abuse · book review · books · dedication · Family · Historical fiction · reading · secrets

The Lost Daughter by Gill Paul {ARC Review}

Blurb:

1918: Pretty, vivacious Grand Duchess Maria Romanov, the nineteen-year-old daughter of the fallen Tsar Nicholas II, lives with her family in suffocating isolation, a far cry from their once-glittering royal household. Her days are a combination of endless boredom and paralyzing fear; her only respite are clandestine flirtations with a few of the guards imprisoning the family—never realizing her innocent actions could mean the difference between life and death

1973: When Val Doyle hears her father’s end-of-life confession, “I didn’t want to kill her,” she’s stunned. So, she begins a search for the truth—about his words and her past. The clues she discovers are baffling—a jewel-encrusted box that won’t open and a camera with its film intact. What she finds out pulls Val into one of the world’s greatest mysteries—what truly happened to the Grand Duchess Maria?

Review:

I absolutely love a historical fiction with a duel timeline. Nothing like the build up of the different stories and the satisfaction when they tie together at the end. That’s exactly what this book did. And not only that, it was different from my usual WW2 reads.

I have heard the Romanov family story but most of it has been based around Anastasia. I had not known much about the rest of her family, especially her siblings. So of course I had to jump at the chance to read this story.

I found this story about Maria to be so intriguing. Along with the storyline of Val who is the character in more recent times. Not necessarily present day because her story mostly takes place in the 70s-80s.

Both women face adversity and hardships that they have to fight thru. Maria is separated from the family she loves so dearly, but does manage to make a family of her own. She still experiences pain just when she thought she was done experiencing pain. Val is in a situation that is both infuriating and heartbreaking but she finds the strength to remove herself from it and find her own voice and ground to stand on.

This is a story based on love, survival, and sacrifice. There are also secrets that are kept but need to be told in order for some to heal.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and blew thru it. I recommend it if you are a historical fiction fan and want a bit of a break from WW2.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available now in paperback, kindle, and audiobook.

A special thank you to William Morrow for my gifted copy and opportunity to read and review this story.

book review · books · dedication · diversity · Family · Historical fiction · reading · secrets · World War 2

The Song of the Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning {Review}

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Blurb:

1939 Two young girls meet in Shanghai, also known as the “Paris of the East.” Beautiful local Li and Jewish refugee Romy form a fierce friendship, but the deepening shadows of World War II fall over the women as they slip between the city’s glamorous French Concession district and the teeming streets of the Shanghai Ghetto. Yet soon the realities of war prove to be too much for these close friends as they are torn apart.

2016: Fleeing London with a broken heart, Alexandra returns to Australia to be with her grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm. Her grandfather is dying, and over the coming weeks Romy and Wilhelm begin to reveal the family mysteries they have kept secret for more than half a century. As fragments of her mother’s history finally become clear, Alexandra struggles with what she learns while more is also revealed about her grandmother’s own past in Shanghai.

After Wilhelm dies, Alexandra flies to Shanghai, determined to trace her grandparents’ past. Peeling back the layers of their hidden lives, she is forced to question what she knows about her family–and herself.

The Song of the Jade Lily is a lush, provocative, and beautiful story of friendship, motherhood, the price of love, and the power of hardship and courage that can shape us all.

Review:

I knew I was going to like this book, I just was not prepared with how much I was going to love it. Being historical fiction, having a dual timeline, and the presence family secrets were all things that attracted me to this story.

My heart was shattered at the beginning of the story with an event that the Bernfeld family experiences as they attempting to flee Austria for their safety. Their family is torn apart in an instant. I couldn’t fathom going thru that experience and still having the strength to continue. They try to keep themselves together and hold on to their hope and faith as they start a new life in Shanghai. They aren’t the only ones who experience a tragic event while trying to get to safety, young Nina loses the people closest to her.

When Romy meets Li, she is shown a whole new part of Shanghai that she may not have otherwise experienced. The descriptions of the foods that she eats is phenomenal. Both girls are full of life and have such wonderful aspirations even with all that is transpiring around them.

Determination, self sacrifice and the will to fight on are all things Romy, Nina, and Li must deal with as they all get older.  Each of the girls is forced to make decisions in order to survive and protect the ones they love.

Meanwhile in present time, Alexander is dealing with a bad break up and then the death of her beloved grandfather. After his death,  Alexander has questions about her family origin. She knows that her birth mother was adopted and she is wanting to know who her mother may have been. That’s when the secrets start surfacing. After her grandmother’s avoidance of the conversation about her mother, Alexander makes the choice to look into her biological history on her own to try to tie up some loose ends.

As the story progresses thru both timelines, you are met with the feeling of hope for all the characters. You also experience the heartbreak they are forced to encounter.

