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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Review: Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan


It was called "The Titanic of the South." The luxury steamship sank in 1838 with Savannah's elite on board; through time, their fates were forgotten--until the wreck was found, and now their story is finally being told in this breathtaking novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis.

When Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop is asked to guest-curate a new museum collection focusing on artifacts recovered from the steamship Pulaski, she's shocked. The ship sank after a boiler explosion in 1838, and the wreckage was just discovered, 180 years later. Everly can't resist the opportunity to try to solve some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the devastating night of its sinking.

Everly's research leads her to the astounding history of a family of eleven who boarded the Pulaski together, and the extraordinary stories of two women from this family: a known survivor, Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth, who was never found, along with her child. These aristocratic women were part of Savannah's society, but when the ship exploded, each was faced with difficult and heartbreaking decisions.

This is a moving and powerful exploration of what women will do to endure in the face of tragedy, the role fate plays, and the myriad ways we survive the surviving. 

Hardcover, 432 pages
Published March 9th 2021 
by Berkley
4.5/5 stars

Surviving Savannah was one of my highly anticipated books of 2021.  I can't really explain other then between the author, THAT cover and the historical story this was a preorder for me.  My instincts were correct.

Even though this was a slower paced story I found it captivating.  I love reading pieces of history that I'm unfamiliar with, which was the case with the Pulaski sinking.  One might think being only 30 miles off the coast isn't that far but it's 1838 with no way to call for help.  Told between Lilly and Augusta a vivid picture was painted of what could have happened along with the physical and emotional trauma that went with it.  There were times I questioned the pace but in the end I understood and appreciated looking at the whole picture when I finished the book.

Present day is the story of Everly, and while the blurb doesn't give much of the story away (thank you publisher) she under takes a journey during her research.  I loved the historical part, learning more about Savannah in both the past and present day.  Its a place that has been bumped up higher on my bucket list. Suffice to say I really enjoyed reading this book.  It wasn't one I rushed through but savored the writing and getting to know some wonderful characters and places to visit.


"You know," he said finally, "not everyone who survives trauma becomes a better person.  The idea that surviving brings everyone to a new and better place is a lie told by people who need the world to make sense."


The book ended with some wonderful author notes and a chapter on resources and facts which I found informative and sent me off to google on a quest for pictures.

This book was part of my 2021 Reading off my Shelf Challenge.


Monday, April 12, 2021

Review: Letters Across the Sea by Genevieve Graham

Inspired by a little-known chapter of World War II history, a young Protestant girl and her Jewish neighbour are caught up in the terrible wave of hate sweeping the globe on the eve of war in this powerful love story from the #1 bestselling author of The Forgotten Home Child.


I’m writing to say goodbye…
With all my love,
M


Summer 1933

At eighteen, Molly Ryan feels as though she is always looking for work to help her family through the Great Depression crippling her city. The one bright spot in her life is playing baseball with her best friend, Hannah Dreyfus, and sneaking glances at Hannah’s handsome older brother, Max. Molly knows that her Irish Protestant parents disapprove of her spending so much time with their Jewish neighbours, and she also sees the signs that say “No Jews Allowed” outside Toronto’s stores and parks. But unlike many of the city’s residents, Molly doesn’t blame Hannah and Max for the mass unemployment and unrest—they’re her beloved childhood friends.

As more of Hitler’s hateful ideas cross the sea, tensions between the two families and their communities rise, spilling over one smouldering day in August when a local “Swastika Club” unfurls a huge white banner bearing the Nazi symbol at a baseball game. A riot erupts, throwing Molly and Max together and sparking a secret they must keep from everyone they love.

When Max enlists to fight overseas, their love is put to the ultimate test, the letters between them a tenuous bond. By war’s end, both of their families will be scarred by painful betrayal as devastating truths come to light.

Perfect for readers of The Daughter’s Tale and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Letters Across the Sea is a poignant novel about the enduring power of love to cross dangerous divides even in the darkest of times. 

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: April 27th 2021
by Simon & Schuster Canada
4.5/5 stars

One of the things I love about reading a Genevieve Graham book is that her love of history shines through, especially when it deals with Canadian history.  She was raised in Toronto and chose to bring to life some unflattering pieces of its past.  I knew nothing of Christie Pit and the anti Semitic behaviour during the Great Depression was just so sad to read about.

Most WW2 books don't talk much about the involvement of Canadian troops but here I learned about the Battle of Hong Kong and it wasn't a pretty picture. How is that not taught in Canadian schools?

With two time periods we watch Molly Ryan grow up during tumultuous times, especially as friends and family take a stand, sadly at times against each other. As war breaks out there are parts of Canada's involvement  that I learned about - it's great that Molly is a journalist. 

Letters Across the Sea is a well researched and written story, it's emotional, the characters are genuine and the plot kept my attention.  There is heartache and guilt but a midst that is also kindness and compassion.  Definitely an author and book I highly recommend. 

My thanks to Simon & Schuster Ca (via Netgalley) for a digital arc in exchange for a honest review.

 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Review: When the Stars Go Dark: A Novel by Paula McLain

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife comes an atmospheric novel of intertwined destinies and heart-wrenching suspense: A detective hiding away from the world. A series of disappearances that reach into her past. Can solving them help her heal?

Anna Hart is a seasoned missing persons detective in San Francisco with far too much knowledge of the darkest side of human nature. When tragedy strikes her personal life, Anna, desperate and numb, flees to the Northern California village of Mendocino to grieve. She lived there as a child with her beloved foster parents, and now she believes it might be the only place left for her. Yet the day she arrives, she learns that a local teenage girl has gone missing.

The crime feels frighteningly reminiscent of the most crucial time in Anna’s childhood, when the unsolved murder of a young girl touched Mendocino and changed the community forever. As past and present collide, Anna realizes that she has been led to this moment. The most difficult lessons of her life have given her insight into how victims come into contact with violent predators. As Anna becomes obsessed with saving the missing girl, she must accept that true courage means getting out of her own way and learning to let others in.

Weaving together actual cases of missing persons, trauma theory, and a hint of the metaphysical, this propulsive and deeply affecting novel tells a story of fate, necessary redemption, and what it takes, when the worst happens, to reclaim our lives—and our faith in one another. 

Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Expected publication: April 13th 2021
 by Ballantine Books
4/5 stars

I've read Paula McLain's The Paris Wife and Circle the Sun and I knew right away that this would be a book totally different from her norm in terms of cadence and subject. Knowing how personal this story is to the author made it all the more compelling.  McLain draws on her own past and bears her soul making for an emotional read.

