to, despite that being my biggest lie of all.

But I’ll tell you the truth. The whole truth and nothing but. I’ll start at the beginning, and share everything that happened. Every last detail leading up to one fateful night. The night someone died because of me. The night I lost you, too.

I won’t expect your forgiveness. Our relationship—or lack thereof—will have gone way beyond that point. No. All I can hope for, is that my side of the story will one day help you understand why I did the things I did.

And why I have to do the things I’ve not yet done.


In Hannah Mary McKinnon’s psychological thriller, SISTER DEAR (MIRA Trade; May 26, 2020; $17.99), the obsession of Single White Female meets the insidiousness of You, in a twisted fable about the ease of letting in those who wish us harm, and that mistake’s dire consequences.

The day he dies, Eleanor Hardwicke discovers her father – the only person who has ever loved her – is not her father. Instead, her biological father is a wealthy Portland businessman who wants nothing to do with her and to continue his life as if she doesn’t exist. That isn’t going to work for Eleanor.

Eleanor decides to settle the score. So, she befriends his daughter Victoria, her perfect, beautiful, carefree half-sister who has gotten all of life’s advantages while Eleanor has gotten none.

As she grows closer to Victoria, Eleanor’s obsession begins to deepen. Maybe she can have the life she wants, Victoria’s life, if only she can get close enough. 


Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing, and is now the author of The Neighbors and Her Secret Son. She lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is delighted by her twenty-second commute.

Author Website
Twitter: @HannahMMcKinnon
Instagram: @hannahmarymckinnon
Facebook: @HannahMaryMcKinnon

Monday, May 18, 2020

Review: The Brideship Wife by Leslie Howard

The Brideship WifeInspired by the history of the British “brideships,” this captivating historical debut tells the story of one woman’s coming of age and search for independence—for readers of Pam Jenoff's The Orphan's Tale and Armando Lucas Correa’s The German Girl.

Tomorrow we would dock in Victoria on the northwest coast of North America, about as far away from my home as I could imagine. Like pebbles tossed upon the beach, we would scatter, trying to make our way as best as we could. Most of us would marry; some would not.

England, 1862. Charlotte is somewhat of a wallflower. Shy and bookish, she knows her duty is to marry, but with no dowry, she has little choice in the matter. She can’t continue to live off the generosity of her sister Harriet and her wealthy brother-in-law, Charles, whose political aspirations dictate that she make an advantageous match.

When Harriet hosts a grand party, Charlotte is charged with winning the affections of one of Charles’s colleagues, but before the night is over, her reputation—her one thing of value—is at risk. In the days that follow, rumours begin to swirl. Soon Charles’s standing in society is threatened and all that Charlotte has held dear is jeopardized, even Harriet, and Charlotte is forced to leave everything she has ever known in England and embark on a treacherous voyage to the New World.

From the rigid social circles of Victorian England to the lawless lands bursting with gold in British Columbia’s Cariboo, The Brideship Wife takes readers on a mesmerizing journey through a time of great change. Based on a forgotten chapter in history, this is a sparkling debut about the pricelessness of freedom and the courage it takes to follow your heart.

Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published May 5th 2020 
 by Simon & Schuster 

The Brideship Wife is a story of two sisters and the bond they share, it’s about social classes, scandal, and new beginnings. Stepping outside your comfort zone and standing tall despite the change in the direction your life takes. 
So much of this book takes place on the ship with meals, teas, strolls on deck in the appropriate attire that made me forget it was 1862 at times. Social classes are pro dominate here, the author played that out nicely arousing my irritation and frustration at the mannerisms of the high and mighty. While the journey was long and dangerous the author downplayed all the trauma that could have incurred, but instead developed relationships. 

The historical aspect I found interesting.  The history of the West Coast with names like Vancouver, Fraser popping up along with the Indigenous people not just of that era but prior as elaborated on in the extensive author notes - which are a fit ending for any historical fiction book.
Anything to do with Canadian history interests me which is why I was drawn to this book, along with that gorgeous cover.
  My thanks to Simon & Schuster for a digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Review: Stories We Never Told by Sonja Yoerg

Stories We Never Told
Psychology professor Jackie Strelitz thought she was over her ex-lover and colleague, Harlan Crispin. Why should she care if Harlan springs a new “friend” on her? After all, Jackie has everything she ever wanted: a loving husband and a thriving career. Still, she can’t help but be curious about Harlan’s latest.

Nasira Amari is graceful, smart, and young. Worse, she’s the new member of Jackie’s research team. For five years, Harlan enforced rules limiting his relationship with Jackie. With Nasira he’s breaking every single one. Why her?

Fixated by the couple, Jackie’s curiosity becomes an obsession. But she soon learns that nothing is quite what it seems, and that to her surprise—and peril—she may not be the only one who can’t let go.

Kindle Edition, 328 pages

Published May 1st, 2020 
 by Lake Union 

 This is my second book by Sonja Yoerg. All the Best People was published 3 years ago and I loved it. It was women’s fiction at its finest.

Stories We Never Told is a slow burn psychological suspense. Most of the story is told through Jackie’s pov. A professor of high standings she is soon drawn into a web of mystery, suspicious that threatens not just her mental health but her job as well.

Even though I didn't really connect with the different characters the author kept my attention, she drew me in as I tried to figure out what was going on.

Stories We Never Told is a story of obsession, secrets (oh the secrets), and relationships.

My thanks to the publisher, Lake Union Publishing and Tall Poppy Writers (via Netgalley) for a digital copy in exchange for an honest review.