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.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Audio Review: Alexander Graham Bell by Edwin S. Grosvenor, Morgan Wesson

". . . rarely have inventor and invention been better served than in this book."
– New York Times Book Review

Here, Edwin Grosvenor, American Heritage's publisher and Bell's great-grandson, tells the dramatic story of the race to invent the telephone and how Bell's patent for it would become the most valuable ever issued. He also writes of Bell's other extraordinary inventions: the first transmission of sound over light waves, metal detector, first practical phonograph, and early airplanes, including the first to fly in Canada. And he examines Bell's humanitarian efforts, including support for women's suffrage, civil rights, and speeches about what he warned would be a "greenhouse effect" of pollution causing global warming.

Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published May 12th 2016
by New Word City, Inc. (first published September 1st 1997)

Audiobook : Narrated by: Donald Corren
Length: 6 hrs and 30 mins

I wanted to read more non fiction in 2020, didn't really happen as this book is only my 2nd one...maybe in 2021.  I was attracted to the life of Alexander Graham Bell not just because his roots are close to home here in Southern Ontario, but rather to know more about him. Knowing next to nothing other then the invention of the telephone I was intrigued to learn more.

The author is the great grandson of Bell which just added that extra spark.  Beginning with Bell's early years in England and Scotland and progressing to his relocation to North America.  I was surprised with all the different things he was involved with and the people he rubbed shoulders with.  I don't recall any of this from history classes, especially how the telephone is the most valuable patent ever issued.  The blurb above lists some of his other accomplishments.  

It was a relatively quick read in that the audio was 6 1/2 hours long but it did pack a punch with not just his business adventures but personal life as well.  Not just an entertaining listen but educational without being bogged down with too many details but a great look at the life of Alexander Graham Bell.

My audiobook was from my personal library via Audible.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Review: Before the Crown by Flora Harding

Before the crown there was a love story…

Windsor Castle, 1943

As war rages across the world, Princess Elizabeth comes face to face with the dashing naval officer she first met in London nine years before.

One of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy, Philip represents everything she has always been taught to avoid. Instability. Audacity. Adventure.

But when the king learns of their relationship, the suitability of the foreign prince is questioned by all at court.

He is the risk she has never been allowed to take. The risk not even the shadow of the crown will stop her from taking…

Step through the palace gates and discover a captivating historical novel of royal secrets and forbidden love exploring the tempestuous courtship between Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in the wake of WWII.

Kindle Edition, 267 pages
Published Dec. 10th, 2020 
by Harper Collins, Australia
4/5 stars

Fans of The Crown will enjoy a more detailed look at the courtship of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Beginning when she was only 13 years old (Philip is 6 years older) it was an eye opener into proper protocol for the royal family.

I’m not really what you’d call a diehard royal follower but I find them an interesting bunch - tuning in to weddings and such. While this is a work of fiction it was an entertaining read that had me feeling a wide range of emotions into the plight of these 2 individuals whose life choices needed approval for the good of the realm.

Before the Crown was a slower paced book and I enjoyed glimpsing inside Buckingham Palace, seeing another side of King George VI and his wife and even Princess Margaret. Also this book explored more of Prince Philip’s background through family and conflicts that arose.

This is the author’s debut, so hats off to writing a story where we all know the ending already. The journey to the alter was not smooth, there were obstacles to overcome, approval to be won and internal struggles to be fought. A wonderful debut that will appeal to fans of the Royal family and those that love a fairy tale ending.

My thanks to Harper Collins (Australia) for an advance digital copy (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Review: Don't Look for Me by Wendy Walker

One night, Molly Clarke walked away from her life. The car abandoned miles from home. The note found at a nearby hotel. The shattered family that couldn't be put back together. It happens all the time. Women disappear, desperate to leave their lives behind and start over. She doesn't want to be found. Or at least, that's the story. But is that what really happened to Molly Clarke?

