Monday, December 28, 2020

Audio Review: The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek

Longtime Jeopardy! host and television icon Alex Trebek reflects on his life and career.

Since debuting as the host of Jeopardy! in 1984, Alex Trebek has been something like a family member to millions of television viewers, bringing entertainment and education into their homes five nights a week. Last year, he made the stunning announcement that he had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. What followed was an incredible outpouring of love and kindness. Social media was flooded with messages of support, and the Jeopardy! studio received boxes of cards and letters offering guidance, encouragement, and prayers.

For over three decades, Trebek had resisted countless appeals to write a book about his life. Yet he was moved so much by all the goodwill, he felt compelled to finally share his story. “I want people to know a little more about the person they have been cheering on for the past year,” he writes in The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life.

The book combines illuminating personal anecdotes with Trebek’s thoughts on a range of topics, including marriage, parenthood, education, success, spirituality, and philanthropy. Trebek also addresses the questions he gets asked most often by Jeopardy! fans, such as what prompted him to shave his signature mustache, his insights on legendary players like Ken Jennings and James Holzhauer, and his opinion of Will Ferrell’s Saturday Night Live impersonation. The book uses a novel structure inspired by Jeopardy!, with each chapter title in the form of a question, and features dozens of never-before-seen photos that candidly capture Trebek over the years.

This wise, charming, and inspiring book is further evidence why Trebek has long been considered one of the most beloved and respected figures in entertainment. 

Audiobook, 4 hours 35 minutes
Alex Trebek (Author/Narrator), 
Ken Jennings (Narrator)
Published July 21st 2020 
by Simon & Schuster Audio
3.5/5 stars

I put the audio of this on hold at the library as soon as it was released, took about 5 months but finally got it - I guess that's a sign at how popular it is.

Like so many others who love Jeopardy I was saddened to hear of a cancer diagnosis and passing of fellow Canadian Alex Trebek.  Written by Trebek the audio is read by former contestant and friend Ken Jennings with some chapters voiced by Alex himself.

The Answer Is is a memoir of his life beginning in Sudbury, Ontario.  It was a true reflection of his insights into his thoughts, standards and where he shared some words of wisdom.  The chapters are short, as is the audio - 4 & 1/2 hours long.

I enjoyed listening to this one and actually glad I went though that route, though I imagine the print copy would included photos. Trebek had an interesting life on his way to Jeopardy, there wasn't anything earth shattering here just a nice reflection of his life, family and interests. 

I think fans of all ages will enjoy this one.

My copy was obtained from the public library via Libby.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Review: In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

One Christmas wish, two brothers, and a lifetime of hope are on the line for hapless Maelyn Jones in In a Holidaze, the quintessential holiday romantic novel by Christina Lauren, the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners..

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

Jam-packed with yuletide cheer, an unforgettable cast of characters, and Christina Lauren’s trademark “downright hilarious” (Helen Hoang, author of The Bride Test) hijinks, this swoon-worthy romantic read will make you believe in the power of wishes and the magic of the holidays.

Paperback, 307 pages
Published October 6th 2020
 by Gallery Books
4/5 stars

2020 has been a year and a half, to put it mildly.  I've found my reading habits have changed somewhat.  Where I was strictly historical fiction I am turning to suspense thrillers and recently rom/com, with this holiday season trying my hand at Christmas stories.  While I'm slowly getting back to HF I hope to continue the rom/coms and so far I've loved those read this year.

In a Holidaze has been making the rounds over social media and finally the day before Christmas I made an impulse purchase - Merry Christmas to me.

I was grabbed right away with this story.  What's not to love about a group of friends who get together to celebrate not just the holidays but their friendship as well.  Told from Mae's pov as she goes through some weird time loop thing, it's Christmastime where magic is in the air.

When I say magic I don't wan to imply that's the total make up of this book.  Yea there is a touch but this book offers much more.  It's a cry for help from Mae as she sets out to discover what her life is really about and what she wants.  It's funny, full of yuletide cheer and the realisation that your family doesn't necessarily mean connected by blood. 

