Friday, September 29, 2023

Fortune by Ellen Won Steil

In this explosive novel about a decades-old mystery, shocking revelations of the past and the secrets of three women will be spilled when a small Midwest town announces a DNA lottery.

One drop of blood for a chance at a multimillion-dollar windfall. Is it a philanthropic gesture from a billionaire widow? Some suspect a darker motive behind the DNA lottery—one tied to the eighteen-year-old mystery of an infant’s unidentified remains that mars the history of idyllic Rosemary Hills, Iowa. Right after the blood lottery is announced, three local women fall under suspicion of knowing something about that night, and their carefully kept secrets threaten to spill out too.

Cleo is a divorced single mom forced to return to her hometown and accept a strange job reading to an invalid recluse; Jemma is a controversial state senator whose reelection campaign and teenage daughter have her on edge; and Alex, a divorce attorney, copes with a crumbling marriage of her own and the suffocating presence of a cold, overbearing mother.

Soon, unimaginable revelations of the past will collide with the present—and not just for Cleo, Jemma, and Alex. In this seemingly ordinary community, they aren’t the only ones with long-buried secrets.

Paperback, 347 pages
Expected publication
October 1, 2023
 by Lake Union Publishing
3.5/5 stars

Releasing in a couple days, this debut author has penned an interesting idea for a book. Mail in DNA testing and all these ancestry family tree searches are still a thing.  

In Fortune there are many layers to this story and while it started out with somewhat of a bang it slowed down for me with the many subplots.  With the introduction of each of these 3 women and those in their lives it was hard at times to keep everyone straight.  I did mange but read at a slower pace then usual. As each of these women slowly go back in time to what happened 18 years ago it revealed a story that I did not expect.

Fortune is a story of secrets, friendship and family.  How the past always catching up with you eventually.  The ending was not one I expected but it was one that worked and concluded this book nicely.

My thanks to Lake Union for a print arc in exchange for a honest review.    

Thursday, September 28, 2023

The Intern by Michele Campbell

A young Harvard law student falls under the spell of a charismatic judge in this timely and thrilling novel about class, ambition, family and murder.

Madison Rivera lands the internship of a lifetime working for Judge Kathryn Conroy. But Madison has a secret that could destroy her career. Her troubled younger brother Danny has been arrested, and Conroy is the judge on his case.

When Danny goes missing after accusing the judge of corruption, Madison’s quest for answers brings her deep into the judge’s glamorous world. Is Kathryn Conroy a mentor, a victim, or a criminal? Is she trying to help Madison or use her as a pawn? And why is somebody trying to kill her?

As the two women circle each other in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game, will they save each other, or will betrayal leave one of them dead?

Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication October 3, 2023 
by St. Martin's Press
Audiobook, 11 hours, 9 minutes
by Macmillan Audio
3.5/5 stars

This is my first time reading a Michele Campbell, it was my Sept BOTM pick and I was lucky enough to get the advanced audio for review.  Bonus for me that I could do a hybrid read.

Madison has always wanted to be a lawyer and idolizes one of her profs who, also happens to be a judge.  When the opportunity to intern in her office arises, well Madison can hardly refuse that offer.  Enter her family problems which takes her down a path least expected.  Everything isn't as it seems.  Soon she is caught up in a cat and mouse game of survival.

The Intern is a twisted story that weaves through time to give the reader a clear picture of what has happened and the whys of what's going on now.  I'm glad for the audio, the reader, Sarah Mollo-Christensen did a great job telling the story and differentiating between the different points of view. There is a lot to take in and keep straight along with some suspending of belief (especially in the legal department).  The ending was fitting and didn't really exceed my expectations. An intriguing read with some suspense and heartache.

My thanks to Macmillan Audio for an advance copy of the audio (in exchange for a honest review) while my print copy was through my BOTM subscription.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Lost Library by Rebecca Stead & Wendy Mass

The New York Times bestselling authors of Bob, Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass, introduce readers to a little free library guarded by a cat and a boy who takes on the mystery it keeps.

When a mysterious little free library (guarded by a large orange cat) appears overnight in the small town of Martinville, eleven-year-old Evan plucks two weathered books from its shelves, never suspecting that his life is about to change.

