Saturday, April 22, 2017

Spooky Literary Thriller an Intriguing Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Nestled on four hundred acres of lush forest land in upstate New York, the Bosco estate exudes peace and stillness.  Over one hundred years ago, its mistress began inviting artists to her sprawling home, envisioning it as a retreat for creative souls.  Aurora Latham's dream lives on.  Although the Bosco estate has been neglected over the years, its gardens overgrown, its statuary crumbling, artists still clamber for an invitation to the exclusive colony.

Ellis Brooks is a short story writer working on her first novel, a fictionalized account of the tragic events that occurred in the Latham household in the summer of 1893.  After three of the Lathams' children died in a diphtheria epidemic, wealthy Milo Latham hired a famous medium to help his distraught wife try to contact the dead kids.  When a sĂ©ance at the estate went horribly wrong, the medium and her accomplice disappeared—along with the Lathams' only remaining child.

The quiet and solitude of Bosco should be helping Ellis concentrate, but the more time she spends there, the more unsettled she becomes.  And she's not the only one.  The other artists-in-residence report seeing and hearing strange things.  As the truth of what happened in 1893 slowly comes to light, it becomes clear that whatever dark malevolence haunted the Bosco estate in the past hasn't entirely left.  Will any of the property's current residents escape unscathed?  No.  No, they will not ...

I've read several of Carol Goodman's novels and I think The Ghost Orchid might be my favorite of them all.  With a spooky atmosphere, some supernatural thrills, and a host of complex characters, it's a compelling read.  While I saw a number of the plot twists coming, I still found the novel intriguing overall.  Sad, yes, but gripping for sure.  

(Readalikes:  Other novels by Carol Goodman and those by Kate Morton)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a couple F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, sexual content, and depictions of illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mystery Series Debut Tense and Compelling

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan is used to being ridiculed by her mostly male colleagues.  They mock her gender, her looks, her Irish heritage, her "womanly" empathy, her work habits—everything.  Although the 28-year-old lets it roll off her back, she's still eager to prove she's a valuable member of the London murder squad, that she's there on her own merit and not because she's sleeping with the boss (a rampant, untrue rumor).  She longs to be part of the hunt for a vicious serial killer called The Burning Man.  Solving the case would earn her much-needed bragging rights.  Not to mention bring a murderer to justice.

When a new victim is found, Maeve and her colleagues are puzzled.  The murder seems to be the work of The Burning Man, but the M.O. doesn't quite fit.  Are they looking for the same killer or a copycat?  Assigned to look into the private life of the dead woman, Maeve makes some startling revelations that lead to more mystifying questions.  Who was Rebecca Haworth?  What led to her brutal death?  With few solid clues, it's difficult to find answers.  The more Maeve learns about Rebecca, though, the more determined she is to find the woman's killer.  Even if it means putting her own life on the line.  Which it inevitably will.

The Burning, the first book in the Maeve Kerrigan series by Irish crime writer Jane Casey, is a tense, fast-paced thriller.  While the mystery at its center is certainly compelling, it's the characters that really come first here.  Maeve is tough, but caring and devoted.  Eternally likable, she's also flawed, which makes her feel very real.  Louise North, who is Rebecca's best friend and a dual narrator with Maeve, is likewise intriguing.  While I would consider The Burning a character-driven novel, the plot definitely moves along at a clip.  The story isn't quite as twisty as I wanted it to be, but it definitely kept me riveted.  A few chapters in, I found myself reserving the next two books in the series.  That's how much I liked The Burning, especially its understated but unforgettable heroine.  I've learned since that Casey just knows how to pull me in—once I start one of her books, I (almost literally) can't stop reading.  Fair warning.

(Readalikes:  Books by Sharon Bolton and Tana French; also other novels in the Maeve Kerrigan series, including The Reckoning; The Last Girl; The Stranger You Know; The Kill; After the Fire; and Let the Dead Speak)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, blood/gore, sexual content, depictions of illegal drug use, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

TTT: They Get Me Every Time (Part II)

It's been awhile since I did a Top Ten Tuesday, but I love this week's topic, so here I am. If you want to join in with this fun weekly meme (and you totally should), click on over to The Broke and the Bookish and read up on how to participate.  Then, craft your own post, share it with the world, and get ready to find some great new book blogs and get lots of reading inspiration!  What are you waiting for?  Go.  Now.  Seriously.  Go!

