Monday, June 28, 2021

Blackberry Beach (Hope Harbor #7) by Irene Hannon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blackberry Beach is a book and author I recommend.  

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

Sunday, June 27, 2021

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

A Life No One Will Remember.

A Story You Will Never Forget.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Excerpt: Last Flight to Stalingrad by Graham Hurley

 Excerpted from Last Flight to Stalingrad

by Graham Hurley. Head of Zeus, 2021. 

Reprinted with permission.

                      GRAMMATIKOVO, KERCH PENINSULA, CRIMEA, 20 MAY 1942


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Road Trip by Beth O'Leary

Two exes reach a new level of awkward when forced to take a road trip together in this endearing and humorous novel by the author of the international bestseller The Flatshare.

What if the end of the road is just the beginning?

Four years ago, Dylan and Addie fell in love under the Provence sun. Wealthy Oxford student Dylan was staying at his friend Cherry's enormous French villa; wild child Addie was spending her summer as the on-site caretaker. Two years ago, their relationship officially ended. They haven't spoken since.

Today, Dylan's and Addie's lives collide again. It's the day before Cherry's wedding, and Addie and Dylan crash cars at the start of the journey there. The car Dylan was driving is wrecked, and the wedding is in rural Scotland--he'll never get there on time by public transport.

So, along with Dylan's best friend, Addie's sister, and a random guy on Facebook who needed a ride, they squeeze into a space-challenged Mini and set off across Britain. Cramped into the same space, Dylan and Addie are forced to confront the choices they made that tore them apart--and ask themselves whether that final decision was the right one after all.

Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 1st 2021 
by Berkley

The Road Trip was one of my highly anticipated books of 2021.  I LOVED The Flatshare, it was my first rom/com and made me open my eyes to what I could be missing.  Next came The Switch which was just as enjoyable, so obviously I was looked forward to The Road Trip.

I am not sure if my expectation level was just too high or what but, yup there is a but. While I enjoyed parts of this book it didn't hit me like the other two did. 

The beginning was a bit slow, I didn't like Marcus at all and that's okay because there are always those characters around - reading would be a tad boring if one must like all the characters.  Part of the reason I steered away from anything to do with any type of romance novel is the insta-love trope and the aftermath.  For me this book was more of an insta-lust and it just didn't sit right.

The book alternates between Addie and Dylan's POV both in the now and then, I'm glad the author did that, seeing where they are now and what transpires in the past. I think Addie was the only one I really got to know and I loved her sister, Deb - she added that extra bit of hmp the book needed. 

The Road Trip is a story of second chances, self discovery and righting wrongs.  While it may not have been as laugh out loud funny as her previous books Beth O'Leary has touch on serious subject matters relevant today in a somewhat light hearted matter.  I liked the conclusion and for me that redeemed some of my feelings for the insta-lust part.

The Road Trip is in bookstores now.

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

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Destined for You (Ladies of the Lake #1) by Tracie Peterson

In 1869, Gloriana Womack's family is much smaller since smallpox killed her mother and two of her siblings. She lives in a modest cottage in Duluth, Minnesota, with her father and young brother, and she has dedicated her life to holding her tiny, fractured family together--especially as her father is frequently gone on long fishing trips. Their livelihood may come from the waters of Lake Superior, but storms on the lake can be dangerous, even to those who know it well.

Luke Carson has come to Duluth to help shepherd the arrival of the railroad to the city's port, and he's eager to be reunited with his brother, Scott, who recently moved there with his pregnant wife. Competition for the railroad is fierce, with the neighboring city of Superior, Wisconsin, fighting for the tracks to come through their town instead. But the real danger lies in a resident of Duluth who is determined to have his revenge upon Luke.

When tragedy brings Gloriana and Luke together, they help each other through their grief and soon find their lives inextricably linked. If they survive the trials ahead, could it be possible they've been destined for each other all along?

Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 2nd 2021
 by Bethany House Publishers
3/5 stars  

I've been wanting to read a Tracie Peterson book for a long time.  When I was offered this book for review I took that as a sign and jumped at the chance.  The cover clinched the deal - isn't it gorgeous?

Destined for You is the first book in the Ladies of the Lake Series, with #2 Forever My Own being released in July.

This book was well written in terms of a good story, the journey for Gloriana, TJ and Luke as they deal with loss and the struggles associated with it.  Their faith was tested again and again. 

For me I don't feel that I'm the target audience for this one.  It wasn't as gritty as I like, I didn't feel the depth of character and therefore didn't get that emotional attachment.  As for the story I would say it was a light romance that again I didn't feel.  The conflict with the railway felt just touched upon and the conclusion was uneventful.