Evan and his best friend Rafe quickly discover a link between one of the old books and a long-ago event that none of the grown-ups want to talk about. The two boys start asking questions whose answers will transform not only their own futures, but the town itself.

Told in turn by a ghost librarian named Al, an aging (but beautiful) cat named Mortimer, and Evan himself, The Lost Library is a timeless story from award-winning authors Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass. It’s about owning your truth, choosing the life you want, and the power of a good book (and, of course, the librarian who gave it to you).

Hardcover, 215 page
Published August 29, 2023 
by Feiwel Friends
4.5/5 stars

Way back in 2010 when I began my quest to read John Newbery Medal Winners I discovered author Rebecca Stead for the first time, When You Reach Me was the winner for that year. Needless to say the cover of this book called out to be read and continue my desire to read bookish books.

The Lost Library is told from a couple different POVs.  It's after a LFL appears in the small town of Martinville that the different players are introduced. There is the cat who guards said library.  There Al, the ghost librarian and then it's Evan’s visit that sets things in motion with the books he takes.

This was a heart warming story, with a touch of the supernatural it’s a story of family, secrets, guilt and closure. A fun read with unique characters and nice small town vibes.

I’m glad I did this impulse purchase and will definitely look out for more books by this duo.

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

Monday, September 25, 2023

The Serpent and the Wings of Night by Carissa Broadbent

Human or vampire, the rules of survival are the same: never trust, never yield, and always – always – guard your heart.

The adopted human daughter of the Nightborn vampire king, Oraya carved her place in a world designed to kill her. Her only chance to become something more than prey is entering the Kejari: a legendary tournament held by the goddess of death herself.

But winning won’t be easy amongst the most vicious warriors from all three vampire houses. To survive, Oraya is forced to make an alliance with a mysterious rival.

Everything about Raihn is dangerous. He is a ruthless vampire, an efficient killer, an enemy to her father’s crown… and her greatest competition. Yet, what terrifies Oraya most of all is that she finds herself oddly drawn to him.

But there’s no room for compassion in the Kejari. War for the House of Night brews, shattering everything that Oraya thought she knew about her home. And Raihn may understand her more than anyone – but their blossoming attraction could be her downfall, in a kingdom where nothing is more deadly than love.

The Serpent and the Wings of Night is the first book in a new series of heart-wrenching romance, dark magic, and bloodthirsty intrigue, perfect for fans of From Blood and Ash and A Court of Thorns and Roses.

Hardcover, 502 pages
First published August 30, 2022
by Carissa Broadbent
4/5 stars

Another book that has been sweeping social media, geared especially for fans of Fourth Wing. This was an impulse purchase, which is funny because I dislike snakes as much as I dislike vampires.  But that cover is rather intriguing.

The first book in The Nightborn Duet series. Ward is a renowned vampire leader who discovers a three year old human girl, taking her in and raising as his daughter. Fast forward a couple decades to when the action really begins.

This definitely had that Hunger Games feel but with vampires and lots of blood. The world building was intricate and I’m so glad for the glossary at the end. This story itself flowed and came together nicely. As for the ending, it was awesome.

Now let’s talk about the characters. Oraya is one feisty gal, one can’t help but feel for her, her upbringing and goal for her people. Enter stage left is Raihn, he is the spark that made me laugh, smile and cry (I didn’t really but if I was a crier I probably would have). His personality was so well written, well both of them were. I'm so glad book 1.5 and book 2 are already out and on my bookshelf.

Social media is great for discovering new books. My venture into YA fantasy has ramped up - though this book is shelved in the adult section of my bookstore - could be because it is violent and bloody, remember vampires.

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

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Shelter, Seconds Away and Found by Harlan Coben

Mickey Bolitar's year can't get much worse. After witnessing his father's death and sending his mom to rehab, he's forced to live with his estranged uncle Myron and switch high schools.

A new school comes with new friends and new enemies, and lucky for Mickey, it also comes with a great new girlfriend, Ashley. For a while, it seems like Mickey's train-wreck of a life is finally improving - until Ashley vanishes without a trace. Unwilling to let another person walk out of his life, Mickey follows Ashley's trail into a seedy underworld that reveals that this seemingly sweet, shy girl isn't who she claimed to be. And neither was Mickey's father. Soon, Mickey learns about a conspiracy so shocking that it makes high school drama seem like a luxury - and leaves him questioning everything about the life he thought he knew.