This week's topic is Top Ten Words/Topics That Will Make Me Instantly Want to Read a Book.  It was originally introduced back on April 30, 2013.  Reading over my TTT post from that day, I realize how little my reading tastes have changed over the last four years.  I still like what I like.  So, here are the top words/topics that will entice me to pick up a book pretty much every time, some of which will be repeats from my original post:

1.  Creepy old houses with mysterious pasts.  There's something about this topic that I just can't resist.  Favorite book(s) in this category: anything by Kate Morton

2.  Adoption.  Ever since we adopted our youngest child 8 1/2 years ago, I've read everything I can find about adoption.  Fiction, non-fiction, doesn't matter.  I find the topic endlessly fascinating.  Favorite book(s) in this category:  Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery; How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr; A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierly 

3.  Racial Identity/books featuring biracial characters.  Since my adopted daughter is biracial, I also read everything I can find about racial identity.  I'm as white as I could possibly be, so this isn't a subject I know much about.  By exploring it, I hope I can help my daughter understand and celebrate her unique ethnic background.  Favorite book(s) in this category:  Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda; Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson; Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

4.  Books about books.  What bibliophile could possibly resist this topic?  Favorite book(s) in this category:  The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak; The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee; The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

5.  "Psychological Thriller."  What can I say?  If a book is labeled as such, there's an excellent chance I'll snatch it right up.  Favorite book(s) in this category:  What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan; The Hollow City by Dan Wells; anything by Sharon Bolton

6.  Coming home.  I'm a sucker for novels about damaged people coming home to heal.  They can be cheesy, sure, but those that are done well hit me right in the heart.  Favorite book(s) in this category: pretty much anything by Karen White or Kate Morton

7.  Family Secrets.  Oh, how I love a novel with some juicy skeletons hiding in the closet!  Favorite book(s) in this category:  Again, just about anything by Karen White or Kate Morton

8.  The Titanic.  I don't know why, but this is another subject that totally fascinates me.  Favorite book(s) in this categoryThe Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf and The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

9.  Mormon/LDS.  As a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with Mormon pioneer ancestry, I have a natural interest in the history, culture, and legacy of my church.  I'm especially intrigued by books about Mormonism written by people who are not members.  There are a lot (a lot) of false ideas out there about us and it's intriguing to read about others' perceptions of us.  I'm also interested in LDS history, doctrine, contemporary novels, etc.  Favorite book(s) in this category:  At the Pulpit by Jennifer Reeder and Kate Holbrook (eds.) and Taken By Storm by Angela Morrison

10.  Pioneers/Oregon Trail/Old West.  Closely related to #9 is my fascination with pioneers, especially those who settled the American West.  You don't grow up Mormon without hearing an abundance of pioneer stories, through which you learn to appreciate all these people suffered and survived in the name of adventure, religious freedom, and Westward Expansion.  Favorite book(s) in this category:  The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder; These Is My Words and its sequels by Nancy E. Turner; The Gold Seer trilogy [Walk On Earth a Stranger; Like a River Glorious; Into the Bright Unknown] by Rae Carson   

So, what words or subjects always get you to pick up a book?  What do you think of mine?  Which favorite books do you have in the categories I listed?  Now that you know what I like, hit me up with some great reading recommendations!  If you comment, I'll be sure to return the favor.

Happy TTT!

Monday, April 17, 2017

New Spinelli Novel A Poignant, Thoughtful Tale

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Cammie O'Reilly knows what it's like to have a caretaker, but not a mother.  Hers died 12 years ago when Cammie was just a baby.  For as long as she can remember, it's been her and her father, who works as a warden at the local prison.  Since the O'Reillys live in an apartment above the entrance to the facility, she's always had one of the female inmates—a prison trustee—as a housekeeper and Cammie-keeper.  Which is all well and good, but this is a pivotal time for Cammie; she wants a mother of her own to help her through it.

