Follow Us @burtonreview

Sep 7, 2020

A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe

Monday, September 07, 2020

October 2020, Wednesday Books
review copy via netGalley, thank you!

In her debut novel A Golden Fury, Samantha Cohoe weaves a story of magic and danger, where the curse of the Philosopher’s Stone will haunt you long after the final page. 
Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness. 
While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of a revolution looming, Thea is sent to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists. 
But there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die. 

My first love is historical fiction so when magic/fantasy collide with it I am happy! This story of a young Thea opens up with her leaving her crazy wizardly mom behind in revolutionary France so she can find her father in England. Thea has learned a lot at her mother's skirts as an apprentice of alchemy and when she reaches her father in England that skill is all she has to her name.

That's entire purpose for living is to be loved by William Percy but more importantly to achieve the ultimate success in creating the magical Philosopher's Stone. Fame, health and fortune beckon as Thea pursues this potion but it has to be under the careful watch of captors of her beloved Will. 

While there are a few threads of converging storylines with each of the characters the author does not digress far from focusing on the Golden Fury of what is the Philosopher's Stone. The plot is fairly straightforward and could be a double edged sword as it teeters towards lacking in depth but yet again it sticks to the point of the storyline. A Golden Fury is an intriguing debut novel with a spunky heroine in Thea who makes it easy to be invested in her quest, so much so that if there is a sequel I'm on board!

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

Jul 27, 2020

Into The Unbounded Night by Mitchell James Kaplan

Monday, July 27, 2020
Into the Unbounded Night

September 1 2020 from Regal House Publishing
Biblical Historical Fiction
Review copy provided by the author in exchange for this review, thank you!

When her village in Albion is sacked by the Roman general Vespasian, young Aislin is left without home and family. Determined to exact revenge, she travels to Rome, a sprawling city of wealth, decadence, and power. A “barbarian” in a “civilized” world, Aislin struggles to comprehend Roman ways. From a precarious hand-to-mouth existence on the streets, she becomes the mistress of a wealthy senator, but their child Faolan is born with a disability that renders him unworthy of life in the eyes of his father and other Romans. Imprisoned for her efforts to topple the Roman regime, Aislin learns of an alternate philosophy from her cellmate, the Judean known today as the apostle St. Paul. As the capital burns in the Great Fire of 64 AD, he bequeaths to her a mission that will take her to Jerusalem. There, Yohanan, son of Zakkai, has been striving to preserve the tradition of Hillel against the Zealots who advocate for a war of independence. Responding to the Judeans’ revolt, the Romans—again under the leadership of Vespasian—besiege Jerusalem, destroying the Second Temple and with it, the brand of Judean monotheism it represents. Yohanan takes on the mission of preserving what can be preserved, and of re-inventing what must be reinvented.

 When a nation dies, destroyed by another, what survives? When great leaders wander like shadows under the Earth, when monuments stare at us silently or disintegrate, what is left?

In today's society of ever prevalent conflicting viewpoints we tend to have a general airing of grievances and then move on. In the age of Early Christianity having conflicting viewpoints would easily get you killed. The author Mitchell James Kaplan brings us several opposing viewpoints in his compelling novel Into The Unbounded Night with an intriguingly unbiased view from each character.

The mystical Aislin and her simple village ways collides with aggressive Roman General Vespasian with his belief in his own gods while trying to put down all of Britannia and Judean revolts. Yohanan, lover of Solomon's Song of Songs, attempts to preserve his family's legacy of protecting treasured historical scrolls and encounters Saul in the temple trying to discredit Yohanan's childhood friend Stefanos. Septimus is a young soldier who survives Vespasian's cruelty once, but can he outlast him during Nero's murderous reign?

The most intriguing thing about this novel is not just that it draws from multiple philosophies skillfully blended together, but that the author was able to pull from actual people who lived two thousand years ago. The novel brings us St. Paul who killed St. Stephen (Stefanos) and also Vespasian, who ultimately became a Roman Emperor; all set against a backdrop of Jerusalem struggling under Roman aggression, not to mention the rumors of a messiah whose prophecy was to save them all.

Into The Unbounded Night by Mitchell James Kaplan is a fascinating tale with the author's knowledge clearly evident as he pragmatically holds nothing back as far as rape, murder and the truth of the barbaric way of life that surrounded the people of the time of Roman oppression. The intricate look at the Christianity tenet of 'the Way' is woven in with the Judean philosophy and helps to bring the many threads together to an ultimate message of hope. This was not an easy read as it does have some triggers with the violence, but I would recommend this to anyone interested in a brilliant telling of how it was to be living in those uncertain times of the earliest days of Christ's followers.

We forget. That is a blessing. If we were unable to forget, the cruelties of our mortal existence would overwhelm us.

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

Jul 11, 2020

Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner
Bethany House/Revell June 2020
review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Five Stars All Day Long

Betty Sweet never expected to be a widow at 40. With so much life still in front of her, she tries to figure out what's next. She couldn't have imagined what God had in mind. When her estranged sister is committed to a sanitarium, Betty finds herself taking on the care of a 5-year-old nephew she never knew she had. 
In 1960s LaFontaine, Michigan, they make an odd pair. Betty with her pink button nose and bouffant hair. Hugo with his light brown skin and large brown eyes. But more powerful than what makes them different is what they share: the heartache of an empty space in their lives. Slowly, they will learn to trust one another as they discover common ground and healing through the magic of storytelling. 
Award-winning author Susie Finkbeiner offers fans a novel that invites us to rediscover the power of story to open the doors of our hearts.

I really enjoyed the previous novel from Susie Finkbeiner so I was eager to read Stories That Bind Us. The title refers to the main character's storytelling talents that she would lean on to help get her sister through trying times and later her nephews. Betty's story is a simple one focused on family drama but the setting is an evocative one: set in the sixties with John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King trying to make a difference in the United States. 

With such a prime setting there for an amazing story, Finkbeiner instead focuses on Betty and what happens to her. While the events may not be earth shattering to many of us, it is indeed in the storytelling that weaves us into Betty's heartbreaking world and makes us love her like one of our own. Her resilience and ultimate fatigue are a mirror of ourselves but the beauty of the story and the moral lessons that can be learned are heartfelt and timely. 

Favorite Quote: "Dreams of equality, of the end to racism, that children of all colors would hold hands, that they would be brothers and sisters."

I read this novel in a day and it is one of my favorites of 2020. Themes of grief, racism and love come together beautifully in this timeless (timely?) story. I love Susie Finkbeiner's talents to make me care so much about her words and how her prose does nothing but honor the Lord. And I love her characters that I would love a sequel to see how Hugo grows up to change the world. 