First introduced to readers in Harlan Coben's latest adult novel, Live Wire, Mickey Bolitar is as quick-witted and clever as his uncle Myron, and eager to go to any length to save the people he cares about. With this new series, Coben introduces an entirely new generation of fans to the masterful plotting and wry humor that have made him an award-winning, internationally bestselling, and beloved author.

Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 15, 2011
 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
4/5 stars

This review is for the whole series not just the first in this YA trilogy.  Not only did I want to read this because of the author but I pushed it to the top of my reading pile so that I was prepared for the Amazon Prime Series.  I made it in time.

Still a new Coben reader I'm still learning the who is who in the world of the Bolitar's.  Plus I only included the blurb for the 1st book, Shelter to avoid spoilers.

Shelter begins as Mickey is still mourning the loss of his father and the subsequence addiction issues his mothers faces in her grief. Living with his estranged uncle, in a new town, is new for Mickey.  It's when the town crazy lady, aka The Bat Lady, tells Mickey his father is still alive that sets this book in motion.  There are strange happenings, disappearances and unfriendly classmates.  But there is also Spoons and Ema, who turn into reluctant and unexpected friends. 

This series is about loss, mystery, family, friendships and much more. As each book has its own drama, ultimately it is about Mickey and his family and the friendships that develop. As to what happened with Bat Lady and her statement, well you will have to read the book to find out.

As for the Prime Series, yes there were changes made and as usual I enjoyed the books more - which really isn't unusual for me.

My print copies of this series was obtained through my public library as well as audiobooks via Scribd.

Friday, September 22, 2023

A Likely Story by Leigh McMullan Abramson

Growing up in the nineties in New York City as the only child of famous parents was both a blessing and a curse for Isabelle Manning. Her beautiful society hostess mother, Claire, and New York Times bestselling author father, Ward, were the city’s intellectual It couple. Ward’s glamorous obligations often took him away from Isabelle, but Claire made sure her childhood was always filled with magic and love.

Now an adult, all Isabelle wants is to be a successful writer like her father but after many false starts and the unexpected death of her mother, she faces her upcoming thirty-fifth birthday alone and on the verge of a breakdown. Her anxiety only skyrockets when she uncovers some shocking truths about her parents and begins wondering if everything she knew about her family was all based on an elaborate lie.

Wry, wise, and propulsive, A Likely Story is punctuated with fragments of a compulsively readable book-within-a-book about a woman determined to steal back the spotlight from a man who has cheated his way to the top. The characters seem eerily familiar but is the plot based on fact? And more importantly, who is the author?

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published March 14, 2023
 by Atria Books
2.5/5 stars

This is the author's debut, released this past March. With a bookish theme and cover it grabbed my attention as soon as I saw it.

I wanted to love the story, mostly because of the cool blurb. However, I struggled connecting with the characters, as well as the slow pacing sent me jumping over to the audiobook for the majority of this read.

Isabelle is mourning the death of her mother, as is her father Ward. Ward is a best-selling author and Isabell wants to follow in his footsteps. Jumping back-and-forth in time the author showed the family dynamics as well as family secrets. There are parts of the story that I enjoyed but other parts I found jarring and disrupted the flow. I found myself binge reading the last quarter to find out what happened and to see what the ending brought. It was a good and fitting conclusion. But I was hoping to love it, others have so could just be a me issue.

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

Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Weather Woman by Sally Gardner

Neva Friezland is born into a world of trickery and illusion, where fortunes can be won and lost on the turn of a card.

She is also born with an extraordinary gift. She can predict the weather. In Regency England, where the proper goal for a gentlewoman is marriage and only God knows the weather, this is dangerous. It is also potentially very lucrative.

In order to debate with the men of science and move about freely, Neva adopts a sophisticated male disguise. She foretells the weather from inside an automaton created by her brilliant clockmaker father.

But what will happen when the disguised Neva falls in love with a charismatic young man?

