Thursday, September 28, 2017

Review & Giveaway: "Last Christmas in Paris" by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb


Synopsis:   August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.
But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

My Thoughts:  Last Christmas in Paris is a beautiful story of friendship and love during World War I.  It is so well-written and so seamless that you would never know there were two authors.

The story is told mostly through letters.  Evie is left at home in England while her brother, his good friend and her best friend all go to Europe to serve in the war.  The authors did a wonderful job of connecting the letters into a cohesive story.  I really enjoyed this format and felt like I got to know the characters more by reading their letters.

The portrayal of the war and the effects that it had on the soldiers and others participating in the war were heart wrenching.  It hurt my heart reading about the constant death, the PTSD and shell shock and all the illness in the trenches.  These aspects of the book seemed to be very well-researched and were integrated nicely in to the story.

The romance that grew between Evie and Tom was so sweet.  It was made even better by the short sections set in the 1960s that followed Tom on his last trip to Paris.  The story ended during this time and oh, did it make me cry.

Last Christmas in Paris was a captivating tale and I would highly recommend it.  I hope to see more from each of these author's in the future. 4 stars.

About the Authors:

 
HEATHER WEBB is the author of historical novels Becoming Josephine and Rodin’s Lover, and the anthology Fall of Poppies, which have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, Elle, France Magazine, and more, as well as received national starred reviews. RODIN’S LOVER was a Goodreads Top Pick in 2015. Up and coming, Last Christmas in Paris, an epistolary love story set during WWI will release October 3, 2017, and The Phantom’s Apprentice, a re-imagining of the Gothic classic Phantom of the Opera from Christine Daae’s point of view releases February 6, 2018. To date, her novels have sold in ten countries. Heather is also a professional freelance editor, foodie, and travel fiend.

HAZEL GAYNOR is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her third novel The Girl from the Savoy was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller, and was shortlisted for the BGE Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year. The Cottingley Secret and Last Christmas in Paris will be published in 2017.
Hazel was selected by US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015 and her work has been translated into several languages. Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland.


I received this book from HFBVT in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Mini Reviews (21)




I love Gudenkauf's books!  Not a Sound was an excellent mystery made even more compelling by the fact that the main character is deaf.  I did figure out who the killer was before the end but I thought the story as a whole was so good that I didn't mind.  It was as much a mystery story as it was a story of the main character dealing with being deaf and growing from that experience.  Excellent read! 4 stars.



Fiddler on the Roof is one of my favorite musicals so when I saw this book, I had to read it.  I've always wondered what happened after the movie ended and this book tried to do that.  After Anatevka tells the story of Hodel as she traveled to, and lived in, Siberia while her husband was in prison.  I thought the story was pretty slow and at times I honestly had no idea what was going on.  The ending was really rushed and overall, I just wasn't a fan of the story. 2 stars.




This was a very different WWII story than some I've read before.  I really enjoyed the community of characters the author created and the individual acts of resistance they participated in.  The book was well-written and his descriptions of the Normandy area were beautiful.  However, it was hard to feel like the story had any real direction.  That's not a bad thing, I just couldn't always tell where the story was going and what the end goal was.  3 stars.


I received a Not a Sound and After Anatevka from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I won The Baker's Secret from Goodreads.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Review: "Twilight Empress" by Faith L. Justice


Synopsis: Twilight Empress tells the little-known story of a remarkable woman—Galla Placidia, sister to one of the last Roman Emperors. Roman princess, Gothic captive and queen—Placidia does the unthinkable—she rules the failing Western Roman Empire—a life of ambition, power and intrigue she doesn’t seek, but can’t refuse. Her actions shape the face of Western Europe for centuries.


A woman as well as an Empress, Placidia suffers love, loss, and betrayal. Can her strength, tenacity and ambition help her survive and triumph over scheming generals, rebellious children, and Attila the Hun? Or will the Dark Ages creep closer and bring down the Empire?

 My Thoughts: I took a class on the Late Antiquity period in college and if it had been half as awesome as this book, I think I would have enjoyed it more. Twilight Empress is an utterly captivating read. The book sucked me in from the very beginning as the action started almost immediately. 




Galla Placidia is now one of my favorite historical women.  She dealt with every last thing thrown at her with strength and grace.  She never forgot who she was or where she came from and did whatever she could to preserve her family's legacy.  She was an incredibly admirable character.  

I also enjoyed reading about the different political and historical events that took place throughout the novel.  The story follows Galla Placidia through her entire adult life and a lot happened in the Roman Empire during that time. I loved watching her navigate through all the different situations during her time as Queen of the Goths and Augusta.