The night Molly disappeared began with a storm, running out of gas, and a man in a truck offering her a ride to town. With him is a little girl who reminds her of the daughter she lost years ago. It feels like a sign. And Molly is overcome with the desire to be home, with her family—no matter how broken it is. She accepts the ride. But when the doors are locked shut, Molly begins to suspect she has made a terrible mistake.

When a new lead comes in after the search has ended, Molly's daughter, Nicole, begins to wonder. Nothing about her mother's disappearance makes sense.

Nicole returns to the small, desolate town where her mother was last seen to find the truth. The locals are kind and eager to help. The innkeeper. The bartender. Even the police. Until secrets begin to reveal themselves and she comes closer to the truth about that night—and the danger surrounding her.

Hardcover, 342 pages
Published September 15th 2020
 by St. Martin's Press
4/5 stars

Don't Look for Me is a story of grief and the effect it has on everyone in the family.  Sometimes its just easier to blame somebody else then to deal with it.  So on the 5th anniversary of her daughter's death does Molly Clark deliberately walk away or does something more sinister happen?

Don't Look for Me is a mystery with some unreliable characters. There are a lot of characters to keep straight but it's possible especially as the desire to read just one more chapter was prevalent the whole way through.  With enough red herrings I was kept theorising over and over again.

This is my first time readying Wendy Was, I picked this up from the library after reading rave comments on social media, so fingers crossed that it would live up to the hype.  It did!!  If you are looking for a fast paced mystery I recommend giving this one a turn.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Review/Giveaway: His Castilian Hawk by Anna Belfrage

For bastard-born Robert FitzStephan, being given Eleanor d’Outremer in marriage is an honour. For Eleanor, this forced wedding is anything but a fairy tale.

Robert FitzStephan has served Edward Longshanks loyally since the age of twelve. Now he is riding with his king to once and for all bring Wales under English control.

Eleanor d’Outremer—Noor to family—lost her Castilian mother as a child and is left entirely alone when her father and brother are killed. When ordered to wed the unknown Robert FitzStephan, she has no choice but to comply.

Two strangers in a marriage bed is not easy. Things are further complicated by Noor’s blood-ties to the Welsh princes and by covetous Edith who has warmed Robert’s bed for years.

Robert’s new wife may be young and innocent, but he is soon to discover that not only is she spirited and proud, she is also brave. Because when Wales lies gasping and Edward I exacts terrible justice on the last prince and his children, Noor is determined to save at least one member of the House of Aberffraw from the English king.

Will years of ingrained service have Robert standing with his king or will he follow his heart and protect his wife, his beautiful and fierce Castilian hawk?

Publication Date: September 28, 2020
Troubador Publishing
4.5/5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction

Available on Amazon

I was excited to hear about this new series by Anna Belfrage. Her Graham Saga is one of my absolute favourite series - historical, family drama, mystery, adventure all mixed with some time travel.

His Castilian Hawk is the start of another series set during the reign of the first King Edward and it’s during the Welsh conflict that this book centres on. It didn’t take long to get sweep away into the pages. With an unlikely couple, Robert FitzStephan and Eleanor d’Outremer, who are forced upon each other. I felt a real connection with these two, different backgrounds both conflicted, one committed to the King and the other part Welsh. Throw in a disgruntled Edith, some treason worthy secrets and it’s a match well worth watching.

With so many layers going on Anna has once again delivered a yummy historical drama that was authentic, emotional and entertaining. Her knowledge of history shines through once again. There are scenes of battle and of love - if you've read any of her books you know exactly what I mean.

I can’t wait to see what’s next as this series continues with The Castilian Pomegranate. If you haven't read an Anna Belfrage book I highly recommend both The Graham Saga and The King's Greatest Enemy

My thanks to Amy at HFVBT for the invite to be part of this tour. Also to the author for a print copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


About the Author

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England.

More recently, Anna has published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients. While she loved stepping out of her comfort zone (and will likely do so again ) she is delighted to be back in medieval times in her September 2020 release, His Castilian Hawk. Set against the complications of Edward I’s invasion of Wales, His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty, integrity—and love.

