Saturday, September 18, 2021

The Lizard Cage by Karen Connelly

Set during Burma's military dictatorship of the mid—1990s, Karen Connelly’s exquisitely written and harshly realistic debut novel is a hymn to human resilience and love.

In the sealed-off world of a vast Burmese prison known as the cage, Teza languishes in solitary confinement seven years into a twenty-year sentence. Arrested in 1988 for his involvement in mass protests, he is the nation’s most celebrated songwriter whose resonant words and powerful voice pose an ongoing threat to the state. Forced to catch lizards to supplement his meager rations, Teza finds emotional and spiritual sustenance through memories and Buddhist meditation. The tiniest creatures and things–a burrowing ant, a copper-coloured spider, a fragment of newspaper within a cheroot filter–help to connect him to life beyond the prison walls.

Even in isolation, Teza has a profound influence on the people around him. His integrity and humour inspire Chit Naing, the senior jailer, to find the courage to follow his conscience despite the serious risks involved, while Teza’s very existence challenges the brutal authority of the junior jailer, perversely nicknamed Handsome. Sein Yun, a gem smuggler and prison fixer, is his most steady human contact, who finds delight in taking advantage of Teza by cleverly tempting him into Handsome's web with the most dangerous contraband of all: pen and paper.

Lastly, there's Little Brother, an orphan raised in the jail, imprisoned by his own deprivation. Making his home in a tiny, corrugated-metal shack, Little Brother stays alive by killing rats and selling them to the inmates. As the political prisoner and the young boy forge a cautious friendship, we learn that both are prisoners of different orders; only one of them dreams of escape and only one of them achieves it.

Barely able to speak, losing the battle of the flesh but winning the battle of the spirit, Teza knows he has the power to transfigure one small life, and to send a message of hope and resistance out of the cage.

Paperback, 448 pages
First published September 27, 2005
by Vintage Canada
4.5/5 stars

I read this book as part of our Family Blessing Book Club.  This family book club consists of myself and 3 adult sons. We come with a wide variety of tastes in books, which makes it fun but also a little scary when reading something one wouldn't normally pick up.  Such is the case here with The Lizard Cage.

This book lead to many discussions not just about the story but the writing as well.  Told in parts by prisoner Teza and also Little Brother, aka Free EL Salvador because of his t shirt.

At times this was a hard book to read, one can only imagine the treatment in a Burmese jail, here the author vividly created scenes that I find difficult to forget.  While I didn't understand the political climate this book had us googling and researching the real life events, also the author notes tells of her sources just making this story all the more powerful.  It's an emotional story to read with its injustices and corruption within the jail walls. Amidst all this are a couple characters that made a difference, that made this story and the journey well worth the reading experience. 

The Lizard Cage is a well written, authentic novel that is deserving of the many awards it has won.  For a debut Karen Connelly has set the bar high herself. 

Friday, September 17, 2021

The World Played Chess by Robert Dugoni

In 1979, Vincent Bianco has just graduated high school. His only desire: collect a little beer money and enjoy his final summer before college. So he lands a job as a laborer on a construction crew. Working alongside two Vietnam vets, one suffering from PTSD, Vincent gets the education of a lifetime.

 Now forty years later, with his own son leaving for college, the lessons of that summer—Vincent’s last taste of innocence and first taste of real life—dramatically unfold in a novel about breaking away, shaping a life, and seeking one’s own destiny.

400 pages, Kindle Edition
Expected publication: September 14, 2021
 by Lake Union Publishing
3.5/5 stars

"Growing up is a privilege not a right"

I am still a new Robert Dugoni reader, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell was my first and an awesome audio read.  

The World Played Chess is told from a couple different angles.  Vincent when he is an 18 years old fresh out of high school and then again when he is a dad to an 18 year old.  Much of the story is told from his POV. The other part is through a journal.

I haven't read many books from that era and I can't recall any with Vietnam playing a central part. But I did enjoy the year 1979, it's the same year I graduated high school, it took me down memory lane. The book blurb really doesn't give too much of the story away and I like that, though dealing with Nam I knew it would get emotional and heartbreaking.

Even though I felt the first half of the book rather slow the last part picked up speed with a nice ending. Learning first hand of the experiences in Vietnam was hard to read at times but it was nice to witness the journey Vincent went on through the years. The author notes gave his inspiration for writing this book which reflected a bit of Vincent's life giving more emotion to the story.

Though literary fiction really isn't my thing I enjoyed this one and one of these days I will check out more of Robert Dugoni's books. 

My thanks to Lake Union Publishing for a digital ARC (via Netgalley) in exchange for a honest review.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

When the Summer Was Ours by Roxanne Veletzos

Hungary, 1943: As war encroaches on the country’s borders, willful young Eva César arrives in the idyllic town of Sopron to spend her last summer as a single woman on her aristocratic family’s estate. Longing for freedom from her domineering father, she counts the days to her upcoming nuptials to a kind and dedicated Red Cross doctor whom she greatly admires.

But Eva’s life changes when she meets Aleandro, a charming and passionate Romani fiddler and artist. With time and profound class differences against them, Eva and Aleandro still fall deeply in love—only to be separated by a brutal act of hatred.

As each are swept into the tides of war, they try to forget their romance. Yet, the haunting memory of that summer will reshape their destinies and lead to decisions which are felt through generations.

From the horrors of the Second World War to the tensions of the 1956 Hungarian uprising and beyond, When the Summer Was Ours is a sweeping story about the toll of secrets, the blurred lines between sacrifice and obsession, and the endurance of the human spirit.

Kindle, 384 pages,
Published August 24, 2021 
by Washington Square Press
3/5 stars

This is my first time reading Roxanne Veletzos after hearing glowing reviews of her debut, The Girl They Left Behind.  I was excited to discover a new author.

Beginning in 1942 Budapest was a nice switch for me, in terms of WW2 books.  While I appreciated this setting and how the war affected its citizens and even the historical events afterwards, slowly this book fell a little flat for me.

I was craving something new in terms of storyline.  This story was interesting enough but I struggled to connect with the characters and I kinda felt like I've read this story before in it being predictable.

When the Summer Was Ours is a heart aching story that showed resilience and determination.  It released on August 24th.

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

Saturday, September 11, 2021

What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie

Welcome to the decrepit Woodmoor Manor…where something in the woods is always watching. From the author of Scritch Scratch comes a chilling middle grade story about a creepy mansion and sinister creatures in the woods

All Ginny Anderson wants from her summer is to relax. But when Ginny's father—a respected restoration expert in Chicago—surprises the family with a month-long trip to Michigan, everything changes. They aren't staying in a hotel like most families would. No, they're staying in a mansion. A twenty-six room, century-old building surrounded by dense forest. Woodmoor Manor.

Locals claim the surrounding woods are inhabited by mutated creatures that escaped a mad scientist over a hundred years ago. And some say campers routinely disappear never to be seen again.

