Thursday, August 31, 2023

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.

The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.

Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 30, 2020
 by Bloomsbury Publishing
3/5 stars

Part of my Dec 2019 SweetReadsBox, I am finally doing some serious reading off my shelf this year.  I have only read Ann Patchett once before with State of Wonder (I recommend it).

That being said, I did find this read and Tom Lake very conducive for an audio read.

Spanning many years in the life of Danny, it is through his voice that most of this story it told. Danny is a young boy when his mother leaves, it is this event that frames his life and then with the sudden passing of his father yet again, leaves it mark.

Danny and his sister Maeve have a very close relationship, there is a bond that ties them together that only siblings who are abandoned, truly understand.

I did a hybrid read with the majority of my time was through the audio with Tom Hanks being the narrator. One can’t go wrong listening to Tom Hanks. The Dutch House is a thought-provoking story of family. There were some twists that I didn’t anticipate. Very much a telling story of two siblings that might have been a tad too long.

Although this is not one of my favorite Ann Patchett books, it was still an entertaining read.  I did read her most recent release, Tom Lake which I hope to review next week.

This book was part of my 2023 reading off my shelf challenge.

Monday, August 28, 2023

The Seven Year Slip by Ashley Poston

Sometimes, the worst day of your life happens, and you have to figure out how to live after it.

So Clementine forms a plan to keep her heart safe: stay busy, work hard, find someone decent to love, and try to remember to chase the moon. The last one is silly and obviously metaphorical, but her aunt always told her that you needed at least one big dream to keep going. And for the last year, that plan has gone off without a hitch. Mostly. The love part is hard because she doesn’t want to get too close to anyone—she isn’t sure her heart can take it.

And then she finds a strange man standing in the kitchen of her late aunt’s apartment. A man with kind eyes and a Southern drawl and a taste for lemon pies. The kind of man that, before it all, she would’ve fallen head-over-heels for. And she might again.

Except, he exists in the past. Seven years ago, to be exact. And she, quite literally, lives seven years in his future.

Her aunt always said the apartment was a pinch in time, a place where moments blended together like watercolors. And Clementine knows that if she lets her heart fall, she’ll be doomed.

After all, love is never a matter of time—but a matter of timing.

An overworked book publicist with a perfectly planned future hits a snag when she falls in love with her temporary roommate…only to discover he lives seven years in the past, in this witty and wise new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Dead Romantics.

Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 27, 2023 
by Berkley
4.5/5 stars

Ashley Poston is a recently discovered author, Among the Beast & Briars along with The Dead Romantics are my previous reads which I enjoyed very much.  Released back in June The Seven Year Slip did not disappoint.

Told from the POV of Clementine, a bookish/traveling publicist, she gets more than she bargained for when she inherits her aunt's apartment.  It's through this magical apartment that her friendship with Iwan begins. Iwan is the younger handsome dishwasher with his love for cooking, he has sights on becoming a chef.

I'm a hard sell when it comes to time travel stories, with some intricate plotting and attention to detail the author has crafted a wonderful story with many relatable themes - grief, friendship, food and more.  Clementine's job makes this a fit for those that love bookish books and chef Iwan...well...what can I say?

A unique plot, fun banter, authentic life problems along with a well written story made this an entertaining read and one I highly recommended.

This book was part of my 2023 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge (#63).

Saturday, August 26, 2023

The Isle of Gold by Seven Jane

Mystery, Myth & Magic Meet in an Epic Adventure of Two Women Lost at Sea—and the Secret that Binds Them Together


The year is 1716—the Golden Age of Pirates. An orphan who sleeps in the dusty kitchens of a quayside brothel, Merrin Smith is desperate to unravel the secrets of her past and find the truth about the events that brought her to the Caribbean island of Isla Perla as a child. Disguised as a sailor, and with the help of her longtime friend Claudette, Merrin joins the crew of the pirate ship Riptide, helmed by the notorious Captain Erik Winters. Tenacious and rumored a madman, Winters is known as much for his ruthlessness as for his connection to the enigmatic and beautiful proprietress of the Goodnight Mermaid, Evangeline Dahl, who vanished from Isla Perla two summers before.

At sunset the Riptide sails for the mythical island of Bracile, a place hidden between air and sea and that exists only for a moment every two years, and which has never returned any man who has sailed for its shores. The journey will be perilous and long, and it will take Merrin far away from the only home she’s ever known. Because she can read, Merrin will serve as the Captain’s apprentice, deciphering old texts for clues to the island’s whereabouts as the ship sails through haunted, frozen waters and into the very heart of the ocean. As she struggles to navigate the rough, seafaring life aboard a pirate ship, Merrin must keep her identity hidden from the scrupulous gaze of not only Captain Winters, but also Mister Brandon Dunn, the ship’s surly, legend-spouting quartermaster, and Tom Birch, the charming boatswain Merrin can’t help but feel drawn to.