This is a slow paced, character driven story, dark with a theme that draws on the historical past of the northwest. It's during a horrible time in 1993 surrounding the disappearance of young girls.  At the same time, Anna Hart is reeling from her own tragic past and lands in the middle of a missing person case.

This is a complex story with a  large cast of characters (yea I had to pay attention). Anna is well developed in terms of her emotional journey, she faces her past a midst these missing girl cases.  Though it lagged a little in the middle the ending was fast paced and while I would have liked it to go on for another chapter or two I get what the author did there.  It was still a good ending.

When the Stars Go Dark releases April 13th.  My thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for a digital arc in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Review: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

'Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices... Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?'

A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived, from the internationally bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How To Stop Time.

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig's enchanting novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 20th 2020
 by Canongate Books Ltd.
3.5/5 stars

"She learned that undoing regrets was really a way of making wishes come true."

I am feeling somewhat apprehensive about sharing my thoughts on The Midnight Library. Maybe that's why its taken so long, I read this back in January.  With so so many of my peeps giving this book 5 stars and for some more it they could. I'm here with my 3 1/2 stars, which means in the middle between 'I liked' to 'really liked' and that's still good, right?

This book started off great, I connected with Nora right away as she has one bad day after another until she can't take it anymore.  The concept for the book was unique and I loved the midnight library and what it represented.  How timing, the choices we make and even a change in routine can lead to different outcomes.  Maybe my expectation level was elevated but this book went on and on and on some more. I think that's what got me was the length, even though its really not that long.  I just felt it was repetitive after a while and could have been shorter.

The Midnight Library is a book about regrets and what if's.  For those with depression/suicidal thoughts this could be a trigger.

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


Friday, April 9, 2021

Audio Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

"The Final Girls need you. . . . The Final Girls are tough, everything survivors should be. But the new threat is clever, ominous, even closer than you suspect. You are about to gasp. You might drop the book. You may have to look over your shoulder. But you must keep reading. This is the best book of 2017."—Lisa Gardner, New York Times bestselling author of Find Her

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout's knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media's attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy's doorstep. Blowing through Quincy's life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa's death come to light, Quincy's life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam's truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

Audiobook, eAudiobook/Unabridged, 
12 hours, 24 minutes
narrators - Erin Bennett and Hillary Huber
Published July 11th 2017 by Penguin Audio
3/5 stars

This is the last Sager book to get me up to date as I eagerly await his new one, Survive the Night (releases in June).  I'll say that reading The Last Time I Lied and Home Before Dark before reading this one was a good thing.  Those two are favourite reads and ones I recommend.  With Final Girls I'm kinda going against the majority by not giving it 5 stars.  To be honest if it wasn't for the audio book I'm not sure I would have continued reading.

I get unlikable characters and all that but in this case it didn't jive for me. I don't know if I was suppose to like these characters or not but I really didn't. Though Sam felt authentic and her actions fit her personality, it was Quincy that just confused me.  She came across as the careful one, mature, guarded and fiercely protective - her actions and thoughts just didn't make sense for me there, which in turn affected my enjoyment. 

This was a slow paced book that was told with flashbacks as Quincy started to remember what happened.  While I thought it was predictable, it really wasn't. As for the ending, there were some twists that I didn't see coming and it was satisfying.

This might not be my favourite Riley Sager book, I'm still a fan and looking forward to his June release.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Review: Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay

In one of the year's most anticipated debut psychological thrillers, a family made infamous by a true crime documentary is found dead, leaving their surviving son to uncover the truth about their final days.

"They found the bodies on a Tuesday." So begins this twisty and breathtaking novel that traces the fate of the Pine family, a thriller that will both leave you on the edge of your seat and move you to tears.

After a late night of partying, NYU student Matt Pine returns to his dorm room to devastating news: nearly his entire family--his mom, his dad, his little brother and sister--have been found dead from an apparent gas leak while vacationing in Mexico. The local police claim it was an accident, but the FBI and State Department seem far less certain--and they won't tell Matt why.

The tragedy makes headlines everywhere because this isn't the first time the Pine family has been thrust into the media spotlight. Matt's older brother, Danny--currently serving a life sentence for the murder of his teenage girlfriend Charlotte--was the subject of a viral true crime documentary suggesting that Danny was wrongfully convicted. Though the country has rallied behind Danny, Matt holds a secret about his brother that he's never told anyone: the night Charlotte was killed Matt saw something that makes him believe his brother is guilty of the crime.

When Matt returns to his small hometown to bury his parents and siblings, he's faced with a hostile community that was villainized by the documentary, a frenzied media, and memories he'd hoped to leave behind forever. Now, as the deaths in Mexico appear increasingly suspicious and connected to Danny's case, Matt must unearth the truth behind the crime that sent his brother to prison--putting his own life in peril--and forcing him to confront his every last fear.

Told through multiple points-of-view and alternating between past and present, Alex Finlay's Every Last Fear is not only a page-turning thriller, it's also a poignant story about a family managing heartbreak and tragedy, and living through a fame they never wanted.

Paperback, 416 pages
Expected publication: November 30th 2021 
by Minotaur Books
4.5/5 stars

Every Last Fear by new-to-me author Alex Finlay was part of my Thriller Book Box by the fine folks at SweetReadsBookBox.  It's been on my radar for awhile and I dug in shortly after it arrived 

The blurb pretty much summaries what goes on here, I found it to be rather addicting. It is told with multiple points of view with a before/after story-line.  It might sound like a lot is going on (well there is) but the author did a great job of differentiating the chapters and letting the reader know who and when he is telling the story, it flowed nicely.  With the shorter chapters it was perfect for JustOneMoreChapter reading.

Dawning my sleuth cap I kept my eyes open for clues and tried to solve the mystery myself, but alas the author kept me on my toes the whole way through.  

Every Last Fear is a story that is heartbreaking at its core, it is a well written story with twists and turns, flawed characters and unique plot.  This is the author's debut which has me looking forward to whats next.  That being said the author is also writing under a pseudonym which just adds more to the mystery.

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


Monday, April 5, 2021

Review: The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War II by Madeline Martin

Inspired by the true World War II history of the few bookshops to survive the Blitz, The Last Bookshop in London is a timeless story of wartime loss, love and the enduring power of literature.