When the creaky floors and shadowy corners of the mansion seem to take on a life of their own, Ginny uncovers the wildest mystery of all: there's more than one legend roaming Saugatuck, Michigan, and they definitely aren't after campers.

They're after her.

Format320 pages, Paperback
Expected publication: September 14, 2021
by Sourcebooks Young Readers
4/5 stars

This book was wacked out spooky in parts.  I started reading in the dark when insomina hit, well I definitely couldn't fall back to sleep for a while.  

The whole book isn't always spooky but rather a great mystery with a ghosty presence and a 12 year old Agatha Christie fan.  Ginny didn't want to spend a month in this house when her plans for the summer included a writing class and hanging out with friends back home.

This is my my first time reading Lindsay Currie and I enjoyed the ride. It was descriptive, setting the vibe for an old mansion with secrets and red herrings.  With a small town setting, new friends - both real and not, this book is  geared for a middle grade audience. It's a story of family and friends, sacrifice and acceptance with closure.  

What Lives in the Woods releases in a couple days.

My thanks to Sourcebooks Kids for a digitial ARC (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.


Friday, September 3, 2021

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone comes another riveting work of psychological suspense about a young couple’s disappearance on a gorgeous summer night, and the mother who will never give up trying to find them...

On a beautiful summer night in a charming English suburb, a young woman and her boyfriend disappear after partying at the massive country estate of a new college friend.

One year later, a writer moves into a cottage on the edge of the woods that border the same estate. Known locally as the Dark Place, the dense forest is the writer’s favourite area for long walks and it’s on one such walk that she stumbles upon a mysterious note that simply reads, “DIG HERE.”

Could this be a clue towards what has happened to the missing young couple? And what exactly is buried in this haunted ground?

Kindle, 416 pages
Releases Sept 7, 2021
by Atria Books
3.5/5 stars

Lisa Jewell is one of my go to authors, The Night She Disappeared releases in just a few short days. Some of her books have been fast paced, unputdownable and others have a slower pace.  This one fits the latter.

Told from 3 different POVs, Tallulah (teen mom), her mom Kim and unrelated Sophie.  I enjoyed hearing from Tallulah and Kim, for some reason I wasn't a fan of Sophie (no idea why really).  Tallulah was a good teen mom, juggling school, friends and doting on her son.  So when she disappeared one night we know something is up.

The book jumps between the characters and back in time (with back story) at times it felt long and distracted me from the disappearance. A lot of teen drama that gave this book a YA feel. I like YA so no big deal for me. Eventually it does reveal what happens that night.

The Night She Disappeared is a slow paced mystery with a creepy house, surrounding woods and  unreliable (and unlikable) characters.  A number of red herrings left me guessing but it was the ending that kinda fell a little flat for me.  For me this didn't have the emotional impact I am used to with a Lisa Jewell book but still an intricately woven mystery.

My thanks to Atria Books for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

At Lighthouse Point by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Blaine Grayson returns to Three Sisters Island with a grand plan--to take Camp Kicking Moose to the next level. Her dream starts to unravel when she discovers Moose Manor's kitchen has been badly remodeled by her sister, Cam, who doesn't know how to cook. Added to that blow is the cold shoulder given by her best friend, Artie Lotosky, now a doctor to the unbridged Maine islands.

As old wounds are opened, Blaine starts to wonder if she made a mistake by coming home. Little by little, she must let go of one dream to discover a new one, opening her heart to a purpose and a future she had never imagined.

Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher invites you back to the coast of Maine for a story that reminds you to release what doesn't matter and cling to what does: faith, family, and friendships.

320 pages, Paperback
First published May 1, 2021
by Fleming H. Revell Company
4/5 stars

This is the 3rd book in the Three Sisters Island Series which is set on an island off the coast of Maine.  I enjoyed the first 2 books and this was equally as enjoyable.  While each book revolves around this family they do centre on one sister, with this book it's Blaine.

Having returned from 2 years abroad Blaine returns a different person to an island and family that are also changing. Again the author has woven the past to reflect what is taking place in the present.  For me I found this one relevant to society today in terms of some of the issues being dealt with - no I can't say more because the blurb doesn't talk about them either.

At Lighthouse Point is a story of relationships, faith and love.  It was written with some humour and sensitivity.  It is Christian fiction and that does shine through here.  I am not sure if this is the final book in series, I know that I am already missing this group.  Definitely an author and series I recommend.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Saturday, August 28, 2021

The Bookseller's Secret by Michelle Gable

After a broken engagement and facing a bad case of writer’s block, bestselling author Katie Cabot flees Virginia for her best friend’s home in Mayfair, London. As she takes time to regroup, Katie finds comfort in the nearby Heywood Hill bookshop, a book lover’s paradise that has survived both world war and the internet.

When a customer arrives one day seeking a lost manuscript written by the iconic Nancy Mitford, eldest sister of the famous aristocratic family, Katie thinks she’s stumbled on the perfect distraction. During World War II, Nancy worked as a bookseller at Heywood, where she hosted midnight literary salons, and spied on French officers for the British government. But the more involved in the search Katie becomes, the less it seems she can avoid her own reality. And when her quest reveals a surprising link between the past and present, she’ll have to decide if life can ever measure up to fiction or if she’ll need to redefine the idea of a storybook ending.

Alternating between wartime and contemporary London, and featuring fascinating historical figure Nancy Mitford and the real-life Heywood Hill bookshop, The Bookseller’s Secret is Michelle Gable’s most thrilling novel yet. 

Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published August 17th 2021 
by Graydon House
3/5 stars

This is my first time reading Michelle Gable, I was drawn to this book partly because of the bookish theme but also it's fun to discover new authors.

Told from 2 POVs, with one being author Nancy Mitford during WW2.  She is also a new to me author, I was hoping to feel that desire to read some of her books. I enjoyed getting to know her and her family dynamics, what an assorted bunch, and the setting of an actual bookstore, Heywood Hill's was nice.

Current day is Katie who has an obsession with Nancy Mitford.  I found it interesting how she arrived in England, a recent separation from fiancée/writer's block (she is also an author). While searching for inspiration discovers Heywood Hills and begins a search for a long lost manuscript.

The Bookseller's Secret is a dialogue driven story and while that works (sometimes) I missed the atmospheric elements and feeling the era. While I struggled to connect with the characters I did enjoy the history lesson of Mitford's life but given the time period I would have liked more of a connection to the war to have felt more of an impact it had on the lives of Nancy and her friends.

For me The Bookseller's Secret was an okay read, while I didn't love it I have The Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable in my TBR pile and will give it a go.

My thanks to Graydon House (via Netgalley) for an e-arc of this book.  It is on sale now.


The Chanel Sisters by Judithe Little

A novel of survival, love, loss, triumph—and the sisters who changed fashion forever

Antoinette and Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel know they’re destined for something better. Abandoned by their family years before, they’ve grown up under the guidance of pious nuns preparing them for simple lives as the wives of tradesmen or shopkeepers. At night, their secret stash of romantic novels and magazine cutouts beneath the floorboards are all they have to keep their dreams of the future alive.