Jun 30, 2020

Halfway through 2020 For the love of God

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

My year started with Ruthless Gods by Emily Duncan. Did that title signal the coming of the Covid-apocalypse of 2020? Maybe. Here we are at the last half of 2020 (hallelujah!) and I am aiming for my Goodreads Reading Challenge of 70 books. I am sitting at 44 books now, most of those are pictured above.

I kinda wove around a bit but loved reading all of the Cassandra Clare Shadowhunters books. The other pleasant surprise was the Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir and also The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater which I have to finish both of those but I don't want to rush through them. I have Tahir's December 2020 release on pre-order though!

The two Audio books before Covid derailed me: Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid was excellent on audio, and so was Sadie by Courtney Summers. Both excellent stories via audio.

I have started the famously popular Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas but it didn't knock my socks off yet. I am told the series gets better as you go as the author matured as the books were written but I am not in a rush to continue with them.

Here's my newest Five Star Read:

I just finished This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger and I LovVVEd it:
  "Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will journey into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an en­thralling, big-hearted epic that shows how the magnificent American landscape connects us all, haunts our dreams, and makes us whole." 

I absolutely have totally enjoyed having access to library eBooks while this Covid stuff has everything topsy turvy. If you have a smartphone and/or a kindle and have a library card you can set up a Libby aka overdrive account to get access to your library's eBooks. Yes, you may have to wait for them to become available like This Tender Land was, but it was so worth it!

I haven't read an abundance of more books than usual due to Covid as one would expect. I am still blessed to be able to bring in a paycheck (knock on wood) but not having to go in the office as much as things were so nutty. Every time I think we could be turning a corner it turns out to be another detour. I am trying to be positive and manage my anxiety successfully but sometimes I feel like it's just giant black hole. Hence my desire to try and focus on books instead but that's easier said than done.

Feel free to friend me over on Goodreads

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

May 4, 2020

Of Silver and Shadow by Jennifer Gruenke

Monday, May 04, 2020

Of Silver and Shadow by Jennifer Gruenke
North Star Editions/Flux
Sci Fi & Fantasy | Teens & YA
Kindle Pub Date 26 May 2020
Full release February 2021
EGalley via netgalley in exchange for this review, thank you!

Ren Kolins is a silver wielder—a dangerous thing to be in the kingdom of Erdis, where magic has been outlawed for a century. Ren is just trying to survive, sticking to a life of petty thievery, card games, and pit fighting to get by. But when a wealthy rebel leader discovers her secret, he offers her a fortune to join his revolution. The caveat: she won’t see a single coin until they overthrow the King.
Behind the castle walls, a brutal group of warriors known as the King’s Children is engaged in a competition: the first to find the rebel leader will be made King’s Fang, the right hand of the King of Erdis. And Adley Farre is hunting down the rebels one by one, torturing her way to Ren and the rebel leader, and the coveted King’s Fang title.
But time is running out for all of them, including the youngest Prince of Erdis, who finds himself pulled into the rebellion. Political tensions have reached a boiling point, and Ren and the rebels must take the throne before war breaks out.

I do not read tons of books in the sub-genre of sci-fi but I have been loving the fantasy/teen/YA genre over the past year and this book is another great fantasy novel (with additional themes of LGBT so be forewarned) and a really delicious debut. Ren's character of being a silver wielder, an outlawed talent, is easy to like: she is tough, independent, snarky and realistic. A concurrent character storyline of a soldier of the monarchy follows Adley, who is an orphan with a dangerous love interest but wholly focused on her mission to kill for her evil leaders. And it turns out that Adley is hunting Ren and is eager to do so as it would guarantee Adley the highest position possible for her dire life's existence: the King's Fang. The setting of the kingdom of Erdis is dark, lonely and hopeless but the author is skilled at offering a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel for the main characters who are working towards a better reality but the endgame of our characters work against each other.

Of Silver and Shadow by Jennifer Gruenke is a courageous story that doesn't hold back; its myriad of rough characters pulls you in as they reveal their insecurities as the plot unfolds. The themes of forbidden love and violence with poetic justice really give this story a punch but it is the flowing writing style of the author that makes this novel so easy to enjoy. There is so much going on that this review is very subpar when it deserves to much more. Very well done and can't wait to read more from the author.


Unfortunately with the Covid -19 pandemic I can't really tell when the book is to be published, it was originally slated for May 2020 and that is what Amazon shows the kindle release it but paperback is 2021.

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

Apr 18, 2020

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
Simon & Schuster
pub November 2019
library loan

Be careful who you let in.
Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.
She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.
Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.
In The Family Upstairs, the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) brings us the can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.

I borrowed this book from the library as for some reason I did not meet the criteria to receive an eGalley from NetGalley from Simon and Schuster pre-publication. It must be because I am not one of those gushy 'oh quote me for a blurb please' type of bloggers, so screw you all, I am still reviewing this damn book! Just to throw it in your face for declining my request to review this on netgalley I really want to say I hated this book but I can't, for Lisa Jewell is very good at what she does. She is a wonderful gothic-esque suspense writer and The Family Upstairs is a solid four star read, so take that Simon and Schuster morons who didn't want me to review this book. 😘

I really loved Libby's character and learning her family's secrets slowly.. the suspense/mystery angle was well played out and I didn't exactly know all the connections of the characters though there was certainly an aura that something more was happening under the covers. I really loved the way the plot filled itself out as it was indeed like one more cover lifted, then another till we reach the end.  There were several ways the whole thing could've played out and the ultimate finale was very well done and satisfied my need for closure with a twist.

The other Lisa Jewell book I read was Then She Was Gone, which was a five star read. Check that out here on Goodreads. I think I will be looking for more Lisa Jewell reads as Ruth Ware has totally made me ban her because of her lame ways of closing out her own suspense/thrillers.

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

Mar 12, 2020

House of Earth and Blood: Crescent City #1 by Sarah J Maas

Thursday, March 12, 2020

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas 
March 3, 2020 from Bloomsbury, 816 pages 

****Not inserting a synopsis because it contains a huge spoiler **** (first clue this book contains zero merit) 

I fell in love with Sarah J. Maas' A Court of Thorns and Roses series last year; so much so that I reread them this year. I also fell into the hype trap and pre-ordered a signed copy of the House of Earth and Blood book one of the newest series by Sarah J. Maas, Crescent City, marketed as an adult book as opposed to her previous titles. The writing is the same though so it was decided to reissue the previous titles soon as adult, too. Whatever brings in the money, right? 