Steeped in tradition In a Holidaze was a fun, feel good read that was perfect for the season.

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Review: Shiver by Allie Reynolds

In this propulsive locked-room thriller debut, a reunion weekend in the French Alps turns deadly when five friends discover that someone has deliberately stranded them at their remote mountaintop resort during a snowstorm.

When Milla accepts an off-season invitation to Le Rocher, a cozy ski resort in the French Alps, she's expecting an intimate weekend of catching up with four old friends. It might have been a decade since she saw them last, but she's never forgotten the bond they forged on this very mountain during a winter spent fiercely training for an elite snowboarding competition.

Yet no sooner do Milla and the others arrive for the reunion than they realize something is horribly wrong. The resort is deserted. The cable cars that delivered them to the mountaintop have stopped working. Their cell phones--missing. And inside the hotel, detailed instructions await them: an icebreaker game, designed to draw out their secrets. A game meant to remind them of Saskia, the enigmatic sixth member of their group, who vanished the morning of the competition years before and has long been presumed dead.

Stranded in the resort, Milla's not sure what's worse: the increasingly sinister things happening around her or the looming snowstorm that's making escape even more impossible. All she knows is that there's no one on the mountain she can trust. Because someone has gathered them there to find out the truth about Saskia...someone who will stop at nothing to get answers. And if Milla's not careful, she could be the next to disappear...

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: January 28th 2021 
by Penguin Group (GP Putnam's Sons)
4/5 stars

A chilly debut that put me right there in this cold winter setting.  Told in dual time period via Milla both current day and in the past.  So what happened ten years ago exactly?  That's the question and slowly (maybe a tad slowly at times) the events of that winter are revealed.

 I don't read a lot of books with that lock-down setting and I'll admit that part of me thinks is it even possible to have a book with both depth of character and a story that doesn't drag when covering a shorter period of time.  I'm happy to report that it worked out nicely here.

Shiver is a chilly suspense that kept me guessing until it didn't (pretty darn close to the end I might add).  With any mystery there is always twists and turns, my mind trying to decipher the clues. Both time periods are full of secrets but its the current day where they get darker and deadlier.  Set high up in the mountains there is no way to escape or communicate with the outside world. 

There is lots of talk about snowboarding, but that's okay - its who these people are and central to the plot. It actually gave me a new appreciation for the work involved with that sport.

Shiver has an interesting cast of characters, all suspect, flawed and unreliable - what better group is there to be stranded with, right?  Shiver releases in a months time and available now for preorder.  It's a book I recommend to those that love a slow burn suspense to go with the chilly months ahead.

My thanks to Penguin Group (via Netgalley) for an advanced e-arc in exchange for a honest review.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Review: The Last Tiara by M.J. Rose

From New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller M.J. Rose comes a provocative and moving story of a young female architect in post-World War II Manhattan, who stumbles upon a hidden treasure and begins a journey to discovering her mother’s life during the fall of the Romanovs.

Sophia Moon had always been reticent about her life in Russia and when she dies, suspiciously, on a wintry New York evening, Isobelle despairs that her mother’s secrets have died with her. But while renovating the apartment they shared, Isobelle discovers something among her mother’s effects—a stunning silver tiara, stripped of its jewels.

Isobelle’s research into the tiara’s provenance draws her closer to her mother’s past—including the story of what became of her father back in Russia, a man she has never known. The facts elude her until she meets a young jeweller, who wants to help her but is conflicted by his loyalty to the Midas Society, a covert international organization whose mission is to return lost and stolen antiques, jewels, and artwork to their original owners.

Told in alternating points of view, the stories of the two young women unfurl as each struggles to find their way during two separate wars. In 1915, young Sofiya Petrovitch, favourite of the royal household and best friend of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, tends to wounded soldiers in a makeshift hospital within the grounds of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg and finds the love of her life. In 1948 New York, Isobelle Moon works to break through the rampant sexism of the age as one of very few women working in a male-dominated profession and discovers far more about love and family than she ever hoped for.

