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Aug 20, 2018

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

Monday, August 20, 2018

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton: Wife, Widow, and Warrior in Alexander Hamilton’s Quest for a More Perfect Union by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
William Morrow, April 2018 paperback edition
eBook from library
Link to BurtonBookReview of authors' last work

From the New York Times bestselling authors of America’s First Daughter comes the epic story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton—a revolutionary woman who, like her new nation, struggled to define herself in the wake of war, betrayal, and tragedy. Haunting, moving, and beautifully written, Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to tell Eliza’s story as it’s never been told before—not just as the wronged wife at the center of a political sex scandal—but also as a founding mother who shaped an American legacy in her own right. 

A general’s daughter… 
Coming of age on the perilous frontier of revolutionary New York, Elizabeth Schuyler champions the fight for independence. And when she meets Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s penniless but passionate aide-de-camp, she’s captivated by the young officer’s charisma and brilliance. They fall in love, despite Hamilton’s bastard birth and the uncertainties of war. 
A founding father’s wife... 
But the union they create—in their marriage and the new nation—is far from perfect. From glittering inaugural balls to bloody street riots, the Hamiltons are at the center of it all—including the political treachery of America’s first sex scandal, which forces Eliza to struggle through heartbreak and betrayal to find forgiveness. 
The last surviving light of the Revolution… 
When a duel destroys Eliza’s hard-won peace, the grieving widow fights her husband’s enemies to preserve Alexander’s legacy. But long-buried secrets threaten everything Eliza believes about her marriage and her own legacy. Questioning her tireless devotion to the man and country that have broken her heart, she’s left with one last battle—to understand the flawed man she married and imperfect union he could never have created without her…

I thoroughly enjoyed this writing teams' last novel based on Thomas Jefferson and family, and I could not wait until the library loan became available for this novel based on Eliza Hamilton, wife to Alexander Hamilton. Most of what I remember from grade school history studies is more on place names and the colonies themselves along with important dates. What I had not gathered was how my country was born divided and really still is, despite its "united" moniker. The founding fathers were not all that super special but were certainly intelligent and eager to get their opinions out there. This novel delves into the behind the scenes as it happened during the revolutionary times to the Schuyler family but shows us a flawed but devoted marriage of Eliza and Alexander Hamilton.

"Worse than that, he made me despair of the traitor in him, too. For though Alexander Hamilton did not betray his country, he did betray me. And now, I struggle with whether love or hate burns more intensely inside me."

The character of Alexander Hamilton is fleshed out as much as possible given the history that is available to us, and there are a lot of letters. Through the tenacity and sheer will of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton is how Hamilton's legacy has not been thoroughly erased. The ways in which we see the mainstream media at work today is not much different than centuries before as we may never know what really is true or not. We are lucky to have the letters that Hamilton liked to write regarding his opinions on how an economy should work and how a country should be run.

The fact that Alexander Hamilton could have been gay is something I never came across until now .. and the novel does address it some.  Again this is through Eliza's eyes however -- so what is truth and fiction is fit for the tabloids. There are many intriguing angles to the novel which made for fast reading and I felt like I learned so much more than a year of grade school could have ever provided. The character of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton is one that forces you to admire her and wish you could have known her, and wish that there were that same caliber of women survivors around for today's generation:
"Silence is often the only weapon available to ladies. And I wield mine expertly."

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

Jul 24, 2018

The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl (release day giveaway)

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl
Berkley Publishing Group, July 24 2018
review copy via NetGalley

Set against a stunning Scandinavian backdrop, a gritty novel of psychological suspense that asks the question how far would you go to hold onto what you have?

Cecilia Wilborg has it all--a loving husband, two beautiful daughters and a gorgeous home in the affluent Norwegian town of Sandefjord. And she works hard to keep it all together. Too hard. Because one mistake from her past could bring it all crashing down around her.

Annika Lucasson lives a dark life with her abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend. She's lost everything one too many times and now she's got one last chance to save herself, thanks to Cecilia. Annika knows her secret--and just how much she's willing to do to make it all go away...

