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Mar 20, 2018

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
Hardcover, 342 pages
Published June 6th 2017 by Ballantine Books
borrowed from local library

Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize that the truth is much darker. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together—in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions—and compels her to take a journey through her family's long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

I had seen this novel mentioned pretty much everywhere I looked and so I put it on my wish-list. The local book club then chose this as their group read so I put it on hold and waited patiently for the person who was keeping the book past the due date to actually return it. I then read it in a single day and returned it the next day so that others could enjoy the story.

The story is not one that will get you all happy warm/giddy as it actually is based on true events that ruined lives in the thirties and forties. We may never know the true ramifications of all that occurred with child trafficking. The summary above is long and accurate and I do not want to repeat it but I will say that I am ashamed how politics and big money used children as poorly as they have. The main characters in Wingate's telling may have been fictional but the overall theme of knowing that Georgia Tann actually did exist and did not have to do any time in prison is appalling to say the least.

The Before We Were Yours story is woven with the present day story-line of a young woman following in the political footsteps of her father, and then the story of five young siblings stolen from their home and then are left to the fate of the evil Georgia Tann who sold kids under the guise of the orphanage Tennessee Children's Home Society. In real life we can only estimate the number of kidnap victims there were but there is today a memorial for the at least nineteen children known to have died in her care. It has been said that Georgia plucked children from poor families and gave them to the rich, such as Joan Crawford who paid $5,000 for one of her several adopted children. Blonde hair and blue eyes were the favored traits of the day.

The life of living on river, a shanty-town family is vividly re-imagined in the novel and the main narrative of Rill Floss is so evocative and horrifically mesmerizing that I had to forsake all other duties so that I could read her story in full as I prayed for a happy ending after all she'd gone through.

The redemption is finally (fictionally) found as the author brings about healing through the remaining family members years after their 'adoptions'. I was unsure of the connecting threads so it did keep me guessing as to who was who in their later years and how they related to the present day narrative. I absolutely love dual time-frame stories and this one is next on my favorites reads list.

Definitely understand why this book was chosen as a 2017 Goodreads Choice for Historical Fiction as well as it being a bestseller, etc.

I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.

Mar 17, 2018

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Published February 16th 2010 by Washington Square Press (first published 2008)
personal library purchase
Review of The Lake House by Kate Morton can be found here
A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book; a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday, they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and very little to go on, "Nell" sets out to trace her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell's death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. A spellbinding tale of mystery and self-discovery, The Forgotten Garden will take hold of your imagination and never let go.

This was a very well written tale that is very hard to put down - I devoured the 552 pages within three days. I don't even know what possessed me to pick it up -- I had stood in my own study and contemplated what to read next and this was the first one I touched. Very lucky to have this spring break to sit and read most of the days away as I am making up for last year's spring break when I was packing my old library up and begging people to take books. I kept most books that I felt I would get around to reading in my lifetime and I am so glad I did.

With a fairly-tale feel this is a novel that twists and turns like an invasive vine sprouting new shoots this way and that way; trying to discover the truth of the little girl's origins who was abandoned on a ship takes us from Australia to England and several generations of secrets and deceptions. The mysterious cottage that holds all the clues to the past is waiting to be unearthed by the present day character Cassandra who is the grand-daughter of the little girl who was once abandoned. The story blends several timelines as we slowly unravel the vines to discover the reasons behind the abandoned girl and where she really came from.

This book is pretty much the perfect type of read for me personally: mystery, history, a small nuance of romance and absolute delightful storytelling.

Read an excerpt here.
I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.

Mar 16, 2018

The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin

Friday, March 16, 2018
The Sea Before Us (Sunrise at Normandy book one)by Sarah Sundin
Published by Revell, February 2018
review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a "Wren" in the Women's Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France--including those of her own family's summer home--in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.

The tense days leading up to the monumental D-Day landing blaze to life under Sarah Sundin's practiced pen with this powerful new series.

This is the fourth Sarah Sundin title I have read so I knew what to expect going in: a thoroughly descriptive account of World War II maneuvers and the events of the war detailed through the eyes of very likable fictional characters as they eventually form a romantic bond. The author is passionate about her subject matter and it shines through in her characters. This Sunrise at Normandy series focuses on the brothers of the Texan Paxton family who will each have a novel dedicated to their own story as they reach D-Day.

The Sea Before Us introduces us to Wyatt Paxton and the love interest Dorothy Fairfax who portrays a "Wren" as she serves in the Women's Royal Naval Service. Wyatt is struggling with the results of a tragic accident and how he deserted his family to serve in the war efforts. Dorothy is focused on the schoolgirl crush she holds for a local gentleman Lawrence Eaton also serving in the war and she valiantly attempts to become sophisticated in his eyes. Along comes the cute and compassionate Wyatt Paxton and Dorothy only slightly second guesses where her heart should lie. She is starving for attention since her father ignores her at home and she hopes that the dashing and dangerous Lt. Commander Lawrence Eaton can fill the void that she is trying to fill.