In M.J. Rose’s deftly constructed narrative, the secrets of Sofiya’s early life are revealed incrementally, even as Isobelle herself works to solve the mystery of the historic Romanov tiara (which is based on an actual Romanov artifact that is, to this day, still missing)—and how it is that her mother came to possess it. The two strands play off each other in finely-tuned counterpoint, building to a series of surprising and deeply satisfying revelations.

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: February 2nd 2021
by Blue Box Press
3.5/5 stars

There seems to be a theme in the last couple of books my M.J. Rose - Cartier's Hope, Tiffany Blues and now The Last Tiara.  It's an interesting theme and rather catchy.

As with her previous books this is a dual time period story, told by a mother and her daughter.  Both era's aren't always friendly to women which played out here. Both independent, one strong as she lives during turbulent times and the other who is constantly obsessing about being good enough - which was repeated too many times.  I get being insecure, especially in the 1940's for ambitious women and understand that is an issue but it just seemed over done.

This is very much a tell book, sometime it works just fine but other times not so much.  It's obvious the author knows the era with the history being well researched, though a couple info drops disrupted the flow.  I enjoyed learning about Faberge and the historical details both in Russia and the US.  I would have loved author notes just to clarify what was fact vs fiction. 

The mystery side of the story revolving around this tiara played out nicely. Lots of clues, twist and turns with a fitting conclusion.

My thanks to the publisher, Blue Box Press (via Netgalley) for an advanced e-arc in exchange for a honest review.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Book Blast: The Coronation by Justin Newland

The Coronation by Justin Newland

Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Paperback & eBook; 299 pages

Genre: Historical Fantasy

It is 1761. Prussia is at war with Russia and Austria. As the Russian army occupies East Prussia, King Frederick the Great and his men fight hard to win back their homeland.

In Ludwigshain, a Junker estate in East Prussia, Countess Marion von Adler celebrates an exceptional harvest. But this is soon requisitioned by Russian troops. When Marion tries to stop them, a Russian Captain strikes her. His Lieutenant, Ian Fermor, defends Marion's honour, but is stabbed for his insubordination. Abandoned by the Russians, Fermor becomes a divisive figure on the estate.

Close to death, Fermor dreams of the Adler, a numinous eagle entity, whose territory extends across the lands of Northern Europe and which is mysteriously connected to the Enlightenment. What happens next will change the course of human history...

"The author is an excellent storyteller." – British Fantasy Society

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble

About the Author

Justin Newland was born in Essex, England, three days before the end of 1953.

His love of literature began with swashbuckling sea stories, pirates and tales of adventure. Undeterred by the award of a Doctorate in Mathematics from Imperial College, London, he worked in I.T. and later ran a hotel.

His taste in literature is eclectic: from literary fiction and fantasy, to science fiction, with a special mention for the magical realists and the existentialists. Along the way, he was wooed by the muses of history, both ancient and modern, and then got happily lost in the labyrinths of mythology, religion and philosophy. Justin writes secret histories in which real events and historical personages are guided and motivated by numinous and supernatural forces.

His debut novel, The Genes of Isis, is a tale of love, destruction, and ephemeral power set under the skies of Ancient Egypt, and which tells the secret history of the human race, Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

His second is The Old Dragon’s Head, a historical fantasy and supernatural thriller set during the Ming Dynasty and played out in the shadows the Great Wall of China. It explores the secret history of the influences that shaped the beginnings of modern times.

Set during the Enlightenment, his third novel, The Coronation reveals the secret history of perhaps the single most important event of the modern world – The Industrial Revolution.

He lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, England.

Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Book Blast Schedule

Monday, December 7
Rajiv's Reviews

Tuesday, December 8
Novels Alive

Wednesday, December 9
Jathan & Heather

Thursday, December 10
The Book Junkie Reads

Saturday, December 12
CelticLady's Reviews

Monday, December 14
Adventures of a Travelers Wife

Thursday, December 17
Gwendalyn's Books

Monday, December 21
Just One More Chapter

Wednesday, December 23
Donna's Book Blog

Monday, December 28
Passages to the Past

Wednesday, December 30
A Darn Good Read


Friday, December 18, 2020

Review: Dark Tides: A Novel (The Fairmile #2) by Philippa Gregory

Midsummer Eve 1670. Two unexpected visitors arrive at a shabby warehouse on the south side of the River Thames. The first is a wealthy man hoping to find the lover he deserted twenty-one years before. James Avery has everything to offer, including the favour of the newly restored King Charles II, and he believes that the warehouse's poor owner Alinor has the one thing his money cannot buy—his son and heir.

The second visitor is a beautiful widow from Venice in deepest mourning. She claims Alinor as her mother-in-law and has come to tell Alinor that her son Rob has drowned in the dark tides of the Venice lagoon.

Alinor writes to her brother Ned, newly arrived in faraway New England and trying to make a life between the worlds of the English newcomers and the American Indians as they move toward inevitable war. Alinor tells him that she knows—without doubt—that her son is alive and the widow is an imposter.

Set in the poverty and glamour of Restoration London, in the golden streets of Venice, and on the tensely contested frontier of early America, this is a novel of greed and desire: for love, for wealth, for a child, and for home

Kindle Edition, 480 pages
Published December 1st 2020
 by Atria Books

Dark Tides is the second  book in The Fairmile Series.  It's my first time reading outside of Gregory's usually foray in the 1400/1500's Royal Court.

It's been 20 years since Tidelands concluded with an ending that left me anticipating the sequel.  Tidelands had more of a mystical feel than this one does, it was atmospheric and had great character development with many layers to different plot lines.  It left me with a number of questions that I hoped to see answered in this new book.  It was also a longish book that was a great opening for new series.

Dark Tides divides the story between 1670 England and New England, for me I failed to see the point of the New England setting, it felt like a filler.  But maybe it plays a bigger role in the next book (if there is one).

I wanted to really enjoy this book.  I got to know Alinor and her daughter so well previously and even Rob but here I couldn't connect with any of them.  I found the plot somewhat predictable and the book too long.  I didn't get the same atmospheric feel that could have helped. The ended was ok, it might have opened the door to book 3 (sorry I've kinda don't remember much of it, which is sad). If there is a book 3 I'm not sure I will continue with this series or not.

My thanks to Atria Books for an advanced e-arc (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Review: Comfort & Joy by Kristin Hannah

New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah is beloved by readers around the world for her unique blend of powerful emotion and exquisite storytelling. In Comfort & Joy, she offers a modern-day fairy tale--the story of a woman who gets a miraculous chance at happiness.

Joy Candellaro once loved Christmas more than any other time of the year. Now, as the holiday approaches, she is at a crossroads in her life; recently divorced and alone, she can't summon the old enthusiasm for celebrating. So without telling anyone, she buys a ticket and boards a plane bound for the beautiful Pacific Northwest. When an unexpected detour takes her deep into the woods of the Olympic rainforest, Joy makes a bold decision to leave her ordinary life behind--to just walk away--and thus begins an adventure unlike any she could have imagined.

In the small town of Rain Valley, six-year-old Bobby O'Shea is facing his first Christmas without a mother. Unable to handle the loss, Bobby has closed himself off from the world, talking only to his invisible best friend. His father Daniel is beside himself, desperate to help his son cope. Yet when the little boy meets Joy, these two unlikely souls form a deep and powerful bond. In helping Bobby and Daniel heal, Joy finds herself again.

But not everything is as it seems in quiet Rain Valley, and in an instant, Joy's world is ripped apart, and her heart is broken. On a magical Christmas Eve, a night of impossible dreams and unexpected chances, Joy must find the courage to believe in a love--and a family--that can't possibly exist, and go in search of what she wants . . . and the new life only she can find.

Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 6th 2020
 by Ballantine Books 
(first published November 1st 2005)
4.5/5 stars

Kristin Hannah published this book in 2005, this is the first year I've heard of it - thank you Instagrammers.

It's shorter than her usually fare, but not too short, and it's different. Christmas is a time of family, of healing.  There is magic in the air, even if it's 2020.  Comfort & Joy is a magically story of relationships, discovering what matters and sadly, grief for what's been lost.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can't fathom the ratings.  It's a fable and everything a Christmas story should be plus some.  There is mystery, a great setting and flawed characters that are totally connectable.  There are chuckles and a twist that I didn't see coming. An ending that was magically - yea a great Christmas read.

Definitely a book I recommend, but ya gotta read the whole thing to get the full picture.

My copy was part of my 2020 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Review: Les Misérables by Victor Hugo,

The first new Penguin Classics translation in forty years of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, the subject of The Novel of the Century by David Bellos—published in a stunning Deluxe edition. Winner of the French-American Foundation & Florence Gould Foundation’s 29th Annual Translation Prize in Fiction.

The subject of the world’s longest-running musical and the award-winning film, Les Misérables is a genuine literary treasure. Victor Hugo’s tale of injustice, heroism, and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him, and has been a perennial favorite since it first appeared over 150 years ago. This exciting new translation with Jillian Tamaki’s brilliant cover art will be a gift both to readers who have already fallen for its timeless story and to new readers discovering it for the first time. 

Paperback, 1416 pages
Audiobook, 65 hours, 41 minutes
Published February 24th 2015
 by Penguin Classics (first published 1862)

4/5 stars

Well I did it!  What a monster sized book.  But did you know if you read a chapter a day you can read it in a year?  That's the push I needed when a group started on Instagram, it's great support and accountability.  I did hover between the book and audio book (which comes in at over 65 hours).

There really isn't much to say other then it was wordy though well written, different from the movie, rich in historical details and well deserving of being a classic.  

I loved at the end of the audio which gave a 56 minute bio of Victor Hugo which I found just as interesting as the book itself. It told of his personal life, exile from France and tragedies that happened.

The size of the book is daunting, I'll admit to having my mind drift a number of times at some of the fillers but all in all I'm glad to have read this one (happy to be done also) and recommend it both in book and audio format.

My print copy was part of my 2020 Reading off my Shelf challenge with the audio book via my Audible library.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Audio Review: From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle

In this extraordinary and inspiring debut memoir, Jesse Thistle—once a high school dropout and now a rising Indigenous scholar—chronicles his life on the streets and how he overcame trauma and addiction to discover the truth about who he is.

If I can just make it to the next minute . . . then I might have a chance to live; I might have a chance to be something more than just a struggling crackhead.

From the Ashes is a remarkable memoir about hope and resilience, and a revelatory look into the life of a Métis-Cree man who refused to give up.

Abandoned by his parents as a toddler, Jesse Thistle briefly found himself in the foster-care system with his two brothers, cut off from all they had known. Eventually the children landed in the home of their paternal grandparents, but their tough-love attitudes meant conflicts became commonplace. And the ghost of Jesse’s drug-addicted father haunted the halls of the house and the memories of every family member. Struggling, Jesse succumbed to a self-destructive cycle of drug and alcohol addiction and petty crime, spending more than a decade on and off the streets, often homeless. One day, he finally realized he would die unless he turned his life around.

In this heartwarming and heartbreaking memoir, Jesse Thistle writes honestly and fearlessly about his painful experiences with abuse, uncovering the truth about his parents, and how he found his way back into the circle of his Indigenous culture and family through education.

An eloquent exploration of what it means to live in a world surrounded by prejudice and racism and to be cast adrift, From the Ashes is, in the end, about how love and support can help one find happiness despite the odds.