When someone forgets to pick up their little boy at the local pool, Cecilia agrees to take him home, only to find an abandoned, empty house. It's the first step in the unraveling of her meticulously crafted life, as her and Annika's worlds collide...

The Boy At The Door is such an intriguing read that makes it hard to categorize. Marketed as a thriller it's more of a psychological twisted read as we try and figure out if Cecelia is really bonkers or not. The theme is centered on the fact that absolutely nothing may be out of place in Cecelia's idyllic life in Norway as she lives a farce of happiness as a rich wife and mom in Norway. Her zeal for perfection is thwarted as she finds herself as a temporary guardian of a small boy who seemingly appears out of nowhere.

Upsetting Cecelia's natural order of things she copes through alcohol and medicinal concoctions and yet she is still losing control of the changes this boy brings to her family life. Small fractures in her perfection are actual beginnings of an earthquake and questions how far will one lady go to promote herself in the ideal image?

And then we sit back and wonder -who the heck is this boy? And why is Cecelia freaking out when she is questioned about her relationships to those she and the boy both know? And is society so fickle as to not allow a person's past be forgiven if it was hidden?

I really enjoyed the novel and the meandering way we eventually tie it all together. A story that will keep you guessing till the very end!

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

Jul 9, 2018

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

Monday, July 09, 2018

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan
496 pages, Redhook/Hachette September 2017
Personal kindle copy bought for a secret read along

Discover a magical historical saga of mothers, daughters, and the power of witchcraft - perfect for fans of Alice Hoffman.
Brittany, 1821. After Grand-mère Ursule gives her life to save her family, their magic seems to die with her.
Even so, the Orchires fight to keep the old ways alive, practicing half-remembered spells and arcane rites in hopes of a revival. And when their youngest daughter comes of age, magic flows anew.
The lineage continues, though new generations struggle not only to master their power, but also to keep it hidden.
But when World War II looms on the horizon, magic is needed more urgently than ever - not for simple potions or visions, but to change the entire course of history.

This novel was an intriguing saga of generations of women all who passed down the gift of witchcraft. The gift comes in the form of being able to see into a crystal ball but is called a scrying stone in the novel. The settings change as each generation passes, which is a succession of strong willed women but all with changing characteristics. It was enjoyable to read of their traditions of invoking the goddess which was the tradition of their ancestresses but I most appreciated the historical aspect of how the craft evolved over time.

With so many generations, it is hard to pick out the favorite characters but ending with Veronica who is married to someone with so much possibility for a sequel though I can imagine it being difficult to recreate the same tone when there isn't many years left to cover, and the historical context would be lost. Something to ponder though for the author as I am sure she has been asked about the possibility.

This is a great novel for those who enjoy any type of mystical/magical paranormal type read that actually doesn't seem too far-fetched. It would be a good YA novel read as well as the romance was tame. Thanks to my reading buddy who read along with me, always makes it for a fun ride!

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

Jul 8, 2018

Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

Sunday, July 08, 2018

August 07 2018 USA edition 
Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley
August 07 2018 Sourcebook Landmark
448 pages HistFic/Sci fi/Fantasy
egalley provided via NetGalley from the publisher, thank you!

"The house, when I first saw it, seemed intent on guarding what it knew; but we all learned, by the end of it, that secrets aren't such easy things to keep."

It's late summer, war is raging, and families are torn apart by divided loyalties and deadly secrets. In this complex and dangerous time, a young French Canadian lieutenant is captured and billeted with a Long Island family, an unwilling and unwelcome guest. As he begins to pitch in with the never-ending household tasks and farm chores, Jean-Philippe de Sabran finds himself drawn to the daughter of the house. Slowly, Lydia Wilde comes to lean on Jean-Philippe, true soldier and gentleman, until their lives become inextricably intertwined. Legend has it that the forbidden love between Jean-Philippe and Lydia ended tragically, but centuries later, the clues they left behind slowly unveil the true story. Part history, part romance, and all kinds of magic, Susanna Kearsley's latest masterpiece will draw you in and never let you go, even long after you've closed the last page.