There are plenty of women in the Hancock County Prison from whom to choose.  Maybe they're not the most ideal candidates in the world, but Cammie's not all that picky.  Boo Boo, a flamboyant shoplifter, would be a fun mother.  Eloda, the current Cammie-minder isn't exactly the warm and fuzzy type, but she would do.  Cammie just has to do a little scheming to make all her mother-shaped dreams come true.

Of course, procuring a mother isn't that easy.  Neither is growing up, as Cammie is finding out the hard way.  Between her determined mom-scheming, her friends acting strangely, the discovery of an unlikely new pal, and the arrival of an intriguing inmate, her emotions are running high.  It will be a summer full of startling revelations—truths that will change everything for one "Cannonball" Cammie O'Reilly.

I've never read anything by Jerry Spinelli, so when a copy of his newest—The Warden's Daughter—arrived at my kids' school library, I jumped at the chance to read it.  The jail setting caught my attention, as did Cammie's endearing plight.  While I didn't end up loving the novel, I did find it a thoughtful and poignant book that tells a sad but intriguing story. Overall, I did like the tale, which reminded me a lot of the old Rolling Stones adage "You can't always get what you ... you get what you need."

(Readalikes: Reminds me of the Al Capone series [Al Capone Does My Shirts; Al Capone Shines My Shoes; and Al Capone Does My Homework] by Gennifer Choldenko)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language (no F-bombs)

To the FTC, with love:  I borrowed a copy of The Warden's Daughter from my kids' elementary school library.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Light, Sweet Romance An Enjoyable Read (With a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Sarah Whitaker is used to standing on her own two feet.  In breeches and work boots no less.  Running a sheep farm in the Australian Outback, in a colony overrun with poisonous spiders, venomous snakes, and exiled convicts, is not for the faint of heart. Sarah may be a lady, but she's also as tough as the wilderness surrounding her.  She has to be.  With no family to protect her, no guardian to instruct her, and no neighbors to come to her rescue, she's on her own.  And doing just fine, thank you very much.

http://www.blogginboutbooks.com/p/lds-authors.htmlAfter a money-earning stunt goes horribly wrong, Daniel Burton (who happens to be the brother of Meg, who stars in Miss Burton Unmasks a Prince) is scheduled to hang.  Overwhelmed with guilt and shame, he knows he deserves his fate.  When an influential relative intervenes, however, Daniel can't help but jump at the chance to start over.  Although he's required to serve a 14-year sentence in an Australian penal colony, he will not be treated as the other convicts.  Unlike them, he'll be allowed to own land, to work his own farm, and to make his own profits.  Determined to prove himself a solid, trustworthy man, he sets himself to the task.
Neither Sarah nor Daniel expect to become neighbors.  Nor could they predict the sparks that fly between them from the moment they meet.  As the two become reluctant friends, then much more, Daniel knows he has to tell the wary Miss Whitaker the truth about his past.  She's learned to trust no one as a general rule.  What will happen when he reveals the things he's been concealing?  Will their young romance wilt before it's even had a chance to blossom?

I'm not the biggest romance reader, but I do enjoy a fun Regency love story occasionally to balance out heavier, darker reads.  Jennifer Moore's novels always deliver a quick, adventure-filled tale peopled with likable characters and sweet romance.  I've read most of Moore's books, all of which I enjoyed.  Her newest, Miss Whitaker Opens Her Heart, takes place in the Outback, giving the story an exotic bent that makes it even more intriguing.  The tale is predictable, sure, but who cares?  It's a light, engaging read that is romantic, clean, and delightful.  If you're looking for a breezy, swoon-y read, you really can't go wrong with a Jennifer Moore novel.  Her newest is no exception.
Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Miss Whitaker Opens Her Heart from the generous folks at Covenant.  Thank you!

--


Interested in following along on the Miss Whitaker Opens Her Heart blog tour?  Just click on the links below:

April 14thhttp://gettingyourreadonaimeebrown.blogspot.com/,http://whynotbecauseisaidso.blogspot.com/http://www.wishfulendings.com/http://sweetlymadejustforyou.com/

Want to win your own copy of Miss Whitaker Opens Her Heart plus a $25 Amazon gift card?  Fill out the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, April 08, 2017

I Hate to Play Favorites, But ...