All in all for those that like a lighter story about some serious subject matters this would work.  Looking at the ratings I can see that I am in the minority with my thoughts.

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

Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Perfect Daughter by D.J. Palmer

The Perfect Daughter is a thriller that explores the truth or lies behind a teenage girl's multiple personality disorder, from D.J. Palmer, the author of The New Husband.

Meet Ruby, who speaks with a British accent.

Then there’s Chloe, a perfectionist who strives for straight A’s in school.

And along comes Eve, who is spiteful and vicious.

All of them live inside Penny…

Or do they?

Penny Francone, age 16, is a murderer. Her guilt is beyond doubt: She was found alone in the victim’s apartment, covered in blood, holding the murder weapon. The victim’s identity and her secret relationship to Penny give Penny the perfect motive, sealing the deal. All the jury needs to decide now is where Penny will serve out her sentence. Will she be found not guilty by reason of insanity, as her lawyer intends to argue? Or will she get a life sentence in a maximum-security prison?

Already reeling from tragedy after the sudden passing of her beloved husband a few years before, now Grace is on her knees, grateful that Massachusetts doesn't allow the death penalty.

As Penny awaits trial in a state mental hospital, she is treated by Dr. Mitchell McHugh, a psychiatrist battling demons of his own. Grace’s determination to understand the why behind her daughter’s terrible crime fuels Mitch’s resolve to help the Francone family. Together, they set out in search of the truth about Penny, but discover instead a shocking hidden history of secrets, lies, and betrayals that threatens to consume them all.

The perfect daughter. Is she fooling them all? 

Audiobook, Unabridged
Dan Bittner (Narrator),
January LaVoy (Narrator)
11 hours, 42 minutes
Published April 20th 2021 
by Macmillan Audio
4/5 stars

I was happy to listen to the audio of The Perfect Daughter.  Wanting just one more chapter (pun intended) as I tried to solve the mystery before it was revealed. Suffice to say I didn't.

The Perfect Daughter was an entertaining read, it had a nice mix of both likeable and unlikable characters, the pacing was good, the story line unique and well executed.  Though a few times I had to suspend by belief but not enough to spoil this read.  I liked how the ending played out.

But what stood out for me was educational lesson of DID  (Dissociative Identity Disorder, which at one time was Multiple Personality Disorder). Definitely the author did the research and wove a mysterious story around that.

D. J. Palmer is a new to me author, I hope to read more of his books and check out his backlist.

My thanks to MacMIllan Audio (via Netgalley) for a e-audiobook in exchange for honest review.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Message in the Sand by Hannah McKinnon

Wendell Combs is as local as they come. Born and raised in the small town of Saybrook, Connecticut, his venture into the larger world was met with heartbreak. Now, middle-aged and a confirmed bachelor, he seeks solitude from his tour of duty as a soldier back in his hometown, working as head caretaker for wealthy Alan Lancaster’s forty-acre estate, White Pines, a place he has come to love for its beauty, peace, and quiet.

Alan’s eldest daughter, fifteen-year-old Julia, also loves White Pines, but for very different reasons. She and her little sister spend their days riding horses, swimming in the lake, and painting landscapes inspired by the property they adore. While her parents prepare to host their annual summer gala fundraiser, Julia’s eyes are set to the simpler joys of summer: she’s fallen in love with the boy-next-door and longs for their next encounter.

But as the last guests leave on that magical summer night, a tragedy no one could have predicted suddenly occurs, shaking the entire town to its core. Wendell and Julia now face an uncertain future. At the height of their grief, two very different women return to Saybrook: Ginny Foster, Wendell’s first love, who cannot stay away any longer, and Candace Lancaster, Julia’s estranged aunt who wants nothing to do with the town or the family estate she escaped decades earlier. Now, the only familiar things Julia has to cling to are Wendell and White Pines, but it looks like she’s about to lose both...

Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Expected publication: June 15th 2021
by Atria/Emily Bestler Books
4/5 stars

I surprised myself on how much I enjoyed this book, I mean that in a good way.  It's a genre I don't usually read a lot of and sometimes it pays to follow a gut instinct.

Message in the Sand is a heartbreaking story that showed the determination in the mist of grief to stand up and well, take a stand.  I was drawn in right away with the writing and the characters.  It's not often that I like most, if not all the players in a book. Here is a cast of characters, each with baggage, heart and afraid to let anyone in. While it might have been a little predictable I enjoyed the journeys that were taken. 

With multiple layers this book was written with feeling and flowed smoothly. There were also a number of different POV's that just rounded this book nicely.

Hannah McKinnon is a new author for me, I'll definitely be on the lookout for more.

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