I do like this cover as a departure from their previous covers but I think there are a few different covers depending on region. I have to sadly state that this was not my favorite Susanna Kearsley novel. No matter how much I tried to enjoy it there were times I just could not talk myself into picking it up again. I spent 20 plus years on Long Island and I thought I would feel a special connection to the setting but it was not very atmospheric for me. I love ghost stories and the novel was unsuccessful in trying to be a creepy ghostly goose bumps thing. Being told in the same style of dual time period that Susanna Kearsley is known for writing the ghosts were in the form of the occasional unplugged lamp in the house, or the spark of a lantern in the woods and the modern day characters would imagine that they were there in the house of the Wilde family.

The historical time period story was very interesting:  the Wilde family (all fictitious unfortunately) hosting prisoners of war while keeping a slave that they called a cook. The modern day story of Charley dealing with her restless/depressed niece as Charley discovers clues of the Wilde family is very slow but I did appreciate the slavery issue and how the descendants of the family were saddened that their family did indeed have slaves which was a no-no for the northern half of the country at the time. (The time being when there was a war going on so when the Canadian prisoner falls in love with the young daughter Lydia all drama is supposed to ensue.)

The house is a character in itself, since the spook factor is the fact that some things just don't work right when Charley is around but the best part of the story was the thread of romantic tension between Charley and the guy who was working on renovations. There were a lot of loose threads for Charley to tie together as she learned more about the Wilde house and the people who lived there. The ending did actually make up a bit for the slow start and I appreciated the happier than expected conclusion.

The one thing that set me off on the wrong foot altogether was the dividing line of Canada and USA. Canada readers were treated to an April publication date while Long Island and the rest of the USA had to wait until an August publication date. BOOOO

Maybe since it was my eighth Susanna Kearsley it was just destined to be boring all the way around, but this one just wasn't all there for me as much as some of her others were:

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

Jun 23, 2018

Announcing the 2018 Reader Survey

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Discovering reader preferences, habits and attitudes
by M.K. Tod, Heather Burch and Patricia Sands

It has been really fascinating to see what makes readers read. M.K. Tod is an author who really wanted to find out the nitty gritty of our likes and dislikes and started running annual surveys geared towards historical fiction readers. Results from previous years can be found at M.K. Tod's site here and here (just a sample).

Readers and writers – a symbiotic relationship. Ideas spark writers to create stories and build worlds and characters for readers’ consumption. Readers add imagination and thought to interpret those stories, deriving meaning and enjoyment in the process. A story is incomplete without both reader and writer.

What then do readers want? What constitutes a compelling story? How do men and women differ in their preferences? Where do readers find recommendations? How do readers share their book experiences?

ANNOUNCING A 2018 READER SURVEY designed to solicit input on these topics and others.

with friends and family via email or your favourite social media. Robust participation across age groups, genders, and countries will make this year’s survey – the 4th – even more significant.

Participate by clicking this link. Those who take the survey will be able to sign up to receive a summary report when it becomes available.

M.K. (Mary) Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, Time and Regret was published by Lake Union. Fellow authors Patricia Sands and Heather Burch helped design and plan the survey. Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her blog A Writer of History. 

Jun 21, 2018

Somebody's Daughter by David Bell

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Somebody's Daughter by David Bell
Berkley Publishing Group/New American Library, July 10 2018
Psychological suspense/Thriller
Review copy via NetGalley, thank you!
My review of author's work Somebody I Used to Know by David Bell (2015, 5 stars)

In this pulse-pounding novel of psychological suspense from the USA Today bestselling author of Bring Her Home and Since She Went Away, a man must save the life of a little girl who just might be his daughter....
When Michael Frazier's ex-wife, Erica, unexpectedly shows up on his doorstep, she drops a bombshell that threatens to rip his family apart: Her ten-year-old daughter is missing--and Michael is the father. Unsure whether this is the truth but unwilling to leave the girl's fate to chance, Michael has no choice but to follow the elusive trail of the child he has always wanted but never knew he had.
After Michael departs, his wife, Angela, learns shocking news about Erica and fears for the safety of both her husband and the endangered girl. When a stranger, a man who claims a connection to Erica and her missing daughter, knocks on the door, Angela is drawn out into the night--and deep into the tangled web of Michael's past....
Over the course of one night, lies that span a decade come bubbling to the surface, putting Michael, his wife, and his whole family in jeopardy. And as the window for a little girl's safe return closes, Michael will have to decide who can be trusted and who is hiding the truth....