It can be very dangerous to be ahead of your time. Especially as a woman.

Hardcover, 459 pages
First published November 10, 2022
by Head of Zeus
4/5 stars

The size of this book might dissuade some readers as it comes in at just over 450 pages. However, this was an interesting story about a woman with the ability to accurately predict the weather.

Beginning in 1789 Neva is orphaned when only three years old. Lucky for her, she was taken into a stable and loving setting. This was a unique storyline that has that fantasy element which is central to this story. Neva is a strong character with a strong mind and opinions. 

The Weather Woman is a story with many  layers and a wide cast of characters.  It was well written, capturing the times authentically as well with characters that I could connect with. 

The first half of the book had a slower paced opening but the author definitely knows the era with its social nuances and gambling dens.  Throw in some deceit, courtship and romance, along with the supernatural pretty much sums up The Weather Woman. This is my first time reading a Sally Garner book, I appreciate how she stayed true to history, even though the weather woman is obviously fictional. I will be checking out her other books.

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The School for German Brides by Aimie K. Runyan

In this intriguing historical novel, a young woman who is sent to a horrific "bride school" to be molded into the perfect Nazi wife finds her life forever intertwined with a young Jewish woman about to give birth.

Germany, 1939

As the war begins, Hanna Rombauer, a young German woman, is sent to live with her aunt and uncle after her mother's death. Thrown into a life of luxury she never expected, Hanna soon finds herself unwillingly matched with an SS officer. The independence that her mother lovingly fostered in her is considered highly inappropriate as the future wife of an up-and-coming officer and she is sent to a "bride school." There, in a posh villa on the outskirts of town, Hanna is taught how to be a "proper" German wife. The lessons of hatred, prejudice, and misogyny disturb her and she finds herself desperate to escape.

For Mathilde Altman, a German Jewish woman, the war has brought more devastation than she ever thought possible. Torn from her work, her family, and her new husband, she fights to keep her unborn baby safe. But when the unthinkable happens, Tilde realizes she must hide. The risk of discovery grows greater with each passing day, but she has no other options.

When Hanna discovers that Tilde hiding near the school, she knows she must help her however she can. For Tilde, fear wars with desperation. The women must take extraordinary risks to save the lives of mother and baby.

Will they both be able to escape with their lives and if they do, what kind of future can they possibly hope for?

Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 26, 2022 
by William Morrow Paperbacks
3.5/5 stars

Contrary to what the name of this book implies, The School for German Brides takes up very little of the story. Rather, it’s the story of two older teens, one a Jewish girl hiding in plain sight, and the other a German sent to live with Nazi supporting relatives.

Beginning in 1938 and alternating between the 2 points of view, Europe is feeling the birth pains of the horrible changes to come. For both Hanna and Mathilde their hopes and dreams for the future quickly vanish. As each of these young women go through their own sets of trials and heartache it is their friendship with Klara that slowly bind them together. I would have loved to hear Klara‘s point of view as she struggled and had a story to tell just as the others.

The School for German Brides is a coming of age story set during a horrible time in history, it is about family, heritage and the resilience to survive and begin anew. 

Aimie K. Runyan is not a new author to me. I have read many of her books, beginning with her debut series, Daughters of New France, which I highly recommend for those looking for some Canadian historical fiction reading.

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Good Bad Girl by Alice Feeney

Sometimes bad things happen to good people, so good people have to do bad things. Alice Feeney, returns with another thrilling mystery filled with drama and her trademark surprises.

Twenty years after a baby is stolen from a stroller, a woman is murdered in a care home. The two crimes are somehow linked, and a good bad girl may be the key to discovering the truth.

Edith may have been tricked into a nursing home, but at eighty-years-young, she’s planning her escape. Patience works there, cleaning messes and bonding with Edith, a kindred spirit. But Patience is lying to Edith about almost everything.

Edith’s own daughter, Clio, won’t speak to her. And someone new is about to knock on Clio’s door…and their intentions aren’t good.

With every reason to distrust each other, the women must solve a mystery with three suspects, two murders, and one victim. If they do, they might just find out what happened to the baby who disappeared, the mother who lost her, and the connections that bind them.