August 1939: London is dismal under the weight of impending war with Germany as Hitler’s forces continue to sweep across Europe. Into this uncertain maelstrom steps Grace Bennett, young and ready for a fresh start in the bustling city streets she’s always dreamed of—and miles away from her troubled past in the countryside.

With aspirations of working at a department store, Grace never imagined she’d wind up employed at Primrose Hill, an offbeat bookshop nestled in the heart of the city—after all, she’s never been much of a reader. Overwhelmed with organizing the cluttered store, she doesn’t have time to read the books she sells. But when one is gifted to her, what starts as an obligation becomes a passion that draws her into the incredible world of literature.

As the Blitz rains down bombs on the city night after night, a devastating attack leaves the libraries and shops of London’s literary center in ruins. Miraculously, Grace’s bookshop survives the firestorm. Through blackouts and air raids, Grace continues running the shop, discovering a newfound comfort in the power of words and storytelling that unites her community in ways she never imagined—a force that triumphs over even the darkest nights of war-torn London.

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Expected publication: April 6th 2021
 by Hanover Square Press
4/5 stars

The Last Bookshop in London is a fictional account of a few surviving bookshops of WW2. It has that coming of age feel that begins on the eve of the war in London.  Friends Grace and Eve arrive as the world is changing drastically and what follows is a journey of self discovery that is filled with heartache, grief and personal growth.  It isn't just Grace's friendship with Viv but developing relationships and how books comfort during a horrible time. I love bookish themed books

This was an enjoyable read with authentic characters that showed a side of the war I don't often read about.  From the air raid sirens, the men fighting and women doing their part I liked getting to know Grace, Mrs. Weatherford and even cranky Mr. Evans.  The author did the research and it showed. The historical part put me there as I witnessed bombings from a street level.

This is my first time reading a Madeline Martin book, I liked her writing style, her attention to detail and drawing me into a story that kept me entertained. Definitely a book and author I recommend, especially to those that love historical fiction.

My thanks to Hanover Square Press (via Netgalley) for a digitial arc in 
exchange for a honest review.

 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Review: Rescue at Lake Wild by Terry Lynn Johnson

In this funny and moving animals-in-peril adventure, a twelve-year-old girl and her two best friends determine to rescue two orphaned beaver kits—and soon find themselves trying to solve a local environmental crisis. Perfect for fans of Pax and A Boy Called Bat.

Everyone knows that twelve-year-old Madison “Madi” Lewis is not allowed to bring home any more animals. After she's saved hairless mice, two birds, a rabbit, and a stray tom cat that ended up destroying the front porch, Madi’s parents decide that if they find one more stray animal in the house, she won’t be allowed to meet Jane Goodall at an upcoming gala event.

But when Madi and her two best friends, Aaron and Jack, rescue beaver kits whose mother was killed, they find themselves at the center of a local conspiracy that’s putting the beavers and their habitats in danger. As Madi and her friends race to uncover the threat targeting the beavers, Madi must put her animal whisperer skills to the test in both raising the orphaned beaver kits and staying out of trouble long enough.

Kindle, 208 pages
Published April 27th 2021 
by HMH Books for Young Readers
4/5 stars

Rescue at Lake Wild was a fun read! Terry Lynn Johnson is no stranger to me, I've read a number of her books and love her love of the great outdoors.  Ice Dogs and Dogsled Dreams are my favourites.

This book is the story of 3 friends and a dog named Lid, they find themselves on an adventure over the summer break. Madi isn't a stranger when it comes to rescuing wild animals and sometimes she gets more than she bargained for. She is determined, smart and up for the challenge, anger flairs when injustices are done in the wild.  Her friends Aaron and Jack added that extra comic relief to this story.

Again the writing was spot on.  It was descriptive, informative and I read it in a couple sittings. While its perfect for young readers I quite enjoyed myself. The author's knowledge of baby beavers was evident, it felt natural as Madi used knowledge and instinct to care for them.  It didn't feel like an info dump getting to know the habits and traits of these beaver kits. The ending might have been a tad rushed but still a fitting conclusion.

Rescue at Lake Wild releases on April 27th and available for preorder now.  

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



Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Review: The Moonlight School by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Haunted by her sister's mysterious disappearance, Lucy Wilson arrives in Rowan County, Kentucky, in the spring of 1911 to work for Cora Wilson Stewart, superintendent of education. When Cora sends Lucy into the hills to act as scribe for the mountain people, she is repelled by the primitive conditions and intellectual poverty she encounters. Few adults can read and write.

Born in those hills, Cora knows the plague of illiteracy. So does Brother Wyatt, a singing schoolmaster who travels through the hills. Involving Lucy and Wyatt, Cora hatches a plan to open the schoolhouses to adults on moonlit nights. The best way to combat poverty, she believes, is to eliminate illiteracy. But will the people come?

As Lucy emerges from a life in the shadows, she finds purpose; or maybe purpose finds her. With purpose comes answers to her questions, and something else she hadn't expected: love.

Inspired by the true events of the Moonlight Schools, this standalone novel from bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher brings to life the story that shocked the nation into taking adult literacy seriously. You'll finish the last page of this enthralling story with deep gratitude for the gift of reading.

Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 2nd 2021 
by Fleming H. Revell Company
4/5 stars

I have read a number of Suzanne Woods Fisher books and have yet to be disappointed.  Her historical fiction are my favourites, she takes parts of the past I am unfamiliar with and educates me.

The Moonlight School is a rather slow paced story that kept my attention as I got to know the different characters and learn about the people of Kentucky.  I loved the mountain setting, the journey that Lucy went on as she went out of her comfort zone to help those living in conditions different from her own. To help those who could not read or write. What made this book all the more endearing is how it's based on history.  The Moonlight School was a thing and the notes at the end where as enlightening as the book itself.

The Moonlight School is a story of guilt and hope, of being brave enough to take the next step and faith. Told between the narratives of Lucy, Finley and Angie gave this reader a look at the different lifestyles in the community with the struggles and hopes for the future. The story connected me to the characters, getting to know their dreams and situations that made them who they are.  This was a pleasure to read with an ending that fit just nicely.

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


Sunday, March 28, 2021

Review: All That We Carried by Erin Bartels

Ten years ago, sisters Olivia and Melanie Greene were on a backcountry hiking trip when their parents were in a fatal car accident. Over the years, they grew apart, each coping with the loss in her own way. Olivia plunged herself into law school, work, and a materialist view of the world--what you see is what you get, and that's all you get. Melanie dropped out of college and developed an online life-coaching business around her cafeteria-style spirituality--a little of this, a little of that, whatever makes you happy.