I really enjoyed reading David Bell's novel in 2015 (my review of Somebody I Used To Know) and I was eager to see what 2018 brought with the novelist's first hardcover published. Full of twist and turns, Somebody's Daughter does not disappoint as one night unfolds for over 400 pages. Isn't that crazy?! I thought that was wild, and it was so well done I had not even noticed that until I started writing this review.

The story revolves around that of a young girl's disappearance. On the outside it looks that Michael and Angela Frazier are living their perfect life with their perfect house and their squeaky-clean routines until the ex-wife shows up asking for help about her missing daughter. At that point everything Angela thought she knew about Michael goes out the window because this is the first time Angela hears about the existence of the pre-teen daughter Felicity. We kind of sort of don't know if Michael knew about Felicity either as the story progresses so that was a good twist.

 'Who is the bad guy here?' is the obvious thread, and quite surpisingly it could have been the sister, the mom, the ex-wife, the music teacher and the ex-wife's ex-boyfriend. Throw in a babysitter or a neighbor and we've got ourselves a twisted tangle of a hot mess. I loved the fast paced writing and how it truly kept me guessing. The part played by the lead detective was also well written-- so many angles and this is how we get that one crazy night spilling into over 400 pages. Oh and there's a dog, too. Every aspect you expect from a thriller is here for our enjoyment - five stars all the way to the bank.

If you like Ruth Ware, Gillian Flynn, Mary Kubica then add David Bell to your want-to-read list.
The absolute best part is that David Bell has several other titles for me to investigate. Sad though that my local library owns just one. Get with the program, Rockwall!

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

Jun 16, 2018

The 49th Mystic by Ted Dekker

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The 49th Mystic (Beyond The Circle #1) by Ted Dekker
May 2018, Revell/Baker Publishing group
Review copy from publisher, thank you for your generosity!

Some say the great mystery of how one can live in two worlds at once died with Thomas Hunter many years ago. Still others that the gateway to that greater reality was and is only the stuff of dreams.

They are wrong. In the small town of Eden, Utah, a blind girl named Rachelle Matthews is about to find out just how wrong.

When a procedure meant to restore Rachelle's sight goes awry, she begins to dream of another world so real that she wonders if Earth might only be a dream experienced when she falls asleep in that reality. Who is a simple blind girl to have such strange and fantastic dreams?

She's the prophesied one who must find and recover five ancient seals--in both worlds--before powerful enemies destroy her. If Rachelle succeeds in her quest, peace will reign. If she fails, both worlds will forever be locked in darkness.

So begins a two-volume saga of high stakes and a mind-bending quest to find an ancient path that will save humanity. The clock is ticking; the end rushes forward.

Ready? Set?


This book caught my eye before it was published and I entered a few giveaways et voila! it landed on my doorstep like the amazing gift that it was. I am writing this review weeks after I read this book because I know I could not ever possibly begin to explain the wonderfulness of it. You know when you're just not going to give it any justice kind of thing (besides WoW woW)? I wrote a mini-reviews post recently and I could not lump this one in the same post because it at least deserved its own review post, right? Yes.