Find out more about Anna on her website or on her Amazon page. You can also follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

click on banner for more stops, including interviews and excerpts on this tour


During the Blog Tour, we are giving away two paperback copies of His Castilian Hawk! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

The giveaway is open internationally and ends on November 20th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Castilian Hawk

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Review: The Sea Gate by Jane Johnson

A broken family, a house of secrets—an entrancing tale of love and courage set during the Second World War.

After Rebecca’s mother dies, she must sort through her empty flat and come to terms with her loss. As she goes through her mother’s mail, she finds a handwritten envelope. In it is a letter that will change her life forever.

Olivia, her mother’s elderly cousin, needs help to save her beloved home. Rebecca immediately goes to visit Olivia in Cornwall only to find a house full of secrets—treasures in the attic and a mysterious tunnel leading from the cellar to the sea, and Olivia, nowhere to be found.

As it turns out, the old woman is stuck in hospital with no hope of being discharged until her house is made habitable again. Rebecca sets to work restoring the home to its former glory, but as she peels back the layers of paint and grime, she uncovers even more buried secrets—secrets from a time when the Second World War was raging, when Olivia was a young woman, and when both romance and danger lurked around every corner...

A sweeping and utterly spellbinding tale of a young woman’s courage in the face of war and the lengths to which she’ll go to protect those she loves against the most unexpected of enemies.

Paperback, 416 pages
Expected publication: November 17th 2020 
by Simon Schuster
4/5 stars

Right from the beginning I was draw in after being introduced to Rebecca. A sympathetic character mourning the loss of her mother. The old house overlooking the sea is one I would classify as a character, it had secrets to share because we all know secrets don’t stay hidden forever.

Jump over to a distant relative, Olivia, elderly and a force to be reckoned with. Her personality was not just nasty, her companion, Gabriel, well... lets just say they made a good pair. The past story line interested me, I was curious as to why Olivia was the way she was. What happened during WW2 in Cornwall?

This is my first time reading Jane Johnson (not for lack of desire, I have a couple books on my shelf). As the puzzle pieces clicked into place I find myself anxious to read more of her books. Her characters are authentic with issues relevant today as they were in the past. An interesting plot that kept me guessing

The Sea Gate is a story of the war that extends past Europe, it’s about discovering oneself and coming to terms with the past. New beginnings and heartache. While I am usually partial to the past story lines the present day one had me just as intrigued.

The Sea Gate releases next week and is available for preorder.

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Cover Reveal: Letters Across the Sea by Genevieve Graham

 One of my highly anticipated books of 2021 has revealed the cover and blurb (and I want now).

Letters Across the Sea is the next book by bestselling historical fiction writer Genevieve Graham.

Letters Across the Sea is the story of a Protestant girl and her Jewish neighbour who are growing up in Toronto, against the backdrop of the Depression, and then the rise of Adolf Hitler, the Nazis and a wave of hate that would ignite the Second World War.

Graham, who is from Nova Scotia, has written several novels that highlight Canadian history. Her other books include At the Mountain's Edge, Tides of Honour, Come From Away and The Forgotten Home Child.

Letters Across the Sea will be available on April 27, 2021.

You can read an excerpt from Letters Across the Sea by clicking here

It's about the last stand during the Second World War, when Canadians fought against the Japanese in Hong Kong in 1941.


Monday, November 2, 2020

The Evening and the Morning (Kingsbridge #0) by Ken Follett

It is 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages. England is facing attacks from the Welsh in the west and the Vikings in the east. Those in power bend justice according to their will, regardless of ordinary people and often in conflict with the king. Without a clear rule of law, chaos reigns.

In these turbulent times, three characters find their lives intertwined. A young boatbuilder's life is turned upside down when the only home he's ever known is raided by Vikings, forcing him and his family to move and start their lives anew in a small hamlet where he does not fit in. . . . A Norman noblewoman marries for love, following her husband across the sea to a new land, but the customs of her husband's homeland are shockingly different, and as she begins to realize that everyone around her is engaged in a constant, brutal battle for power, it becomes clear that a single misstep could be catastrophic. . . . A monk dreams of transforming his humble abbey into a center of learning that will be admired throughout Europe. And each in turn comes into dangerous conflict with a clever and ruthless bishop who will do anything to increase his wealth and power.

