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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Review: The Witches of New York by Ami McKay

The beloved, bestselling author of The Birth House and The Virgin Cure is back with her most beguiling novel yet, luring us deep inside the lives of a trio of remarkable young women navigating the glitz and grotesqueries of Gilded-Age New York by any means possible, including witchcraft...

The year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom (Moth from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it's finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch: a former medical student and gardien de sorts (keeper of spells), Eleanor St. Clair. Together they cater to Manhattan's high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions--and in guarding the secrets of their clients. All is well until one bright September afternoon, when an enchanting young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment. Beatrice soon becomes indispensable as Eleanor's apprentice, but her new life with the witches is marred by strange occurrences. She sees things no one else can see. She hears voices no one else can hear. Objects appear out of thin air, as if gifts from the dead. Has she been touched by magic or is she simply losing her mind? Eleanor wants to tread lightly and respect the magic manifest in the girl, but Adelaide sees a business opportunity. Working with Dr. Quinn Brody, a talented alienist, she submits Beatrice to a series of tests to see if she truly can talk to spirits. Amidst the witches' tug-of-war over what's best for her, Beatrice disappears, leaving them to wonder whether it was by choice or by force.

As Adelaide and Eleanor begin the desperate search for Beatrice, they're confronted by accusations and spectres from their own pasts. In a time when women were corseted, confined and committed for merely speaking their minds, were any of them safe?

Paperback, 504 pages
Published July 4th, 2017
by Vintage Books Canada
** 1/2


Be forewarned I am going against the flow with this book. I didn't read the blurb before I started, it’s on my shelf meaning at some point in time I did read it and decided this was a book for me. This book is over 500 pages long and covers so much of life in New York City, yes I got to know these 3 women but I also felt that I was given snippets of what was happening around them, though they might have been relevant to the story there were just too many that thinned out the actual plot.

I liked these women, which saved this from being a DNF, I liked the atmospheric feel. The Cleopatra’s Needle was an interesting tidbit of historical fact. But I found the story itself very slow-moving.

There is a lot of magic that takes place, some eerie, some interesting and others spooky. Spells and incantations and of course there are those that support these witches and those that don’t. I finally read the blurb only to discover plot points mentioned that didn’t happen till the last quarter of the book (to me that is a spoiler - a pet peeve of mine).

I just felt Witches lacked suspense and emotion, it was a slow burn where the ending didn’t really satisfy me. I understand there is a sequel that I will most likely pass on.

This book is from my personal library and part of my 2020 Reading of my Shelf Challenge.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Review: The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham

The Home for Unwanted Girls meets Orphan Train in this unforgettable novel about a young girl caught in a scheme to rid England’s streets of destitute children, and the lengths she will go to find her way home—based on the true story of the British Home Children.

2018

At ninety-seven years old, Winnifred Ellis knows she doesn’t have much time left, and it is almost a relief to realize that once she is gone, the truth about her shameful past will die with her. But when her great-grandson Jamie, the spitting image of her dear late husband, asks about his family tree, Winnifred can’t lie any longer, even if it means breaking a promise she made so long ago...

1936

Fifteen-year-old Winny has never known a real home. After running away from an abusive stepfather, she falls in with Mary, Jack, and their ragtag group of friends roaming the streets of Liverpool. When the children are caught stealing food, Winny and Mary are left in Dr. Barnardo’s Barkingside Home for Girls, a local home for orphans and forgotten children found in the city’s slums. At Barkingside, Winny learns she will soon join other boys and girls in a faraway place called Canada, where families and better lives await them.

But Winny’s hopes are dashed when she is separated from her friends and sent to live with a family that has no use for another daughter. Instead, they have paid for an indentured servant to work on their farm. Faced with this harsh new reality, Winny clings to the belief that she will someday find her friends again.

Inspired by true events, The Forgotten Home Child is a moving and heartbreaking novel about place, belonging, and family—the one we make for ourselves and its enduring power to draw us home.

Paperback, 384 pages
Expected publication: March 3rd, 2020
by Simon & Schuster
*****

Many years ago I began a search of Canadian HF, I wanted to read more about this great country. Little did I know how hard it would be to find.  Then Genevieve Graham came out with Tides of Honour and I haven't looked back.  Her last 4 books have given me exactly what I was looking for - Canadian history with a wonderful story.

On March 3rd The Forgotten Home Child releases. Told from the POV of a younger and older Winny along with her friend Jack.  It's a heart-wrenching story that I couldn't turn away from, I needed to know the outcome. Home Child is more than a story of Dr. Barnardo's Home but friendship plays center stage, when family fails you your friends are there and that bond between this group was so nice to read. It was authentic and as with Graham's previous books, her passion for history shines through in her writing.

One of the things that hit close for me were the locales throughout this book. Places that have meaning for myself and others I've visited which always makes the story more relatable.