It is a huge book! I love huge books, I cannot lie! Except this one, as it was 800 pages of repetitive whining back and forth between the fallen slave angel Hunt and the druggie half-Fae half-human Bryce. They were in heat for each other throughout the 800 pages, demons are unleashed and supergirl Bryce saves the day. Surprise! That's the synopsis. 

Second clue I would hate this is the purposeful insertion of the F**K word 528 times. Then the third clue was how many times Bryce's toes curled as a reflex of being attracted to the fallen angel who is an 'alphahole' (eyeroll). 

Fourth clue is that I zzzzz'd through 700 pages before action started to happen. The actual climax at the end of the book didn't make up for the utter disappointment of the majority of the book so One F**King star from me. Too crass, crude and way too long of a build-up. 

Sex crazed Bryce needs her Fae Daddy to love her for who she is so she does drugs to get away from her sadness/stupidity of her life. She seeks redemption and revenge on her Fae Fam by eschewing their traditions and battles demons to save babies. The End. 

Mar 2, 2020

And They Called It Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis by Stephanie Marie Thornton

Monday, March 02, 2020

And They Called It Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis by Stephanie Marie Thornton
Berkley Publishing Group, March 10 2020
Hist-Fic, 480 pages
Review copy via Netgalley 
An intimate portrait of the life of Jackie O…
Few of us can claim to be the authors of our fate. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy knows no other choice. With the eyes of the world watching, Jackie uses her effortless charm and keen intelligence to carve a place for herself among the men of history and weave a fairy tale for the American people, embodying a senator’s wife, a devoted mother, a First Lady—a queen in her own right.
But all reigns must come to an end. Once JFK travels to Dallas and the clock ticks down those thousand days of magic in Camelot, Jackie is forced to pick up the ruined fragments of her life and forge herself into a new identity that is all her own, that of an American legend.

This was my first book regarding the famous Kennedy family and the woman who married into the political Kennedy clan. Jackie died in New York the same month I left New York and I grew up hearing about her and her children so I had an idea of how uptight she was. And that definitely shone through in this novel as we get a good summary of what her life was like during the brief courtship and ten years of a rocky marriage (but with tons of bling!) to the 35th President of the United States. 

The summary is that Jackie had children and lost children and she really despised Texas according to this depiction. She spoke languages fluently and was a public curiosity that helped the Kennedys seem a little more dainty and less masculine political machines. Whether he or she was faithful or not is left open to our imagination. 

I forced myself to finish this to be honest. It was a very dry narrative but is that the author's fault or Jackie's fault? I could not really relate to Jackie as a woman as she was able to snap her fingers and get whatever her heart desired. Plus the multiple times Dallas and Texas was ridiculed was a complete turn off. 

Where this story is heartfelt is when Jackie experienced loss and tragedy just like an ordinary person would. An iconic woman she was able to survive everything that happened to her with grace and poise while in the public eye but behind the scenes she was just keeping her head above water, from the way the author depicts her. 

There is not a lot of Kennedy historical fiction out there so I do recommend this well researched novel for anyone interested in the nuances of the era. I did get a little lost with the lengthy author's note and was disappointed in how many times the author said that she shifted events or scenes that I finally just stopped trying to wrap my head around what was true or not, and didn't finish that author's note. The aspects of biographical fiction versus historical fact is a conundrum of historical fiction and a subject of lengthy debate. 

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

Feb 11, 2020

The Queen's Fortune by Allison Pataki

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Queen's Fortune A Novel of Desiree, Napoleon, and the Dynasty That Outlasted the Empire by Allison Pataki
Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, February 11 2020
Historical Fiction, 448 pages
Review EGalley via netgalley, thank you! 

A sweeping novel about the extraordinary woman who captured Napoleon’s heart, created a dynasty, and changed the course of history—from the New York Times bestselling author of The Traitor's Wife, The Accidental Empress, and Sisi.
As the French revolution ravages the country, Desiree Clary is faced with the life-altering truth that the world she has known and loved is gone and it’s fallen on her to save her family from the guillotine.
A chance encounter with Napoleon Bonaparte, the ambitious and charismatic young military prodigy, provides her answer. When her beloved sister Julie marries his brother Joseph, Desiree and Napoleon’s futures become irrevocably linked. Quickly entering into their own passionate, dizzying courtship that leads to a secret engagement, they vow to meet in the capital once his career has been secured. But her newly laid plans with Napoleon turn to sudden heartbreak, thanks to the rising star of Parisian society, Josephine de Beauharnais. Once again, Desiree’s life is turned on its head.
Swept to the glittering halls of the French capital, Desiree is plunged into the inner circle of the new ruling class, becoming further entangled with Napoleon, his family, and the new Empress. But her fortunes shift once again when she meets Napoleon's confidant and star general, the indomitable Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte. As the two men in Desiree’s life become political rivals and military foes, the question that arises is: must she choose between the love of her new husband and the love of her nation and its Emperor?
From the lavish estates of the French Riviera to the raucous streets of Paris and Stockholm, Desiree finds herself at the epicenter of the rise and fall of an empire, navigating a constellation of political giants and dangerous, shifting alliances. Emerging from an impressionable girl into a fierce young woman, she discovers that to survive in this world she must learn to rely upon her instincts and her heart.
Allison Pataki’s meticulously researched and brilliantly imagined novel sweeps readers into the unbelievable life of a woman almost lost to history—a woman who, despite the swells of a stunning life and a tumultuous time, not only adapts and survives but, ultimately, reigns at the helm of a dynasty that outlasts an empire.

Way back in 2010 I read a fabulous book originally written in 1953 by Annemarie Selinko: Desiree. I absolutely loved this story about Desiree Clary, a merchant's daughter who grew up to first be Napoleon's girlfriend then eventually a major part of his family as his brother married Desiree's sister. This newest novel brings Desiree's story to us once again and while fictionalized for hist-fic's sake, it is a story that is so amazing that it inspires several other famous works as Pataki notes at the end of her novel.

I do not need to go into a listing of the intriguing facts of Desiree's life story as it starts in the novel circa 1794 but definitely must expand on the fact that Pataki's retelling of Desiree's story -- and by default Napoleon's and Josephine's as well - is not to be missed. I never tired of Desiree's story, and I always found myself eager to pick up the book even while I was reading another at the same time. While Pataki's writing is done in a matter of fact style, thankfully avoiding being overly dramatic, she gives an easy to read snapshot of the life of Desiree Clary.

And while I found myself disliking the characters of Napoleon and Josephine throughout this telling, it was tear- jerking when their saga was over and that's only because of the storytelling of Allison Pataki.