As the Riptide makes its way to Bracile, Merrin begins to suspect that the men she has worked so hard to deceive may in fact be more connected to her than she would have imagined, and that perhaps her own past might have more to do with the Dunn’s legends and myths than she ever could have guessed.

In The Isle of Gold, Merrin Smith must face perilous waters, cursed sea goddesses, and the embodiments of some of the ocean’s most terrifying legends as she not only struggles to survive her journey, but to find the answers to the mysteries of her past.

A story where history meets fantasy, The Isle of Gold is an epic, emotional adventure of two women—one desperate to save herself, and the other determined to be rescued—and the secret which binds them together.

“For as long as men have sailed the ocean, they have told stories about the sea,” says Jane. “It’s a place of mystery, myth, and magic—and this makes The Isle of Gold a perfect setting for an epic adventure that is not only a tale of historical fiction, but of the very evolution of a woman’s spirit as she seeks to find herself in a world of unpredictability and uncertainty.”

Kindle Edition, 239 pages
Published October 9, 2018
by Black Spot Books
3/5 stars

This is book one in The Daughters Jones trilogy. It’s where fantasy meets historical fiction, meets pirates and mythology. Yes that is a lot but for a short read, 239 pages it does pack in a lot .

This was a fun read in terms of a young woman, disguising herself as a man, a pirate to boot and sailing the high seas in search of a long, lost friend. She gets more than she bargained for on this journey. This book started rather slow for me, and it wasn’t until the last third where things really picked up and I pretty much read in one sitting. I won’t go into details of what transpires, but suffice to say it is an adventure stories on the high seas with a touch of supernatural, romance, and swashing buckling adventure.

Will I continue with the series, for now probably not but who knows I am a mood reader so I may pick it up at some later date.

My apologies to Black Spot Books for the lateness of my review and thank you for a digital copy.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

Enter the brutal and elite world of a war college for dragon riders from USA Today bestselling author Rebecca Yarros

Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general—also known as her tough-as-talons mother—has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders.

But when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, death is only a heartbeat away...because dragons don’t bond to “fragile” humans. They incinerate them.

With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would kill Violet to better their own chances of success. The rest would kill her just for being her mother’s daughter—like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant.

She’ll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise.

Yet, with every day that passes, the war outside grows more deadly, the kingdom's protective wards are failing, and the death toll continues to rise. Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret.

Friends, enemies, lovers. Everyone at Basgiath War College has an agenda—because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die

Hardcover, 500 pages
Published May 2, 2023
by Entangled Publishing, LLC (Red Tower Books)
5/5 stars

Yes, I caved to peer pressure, that FOBO took centerstage, and I grabbed a copy of  Fourth Wing. Sadly, I had to wait for the second printing and did not get the sprayed edges, but it was inside that counts, right?

I wasn’t hooked from the first chapter or the second chapter but after about a quarter of the way through I had trouble putting it down. So yes, it does live up to the hype.

What can I say or add to all the other reviews that are out there? This is truly a book that needs to be experienced, it is my first time reading a Rebecca Yarros and I look forward to reading more.

Fourth Wing had so much going for it, an unlikely heroine, angry cadets, secret galore, some spice and dragons (just to  name a few). Can I confess that this is my first read with dragons, any recommendations for other dragon reads would be appreciated.

The storyline and world building was intricately put together and not hard to follow. There was a mixed bag of characters from likeable to downright evil and there were those unreliable ones that adds that extra spark to the story.

As for the ending well, wow, didn't see that coming. I am glad the sequel comes out in a couple of months, which I have already pre-ordered.

This book was part of my 2023 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge

Monday, August 21, 2023

The Journals of Jim Elliot: An Ordinary Man on an Extraordinary Mission by Elisabeth Elliot

Uncover the spiritual riches of the personal journals of missionary and martyr Jim Elliot

Jim Elliot arrived in Ecuador as a missionary at age twenty-five. Three years later, he would become a martyr at the hands of the Auca [Huaorani], the indigenous people to whom he was witnessing. He left behind a young wife, a baby daughter, and an incredible legacy of faith.

Jim's volumes of personal journals, written over many years, reveal the inner struggles and victories that he experienced before his untimely death in 1956. In The Journals of Jim Elliot, you'll come to know this intelligent and articulate man who yearned to know God's plan for his life, detailed his fascinating missions work, and revealed his love for Elisabeth--first as a single man, then as a happily married one.

Edited by his wife, Elisabeth, Jim's personal yet universal musings about faith, love, and work will show you how to apply the Bible to the situations you face every day. They will inspire you to lead a life of obedience, regardless of the cost, and delight you with an amazing story of courage and determination.