Overall, this was a great book.  It looks like it might be part of a series and I'm excited to read more by this author.  4 stars. 
 
About the Author:



Faith L. Justice is a science geek and history junkie, which is reflected in her writing. Her short stories and poems have appeared in such publications as “The Copperfield Review”, “Beyond Science Fiction and Fantasy”, and the “Circles in the Hair” anthology. Faith has published in such venues as “Salon.com”, “Writer’s Digest”, “The Writer”, and “Bygone Days”. She’s an Associate Editor for “Space & Time Magazine”, a frequent contributor to “Strange Horizons”, and co-founded a writer’s workshop more years ago than she cares to admit.

To contact Faith, read her essays and interviews, or get a sneak preview of her historical novels, visit her website at www.faithljustice.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


 I received this book from HFVBT in exchange for an honest review.

  

Friday, September 22, 2017

Review: "The Trust" by Ronald Balson


Synopsis: When Liam reluctantly returns to Northern Ireland he learns that not only was his uncle shot to death, but he’d anticipated his own murder. In an astonishing last will and testament, Uncle Fergus has left his entire estate to a secret trust, directing that no distributions be made to any person until the killer is found. Did Fergus know, but refuse to name his killer? Was this a crime of revenge, a vendetta left over from Northern Ireland’s bloody sectarian war? Or is it possible that the killer is a family member seeking Fergus’s estate? Otherwise, why postpone distribution to the heirs? Most menacingly, does the killer now have his sights on other family members?

As his investigation draws Liam further and further into the past he had abandoned, he is forced to reopen doors long ago shut. Now accepting the appointment as sole trustee of the Fergus Taggart Trust, Liam realizes he has stepped into the center of a firestorm.


My Thoughts:  I LOVE Ronald Balson's and The Trust is no different.  This is the first book I've read by him that wasn't set during the Holocaust so I didn't know what to expect.  That being said, I shouldn't have worried because this book was quite the page turner!

First off, Liam and Catherine are back!  I really love these characters and was excited to follow them on a new adventure.  This book focuses primarily on Liam and allows us to get to know his family and his past a lot more.  I enjoyed getting to see where he grew up in Ireland and learning more about who he was as a character and what his motivations are.

My favorite part of this book was the family relationships.  Liam had a difficult relationship with some of his family and a great relationship with others and I enjoyed reading about how he navigated his very large family.  There were so many neat characters within the family and they really made the story.

I really know very little about the conflicts in Northern Ireland so this story was quite the eye-opener.  I think the author did a great job of weaving the complexity of the conflict and the civilian cost into the story. I definitely want to read more about it and was intrigued by the depth of hatred felt between the groups. 

I did figure out part of what was going on before it was officially revealed but the overall story was so good that I didn't really care.  There was one final twist at the end that I did not see coming and it completely rounded out the whole story.  

In the end, I loved this book; I couldn't put it down!  Mr. Balson is a wonderful story-teller and in this book, he created a really enthralling mystery.  I would recommend this book to anyone; you don't have to have read his other books to read this one (though they're so good, I would recommend them too!).  4 stars.

About the Author:

RONALD H. BALSON is a Chicago trial attorney, an educator and writer. His practice has taken him to several international venues. He is also the author of Karolina’s Twins, Saving Sophie and the international bestseller Once We Were Brothers.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

What I've Been Up To

 Hey!  It's been a ridiculous summer and I haven't been around much.  Since I've been kind of MIA lately, I thought I should update y'all on where I've been.

We celebrated Julia's birthday at the end of June.  She was so excited to turn 4! We celebrated with family and then had a small party with her friends.  This year I made her a Moana cake and am pretty happy with how it turned out.






Right after Julia's birthday party, we had to drive down to Arkansas to see my family.  My step-dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December and had been going through chemo and had multiple surgeries and procedures.  They told us on June 29 that the cancer was everywhere and that he did have much longer to live.  He passed on July 5 but I'm so glad that we got to see him, talk to him and say good-bye.  It was so fast and difficult to process for a bit. We had a lovely memorial to him a week later and while I miss him a lot, I'm really glad he's not in pain anymore.





In the midst of all that, my husband and I bought a house!  We closed on July 10 and moved a few weeks later.  The move was crazy and we moved the majority of our stuff on the hottest day of the summer which was quite the adventure.  It's not super fun to move when it's 106 degrees!  But we got it done and starting to feel somewhat settled.  We still have stuff to go through in our garage and a lot of yard work to do before winter but we're getting there.  I love the house and Julia is so excited to have a big girl bed in her room.  Even though it was a challenging move, it was so worth and I'm very happy here.