But what of fate? Just imagine if Desiree and her sister Julie didn't bump into Joseph Bonaparte when their brother was arrested, would there be such a dynasty that Desiree Clary was a matriarch of? Desiree would not have met Napoleon, who requested Bernadotte to pay special attention to Desiree in the first place. Then Desiree and Bernadotte would not have been married and would not have become King and Queen of Sweden.

Desiree becomes Queen of Sweden (her husband the inspiration for Dumas!) and her descendants are still rulers today, forever linked with Empress Josephine, hence the subtitle of this novel. I really enjoyed this story of revolution, revival, love and revenge among rulers. It even makes me want to read Selinko's novel again just to see if Desiree comes off as willing to go to heaven and hell and back again just because of her love for her beloved Bernadotte.

Read my review of The Traitor's Wife by Allison Pataki at this link

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

Wicked Saints and Ruthless Gods by Emily Duncan

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Wicked Saints published April 2019

Ruthless Gods published April 2020

Something Dark and Holy series, books 1 & 2 by Emily Duncan.

Thank you to St. Martin's Press for providing the eGalley to review Ruthless Gods, the sequel to Wicked Saints.

I had read Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan last November as this short summary was quite intriguing:
A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.
A prince in danger must decide who to trust.
A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.
Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.
In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy..

The story is about magical gods, stranger customs to evoke magical powers through blood and one girl's journey of gruesome survival as she struggles to understand who or what she is while trying to save her country. Definitely a fantasy with a bit of incredulity involved but a great premise. While the action in the story was drawn out it was the characters that kept me reading as they were the most intriguing element of Wicked Saints as the shifting plot line bounced out of grasp as to who we were rooting for.

"Ruthless Gods opens the door to a world of fallen gods and eldritch horrors... Gruesome, grotesque, and so, so glorious." - Erin A. Craig, New York Times bestselling author of House of Salt and Sorrows.

Nadya doesn’t trust her magic anymore. Serefin is fighting off a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. Malachiasz is at war with who--and what--he’s become.

As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. Their paths are being orchestrated by someone…or something.

The voices that Serefin hears in the darkness, the ones that Nadya believes are her gods, the ones that Malachiasz is desperate to meet—those voices want a stake in the world, and they refuse to stay quiet any longer.

In her dramatic follow-up to Wicked Saints, the first book in her Something Dark and Holy trilogy, Emily A. Duncan paints a Gothic, icy world where shadows whisper, and no one is who they seem, with a shocking ending that will leave you breathless.

Book two of Something Dark and Holy is Ruthless Gods and yet I am not quite seeing where the Ruthless Gods were in the whole story as yet again that was out of grasp. Serefin and Malachiasz are proven to be more connected than we first imagine which made for a neat twist but the whole Serefin is gay thing was out of place in the story. This seems to be a trope thing thrown in to newer YA reads just to pander to the audience; I think it is offensive at times to those who identify as such in the first place (but that's another topic for another day). Speaking of offensive: the author also warns her readers of several trigger warnings such as self-harm and "body horror/eye horror".

The main heroine in the series is Nadya and she is supposed to be super magical and 'holy' but apparently she needs to have special beads to talk to gods to be special (so this time she fell flat for me) as the gods were not listening- since Malachiasz is still alive. It was 432 pages of this journey where the characters are at separate stages of their journeys and at 21% I wrote "So they're on this forgettable journey to get Zaneta from the Salt Mines (not that I know what that means) & "Something is stirring. Something is hungry." & if Something Doesn't Happen Soon I AM SLITTING MY WRISTS"
There was a lot of foreshadowing and build up to action as the author really likes to develop the characters thoroughly.

I am writing this review a few weeks after I actually finished it and yet it feels like it has been much longer than that. The saving grace for this story are those characters and yet I still don't feel like these characters' goals were explained properly; the narrative was a lot of musing. Not that I could do better, I do think there was so much potential .. but I kinda think this series would have been better off whittled down from a trilogy down to a good chunky book if some of the repetitiveness was edited out.

I am undecided as to whether or not I would like to read book three, it would depend on the description and the length of it. If the description doesn't tell me exactly what the actual goal is, then I don't want to embark on their journey of weird magic for no particular reason/just to see people interact with each other.

But yet-- if the story would really let something develop and focus on Nadya and Malachiasz saving the world without all the other hangers on, you might rope me into it if St. Martin's Press/Wednesday Books is willing to take another chance with me. They certainly do not need to attempt it as these books have quite a following already on Goodreads and I am one of the few that did not give this one five stars.

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

Feb 1, 2020

The Hazel Wood Volume 1 and 2 by Melissa Albert

Saturday, February 01, 2020

The Hazel Wood originally published January 2019

The Night Country originally published January 2020

Thank you to Flatiron Books for offering the eGalley of The Night Country in exchange for this review.

Welcome to Melissa Albert's The Hazel Wood―the fiercely stunning New York Times bestseller everyone is raving about!

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert was a very intriguing debut novel about Alice-Three-Times whose grandmother has written Tales from Hinterland/fairy tales which aren't necessarily fairy tales in Alice's world. Alice was living her life moving from place to place as her mother fled from unknown threats until the weirdness caught up with them and mom disappears. So Alice and her nerdy friend Finch head out in search of the Hazel Wood in the hopes to rescue mom Ella in spite of mom's famous last words to stay away from the Hazel Wood. I loved how the more creepy fairy tale nuances were ever present and how we as a reader get to experience the journey along with Alice as she discovers more secrets than she can imagine about her own origins. The word 'story' is a very important theme as they are all part of a puzzle that Finch and Alice need to unravel in order to survive the Hazel Wood. A novel so well done and mesmerizing that I couldn't wait to read the sequel, The Night Country:

In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Wood was just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang.
With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterland and her reclusive grandmother’s dark legacy. Now she and the rest of the dregs of the fairy tale world have washed up in New York City, where Alice is trying to make a new, unmagical life. But something is stalking the Hinterland’s survivors―and she suspects their deaths may have a darker purpose. Meanwhile, in the winking out world of the Hinterland, Finch seeks his own adventure, and―if he can find it―a way back home...

So now we have Alice but no Ellery Finch back in the real world, naively feeling safe from The Hazel Wood.  Alice is hanging out with other "survivors" from the Hinterland but then strange occurrences are happening to those who tried to escape to New York City, painting Alice as the chief suspect behind the mayhem. She also gets strange notes from Ellery and she realizes she misses him more than she thought she would and perhaps the two need to meet up again in the unknown but spooky Night Country to see if they can spark up a romance. But time does funny things and one doesn't know how time correlates from one world to another; and then: who is part of a story or just a witness to one? Tales are spun and more puzzles to solve and Alice's life as she knows it is in dire jeopardy if she doesn't come up with some real evidence that she isn't really the bad guy from one of the tales that were spun by the evil spinner.