 (Image from Barnes & Noble)

Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for How the Light Gets In, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Armand Gamache mysteries.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.

"Three Pines, he knew, was not immune to dreadful loss.  To sorrow and pain.  What Three Pines had wasn't immunity but a rare ability to heal" (117).

Things are not going well for Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector of the SĂ»retĂ© du QuĂ©bec.  Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache's faithful protegĂ©, has left his mentor's side in a fit of anger, choosing a life of addiction and alliance to a corrupt leader over service at the side of the man he's always thought of as a second father.  Most of the Inspector's loyal detecting team is also gone, leaving him with untested, disrespectful rookies.  With the SĂ»retĂ©'s higher ups calling for Gamache's dismissal, the decorated policeman's sterling reputation may be tarnished beyond repair.  Exposing corruption within the SĂ»retĂ© is the only way to save his job, but does he have the guts to take on his most powerful enemies?  Is it worth losing everything—and everyone—that matters to him?

In the midst of this personal turmoil, Gamache receives a call from Myrna Landers, owner of the used bookstore in Three Pines.  She's worried about a friend who failed to return to the tiny village as expected.  Myrna's reluctance to expose the woman's identity puzzles Gamache until he learns that 77-year-old Constance Pineault was once a very famous woman, a household name not just in Canada, but all over the world.  Who killed the reluctant celebrity?  And why?  It's up to Gamache to find out.  

Juggling the case in Three Pines as well as a major internal crisis decades in the making, Gamache may be in over his head.  Especially without his loyal subjects by his side.  Will the Chief Inspector emerge triumphant?  Or will his brilliant career come to a tragic, shameful end?

It's no secret how much I love Louise Penny's immersive mystery series set mostly in the unforgettable hamlet of Three Pines.  I adore it for many reasons, but mostly because of the kind, intelligent man at its center.  Armand Gamache is a character like no other, one who inspires admiration from both his fictional colleagues and leagues of real people who enjoy reading about his exploits.  It's tough for a raging fangirl like me to see the great man suffer, so How the Light Gets In—the ninth installment in the series—was a bit of a painful read for me.  And, yet, I think it's my favorite Gamache novel so far.  It's tense, exciting, fascinating, funny, and tender.  I loved it, from its first sentence to its last (especially the last).  I can't wait to see what's in store for this beloved cast in the next book, The Long Way Home.  That title sounds kind of ominous, actually ... should I be worried?

(Readalikes: Other books in the Armand Gamache series, including Still Life; A Fatal Grace; The Cruelest Month; A Rule Against Murder; The Brutal Telling; Bury Your Dead; The Hangman [novella]; A Trick of the Light; The Beautiful Mystery; The Long Way Home; The Nature of the Beast; A Great Reckoning; and Glass Houses)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

  

for language, violence, and blood/gore

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of How The Light Gets In from Changing Hands Bookstore with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Second Tomorrow Book As Entertaining As First

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for The Dead of the Night, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, Tomorrow, When the War Began.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.) 

Australia has been taken over by an unknown enemy.  The little town of Wirawee is under siege.  Guarded by armed soldiers, Ellie Linton's family and friends are being held at gunpoint.  She and a handful of her teenage friends have evaded capture so far, but two of their group are now in custody.  They can't leave Kevin and Corrie in enemy hands.  From what the teens can gather, no one is coming to save their country, let alone their village.  If anyone's going to be rescued, it will be up to Ellie and her friends.

Spearheading a revolution is tough enough, but Ellie's also got to deal with increasingly tense group dynamics, her feelings toward two very different boys, and constant worry about the welfare of her parents and friends.  If the kids are going to help anyone, they have to work together.  But how can they fight back against a dangerous enemy?  How much are they willing to risk in order to rescue their friends, free their families, and save their town?  If they die in the attempt, who will be left to care about tiny Wirawee?