Kirsty Manning weaves such a beautiful story that makes you feel so many emotions. You experience these emotions when you least expect to. At the same time you are trying to solve the mystery of Alexander’s mother’s birth mother. Along the way she is having to deal with some personal issues of her own.

The love between the characters in the story is so heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.  I could gush about this book forever.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audio

A special thank you to William Morrow for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

book review · books · child abduction · dedication · Family · Historical fiction · Literary Fiction · Science Ficton · space

Light From Other Stars by Erika Swyler {ARC Review}

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Blurb:

Eleven-year-old Nedda Papas is obsessed with becoming an astronaut. In 1986 in Easter, a small Florida Space Coast town, her dreams seem almost within reach—if she can just grow up fast enough. Theo, the scientist father she idolizes, is consumed by his own obsessions. Laid off from his job at NASA and still reeling from the loss of Nedda’s newborn brother several years before, Theo turns to the dangerous dream of extending his living daughter’s childhood just a little longer. The result is an invention that alters the fabric of time.

Amidst the chaos that erupts, Nedda must confront her father and his secrets, the ramifications of which will irrevocably change her life, her community, and the entire world. But she finds an unexpected ally in Betheen, the mother she’s never quite understood, who surprises Nedda by seeing her more clearly than anyone else.

Decades later, Nedda has achieved her long-held dream, and as she floats in antigravity, far from earth, she and her crewmates face a serious crisis. Nedda may hold the key to the solution, if she can come to terms with her past and the future that awaits her.

Review:

I remember reading and loving Ms. Swyler’s first book, The Book of Speculation so much and have been waiting to see what else she was going to bless us with in a new book. After I read the synopsis for The Light From Other Stars, I knew I wanted to read it. Being able to review it and share my thoughts is a bonus.

When the story opens, we are with grown Nedda who is on a spacecraft in the very near future. When the science terminology started I didn’t think that I would be able to keep up with the story. That was not the case. The scientific terms, although over me head at times, were crucial to the story and to the characteristics of Nedda, both young and older.

The story is told in a duel timeline, grown Nedda in space and younger Nedda in 1986. Nedda is a bright girl who is seen as odd in the eyes of most of the people she comes into contact with. She does have one best friend who loves her for who she is.  His name is Denny. Their friendship is so admirable. Both semi outcasts who love each other for who they are. Even though Nedda is really smart and Denny is just barely making it along, she doesn’t belittle him and he doesnt make fun of her.

Nedda has a very close relationship with her father yet the relationship with her mother is more volatile. Her mother dealt with a great loss while Nedda was younger and their relationship suffered because of it. It is also the same reason Nedda and her father are so close. He was the main parent in her life while her mother dealt with her loss.

Nedda’s father is attempting to work on a machine that will change so much in their lives. Mainly is it something that will help slow down the effects of his arthritis. The pain in his hands are making it harder and harder for him to work. He also as another secret about wanting to get his machine up and running.

Nedda’s mother is a homemaker. She bakes and takes care of the house. The relationship between the parents almost seems as it is of convenience and not love. Further reading and learning about each of them shows this to not be the case,

Nedda’s father miraculously gets his machine working one day but the results are not what he or anyone else expected. There is almost a catastrophic effect. So much is effected in the area around the machine. Unexplained things are happening. Denny and Nedda’s dad are the ones are affected by it the most.

It takes Nedda and her mother to figure out how to make everything right again. During this time, Nedda learns that there is much more to her mother than meets the eye. She is more than just baking sweets. She is very intelligent and knows so much about science. Together they are able to “save the day” but have they saved the day too late?

While grown up Nedda is in space she starts thinking about that fateful day during her childhood and she thinks that she knows what she can do to make living conditions better for her and her spacemates while there are on their journey. Once again Nedda will need her mother’s knowledge In order to complete the job that needs to be done.

Although this novel is categorized under science fiction and historical fiction, I feel that there is some magical realism tied into the story as well.

I am so glad that I did not let the science terminology affect my enjoyment of the book.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in paperback, audio, and ebook.

Thank you, Bloomsbury  Publishing for my review copy of this book.

book review · books · dedication · diversity · Family · own voices review · reading · secrets

Around Harvard Square by CJ Farley {Review}

Blurb:

It’s the nineties, and Tosh Livingston, straight-A student and superstar athlete, is living the dream—he’s made it out of upstate New York and into the incoming freshman class at Harvard University. But after an accident blows up his basketball-playing hopes, he discovers a new purpose in life—to win the frenzied competition for a spot on the staff of the Harvard Harpoon, the school’s legendary humor magazine.