I am so glad that I was able to read both of these books so close to each other because there are many threads originally sewn with the first book weaving through The Night Country and reading book one of The Hazel Wood is a definite must before reading The Night Country. I noticed a lot of references to other stories and fantasy novels that I have recently read which was a little weird but ultimately felt like, "hey -I knew about this too!" type of fandom feel. I really enjoyed both of these books and I am certainly looking forward to anything else Melissa Albert publishes as I adore her writing style.

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

Jan 21, 2020

The Painted Castle by Kristy Cambron

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Painted Castle by Kristy Cambron
Thomas Nelson October 2019
Review copy via netgalley, thank you!

When art historian Keira Foley is hired to authenticate a painting at a centuries-old East Suffolk manor, she hopes this is just the thing to get her career and life back on track. But from the time she arrives at Parham Hill Estate and begins working alongside rumored art thief Emory Scott, she’s left with far more questions than answers. Could this lost painting of Queen Victoria be a duplicate of the original Winterhalter masterpiece, and if so, who is the artist?
As Keira begins to unravel the mystery behind the portrait, two women emerge from the estate’s forgotten past. In Victorian England, talented sketch artist Elizabeth Meade is engaged to Viscount Huxley, then owner of Parham Hill. However, Elizabeth’s real motive for being at Parham Hill has nothing to do with art or marriage. She’s determined to avenge her father’s brutal murder—even if it means a betrothal to the very man she believes committed the crime.
A century later, Amelia Woods—a World War II widow who has turned Parham Hill and its beloved library into a boarding school for refugee children—receives military orders to house a troop of American pilots. She is determined the children in her care will remain untouched by the war, but the task is proving difficult with officers taking up every square inch of their world . . . and one in particular vying for a space in Amelia’s long-shut up heart.
Set in three time periods—the rapid change of Victorian England, the peak of England’s home-front tensions at the end of WWII, and modern day—The Painted Castle unfolds a story of heartache and hope and unlocks secrets lost for generations just waiting to be found.

I really enjoyed this split-time historical romance from Kristy Cambron. The characters were intriguing and the setting of the 'castle' was very well done in all of its time periods. The plot line that connected all the different periods when focused on the mystery of the painting was a little tenuous and I would have preferred a more of a zing to that connecting thread but nonetheless the entire story was actually well thought out and quite realistic.

I absolutely loved the heartbreaking story of the grand home being used as a home for orphans and the love story that arose from that era was so eloquent and touching. There were several themes going on in this novel that Cambron puts together with ease.

This is part of a series but can be ready as a stand alone as there is not a connecting character. Fabulous writing and wonderful plot lines for historical fiction fans.

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

Jan 12, 2020


Sunday, January 12, 2020
I have such a hard time wanting to actively review the books I have been reading, and I apologize for that to all of you who really don't/care.
I am still on the crazy outdated platform of blogger aka blogspot and I am not about to invest any of my spare time in researching better platforms. But out of the millions of people who are still using Blogger.. How is it that we do not have a better app for publishing via the cell phone? 
I have a few books that I have requested for review via netgalley which means I *MusT* obtain willpower to do so here.
So hopefully coming soon will be reviews for Wicked Saints/Ruthless Gods, The Painted Castle, The Night Country..
I have been reading a lot of different types of books but finding most of my enjoyment in the Young Adult Fantasy genre. 
I should also be doing a Best of 2019 post but that would be lengthy as I read some pretty damn good books last year. Newest favorite authors are Cassandra Clare, Sarah J. Maas, and Holly Black. 
I read 78 books and over 32k pages in 2019! 

I set my goal for 70 for 2020.. I expect to be a lot more busier this year irl due to the oldest graduating high school this year.

I have removed the mailchimp feature due to hacking and pretty much the best way to check in with me is via Facebook. 

May 2020 be the start of the best decade ever. 

Oct 8, 2019

The Words Between Us by Erin Bartels

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

The Words Between Us: A Novel by Erin Bartels
Revell Baker Publishing, September 3 2019
Women's Fiction, Christian Fiction
Review copy from the publisher, thank you!

Robin Windsor has spent most of her life under an assumed name, running from her family's ignominious past. She thought she'd finally found sanctuary in her rather unremarkable used bookstore just up the street from the marina in River City, Michigan. But the store is struggling and the past is hot on her heels. When she receives an eerily familiar book in the mail on the morning of her father's scheduled execution, Robin is thrown back to the long-lost summer she met Peter Flynt, the perfect boy who ruined everything. That book--a first edition Catcher in the Rye--is soon followed by the other books she shared with Peter nearly twenty years ago, with one arriving in the mail each day. But why would Peter be making contact after all these years? And why does she have a sinking feeling that she's about to be exposed all over again? With evocative prose that recalls the classic novels we love, Erin Bartels pens a story that shows that words--the ones we say, the ones we read, and the ones we write--have more power than we imagine. 

The Words Between Us is one of those stories that grabs you more and more the further you go and then you are sorry when it is over. The multiple timelines of Robin's story blend easily together as the story unfolds and Robin finally comes to terms with the events that changed her life as a teenager. Losing her parents to a life of crime, Robin attempts to start over with a new name in a new town at a new high school but nothing comes easy to Robin. She is a lovable character, her teenaged dramas and immature views even as an adult helping to make this an endearing novel. The bonus and most unique aspect of the novel is the way books are a very important part of the plot.

This is a character driven novel, but it also includes the classic books as a character as well. They evoke the nostalgia of us all, reminding us how the written word can help form relationships in our real world. I enjoyed the romance, the intriguing mobster plot, the old man Dave DeWitt proving humanity is not a lost art. The Professor also a fantastic character -- so many great things to this novel! Well done for a sophomore novelist, now it is time for me to read Erin Bartels' first novel We Hope For Better Things.

Favorite quote: "The end of a friendship - a true and soul-stirring friendship - is a terrible thing."

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

Oct 7, 2019

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

Monday, October 07, 2019

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott
Knopf Publishing, September 3 2019
Historical Russian Fiction
Personal purchase

A thrilling tale of secretaries turned spies, of love and duty, and of sacrifice—inspired by the true story of the CIA plot to infiltrate the hearts and minds of Soviet Russia, not with propaganda, but with the greatest love story of the twentieth century: Doctor Zhivago.