In the style of Daisy Darker and Rock Paper Scissors, Good Bad Girl is a thriller in which nobody can be trusted and the twists come fast and furious.

Kobo Edition, 306 pages
Published August 29, 2023
by Flatiron Books
4/5 stars

This is my first time reading an Alice Feeney book. With how much I’ve seen her on social media I figured it was time to dive in. Good Bad Girl is her latest, which was released just a few weeks ago.

Starting off with a bang.  A baby is stolen in broad daylight out of her stroller, with nar a witness, fast forward 20 years and the case remains unsolved.  Told from multiple POVs, it was hard at first to keep them straight but honestly this is such an eclectic group that it didn't take long to know the lay of the land, so to speak.

There is Edith, an 80 year old escapee from a nursing home. There is Patience,  who happens to work at said nursing home. Throwing Clio who is Edith's daughter and the one responsible for her mother's care. And finally there is another viewpoint, of a mother who’s 18-year-old daughter ran away from home a year ago.  Oh and before I forget, there is the murder that took place ats... you guessed it, the nursing home.  There are 3 prime suspects that confound the detective (yea we get bits of her POV also).

So how do these characters connect?  This story is done in an almost whimsical fashion. The chapters are short, with some humor added, but it's also sad because someones baby did disappear..  When things finally come to ahead I was not just surprised, but also kicking myself for not totaling figuring things out before the big reveal.

Suffice to say this is an author I will be reading more of.

My copy was obtained through CloudLibrary.

Monday, September 18, 2023

The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin

A heartwarming debut novel for readers of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, following three lonely strangers in a rural Oregon town, each working through grief and life's curveballs, who are brought together by happenstance on a local honeybee farm where they find surprising friendship, healing--and maybe even a second chance--just when they least expect it.

Forty-four-year-old Alice Holtzman is stuck in a dead-end job, bereft of family, and now reeling from the unexpected death of her husband. Alice has begun having panic attacks whenever she thinks about how her life hasn't turned out the way she dreamed. Even the beloved honeybees she raises in her spare time aren't helping her feel better these days.

In the grip of a panic attack, she nearly collides with Jake--a troubled, paraplegic teenager with the tallest mohawk in Hood River County--while carrying 120,000 honeybees in the back of her pickup truck. Charmed by Jake's sincere interest in her bees and seeking to rescue him from his toxic home life, Alice surprises herself by inviting Jake to her farm.

And then there's Harry, a twenty-four-year-old with debilitating social anxiety who is desperate for work. When he applies to Alice's ad for part-time farm help, he's shocked to find himself hired. As an unexpected friendship blossoms among Alice, Jake, and Harry, a nefarious pesticide company moves to town, threatening the local honeybee population and illuminating deep-seated corruption in the community. The unlikely trio must unite for the sake of the bees--and in the process, they just might forge a new future for themselves.

Beautifully moving, warm, and uplifting, The Music of Bees is about the power of friendship, compassion in the face of loss, and finding the courage to start over (at any age) when things don't turn out the way you expect.

Hardcover, 322 pages
Published April 27, 2021
by Dutton
4.5/5 stars

This was my 2021 SweetReadsBox book and one that comes with rave reviews.

Told from 3 different POVs it has unique characters from different walks of life.  As the title references, bees do play a pivotal role, there was a nice balance of education and entertainment.

This book grabbed me as one by one the cast is introduced.  Enter first Alice, a 44 year old widow, still grieving and not sure or having any desire to move forward.  Then enters Jake in his wheelchair, without much family support in his day to day life he finds solace with the bees.  Finally in comes Harry, seeking a fresh start while struggling without support and the where with all to know where to begin.

The Music of Bees is a tender, beautifully written story that touches at the heart strings.  It smoothly shows the impact of friendship, showcasing its transforming power.  While grief has no boundaries with courage and support one can find the strength to move forward.  This unlikely trio ban together.  Definitely a book I recommend and an author I will be reading more of.

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

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Summer by the Tides by Denise Hunter

From the bestselling author of The Convenient Groom (now a beloved Hallmark Original movie) comes a heartfelt story of family secrets, forgiveness, and unexpected romance.