Now, at Melanie's insistence (and against Olivia's better judgment), they are embarking on a hike in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In this remote wilderness they'll face their deepest fears, question their most dearly held beliefs, and begin to see that perhaps the best way to move forward is the one way they had never considered.

Michigan Notable Book Award winner Erin Bartels draws from personal experience hiking backcountry trails with her sister to bring you a story about the complexities of grief, faith, and sisterhood.

Paperback, 352 pages
Published January 5th 2021
 by Revell
3.5/5 stars

Erin Bartel's previous, We Hope for Better Things was a favourite of mine in 2019. This, her latest released in January and was high up there on my anticipated books of 2021 - a hiking trip had me visualising it before I even began.

Two sisters, different as night and day. One bossy with a chip on her shoulder, the other quiet and reserved. The first few chapters had me feeling the tension in the air and as I got to know these women I could feel how grief affected each in totally different ways.  Olivia the lawyer goes by facts, who left town rather then deal with the aftermath of their parents death.  Where as Melanie was left behind to deal with what was left behind.  Needless to say things come to a head in this book as each is forced to make tough decisions.

I loved the visuals,  the hiking, the solitude and scenery has me itching to get outdoors again.  The emotional journey on both Olivia and Melanie were interspersed with memories that showed their prior relationship.  The ending was okay for me, I felt something was missing but can't quite put my finger on what.

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

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Review: Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

Sixteen-year-old Tessa Johnson has never felt like the protagonist in her own life. She’s rarely seen herself reflected in the pages of the romance novels she loves. The only place she’s a true leading lady is in her own writing—in the swoony love stories she shares only with Caroline, her best friend and #1 devoted reader.

When Tessa is accepted into the creative writing program of a prestigious art school, she’s excited to finally let her stories shine. But when she goes to her first workshop, the words are just...gone. Fortunately, Caroline has a solution: Tessa just needs to find some inspiration in a real-life love story of her own. And she’s ready with a list of romance novel-inspired steps to a happily ever after. Nico, the brooding artist who looks like he walked out of one of Tessa’s stories, is cast as the perfect Prince Charming.

But as Tessa checks off each item off Caroline’s list, she gets further and further away from herself. She risks losing everything she cares about—including the surprising bond she develops with sweet Sam, who lives across the street. She’s well on her way to having her own real-life love story, but is it the one she wants, after all? 


Hardcover, 384 pages
Published January 5th 2021 
by Balzer + Bray
3.5/5 stars

The blurb for Happily Ever Afters is what drew me to preorder it. I love reading books with a bookish theme.

For 16 year old Tessa writing has always been a big part of her life, after a move and new school writers block has put a stop to her muse showing up.  What follows is a story filled with anxiety, teenage drama and discovering who your friends truly are.

I loved the writing, the author put me right in the scenes, even though some were cringe-worthy.  I also liked the treatment of a disabled character, and the stress disability places on a family--authentic vibes there.  The ways secondary characters interact with the bi-racial main character also brings to light the different kinds of prejudices people live with. 

Ultimately Happily Ever Afters is about relationships, honesty and acceptance.  While I didn't love it, it was an entertaining read.

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




Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Review: Too Good to Be True by Carola Lovering

This review comes with a couple cautionary tidbits.  First off, I'm posting the book blurb after my review (for a change).  It just gives too much of the story away, so be forewarned its best to go into this book blind.  I get the need to mention parts of the plot but I prefer to discover things for myself.

Secondly I'm kinda going against popular opinion here.  But that being said I am conflicted with my rating.

This book started slow for me, I was advised to persevere, which I did. My issue was the number of times I had to suspend my belief and yes I even did a few eye rolls. But at almost the half way mark the tone switched, it turned more mysterious and had me genuinely curious about what was going on.

This book is told from 3 different POVs with some unreliable narratives that seriously was enough to leave me scratching my head.  This isn't what I would call a dark and twisty suspense mystery.  It was entertaining abed slow moving with a rather unsatisfying ending.  To Good to Be True released a few weeks ago.

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



Kindle Edition, 343 pages
Published March 2nd 2021
 by St. Martin's Press
3/5 stars

ONE LOVE STORY. TWO MARRIAGES. THREE VERSIONS OF THE TRUTH.

Skye Starling is overjoyed when her boyfriend, Burke Michaels, proposes after a whirlwind courtship. Though Skye seems to have the world at her fingertips―she’s smart, beautiful, and from a well-off family―she’s also battled crippling OCD ever since her mother’s death when she was eleven, and her romantic relationships have suffered as a result.

But now Burke―handsome, older, and more emotionally mature than any man she’s met before―says he wants her. Forever. Except, Burke isn’t who he claims to be. And interspersed letters to his therapist reveal the truth: he’s happily married, and using Skye for his own, deceptive ends.

In a third perspective, set thirty years earlier, a scrappy seventeen-year-old named Heather is determined to end things with Burke, a local bad boy, and make a better life for herself in New York City. But can her adolescent love stay firmly in her past―or will he find his way into her future?

On a collision course she doesn’t see coming, Skye throws herself into wedding planning, as Burke’s scheme grows ever more twisted. But of course, even the best laid plans can go astray. And just when you think you know where this story is going, you’ll discover that there’s more than one way to spin the truth. 


Monday, March 22, 2021

Review: Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston

Cerys is safe in the kingdom of Aloriya.

Here there are no droughts, disease, or famine, and peace is everlasting. It has been this way for hundreds of years, since the first king made a bargain with the Lady who ruled the forest that borders the kingdom. But as Aloriya prospered, the woods grew dark, cursed, and forbidden. Cerys knows this all too well: when she was young, she barely escaped as the woods killed her friends and her mother. Now Cerys carries a small bit of the curse—the magic—in her blood, a reminder of the day she lost everything. The most danger she faces now, as a gardener’s daughter, is the annoying fox who stalks the royal gardens and won’t leave her alone.

As a new queen is crowned, however, things long hidden in the woods descend on the kingdom itself. Cerys is forced on the run, her only companions the small fox from the garden, a strange and powerful bear, and the magic in her veins. It’s up to her to find the legendary Lady of the Wilds and beg for a way to save her home. But the road is darker and more dangerous than she knows, and as secrets from the past are uncovered amid the teeth and roots of the forest, it’s going to take everything she has just to survive. 