I enjoyed Tomorrow, When the War Began—the first installment in John Marsden's enjoyable dystopian series—so much that I bought all the subsequent, difficult-to-procure books.  The Dead of the Night, the second volume, picks up where the first one ends.  Like its predecessor, it's narrated by Ellie, who's tasked with writing about the teens' adventures for posterity.  Her voice is conversational, which makes her story feel both intimate and authentic.  She's a worthy heroine—tough, courageous, and self-deprecating.  The novel is mostly action-driven, so there's plenty going on.  Full of tension, adventure and excitement, the ongoing story is one that will appeal to both boys and girls.  A worthy follow-up to Tomorrow, When the War Began, The Dead of the Night is an engaging, enjoyable read that kept me totally immersed throughout.  If you enjoy fast-paced dystopian/survival stories, try this series—a definite oldie but goodie.

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Tomorrow series, including Tomorrow, When the War Began; A Killing Frost; Darkness, Be My Friend; Burning for Revenge; The Night is For Hunting; and The Other Side of Dawn

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Dead of the Night from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha. 

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

"Locked Room" Mystery Another Intriguing Installment in An Always-Appealing Series

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for The Beautiful Mystery, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Armand Gamache novels. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Concealed deep in the QuĂ©bec wilderness, in a remote spot accessible only by boat, the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups is not a place that welcomes visitors.  Even the most determined tourists are turned away from the 300-year-old community of Gilbertine monks.  Isolation guarantees the holy men the quiet peace they need to worship God and tend to their simple chores.  Although the Gilbertines have recently received worldwide attention due to a recording of their ancient and achingly beautiful Gregorian chants, they desire only to be left alone.  

When FrĂ©re Mathieu, the order's choirmaster, is brutally murdered in the abbot's private garden, the monks are forced to ask for outside help.  Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector of the SĂ»rete de QuĂ©bec, is soon on the job along with his right-hand man, Jean-Guy Beauvoir.  As the duo investigates the crime, they find an order torn between privacy and publicity, its loyalties divided between two dynamic leaders.  Discontent wafts through the monastery's silent corridors.  Tension simmers below the surface—in one of the gentle brothers, it has bubbled over.  But which one?  Who was angry enough to bash FrĂ©re Mathieu's head in?  It's up to Gamache and Beauvoir to find out.  

At the same time Gamache and Beauvoir are examining the cracks in the Gilbertines' peaceful exterior, they're experiencing troubling fissures a lot closer to home.  When time-honored loyalties are put to the ultimate test on both fronts, no one will escape unscathed—not the Gilbertines, nor the SĂ»rete de QuĂ©bec and its infamous Chief Inspector.

As much as I love Three Pines—the quaint village where most of Louise Penny's books are set—I'm always intrigued when the author chooses a different location for one of her mysteries.  The monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups (which is fictional, unlike the Gilbertines who existed but went extinct) is a fascinating locale, especially because it creates a "locked room" mystery that is all the more complex despite fewer players on scene.  Like the previous seven books in the Armand Gamache series, The Beautiful Mystery offers a compelling, multi-layered story peopled with interesting characters.  Kind, intelligent Gamache is always my favorite.  I enjoyed the deeper look at his psyche, especially as it intertwines with that of his protegĂ©, Beauvoir.  I'm not going to lie, though, the ending of The Beautiful Mystery broke my heart more than a little.  Gamache's pain went straight to my heart.  I had to inhale the next book in the series immediately, just to reassure myself that the Chief Inspector would be okay.  At least eventually.  My investment in these characters is a testament to Penny's skill at creating a vibrant, believable world filled with people I wish I knew.  I love this series, which gets better with every installment.

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Armand Gamache series, including Still Life; A Fatal Grace; The Cruelest Month; A Rule Against Murder; The Brutal Telling; Bury Your Dead; The Hangman [novella]; A Trick of the Light; How the Light Gets In; The Long Way Home; The Nature of the Beast; A Great Reckoning; and Glass Houses)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sweet Is the Work Offers Inspiring Lessons from Early Sister Missionaries (With a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is well known for sending missionaries to all corners of the globe to teach people the Gospel.  The majority of these missionaries have—historically—been young men.  However, many "senior" couples also serve as do thousands of young women.  When did the Church start extending official mission calls to women?  Although many women served as unofficial missionaries (most as companions to their husbands) before then, the first female called to be a full-time proselyting missionary was set apart all the way back in 1898.  I had never heard of Amanda "Inez" Knight, who earned a place in LDS history by accepting this historical call. 