This is definitely a Christian Fiction novel, and as such will also be themed with the struggle of understanding and accepting faith as it should apply in one's life. There are biblical quotes and visits to church and then the questioning of faith as a whole. But for those avid christian fiction readers who are strictly against romance and innuendos, this novel may not be a great fit for you. Dorothy finds out some shady things about her family and they were a surprise to me but I felt it was a great twist that I did not see coming. And some of the shallowness of Dorothy could be a little exasperating, but she does come around eventually.

Wyatt Paxton's character was written so that he seemed like a gift from God himself, and I am not quite sure there are actually men like him around any longer. But since the setting is 1944 I will give the author her license to be creative. His willingness to stick around and see Dorothy through all her hard times is a breath of fresh air, and he is easily a man who could be my next Mr. Darcy.

I really enjoyed the historical plot leading up to D-Day and while some specific war maneuvers and places were completely over my head I feel that Sundin has made a name for herself in the subject area of WWII and perhaps she just can't help herself with coordinates, salvos and SFCPs. I feel that she has found a happy length of a book with this one coming in at 375 pages (the last one I read was a long 465 pages) so there were no slow points in the novel.

If you have any interest in World War II and enjoy Christian Fiction, definitely check out Sarah Sundin's books.

Read my other reviews of Sarah Sundin's titles here.

I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.

Mar 12, 2018

Life After by Katie Ganshert

Monday, March 12, 2018

Life After by Katie Ganshert
WaterBrook & Multnomah April 2017
eGalley provided via NetGalley, thank you!

It could have been me.

Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.
A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest.

Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve-year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she’ll bring more wreckage in her wake.

In Life After, Katie Ganshert’s most complex and unforgettable novel yet, the stirring prose and authentic characters pose questions of truth, goodness, and ultimate purpose in this emotionally resonant tale.

I was super stoked to get a chance to review this title on NetGalley after I got over my surprise that it was even still available on the site. It was actually released last year but as I was looking for the next book by Ganshert this is what popped up. So I took a look at the premise of WHY (the everlasting gobstopper of a question that always appears when tragedy strikes and we wonder if there is a God up there watching all this unfold) I could not pass up the opportunity to see if there was an answer to WHY.

It was a fantastic story with themes of sinners, deception, truth, survival, rebirth and of course tragedy. The story focuses on Autumn Manning struggling with survivor's guilt a year after the tragedy and her life becomes entwined with a family whose mother/wife was lost in the event. It's full of awkwardness as Autumn tries to understand her own emotions while struggling to seem normal in front of her family and the sudden acquaintance with Paul Elliott's family who is attempting to move on from losing the mother in their family. It turns out there are quite a few secrets to reveal before anyone can really move on, but relationships can blossom or wilt depending on how hard one wants to work at it.

The book was a could-not-put-down type of read and I am really sorry to let these characters go. The Mannings were a big extended family complete with little mewling kids and then there were co-workers and every single one of those characters just fit so well into their role in the novel that I could just gush on and on. The ones left behind - those who are trying to just live a normal life after losing a loved one- they all bore a strong role in the cathartic way the novel pulls you along as you can't help but to root for Autumn while one setback after another tries to thwart her slow recovery.

I was sad when I finished and I thought I was perturbed that the reason 'why' is never answered as far as who caused the train wreck that touched so many lives. But then I figured maybe that was the point. We never really know why. "Maybe it was time to let go of the why and remember the Who."

Read my other reviews of K. Ganshert titles here.

 I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.

Feb 26, 2018

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
Penguin Books March 6 2018, 315 pages
(first published in UK by Raven Books/Bloomsbury)
Review copy provided via NetGalley

When newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband's crumbling country estate, The Bridge, what greets her is far from the life of wealth and privilege she was expecting...

When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But with her husband dead just weeks after their marriage, her new servants resentful, and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her husband's awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure--a silent companion--that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of The Bridge are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition--that is, until she notices the figure's eyes following her.

A Victorian ghost story that evokes a most unsettling kind of fear, this is a tale that creeps its way through the consciousness in ways you least expect--much like the silent companions themselves.

Channeling tones of Daphne Du Maurier, Laura Purcell's Gothic tale of The Silent Companions is a must read for those who enjoy feeling like they are being watched. Prepare for goosebumps as you visit the English estate of the Bainbridge family with Elsie as she prepares for her upcoming lying in as a widow. The house is a decaying estate set amongst the poorest of the villages complete with rising mists and clawing vines. This is where Elsie's new husband has died, and is Elsie's first visit. Mystery surrounds the death of her husband but Elsie is more concerned with the scratching sounds in the night and the mannequins that seem to appear out of nowhere.

The novel does a bit of a time slip from Elsie's late 1800's period to the Charles I 1600's through the diary of Anne Bainbridge once Elsie's companion Sarah Bainbridge begins to read her ancestor's diaries. Elsie and Sarah attempt to thwart the evil nuances that follow them but as it happens the novel begins as Elsie is in an asylum and so we know right away what poor Elsie's fate is. The diary speaks of Sarah's daughter Henrietta Maria and the herbs and tisane that were used to conceive Henrietta Maria - alluding to the evil beginnings of the child who was born with a shriveled tongue.

