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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

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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.

Apr 4, 2016

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Monday, April 04, 2016
A well-known favorite for many..

Redeeming Love  by Francine Rivers
Multnomah Books, pub. 2004
Personal copy

California’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep. Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child, she survives by keeping her hatred alive. And what she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside. Then she meets Michael Hosea. A man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything, Michael Hosea obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation until, despite her resistance her frozen heart begins to thaw. But with her unexpected softening come overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband’s pursuing love, terrified of the truth she can no longer deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael Hosea does…the One who will never let her go. A life-changing story of God’s unconditional, redemptive, all-consuming love. 

So I have been on this kick lately to read whatever I want whenever.. you know, like REAL people do. So glad to kick that whole reviewing for others thing; so toxic to my sanity. It seemed logical that in my awesome reads for 2016 that my first Francine Rivers novel should be Redeeming Love. Everyone raved about it. It's got five stars on Amazon. I have the "new" aka "redeemed" edition. And I think perhaps that's what killed it for me. The original 1991 Bantam novel apparently did not completely skip the romantic love making scenes where our two protagonists got together emotionally, spiritually, sexually.. at least, that is what I could ASSUME is happening with my "redeemed" edition.

The gist of this thing is that poor prostitute Angel has had a very horrible time of it, pretty much being a whore because that's all she was ever born to be. Lo' and behold a handsome man wants to save her from all that. A real-life honest to God knight in shining armor. And she is like, no thank you. I was born to be a prostitute and God is dead to me. You're great for asking me to marry you on sight but no thanks because I love being a sex slave. And this is where you really can't feel too bad for Angel/Tirzah/Marah/Amanda anymore.

So Michael Hosea (surprise! from the biblical story of Hosea who marries a prostitute) manages to bring her to his humble home, show her how to cook and farm, and pretty much saves her life (and gives her several names because Angel won't say her real name). He loves her to pieces because God told him to.

She runs away because she just doesn't feel like she deserves him.

He gets her back.

She runs away again.

It can feel a bit stalkerish actually.

All the real character building and "redeeming love" that happened behind closed doors -- and deleted from our "redeemed" edition really did no favors for me. I love Christian fiction, I love biblical fiction. This was beginning to seem like a waste of my time personally because I would love to have that Christian man myself, begging me to just love him back and I was a but jealous of our beautiful harlot. Having said that, I can say that the last chapter was really a special one, and it very aptly sums up the title. If you have an open heart to hear God's word, and are in a place to be open to the message of forgiveness and renewal, it can be a very touching novel. There is a rebirth/renewal theme along with compassion and mercy that goes through all the required motions in order for it fully come about, and this takes the entire novel to achieve but can be very moving for the reader.

The biblical quotes at the beginning of each chapter were a nice touch, and if you are at a place where you are ready to explore God's undying love and proof of this, the novel could be a satisfying read. However, those readers who are cynical and in a tough place at the moment may find it all too unrealistic. I have a feeling I would have preferred the 1991 untouched version even though I am normally not too interested in the romance scenes, but the way you could sense it was obviously skipped in this later edition was just an annoyance for the story line. You might gather that I'm a bit on the fence on this one. The historical atmosphere was very well done with the neighboring families helping to add dimension to the novel and to support the transformation in Angel's character. I can definitely understand where so many have felt the message of love and forgiveness set forth in this novel but again you have to want to hear the message especially since it ties so closely to the biblical story of Hosea.

Mar 25, 2016

Doc: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell

Friday, March 25, 2016

Doc: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell
Published May 3 2011, 389 pages
eBook library loan
Born to the life of a Southern gentleman, Dr. John Henry Holliday arrives on the Texas frontier hoping that the dry air and sunshine of the West will restore him to health. Soon, with few job prospects, Doc Holliday is gambling professionally with his partner, Mária Katarina Harony, a high-strung, classically educated Hungarian whore. In search of high-stakes poker, the couple hits the saloons of Dodge City. And that is where the unlikely friendship of Doc Holliday and a fearless lawman named Wyatt Earp begins— before the gunfight at the O.K. Corral links their names forever in American frontier mythology—when neither man wanted fame or deserved notoriety.

