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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

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

Excerpt

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
Goodreads

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 
3.5/5 

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 
3.5/5


 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.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Review: And They Called It Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis by Stephanie Marie Thornton,

And They Called It Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy OnassisAn intimate portrait of the life of Jackie O…

Few of us can claim to be the authors of our fate. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy knows no other choice. With the eyes of the world watching, Jackie uses her effortless charm and keen intelligence to carve a place for herself among the men of history and weave a fairy tale for the American people, embodying a senator’s wife, a devoted mother, a First Lady—a queen in her own right.

But all reigns must come to an end. Once JFK travels to Dallas and the clock ticks down those thousand days of magic in Camelot, Jackie is forced to pick up the ruined fragments of her life and forge herself into a new identity that is all her own, that of an American legend.
 

Paperback, 448 pages
Published March 10th 2020 
 by Berkley 
5/5
 
This wasn't a quick read, coming in at over 400 pages some might find that size daunting, I didn’t. Being familiar with Stephanie ‘s writing I knew what to expect - a well-researched and well-written book about a woman with a story to tell. A woman of inspiration and drive, one that I knew little about.

I’ll confess that this read was interspersed with google. Jackie was a woman with style, the descriptions had me checking out not just her attire online but decoration and causes.
 
 I really enjoyed getting to know Jackie, her relationships not just  with Jack but her sister as well,. along with father-in-law Joe Kennedy, Bobby and even Onassis. Her character and motivation stood out. I really have a new appreciation for all she went through because honestly I didn’t have a clue. From pictures I’ve always felt Jackie to be a quiet woman who followed JFK around. This book opened my eyes to a woman who endured so much heartache in her life, her struggles, and where she found her strength.
 
Definitely a book and author I highly recommend.

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

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Review: The Beekeeper's Apprentice (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #1) by Laurie R. King

The Beekeeper's Apprentice (Mary Russell, #1)Long retired, Sherlock Holmes quietly pursues his study of honeybee behavior on the Sussex Downs. He never imagines he would encounter anyone whose intellect matched his own, much less an audacious teenage girl with a penchant for detection. Miss Mary Russell becomes Holmes' pupil and quickly hones her talent for deduction, disguises and danger. But when an elusive villain enters the picture, their partnership is put to a real test.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Paperback, 346 pages
Published October 2nd, 2007 
by Picador (first published January 15th, 1994) 
3/5 
 
Ever since meeting the author in Toronto, at Bouchercon, this book has been on my radar. I started out with the audiobook, the reader had a great voice that brought the story to life but some weird sounds emitted that I found distracting and I grabbed my signed print copy and continued.

Having never read Sherlock Holmes and my only reference is movies I wasn’t sure what to expect. This book had an interesting beginning as the friendship between Holmes and Mary Russel takes shape. It’s through her voice that this book plays out. She is smart and logical the bond grows between these two.

This book and series have been getting rave reviews, so I feel that my issues are my own. I can’t say that the mystery(s) really kept my attention, rather I found them flat and lacked the spark I enjoy in a good who dun it. Not being a Holmes fan to begin with could play into this. Most likely for those that like what I call a cozy mystery will enjoy this book and series.

This book was part of my 2020 Reading Off My Shelf challenge.
 

Friday, May 8, 2020

Review: The Library of Legends by Janie Chang

The Library of LegendsFrom the author of Three Souls and Dragon Springs Road comes a captivating historical novel in which a convoy of student refugees travel across China, fleeing the hostilities of a brutal war with Japan
 
 “Myths are the darkest and brightest incarnations of who we are . . .”

China, 1937. When Japanese bombs begin falling on the city of Nanking, nineteen-year-old Hu Lian and her classmates at Minghua University are ordered to flee. Lian and a convoy of students, faculty and staff must walk 1,000 miles to the safety of China’s western provinces, a journey marred by the constant threat of aerial attack. And it is not just the refugees who are at risk; Lian and her classmates have been entrusted with a priceless treasure: a 500-year-old collection of myths and folklore known as the Library of Legends.

The students’ common duty to safeguard the Library of Legends creates unexpected bonds. Lian becomes friends and forms a cautious romance with the handsome and wealthy Liu Shaoming. But after one classmate is arrested and another one is murdered, Lian realizes she must escape before a family secret puts her in danger too. Accompanied by Shao and his enigmatic maidservant, Sparrow, Lian makes her way to Shanghai in the hopes of reuniting with her mother.

During the journey, Lian learns of the connection between her two companions and a tale from the Library of Legends, The Willow Star and the Prince. This revelation comes with profound consequences, for as the ancient books travel across China, they awaken immortals and guardian spirits who embark on an exodus of their own, one that will change the country’s fate forever.
  
Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Published April 28th, 2020 
by HarperAvenue 
3/5 - I liked it
 
 
The Library of Legends has been on my radar for a while now. Canadian author Janie Chang is new to me, I've read great things about her previous book, Dragon Springs Road so I jumped at the chance to review this one. This book has already released in Canada and will be available in the US on Tuesday (the 12th).
 
The book was atmospheric, in that, I got a real sense of the social climate, the history and the era (that I knew nothing about previously), that being said I really wanted to know more about The Library of Legends itself, not that it was neglected but the history geek in me wanted to know more.
 
There was a YA feel here, most likely because the story centers around 3 university students who begin the 1000 mile walk as Japan evades China.  Based on fact I found that interesting.  The book concluded with some author notes that are always a treat (and a must) with an HF book.

My only pet peeve is that the blurb gives too much of story away, some things mentioned don’t happen until the 60% mark which to me is a major spoiler - hence why I love going into a book blind. At that point there wasn’t really an element of surprise, I already knew what was going to happen.
 