First published January 1, 1978 with original title The Journals of Jim Elliot

Paperback, 475 pages
Published June 6, 2023
 by Fleming H. Revell Company
4 stars

I remember as a child camping with my family and one night watching a movie at the campground. The movie was the story of five missionaries in Ecuador who were tragically killed by those they tried to save. That was my introduction to Jim Elliot.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

I never knew that this quote came from the journals of Jim Elliot but it is one I have heard many times over the years. So I jumped at the chance to review this edition of his journals. While this copy is a new release, it was a originally published in 1978, edited by his widow Elizabeth.

Starting eight years before his tragic death with his last entries just days before, it is a dense read coming in at almost 500 pages. This is an intimate and at times difficult picture of a man who has been analyzed from all sides.

While other works will either try to show Jim Elliot as a hero or a villain, his own journals reveal a passionate and at time troubled man who did his best to live the way he thought God wanted him to. While readers might agree or disagree with many of the aspirations and ideas Elliot expresses in these pages, I think everyone will find his commitment and honesty impressive--so long as you are prepared to read journal entries. It is important to note that this is well outside my usual genre, and reading journals is a very different experience from reading novels.

This book would be helpful to anyone interested in digging deep into the psyche of a flawed man who was sold out for his God. It is an unsettling but powerful glimpse into his relationship with his Lord, his struggles, and life.

My thanks to Graf-Martin Communication for a print copy in exchange for a honest review.

The Keeper of Hidden Books by Madeline Martin

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Last Bookshop in London comes a heartwarming story about the power of books to bring us together, inspired by the true story of the underground library in WWII Warsaw.

All her life, Zofia has found comfort in two things during times of hardship: books and her best friend, Janina. But no one could have imagined the horrors of the Nazi occupation in Warsaw. As the bombs rain down and Hitler’s forces loot and destroy the city, Zofia finds that now books are also in need of saving.

With the death count rising and persecution intensifying, Zofia jumps to action to save her friend and salvage whatever books she can from the wreckage, hiding them away, and even starting a clandestine book club. She and her dearest friend never surrender their love of reading, even when Janina is forced into the newly formed ghetto.

But the closer Warsaw creeps toward liberation, the more dangerous life becomes for the women and their families – and escape may not be possible for everyone. As the destruction rages around them, Zofia must fight to save her friend and preserve her culture and community using the only weapon they have left - literature.

Paperback, 416 pages
Published August 1, 2023 
by Hanover Square Press
4/5 stars

Madeline Martin has been one of my go to authors ever since reading The Last Bookshop in London. Along with The Librarian Spy, she has placed herself in my auto reads for World War II fiction, based on fact.

The Keeper of Hidden Books takes place in Warsaw, told from the point of view of 18 year old Zofia. Zofia is an avid reader, she works in a library and best friends with a Jewish family.

This was a interesting story coming in at over 400 pages. Having read enough WW2 fiction over the years this was a nice refreshing change and highlighted the importance of books during this war. As the Germans slowly strip away those closest to her, friends and family and watching the travesty unfold in her beautiful country leaves her wanting to fight back.  She does so in a way that I have never read about before. She has her books and together with others, they preserve those that Hitler deems unacceptable. What follow is a story of dedication, heartache, perseverance and strength.

The author notes at the end was something I was looking forward to, mostly to confirm that the librarians in this part of the book was based on fact, and I love that was.

The power of books still endured though such a horrible time in history.

Friday, August 18, 2023

The Best Summer of Our Lives by Rachel Hauck

Twenty years ago, the summer of '77 was supposed to be the best summer of Summer Wilde's life. She and her best friends, Spring, Autumn, and Snow--the Four Seasons--had big plans.

But those plans never had a chance. After a teenage prank gone awry, the Seasons found themselves on a bus to Tumbleweed, "Nowhere," Oklahoma, to spend eight weeks as camp counselors. All four of them arrived with hidden secrets and buried fears, and the events that unfolded in those two months forever altered their friendships, their lives, and their futures.

Now, thirtysomething, Summer is at a crossroads. When her latest girl band leaves her in a motel outside Tulsa, she is forced to face the shadows of her past. Returning to the place where everything changed, she soon learns Tumbleweed is more than a town she never wanted to see again. It's a place for healing, for reconciling the past with the present, and for finally listening to love's voice.

Paperback, 384 pages
Published June 27, 2023 
by Bethany House Publishers
3.5/5 stars

I have read a number of Rachel Hauck books over the years, which I have really enjoyed. This her latest is the story of four friends, known as the Four Seasons, since each name a season.

The story weaves between 1977 and 1997. In 1977 the story is told of that fateful summer that was suppose to be the best summer of their lives.

There are alternating points of view, but the majority is taken with Summer and her life both before and after those 20 years. This book gave off a different vibe then other Hauck's previous novels. I found the story and their friendship interesting but the names well, unique, I found distracting.  There was a lot to keep straight with that many main players. It was a summer of drama and given that they were teenagers it makes sense that their decisions were immature with some parts being frustrating.