Following a painful betrayal, Maddy Monroe's love life is a wreck, and her restaurant career is in shambles. When her grandmother goes missing, she and her estranged sisters converge at the family beach house in Sea Haven, North Carolina. Being with uptight Nora and free-spirited Emma at the place where their family broke apart is a struggle, and undercurrents of jealousy and resentment threaten to pull the sisters under. In the midst of the storm, sparks begin to fly between Maddy and Gram's maddening neighbor, Connor Murphy.

As the sisters pack up the family belongings, memories of idyllic, slow-paced summers are resurrected. But long-buried secrets also come to light as Maddy discovers that all was not as it appeared that last summer in Sea Haven--nor today in the seemingly perfect lives of her sisters.

As family tensions rise and Connor causes tumult in Maddy's heart, the sisters must find a way to accept each other for the women they've become before the bitterness of the past destroys their hope for a future.

Paperback, 302 pages
Published May 21, 2019
 by Thomas Nelson
3.5/5 stars

This was a book club read (and I didn't even make it to book club to discuss).  I looked forward to reading a Denise Hunter book, she is a new to me author.

The cover evokes that beach read feel and the story matched.  It is a nice blend of family, faith and romance.  

When grandma goes missing, 3 estranged sisters are reunited after years of separation.  There are many layers to this story and the author reveals them slowly as the story progresses.  Between Maddy, Nora and Emma the many secrets and past hurts need to be out in the open for healing and any type of reconciliation.  Enter grandma and her disappearance.

This was a quick and fun read, it's Christian playing a big part of this story.  It does not come off as preachy but rather shows the real side of relationships, past hurts and forgetting what is important.

While I say this is a great beach read, it works anytime.  I will read Denise Hunter again.

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

Friday, September 15, 2023

The Royal Windsor Secret by Christine Wells

 Cleo Davenport has heard the the murmured conversations that end abruptly the second she walks into a room. Told she was an orphan, she knows the rumor—that her father is none other than the Prince of Wales, heir to the British throne.
 And at her childhood home at Cairo’s Shepheard’s Hotel, where royals, rulers, and the wealthy live, they even called her “The Princess.” 

But her life is turned upside down when she turns seventeen. Sent to London under the chaperonage of her very proper aunt, she’s told it’s time to learn manners and make her debut. But Cleo’s life can’t be confined to a ballroom. She longs for independence and a career as a jewelry designer for Cartier, but she cannot move forward until she finds out about her past. 

Determined to unlock the truth, Cleo travels from London, back to Cairo, and then Paris, where her investigations take a shocking turn into the world of the Parisian demi-monde , and a high-class courtesan whose scandalous affair with the young Prince of Wales threatened to bring down the British monarchy long before anyone had heard of Wallis Simpson.

Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 12, 2023
 by William Morrow Paperbacks
3/5 stars

This is my second book by Christine Wells. My first one was One Woman’s War which was the story of Ian Fleming during WW1. The Royal Windsor Secret begins in the mid-1930s as a young woman, Cleo begins to investigate her parentage. Abandon as a infant, she hears rumours that the Prince of Wales could be her father.

The Royal Windsor Secret was a slow moving story and it wasn’t until the last half that things seemed to pick up. I wasn’t a huge fan of Cleo's as I found her personality flat and I just didn’t feel any empathy for her. This book had her traveling between Egypt, Paris, England, and even up to Scotland. There were a number of subplots that took away from her original goal.  I found myself more invested in Marguerite's story.

I was given a print copy of the ARC from the publisher and was happy to see the author notes were included.  I enjoyed those and reading the parts of the story that were based on history as well as what inspired the author in the writing of this book.

The Royal Windsor Secret is now available for purchase.

My thanks to William Morrow for this print copy in exchange for a honest review.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

In the spring of 2020, Lara’s three daughters return to the family's orchard in Northern Michigan. 

While picking cherries, they beg their mother to tell them the story of Peter Duke, a famous actor with whom she shared both a stage and a romance years before at a theater company called Tom Lake. As Lara recalls the past, her daughters examine their own lives and relationship with their mother, and are forced to reconsider the world and everything they thought they knew. Tom Lake is a meditation on youthful love, married love, and the lives parents have led before their children were born. Both hopeful and elegiac, it explores what it means to be happy even when the world is falling apart.