Along with Lao, his pot-smoking roommate from China, their friend Meera, a passive-aggressive science major from India, and Zippa, a Jamaican student-activist with a flair for cartooning, Tosh finds that becoming a member of the Harpoonis weirder and more dangerous than anyone could have imagined. Success requires pushing themselves to their limits and unearthing long-buried secrets that will rock their school and change all of their lives forever.

Review:

This was one of those books I went into partially unaware of what it was going to be about and I also had some of the plot mixed up with another book, lol. Even with all that I ended up enjoying this story.  There were so many relatable aspects and scenarios. Farley explores privilege and race in a way that is not subtle but also not in your face. There were events that happened with Tosh that I have not only experienced in similar fashion but also have been witness to. He is a black male who is a first generation college student even though his father took a few classes at a community college. He is not your typical star athlete who has gotten in an ivy league school because of his sports talent but because of his intellectual ability.  He has to fight stereotypes while also having to manage not stereotyping others. For example, his roommate Lao and their friend Meera. Each of them has a background that they all try to hide from each other. They are all using Harvard as a clean slate to reinvent themselves.

When an opportunity comes to become part of the Harpoon, one of the school’s long-standing publications they are each tested in their morale and in their friendship.

The story is told from Tosh’s point of view to an unnamed person who you find out later is Zippa and that she plays a much bigger part in the story than is realized. This person has even more at stake than the others and much more to prove.

Farley not only explores the topics of racism, he also explores sexism as well. This story takes place in the 90s but it is so similar to what is currently going on today.

There is not a clear-cut ending to this novel and it basically leaves you to your own thoughts and assumptions as to what happens. I find that although that is not a desirable ending for most, it fit this story perfectly.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available now in paperback and ebook

 

Thank you to Akashic Books for my free copy in exchange for an honest review.

book review · Bootlegging · dedication

Innocence Lost by Sherilyn Decter {ARC Review}

Blurb:

In a city of bootleggers and crime, one woman must rely on a long-dead lawman to hunt down justice…

Philadelphia, 1924. Maggie Barnes doesn’t have much left. After the death of her husband, she finds herself all alone to care for her young son and look after their rundown house. As if that weren’t bad enough, Prohibition has turned her neighborhood into a bootlegger’s playground. To keep the shoddy roof over their heads, she has no choice but to take on boarders with criminal ties.

When her son’s friend disappears, Maggie suspects the worst. And local politicians and police don’t seem to have any interest in an investigation. With a child’s life on the line, Maggie takes the case and risks angering the enemy living right under her nose.

Maggie’s one advantage may be her oldest tenant: the ghost of a Victorian-era cop. With his help, can she find justice in a lawless city?

Innocence Lost is the first novel in the Bootleggers’ Chronicles, a series of historical fiction tales. If you like headstrong heroines, Prohibition-era criminal underworlds, and a touch of the paranormal, then you’ll love Sherilyn Decter’s gripping tale.

Review:

What initially caught my attention with this novel is that it takes placed during Prohibition and the Roaring 20’s.  I love historical fiction and this is an era that I don’t have the pleasure of reading about enough.  Another thing that drew me to this story is that it is a self published debut and although I admittedly try to veer away from those types of novels, this one made me want to see what the author had in store.

The story opens with children being mischievous and getting into some trouble, although you don’t find out right away what that trouble is. Tommy and his friends are spying on men working in an illegal warehouse filled with booze. Bootlegging was a lifestyle that these young men unfortunately looked up to at that time. During this spying fiasco, we are introduced to an older cop by the name of Frank Geyer. Frank turns out to not be what you expect and I will admit that his part of the story was a bit more difficult for me to extend my mind to accept but I grew to appreciate Sherilyn’s approach with him.

The story begins to develop around the disappearance of a young boy who is from a neighborhood that is not so well off. Right away you see how the influence of money makes Philadelphia tick. The search for this young man is called off almost as soon as it started. This is when Frank has to employ the help of  Maggie Barnes, a widow and the mother of Tommy. She is just a single mom who is trying her best to take care of her son and make sure that they are safe. She has just recently decided to open her home to boarders in order to have some extra income for her and her son. You can see right away that she is not a weak woman and is willing to do what she can to make a way, while still being a lady.

I admired Maggie’s and Frank’s tenacity throughout the story even if the story went in a different direction than what I was expecting or wanting but that doesnt take away from the enjoyment I had while reading it.

I do believe that I will check out the other books in this series just to find out where things go with Maggie and also to see if they ever solve the crime of the missing boy.

Decter’s use of the language and phonetics during the 1920’s provides an entertaining backdrop. The descriptions of the women and the attitudes that men had toward them at that time provide another aspect toward the story considering the role that Maggie takes on with Frank. Decter has a very simplistic writing style and that makes this a light read even with the dark moments during the story.