Having totally loved Epitaph by the author - it was a favorite for this year- I went back to read the novel that came before it. This novel is a wonderful re-imagining of Doc Holliday's life and is very enjoyable. The writing is very well done but the only draw back is when the author seemed to digress into another person's detailed mini-biography. The author was clearly showing her research prowess of the era, but there were times this detail drew me away from the story at hand.

If you like the movie Tombstone, and enjoy the wild west type of stories, each of the novels by Mary Doria Russell will fit the bill. It is a very character-driven atmospheric tale, and the Earps are an intriguing lot. Add them to the story of Doc Holliday and it's a win-win.

I'm really enjoying my 2016 of Books, as I read whatever the heck I want on any old whim. I am also loving the eBook library loan feature plus the free book a month via Prime (just one?!) as I've finally embraced my Kindle Voyage full force.

Mar 23, 2016

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Adored this novel!

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley
Sourcebooks re-issue 2012
Source eBook plus own personal autographed copy

My previous Susanna Kearsley posts and reviews can be found here.

The first time Julia Beckett saw Greywethers she was only five, but she knew that it was her house. And now that she’s at last become its owner, she suspects that she was drawn there for a reason.

As if Greywethers were a portal between worlds, she finds herself transported into seventeenth-century England, becoming Mariana, a young woman struggling against danger and treachery, and battling a forbidden love.

Each time Julia travels back, she becomes more enthralled with the past...until she realizes Mariana’s life is threatening to eclipse her own, and she must find a way to lay the past to rest or lose the chance for happiness in her own time.

I am not really sure why it took me so long to get to this novel, especially given how I love this author and her work; this novel marks the seventh of the author's that I have read. I have had the eBook since 2012, and I recently went to an author event and purchased another copy there so I could have her autograph it. I finally read the eBook on my Kindle so I wouldn't spoil the newness of my new copy.

This book is another one of the time slip historical gothic novels that Kearsley is known for, and this one has romance, paranormal activity/fantasy, religion, time travel, suspense and historical details. When I say religion it just is a small conceptual fact to add to the history-- so atheists will still enjoy this. The time slip has Julia flashing back to the Charles Stuart era with folks wanting Richard Cromwell to rise up and defend his father's dream of the Commonwealth.

 Do you have a soul mate? Do you believe in reincarnation?

I absolutely love loved loved it, and the ending really was so good that I was tearing up. If I had been alone at that exact moment I probably would have let the tears flow. I loved how Julia's character was portrayed as she was so realistically portrayed that she was easy to like and then of course the time-slip counterpart of her was also a character that was very easy to empathize with. There were probably so many tiny clues hidden that when I finished the novel and finally realized the "mystery" I felt compelled to start over. I will miss Julia and would love to see another book with this set of characters. I always enjoy the settings of Kearsley's novels of England and I could wax poetic but there's no need.

If you have not read Mariana yet, please go do so. Thank me later.

I love the resolution of 2016 -- reading what I want, when I want. It has meant that my reviews are all going to be for good books, because I am not going to waste time on books I don't like anymore!

Mar 14, 2016

The Midwife's Revolt

Monday, March 14, 2016


The Midwife's Revolt by Jodi Daynard
Published April 7, 2015
426 pages

Source: free eBook via Kindle Lending Library

"On a dark night in 1775, Lizzie Boylston is awakened by the sound of cannons. From a hill south of Boston, she watches as fires burn in Charlestown, in a battle that she soon discovers has claimed her husband’s life.
Alone in a new town, Lizzie grieves privately but takes comfort in her deepening friendship with Abigail Adams. Soon, word spreads of Lizzie’s extraordinary midwifery and healing skills, and she begins to channel her grief into caring for those who need her. But when two traveling patriots are poisoned, Lizzie finds herself with far more complicated matters on her hands—she suspects a political plot intended to harm Abigail and her family. Determined to uncover the truth, Lizzie becomes entangled in a conspiracy that could not only destroy her livelihood—and her chance at finding love again—but also lead to the downfall of a new nation."

I came across the author browsing for available selections in the Amazon Prime Member's Kindle Lending Library. I was intrigued by 'Our Own Country' and saw that it was actually a sequel of sorts to The Midwife's Revolt, so I started in the beginning despite other reviewers indicating that the titles could read as a stand-alone.