Hardcover, 913 pages
Published September 15th 2020
 by Viking
4.5/5 stars

 Pillars of the Earth is one of my favourite reads, I love getting lost in a story with characters that I've come to connect and cheer for.  Add the historical element and well...I'm in my happy place. We so much hype and positive feedback about this new book I find it hard to write a review.

With The Evening and the Morning I was once again ready to me immersed though it has been awhile since I've tackled a book this size. I will confess that I finished the last 300 pages by listening to the audio book.  John Lee is the reader and again did a stellar job.

I was pulled right in with the first chapter, a Viking attack is the start of a journey for a young man left with nothing.  Follett had the right blend of history, setting and customs that kept me entertained.  There was heartache, love and betrayal, trust issues, violence and power struggles that kept me on my toes. The characters were developed nicely, and even though this had a large cast it wasn't hard to keep everyone straight.  Definitely a great read during this weird year of 2020 to get lost within the pages off.

Even though this is a prequel there is no reason to read Pillars of the Earth first. I might do a reread (via audio book) of Pillars before proceeding with World Without End.

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

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Review: Horrid by Katrina Leno

Following her father's death, Jane North-Robinson and her mom move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but behind North Manor's doors lurks a history that leaves them feeling more alone...and more tormented.

As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles in to her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident "bad seed," struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane's mom also seems to be spiralling with the return of her childhood home, but she won't reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the "storage room" her mom has kept locked isn't for storage at all -- it's a little girl's bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears....

Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more... horrid?

Hardcover, Owlcrate Edition, 322 pages
Published September 15th 2020 by 
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
3.5/5 stars

I went into this read blind, no idea what it was about. If it wasn’t for the fact it showed up in my September OwlCrate box I don’t think I would have given it the time of day - I mean look at that cover (not a fan).

Moving clear across the country is how Jane’s story begins. I enjoyed the writing, it was my first time reading Katrina Leno. She grabbed me right away with some quirkyness (don’t think that’s a word) and a character that I felt compassion for.

There is this old family home that’s been empty for a couple years. There is the history that this small town remembers and some hostile people. There are the things her mother won’t share and things that go bump in the night. All the makings for a creepy read, perfect for this time of year.

As the story developed I’ll admit to being stumped as to what was going on, so hats off to the author for keeping me in the dark. Horrid had the ghosty vibes, secrets and things that go creak along with the unexplainable. 

It was a solid 4 stars until I got to the ending. I was left with some unanswered questions that had me scratching my head. I get the conclusion but in hindsight left wondering about some issues. That being said it could very well just be me as there are lots of 5 stars out there for this read.

This book was part of my 2020 Reading Off my Shelf Challenge

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Audio Review: The Orphan Collector by Ellen Marie Wiseman

In the fall of 1918, thirteen-year-old German immigrant Pia Lange longs to be far from Philadelphia’s overcrowded slums and the anti-immigrant sentiment that compelled her father to enlist in the U.S. Army. But as her city celebrates the end of war, an even more urgent threat arrives: the Spanish flu. Funeral crepe and quarantine signs appear on doors as victims drop dead in the streets and desperate survivors wear white masks to ward off illness. When food runs out in the cramped tenement she calls home, Pia must venture alone into the quarantined city in search of supplies, leaving her baby brothers behind.

Bernice Groves has become lost in grief and bitterness since her baby died from the Spanish flu. Watching Pia leave her brothers alone, Bernice makes a shocking, life-altering decision. It becomes her sinister mission to tear families apart when they’re at their most vulnerable, planning to transform the city’s orphans and immigrant children into what she feels are “true Americans.”