The back and forth of the narrative of Elsie's past and her current state and then the developing story told through the diaries are well presented and easy to follow. The story carries the atmospheric tones throughout as the reader tries to understand why all the evil events are happening around Elsie. I read the novel quickly and still it stayed with me after the last page perhaps wishing the book could have been a bit longer. I would have really liked to read more from the 1600's plot line and the point of view of Anne Bainbridge and her family. There was a lot of time spent to demonstrate Elsie's time in the mental health unit before we could really understand why she was there in the first place.

After reading The Silent Companions it was hard to decide what to read next -- I didn't really want to close that book and move on. I am intrigued enough to follow the author to see what tale she spins next and happy to learn that she has a Georgian Queens series that I can put on my to be read list.

PS I turned off commenting long, long ago.. so go find me on facebook to say hello!

Feb 19, 2018

Winter Sisters by Robin Oliveira

Monday, February 19, 2018

Winter Sisters by Robin Oliveira
Viking/Penguin February 27 2018
Hist Fic/Saga/Thriller 416 pages
eBook galley provided by the publisher

From the New York Times bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter comes a rich and compelling historical novel about the disappearance of two young girls after a cataclysmic blizzard, and what happens when their fate is discovered
New York, 1879: After an epic snow storm ravages the city of Albany, Dr. Mary Sutter, a former Civil War surgeon, begins a search for two little girls, the daughters of close friends killed by the storm who have vanished without a trace.
Mary’s mother and niece Elizabeth, who has been studying violin in Paris, return to Albany upon learning of the girls’ disappearance—but Elizabeth has another reason for wanting to come home, one she is not willing to reveal. Despite resistance from the community, who believe the girls to be dead, the family persists in their efforts to find the two sisters. When what happened to them is revealed, the uproar that ensues tears apart families, reputations, and even the social fabric of the city, exposing dark secrets about some of the most powerful of its citizens, and putting fragile loves and lives at great risk.
Winter Sisters is a propulsive new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter

Previous works by Robin Oliveira:
Read my review of I Always Loved You
Read my review of My Name Is Mary Sutter

When I was notified this book was available to review on NetGalley I jumped at the chance without much of a thought. I vividly remember the last two books from Robin Oliveira and how I enjoyed them very much and I knew whatever the book was it would be worth my sacrifice of taking the time to review it. I love the way the author writes -- it is fluid and melodic and keeps me intrigued from start to finish.

What was a pleasant surprise is that this novel brings back characters from My Name Is Mary Sutter, which was about the rarity of a woman becoming an accepted doctor in Civil War times. The story is now focused on Mary's extended family who suffer from an epic northeastern blizzard and the subsequent search for the two young girls who are missing since that storm. I may not have been fully prepared for the horrors of the tale as it progressed, but yet the sordidness of the story is handled delicately and with as much emotion as can be portrayed on paper through the well drawn characters. There is no need to go into a lengthy summary of this novel as you can surmise enough from the book description and I beg you to experience it firsthand as I recommend this for fans of historical fiction set in America.

Robin Oliveira is three for three in my book! I found Winter Sisters to be captivating, horrifying, historical and yet a timeless representation of the prejudices of man and the evil that exists among us. Seeking redemption is our only hope if you can survive the storm.

I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.

Feb 12, 2018

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

Monday, February 12, 2018

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
  • William Morrow Paperbacks (March 1, 2016) 624 pages
  • my copy was a library loan

The New York Times and USA Today Bestseller

In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson's eldest daughter, Martha "Patsy" Jefferson Randolph--a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.

From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson's oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother's death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France.

It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that fifteen-year-old Patsy learns about her father's troubling liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age. Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love--with her father's protégé William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat. Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions whether she can choose a life as William's wife and still be a devoted daughter.

Her choice will follow her in the years to come, to Virginia farmland, Monticello, and even the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father's reputation, in the process defining not just his political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.

I have always had an interest in the colonial history and the founding of America along with the rich history that often gets overlooked in hist-fic as a whole. I still feel that I have tons to learn about the 1700s of American life and this novel really puts into perspective the turmoils of the American Revolution and how it affected the families of those thrust into the political arena of the times. This novel is a chunky one that tells the story of Thomas Jefferson as told by his daughter Patsy's point of view.

Patsy's character is one to love: her compassion, her devotion to her father and his causes are the crux of this tale. The sacrifices are many, and it brings home how grateful modern Americans should be for those who made it their life work's to bring America the freedoms it was founded for. We see how Thomas Jefferson could have been as a man - and not just a presidential figure. We see how low he gets and yet we don't really see him at a high due to facts the reader is made privy to with his personal life.

The novel addresses controversial topics such as slavery, marital abuse, alcoholism and depression as seen through the eyes of Patsy. While the story started off a bit slow I eventually tuned in and became well invested with Patsy and the supporting characters. The romance of a young Patsy and her father's colleague was a turn-off when it began so young but I can understand why the authors included it. The book is definitely long but I cannot see where I would have edited anything much out aside from the young love bit. The narrative really does suck you in and make you feel like visiting Monticello, the home of the prized home of the Jeffersons.