 As in all of her novels, Ann Patchett combines compelling narrative artistry with piercing insights into family dynamics. The result is a rich and luminous story, told with profound intelligence and emotional subtlety, that demonstrates once again why she is one of the most revered and acclaimed literary talents working today.

Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 1, 2023 
by Harper
3.5/5 stars

My plan for this book was to do a hybrid read, alternating between the audio and my print copy. However, with Meryl Streep being the narrator, most of my reading was done listening to her, she does a stellar job.

There aren’t that many books set during the lockdown (that I have read that is) but Tom Lake is such a story. It is the spring of 2020 and Lara's three daughters return home to northern Michigan, amidst the cherry orchard and picking season. It is during this time that Lara slowly recounts her years as an stage actress and her relationship with an up and coming famous actor.

Tom Lake is a slow moving story that I think was easier to listen to then to read. It had that quiet feel as Lara told her story. I enjoyed reading about the relationships between this family and how they are committed to each other and the family farm. It is a story of young love, searching and surviving 2020 together. The flash backs at times were a bit jarring but it didn’t take long know where and when I am reading.

This is my third Ann Patchett, I have come expect a more quiet and slow paced read with unique subjects.

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

Monday, September 11, 2023

The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins

When Ruby McTavish Callahan Woodward Miller Kenmore dies, she’s not only North Carolina’s richest woman, she’s also its most notorious. The victim of a famous kidnapping as a child and a widow four times over, Ruby ruled the tiny town of Tavistock from Ashby House, her family’s estate high in the Blue Ridge mountains. In the aftermath of her death, that estate—along with a nine-figure fortune and the complicated legacy of being a McTavish—pass to her adopted son, Camden.

But to everyone’s surprise, Cam wants little to do with the house or the money—and even less to do with the surviving McTavishes. Instead, he rejects his inheritance, settling into a normal life as an English teacher in Colorado and marrying Jules, a woman just as eager to escape her own messy past.

Ten years later, Camden is a McTavish in name only, but a summons in the wake of his uncle’s death brings him and Jules back into the family fold at Ashby House. Its views are just as stunning as ever, its rooms just as elegant, but coming home reminds Cam why he was so quick to leave in the first place.

Jules, however, has other ideas, and the more she learns about Cam’s estranged family—and the twisted secrets they keep—the more determined she is for her husband to claim everything Ruby once intended for him to have.

But Ruby’s plans were always more complicated than they appeared. As Ashby House tightens its grip on Jules and Camden, questions about the infamous heiress come to light. Was there any truth to the persistent rumors following her disappearance as a girl? What really happened to those four husbands, who all died under mysterious circumstances? And why did she adopt Cam in the first place? Soon, Jules and Cam realize that an inheritance can entail far more than what’s written in a will––and that the bonds of family stretch far beyond the grave.

Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Expected publication January 9, 2024
 by St. Martin's Press
4/5 stars

Despite her popularity, Rachel Hawkins is a new-to-me author. Releasing in January I grabbed a digital arc for The Heiress.

The Heiress is a story about a dysfunctional family, greed and mayhem. It was twisty with a somewhat Gothic setting and unsavory characters.  It's literally a book full of secrets.

I really enjoyed reading this book, it was well written with its many twists and turns. The chapters were actually nice and short as it alternated between Camden and Jules - the perfect setting for JustOneMoreChapter. It was very much a character driven story and though it didn't have as much of a Gothic feel that I was hoping for the plot made up for that.  As well, it had an ending that I liked.  

An addictive, entertaining read. I'm off now to check out other books by Rachel Hawkins now.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press for a digital ARC in exchange for a honest review.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Secret passages. Elaborate riddles. Billions at stake.

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fluck changes in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The only catch? Avery must move into sprawling mansion, full of secret passages, riddles, and codes. Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that just disinherited. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions.

Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery is a con woman, and he's determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather's last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

Paperback, 380 pages
Published July 27, 2021
 by Little Brown Books For Young Readers
3.5/5 stars

As I continue my journey to read more books off my shelf this year, The Inheritance Games marks #70 (and I feel like I'm only making a small dent). This book has received rave reviews and is the first installment in a series with the same name.