Hardcover, OwlCrate, 338 pages
Published October 20th 2020 
by Balzer + Bray
5/5 stars

This book was part of my November Owlcrate box.  I love the cover, this photo doesn't do it justice, its bright, shiny and glittery.  What endeared me to this book was the author note that came with it.  I could feel her emotions as I read which just made me love this book all the more.



"Just because you are born a gardener's daughter doesn't make you any less worthy than someone born into royalty."

I loved the characters - Cerys, Fox and the bear.  The back and forth bantering eased the tension as danger surrounds this trio.  The scenery was vivid and the woods filled with danger.  The story was unique and not too predictable. It's magical and thought provoking.

You aren't alone, fox.  Burdens are meant to be shared.

This is YA and even though this adult reader loved it, I think it's geared for the younger end of the YA genre.  It would make a great Disney movie and will appeal to those that love fairy tales.

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

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Review: The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon

Be careful what you wish for.

When social worker Jax receives nine missed calls from her older sister, Lexie, she assumes that it’s just another one of her sister’s episodes. Manic and increasingly out of touch with reality, Lexie has pushed Jax away for over a year. But the next day, Lexie is dead: drowned in the pool at their grandmother’s estate. When Jax arrives at the house to go through her sister’s things, she learns that Lexie was researching the history of their family and the property. And as she dives deeper into the research herself, she discovers that the land holds a far darker past than she could have ever imagined.

In 1929, thirty-seven-year-old newlywed Ethel Monroe hopes desperately for a baby. In an effort to distract her, her husband whisks her away on a trip to Vermont, where a natural spring is showcased by the newest and most modern hotel in the Northeast. Once there, Ethel learns that the water is rumored to grant wishes, never suspecting that the spring takes in equal measure to what it gives. 

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: April 13th 2021 (first published April 6th 2021)
by Simon & Schuster Canada
4/5 stars

This is only my 2nd book by Jennifer McMahon, she has set the tone for books not to read in the dark, in the middle of the night when insomnia hits.

That old adage 'be careful what you wish for' is the premise for The Drowning Kind.  The setting is a creepy old house with a pool that just sounds downright nasty that set the tone for this Gothic story that spans many generations. 

As Jax deals with the loss of her sister she begins a journey to piece together her last days that takes her further back in time.  There were many a scene that had me reading with one eye shut. You know how in movies you get to that scene that is filled with tension that you don't want to know what's gonna happen but you do?  You brace yourself for what will emerge from those unexpected places?  Suffice to say this book kept me on my toes. It wasn't always the current day story line that had me feeling this way.  The past was equally mysterious and atmospheric.

The ending was not what I expected but totally worked. The Drowning Kind is a chilling Gothic story with that supernatural vibe, full of twists and secrets. While the main players were a dysfunctional bunch the supporting cast added that extra ump to this story. There is more that I could say about the plot but I won't, the blurb gives just enough away that enticed this reader and let me discover for myself what was going one - thanks publisher for a spoiler free blurb.

This book releases April 6th and available for preorder now.  My thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada (via Netgalley) for an advanced digital copy.






Friday, March 19, 2021

Audio Review: The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city center, where expectant mothers who have come down with the terrible new Flu are quarantined together. Into Julia's regimented world step two outsiders—Doctor Kathleen Lynn, a rumoured Rebel on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney.

In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over three days, these women change each other's lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work.

In The Pull of the Stars, Emma Donoghue once again finds the light in the darkness in this new classic of hope and survival against all odds.

Hardcover, 295 pages
Published July 21st 2020
by Little, Brown and Company
3/5 stars

My second book by Canadian author, Emma Donoghue was sent to the publishers just as covid hit a year ago.  How is that for timing especially given this book's theme.

I ended up going the audio route, lack of quotation marks drives me antsy and it was either that or pull a DNF. The narrator was Emma Lowe and she did a great job bringing the story to life.

The Pull of the Stars was atmospheric in that the author vividly described the setting, which is mostly at an infectious maternity ward.  Also this book takes place over the course of three heart wrenching days with nurse Julia and a volunteer to help get through those days.  I loved the compassion shown not just with the patients but towards each other, the developing friendship and Julia's plight at home. Though Julia and Bridie are fictional Dr Lynn is based on a real person, I would have loved to known more about her.

The Pull of the Stars was an emotional read for me, especially as it paralleled with this past year.  The medical conditions during that time made me very grateful for the time I had my kids in.

I struggled though, with the plot and pacing. While I know I am going against popular opinion there was just too much medical jargon and by the time the story picked up somewhat the end was in sight. All in all this was an okay read, educational and sad.

This book was from my personal library and part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge



Thursday, March 18, 2021

Book Blast: Fiery Girls by Heather Wardell


Fiery Girls by Heather Wardell

Publication Date: March 25, 2021
Heather Wardell

Genre: Historical Fiction


Two young immigrant women. One historic strike. And the fire that changed America.

In 1909, shy sixteen-year-old Rosie Lehrer is sent to New York City to earn money for her family's emigration from Russia. She will, but she also longs to make her mark on the world before her parents arrive and marry her to a suitable Jewish man. Could she somehow become one of the passionate and articulate "fiery girls" of her garment workers' union?

Maria Cirrito, spoiled and confident, lands at Ellis Island a few weeks later. She's supposed to spend four years earning American wages then return home to Italy with her new-found wealth to make her family's lives better. But the boy she loves has promised, with only a little coaxing, to follow her to America and marry her. So she plans to stay forever. With him.

Rosie and Maria meet and become friends during the "Uprising of the 20,000" garment workers' strike, and they're working together at the Triangle Waist Company on March 25, 1911 when a discarded cigarette sets the factory ablaze. 146 people die that day, and even those who survive will be changed forever.

Carefully researched and full of historic detail, "Fiery Girls" is a novel of hope: for a better life, for turning tragedy into progress, and for becoming who you're meant to be.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound


About the Author



Heather is a natural 1200 wpm speed reader and the author of twenty-one self-published novels. She came to writing after careers as a software developer and elementary school computer teacher and can't imagine ever leaving it. In her spare time, she reads, swims, walks, lifts weights, crochets, changes her hair colour, and plays drums and clarinet. Generally not all at once.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads



Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on April 9th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Fiery Girls

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Review: Lucky by Marissa Stapley

A compelling and thrilling road-trip novel about a talented grifter named Lucky whose past comes back to haunt her.

What if you had the winning ticket that would change your life forever, but you couldn’t cash it in?