When Breanna Olaveson heard about Knight and other early sister missionaries, she knew she wanted to write about these courageous and faithful women.  Her new book, Sweet Is the Work: Lessons From the First Sister Missionaries, tells the stories of twelve women who left their homes to serve the Lord in the mission field.  They endured sickness, mob violence, anxiety, the deaths of children, and many other afflictions in order to bring the Gospel to far-flung nations.  Their tales are fascinating as well as inspiring.  Sweet Is the Work is a slim volume, so Olaveson doesn't go into a lot of depth on any of the women, which is unfortunate.  While I always appreciate a nice, quick read, I did want a little more substance out of this book.  Still, it provides an interesting peek into a piece of Church history that I knew little about.  Anyone with an interest in LDS missionary work will find it a worthwhile read.  I know I did.

(Readalikes: Reminded me a little of At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women by Jennifer Reeder and Kate Holbrook, eds.)

Grade:

If this were a movie, it would be rated:

      

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Sweet Is the Work from the generous folks at Covenant Communications.  Thank you!

-- 
 
Interested in more opinions about Sweet Is the Work?  Follow along on the book's blog tour:

Schedule:

*March 31sthttp://www.singinglibrarianbooks.com/

For a chance to win your own copy of Sweet Is the Work, plus a $25 Amazon gift card, fill out the Rafflecopter below.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Ghostly War Bride Mystery Compelling and Hopeful

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

In the devastating aftermath of World War II, Europe's battle-ravaged citizens are looking to the future.  They're rebuilding demolished communities, healing torn relationships, and piecing together their shattered souls.  For thousands of young women in England, France, Belgium, and other nations, hope lies across the ocean with their American G.I. husbands.  Ships, including the luxurious RMS Queen Mary, are commissioned to transport these women to the U.S.  On the vessel's maiden war bride voyage, more than a thousand eager wives and their children sail toward New York Harbor.  Among them is Annaliese Kurtz, a German ballerina married to a sadistic Nazi.  She carries a stolen passport and identification papers belonging to a dead woman.

Seventy years later, another woman at a crossroads in her life boards the Queen Mary.  Brette Caslake, a 34-year-old newlywed, hides a special gift.  She's able to communicate with Drifters, lost souls who hover in "thin" places.  While doing a favor for a friend aboard the ship, she encounters an otherworldly presence unlike any she's met before.  This Drifter points her toward a name: Annaliese Kurtz.  Official sources indicate the woman threw herself off the Queen Mary in 1946; the Drifter says otherwise.  Brette refuses to "indulge" ghosts, but this one is different.  This one demands a truth only Brette can find.

The more Brette learns about Annaliese Kurtz and the Queen Mary's war brides, the more intrigued she becomes.  Learning about their hopes and heartaches helps her face her own struggles.  In their courage, she might just find her own ...

Stories that oscillate between past and present always appeal to me, especially when they revolve around important historical periods or events.  A Fall of Marigolds, Susan Meissner's novel about two women living in New York City—one during the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, the other during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2011—intrigued me for that very reason.  After enjoying that novel, I was thrilled to learn that Meissner has a new book out, especially since it employs a similar format to the one used in A Fall of Marigolds.  In A Bridge Across the Ocean, Meissner indeed uses a back-and-forth-in-time structure to tell the story of a German woman desperate to escape at any cost.  Having Annaliese stow away on the Queen Mary allows Meissner to bring attention to a World War II footnote that often gets overlooked—the thousands of European war brides whose lives changed irrevocably because of their (often hasty) marriages to American G.I.'s.  While Brette's situation is interesting enough in its own right, it's the history that I found most interesting about A Bridge Across the Oceans.  There's plenty to enjoy about the book, however—sympathetic characters, tense situations, a compelling mystery, sweet romance, etc.  Although the novel deals with some dark issues, overall it's hopeful and uplifting.  I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more from this engaging author.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, scenes of peril, and sexual content (not overly graphic, although there is a rape scene)

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of A Bridge Across the Ocean from the generous folks at Penguin.  Thank you!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Gothic Mystery Eerie, Compelling

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Nestled in the Adirondacks, The Heart Lake School for Girls holds little but bad memories for Jane Hudson.  Once a scholarship student at the boarding school, she fled the institution after a spate of suicides that resulted in the deaths of her three best friends.  Two decades later, she's a single mother looking for a new start.  As Heart Lake's new Latin instructor, she'll live on site while teaching.  As apprehensive as she feels being back, she's hoping for the best.

