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


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


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.