Rating:

3.5 Stars

I received this book to read and review for the Historical Fiction Blog Tour. I want to take time to thank Amy Bruno and Sherilyn Decter for this opportunity to provide my honest opinion.

Availability:

Available

book review · books · dedication · reading · secrets · World War 2

The Light Over London by Julia Kelly {ARC Review}

Blurb:

This poignant women’s fiction novel tells the present-day story of Cara, an antiques dealer who would rather bury herself in the past than confront the dilemmas of her present. So when she finds an World War II diary from 1941, she delves into the life of Louise Keene- a small town girl on the outskirts of the war, uninterested with the mundanity of her days.  Desperate from a larger life, Louise defied her parents and joined the women’s branch of the British Army in the anti-aircraft gun unit.  As Cara, journeys through Louise’s life on the page and tries to figure out what happened to her, Cara just might uncover some truths about herself as well.

Review:

Historical fiction is probably one of my favorite types of genre so when I am able to get my hands on an advanced reader’s copy of historical fiction, I jump at the chance. This book is compared The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah(I read and loved) and Lilac Girls (I have not read but plan to do so soon). I did not allow those comparisons to build my expectations because I was afraid of being disappointed and I also wanted this book to make it’s own impression on my reading experience. I am so glad that I went into reading it with that mindset.

This story weaves Cara’s present day story with Louise’s past day story thru a diary that Cara finds while on a job assignment. Cara has gone thru some emotionally trying events in her life events in her life and all she has left on this earth in her loving, but strongly spirited grandmother who has a secret of her own. Cara’s devotion to finding the owner of the diary gives her the strength to ask her grandmother about her military past, but nevertheless, Iris shuts Cara out. Cara doesn’t allow this to deter her away from her mission.

Throughout the story, you see how Cara develops a more independent mindset and you see her confidence build. At the same time, thru diary entries and an alternate point of view, you see Louise’s growth as a woman during a time of war and during a time when women were expected to not have confidence or a mind of their own.

While reading the story, I began making my own assumptions about who the owner of the diary was and how it could possibly relate to whatever secret Iris was hiding from her granddaughter. Needless to say, my assumptions proved to be incorrect and I am okay with that.

Of course, what would this type of story be without a bit of romance? I appreciated how Julia Kelly intertwines the romance of the story into the plot without making it a hardcore historical romance novel. The romance in the story is not your run of the mill everyone lives happily ever after. The romance in both Louise’s and  Cara’s lives are the types that are seen every day and are relatable instead of far fetched.

What made this novel stand out for me is that I learned about a part of World War II that I was not familiar with. Learning about the women in the anti aircraft gun unit made me want to do more research about it.

If you are a fan of historical fiction, but you don’t want to read one that will completely weigh you down emotionally, I highly recommend checking this novel out.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

January 8, 2019 in hardcover, ebook and audio.

I received this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

book review · books · dedication · Family · hockey · reading

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman {Review}

Blurb:

After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.

Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.

Review:

Once again Backman strings your emotions along as we return to the beloved Beartown and hockey. Okay, if you haven’t read Beartown, I suggest that you add it to your TBR soon. I did a review of it earlier this year and even if sports stories aren’t your thing, you can still enjoy the story. Okay back to the book at hand, I didn’t think that Beartown needed a sequel but none the less, I was excited to learn that there was going to be one. I didn’t know where Backman could take the story considering the first book looked into the future of some of the characters, but he managed to pull it off. I didn’t enjoy this novel quite as much as I enjoyed Beartown, but it was still a good story. I felt that the style of writing changed some with this novel, but I could be alone with that opinion. It is still a well written story. I have to say that even though this is a sequel, it could be read by itself.

Although I appreciated a look into some of the minor characters from Beartown, there were moments I felt the story was too drawn out. Once again, I fell in love with Benji and Amat and wanted to protect them as best as I could. With this story we are given more information on “The Pack” and given another character to fall in love with, Vidir. Who doesn’t love the outcast or the underdog? Alongside with characters that you fall in love with, you seem to always have those who make you want to shake them. Mostly it was the adults who made me want to shake them.

The story moves along at a decent pace but there were some parts I wanted to move a bit faster, especially toward the end of the book. Once I got to the end however, I could see that the rest of the story was just a build up for the climax. Let me tell you, I could hardly make it thru because my emotions were going all over the place. The end of the novel is probably my least favorite out of all Backman’s novels.

With that being said, am I disappointed that I read it? No, I am not and yes, I would still recommend it to those who enjoyed Beartown.

This is the type of story that makes you think about growing up, the difficulties that children face, and the moments of doubt that parents may have, and sacrifice. In the end, we see how important family is and how loyalty plays a role in life on and off the ice.

Rating:

3 stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.