The walls of the convent can’t shield them forever, and when they’re finally of age, the Chanel sisters set out together with a fierce determination to prove themselves worthy to a society that has never accepted them. Their journey propels them out of poverty and to the stylish cafés of Moulins, the dazzling performance halls of Vichy—and to a small hat shop on the rue Cambon in Paris, where a business takes hold and expands to the glamorous French resort towns. But when World War I breaks out, their lives are irrevocably changed, and the sisters must gather the courage to fashion their own places in the world, even if apart from each other. 

Paperback, 400 pages
Published December 29th 2020
 by Graydon House
3.5/5 stars

I knew nothing about the Chanel Sisters and to be perfectly honest I usually steer clear of books with Hollywoodish/ritzy type stories.  But The Chanel Sisters was included in a recent book box (Thank you SweetReadsBox) and they haven't disappointed me yet.

Beginning when this sisters are young and living in a convent they still managed to stay together.  They are determined to be more then what society views them as.  It was nice getting to know how the Chanel brand was established and all that they went through.  Told from the POV of only one sister, Antoinette I think it would have been nice to hear from Coco as well, especially since it's her name that resonates with many.

The locations spans many countries and I love it when one is close to my home, this unknown piece of their history surprised me.  Who knew?

All in all an entertaining read, knowledge gleamed and a new author discovered.

This book was part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Names in a Jar by Jennifer Gold

Twelve-year-old Anna Krawitz is imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto with her older sister, Lina, and their father. Happy days spent reading about anatomy and science in Papa's bookshop are long gone, and the knowledge they have is used to help their neighbors through the illnesses caused by starvation and war.

With no hope in sight and supplies dwindling, Anna finds herself taking care of an orphaned baby. With a courage she didn't know she had, Anna and the baby leave behind all they know and go into hiding with a Catholic family, changing their names to hide their identity, but Lina is not so lucky and winds up in the infamous Treblinka Camp. Can Lina survive and find her way back to Anna? Will the two sisters even recognize each other after such a long time?

A story filled with hope, courage and reconciliation.

Kindle, 336 pages
Expected publication: September 14th 2021
by Second Story Press
4/5 stars

The cover is what drew me to this book.  I love reading middle grade and that was my initial impression.  However, its geared more for teens and YA.  Even though Anna is only 12 years old when this story begins we get to watch her become a teen and grow up before her time.

Though the eyes of these two sisters, Anna and Lina, a clear picture is shown of what life was like before being expelled to the Warsaw Ghetto and what transpired there.  At times heartbreaking to read and maybe for a younger audience it might be a little much, it isn't graphic but you get a clear picture what takes place.  

One of the things I love about reading HF is learning, and once again I was education.  From the Treblinka Camp to Irena Sendler (Jolenta is based on her and I would have loved to read more) to Catholics taking in Jewish children, unknown parts of that era to me.

Names in a Jar is a story of survival, heartache and family.  One I recommend but don't let the whimsical cover deceive you.

My thanks to Second Story Press (via Netgalley) for a e-arc in exchange for a honest review.  Look for this book on Sept 14th. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

On a Coastal Breeze (Three Sisters Island #2) by Suzanne Woods Fisher

For Madison Grayson, life is good. Newly licensed as a marriage and family therapist, she can't wait to start her practice. Despite the unfortunate shortage of eligible bachelors on the island--they're all too young, too old, or too weird--Maddie feels like she's finally found her sweet spot. Not even one panic attack in the last year. Not one.

And then Ricky O'Shea drops in. Literally. Floating down from the pure blue sky, the one man in the world she hoped never to see again--the one who'd been her archnemesis from kindergarten through her senior dance--parachutes into town, landing on Boon Dock, canopy draping behind him like a superhero. Ricky O'Shea. Now Pastor Rick, the new minister on Three Sisters Island.

Time to panic.

With wit and a bit of whimsy, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher invites you back to Three Sisters Island where family, forgiveness, and a second chance at love await. 

Paperback, 306 pages
Published May 5th 2020 
by Fleming H. Revell Company
4/5 stars

Suzanne Woods Fisher is one of my go to authors.  Her writing is reminiscent of getting together with some old friends and catching up. 

Set on an island off the East coast it's the perfect beach read about three sisters and a dad (who buys a holiday retreat on a whim).  Each sister is totally different in personality and ambition.  This, book 2 revolves around Madison mostly and her new status as the islands family therapist.  What follows is a journey of self discovery, righting wrongs, family and second chances.

On a Coastal Breeze is a fun romp around the island, with wit and some serious decision making. I enjoyed how the author wove history into this book (and actually the series) giving this reader a clear view of what transpired in the past.

 Definitely an author and series I recommend.  Be on the lookout next week when I review At Lighthouse Point.

Monday, August 23, 2021

The Summer of Lost Letters by Hannah Reynolds

Perfect for fans of Morgan Matson and Ruta Sepetys, this sweet, summery romance set in Nantucket follows seventeen-year-old Abby Schoenberg as she uncovers a secret about her grandmother's life during WWII.

Seventeen-year-old Abby Schoenberg isn't exactly looking forward to the summer before her senior year. She's just broken up with her first boyfriend and her friends are all off in different, exciting directions for the next three months. Abby needs a plan--an adventure of her own. Enter: the letters.

They show up one rainy day along with the rest of Abby's recently deceased grandmother's possessions. And these aren't any old letters; they're love letters. Love letters from a mystery man named Edward. Love letters from a mansion on Nantucket. Abby doesn't know much about her grandmother's past. She knows she was born in Germany and moved to the US when she was five, fleeing the Holocaust. But the details are either hazy or nonexistent; and these letters depict a life that is a bit different than the quiet one Abby knows about.

And so, Abby heads to Nantucket for the summer to learn more about her grandmother and the secrets she kept. But when she meets Edward's handsome grandson, who wants to stop her from investigating, things get complicated. As Abby and Noah grow closer, the mysteries in their families deepen, and they discover that they both have to accept the burdens of their pasts if they want the kinds of futures they've always imagined. 

Hardcover, 384 pages
Published June 15th 2021 
by Razorbill
4.5/5 stars

The Summer of Lost Letters was such a delight to read.  Right from the beginning I enjoyed this book.  Hannah Reynolds is a new to me author, this being her YA debut (she also writes as Allison Parr).

I loved the location, Nantucket, it was descriptive with that quaint island setting.  Abby was such a likeable character, searching she gets more than she bargains for.  This book was mysterious as Abby sets out to discover her grandmother's past. Without giving too much of the story away, I loved the historical elements, it's something I was unfamiliar with. so thank you Hannah Reynolds for educating me.  Abby worked in a bookstore which had those bookish vibes with some title droppings.   