Lucky Armstrong is a tough, talented grifter who has just pulled off a million-dollar heist with her boyfriend, Cary. She’s ready to start a brand-new life, with a new identity—when things go sideways. Lucky finds herself alone for the first time, navigating the world without the help of either her father or her boyfriend, the two figures from whom she’s learned the art of the scam.

When she discovers that a lottery ticket she bought on a whim is worth millions, her elation is tempered by one big problem: cashing in the winning ticket means the police will arrest her for her crimes. She’ll go to prison, with no chance to redeem her fortune.

As Lucky tries to avoid arrest and make a future for herself, she must confront her past by reconciling with her father; finding her mother, who abandoned her when she just a baby; and coming to terms with the man she thought she loved—whose complicated past is catching up to her, too.

This is a novel about truth, personal redemption, and the complexity of being good. It introduces a singularly gifted, complicated character who must learn what it means to be independent and honest…before her luck runs out. 

Kindle, 256 pages
Expected publication: April 6th 2021
 by Simon Schuster
4/5 stars

Canadian author, Marissa Stapley is a sorta new author to me. I've only previously read one of her books, The Last Resort which I enjoyed.  I also had the privilege of attending the author event upon its release - boy I sure do miss those events.

Lucky is told by Lucky herself as she tells her story both in past and present day settings.  I loved getting to know her with an upbringing so contrary to what I think as normal.

Deserted by her boyfriend and holding a winning lottery ticket that she can't cash in sets her off on an adventure showing her skills as a grifter on one hand and the desire for a normal life on the other.  How that was even possible, with her history kept me reading just one more chapter.

This book moved at a nice pace, it was entertaining and kept me guessing.  The might have seemed a little rushed and tidy but still one I liked.

Look for Lucky on bookshelves April 6th.  My thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Review: The Curator's Daughter by Melanie Dobson

A young girl, kidnapped on the eve of Word War II, changes the lives of a German archaeologist forced into the Nazi Party and--decades later--a researcher trying to overcome her own trauma.

1940. Hanna Tillich cherishes her work as an archaeologist for the Third Reich, searching for the Holy Grail and other artifacts to bolster evidence of a master Aryan race. But when she is reassigned to work as a museum curator in Nuremberg, then forced to marry an SS officer and adopt a young girl, Hanna begins to see behind the Nazi facade. A prayer labyrinth becomes a storehouse for Hanna's secrets, but as she comes to love Lilly as her own daughter, she fears that what she's hiding--and what she begins to uncover--could put them both in mortal danger.

Eighty years later, Ember Ellis is a Holocaust researcher intent on confronting hatred toward the Jewish people and other minorities. She reconnects with a former teacher on Martha's Vineyard after she learns that Mrs. Kiehl's mother once worked with the Nazi Ahnenerbe. And yet, Mrs. Kiehl describes her mother as "a friend to the Jewish people." Wondering how both could be true, Ember helps Mrs. Kiehl regain her fractured childhood memories of World War II while at the same time confronting the heartache of her own secret past--and the person who wants to silence Ember forever.

Kindle Edition
Published March 9th 2021 
by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
3.5/5 stars

I have read three of Melanie Dobson's previous historical fiction books, each of them I enjoyed for their unique storyline during WW2.    With The Curator's Daughter she again has written a dual time period story with the past during the war.  The difference is that this one takes place in Germany with a story I was unfamiliar with.

Without divulging parts of the story not mentioned in the blurb, this story showed a side of the Nazi reign that I knew nothing about and for that I am grateful for the educational lesson.  It is evident the author knows her stuff and has research extensively.  The characters were real and even though I didn't feel an emotional connection with what Hanna was going through there was enough to keep me reading. 

 As for the present time period, I struggled with that and honestly wish the whole book was just about the past.  The writing during that time just seemed off to me somewhat, compared to Dobson's past books. There wasn't the depth of character I crave and at times it felt disjointed. But given all the glowing reviews it could just be me.

My thanks to Tyndale House for a e-arc (via Netgalley) in exchange for a honest review.









Sunday, March 14, 2021

Audio Review: The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

From the author of Me Before You, set in Depression-era America, a breathtaking story of five extraordinary women and their remarkable journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond.

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them–and to the men they love–becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they’re committed to their job: bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope and epic in its storytelling. Funny, heartbreaking, enthralling, it is destined to become a modern classic–a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.

Hardcover, 388 pages
Published October 8th 2019
 by Pamela Dorman Books
2.5/5 stars

I have only ever read 2 books by Jojo Moyes, both were historical and I was excited to read this one.  Unfortunately I am in the minority in regards to my thoughts of The Giver of Stars.

This was an audio read for me and I'm glad I went that route, sadly it might have been a dnf otherwise. I struggled to connect not just with the charIacters but the story as well.  Maybe my expectations were too high but I was looking forward to more of a historical story but this just felt flat to me. Though I will say the friendship that developed between these women helped me to continue listening.  But it wasn't until the last third or so where I felt the story picked up, it had the suspense, mystery and intrigue that I craved even though that was drawn out somewhat.

I remember when this book was first released, a few months after The Bookwomen of Troublesome Creek (which I loved) was released.  There was talk of similarities between these 2 books.  personally I didn't see any, the characters were totally different as was the tone and plot.

Like I said I know that I am in the minority with my thoughts, others loved it so if you like historical fiction in an area relatively unknown then give this one a try.

This book was part of my 2021 Reading of My Shelf Challenge - audiobook via the library via Overdrive.


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Review: When We Were Young & Brave by Hazel Gaynor

Their motto was to be prepared, but nothing could prepare them for war. . .

The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home sets her unforgettable new novel in China during WWII, inspired by true events surrounding the Japanese Army’s internment of teachers and children from a British-run missionary school.

China, December 1941. Having left an unhappy life in England for a teaching post at a missionary school in northern China, Elspeth Kent is now anxious to return home to help the war effort. But as she prepares to leave China, a terrible twist of fate determines a different path for Elspeth, and those in her charge.

Ten-year-old Nancy Plummer has always felt safe at Chefoo School, protected by her British status. But when Japan declares war on Britain and America, Japanese forces take control of the school and the security and comforts Nancy and her friends are used to are replaced by privation, uncertainty and fear. Now the enemy, and separated from their parents, the children look to their teachers – to Miss Kent and her new Girl Guide patrol especially – to provide a sense of unity and safety.

Faced with the relentless challenges of oppression, the school community must rely on their courage, faith and friendships as they pray for liberation – but worse is to come when they are sent to a distant internment camp where even greater uncertainty and danger await . . .

