Recent Reads, Rapid Reviews

As most of you know, I was off for several months due to illness and, although I couldn’t read, thought I wouldn’t read, I somehow managed TO read a lot of books. I’m also determined to do justice to those authors who sent me books to review. What this means is that I am quite behind with my reviews and I really hate to be behind at anything. Recently I read a post on the Bibliophile Book Club’s blog where she did a series of short but thorough reviews. Taking off on her idea, I will be doing the same until – if ever – I am caught up once more. Fingers crossed and thanks to the Bibliophile Book Club for such a great idea. Please be sure to check out their blog!

Recent and Rapid

MONTAUK by Nicola Harrison

By now I’m quite sure or hope that many of you have read Montauk, one of the best summer reads for 2019. It is, however, a engrossing tale that surpasses the usual summer fare making it a delight to read any time.  Set in the pre-WWII days of New York, it is the story of a woman who married “above her station” without fully comprehended all that would involve. When her husband tells that they are going to travel to Montauk for the summer, she assumes they will be there together. Sadly, she was mistaken and soon learns that not only is she alone, her husband is cheating on her with any woman who will allow it. Feeling displaced with the rich at the resort, she turns to the people who actually live in Montauk, the town, where she discovers friendship, grudging acceptance and more.

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I don’t usually read books set in the era as it is one of my least favorite times in American history. However, Montauk – the resort area – was actually envisioned and created by a developer from my home state. He built a resort here in Indiana and also developed Miami Beach, Florida. Naturally, my curiosity got the best of me. Montauk, the book, is more than just a romance or even historical fiction, it is a story of a woman trapped in the male dominated world of the early 20th century, a world full of lies, hypocrisy, misogyny and class wars. Her struggle becomes the struggle of all women from that era and one that many women today can relate to as well. The writing is brilliant, the characters come alive off of the pages and the story line is unforgettable. I highly recommend Montauk to any and all!

POLITE SOCIETY by Mahesh Rao

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Polite Society is a modern day re-telling of Emma, by Jane Austin set in India. Normally I’m not a fan of re-tellings because I like the original too much, with the possible exception of fairy tales and fables. However, because of the caste system or class structure in India, this particular version works well. The story is cleverly written with a lot of wit and charm. Sadly, for me, I didn’t enjoy Polite Society as much as I had hoped. I think there is too much feminist in me to think anything about this type of social construct is acceptable. I prefer to imagine that all of this died with the Victorian era even though my intellectual side knows differently.

THE WISDOM OF SALLY RED SHOES by Ruth Hogan

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I have been a fan of Ruth Hogan’s work since I read The Keeper of Lost Things which I loved. The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes was a quite a different story but Hogan’s flair and writing style remained constant. Two very different women come together in this story to create magic in this uplifting tale of wisdom, personal growth and grief. It touches on homelessness among women, the loss of a child, and the commonality that all women have with one another regardless of our social conditions. The characters are brilliantly written, so real you will feel as though you know them personally and the humor within keeps the story from becoming too heavy despite the subject matter. You will laugh, cry and fall in love these women and their story. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

NOTE: Many thanks to the authors, #Netgalley, #Edelweiss, #StMartinsPress, #CrookedLaneBooks for my copy of these books

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The Undertaker’s Assistant #AmandaSkenandore #HFVBTBlogTours

FINALLY – it is such a pleasure to be part of a blog tour today for such an amazing book – #TheUndertakersAssistant.  I have to say a HUGE thank you to Amy Bruno at #HFVBT Blog Tours for her kindness, understanding and patience with me while I was away. If ever there is a nomination for sainthood, my vote will be for Amy!!

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Set during Reconstruction-era New Orleans, and with an extraordinary and unforgettable heroine at its heart, The Undertaker’s Assistant is a powerful story of human resilience–and of the unlikely bonds that hold fast even in our darkest moments.

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There are few places on earth that I love more than New Orleans, Louisiana. There was a time when I spent every summer there and knew the nooks, crannies, hidden passage-ways, best jazz clubs and more as well as the back of my hand. Given an opportunity to read a book set there was an absolutely gift and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. The fact that it also was historical fiction was like icing on the cake! The Undertaker’s Assistant is, indeed, a treat for the reader.