A Note to Readers at the end of the book was equally interesting to read, with pictures and historical facts I was captivated. The Forgotten Home Child is a part of our history that I never learned about in school (I wasn't sleeping in history class because others I've talked to about this book were in the dark also). Kinda makes me wonder what else I might be clueless about.

I have not read Graham's first books (a series, The MacDonnell's) but her last 5 books are ones that I highly recommend. 

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Spotlight/Giveaway: Far Away Bird by Douglas A. Burton

Far Away Bird by Douglas A. Burton

Cover art illustration by George Frei

Publication Date: February 6, 2020
Silent Music Press LLC
Paperback; 394 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Inspired by true events, Far Away Bird delves into the complex mind of Byzantine Empress Theodora. This intimate account deftly follows her rise from actress-prostitute in Constantinople's red-light district to the throne of the Byzantine Empire. Her salacious past has left historians blushing and uncomfortable. Tales of her shamelessness have survived for centuries, and yet her accomplishments as an empress are unparalleled. Theodora goes on to influence sweeping reforms that result in some of the first ever Western laws granting women freedom and protection. More than a millennium before the women's rights movement, Theodora, alone, took on the world's greatest superpower and succeeded. Far Away Bird goes where history classrooms fear to tread in hopes that Theodora can finally take her seat among the greatest women in history. Theodora seems impossible--yet her transcendence teaches us that society can't tell us who we are deep down. Before there was a legendary empress, there was a conflicted young woman from the lower classes. And her name was Theodora.

Award Winner!

Grand Prize Winner 2019 Manuscript Contest for historical fiction-Writers' League of Texas
Bronze Medal for Best Debut Novel in historical fiction-The Coffee Pot Book Club
Gold Medal Book of the Year historical fiction- The Coffee Pot Book Club

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Douglas Alan Burton is a speaker, author, and expert storyteller whose work depicts heroic figures and their deeper connection to the human experience. Doug blogs about heroes, heroines, and villains in pop culture with some unexpected and refreshing perspective. He grew up in what he describes as “the heroic boyhood culture of late Generation X” that has gone mainstream around the world. He also shares strategies with fellow writers for writing compelling heroic characters in fiction. Douglas recently began outlining a breakthrough storytelling model that reveals a fascinating “heroine-centric” model for story structure he calls The Heroine’s Labyrinth. He believes a powerful new archetype is emerging for women in fiction. His forthcoming novel, Far Away Bird, which centers on the early life of Byzantine Empress Theodora, won the 2019 Manuscript Content for Historical Fiction from the Writers’ League of Texas and will be published in February of 2020.

 Follow Doug on Facebook and Twitter and stay in the conversation, and follow his blog at www.douglasaburton.com.

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away two copies of Far Away Bird by Douglas Burton! To enter, please use the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on February 14th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Paperback giveaway is to the US only. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. – The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

  Far Away Bird

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Review: The Borgia Confessions: A Novel by Alyssa Palombo

'Under Palombo’s skillful hand, the entangled world of the Borgias comes vividly to life, exposing the dark facets of class structure and the all-consuming greed that comes with ambition--and love." - Heather Webb, internationally bestselling author of Last Christmas in Paris and Meet Me in Monaco

During the sweltering Roman summer of 1492, Rodrigo Borgia has risen to power as pope. Rodrigo’s eldest son Cesare, forced to follow his father into the church and newly made the Archbishop of Valencia, chafes at his ecclesiastical role and fumes with jealousy and resentment at the way that his foolish brother has been chosen for the military greatness he desired.

Maddalena Moretti comes from the countryside, where she has seen how the whims of powerful men wreak havoc on the lives of ordinary people. But now, employed as a servant in the Vatican Palace, she cannot help but be entranced by Cesare Borgia’s handsome face and manner and finds her faith and conviction crumbling in her want of him.

As war rages and shifting alliances challenge the pope’s authority, Maddalena and Cesare's lives grow inexplicably entwined. Maddalena becomes a keeper of dangerous Borgia secrets and must decide if she is willing to be a pawn in the power games of the man she loves. And as jealousy and betrayal threaten to tear apart the Borgia family from within, Cesare is forced to reckon with his seemingly limitless ambition.

Alyssa Palombo's captivating new novel, The Borgia Confessions, is a story of passion, politics, and class, set against the rise and fall of one of Italy's most infamous families--the Borgias.

Kindle Edition, 432 pages
Published February 11th, 2020
by St. Martin's Griffin
****

Cesare Borgia was a teen with dreams of military life but when your father is Rodrigo Borgia, the Pope, well your life isn't your own.  When the Pope tells you what to do there is no arguing.  Such is the life of Cesare, bowing to his father (literally).  It was a nice change to have a male POV, he might not be all that likable but getting a sense of his turmoil and desires made his story authentic.  It wasn't a pretty story - these are the Borgia's after all, but seeing it from his perspective didn't justify his behavior but one could understand it better.  Actually, that isn't correct, who can really understand the things they did.