While I am late to the party with this one - if you had not had the chance to pick this one up during its initial release a few years ago please move it forward on your to-be-read pile because it is well worth the time. Towards the last quarter of the book I was crying my eyes out. Yup, crying about Thomas Jefferson. Only a fellow reader would understand.

I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.

Jan 12, 2018

Kicking off the New Year with a New Hobby!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Happy 2018 to all! Do you do resolutions? Have goals for 2018? Reading goals? Life goals?

You know what they say about the best laid plans...
2017 was a whirlwind for me. 2018 I hope I can relax a little and enjoy life. So far, not exactly what is happening but I am trying. My word of the year is JOY.

I am thankful to have discovered a new way to connect with my faith within the last few weeks and I am looking forward to exploring my creative unabilities in 2018. Here's a look at some of my work with Bible Journaling recently:

This one is my favorite

The monogram is copied from a gift I received for Christmas 

and this one is my second favorite
I expect (hope) to get better as I acquire more tools and of course, time. Time is needed to read books  and I did not have much of that in 2017 with the selling of a house (which was/still is a heartbreak for me) and moving to a brand new house. No more pond pictures or pretty trees from me, sadness.

So with all that drama, I only read 13 books in 2017 but here's the summary from Goodreads. Thank God for Goodreads because I would have forgotten half of what I read already.

I did complete an entire trilogy by Petra Durst-Benning and I also read a Pulitzer Prize winner, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr towards the beginning of the year which really was a great start to my year! But then I said "honey, I love you, and I know you want to move. So let's get the process started." Someday he will appreciate my sacrifice.

I enjoyed some new authors with what I call 'comfort reads' which are fun, easy to get into type of a story for me when everything else is falling apart around me. Suspense/mystery/thriller Gone Girl style with authors like Paula Hawkins, Ruth Ware and JP Delaney. And of course I got caught up on my favorite male author Billy Coffey (There Will Be Stars was a 5 star read of 2017 along with All The Light We Cannot See). He is one that I actually pre-order his books regardless of cost.
And I managed to finish a book I had to put down a year or more before by female favorite author Elizabeth Chadwick.

What I found is that I struggle immensely with actual physical books. eBooks are a much better fit for my routine these days. With Amazon Prime I get a free book a month, plus with Kindle unlimited I can download any of the eBooks in that unlimited status. And of course if my library has anything available I can borrrow eBooks from them as well but they have a 2 week loan period and I can't hang with that timeframe. A huge change from five years ago, right?!

 Shadow Of Night

After I am done with my current read (book two of the All Souls Trilogy) I am reading A Wrinkle in Time as the January selection for a local book club that I am a co-host of. Why why why why

Other than all that -- kids are well, I have a sophomore and a fifth grader now, and Sweetie is still the light of my life :)

PS I turned off commenting long, long ago.. so go find me on facebook to say hello!

Aug 4, 2017

Summer 2017

Friday, August 04, 2017

Now that 2017 is halfway over I decided that I wanted to create a blog post to freak everyone out (all two of you!). I specifically wanted to point out how things change when you least expect it to. My last post indicated that I was going to remain on my "compound" as we called our home and ignore the rest of the world. That didn't happen.

We decided in February to get a realtor and sell the compound while the market was trending upwards in our area. Of course that meant a lot of packing, trashing, repainting, squabbles, mental breakdowns and purging of many books. I THREW BOOKS OUT, Y'ALL .. something I never thought I would do. But who really needs ARC's lying around? No one. Now that we are officially moved and fairly settled into a new home, if I come across more books to unpack I will probably have another bonfire. I have donated many, many, many books to the local family owned bookstore - even after moving and lugging those books to the new house I realized don't really need all those books... and it did hurt -but it was a necessary thing.

I now have a garden that I can play in without fear of poison ivy! And we have real live neighbors that my kids can socialize with, and we're positioned for the best schools in the district. This move has encompassed the last seven to eight months of my life but now I am ready to focus on things that make me happy again.

The move also means a new church, new beginnings for the family and new friends, too. I resist change, so I'm still adapting but I think I am getting to a point where I can take a deep breath and not see yet another big chore that still needs to be done. We are blessed to be where we are and the Lord was at our side all the way -- if you only knew the drama!

So now that it is time to settle down, according to Goodreads I have read five books this year.
That seems CRAZY, doesn't it? But if I start a book, and it bores me-- then I do something else for a long time and then I start a new book. And a huge problem I have is that I had tried reading several library eBooks, but I would run out of time and not be able to finish the book and would have to then put myself on the waitlist again. They really need to lengthen the amount of time you can borrow an eBook. Two weeks is not enough for me anymore. Especially since I do not know what the last actual PHYSICAL book I held and read from that wasn't a Bible!

 Now that I have a neat little reading nook on a balcony, perhaps I will read more get more bug bites!

Books that I really finished:

read from December to February 2017: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (5 stars) eBook
"A blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II." I LOVED THIS BOOK and it has been featured several times all over the interwebs since it was a prize winner so I have nothing new to add except that I cried.