The Summer of Lost Letters is a story of betrayal, family and friendships.  Though it was a slower paced story, and a couple parts didn't really add much to the story, it was the writing that stands out for me.  With its one liners easy banter  and an ending that I didn't see coming I was entertained.

My thanks to the Instagram reading community for bringing this book to my attention.

This book was part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge. 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

'One death, in exchange for thousands of lives - it's simple arithmetic!'

A new translation of Dostoevsky's epic masterpiece, Crime and Punishment (1866). 

The impoverished student Raskolnikov decides to free himself from debt by killing an old moneylender, an act he sees as elevating himself above conventional morality. Like Napoleon he will assert his will and his crime will be justified by its elimination of 'vermin' for the sake of the greater good. 

But Raskolnikov is torn apart by fear, guilt, and a growing conscience under the influence of his love for Sonya. Meanwhile the police detective Porfiry is on his trial.

It is a powerfully psychological novel, in which the St Petersburg setting, Dostoevsky's own circumstances, and contemporary social problems all play their part. 

Kindle Edition, 544 pages
Published September 1st 2017 
by Oxford University Press (first published 1866)
3.5/5 stars

Sometimes it's good to read out of ones comfort zone.  Such is the case with Crime and Punishment. In my endeavour to read more classics our newly created Family Book Club started with this one.

I'll confess to struggling a few times just because I'm not used to the writing of that era. Plus it took me 3 tries before I found a translation and format to my liking.

Raskolnikov has done the unthinkable and the repercussions almost destroy him (or do they?).  I enjoyed reading what life was like, how they lived and just how society functioned in 1860's Russia. On one hand it's a slow paced story when compared to contemporary novels but the slow pacing worked to really get into Raskolnikov's head.

While I wouldn't have picked this book up myself, I'm glad I read it. Also happy to move another book off my TBR shelf to my READ one. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Family Plot by Megan Collins

When a family obsessed with true crime gathers to bury their patriarch, horrifying secrets are exposed upon the discovery of another body in his grave in this chilling novel from the author of Behind the Red Door and The Winter Sister .

At twenty-six, Dahlia Lighthouse has a lot to learn when it comes to the real world. Raised in a secluded island mansion deep in the woods and kept isolated by her true crime-obsessed parents, she has spent the last several years living on her own, but unable to move beyond her past—especially the disappearance of her twin brother Andy when they were sixteen.

With her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house she has avoided for years. But as the rest of the Lighthouse family arrives for the memorial, a gruesome discovery is made: buried in the reserved plot is another body—Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax.

Each member of the family handles the revelation in unusual ways. Her brother Charlie pours his energy into creating a family memorial museum, highlighting their research into the lives of famous murder victims; her sister Tate forges ahead with her popular dioramas portraying crime scenes; and their mother affects a cheerfully domestic façade, becoming unrecognizable as the woman who performed murder reenactments for her children. As Dahlia grapples with her own grief and horror, she realizes that her eccentric family, and the mansion itself, may hold the answers to what happened to her twin. 

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Expected publication: August 17th 2021
 by Atria Books
3/5 stars

I'm not really sure what to make of this book.  Right from the beginning that creepy vibe took over as Dahlia tells how she got her name. She was named after the Black Dahlia a murder victim - it was a violent scene and the case still remains unsolved. So explaining that to a 4 year old wasn't the right foot to start of on (imho).

Dahlia is the only POV we get and it would have been nice to hear from some of the other players, there were times I needed a break from Dahlia's repetition. I might add not many were that likeable, except for Ruby I liked her - even if she was rather spooky.

The mystery surrounding the disappearance of her brother Andy and the other things that happened on this island was intriguing, it kept me wondering.  The setting was kinda creepy with the paths, shed and freaky neighbours.  But it was the family dynamics that I struggled with.  Dysfunctional puts it mildly, something was missing to even make this group feel like they were related.  All the pieces didn't fit together smoothly and I was left scratching my head a bunch of times at the ending.

My thanks to Atria Books (via Netgalley) for an advanced digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Falling by T.J. Newman

You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published July 6th 2021
by Avid Reader Press / Simon Schuster
4/5 stars

What can I say, decisions, decisions what a horrible one to have to make.

Dubbed the 2021 Best Don't Read on a Plane winner is the perfect way to describe this book. T.J. Newman's debut is a fast-paced story that kept me wondering how this mess of an issue would be resolved. 

Without going into too much detail of the why and how that goes on here, the author approached this book in a manner that was tense (to say the least) and heartbreaking for all.   While the opening chapter didn't really do a lot for me the rest of the book flowed nicely. With alternating POV's the visual was felt right down to the support cast on the ground.

I loved the story behind this book, the 41 rejections before #42 accepting this manuscript.  Talk about perseverance!! She wrote idea and plot points on cocktail napkins while being a flight attendant. This book had an authentic feel on the aircraft with the lingo spot on - my husband is a pilot so I'm kinda familiar.

Falling released last month and part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge (the wait was way too long at the library)


Monday, August 9, 2021

Not a Happy Family: A Novel by Shari Lapena

The new domestic suspense novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Couple Next Door and Someone We Know who has sold more than 7 million copies of her books worldwide.

In this family, everyone is keeping secrets—even the dead.

Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there, and Fred and Sheila Merton certainly are rich. But even all their money can't protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mertons are brutally murdered after a fraught Easter dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated.

Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their vindictive father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of the siblings is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did someone snap after that dreadful evening? Or did another person appear later that night with the worst of intentions? That must be what happened. After all, if one of the family were capable of something as gruesome as this, you'd know. 

Paperback, 352 pages
Published July 27th 2021
 by Doubleday Canada
4.5/5 stars

I've read a number of Shari Lapena and this is by far the best.  It has everything that I love in mystery/thriller.

What do I love in this genre you wonder?  Well I love the unputdownableness (if it becomes a real word I lay claim to it). With shorter chapters it was easy to just squeeze in another chapter until I got to the point where I couldn't put it down and read the last third in one sitting.

The characters were a mixed bunch and honestly I didn't feel much empathy for any of them, and that's fine because it just made me look at everyone with suspicion.  They were each flawed and coming from the different POV's made it fascinating see things through their eyes.  Learning the family dynamics, motivation and relationships might sound daunting with this larger cast of characters but it wasn't hard to keep everyone straight.

The mystery was great, just when I'd think I solved it there would be another twist.  I was kept on my toes while trying to connect the dots.

Not a Happy Family is the story of relationships within a dysfunctional family, where money is high up on everyone's priority list.  It is so well written, suspenseful and full of  secrets making everyone a suspect.

Definitely a book I highly recommend.

This book is part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge, obtained from SweetReadsBox (the suspense box).

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The Perfect Family by Robyn Harding

The bestselling author of the The Swap—praised by Samantha M. Bailey, author of Woman on the Edge, as “wickedly delicious, addictive, utterly compelling”—explores what happens when a seemingly perfect family is pushed to the edge by cruel, vindictive, and increasingly dangerous attacks.