This story revolves around Avery Grambs, a teen whose goal is to survive high school and make a better life for herself . However, her life takes an unexpected turn when she receives an inheritance from a complete strange, which happens to be an enormous fortune.  But there's a catch, she has to live in this sprawling mansion for 1 year to receive it.  What follows is a journey of riddle solving and family members who were disinherited. 

There are parts of this book that I read, but the majority of the time was listening to the audio book.

The Inheritance Games is an intriguing story that left me with unanswered questions.  But given this is just the start of the series, the door is definitely open for the rest of the series.  It's a cat and mouse story with lots of problem solving, secret passages, mystery and danger.  

The ending definitely piqued my interest for book 2, The Hawthorne Legacy which I will most likely read.  Though I liked the audiobook I think next time I will stick with the book as I found some of the voices didn't match the personalities.  Book 5 releases in 2024, lets see if I can get caught up by then.

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

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Hedy's Journey by Michelle Bisson

It is 1941. 

Hedy and her family are Jewish, and the Jew-hating Nazi Party is rising. Hedy's family is no longer safe in their home in Hungary. They decide to flee to America, but because of their circumstances, 16-year-old Hedy must make her way through Europe alone. Will luck be with her? Will she be brave? Join Hedy on her journey-where she encounters good fortune and misfortune, a kind helper and cruel soldiers, a reunion and a tragedy-and discover how Hedy is both lucky and brave.

Paperback, 40 pages
Published September 7, 2017
 by Raintree

Hedy's Journey is a middle grade story based on the life of a 16-year-old from Hungry. It takes place at the onset of World War Two.

This is what you might called a short and sweet story, but given the subject matter it really isn’t that sweet. But rather a story of a strong young teen fleeing her homeland as persecution of the Jews begins to spread far and wide. 

Her journey is a story of inner strength and courage as part of Hedy's journey sees her traveling alone through German occupied areas before finally being reunited with her family. The struggle doesn’t end there as there is prejudices in America where they begin life a new.

The illustrations for this 40 page story are wonderful as are the maps to show her journey.  It would make a great addition to classrooms and home libraries.

Friday, September 1, 2023

Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross

When two young rival journalists find love through a magical connection, they must face the depths of hell, in a war among gods, to seal their fate forever.

After centuries of sleep, the gods are warring again. But eighteen-year-old Iris Winnow just wants to hold her family together. Her mother is suffering from addiction and her brother is missing from the front lines. Her best bet is to win the columnist promotion at the Oath Gazette.

To combat her worries, Iris writes letters to her brother and slips them beneath her wardrobe door, where they vanish—into the hands of Roman Kitt, her cold and handsome rival at the paper. When he anonymously writes Iris back, the two of them forge a connection that will follow Iris all the way to the front lines of battle: for her brother, the fate of mankind, and love.

Shadow and Bone meets Lore in Rebecca Ross's Divine Rivals, an epic enemies-to-lovers fantasy novel filled with hope and heartbreak, and the unparalleled power of love.

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published April 4, 2023
 by Wednesday Books
4/5 stars

Divine Rivals is making the rounds on social media. It comes with the claim that if you loved 
Fourth Wing, then this is a book for you. Also, it has a gorgeous cover as well as etching on the cover of the hardback. Rebecca Ross is a new author for me, she writes YA fantasy.

Divine Rivals started out strong with Iris, an 18-year-old helping her mother while worrying about her missing brother. At the same time trying to keep her job as a columnist. There is some rivalry there at her place of employment with Roman Kitt as they both vie for the same job.

For anyone who is afraid to try a fantasy novel this would be the one to go with. The world building is not too complex but easy to follow as the author sets the stage for drama, friendship, family, and of course, the enemies to lovers trope. How they connect was unique and showed the power of words. The first book in the Letters of Enchantment series, I went in prepared for a cliffhanger ending, which is what I got

Divine Rivals isn’t just a well written fantasy story, but it also deals with some heavy topics that include grief, war, and death, which the author wrote authentically and with feeling. The ending paved the way for a book 2 which is Ruthless Vows, thankfully not a long wait as it releases Dec 2023.

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