I read in February 2017: A Flicker of Light by Roberta Kagan (3 stars) eBook
Germany WWII, Holocaust.. crossing paths of two young folks and a saga ensues. This was pretty good reading and enjoyable in a bit of an incredulous sort of way, though still a nice surprise. Very well-drawn characters while some of the events were a little off kilter, but good story anyway.

I read in February 2017 to May 2017: While The World Is Still Asleep by Petra Durst-Benning (4 stars) eBook

"A.. historical tale of one woman risking it all for her dreams set in 1890s Berlin" - The story is about bicycling, family, friendship, society and it was a little slow at times. However the characters were so intriguing that I really did not want to leave them. So I am almost done reading the second title in the Century trilogy.

I read from May to June 2017: The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney (4 stars) eBook 
A creepy suspense type of read that I picked up after it being recommended for fans of The Girl On The Train and also The Woman In Cabin 10. It was a different type of read, following the stories of two girls who's paths do not cross but are each residing in the same creepy house. It was good enough for me to finish the library loan in record time.

And I read in June 2017: The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen (3.5 stars) eBook
"The financial future of the English village of Ivy Hill rests largely upon the success of The Bell, the coaching inn formerly run by innkeeper John Bell, but now by his widow, the reluctant and inexperienced Jane. When she discovers a large loan is imminently due, Jane turns to her resentful mother-in-law, Thora, the former mistress of The Bell who knows the business. Together they must face and overcome old hurts while assessing new methods to turn the business around." Not my favorite of the author's but considering the house stress I was going through I understand why this one was somewhat forgettable. But die hard fans will love it.

And now reading The Champagne Queen.. very good part two in The Century trilogy; follows one of the girls from the previous novel mentioned above. I am at 90% of this one right now and will probably ready book three next: The Queen of Beauty

Comments have long ago been disabled. Feel free to comment at the facebook page!

Jan 3, 2017

Hello, 2017!

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

2016 in General.

2016 was full of ups and downs and I am definitely happy to say goodbye to 2016 and hello to 2017. I have no aspirations, no resolutions, no pressure on myself except to live my life how I want to, take care of my family and ignore everyone else. Topping off 2016 was the political atmosphere on facebook among my 'friends' - which was ugly and disappointing to witness. I realized so many things about the world we live in and how warped it is. I unfriended many, unfollowed others, and decided I like my life on what we affectionately call The Burton Compound and I will focus on our introverted life and that is it. To hell with everything else.

Favorite books of 2016

my top rated
According to Goodreads, I read thirty books during 2016. Here is a screenshot of my top rated titles.
I really enjoyed reading several of Billy Coffey's titles this year. I would like to read more from Kate Morton, and more from favorites Susanna Kearsley, Philippa Carr and Elizabeth Chadwick. I did read two very very very long Games of Thrones books, and don't think I'll have the urge to continue the series (except for the television series of course).

Things that happened on the blog.

I deleted many of my older reviews due to author's political rants or general unfriendliness in social media that I came across. I have no desire to pretend I support any author in any way shape or form, and I definitely do not want my site to ever be associated through a google search to an author I find to be rude and unworthy of my measly reviews of years gone by.

 Things that did not happen on the blog.

While I still read thirty books in 2016, most reviews never made it from my brain to this site. I think I enjoyed blogging once because there were not fifteen million blogs out there and we had a niche of bloggers we were interested in. When the book touring things got out of hand and every blog started promoting the same book it all just became pointless. Rage against the machine!✖✖

When I created this site in 2008/2009, I had more spare time before my children got older and life has simply evolved to where I shifted priorities. I do still catalog and rate on goodreads any reading progress made. As I have no desire to be a writer or author (especially since anyone can do it these days), I no longer feel the pressure or the desire to write reviews, and I no longer feel like I need the comments to keep my site active so I also turned off commenting on my blog.

2017 Predictions

I may or may not create a review in 2017, and I could care less if I did. It's not like anyone cares anymore. ☺☺☺So we will just play it by ear and see what spare time I have. These days I still work full time, I volunteer my time at church and I am member of two separate local councils. Time outside of those things will consist of hanging out with the family, cleaning cat boxes and praying that everyone remains happy and healthy.

I have no idea what will happen in 2017, but I hope it is a great year for everyone. I hope that we all get to enjoy life and step away from the electronic devices (unless you're reading an eBook!)

Aug 16, 2016

Time and Regret by M.K Tod

Tuesday, August 16, 2016
I am honored to post the following article as submitted to me by Mary Tod to celebrate the release of her newest novel.
Time and Regret releases August 16 2016

Synopsis:When Grace Hansen finds a box belonging to her beloved grandfather, she has no idea it holds the key to his past—and to long buried secrets. In the box are his World War I diaries and a cryptic note addressed to her. Determine to solve her grandfather’s puzzle, Grace follows his diary entries across towns and battle sites in northern France, where she becomes increasingly drawn to a charming French man—and suddenly aware that someone is following her. From her grandfather’s vivid writing and Grace’s own travels, a picture emerges of a many very unlike the one who raised her: one who watched countless friends and loved ones die horrifically in battle; one who lived a life of regret. But her grandfather wasn’t the only one harbouring secrets, and the more Grace learns about her family, the less she thinks she can trust them.