It doesn't take long, though, for sinister reminders of Jane's tragic Heart Lake past to surface.  Someone seems to know exactly what happened when she was a student.  But who?  Everyone concerned is dead.  Has one of Jane's new students somehow gotten hold of the journal she kept back then?  Are the girls playing a cruel trick on their new teacher?  Or is something more ... otherworldly going on?  When a new rash of suicides starts plaguing the school, Jane is terrified that the past is coming back in the most awful way possible.  Can she figure out what's going on before more people die?  Heart Lake has already taken so much from Jane.  Will it finally strip her of everything that's important to her?

The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman is an atmospheric mystery with eerie Gothic undertones.  Its premise intrigued me, as did its back-and-forth-in-time storytelling.  Although the plot kept me engaged, I saw most of its twists and turns coming, which made Jane seem very slow on the uptake.  Still, I raced through this dark, compelling novel, eager to see what was going to happen.  In the end, I didn't love The Lake of Dead Languages, but I did enjoy it overall.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other books by Carol Goodman, including River Road, Arcadia Falls, and The Ghost Orchid)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a half dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, blood/gore, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Eden's Newest Regency Romance Full of Author's Trademark Warmth and Wit (With a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

http://www.blogginboutbooks.com/p/lds-authors.htmlWith Napoleon destroying her beloved Spain, 19-year-old Mariposa Thornton flees her native land with only her elderly abuela in tow.  Before she left, her English father instructed the scattered family to reunite at his ancestral home.  He died before being able to give them more detailed directions.  Mariposa has fought her way to England, but now she's lost.  Somewhere in this vast land, her mother and young brother are hiding from a vicious family enemy.  How can she find them in a large country without drawing unwanted attention to the Thorntons' desperate plight?

Mariposa hatches a bold—probably ridiculous—plan to get help from Jason Jonquil, a London solicitor.  She can't tell him the true reasons behind her request.  In fact, the success of her mission depends on playing an exaggerated role, one that will camouflage her true identity and purpose.
As the son of an earl and a man striving to become a fine gentleman in his own right, Jason feels duty-bound to help the damsel in distress.  He can't make heads or tails of silly Mariposa.  Jason can't quite believe she's as ditzy as she seems, but then why the show?  The more he gets to know the infuriating female, the more intrigued he becomes.  Soon, Jason finds himself traipsing across the globe to help her find her family.  Along the way, he finds—inexplicably enough—that he might just be losing his heart to the enigmatic señorita

If you've ever spent time in the company of Sarah M. Eden, you know she's a petite woman who's big on spunk, humor, and charm.  If you've read her books, you know her sparkling personality comes through very strongly in her stories.  Her newest, A Fine Gentleman, is no exception.  The Regency Romance exudes Eden's trademark warmth and wit.  Yes, it deals with serious subjects (war, loss, mental instability, etc.), but overall the novel provides a light, fun, romantic read.  Although it reaches a very predictable Happily Ever After, there's enough substance in A Fine Gentleman to keep the story interesting.  You won't find a lot of originality here, nor will you be blindsided by shocking twists in the tale.  But, if you're looking for a bright, swoony story that's clean and ultimately satisfying, this one should serve you very well.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little bit of Lady Emma's Campaign by Jennifer Moore)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

  
for scenes of peril and mild sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of A Fine Gentleman from the generous folks at Covenant Communications in return for my participation in the book's blog tour.  Thank you! 

--

Would you like to get your hands on your own copy of A Fine Gentleman?  How about a $25 Amazon gift card?  How about both?  Fill out the Rafflecopter widget below to enter the giveaway: a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

Follow along on the blog tour for A Fine Gentleman:
March 10thhttp://booksaresanity.blogspot.com/http://literarytimeout.blogspot.com/,
Blog Widget by LinkWithin