Paperback, 368 pages
Audiobook 9 hrs, 55 minutes
Published August 6th 2019
by Simon & Schuster
3.5/5 stars

Jesse Thistle doesn't hold back with his memoir, From the Ashes. Released over a year ago it is still garnering rave reviews, which accounted for my long wait at the library. 

Beginning when just a toddler and throughout the years Jesse tells his story of heartache, addiction, homelessness and estrangement seamlessly.

I went the audio route with this book, in the past I find nonfiction works well this way, especially when told in 1st person. With this book the author did the reading himself, which I thought would work great.  However I found his tone flat and think it lost the emotional appeal that the book invoked.  Its a heartbreaking story and I didn't that get vibe.  I wish I'd read it instead but the audio became available at the library before the book - it's still has a huge amount of holds.

I recommend this book in print/digital eBook format.  Both available from the library and popular bookstores.


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Review: The War Widow (Billie Walker Mystery #1) by Tara Moss

The war may be officially over, but journalist Billie Walker’s search for a missing young German immigrant plunges her right back into the danger and drama she thought she’d left behind in Europe. A thrilling tale of courage and secrets set in glamorous post-war Sydney.

Sydney, Australia, 1946. Though war correspondent Billie Walker is happy to finally be home, the heady post-war days are tarnished by the death of her father and the disappearance in Europe of her husband, Jack. To make matters worse, now that the war is over, the newspapers are sidelining her reporting talents to prioritize jobs for returning soldiers. But Billie is a survivor and she’s determined to take control of her own future. She reopens her late father’s business, a private investigation agency, and slowly, the women of Sydney come knocking.

At first, Billie’s bread and butter is tailing cheating husbands. Then a young man, the son of European immigrants, goes missing, and Billie finds herself on a dangerous new trail that will lead to the highest levels of Sydney society as well as the city’s underworld. What is the young man’s connection to an exclusive dance club and a high-class auction house? When the people she questions start to turn up dead, Billie is thrown into the path of Detective Inspector Hank Cooper. Will he take her seriously or just get in her way?

As the danger mounts and Billie realizes how much is at stake, it becomes clear that although the war was won, it is far from over.

Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Published Dec. 29th, 2020 
by Penguin Group
4/5 stars

I was attracted to this book thinking it takes place during the war (I read the blurb ages ago and kinda forgot a little), which actually it does with flash backs.  As the title infers Billie is a widow from the war and these are the years following in Australia.  I love that setting for a nice change, there is not too many countries immune from the effects those years caused. This locale brought the Sydney society together in various classes.

B. Walker, Private Inquiries - the B to not scare off possible men clients intimated by a female PI.  Billie is a force and I loved her thought process, quick thinking and logic. Her assistant, mother (her maid) and Hank added that extra to the story, part of me wishing to see more of her mother and maid - hopefully in the next book. Billie's ahead of her time in terms of independence, actions and speaking her mind, it was refreshing along with her compassion and determination.

The War Widow is well researched with attention to details.  At times a little repetitive with some of the details but all in all an enjoyable mystery with many layers that kept me on my toes.  Definitely a series I recommend and one I will continue to read.

My thanks to Dutton Publicity for a digital arc (via Netgalley) in exchange for a honest review.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Cover Reveal: The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis

                                                     available at all fine bookstores today

The bright lights of the theater district, the glamour and danger of 1950s New York, and the wild scene at the iconic Chelsea Hotel come together in a dazzling new novel about a twenty-year friendship that will irrevocably change two women's lives. Spanning from the 1940s to the 1960s, The Chelsea Girls deftly pulls back the curtain on the desperate political pressures of McCarthyism, the complicated bonds of female friendship, and the siren call of the uninhibited Chelsea Hotel.