Inspired by true events, When We Were Young and Brave is an unforgettable novel about impossible choices and unimaginable hardship, and the life-changing bonds formed between a young girl and her teacher in a remote corner of a terrible war. 

Paperback, 448 pages
Published October 6th 2020 
by William Morrow Paperbacks
4/5 stars

 China is not a usual place I visit in the literary world so this was a nice change.    I loved the unique setting for the education since I was ignorant of what was taking place in China when most of my knowledge involved Europe. War had already broken out in Europe and now, beginning in 1941, the Japanese have taken control of a missionary school.  Told from the POV of 10 year old Nancy and one of her teachers, Elspeth.

As each chapter alternated I was given a clear picture of what they went through and how they survived. This was a combo book/audiobook for me, with a different voice for Nancy and Elspeth.  Throughout the book Girl Guide mottoes are quoted and this group continued with the GG ceremonies and badge earnings.

When We Were Young & Brave is a story of courage, friendship and grief. It does have a YA feel but I think that just reflects the younger POV. This book was also released as The Bird in the Bamboo Cage. If you are looking for a WW2 read off the beaten track I recommend giving this one a go.

My copy from my bookshelf and part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.


Monday, March 8, 2021

Review: Are We There Yet? by Kathleen West

Among fake Instagram pages, long-buried family secrets, and the horrors of middle school, one suburban mom searches to find herself.

Alice Sullivan feels like she's finally found her groove in middle age, but it only takes one moment for her perfectly curated life to unravel. On the same day she learns her daughter is struggling in second grade, a call from her son's school accusing him of bullying throws Alice into a tailspin.

When it comes to light that the incident is part of a new behavior pattern for her son, one complete with fake social media profiles with a lot of questionable content, Alice's social standing is quickly eroded to one of "those moms" who can't control her kids. Soon she's facing the very judgement she was all too happy to dole out when she thought no one was looking (or when she thought her house wasn't made of glass).

Then her mother unloads a family secret she's kept for more than thirty years, and Alice's entire perception of herself is shattered.

As her son's new reputation polarizes her friendships and her family buzzes with the ramification of her mother's choices, Alice realizes that she's been too focused on measuring her success and happiness by everyone else's standards. Now, with all her shortcomings laid bare, she'll have to figure out to whom to turn for help and decide who she really wants to be.

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: March 16th 2021
by Berkley Publishing
3/5 stars

Are We There Yet? explores family life with tweens, it made me happy my kids are long past that stage.  Here it probes how far these parents go to control social media and how smart kids are to get around it.

Though it's told with a number of different povs, it's not as daunting as it sounds but  rather it worked to get this reader into the minds of both the kids and moms, to see/understand motivations.  I can say that I wasn't a big fan of most of the characters.  Between their actions and decisions being made just made them appear out of control and impulsive.  They almost seemed more concerned about reputation vs fixing/accepting what was going on.

I liked the writing and shorter chapters, even though I didn't like the players I was genuinely interested in what was happening and how this book would end.  There was one story-line that had me wondering if it was necessary but it did enhance some character traits but still left me wanting to skip those chapters.

Are We There Yet? releases on March 16th.  My thanks to Berkley Publishing for a digitial ARC in exchange for a honest review.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Audio Review: The Truth About Melody Browne by Lisa Jewell

Melody Browne can remember nothing before her ninth birthday. Now in her early thirties, Melody lives in the middle of London with her seventeen-year-old son. She hasn’t seen her parents since she left home at fifteen, but Melody doesn't mind. She’s better off on her own.

And then fragments of her past start to come back. At first her memories mean nothing to her but slowly, day by day, she begins to piece together the real story of her childhood.

But with every mystery she solves another one materialises, with every question she answers another appears. And Melody begins to wonder if she'll ever know the truth about her past ... 



Paperback, 377 pages
Published January 7th 2010
 by Arrow Books
3/5 stars

I have been a fan of Lisa Jewell for a number of years, she is a go-to author and now I am slowly making my way through her back list. Originally published in 2009 this book was re-released last month. I grabbed the audio from Chirp and did a combo read/listen.

The blurb above paints an interesting story with great potential.  Melody Brown is a book about a dysfunctional family that at times reminding me of The Family Upstairs.  Present day Melody is 33 years old with a 17 year old son, I liked the relationship, especially giving birth so young.  The story alternates between the past, though at times I was confused as to whether this was the past or Melody's memories resurfacing - that sounds similar but it does make a difference here.

For me this book was a bit of a struggle and I don't think it mattered the format.  It was hard to connect to the characters and just felt a little too choppy. Some parts were predictable and the ending was okay, but a little too neat and tidy.

This might not be one of my favourite Jewell books, it won't swayed me from continuing  my quest to read her previous books.

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



Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Review: The Steel Beneath the Silk (The Emma of Normandy Trilogy #3) by Patricia Bracewell

A breathtaking conclusion to Bracewell’s Emma of Normandy Trilogy, brimming with treachery, heartache, tenderness and passion as the English queen confronts ambitious and traitorous councilors, invading armies and the Danish king’s power-hungry concubine.

In the year 1012 England’s Norman-born Queen Emma has been ten years wed to an aging, ruthless, haunted King Æthelred. The marriage is a bitterly unhappy one, between a queen who seeks to create her own sphere of influence within the court and a suspicious king who eyes her efforts with hostility and resentment. But royal discord shifts to grudging alliance when Cnut of Denmark, with the secret collusion of his English concubine Elgiva, invades England at the head of a massive viking army. Amid the chaos of war, Emma must outwit a fierce enemy whose goal is conquest and outmaneuver the cunning Elgiva, who threatens all those whom Emma loves. 

Kindle Edition, 
Expected publication: March 2nd 2021
 by Bellastoria Press
5/5 stars

I had been wondering for a number of years when the final instalment in the Emma of Normandy Trilogy was going to be released.  Excitement mounted in the fall when I heard that March 2nd would be release day.

The previous books in this series, Shadow on the Crown and The Price of Blood were both 5 star reads and this conclusion to the series followed suit.

It is the year 1012 when The Steel Beneath the Silk begins and I'll confess to being a little nervous that I didn't do a reread for fear of forgetting what happened previously.  But those fears were unfounded as people and circumstances were brought back with lots of 'oh right, I remember that' or 'yea I remember her now' - Elgiva comes to mind there.

Emma is one of those women I knew nothing about until I read this series and now I am on the lookout to learn more about her and the time period.  She was a formidable woman, a pawn for her family who lived life with courage, heartache and by the time this book takes places she has rooted herself in England. She was a woman ahead of her time, a queen with confidence and integrity.