Five WWI Novels that Influenced My Writing by M.K. Tod

I write about WWI. A woman who hated history in high school, studied math and computer science and worked in business for thirty years. Go figure! Nonetheless, here I am busily engaged in a second career writing historical fiction with WWI settings.

A huge leap is required to turn your life upside down and do something completely different and I had a lot to learn about war. Beyond the usual internet sources and history books about those times, five novels stand out for the beauty of their writing, their evocation of sights and sounds and the tidbits of historical detail that are seamlessly woven into the stories. I’ve read these five, reread them, unlined sections and even marked particularly interesting pages with little yellow stickies. They are my go-to source whenever I need an injection of WWI atmosphere to spark my writing.

Anne Perry’s WWI series: I read At Some Disputed Barricade before realizing it was the fourth book about the Reavley family and a shocking conspiracy at the highest levels of British government. Now, I’ve read them all and not only are the story and its central mystery page turning, but the author brings the war to life from different angles: nurse, war chaplain, soldiers, politicians, those in the secret service.

“Every now and then star shells went up, lighting the landscape, with its jagged tree stumps, erratic gouges out of the clay now filled with mud and water. There were wrecked vehicles by the side of the road and here and there carcasses of horses, even sometimes helmets to mark where men had died. Broken gun carriages and burned-out tanks showed up in the glare, and once the barrel of a great cannon sticking up out of a crater, angled at the sky.”

Regeneration by Pat Barker: I began with Pat Barker’s Life Class and then read Regeneration, a novel that has won awards for its powerful writing and exploration of war’s effect on the mind and soul. It is based on real experiences of British officers like Vidal Sassoon who suffered from shell-shock and were treated at Craiglockhart War Hospital. The Regeneration Trilogy includes two other novels: The Eye in the Door and The Ghost Road.

“Sometimes, in the trenches, you get the sense of something, ancient. One trench we held, it had skulls in the side, embedded, like mushrooms. It was actually easier to believe they were men from Marlborough's army, than to think they'd been alive a year ago. It was as if all the other wars had distilled themselves into this war, and that made it something you almost can't challenge. It's like a very deep voice, saying; 'Run along, little man, be glad you've survived.”

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks: I’ve rarely been in a conversation about WWI without someone mentioning Birdsong. Its renown has reached almost mythical proportions. The novel begins in 1910 with a young Englishman who arrives in Amiens for work. A clandestine love affair tears apart the family with whom he lives and sets the stage for his war experiences. A compelling tale of the human spirit and a condemnation of war.

“He was awed by the sound the guns were making; so many of them in rolling sequence on a line of sixteen miles, the heaviest providing the continuous rumble like a sustained roll of timpani, and the lighter adding unpredictable pattern and emphasis. Within an hour the whole line was pouring out shells, filling the night with a dense traffic of metal. The noise like thunder breaking in uninterrupted waves.”

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden: This haunting story combines the experiences of two Cree snipers in the battlefields of Ypres and the Somme with the journey one of them takes to get home after the war. Joseph Boyden is a celebrated Canadian author whose writing deserves words like powerful, passionate, extraordinary and inspiring.

“You hear the thunk of a mortar land close to you, know you can run away from it if you’re quick. It’s the only bomb you can do that with. The big shells you can hear coming from a long way off and just pray that they aren’t heading for you. Now listen careful, boys, it’s the smaller shells, the whiz-bangs, that are the most damaging, the ones that sound like a mosquito whining in the distance. You hear them coming and you dive flat into the earth and bury your nose deep as you can into the mud.”

The First Casualty by Ben Elton: Elton gives us a story about a man who investigates a murder amidst the Third Battle of Ypres. It explores some fundamental questions: What is murder? What is justice in the face of unimaginable daily slaughter? And where is the honour in saving a man from the gallows if he is only to be returned to die in suicidal battle?

“Kingsley was now only a hundred yards from the front but the going was very slow. First he had to traverse along the reserve trench in order to reach a communication trench that would take him up to the support line. The trenches were fashioned in a zigzag pattern resembling a series of cogs: viewed from the air, they would appear like a battlement stretched out across the ground. This design was to minimize the effect of the blast from a shell landing directly in a trench and exploding out along it, or of the enemy getting in and setting up a machine gun which could then rake along the line.”

I could continue quoting from these novels to show how they illuminate the sights, sounds, smells and conditions of war as well as everyday matters such as how to assemble a rifle, walk along duckboards, make tea in the midst of filth, comfort a wounded soldier, reinforce a trench, heft a sandbag, don a gasmask, lay wire for signaling purposes and on and on. These aren’t the only novels about WWI that I’ve read but they have inspired my writing and will continue to do so.

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website

Time and Regret by M.K. Tod: A cryptic letter. A family secret. A search for answers.
When Grace Hansen finds a box belonging to her beloved grandfather, she has no idea it holds the key to his past—and to long buried secrets. In the box are his World War I diaries and a cryptic note addressed to her. Determine to solve her grandfather’s puzzle, Grace follows his diary entries across towns and battle sites in northern France, where she becomes increasingly drawn to a charming French man—and suddenly aware that someone is following her.