So Ted Dekker has been around a while writing over thirty thriller/suspense and even historical titles; I've gotten a few of his works here and there including the entire Circle series which is categorized as fantasy and speculative. And now The 49th Mystic book comes along and it has something about a circle in it, but this book is categorized as a thriller. But then of course I have to wait for book two (bangs head) to see where this circle is going. This is definitely faith driven, so if you are not of that mind just stop right here.

metanoia: change in one's way of life resulting from penitence or spiritual conversion.
μετάνοια, μετανοίας, ἡ (μετανοέω), a change of mind: as it appears in one who repents of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done, Hebrews 12:17

The novel focuses in on a strange little town of Eden all on its own, dependent on each other as a whole with a new world order and Rachelle must go on a journey to save it from itself. It's a little bubble of a town and nothing goes in and nothing goes out. But the Shadow Man is there suddenly and Rachelle and her life are turned upside down.

"What begins as White that man has made Black?" is the first riddle that Rachelle needs to solve to save her little Eden. Rachelle is blind (but are we all blind anyway?) and the Shadow Man comes along and heals her blindness (or was it a scientific breakthrough) then kidnaps her dad or is it just a spell? Or just a dream? A nightmare.

Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. and the lion lays down with the lamb. Where is your faith? Is it in the seen? What is your cognitive perception? As Rachelle tries to deal with living in two different worlds and being tasked to save Eden and find five seals to defeat evil she is undergoing a transformation of what she really is. Can she master her earthen vessel and sacrifice that what she holds dear? Can she live up to her prophecy as the One?

"There are those among the human race called mystics who know that God is infinite." - says the Shadow Man who calls brains tissue tops. There is a wonderful fluidity of the writing of Dekker even when your own tissue top brain is struggling to keep up with the reality of what is going on in their world and yet it is so similar to what is in our world in front of us today. "The light only used the darkness to reveal its brilliance."

"God is infinitely secure, the mystics say. Would such a being ever need to defend himself...".
I can't quite accurately explain The 49th Mystic as we have theology and science doing a merry dance in a circle and it brings us to the one undeniable truth that the world is doing its very best to forget and ignore, much to our peril. To read and comprehend this book is a gift, but to actually live out the message is a challenge. Do you dare?

A book that I will cherish and pick up when I need a reminder of my purpose as there are so many hidden gems throughout that one just needs a minute to find one and then a few more minutes to mull it over. It will be a lifetime before I reach the ultimate goal that is hinted at but it would be a blessing to die trying. Cannot wait for the second installment and I also feel so blessed that I have so many other of Ted Dekker's books to read too!

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

Jun 14, 2018

Jody Hedlund's Orphan Train Series: With You Always & Together Forever

Thursday, June 14, 2018

With You Always (Orphan Train #1) by Jody Hedlund
June 2017, Bethany House
(borrowed from library)

Could following the opportunity of a lifetime cost them the love of their lives?
One of the many immigrants struggling to survive in 1850s New York, Elise Neumann knows she must take action to care for her younger sisters. She finds a glimmer of hope when the New York Children's Aid Society starts sending skilled workers to burgeoning towns out west. But the promise of the society's orphan trains is not all that it seems.
Born into elite New York society, Thornton Quincy possesses everything except the ability to step out from his brother's shadow. When their ailing father puts forth a unique challenge to determine who will inherit his railroad-building empire, Thornton finally sees his chance. The conditions to win? Be the first to build a sustainable community along the Illinois Central Railroad and find a suitable wife.
Thrown together against all odds, Elise and Thornton couldn't be from more different worlds. The spark that ignites between them is undeniable, but how can they let it grow when that means forfeiting everything they've been working toward?
The novel sets up the Orphan Train series with a trio of teen sisters who end up on the streets after their parents have died. They have also taken charge of two little ones who were left behind. Elise and Marianne are the elder of the group and tasked with the burdens of taking care of each other when the economy is not fit for any working family. In 1857 New York there is a financial crisis with bankrupt businesses which spread nationally and eventually globally. Elise is from a poor German immigrant family and already regarded with prejudice during the tough times of increasing European immigrants flooding the population where no work was available. Elise leaves the younger children at an orphanage and heads west in hopes to earn money to send back to her sisters. She is among many other men and women forced to leave their families behind but she is lucky to have found a kinship with the very man with the means to found a new town.