This book was vivid in not just character development but with a story that was vivid.  I love what she wrote in the author notes -

Because I write fiction and not history, I do not claim that things happened exactly in the way, only that they could have.

Which is what I love in historical fiction.  This book was well researched and the author put me right there.  The closer I got to the end the faster I read, loving the ending though not at all what I expected - remember I didn't know my history on Emma.

This series is one I highly recommend. If you are a fan of Eleanor of Aquitaine you should give this series a go.

My thanks to the author and Netgalley for this digital arc in exchange for an honest review.





Sunday, February 28, 2021

Review: Sons of Rome (Rise of Emperors #1) by Simon Turney, Gordon Doherty

Four Emperors. Two Friends. One Destiny.

As twilight descends on the 3rd century AD, the Roman Empire is but a shadow of its former self. Decades of usurping emperors, splinter kingdoms, and savage wars have left the people beleaguered, the armies weary and the future uncertain. And into this chaos Emperor Diocletian steps, reforming the succession to allow for not one emperor to rule the world, but four.

Meanwhile, two boys share a chance meeting in the great city of Treverorum as Diocletian's dream is announced to the imperial court. Throughout the years that follow, they share heartbreak and glory as that dream sours and the empire endures an era of tyranny and dread. Their lives are inextricably linked, their destinies ever-converging as they rise through Rome's savage stations, to the zenith of empire. For Constantine and Maxentius, the purple robes beckon. 

Hardcover, 528 pages
Expected publication: March 1st 2021
 by Head of Zeus
4.5/5 stars


It's been a while since I've spent time in the Roman Empire era, this book has reminded me how much I have enjoyed it and have been missing out.  It's the 3rd century AD when a chance meeting connects 2 boys who will grow to become good friends in an era of chaos, violence and heartache.

Sons of Rome is told alternately between these two friends, Constantine and Maxentius, spanning many years.  It's also penned by two authors which takes a special hand to keep the narrative smooth without the reader detecting the change of hands.  It's evident that Turney and Doherty have researched extensively and brought this story to life with its vivid descriptions of not just the locale and the players but the political climate and its history.  There is a large cast of characters but not overwhelmingly so, it enhances the story making it authentic.  Other then hearing the name Constantine I knew nothing of his claim to fame. As for Maxentius, that was a new one for me, which just made this read all the more enjoyable.

With four emperors ruling, the battle for power along with the brutality (sometimes a little on the heavy side) Sons of Rome is a well written story by two new to me authors.  It's a story of relationships, those between friends and parent and even rivals.  This is the first in a new series with Masters of Rome being book #2, which I am looking forward to reading.

My thanks to Head of Zeus for print copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Friday, February 26, 2021

Review: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz,

Step back to an English village in 1255, where life plays out in dramatic vignettes illuminating twenty-two unforgettable characters.

Maidens, monks, and millers’ sons — in these pages, readers will meet them all. 

There’s Hugo, the lord’s nephew, forced to prove his manhood by hunting a wild boar; sharp-tongued Nelly, who supports her family by selling live eels; and the peasant’s daughter, Mogg, who gets a clever lesson in how to save a cow from a greedy landlord. 

There’s also mud-slinging Barbary (and her noble victim); Jack, the compassionate half-wit; Alice, the singing shepherdess; and many more. 

With a deep appreciation for the period and a grand affection for both characters and audience, Laura Amy Schlitz creates twenty-two riveting portraits and linguistic gems equally suited to silent reading or performance.

 Illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings by Robert Byrd — inspired by the Munich-Nuremberg manuscript, an illuminated poem from thirteenth-century Germany — this witty, historically accurate, and utterly human collection forms an exquisite bridge to the people and places of medieval England.

Hardcover, 96 pages
Published July 24th 2007
by Candlewick
3/5 stars

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! is the 2008 John Newbery Medal Winner.  I am not totally sure what the criteria is to win this honour but Good Masters is a different format to other medal winners that I have read. 

Told is a series of plays/skits geared for a younger audience its pretty much a history lesson with different members of society from different classes.  It's educational, told in verse mostly and illustrated nicely. It was a fun read, I even learned a few things about medieval England. It was well researched and would make a nice addition to class rooms.

My copy was from my bookshelf and not just part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge
 but also reading the John Newbery Medal Winners.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Spotlight: Cold Case Story by Stephanie Kane

 

COLD CASE STORY

Cold Hard Press — March 1, 2021

Cold Case Story is about a family fractured along the fault lines of a murder. It’s about kids made to choose sides and aunts who never forgot. It’s about fiction and reality colliding, how one shapes the other and how fiction has real consequences. It’s also a very personal story of what it’s like to ping-pong between participant and observer, novelist and catalyst and witness to your own uneasy set of facts.


The past is never dead. It’s not even past.
— William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

All are punish’d.
— Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Cold Case Story is based on the brutal murder of a housewife in the Denver suburbs in 1973. A college student back then, Stephanie Kane was more than a witness to this terrible crime. For nearly thirty years, she remained silent. Then, in 2001, she tried to exorcise it by fictionalizing it in a mystery novel called Quiet Time. But instead of laying the murder to rest, Quiet Time brought it roaring back to life.

Cold Case Story is about a family that fractured along the fault lines of a murder. It’s about fiction colliding with a cold hard crime, and the very personal story of how it feels to ping-pong between participant and observer, novelist and witness to one’s own uneasy set of facts. In the end, all are punished—even the guilty.


COLD CASE STORY 
 Cold Hard Press, March 1, 2021  
Paperback: Kindle 
ISBN: 978-7336715-6-9

Stephanie Kane is a lawyer and award-winning author of four crime novels. Born in Brooklyn, she came to Colorado as a freshman at CU. She owned and ran a karate studio in Boulder and is a second-degree black belt. After graduating from law school, she was a corporate partner at a top Denver law firm before becoming a criminal defense attorney. She has lectured on money laundering and white collar crime in Eastern Europe, and given workshops throughout the country on writing technique. She lives in Denver with her husband and two black cats.



Extreme Indifference and Seeds of Doubt won a Colorado Book Award for Mystery and two Colorado Authors League Awards for Genre Fiction. She belongs to Mystery Writers of America, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and the Colorado Authors League.



CONNECT WITH STEPHANIE KANE ONLINE

WEBSITE: writerkane.com

FACEBOOK: /AuthorStephanieKane