The Best Summer of Our Lives is a story of friendship, family, first loves and secrets.  Though ultimately it is about healing and discovering what really matters. This is Christian fiction which played out nicely here with redemption and restoration.

I enjoyed the 1977 time period, it was a trip down memory lane for me.  I loved how each chapter was named after a popular song. The author weaved in a little bit of real historical events into the narrative and giving names to those taken too soon - nice.

All in all while this isn’t my favorite Rachel Hauck book it was entertaining and one I will recommend to our church library.

My thanks to Graf-Martin Communication for a print copy in exchange for a honest review.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

A Soldier's Secret: The Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero by Marissa Moss

Historical fiction at its best, this novel by bestselling author Marissa Moss tells the story of Sarah Emma Edmonds, who masqueraded as a man named Frank Thompson during the Civil War.

 Her adventures include serving as a nurse on the battlefield and spying for the Union Army, and being captured by (and escaping from) the Confederates. The novel is narrated by Sarah, offering readers an in-depth look not only at the Civil War but also at her journey to self-discovery as she grapples with living a lie and falling in love with one of her fellow soldiers.

Using historical materials to build the foundation of the story, Moss has crafted a captivating novel for the YA audience. The book includes a Civil War timeline, archival photos, a glossary of names, a detailed note on sources, and a new readers guide.

Kindle Edition, 408 pages
Published September 15, 2012
 by Amulet Books
3/5 stars

A Soldier's Secret is a kindle book buried in the pages of my kindle.  I thought it would be a quick read but alas 408 pages is not a quick read for me.  To be honest, I am always skeptical of stories of females impersonating males, especially in a war setting. The funny thing is that I pretty well went into this read blind.  The cover pretty much told me it would be a Civil War story.

Sarah begins her life in a rural setting in eastern Canada. She embarks on a journey that turns her into not just a soldier but a spy as well.  The story started out strong with her family and what lend her to leave them behind.  It is an interest journey, the places she went to and the people she met.  

There were some great author note's, especially as the author explained what was fact and I must say she did stay true to history.  I would have loved more time spend on the spying part verses being in Sarah's head for her internal dialogue, which was rather repetitive at times.

All in all an interesting story about an unknown heroine in US history.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

The Only One Left by Riley Sager

Bestselling author Riley Sager returns with a Gothic chiller about a young caregiver assigned to work for a woman accused of a Lizzie Borden-like massacre decades earlier.

At seventeen, Lenora Hope
Hung her sister with a rope

Now reduced to a schoolyard chant, the Hope family murders shocked the Maine coast one bloody night in 1929. While most people assume seventeen-year-old Lenora was responsible, the police were never able to prove it. Other than her denial after the killings, she has never spoken publicly about that night, nor has she set foot outside Hope's End, the cliffside mansion where the massacre occurred.

Stabbed her father with a knife
Took her mother's happy life

It's now 1983, and home-health aide Kit McDeere arrives at a decaying Hope's End to care for Lenora after her previous nurse fled in the middle of the night. In her seventies and confined to a wheelchair, Lenora was rendered mute by a series of strokes and can only communicate with Kit by tapping out sentences on an old typewriter. One night, Lenora uses it to make a tantalizing offer-- I want to tell you everything .

"It wasn't me," Lenora said
But she's the only one not dead As Kit helps Lenora write about the events leading to the Hope family massacre, it becomes clear there's more to the tale than people know. But when new details about her predecessor's departure come to light, Kit starts to suspect Lenora might not be telling the complete truth--and that the seemingly harmless woman in her care could be far more dangerous than she first thought.

Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 20, 2023 
by Dutton
4/5 stars

Riley Sager is an author I have managed to read each book as it's released. I loved his first two books, The Last I Lied and Home Before Dark. But with each consecutive book since has been just an OK read for me. I went into The Only One Left with crossed fingers, hoping that this book would be as good as  the hype on social media.

Told from the view point of health aide worker Kit, she tells the story of her past with the tragic and suspicious death of her mother six months previous. But also center stage is her new job, taking care of Lorena Hope, long suspected of murdering her family way back in 1929.

I have to say this did live up to the hype, it was mysterious and suspenseful. The year  is 1983, so any age of electronic devices is nonexistent. What follows is a story that weaves the past slowly into the present as Kit uncovers things from the past that call into question, both the rumours that circulate about the lone survivor and what happened that fateful night.

The Only One Left is a story of guilt, survival and family. All taking place in a house/mansion that is slowly crumbling before Kit's eyes. There were twists and turns that I didn’t anticipate, as well as revelations that were surprising. I will say that this ranks up there with my two favourite Sager books.

Released just last month. The Only One Left is available in all different formats.

This book was part of my 2023 reading off my shelf challenge