All in all an interesting story about a piece of history and area I rarely venture.
 
My thanks to the publisher (via Edelweiss) for an advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest review.
 
 
 

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Spotlight & Giveaway: The Ruin of Evangaline Jones by Julia Bennet

The Ruin of Evangaline Jones by Julia Bennet

Publication Date: April 27, 2020
Entangled Publishing/Amara
Series: Harcastle Inheritance, Book 2
Genre: Historical Romance/Victorian

Alex Stanton just inherited a dukedom but his true passion is uncovering charlatans and frauds wherever he finds them. Spiritualist and medium Evangeline “Evie” Jones is the biggest fake of all and he’s determined to expose her lies for all of London to see. Her prim manner and ladylike airs don’t fool him. He sees the hunger beneath and recognizes a worthy opponent. He can’t deny the dark undercurrents of lust between them.

 Evie worked her way up from the gutter and she’s not about to abandon the life she’s built for fear of this aristocratic dilettante. She knows his type. She sees the attraction simmering beneath his animosity, and she knows how to use it to keep him off balance. They strike a bargain. He has one week to prove she’s a fake. If he fails, he has to abandon all further attempts. If he succeeds, she’ll not only retire but make a public statement explaining all her tricks.

 Neither expects to find anything in common, not to mention anything to love, in the other. Both are blindsided by the affinity and blossoming tenderness between them. But even if it were possible for a lowly charlatan to live happily ever after with a duke, more is going on than either suspects. Someone else has brought them together for a sinister purpose of his own.

Available on Amazon


Julia writes historical romance with passion, intrigue, dark humor and the occasional animal sidekick. A tea-sodden English woman, she’s the only girl in a house of boys and yearns for all things pink and fluffy. Before she began writing, she spent many years searching for something to do with her English Literature degree.

Nothing satisfied her until she decided to commit the stories in her head to paper. These days, if she isn’t writing, she’s probably reading everything she can get her hands on, spending time with her boys or procrastinating on the internet.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

 

  Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.  

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 12th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Paperback giveaway is open to the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

 Evangeline Jones
 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Audio Review: The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner

The Yellow Bird Sings
In Poland, as World War II rages, a mother hides with her young daughter, a musical prodigy whose slightest sound may cost them their lives.

As Nazi soldiers round up the Jews in their town, Róża and her 5-year-old daughter, Shira, flee, seeking shelter in a neighbor’s barn. Hidden in the hayloft day and night, Shira struggles to stay still and quiet, as music pulses through her and the farmyard outside beckons. To soothe her daughter and pass the time, Róża tells her a story about a girl in an enchanted garden:

The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings. He sings whatever the girl composes in her head: high-pitched trills of piccolo; low-throated growls of the contrabassoon. Music helps the flowers bloom.

In this make-believe world, Róża can shield Shira from the horrors that surround them. But the day comes when their haven is no longer safe, and Róża must make an impossible choice: whether to keep Shira by her side or give her the chance to survive apart.

Inspired by the true stories of Jewish children hidden during World War II, Jennifer Rosner’s debut is a breathtaking novel about the unbreakable bond between a mother and a daughter. Beautiful and riveting, The Yellow Bird Sings is a testament to the triumph of hope—a whispered story, a bird’s song—in even the darkest of tim
es.
 
Audible Audio, Unabridged
Published March 3rd, 2020 by Macmillan Audio 
6 hours 42 minutes
4/5 

The Yellow Bird Sings is a heart-wrenching story of a mother's love and the lengths she will go to protect her child.

It isn’t a long audiobook, just under 7 hours that describes the journey as a Jewish mother and daughter flee from Nazi during WW2. The author was inspired by true stories of children hidden away during the war. I can’t even begin to imagine the feelings of heartache and despair that would force a parent to do this, even knowing it was the only way to protect them.

This is the author's debut, The Yellow Bird Sings is a well written story, lyrical with the musical elements in the audio, atmospheric to the dangers of the era and the compassion of those who help amidst a horrible time.
 
Even though I’ve seen this book around it wasn’t until Hannah Mary McKinnon’s FirstChapterFun reading that had me downloading the audio from Scribd right then and there.
 

Monday, May 4, 2020

Review: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James


The Sun Down Motel
The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn't right at the Sun Down, and before long she's determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…






Hardcover, 327 pages
Published February 18th, 2020
 by Berkley 
4/5 

Simone St. James had me with The Broken Girls, if I could have given it more than 5 stars I would have.  The result is that it puts pressure on the next book plus others as I now make my way through her backlist.

A telltale feature I have discovered is the ghostly presence that has now become a given.  With The Sun Down Motel it gave the story an extra creepy feel, it kept me on my toes not just for the next appearance but the relevance to the story.

The mystery of what happened back in 1982 is what sets Carly off searching.  Still reeling of grief she gets more than she bargained for.  I liked both storylines here though I found myself at times reaffirming the POV.  Carly and Viv are similar characters in similar locations that at times had me stopping to remember which time period I was in.

As always James kept me engaged, it wasn't hard to envision the old motel, its empty pool, creepy nocturnal and paranormal activity. As I progressed it become an addictive read to finish with a conclusion that was satisfying. 

Simone St. James has again solidified herself as a favorite and go-to author for me.  I recommend this book for a relatively quick read (because ya gotta know whats happen here).

This book was from my shelf and part of my 2020 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.

 click on cover to see my review
http://www.justonemorechapter.com/2018/04/review-broken-girls-by-simone-st-james.html