August is one of the busiest times at my job.  I felt like I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off for the whole month.  All that to say, reading and especially blogging has gone to the wayside.  I did read 18 books this summer but that didn't make a huge dent in my goal.  Goodreads keeps reminding me how behind I am on my reading goal, I think it's around 12 books now.  I'm hoping to still hit 100 but we'll see.  I want to get all caught up on my review books and then read holiday romance books for the rest of the year.  That sounds like heaven!


All the whining in this post is to say that things are finally getting back on track and I should be back here more often.  I have a lot of reviews to write so there should be some posts coming soon.  I'm slowly getting back in the swing of blogging and excited to be back!

I hope you all are having a great week!






Monday, September 11, 2017

Review and Giveaway: "Woman Enters Left" by Jessica Brockmole



Synopsis: A woman sets out on a cross-country road trip, unknowingly tracing in reverse the path her mother traveled thirty years before.

In the 1950s, movie star Louise Wilde is caught between an unfulfilling acting career and a shaky marriage when she receives an out-of-the-blue phone call: She has inherited the estate of Florence “Florrie” Daniels, a Hollywood screenwriter she barely recalls meeting. Among Florrie’s possessions are several unproduced screenplays, personal journals, and—inexplicably—old photographs of Louise’s mother, Ethel. On an impulse, Louise leaves a film shoot in Las Vegas and sets off for her father’s house on the East Coast, hoping for answers about the curious inheritance and, perhaps, about her own troubled marriage.

Nearly thirty years earlier, Florrie takes off on an adventure of her own, driving her Model T westward from New Jersey in pursuit of broader horizons. She has the promise of a Hollywood job and, in the passenger seat, Ethel, her best friend since childhood. Florrie will do anything for Ethel, who is desperate to reach Nevada in time to reconcile with her husband and reunite with her daughter. Ethel fears the loss of her marriage; Florrie, with long-held secrets confided only in her journal, fears its survival.

In parallel tales, the three women—Louise, Florrie, Ethel—discover that not all journeys follow a map. As they rediscover their carefree selves on the road, they learn that sometimes the paths we follow are shaped more by our traveling companions than by our destinations.

My Thoughts:   I absolutely loved the setting of this book!  I loved reading about 1950s Hollywood and all the stops that Louise made on Route 66.  The author did an amazing job of painting an amazing picture of life during that time: the clothes, the home decorations, the different places and people that Louise encountered.  The 'visuals' she created were my favorite part of the story.

I also really enjoyed the diary parts of the story.  I liked how Ethel tracked what she and Florrie ate and the cost of each ingredient; it was really interesting to see what was 'expensive' in 1926.  I also liked that the diary let you see the events unfolding through both Ethel and Florrie's eyes; it was interesting to see how each one interpreted the same events.  My only complaint about the diary is that at times it took a little bit to figure out whose voice we were hearing.  It was always clear as it jumped back and forth between Ethel and Florrie.

Louise was my favorite character, she just seemed so ahead of her time.  She wasn't portrayed as the typical 1950s woman, she had a complicated life and didn't fit in to the nice little wife stereotype.  I also found her very sympathetic as she dealt with her marriage, the loss of her mother and her dreams of being taken serious as an actress. 

The story did have a lot going on and at times, it seemed very busy. There were a lot of big issues touched on throughout the story and it seemed a little unrealistic that these few people would be dealing with all of that at the same time. 

Overall, I did enjoy the story and I thought the ending was really sweet.  3 stars


I received this book from HFVBT in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

 
Jessica Brockmole is the author of At the Edge of Summer, the internationally bestselling Letters from Skye, which was named one of the best books of 2013 by Publishers Weekly, and Something Worth Landing For, a novella featured in Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War. She lives in northern Indiana with her husband, two children, and far too many books.

For more information, please visit Jessica Brockmole’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

GIVEAWAY:

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 2 signed copies of Woman Enters Left! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form HERE.

Giveaway Rules
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on October 6th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.





Sunday, September 10, 2017

Mailbox Monday (77)

 Hey y'all!  This is my first Mailbox Monday in a while!

It's been quite the summer so I haven't been around much but I thought I would share the books I got last week.  It's been a really relaxing weekend and I'm starting to feel like I might be able to get caught up on my reading.  I have more books than I know what do with right now!

For Review:


 A Crime in the Family by Sacha Batthyany
 I have been wanting to read this for a while so I was very excited to see it on NetGalley.

Empress of the East by Leslie Peirce 
This one was a surprise but I'm looking forward to reading it.  The premise sounds fascinating.

I hope you all have a great week!




 
Imagination Designs