Thornton is a young man always seeking approval from his father and still overshadowed by his twin brother. Throughout the story we see Thornton's maturity expand as he realizes what truly matters in God's eyes and inevitably in Elise's. There are several characters that help create an intriguing story arc so that even with a predictable outline I enjoyed the novel very much. I especially appreciated the historical aspect of how many children were farmed out across the country and the struggles of America during that era. The series is geared towards the inspirational market but I feel would be suitable for any historical romance fiction reader as there is not an over abundance of the Lord's word to distract from those just wanting a feel-good story.

Together Forever (Orphan Train Series #2) by Jody Hedlund
May 1, 2018 Bethany House
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Will the mistakes of their past cost them a chance at love?
Determined to find her lost younger sister, Marianne Neumann takes a job as a placing agent with the Children's Aid Society in 1858 New York. She not only hopes to offer children a better life, but prays she'll be able to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train so they can finally be reunited.
Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing-out trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with children, firm but tender and friendly. Underneath his charm and handsome looks, though, seems to linger a grief that won't go away--and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden.

As the two team up, placing orphans in the small railroad towns of Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer . . . until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change one of their lives forever. 
I am so glad I was offered this book for review, and especially glad I found the first book at the library so I could be fully invested in the Neumann family. While book one featured Elise's story, book two focuses on Marianne as she heads out as a chaperone of sorts as she is responsible for placing the orphan children in positions outside of New York. This novel does directly show possible situations for the riders of the orphan train which tears at your heart when you think of the 30,000 displaced and abandoned children which prompted the orphan train movement.

Marianne's partner is Drew Brady and as fate would have it, they really have some great chemistry. But the stars keep dimming on them as one thing after the other keeps happening to them which makes it seem like maybe they aren't meant to be together after all. Their relationship was really fun to watch bloom but even I admit once Drew started closing himself off I was getting a little ticked off at him and I had to take a break from him and the story for a bit. He is very touch and feely and quite frankly I just don't think that was the norm back in the day - but this is a historical romance series.

The nagging thought throughout the story was that the third sister Sophie is nowhere to be found, and no one seems to be freaking out, but maybe that was the norm back in the day? Overall though I am definitely still a Jody Hedlund fan and I do want to know what the heck is going on with Sophie so I would love to read the next installment (aptly named Searching For You) scheduled for December 2018. 

From the book's dedication, 2 Corinthians 12:9:
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

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

Jun 9, 2018

Recommended Reads for Summer 2018

Saturday, June 09, 2018

These are all books that I have recently enjoyed and wanted to share here as they are worthy of summer binge reading. All of these books but one were personal copies or library loans.

December 2017, 419 pages St Martins Press

While I am not one who followed Nora Roberts specifically but perhaps have read one or two of her books in my lifetime, this book has prompted me to rethink that. This was so darn awesome.
The story-line follows a few threads of people as life as they knew it is over because "They returned the rental car, infecting the clerk and the businessman who rented it next. They infected the porter who took their bags when tips exchanged hands. By the time they reached and passed through security, the infection had passed to an easy two dozen people."
I have discovered that I love me some funky dystopian off the beaten path other type of world stuff and this one has magic(k) and apocalyptic goodness that I am definitely going to re-read before I buy the second book in the series. I have a love-hate relationship with series books because my brain is getting super old and I cannot remember stuff like who was who in the last book and so I cannot just pick right up a year or two later when starting another book in a series because my brain is zapping trying to remember what way was north.
It's a tough thing because when you love a book so much like Year One and you are shattered that the book has ended but then you're like Holy Cheese on A Cracker I Can't Wait For The Next Book Cuz I Am So Glad It's Not Really Over but Damn Just Gimme It Right Now.. you know what I mean. When I finished this one my official recorded thought on Goodreads was:
Mere words cannot express the fluidity of this novel. I am pretty certain but cannot recall if I have read a book by Roberts, but I shall never forget this one.

And so book two is of course on my eagerly awaited hurry up and publish that pie because I am going to devour you and not share the crumbs list. Kleenex worthy reading, too.