The Midwife's Revolt is a novel set in the very intriguing period of America's birth. The American Revolution has begun, and Lizzie is forced to make do on her own on a modest farm, but it turns out that neighbors are Abigail Adams and the Quincys, which makes for a captivating storyline of political intrigue and the nuance of hobnobbing with the royalty of America.

But the heroine Lizzie was a fun character to watch, as she was intelligent, rash, emotional only at the most passionate times, and was a true friend to all. There were several characters who helped to round out the story and add romance and mystery at the same time. There was a traitor somewhere and people were being murdered, and Lizzie had to be very cautious. Book two will tell me the continuing story of Lizzie's friend and sister in law, Eliza, and I am looking forward to it. The historical details were really well done and the novel is another example that we need more American Revolution novels!

The author's writing was well paced and kept me interested throughout the plot, even though some unrealistic moments had to be brushed off. And the other annoyance was the way the novel would stop and say 'dear reader, I must tell you..' and I didn't want to be reminded that I was merely reading a story, just tell me the story but don't make me a part of it. It was a quick weekend read, and as soon as I am able to get another free ebook from Amazon I will download Our Own Country.

 *The link to the title on Goodreads where the novel has about a 4 star rating after 3,000 reviews:

Feb 26, 2016

Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral by Mary Doria Russell

Friday, February 26, 2016
Absolutely captivating novel on Wyatt Earp and his life

Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral by Mary Doria Russell
March 2015
Borrowed from library
Burton Book Review Rating: 5 stars
Mary Doria Russell, the bestselling, award-winning author of The Sparrow, returns with Epitaph. An American Iliad, this richly detailed and meticulously researched historical novel continues the story she began in Doc, following Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday to Tombstone, Arizona, and to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
A deeply divided nation. Vicious politics. A shamelessly partisan media. A president loathed by half the populace. Smuggling and gang warfare along the Mexican border. Armed citizens willing to stand their ground and take law into their own hands. . . .

That was America in 1881.
All those forces came to bear on the afternoon of October 26 when Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers faced off against the Clantons and the McLaurys in Tombstone, Arizona. It should have been a simple misdemeanor arrest. Thirty seconds and thirty bullets later, three officers were wounded and three citizens lay dead in the dirt.
Wyatt Earp was the last man standing, the only one unscathed. The lies began before the smoke cleared, but the gunfight at the O.K. Corral would soon become central to American beliefs about the Old West.
Epitaph tells Wyatt’s real story, unearthing the Homeric tragedy buried under 130 years of mythology, misrepresentation, and sheer indifference to fact. Epic and intimate, this novel gives voice to the real men and women whose lives were changed forever by those fatal thirty seconds in Tombstone. At its heart is the woman behind the myth: Josephine Sarah Marcus, who loved Wyatt Earp for forty-nine years and who carefully chipped away at the truth until she had crafted the heroic legend that would become the epitaph her husband deserved.

I don't know what prompted me to borrow this book from the library (digital library loan, my new bff!), as I am not a passionate fan of the Earps, the Wild West, or Tombstone. Something told me I would be missing out if I passed this up, based upon the many rave reviews on Amazon. I read this chunky 597 pages in a four day span - with me working full-time and chauffeuring kids etc, and so that tells you something right there.

This is not a novel that is just based on the O.K. Corral shootout - but everything that leads up to it and why. Characters such as the Earp brothers and their ladies are the main draw, but the novel actually opens with Josephine Marcus, aka Sadie, who later became the significant other to Wyatt Earp. Doc Holliday is prominent as well, and I cannot wait to sink my teeth into the author's previous novel, aptly titled 'Doc'. The political scheming of the era, with the law men, Cow-Boys, and newspaper editors all come together to breathe glistening life into the author's story which I just could not put down. I loved every minute of it, and the research of the author shows in her words.

Tombstone movie watchers will find it hard to not have those actors playing through their minds as they are reading the book, but that was not a bad thing for me. I am going to re-watch that movie just to relive it again. A wonderful novel on an epic time period of America that won't disappoint.

BEST OF 2016 - my first find for the year as a new favorite!

This is another book to add to my personal resolution of 2015 to read my own books, and ban review books.