Purchase Time and Regret:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada 
Amazon UK

Jul 15, 2016

Mini Reviews of Summer 2016 Reads

Friday, July 15, 2016

From June 2016 onwards I picked up some great reads from the library, and we all know how annoying it is to feel forced to write a review. But I did want to highlight some of them because they were very good reads. I no longer review "for others" so all these were either purchased or were library loans.

released April 2016

A sweeping new drama from the beloved, bestselling author of Roses.

Texas in the early 1900s, its inhabitants still traveling by horseback and barely familiar with the telephone, was on the cusp of an oil boom that, unbeknownst to its residents, would spark a period of dramatic changes and economic growth. In the midst of this transformative time in Southern history, two unforgettable characters emerge and find their fates irrevocably intertwined: Samantha Gordon, the privileged heiress to the sprawling Las Tres Lomas cattle ranch near Fort Worth, and Nathan Holloway, a sweet-natured and charming farm boy from far north Texas. As changes sweep the rustic countryside, Samantha and Nathan's connection drives this narrative compulsively forward as they love, lose, and betray. In this grand yet intimate novel, Meacham once again delivers a heartfelt, big-canvas story full of surprising twists and deep emotional resonance.

My thoughts:
I was first introduced to author Leila Meacham in 2010 while she was on tour to promote her release of Roses, a saga about a Texas family. It was a wonderful experience to actually meet the author and I did a quick interview with her before she spoke at a bookstore event. I was thrilled to receive the gorgeous hardcover edition of Titans for Mother's Day this year. This novel had the same feel of a family saga that we love about Meacham's writing, and this time there was a bit of a suspenseful nuance as we wondered how and when the next horseshoe was to drop. It was a very good read about family bonds during the era of Texas growing as an oil-rich state but in the end I did feel like the author was leaving some of her passion behind. Still a very good read with intriguing characters and written pretty much in line with her previous works.

released March 2016

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Spellman Files series, Lisa Lutz’s latest blistering thriller is about a woman who creates and sheds new identities as she crisscrosses the country to escape her past: you’ll want to buckle up for the ride!

In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it...

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time.

She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born.

It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret…can she outrun her past?

With heart-stopping escapes and devious deceptions, The Passenger is an amazing psychological thriller about defining yourself while you pursue your path to survival. One thing is certain: the ride will leave you breathless.
My thoughts:
This was a very fast-paced thrill of a read. I pretty much devoured it and didn't want to put it down. There was mystery and suspense that kept me guessing, and you can't help but root for the main protagonist no matter what dastardly deeds she was forced to do. A comfort read, a summer read, a perfect fit for the mystery reader who likes to be entertained.

released January 2015

EVERY DAY THE SAME Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.  UNTIL TODAY And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

My thoughts:
This was a very dark and emotionally intense thriller of a read. When your own marriage is on the fritz I really wouldn't recommend reading this however as it can really depress the crap out of you and perhaps highlight characteristics of your own sad life that would make you want to slit your wrists. Very moody, yet such a good story that really sucks you in with skillful writing. You kind of get the gist of who the bad guys are but it is hard to really tell where the author will take you next as the narrative shifts around. Very well plotted and yet I am not sure how the future movie will be able to portray the power of the author's words in this one.

Look at the life they have, look at how beautiful it is! I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.” ― Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train

released April 2016
 From the author of the New York Times bestseller and beloved book club favorite The Kitchen House, a novel of family and long-buried secrets along the treacherous Underground Railroad.
Jamie Pyke, son of both a slave and master of Tall Oakes, has a deadly secret that compels him to take a treacherous journey through the Underground Railroad.
Published in 2010, The Kitchen House became a grassroots bestseller. Fans connected so deeply to the book’s characters that the author, Kathleen Grissom, found herself being asked over and over “what happens next?” The wait is finally over.
This new, stand-alone novel opens in 1830, and Jamie, who fled from the Virginian plantation he once called home, is passing in Philadelphia society as a wealthy white silversmith. After many years of striving, Jamie has achieved acclaim and security, only to discover that his aristocratic lover Caroline is pregnant. Before he can reveal his real identity to her, he learns that his beloved servant Pan has been captured and sold into slavery in the South. Pan’s father, to whom Jamie owes a great debt, pleads for Jamie’s help, and Jamie agrees, knowing the journey will take him perilously close to Tall Oakes and the ruthless slave hunter who is still searching for him. Meanwhile, Caroline’s father learns and exposes Jamie’s secret, and Jamie loses his home, his business, and finally Caroline.
Heartbroken and with nothing to lose, Jamie embarks on a trip to a North Carolina plantation where Pan is being held with a former Tall Oakes slave named Sukey, who is intent on getting Pan to the Underground Railroad. Soon the three of them are running through the Great Dismal Swamp, the notoriously deadly hiding place for escaped slaves. Though they have help from those in the Underground Railroad, not all of them will make it out alive.
My thoughts:
This is a sequel to Grissom's The Kitchen House which was a favorite read of mine for 2010. The synopsis above is a thorough account of what to expect, and I found this follow-up to be well worth the wait. The USA (which is pretty much becoming an oxymoron) will always have the hostile environment that we created with our practice of slavery and this novel shows how deeply jaded the human race can be in regards to differences in color. Very enjoyable plot that is fast paced and replete with unforgettable characters. A book that is in the rare running for a re-read.

