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.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads


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