Thomas and Viv Adler have a picture-perfect family. Affluent and attractive, with two well-mannered kids almost out of the nest, they live in a beautifully restored Craftsman house in a well-to-do neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. Their jobs are secure; their children are thriving; the world is their oyster.

Until one morning, when they wake up to find that their house and car have been pelted with eggs. Thomas dismisses it as the work of a few out-of-control kids, but when a smoke bomb is tossed on their front lawn, and the tires on their BMW are punctured, he begins to worry. The family installs surveillance cameras but they show nothing but grainy images of shadowy figures in hoodies. Unable to identify the perpetrators, they are helpless as the assaults escalate. The police assure them that this is just the work of bored teenagers. But no one in the Adler family believes it. After all, each of them has a secret—kept not only from the outside world but from each other.

Seventeen-year-old Tarryn is dabbling in a seedy online world; her older brother, Eli, has dropped out of college and refuses to tell his parents why; and Thomas and Viv have their own secrets that began as harmless fun and relief from the pressures of everyday life, but have grown into something darker and more dangerous. As the Adlers grapple with their guilt, fear, and shame, the assaults grow deadly. Their “perfect” façade is crumbling, and it may be too late for any of them to do anything about it in this addictive and twisty suspense novel that will keep you turning pages until its explosive ending. 

Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Expected publication: August 10th 2021 
by Gallery Books
4/5 stars

The Perfect Family might look like the perfect family from the outside but as we all know looks can be deceiving.  I wouldn't exactly call this a thriller but rather a family drama where each of them has secrets that appears to be known to someone else.  But which someone else is the one wreaking havoc on the sanity of all four of them - Viv, Thomas, Tarryn and Eli?

Told from the POV of all 4  makes for a great view of how this family functions and their relationship.  I can't say that I liked them all, in fact Eli is the only one I actually felt some compassion for. As the story progressed and more of the past comes to light the tension ramps up.

This is my 3rd book by Canadian author Robyn Harding, I like her writing style with the shorter chapters that had me reading just one more chapter. She kept my attention throughout and also kept me guessing. I liked the ending, it was fitting and worked for me.

The Perfect Family releases on August 10th, my thanks to Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster CA) for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Dark Roads by Chevy Stevens

The acclaimed and beloved author of Still Missing is back with her most breathtaking thriller yet.

The Cold Creek Highway stretches close to five hundred miles through British Columbia’s rugged wilderness to the west coast. Isolated and vast, it has become a prime hunting ground for predators. For decades, young women traveling the road have gone missing. Motorists and hitchhikers, those passing through or living in one of the small towns scattered along the region, have fallen prey time and again. And no killer or abductor who has stalked the highway has ever been brought to justice.

Hailey McBride calls Cold Creek home. Her father taught her to respect nature, how to live and survive off the land, and to never travel the highway alone. Now he’s gone, leaving her a teenage orphan in the care of her aunt whose police officer husband uses his badge as a means to bully and control Hailey. Overwhelmed by grief and forbidden to work, socialize, or date, Hailey vanishes into the mountainous terrain, hoping everyone will believe she’s left town. Rumors spread that she was taken by the highway killer—who’s claimed another victim over the summer.

One year later, Beth Chevalier arrives in Cold Creek, where her sister Amber lived—and where she was murdered. Estranged from her parents and seeking closure, Beth takes a waitressing job at the local diner, just as Amber did, desperate to understand what happened to her and why. But Beth’s search for answers puts a target on her back—and threatens to reveal the truth behind Hailey’s disappearance… 

Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Expected publication: August 3rd 2021
 by St. Martin's Press
4/5 stars

Chevy Stevens had me at Still Missing and I've read every one of her books since.  A Canadian author that always sets her books in Canada, BC actually - one of my favorite places to visit.  Dark Roads is no different with its setting in a fictional town and the disappearance of women. 

I can't exactly say this was a fast paced story, and really a good suspense/thriller doesn't have to be. Just as long as the story keeps me captivated and on my toes I am good.  Dark Roads has a small town setting, Cold Creek where the highway is spotted with memorials to those women that have met with tragic ends.  

I liked both Hailey and Beth, in a sense alone searching for answers.  While this book does have a YA feel it does tackle some serious subject matter.  The mystery was intriguing, except for some time in the middle where it seems to lag a bit, but I found myself reading faster to see the outcome.  I love when there is a dog in books like these, Wolf was a welcome addition and I just loved him.

Dark Roads is a dark, sometimes depressing story, it uncovers the evil in society but for those willing to overcome there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The author notes is where Chevy Stevens talks about the Highway of Tears, since the 1970's women have gone missing or where murdered along that 500 km stretch and many still remain unsolved.  While this book does not revolve around those cases it does bring this situation to light as a reminder for those women.  Thank you for doing that.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press (via Netgalley) for a digital arc in exchange for an honest review.

 It's not an isolated case but its also not unfamiliar to those that know the history. Many women have disappeared without a trace in BC and while this book is not based on those cases but the author notes

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Meet Me in Paradise by Libby Hubscher

Marin Cole has never:
Seen the ocean
Climbed a mountain
Taken a risk on love

....But if her sister's plan works, she just might do all three.

Ever since her journalist mother died on assignment, Marin has played it safe, refusing to set foot outside the state of Tennessee. Her wild-child younger sister, Sadie, has trotted the globe as a photographer, living off of art and adrenaline.

When Sadie returns from a tough assignment abroad and looks a little worse for wear, Marin reluctantly agrees to a sisters' spa weekend on the tropical island of Saba. But her lifelong fear of travel is affirmed when Sadie misses the flight, Marin's luggage gets mixed up with another passenger's, and an episode of turbulence sends her hurtling into the lap of Lucas Tsai, the handsome stranger who stole her sister's seat.

For the first time in a long time, Marin has to step outside of her comfort zone as she explores the island with Lucas and learns what she's been missing out on. With each breathtaking new experience, Marin gets closer to her real self, the man she's falling for, and the heart-wrenching truth about why she's there in the first place.

Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 23rd 2021
 by Berkley Books
5/5 stars

It feels like its been so long since I've read a 5 star book and I have the fine folks in bookstagrammers world to thank.

I loved this story, the journeys that took place, yes that is a plural because this was a multi-layered story that kept me reading. Slip in some reminiscing of the past to help define Sadie and Marin's relationship and see why Marin was the way she was.  Add in some adorable island characters along with that tropical setting making this the kind of read that I didn't know I was looking for.  

I enjoyed the author's writing style.  It flowed nicely, intersperse with flashbacks that came across as effortlessly.  The vibe was very rom/com for the first bit but switched over to women's fiction. Not that there weren't com moments along the way.  Meet Me in Paradise is a powerful story, funny, poignant and emotional.