At the height of the Cold War, two secretaries are pulled out of the typing pool at the CIA and given the assignment of a lifetime. Their mission: to smuggle Doctor Zhivago out of the USSR, where no one dare publish it, and help Pasternak's magnum opus make its way into print around the world. Glamorous and sophisticated Sally Forrester is a seasoned spy who has honed her gift for deceit all over the world--using her magnetism and charm to pry secrets out of powerful men. Irina is a complete novice, and under Sally's tutelage quickly learns how to blend in, make drops, and invisibly ferry classified documents.

The Secrets We Kept combines a legendary literary love story—the decades-long affair between Pasternak and his mistress and muse, Olga Ivinskaya, who was sent to the Gulag and inspired Zhivago's heroine, Lara—with a narrative about two women empowered to lead lives of extraordinary intrigue and risk. From Pasternak's country estate outside Moscow to the brutalities of the Gulag, from Washington, D.C. to Paris and Milan, The Secrets We Kept captures a watershed moment in the history of literature—told with soaring emotional intensity and captivating historical detail. And at the center of this unforgettable debut is the powerful belief that a piece of art can change the world.
The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott was not an easy to get swallowed up in type of read. We selected it for book club and pretty quickly it was obvious that there were some of us who were just not going to finish it, let alone even try. But a few of us stuck with it and were better for it. I didn't have any idea the significance of Doctor Zhivago before reading this story, never mind ever having the desire to read it or even watch the movie. But now I am slightly more interested. “This book will take us down a spiral from which there will be no return.”

The novel is told from many different viewpoints which becomes a stumbling block for some readers. For me, it meant that it was more of a story within a story within a story within a story. And I do have to say that the story between Russian author Pasternak and mistress Olga was my favorite. There were other storylines narrated by typists of the CIA "Sometimes they’d refer to us not by name but by hair color or body type: Blondie, Red, Tits. We had our secret names for them, too: Grabber, Coffee Breath, Teeth." (and yes, that was the narrator in plural) and another narrator from Irina and Sally and a certain little thrown in twist "Unlike some of the men, we could keep our secrets" that really is a sort of make-it or break-it plot point, but Olga's story is the most heart wrenching: “Don’t you realize?” I cried, ripping the pages up and tossing them into the bin. “It’s a loaded pistol. You’re the one who bought the bullets. You placed him above our family.”

I gave this book four stars on Goodreads. It was Reese's book club pick for September 2019, Amazon Best Book for September 2019 and I am so glad I was able to see the heart in this story and keep going. Just have to kinda feel bad for those that marked it DNF. 

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

Oct 6, 2019

Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon
October 29 2019 from Delacorte Press/Random House
416 pages
eGalley provided via NetGalley, thank you!

The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land's greatest honor...and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave.
In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame.

When Alu's ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her.

But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence.

Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself.

This is a YA fantasy romance read with a bit of a suspense factor thrown in. The essence of the story is to have Kammani save her sister from a fate worse than death: death via poison to fulfill a sacrifice so the old ruler can go to his grave with a fair maiden. Seen as an honor, Kammani's sister does not appreciate all the work Kammani is trying to do to save her sister from this fate. Kammani is a great character to root for, where I was ready to have her sister sacrificed and be done with it. Instead, we follow Kammani's tireless journey to the palace to save the ailing ruler and her own family at the same time. There are several characters to help build the story with plenty of no-gooders to throw a wrench in the best laid plans. There is a small romance plot that takes a sad back burner to the problem on hand.

Not my typical read but I am enjoying the recent YA fantasy style reads that I have been choosing lately. I am glad to have read this one as it is an authentically told story that held my attention throughout. But seeing as this is a duology I am not sure that is really necessary, though I will find out when that one comes out.

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

Sep 23, 2019

The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts
October 22 2019 by Thomas Nelson publishers
eGalley via publisher, thank you

Two young friends embark upon an epic journey across 1940s middle America in search of answers, a family, and a place to call home.

The only kind of life Brighton Turner understands is the one she has endured within the dreary walls of a rural Pennsylvania asylum. A nurse has thoughtfully educated and raised Brighton, but she has also kept vital information from her in order to keep her close. Brighton befriends a boy whom she calls Angel—he doesn’t know his name—and as the two of them learn more about what lies beyond the walls they call home, they fight for their release and eventually escape.

However, the world outside the only place they’ve ever known is not what they expect. They have no real names, no money, and no help—and they must rely upon the kindness of strangers as they walk and hitchhike from Pennsylvania to Michigan to find their last hope of a home.

This heartbreaking journey, narrated in gorgeous prose, explores what it means to belong—and to scour the universe with fresh eyes for the brightness within.

I had read the author's previous novel The Solace of Water so I was eager to read this next novel and The Bright Unknown did not disappoint. The setting of an insane asylum where Brighton grew up  during the 1940's was so vivid that I immediately wondered about how the author researched this material. This is a story that is deserving of the lauded phrases of masterfully told, immersive plot, unforgettable characters because all of this is true. It is so well told that it has a bit of a saga feel to it because Brighton is slowly learning all the layers of her past (and ancestors) as she is recounting it in this dual-setting narrative. The shift from the younger Brighton to the present day adult character allows the reader to become more and more invested in the character of Brighton even though in the long run we know Brighton must turn out ok since she is right there as a sixty-something lady at the beginning of the novel. And yet we also fall in love with the supporting characters such as childhood albino friend Angel and we need to keep reading to find out what happened to him, too.

This is a unique story that will sit with you for a while. It's nuance is dark and depressing however because of the major dilemma of being a child eventually aging out of an insane asylum where she did not belong in the first place. There is a bit of a suspenseful tone as well because we know that there is something underhanded going on that keeps Brighton in the asylum and where Brighton once thought she had allies she had none. Secrets and betrayals are finally laid open for a full redemption at the end that requires tissues, but it was so good! Ugly cry again.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.

Jul 30, 2019

Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker
Revell/Baker Publishing July 16 2019
review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

When Cohen Marah steps over his father's body in the basement embalming room of the family's funeral home, he has no idea that he is stepping into a labyrinth of memory. As the last one to see his father, Cohen is the primary suspect.

Over the next week, Cohen's childhood memories come back in living color. The dramatic events that led to his father being asked to leave his pastoral position. The game of baseball that somehow kept them together. And the two children in the forest who became his friends--and enlisted him in a dark and dangerous undertaking. As the lines blur between what was real and what was imaginary, Cohen is faced with the question he's been avoiding: Did he kill his father?

In Light from Distant Stars, master story weaver Shawn Smucker relays a tale both eerie and enchanting, one that will have you questioning reality and reaching out for what is true, good, and genuine.