When I finished that one I moved on to another fantastic read, thank God, as it's so hard to follow when that one was epic...

February 2018, 512 pages Tyndale

The Masterpiece is the newest release by popular Christian Fiction author Francine Rivers. I have read one of her most popular novels and have been collecting many of her back-list for quite a few years now. This is a story of two people meant to be together but have to go through a lot of soul searching and misunderstandings before the happy ending. The characters were very well-drawn with a story that pulls you in no matter how simple the plot would sound of a he and she fall in love and live happily ever after. He is the famous painter is a recluse with a past that he prefers to stay there yet he has to fight his demons before he can be who he wants to be. She has to learn to trust again after her own train wreck of a life. What I loved about this story the most was how the message reveals itself - we are all His masterpiece created for One Life/One Purpose. Worldly pursuits and pleasures and forgiveness for our sins, the redemption offered, the promise of new life, the gift of love .. and kleenex worthy.

2015 released as 352 page paperback March 2018 edition
This is the one book that I received as a review copy several years ago, but I only got around to reading it when the paperback was chosen as a local book club read recently. I had actually read several other Ruth Ware novels and knew I would enjoy this one as it is the same genre of the psychological thriller suspense type books that she writes so well. I read it in a day. It was a twisty gothic adventure of a tale not meant to be one of those scary keep you up at night reads. Ruth Ware, Mary Kubica, Gillian Flynn all write in this fashion. Ware's newer titles are The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game which I enjoyed both. Great stories, good plots and intriguing endings.

These are older titles that I got caught up on:
2015 release of book three of All Souls Trilogy
I have a partner in crime for this one as we did a buddy read so it was super fun to explore the world of daemons, witches, vampires and wizards with a fellow nerd. Harkness has written a fantastic series that I really did not think I could enjoy as much as I have. I even used up Mothers Day Wish on the newest release not OF the series but ABOUT the series which is a compendium of sorts which just tells you how awesome the books are when you have people like me begging for a book about a book. I love that I know about familiars and blood-rage now but still a little freaked out about the origin of the Ashmole. I love how some Hist-fic gets thrown in too with this series such as Elizabethan England (Mary Sidney!). There will be yet another book (Time's Convert, September 2018) not technically of the series but a spin-off featuring characters of this series.. OK I see I have lost you, lol

I spotted this one when I was picking up books for my kid at the local library and I couldn't walk away from it. I had loved Code Name Verity back in 2012 and this one can be read as a stand alone. It is about a prisoner of war, an unlikely female pilot who shows amazing tenacity and grit while enduring the Holocaust that people to this day like to pretend did not happen. The story revolves mostly around Ravensbruck, the concentration camp known for housing primarily women.
While in reality there are certain things that happen to Rose that are a bit too unrealistic it does not distract from the overall tone of the story. It's another kleenex worthy read that will have you googling stuff about the sickness of those concentration camps, barrage balloons and doodlebug tipping.

Which of these have you read? And did I peak your interest of any? What's on your Summer Reading Pile? I am looking forward to Susanna Kearsley's newest title Bellewether!

You may need to re-subscribe by the way. No idea what is going on with the mailchimp thing when we had to do the GDPR compliance thing that was such an annoyance. No one won the giveaway since no one entered etc. but unsure if that was because of mailchimp's compliance or because giveaways are lame nowadays. No worries! I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.

May 7, 2018

Shadow Child by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto (giveaway)

Monday, May 07, 2018

Shadow Child by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto
Published May 8 2018, Grand Central Publishing
eGalley provided in exchange for this review and giveaway

A haunting and suspenseful literary tale set in 1970s New York City and World War II-era Japan, about three strong women, the dangerous ties of family and identity, and the long shadow our histories can cast.
Twin sisters Hana and Kei grew up in a tiny Hawaiian town in the 1950s and 1960s, so close they shared the same nickname. Raised in dreamlike isolation by their loving but unstable mother, they were fatherless, mixed-race, and utterly inseparable, devoted to one another. But when their cherished threesome with Mama is broken, and then further shattered by a violent, nearly fatal betrayal that neither young woman can forgive, it seems their bond may be severed forever--until, six years later, Kei arrives on Hana's lonely Manhattan doorstep with a secret that will change everything.
Told in interwoven narratives that glide seamlessly between the gritty streets of New York, the lush and dangerous landscape of Hawaii, and the horrors of the Japanese internment camps and the bombing of Hiroshima, SHADOW CHILD is set against an epic sweep of history. Volcanoes, tsunamis, abandonment, racism, and war form the urgent, unforgettable backdrop of this intimate, evocative, and deeply moving story of motherhood, sisterhood, and second chances.