It wasn't until I began this review that I discovered this is Libby Hibscher's debut.  Wow, I am super impressed and can't wait for her next book coming in March 2022 - If You Ask Me.

Psst...she is one of those author I would preorder and have on my shelf vs a library read like this one was.



Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Night She Disappeared by Kevin O'Brien

Some nightmares you can’t forget
From the depths of sleep, Seattle TV reporter Anna Malone awakens to her phone ringing. She rarely drinks, and this hangover is brutal. Why can’t she shake the feeling that something terrible happened last night? And why can’t she recall any of it?

But even worse
What Anna does remember: an awkward restaurant meal with her married lover, Russ Knoll, and his unsuspecting wife, Courtney. Russ’s phone call reveals that Courtney is missing, and as days go by with no trace, he comes under police scrutiny. Anna’s in the spotlight too, thanks to a TV rival with a grudge. Anna’s not proud of her affair, but she and Russ aren’t bad people. They’re certainly not the killing kind.

Is the one you can’t remember . . .

Anna already suspected that Courtney—a successful, charming author—might have a darker side. Is she truly missing? Perhaps the sudden disturbances in Anna’s life aren’t accidental after all. But no scenario that Anna imagines can compare to the twisted game unfolding around her, one chilling piece at a time . . . 

Kindle Edition, 395 pages
Expected publication: July 27th 2021
by Kensington Books
3.5/5 stars

This is a book where the cover grabbed me first, it's also the 2nd of three books that I've read with the same title this year.

The Night She Disappeared is somewhat of a fast paced novel.  The action starts right away when Anna wakes up not remembering what happened the previous night, even on a good day that's scary enough but when the person she was with disappears just adds that just adds an extra creepy factor.

The story alternates between different POVs and reflections of the past.  Yea a lot is going on but it works.  The red herrings kept me on my toes, the unveiling of secrets added to the mystery along with some unreliable characters. I can honestly say that there weren't too many characters here that I even liked but it was the story with it's many layers that kept me reading. 

Although it might have been a tad too long but I still recommend, The Night She Disappeared to those that love a mystery to get lost in.

My thanks to Kensington Books for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.  You can find this book on bookshelves in the next few days.

Friday, July 23, 2021

A Terrible Tide by Suzanne Meade

November 18th, 1929

In her small village in Newfoundland, Celia is setting the table for her 13th birthday celebration when the house starts to shake. It's an earthquake, rumbling under the Atlantic Ocean. A few hours later, the sea water disappears from the harbor, only to rush back in a wave almost 30 feet high, destroying nearly everything in its path. Buildings, boats, and winter supplies of fish and food are washed away, and Celia and her community are devastated. With their only phone line cut off and no safe route to get help, they are isolated and facing a long, cold, hungry winter.

Their house destroyed and village in ruins, Celia and her family must band together and share the work needed for the community to survive. Can Celia find the courage to help her injured loved ones? Will help arrive before it's too late

Based on the true story of an earthquake that shook Newfoundland's Burin Peninsula, A Terrible Tide tells the tale of this forgotten disaster from the point of view of a young girl whose life is turned upside down. 

Kindle, 208 pages
Expected publication: September 28th 2021 
by Second Story Press
4/5 stars

A Terrible Tale was an educational lesson for me. Being a lover of Canadian HF this one fit the bill nicely with a part of our history I was unfamiliar with.  Taking place in 1929 in Newfoundland, A Terrible Tale follows the story of 13 year old Celia whose world is turned upside-down when an earthquake strikes the Atlantic Ocean sending water to her village.

What follows is a story told through her eyes of what her family, friends and neighbours endured.  Geared for the middle grade reader it gives enough detail to get a clear picture of the aftermath and the struggle to survive.

A Terrible Tale is a story of family, survival and discovering whats really important.

My thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Entitled: Life isn't easy when you're a book by Cookie Boyle

Entitled is the story of a Book seeking to find a home as it is passed from one Reader to another. Along the way, it reveals its own story, The Serendipity of Snow.

As it is read, misplaced, loaned and abandoned, our Book, like the Readers of its pages, discovers love and heartbreak, loneliness and friendship, and ultimately becomes the author of its own journey.

In the end, Entitled examines the pull between the story we are born with and the one we wish to create for ourselves.

Paperback, 306 pages
Published November 24th 2020
by Bespoken Word Press
4/5 stars

Canadian author Cookie Boyle has penned a fun story about a book.  The fun part is it's from the pov of said book, The Serendipity of Snow. A unique prospective as this book does some travelling, meets a variety of personalities - though not all of the literary kind.

Entitled is a great summer read, especially for bookish folks who like books with a bookish theme. It's for those that can easily imagine this setting and feel for Serendipity. While it might sound light Entitled is a book about feeling alone, making friends and creating your own path.

My thanks to the author for reaching out and gifting me with a copy of Entitled (which in no way affected this review).

"Books come into out lives for a reason.  They might not know it themselves. 
 You might not know it.  But there's a reason.  There has to be," says a collection of stories by Joyce Carol Oates.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Hide Away (Rachel Marin Thriller #1) by Jason Pinter

From the bestselling author of the Henry Parker series comes a page-turning thriller about a vigilante who’s desperate to protect her secrets—and bring a killer to justice.

On the surface, Rachel Marin is an ordinary single mother; on the inside, she’s a fierce, brilliant vigilante. After an unspeakable crime shatters her life, she changes her identity and moves to a small town in Illinois, hoping to spare her children from further trauma…or worse. But crime follows her everywhere.

When the former mayor winds up dead, Rachel can’t help but get involved. Where local detectives see suicide, she sees murder. They resent her for butting in—especially since she’s always one step ahead. But her investigative genius may be her undoing: the deeper she digs, the harder it is to keep her own secrets buried.

Her persistence makes her the target of both the cops and a killer. Meanwhile, the terrifying truth about her past threatens to come to light, and Rachel learns the hard way that she can’t trust anyone. Surrounded by danger, she must keep her steely resolve, protect her family, and stay one step ahead, or else she may become the next victim.

Kindle Edition, 365 pages
Published March 1st 2020 
by Thomas & Mercer
5/5 stars

This was another hyped up author on Instagram and Twitter with the release of A Stranger at the Door - book 2 in this series.  I jumped at the kindle deal for Hide Away which is the first book in the Rachel Marin Series.  

It's been awhile since a mystery has grabbed my attention like this one did.  I was invested right away with Rachel, caring about her family and what happened in the past.  She gets herself involved in something that sets off a chain reaction of events that quickly evolve into something dangerous.

This fast paced story was filled with well-developed characters, the easy banter involving Rachel made for a fun read - can I say fun when it's filled with suspense, secrets and intrigue?

The mystery itself was interesting, it kept me on my toes guessing at the outcome. As for the outcome, I loved it!  I was thoroughly entertaining and can't wait to read book 2 in this series. 