There was a review I read on another book but the same publisher that complained they did not realize it was a book that referenced 'god'. Let it be known that Revell is a publisher that brings us stories with a faith based theme. Sometimes it is not very prevalent but Shawn Smucker's Light From Distant Stars does not shy from the faith speak/God talk from page one. You will not like this novel if this scares you. I pretty much love everything from this publisher, so I chose Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker as our neighborhood book club read since I planned on reading it anyway this summer. Then I start reading .. and immediately start wondering if my book clubbers are going to be annoyed at the faith aspect. (Which points to so many other issues such as my insecurities, the reality that it is not cool to love and honor God etc.) So ..yes.. I am a little scared to find out what the other reactions are when the book club meeting comes along.

Shawn Smucker's previous novels were more of a young adult genre and Light From Distant Stars is marketed towards adult yet given the actual plot line I can see where it would be hard to differentiate between the two markets. The novel is told from Cohen's viewpoint but alternating between two time periods in his life where each period has a momentous event occurring. What was most impressive about these shifts in narration is how they were seamless; each chapter another layer is unveiled and the symbolism reveals itself slowly but also quite magnificently can be interpreted in several ways. There is a saying that no two persons ever reads the same book and this book can be the phrase's poster child.

As the synopsis states, Cohen may or may not be responsible for his father's death. And I thought the book would be about who killed his dad but that is definitely not what this book is about. It is about how Cohen comes to terms with his parent's divorce, betrayal of why that happened many years ago, possible depression, insanity or anxiety, shadows, beasts, light, darkness.. and how he comes to grips with the reality of his life. One of my favorite aspects of the novel is the graphic page that introduces a new part of the book and it quotes a line from Genesis. The other favorite part is the seemingly effortless way of writing put forth by Shawn Smucker.

"The waters are separating. The waters of the sky are blowing away in the wind and the waters of the earth lay before him, and he walks through them to the church and up the sidewalk ramp. The door is unlocked."

 And since I was raised Catholic, I can totally appreciate the confessional scenes. The Lord has put away all your sins. Thanks be to God. While this novel did not end up being what I expected, I am pleased to say that I really enjoyed this character driven novel and should bring up some interesting topics at book club!

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

Jul 24, 2019

Living Lies by Natalie Walters

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Living Lies (Harbored Secrets #1) by Natalie Walters
Revell/Baker Publishers May 21 2019
338 pages, Christian Suspense
review copy from the publisher, thank you!

In the little town of Walton, Georgia, everybody knows your name--but no one knows your secret. At least that's what Lane Kent is counting on when she returns to her hometown with her five-year-old son. Dangerously depressed after the death of her husband, Lane is looking for hope. What she finds instead is a dead body.

Lane must work with Walton's newest deputy, Charlie Lynch, to uncover the truth behind the murder. But when that truth hits too close to home, she'll have to decide if saving the life of another is worth the cost of revealing her darkest secret.

Debut novelist Natalie Walters pulls you to the edge of your seat on the first page and keeps you there until the last in this riveting story that will have you believing no one is defined by their past.

This is a realistically paced suspense novel that focuses on a bit of a taboo subject of depression. When the synopsis alludes to a dark secret it is really not that thrilling but it is yet still an important topic. The main character Lane stumbles upon a dead body of a young girl pretty much as soon as she returns to the small town where she is from; just when she is struggling to keep her head above water she is thrust into this investigation of the murdered girl. She makes friends with the new deputy in town so there is a bit of romance going on as the investigation progresses.

The novel evokes the chill/creepy factor very well as there are evil undercurrents throughout the story, and we don't know everything that is going to happen. Along with the well-plotted suspense, Living Lies is also a charming story as we see the desperately needed support is finally given to Lane's mental health. I wish there were a way we could get some more stories out there that show mental health stability is something we should all be offering to our loved ones and not treat it as someone else's problem to bear; maybe there would be less tragedy in all our lives if more awareness and steps towards healing are offered.

I am intrigued enough to see what book 2 is going to be about as this is marketed as a series. A very well done debut novel for Natalie Walters.

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

Jul 21, 2019

All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner

Sunday, July 21, 2019

All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner
Revell/Baker Publishing June 2019
450 pages Christian Fiction
review copy via publisher, thank you
Best of 2019

When Annie Jacobson's brother Mike enlists as a medic in the Army in 1967, he hands her a piece of paper with the address of their long-estranged father. If anything should happen to him in Vietnam, Mike says, Annie must let their father know.

In Mike's absence, their father returns to face tragedy at home, adding an extra measure of complication to an already tense time. As they work toward healing and pray fervently for Mike's safety overseas, letter by letter the Jacobsons must find a way to pull together as a family, regardless of past hurts. In the tumult of this time, Annie and her family grapple with the tension of holding both hope and grief in the same hand, even as they learn to turn to the One who binds the wounds of the brokenhearted.

Author Susie Finkbeiner invites you into the Jacobson family's home and hearts during a time in which the chaos of the outside world touched their small community in ways they never imagined.

I absolutely loved this book and it is not an easy book to describe other than it being a powerful story that is both easy and hard to read at the same time. I found the setting especially intriguing, about a family who is forced to say goodbye to Mike Jacobson as he heads off to enlist in the Vietnam War. I almost said 'sent' to the war, but he volunteered; it's important to note the sacrifice he knew he was making as his own dad had come home broken from the Korean War years earlier. Mike was the rock of the family - being the oldest son after his dad moved out when the three siblings were young. This is a novel told in first person by Annie, who is the sister out of school and just working at the local diner as she holds the family together once Mike enlists. At eighteen she could just be thinking about boys and her life's goals but once Mike is gone the current events of 1967 take on a whole new perspective.

"It's just making our hard job that much more difficult. You know how hard it is to be fighting for a bunch of people who are against you?"

I, for one, am very grateful for that perspective. The novel realistically shows racism, family divides, sorrow and hope. And my heart was ripped out a few times through this voice of Annie's and my emotions got the better of me where I said I have to write this review but of course I cannot fathom the words to specifically say how much this book touched my soul. It is a journey from beginning to end and I am so blessed to have read this tender message of the Lord's mercy. Even with the ugly cry. Thankful no one was in the room through the ugly cry part two.

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

Jul 8, 2019

Dragonfly by Leila Meacham

Monday, July 08, 2019

Dragonfly by Leila Meacham
July 9 2019 Grand Central publishing
864 pages hardcover/577 pages kindle
eGalley via publisher, thank you!