This novel is not a story that you can put down and expect to come back to a few days later. There are so many threads of the story of two generations of women that weave in and out throughout the entire novel that you need to be on your toes to keep up otherwise you're not going to get it. This is a haunting novel that speaks of traumatic events as it skims the surface of insanity. Lost children, nuclear bombs, tidal waves and jealous friendships are just a slip within the novel.

The novel is difficult to put into a tiny box, hence the long synopsis. The twins' mother is a survivor on all levels and yet her girls know very little about her. It turns out they don't even know her real name though clues are given away as bedtime stories. Growing up in Hawaii sounds like it would be ideal but tragedy makes one twin feel forced to get away as far as possible as she is a loner. The story opens up to what you think is going to be a crime solving novel but twists and turns through moments in time of through World War II and back again make you sometimes wonder whose narrative belongs to who. There is a bit of a psychological element here as well especially when you never know if the mother is here or there, and the author purposely trips up the narrative of the twins to show how closely they are connected.

I really enjoyed the story itself and how it kept me guessing. There are events that are slowly unraveling in the book that made me think that's not how I would have done it and the tone was overall depressing especially when it ends a bit abruptly once all the threads are lined up in a neat row for us to see. I would have liked there to be a redeeming note to end on, but we just have to hope that there actually was one when the pages ended.

Many thanks to the publisher Grand Central Publishing for offering two copies open to US and Canada for my subscribers:
If you are receiving this review through your email as a subscriber of my blog and would like to be entered to win your own copy of Shadow Child by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto please forward the email back to reviewer(@) but remove the parentheses. Giveaway ends May 11. I will respond to the winners requesting your mailing address to forward to the publisher. You will have 48 hours to respond.

Hope to make someone's Mother's Day a little brighter!

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Apr 20, 2018

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Washington Square Press (June 13, 2017)
borrowed from the library

In this entrancing novel “that speaks to the Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor in us all” (Kirkus Reviews), a legendary film actress reflects on her relentless rise to the top and the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.
Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

This is an intriguing look at what could be going on behind the scenes in Hollywood -- think of Elizabeth Taylor and her many husbands and celebrity status through the years. This is a similar story but entirely fictional. And while I would not normally pick this type of story up to read, our book club had recommended it and I put it on my list at the library to hold for me when it became available.

It's a story within a story as Evelyn tells Monique the writer/journalist the sordid details of her life as she beds and weds various other power players she comes across during her movie making years. A novel that easily can be misconstrued as a light women's fiction read, it's really a story about how women can empower themselves to be the best that they strive to be. The relationships of the women shine a light on provocative themes such as homosexuality and divorce but also deal with everyday issues that we all deal with on a daily basis. I was very intrigued with all the people of Evelyn's life and the novel was very well written and even thought provoking. Complete with an ending I didn't see coming, but knew there was something there that was going to come out but this little twist was awesome and well done.

I don't really categorize this as historical fiction (debates as to whether one's life story can be historical when looking back) - but this title was nominated as a Goodreads Choice Award for Historical Fiction for 2017 and for Book of the Month/Year 2017.

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Mar 20, 2018

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mar 17, 2018

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Saturday, March 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

Read an excerpt here.
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Mar 16, 2018

The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mar 12, 2018

Life After by Katie Ganshert

Monday, March 12, 2018

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

It could have been me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read my other reviews of K. Ganshert titles here.

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

Feb 26, 2018

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Monday, February 26, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!