This book is from my personal kindle library.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

What's Done in Darkness by Laura McHugh

Abducted as a teenager, a woman must now confront her past and untangle the truth of what really happened to her in this dark thriller from the author of The Wolf Wants In.

"Laura McHugh expertly delivers a harrowing tale of a world where little is what it first appears to be."--Ron Rash, bestselling author of Serena

Seventeen-year-old Sarabeth has become increasingly rebellious since her parents found God and moved their family to a remote Arkansas farmstead where she's forced to wear long dresses, follow strict rules, and grow her hair down to her waist. She's all but given up on escaping the farm when a masked man appears one stifling summer morning and snatches her out of the cornfield.

A week after her abduction, she's found alongside a highway in a bloodstained dress--alive--but her family treats her like she's tainted, and there's little hope of finding her captor, who kept Sarabeth blindfolded in the dark the entire time, never uttering a word. One good thing arises from the horrific ordeal: a chance to leave the Ozarks and start a new life.

Five years later, Sarabeth is struggling to keep her past buried when investigator Nick Farrow calls. Convinced that her case is connected to the strikingly similar disappearance of another young girl, Farrow wants Sarabeth's help, and he'll do whatever it takes to get it, even if that means dragging her back to the last place she wants to go--the hills and hollers of home, to face her estranged family and all her deepest fears.

In this riveting new novel from Laura McHugh, blood ties and buried secrets draw a young woman back into the nightmare of her past to save a missing girl, unaware of what awaits her in the darkness. 

Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 22nd 2021
by Random House
4/5 stars

This is my first time reading a Laura McHugh book, I thank all the hype over on Instagram for bringing this book to my attention.  It definitely lived up to the buzz.

What's Done in Darkness comes in at 256 pages and packs a punch.  There was the mystery that played out with before and after points of view.  It shows a dark side of a Christian but honestly I don't feel there were Christians at all but rather dominating people who wanted control without any form of compassion or love. 

There were many twists and turns making it hard for me to unravel this mystery.  The setting felt like going back in time when husbands took control, made all the decisions and ruled with an iron fist.  While I found the mystery interesting with its many layers it was Sarah's journey that spoke to me.  Definitely an author I will read more of.

I obtained this book from my local public library.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

The Hunted by Roz Nay

The Beach meets The Woman in Cabin 10 in this twisty new thriller about two couples who meet backpacking through Africa, but what begins as friendship quickly turns to obsession, with deadly consequences—from bestselling author Roz Nay.

Stevie Erickson is looking for a fresh start. The sudden loss of her grandmother has sent her life into a tailspin, dredging up old losses and putting a strain on her relationship with her boyfriend, Jacob. So when Jacob is offered a job as a diver for GoEco, a dive operation for ecotourists on Rafiki, a beautiful, secluded island off the coast of Tanzania, he thinks it’s just the adventure they need and Stevie reluctantly agrees to go with him.

Their trip gets off to a rough start with a nighttime scare at their first hostel. Already fragile, Stevie can’t shake the feeling that she’s being watched. Things improve when they meet seasoned backpackers Leo and Tamsin, a drop-dead gorgeous couple who instantly take a shine to Stevie and Jacob.

But on Rafiki Island, their new friendship is put to the test, as is Stevie and Jacob’s own relationship. And when innocent flirting goes too far, past truths surface, exposing a killer in their midst—a killer whose sights are set on Stevie.

A high dive into the dangers of obsession, this sinister and seductive thriller will leave you breathless. 

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: July 6th 2021 
by Simon & Schuster
3.5/5 stars

This is my second book by Canadian author Roz Nay and also her 3rd book.

The Hunted started with a bang that set a creepy tone beginning that sense of suspense and mystery I love in this genre.

Stevie needs a fresh start and gets way more than she bargained for.  When her boyfriend Jacob gets a job in Africa it seems like a good place to start. Told with alternating POVs between Stevie and Leo, someone they met during their travels. The travel was an adventure in itself, not the travelling I'm used to, it gave the real sense of being in another country altogether. 

The Hunted was a wild ride, especially given a 'oh my goodness he's crazy' character.  I was kept on my toes and honestly thought I had things figured out but alas I was wrong. I might not have liked the majority of the characters but the story was mysterious, suspenseful with an ending that surprised me.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster CA for a digital ARC (via Netgalley)
 in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Blackberry Beach (Hope Harbor #7) by Irene Hannon

Katherine Parker is on the cusp of having everything she ever wanted--fame, money, and acclaim. So why isn't she happy? In search of answers, she comes incognito to Hope Harbor on the Oregon coast for some R&R. Maybe in her secluded rental house overlooking the serene Pacific she'll be able to calm the storm inside.

Coffee shop owner Zach Garrett has found his niche after a traumatic loss--and he has no plans to change the life he's created. Nor does he want to get involved with his reticent new neighbor, whose past is shrouded in mystery. He's had enough drama to last a lifetime. But when Katherine and Zach are recruited to help rehab a home for foster children, sparks fly. And as their lives begin to intersect, might they find more common ground than they expected . . . and discover that, with love, all things are possible?

Bestselling and award-winning author Irene Hannon invites you to come home to Hope Harbor--where hearts heal . . . and love blooms. 

Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 6th 2021 by
 Fleming H. Revell Company
3.5/5 stars

Just like the cover implies this is a perfect beach read.  

Blackberry Beach is the 7th book in the Hope Harbor Series, I haven't read any of the previous books. While my interest in the past books has piqued this one works fine as a stand alone.

I loved the descriptive nature of the landscape, especially the beach, I really want to walk on that beach and rent a place there.  It was nice to visualise the setting with the cafe, taco food truck and the neighbourly setting. The characters are supportive, each in a unique way rounding out the story nicely.

This is my first time reading a Irene Hannon book, I enjoyed the change of pace from my usual genre.  This is Christian fiction, which is addressed throughout the read, but in  realisitc and non overbearing way.

Blackberry Beach is a book and author I recommend.  

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group
and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Sunday, June 27, 2021

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

A Life No One Will Remember.

A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name. 

Hardcover, 442 pages
Published October 6th 2020
 by Tor Books
3.25/5 stars

V.E. Schwab is a new to me author. With all the buzz before it's release last fall (on my birthday no less, it was a birthday present to myself) I was sweep up with all the hype but only recently did I finally sit to read it.  In fact this was a combo reading and audio book listen. Julia Whelan is one of my favourite narrators and as usual she did a great job.

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue had an interesting premise, it was beautifully written with a lyrical voice that flowed smoothly.  The beginning had me rubbing my hands together, excited to read about Addie's life. Beginning in 1714 Addie had a desire for a life that wasn't a traditional one in an era when women had no voice.  One must be careful what they wish for. Adjusting to her new life I liked watching her journey and how she made things work.  The historical parts were just touched upon and at times I wanted more.