Waking in a makeshift hospital days after collapsing in the street, Pia is frantic to return home. Instead, she is taken to St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum – the first step in a long and arduous journey. As Bernice plots to keep the truth hidden at any cost in the months and years that follow, Pia must confront her own shame and fear, risking everything to see justice – and love – triumph at last. Powerful, harrowing, and ultimately exultant, The Orphan Collector is a story of love, resilience, and the lengths we will go to protect those who need us most.

Paperback, 304 pages
Audiobook, 15 hours, 51 minutes
Published July 28th 2020
 by Kensington Publishing Corp.
4/5 stars

I went the audio version for one main reason- I anticipated the emotional impact this book would have on me and knew time was lacking for a proper sitdown read. I knew once started I'd need to finish. That being said I didn’t read the blurb but judging from comments on social media and the title I got a feeling of what was to come.

The audio, which comes in at 15 plus hours fit perfectly into my plans for the week, - I was painting, painting and a little more painting. My gut instinct was that once I started I would need to finish, which is exactly what happened.

The Orphan Collector begins in 1918 and the Spanish flu has broken out, kinda fit right in with the world today minus social media. I connected right away with Pia. The author put me right there, I felt the emotional and physical struggles she was going through. I should add that she is only 13 years old. The story was told through her eyes as well as Bernice. I didn’t like her much even though lost in her own grief is no excuse for what she does.  Both are authentic characters.

I won’t go into the events that transpired, I went in blind and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Suffice to say this is a captivating story, heartbreaking and sad. Remember it’s based around history and through nurse Bernice is fictional I am sure things similar could have happened.

Ellen Marie Wiseman is a new author for me, I like her pose and ability to draw me in with a unique story set during a time of turmoil. Her knowledge of the era is evident. The Orphan Collector is a well written book that has me searching for the authors backlist.

My audio copy was through  Scribd.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Review: Girls of Brackenhill by Kate Moretti

Haunted by her sister’s disappearance, a troubled woman becomes consumed by past secrets in this gripping thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Year.

When Hannah Maloney’s aunt dies in a car accident, she returns to her family’s castle in the Catskills and the epicenter of a childhood trauma: her sister’s unsolved disappearance. It’s been seventeen years, and though desperate to start a new life with her fiancé, Hannah is compelled to question the events of her last summer at Brackenhill.

When a human bone is found near the estate, Hannah is convinced it belongs to her long-lost sister. She launches her own investigation into that magical summer that ended in a nightmare. As strange happenings plague the castle, Hannah uncovers disturbing details about the past and startling realizations about her own repressed childhood memories.

Fueled by guilt over her sister’s vanishing, Hannah becomes obsessed with discovering what happened all those years ago, but by the time Hannah realizes some mysteries are best left buried, it’s too late to stop digging. Overwhelmed by what she has exposed, Hannah isn’t sure her new life can survive her old ghosts.

Kindle Edition, 330 pages
Expected publication: November 1st 2020
 by Thomas & Mercer
3/5 stars

This book had a great premise- a missing sister, creepy castle and an unexpected death. Perfect for this time of year.

It started out with a bang and even the first couple of chapters kept up the momentum. It was atmospheric and the writing kept that feeling throughout, that being said there were aspects that left me wondering - like the basement. The castle setting had more of an English feel to me vs in US, but whatever.

Hannah was an unreliable narrator, she told the story with flash backs as her relationship with her sister is revealed.  I couldn’t connect to her, her behaviour was too flighty, impulsive and didn’t always jive with her thoughts. Her relationship and treatment with her fiancé was odd and I felt sorry for him. .

All in all I kept reading because I was genuinely curious about what happened in the past. But there were scenes that left me confused (one I think I've blocked from memory) and situations unrealistic. The pacing slowed down and to be honest the ending left me somewhat confused with unanswered questions.

Girls of Brackenhill releases Nov 1st.  My thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Review: The Arctic Fury: A Novel by Greer Macallister

A dozen women join a secret 1850's Arctic expedition—and a sensational murder trial unfolds when some of them don't come back.

Eccentric Lady Jane Franklin makes an outlandish offer to adventurer Virginia Reeve: take a dozen women, trek into the Arctic, and find her husband's lost expedition. Four parties have failed to find him, and Lady Franklin wants a radical new approach: put the women in charge.