released September  2002

This powerful new novel by the bestselling author begins when a teenage couple drives up, late at night, headlights out, to Blessings, the estate owned by Lydia Blessing. They leave a box and drive away, and in this instant, the world of Blessings is changed forever. Richly written, deeply moving, beautifully crafted, Blessings tells the story of Skip Cuddy, caretaker of the estate, who finds a baby asleep in that box and decides he wants to keep her, and of matriarch Lydia Blessing, who, for her own reasons, decides to help him. The secrets of the past, how they affect the decisions and lives of people in the present; what makes a person, a life, legitimate or illegitimate, and who decides; the unique resources people find in themselves and in a community—these are at the center of this wonderful novel of love, redemption, and personal change by the writer about whom The Washington Post Book World said, “Quindlen knows that all the things we ever will be can be found in some forgotten fragment of family.”
My thoughts:
When I found this one, I was searching for a book to take my mind off things and something that would hold my interest without having to invest too much time and thought. This was a perfect fit with its lovable characters who try to do the right thing even if it might not be the best thing overall. It was kind of like a feel-good type of story, but yet not too many good things are really happening "action" wise. It is the interaction of the characters and the way that society is portrayed to highlight the things that are blessings in one's life. I enjoyed the novel and will look forward to looking for more of Anna Quindlen's backlist.

released May 2016

From the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Little Bee, a spellbinding novel about three unforgettable individuals thrown together by war, love, and their search for belonging in the ever-changing landscape of WWII London.
It’s 1939 and Mary, a young socialite, is determined to shock her blueblood political family by volunteering for the war effort. She is assigned as a teacher to children who were evacuated from London and have been rejected by the countryside because they are infirm, mentally disabled, or—like Mary’s favorite student, Zachary—have colored skin.

Tom, an education administrator, is distraught when his best friend, Alastair, enlists. Alastair, an art restorer, has always seemed far removed from the violent life to which he has now condemned himself. But Tom finds distraction in Mary, first as her employer and then as their relationship quickly develops in the emotionally charged times. When Mary meets Alastair, the three are drawn into a tragic love triangle and—while war escalates and bombs begin falling around them—further into a new world unlike any they’ve ever known.
v A sweeping epic with the kind of unforgettable characters, cultural insights, and indelible scenes that made Little Bee so incredible, Chris Cleave’s latest novel explores the disenfranchised, the bereaved, the elite, the embattled. Everyone Brave Is Forgiven is a heartbreakingly beautiful story of love, loss, and incredible courage.
My thoughts:
I kept seeing the cover of this novel during internet browsing and its premise called to me. I was fortunate to get the eBook pretty early on via the library and it was a nice surprise. The writing is one that is full of prose and very descriptive, and while I tend to dislike overly wordy literary style novels, this one was just the right blend of emotion, beauty and tragedy. This was a realistic look at how lives were changed through the effects of war and it was very matter-of-fact though with a underlying thread of hope. The plot was a simple one, but its slow progression is precisely the beauty of this novel. 

May 17, 2016

The Lake House by Kate Morton

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Lake House by Kate Morton
Atria Books, October 2015
606 pages
Source- Kindle Library Loan
Burton Book Review Rating: 5 stars

One of People magazine's Best Books of Fall—"Morton's moody, suspenseful latest is the perfect page-turner for a chilly night."

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Secret Keeper and The Distant Hours, an intricately plotted, spellbinding new novel of heartstopping suspense and uncovered secrets. Living on her family's idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure...

One midsummer's eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.
Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo's case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather's house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone...yet more present than ever.

A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies, this latest novel from a masterful storyteller is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.

This is Morton's fifth novel and I have most- if not all- of her other novels. Time is not my friend however and so this newest release of hers is actually the first one I have read. It was slow going at my first try; it could have been personal pressures etc. but I wondered if I was going to be able to finish this digital library loan before it expired. Then I realized it was six hundred pages and I really worried! Soon though, I was able to dig in, and get completely absorbed in the story of a young girl whose family is perfect on the outside and yet things are never what they seem.

It is one of those stories that flip through different generations back and forth with different characters, which gets a little confusing to explain, but it was very well done this time as we are trying to solve little mysteries along the way of what happened way back when on a glorious family estate in Cornwall.

Little clues are given along the way and you really think it's going this way, but in the end I can definitely say I did not see that coming. It was a feel-good happy ending that made me teary. If you like Susanna Kearsley, you will love this one. It's a chunky one and it was just awesome for when you can settle in and sink your teeth into a great story that has suspense, romance, mystery and drama all rolled up into a pretty engrossing package. Definitely pushing the back-list closer to my will-read-this-lifetime-so-help-me-God pile.