I'm glad I did the combo read, coming in at 441 pages this hardcover had a smaller font making it on the longish side - 17 hours for the audio and to me it was just too long. The beginning started strong but then a lull hit before it picked up the pace again just past the half way mark with the lull picking up steam again.  I know I'm in the minority with my rating but I just found that while the writing was lovely the story repeating itself a lot and could have been shorten somewhat.

I'm am not sure how this book is marketed, YA or adult but there was a definite YA feel to it.  I couldn't decide on whether to rate it 3 or 3.5, hence my 3.25.  Like I said at the beginning V.E. Schwab is a new author to me, I will definitely give her another try.

This book was part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge (#42)

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb

From Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb, the bestselling authors of Meet Me in Monaco, comes a coming-of-age novel set in pre-WWII Europe, perfect for fans of Jennifer Robson, Beatriz Williams, and Kate Quinn.

Three cities, two sisters, one chance to correct the past . . .

New York, 1937: When estranged sisters Clara and Madeleine Sommers learn their grandmother is dying, they agree to fulfill her last wish: to travel across Europe—together. They are to deliver three letters, in which Violet will say goodbye to those she hasn’t seen since traveling to Europe forty years earlier; a journey inspired by famed reporter, Nellie Bly.

Clara, ever-dutiful, sees the trip as an inconvenient detour before her wedding to millionaire Charles Hancock, but it’s also a chance to embrace her love of art. Budding journalist Madeleine relishes the opportunity to develop her ambitions to report on the growing threat of Hitler’s Nazi party and Mussolini’s control in Italy.

Constantly at odds with each other as they explore the luxurious Queen Mary, the Orient Express, and the sights of Paris and Venice,, Clara and Madeleine wonder if they can fulfil Violet’s wish, until a shocking truth about their family brings them closer together. But as they reach Vienna to deliver the final letter, old grudges threaten their reconciliation again. As political tensions rise, and Europe feels increasingly volatile, the pair are glad to head home on the Hindenburg, where fate will play its hand in the final stage of their journey. 

Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Expected publication: July 27th 2021
by Willow Morrow
4/5 stars

When grandma asks 2 estranged sisters to travel together it really isn't a question and the sisters can't say no to their beloved Violet.

Different in personality, goals, belief and fashion makes for a great story as they travel during a turbulent time in history.  Paris, Venice and Vienna are feeling birth pains as Hitler's reign is on the rise. It isn't a quick journey nor is it easy when the past, present and future are discovered, evaluated and unexpected insight in their relationship is tested.

I enjoyed getting to know Clara and Madeleine, constantly at odds they travelled in style. There were many historical settings making this a fun read - the Queen Mary, Orient Express and even the Hindenburg. While the physical journey was interesting it was the emotional one, watching each of them deal with things made for an entertaining read.

This is not the first time authors, Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb have written together (Last Christmas in Paris), and once again they have delivered a well written heartwarming story that flowed nicely with no hint of different hands.  

My thanks to Heather Webb for a digital arc (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Excerpt: Last Flight to Stalingrad by Graham Hurley

 Excerpted from Last Flight to Stalingrad

by Graham Hurley. Head of Zeus, 2021. 

Reprinted with permission.

                      GRAMMATIKOVO, KERCH PENINSULA, CRIMEA, 20 MAY 1942


Oberstleutnant Georg Messner occasionally wondered whether he’d fallen in love with his boss.

 Generaloberst Wolfram von Richthofen was the legendary chief of Fliegerkorps VIII. In half a decade he’d routed the Reich’s enemies in Spain, Poland, France and the Balkans. His Stuka dive bombers, with the terrifying siren he’d invented himself, had become a battlefield code for instant annihilation, and even the vastness of the Soviet Union hadn’t daunted him. On the day German armour poured into Russia, Fliegerkorps VIII had destroyed no less than 1,800 enemy aircraft for the loss of just two planes. Even hardened Luftwaffe veterans couldn’t believe it.

 Now, Messner – who served as an aide to Generaloberst Richthofen – was sitting in a draughty tent on a scruffy airfield on the Kerch Peninsula. The meeting had started barely half an hour ago. Messner had flown in last night, anticipating a celebration at the end of Operation Trappenjagd. General Manstein was rumoured to be arriving in time for lunch.

 In ten exhausting days of incessant bombing, Richthofen’s Fliegerkorps VIII, working hand in hand with General Manstein’s 11th Army, had kicked open the back door to the priceless Caucasian oilfields. One hundred and seventy thousand Russian soldiers stumbled off into captivity. Two full Soviet armies, plus the greater part of a third, were destroyed. In raid after raid, the Heinkels had seeded the Soviet formations below with the new SD2 fragmentation bombs, tiny eggs that exploded feet above the pale earth and tore men to pieces. Coupled with bigger ordnance, Richthofen called it ‘giant fire magic’.

 On the first Sunday of the campaign, most bomber pilots had flown nearly a dozen sorties. A handful had gone three better. Fifteen take-offs. Fifteen landings. All in one day. Unbelievable. This was the way Richthofen organised his campaigns: violence without end, ceaseless pressure, an unrelenting urge to grind the enemy to dust.

 The results had been obvious from the air. Towards the end of the first week, personally supervising the carnage from two thousand metres, Richthofen had emerged from his tiny Fieseler Storch to tell Messner that the jaws of Manstein’s trap were about to close around the hapless Slavs. ‘Unless the weather stops us,’ he growled, ‘no Russian will leave the Crimea alive.’

 And so it went. By the third week in May, after a difficult winter, the road to the Crimean fortress at Sevastopol lay open to Manstein’s tanks and Richthofen’s marauding bomber crews. After a victory of this magnitude, Germany was once again on course to advance deep into the Russian heartlands. Messner himself was a Berliner and it wasn’t difficult to imagine the relief and rejoicing in his home city. Moscow and Leningrad were still under siege, but the real key surely lay here on the southern flank. The seizure of the oil wells would keep the Panzers rolling east. Grain from Ukraine would fill bellies back home. Yet none of the euphoria Messner had expected was evident around this makeshift table.

Messner had first served under Richthofen half a decade ago in the Condor Legion, fighting the Republican armies in the mountains of northern Spain. He knew how difficult, how outspoken this man could be. He treated superiors and underlings alike with a rough impatience which brooked no excuse when things went wrong. His men feared him, of that there was no doubt, but he brought them comfort as well because he was – more often than not – right.

 The story of war, as Messner knew all too well, was the story of things going wrong, but Richthofen had an implacable belief in willpower and the merits of meticulous organisation. In his view there was no such thing as defeat. There’d always be setbacks, certainly, occasions when plans threatened to fall apart, but the men under his command were expected to be masters of both themselves and the battlefield below. For Richthofen, the undisputed Meister of close air support, there was no sweeter word than Schwerpunkt, that carefully plotted moment when irresistible wrath descended on the heads of the enemy and put him on his knees.

Kindle Edition, 270 pages
Published June 4th 2020
 by Head of Zeus