A year later, Virginia stands trial for murder. Survivors of the expedition willing to publicly support her sit in the front row. There are only five. What happened out there on the ice?

Set against the unforgiving backdrop of one of the world's most inhospitable locations, USA Today bestselling author Greer Macallister uses the true story of Lady Jane Franklin's tireless attempts to find her husband's lost expedition as a jumping-off point to spin a tale of bravely, intrigue, perseverance and hope.

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: December 1st 2020
by Sourcebooks Landmark
3/5 stars

The Arctic Fury had me with that cover.   I got the chills just looking at it and I'm coveting that jacket/cape - looks like the perfect thing for the location. From the blurb I found it hard to imagine a dozen women (or anyone for that matter) braving the Arctic elements in search of Franklin.

It's the mid 1850's when Victoria is approached and takes on the challenge to discover the fate of the Franklin exhibition.  I had hoped this was based on fact but alas, while there were multiple searches made for the crew this isn't one of them.  

Told with a dual narrative that are not too far apart, time wise.  The journey is told mostly via Victoria but also a few snippets from a couple of the other women - that I liked and wished for more, just to connect and really get to know the different personalities on board.  That being said there is a large cast of characters to keep track of. The interaction I was hoping for didn't happen till later on and for me that might have been a little too late to get a true picture of the relationships.

The other narrative was the murder trial and Victoria's incarceration.  That was a little slow moving and repetitive in terms of accommodations and also frustrating to read, so hats off to the author for creating that kind of emotion in this reader.

Greer Macallister created an atmosphere story that reflected the times, from the streets of Boston, paddling the lakes, the cold of the north and finally back to Boston.  The Arctic Fury was an interesting concept which will appeal to readers that like something off the beaten path.

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

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Review: The Woman Outside My Door by Rachel Ryan

 From an unforgettable new voice in suspense fiction, The Woman Outside My Door is a thrilling page-turner about a young mother who can’t shake the feeling that her son’s “imaginary” friend is putting him in very real danger, and she will stop at nothing to keep him safe—perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell and Mary Kubica.

All children have imaginary friends, Georgina tells herself. It’s perfectly normal, and they all grow out of it in the end. But when her seven-year-old son, Cody, tells her about New Granny, the new friend he’s met in the park, Georgina is instantly suspicious. Something—call it maternal instinct—tells her he isn’t making it up.

But maybe Georgina is losing her mind. It wouldn’t be the first time, after all. And with her own mother’s recent death leaving her bereft and trying to cope with life as a busy working mom, it’s no wonder she’s feeling paranoid that Cody has invented a “New Granny” to replace his beloved grandmother.

Her husband, Bren, becomes the voice of reason, assuring Georgina that it’s just a game, the product of their son’s overactive imagination. But what if Cody’s imaginary friend is not so imaginary after all?

Kindle, 288 pages
Expected publication: November 24th 2020 
by Simon & Schuster Canada
3/5 stars

It's always fun discovering a new author, especially when highly recommended by some of my favourite authors.

The first half of The Woman Outside My Door might have been slow but it was interesting as Cody begins talking about his New Granny six months following the death of his real one. Things were a little repetitive for that first half, which I took as the stage being set for the last half. 

There was lots of gas lighting and red herrings going on that paved the way for different outcomes. Everyone was suspicious in my eyes. Was Georgina losing it? Or was Cody, though he seemed older than his seven years. The husband was just bland and untrustworthy. Perfect setting, right? 

Things changed about 52% and I finished that day, needing to find out if my suspicions were correct. Were they? The fun part, for this reader, is playing sleuth, unravelling the clues and seeing if I can solve the mystery before the big reveal.  Didn't happen here,  hop on over to my Goodreads review and see my thoughts hidden by the spoiler button

This is the authors debut and while I wasn’t thrilled with the endings execution she did write an engaging story that had me genuinely curious to what was going on.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster CA (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy in exchange for honest review.