From the dramatic redbrick facade to the sweeping staircase dripping with art, the Chelsea Hotel has long been New York City's creative oasis for the many artists, writers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, and poets who have called it home—a scene playwright Hazel Riley and actress Maxine Mead are determined to use to their advantage. Yet they soon discover that the greatest obstacle to putting up a show on Broadway has nothing to do with their art, and everything to do with politics. A Red Scare is sweeping across America, and Senator Joseph McCarthy has started a witch hunt for communists, with those in the entertainment industry in the crosshairs. As the pressure builds to name names, it is more than Hazel and Maxine's Broadway dreams that may suffer as they grapple with the terrible consequences, but also their livelihood, their friendship, and even their freedom.


Praise for The Chelsea Girls:

“Davis tells a very good story and deserves all the praise she won for her other books set in famous New York landmarks… a tale that is intricate and subtle, unpredictable and exciting.” —The Washington Post

“Davis, who has given juicy supporting roles to New York landmarks in The Masterpiece and The Address, uses Chelsea as a metaphor for the grandeur that was within reach but spirals into a much darker place.” —Associated Press

“Another spectacular novel… Davis needs to be celebrated for this. Sure, she gets the history right and does a magnificent job of bringing the Chelsea’s special magic to life. Beyond that, she is an exquisite writer, who captures the essence of people and times.” —The Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ)

“The glitz and glamour of the Chelsea Hotel provides a perfect backdrop for Davis's story of friendship, ambition, and behind-the-scenes theatrical intrigue… both a sharp-eyed commentary on female friendship and a vivid glimpse into the life of a New York City icon.” —Shelf Awareness (starred review)

“A fascinating and wholly immersive celebration of friendship, love, loyalty, and courage during a turbulent and often underrepresented period in American history… Richly detailed and transporting, historical fiction fans will love this one!” —Chanel Cleeton, New York Times bestselling author of When We Left Cuba

Thursday, December 3, 2020

The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly

Present day: Emma Lovett, who has dedicated her career to breathing new life into long-neglected gardens, has just been given the opportunity of a lifetime: to restore the gardens of the famed Highbury House estate, designed in 1907 by her hero Venetia Smith. But as Emma dives deeper into the gardens’ past, she begins to uncover secrets that have long lain hidden.

1907: A talented artist with a growing reputation for her ambitious work, Venetia Smith has carved out a niche for herself as a garden designer to industrialists, solicitors, and bankers looking to show off their wealth with sumptuous country houses. When she is hired to design the gardens of Highbury House, she is determined to make them a triumph, but the gardens—and the people she meets—promise to change her life forever.

1944: When land girl Beth Pedley arrives at a farm on the outskirts of the village of Highbury, all she wants is to find a place she can call home. Cook Stella Adderton, on the other hand, is desperate to leave Highbury House to pursue her own dreams. And widow Diana Symonds, the mistress of the grand house, is anxiously trying to cling to her pre-war life now that her home has been requisitioned and transformed into a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. But when war threatens Highbury House’s treasured gardens, these three very different women are drawn together by a secret that will last for decades.

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: January 12th 2021
4/5 stars

It's been a year since I was first introduced to Julia Kelly with both, The Whispers of War and The Light over London - click on titles for my reviews.  So it only stands to reason that I would follow those up with The Last Garden in England.

Given the year that 2020 has turned out to be I loved that the current day story is set in 2021 - hope for a better year. I haven't read too many books with 3 different story lines set in 3 distinct time periods it wasn't hard to stay on top of things.  The uniqueness of a multi room garden with the different themes/names felt very English to me and one I'd love to see in person.

It wasn't until the half way point that things picked up for me and the story took off.  That being said it's not like the first half wasn't good.  The introduction to the different characters gave me a chance to get to know them, their backgrounds and personalities.  The WW2 story was my favourite as it involved more women - and I got to see another side of how the war affected those out in a country setting. It was a horrible time of adjustment and heartache. 

The Last Garden in England is a story of friendship, legacy and creating your own path. It hits book stores on January 12th and available for preorder now. 

My sincere thanks to the author, Julia Kelly for a digital ARC (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.