The other POV was that of Maddalena, she is a fictional character, maid to Cesare's sister Lucrezia. With desires of her own, secrets to keep and guilt to overcome she is caught up in the Borgia net and gets more than she bargained for.

This is only my second time reading Alyssa Palombo and I find her writing style gripping.  I am placed in the halls of The Vatican or in the dark alleys.  She brings to life a time of unrest with her research shining through along with her passion for the time period. 

If you haven't read Alyssa Palombo I highly recommend this book along with her previous release The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow.

My thanks to St. Martin's Griffin (via Netgalley) for an advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Review: The Guinevere Deception (Camelot Rising #1) by Kiersten White

There is nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl.

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom's borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution -- send in Guinevere to be Arthur's wife... and his protector from those who want to see the young king's idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere's real name -- and her true identity -- is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.

To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old -- including Arthur's own family -- demand things continue as they have been, and the new -- those drawn by the dream of Camelot -- fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur's knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.

Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?

From the New York Times, bestselling author Kiersten White comes a new fantasy series reimagining the Arthurian legend, set in the magical world of Camelot.

Hardcover, Owlcrate Exclusive Edition, 337 pages 
Published November 5th 2019 
by Delacorte Press
****

One of my goals for 2020 is going outside my comfort zone and trying different genres with the hope of adding variety to my reading life.  Not knowing exactly where to start in the YA fantasy genre I opted to try the OwlCrate YA monthly box.  Have you tried any of these monthly boxes?  I have and they are addicting.  This basically means the YA Owlcrate is a monthly subscription for me and this book, The Guinevere Deception came in my December box (and it's signed to boot!!)

 I'll confess to being totally confused over the whole Arthur/Merlin/Guinevere story, is it real and based on history, is it a fairy tale gone bad or what?  Letting my brain let go of all my questions I sat back and took in this story. This was my first time reading Kiersten White and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Told from the perspective of Guinevere and while the beginning was a tad slow it didn't take long to let go of my preconceived notions of fantasy being confusing and too outlandish that I was caught up in this story. It was intriguing, kept me on my toes and there were a few twists and turns I didn't see coming.

The characters fit the story nicely, it was hard for me to decide whom to trust, some I liked and others not so much. 

So I first (of 2020) foray into YA fantasy was a success.  This is the 1st book in The Camelot Rising Series with book #2 due out sometime in 2020 - it's untitled but added to my TBR pile.

This book is part of my 2020 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.


Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Review: Whisper Me This by Kerry Anne King

Single mother Maisey Addington has always fallen short of her own mother’s expectations—never married, a bit adrift, wasting her high IQ on dead-end jobs. The only thing Maisey’s sure she’s gotten right is her relationship with her twelve-year-old daughter, Elle…until a phone call blows apart the precarious balance of their lives. Maisey’s mother is in a coma, and her aging father faces charges of abuse and neglect.

Back at her childhood home, Maisey must make a heartrending life-or-death decision. Her confused father has destroyed family records, including her mother’s final wishes. Searching for answers, Maisey uncovers one unspeakable secret after another when she stumbles upon a shattering truth: a twin sister named Marley.

Maisey’s obsession with solving the mystery of her sister forces her to examine her darkest memories and triggers a custody battle with Elle’s father. Will Maisey’s love for her daughter be strong enough to break a cycle of abuse and create a new beginning for them all?

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published August 1st, 2018
by Lake Union Publishing
**** 1/2

I won this book from the lovely and talented Barbara Claypole White and am kicking myself for waiting so long to read it.  Kerry Anne King is a new to me author, I am now searching for her previous books so I can enjoy more of her writing.

Whisper Me This is a book I dived into without reading the blurb and I instantly connected not just with Maisey and her daughter Elle but the author's writing.  It was authentic and maybe because I at one time was a caregiver it hit closer for me.  There are many triggers in this book, abuse (both verbal and physical) along with guilt and anger.
“And still, through all this overwhelming grief and fear and loss, my anger is an ever-present demon. It tangles itself in all the other emotions, stealing the sweetness from my love, poisoning my fear. I watch from the doorway, until finally everything stops.” 
 Told from the POV of Maisey, letters her mother wrote and also Tony, the fireman and former schoolmate of Maisey. Whisper Me This is a journey for both Maisey and Tony, it's about overcoming demons, letting go and letting others in. There is mystery here and while at times it might have been predictable to a certain degree, I was still anxious for the details to be revealed and things to click into place.

Kerry Anne King is an author I will recommend to those that love beautiful covers, family drama and getting sucked into a good book.


This book is from my personal library and part of my 2020 reading my shelf challenge.