Read my previous reviews of Leila Meacham's works

At the height of WWII, five idealistic young Americans receive a mysterious letter from the OSS, asking them if they are willing to fight for their country. The men and women from very different backgrounds--a Texan athlete with German roots, an upper-crust son of a French mother and a wealthy businessman, a dirt-poor Midwestern fly fisherman, an orphaned fashion designer, and a ravishingly beautiful female fencer -- all answer the call of duty, but each for a secret reason of his or her own. They bond immediately, in a group code-named Dragonfly.
Soon after their training, they are dropped behind enemy lines and take up their false identities, isolated from one another except for a secret drop-box, but in close contact with the powerful Nazi elite who have Paris under siege.

Thus begins a dramatic and riveting cat-and-mouse game, as the young Americans seek to stay under the radar until a fatal misstep leads to the capture and the firing-squad execution of one of their team. everything as it seems, or is this one more elaborate act of spycraft?

Spies, Nazis, murals, France, nuns, fly fishing -this was great story and of grand epic proportions! Dragonfly was such a page turner that it kept me up way past my bedtime. I have always loved the writing of Leila Meacham and I am so pleased to report that Dragonfly did not disappoint. Please don't let the 864 page number dissuade you, this number is for their large print hardcover edition, but yes it is still a chunky book at 577 glorious kindle pages.

This story is another WWII novel which seem to be flooding the market recently- not that it is a bad thing. Dragonfly is the code name of the group of five young Americans going to offer their services as part of a spy network planted in Germany-occupied Paris. There is a larger cast of characters from the spies themselves to all those that cross the main characters' path, so it does take a bit of concentration to keep everything on track. The fact that we never really could tell if/when someone was going to drop the noose on one of the Dragonfly members made for some edge of my seat reading that I just could not put the book down for long at all.

I appreciated the fact that the author did not feel the need to rush through events and instead creates plausible situations that keep us rooting for the group. We really had a chance to engage with each of the characters and understand the undercurrents with nervous adrenaline while the rookies attempted to impede the Nazis right under their noses. I especially enjoyed how actual spying tasks were not made so easy and there were several hiccups along the way, making for a much more realistic novel throughout their adventures.

Splendid writing, fantastic storytelling and such a treat for Leila Meacham fans of which there are many. Another well-deserved five stars for Leila Meacham!

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

Jun 30, 2019

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake
published May 2019 Flatiron Books
borrowed from the library

An unforgettable love story, a novel about past mistakes and betrayals that ripple throughout generations, The Guest Book examines not just a privileged American family, but a privileged America. It is a literary triumph.

The Guest Book follows three generations of a powerful American family, a family that “used to run the world”.

And when the novel begins in 1935, they still do. Kitty and Ogden Milton appear to have everything—perfect children, good looks, a love everyone envies. But after a tragedy befalls them, Ogden tries to bring Kitty back to life by purchasing an island in Maine. That island, and its house, come to define and burnish the Milton family, year after year after year. And it is there that Kitty issues a refusal that will haunt her till the day she dies.

In 1959 a young Jewish man, Len Levy, will get a job in Ogden’s bank and earn the admiration of Ogden and one of his daughters, but the scorn of everyone else. Len’s best friend Reg Pauling has always been the only black man in the room—at Harvard, at work, and finally at the Miltons’ island in Maine.
An island that, at the dawn of the 21st century, this last generation doesn’t have the money to keep. When Kitty’s granddaughter hears that she and her cousins might be forced to sell it, and when her husband brings back disturbing evidence about her grandfather’s past, she realizes she is on the verge of finally understanding the silences that seemed to hover just below the surface of her family all her life.

An ambitious novel that weaves the American past with its present, The Guest Book looks at the racism and power that has been systemically embedded in the US for generations. Brimming with gorgeous writing and bitterly accurate social criticism, it is a literary tour de force.

I picked up this title from the library as I had seen it marketed around the internet and it seemed to really be well received. And I love sagas, this is definitely one. But I have a strong dislike for "literary masterpiece" type of reads as those seem to be a total bore and a letdown and pretty much a political tirade or something similar. Or so I thought. I struggled getting into this novel, I really did. The very first sentence was a signal of things to come and I was not pleased. I was completely turned off and quite frankly, confused. At a long 5% later I was reading reviews of the book and totally trying to determine if I should keep going. Some readers were as confused and bored as I was and just stopped. Somehow it seemed you either loved or hated this one, so I wanted to keep going.

Looking back at my reading progress it seems somewhere between 5% and 20% I was able to dig in and start caring about these characters and that for me is the key to my enjoyment of a novel. It is definitely a wordy novel hence the term 'literary' but I was able to get on board with the tones and nuances of the passionate voice of this novel as a whole. This is a story of an upper class family the Miltons and is told through the eyes of different generations of the family which causes a bit of confusion as the narration changes. The women are all strong members of the Milton clan and they actually own a little island in New England. What to do with that island as the last generation is forced to come to terms with it and their place in today's America is the question. Is it a status symbol? Is it a part of them? How important is it to own an island? Why the hell should we care?

17 highlights on the kindle version means that were so many points getting a rise out of me that I was like, 'YES! THIS!'. There are things that define a family, which could be a stigma or a gift. The island could be either. Perception is a key theme to this novel: perceptions and prejudice of both race and wealth. This saga demonstrates how easily misperception can ruin a family and cloud a stranger's judgement. One of the main characters is Reg Paulding who is a black man on the outside of the Milton family, yet Moss Milton really wants to include Reg:
"Most people in the rest of the country would walk in here and see one black man sitting where he shouldn’t.” Moss shook his head stubbornly. “We are sitting together, and that’s the fact. Anything can happen from here on out. Anything is possible. Big ears, man. You gotta have big ears.”

The inclusion of an angry young man at one party has such debilitating repercussions and shows that those are too self-absorbed in their own hurt can never realize the good out of life. "No one knew what to do with him sitting there. Classmate? Roommate? Checkmate."  Reg's role is pivotal in the Milton saga whether he wants to be or not. He can treat it as a chess game but in the end it is life and then death. 

The shifting narration that was so hard to get used to in the beginning actually is a symbol in itself, as it is indicative that history repeats itself and generation upon generation we seem to make the same mistakes over and over, but under the guise of some new freedom that we feel is being trampled upon. What is real? What is imagined?

But there was no freedom without history. That was America in him.

I finished this novel with a heartache, a passionate response to this book that I didn't quite grasp its purpose until later but it was so very good I do definitely recommend this to those who have the perseverance to get through to the core.

"He thinks he can change the world—” He sighed. “But the world does not change. Only you do."

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