Effie is a freed slave who was raised in the north after being freed but now has returned to the southern US, specifically to New Orleans where she works as an embalmer. The story is set shortly after the Civil War has ended and racial tensions still are high with flare ups between the two sides becoming more frequent. Effie tries her best to keep to herself, but as she makes friends with a young Creole girl and a young state legislator, she finds herself more and more often involved in protests and the lure of the New Orleans social scene and culture.

I found myself totally immersed in Effie’s story from the moment I began reading. The writing itself flows so brilliantly that I found myself carried away from beginning to end without once stopping – it really is that good! Effie’s job is thoroughly described and I thought it was fascinating. I love books about forensics and knew this would be a draw for me – it was. More importantly, however, is the overall storyline of reconstruction in the new south, healing the wounds of war and dealing with the lingering racial tensions that southerners were forced to face now that African Americans were freed. The story was well documented and researched but never heavy handed as these types of books so often can be. Instead it was an enlightening and compelling story of one woman’s struggle to find her own way in this world. I found myself championing her cause and I suspect you will as well. The Undertaker’s Assistant is a terrific book – both as women’s fiction and historical fiction and I highly recommend it! It is on sale at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and your local bookseller on July 30, 2019.

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE | INDIEBOUND

About the Author
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Amanda Skenandore is a historical fiction writer and registered nurse. Between Earth and Sky was her first novel. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Readers can visit her website at www.amandaskenandore.com.

FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS

Thank you so much to @ARShenandoah @hfvbt @KensingtonBooks and @ABruno77 for my copy of this mesmerizing novel. You can read more about it on the additional Blog Stops HERE:

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The Poison Thread @laurapurcell

When I was a teenager I read Victorian gothic young adult books from sun up to sun down. I simply could not get enough of that genre. As I entered university, my tastes changed and I switched to more “grown up” British Literature but a part of me always yearned for the thrill of the gothic tale. Mary Shelley and Edgar Allen Poe are two of my favorite writers because of their dark, macabre imagination. It comes as no surprise, then, that I have fallen in love with Laura Purcell’s writing. Last year, The Silent Companions, took readers by a storm and now she has given us a new intriguing gothic noir tale, The Poison Thread.

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At first glance, this appeared to be an ordinary Victorian book about a young socialite, the daughter of a wealthy nobleman, with far too much time on her hands yet no interest in the usual coquetries of society. She was studying phrenology, a popular belief at the time that the skull could predict behavior and be re-shaped to alter such. Although we may sneer at this now, it was the precursor of modern behavioral science. As part of her “studies” and her desire for good works, also a very Victorian endeavor, she visits women in jail, listens to the woes of their crimes and examines their skulls. But one prisoner is unlike the rest: Ruth. This woman weaves a sinister tale about poison, and sewing and garments that can harm their owners. Is she mad? Does she belong is an institution or is she simply playing at being crazy in order to escape hanging? How can one know for sure.

Purcell alternates the chapters between the two women, the present and the past, and as she does so we, the reader, become as entwined into the threads of the story as the victims of Ruth’s garments became ensnared in hers. From the moment I began reading there was no stopping. I had to know how it ended and now, weeks after I finished, I cannot stop thinking about Ruth and her needles, her life and that of those around her. Purcell does an amazing job of bring to life Victorian England – the horrors, the poverty, the wretchedness of the poor, those in debt and, in contrast, those with money and their fineries. She also hints at the problems during this time between those who remained Catholic versus those who, of course, chose the Church of England. It was a strange and misguided time in England’s history – the age of coming knowledge combined with the ignorance of the darkness just left behind and Purcell does an commendable job of conveying all of that in The Poison Thread. This is gothic Victorian at its best and I highly recommend it for those who like this era, horror, magical realism, mystery and British literature. You will find all of that within this fabulous book.

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #LauraPurcell and @PenguinPub for my copy of #ThePoisonThread

Park Avenue Summer by #ReneeRosen

Park Avenue Summer is a walk back in time to an era when women were just emerging from the sexual dark ages into a generation of power, opportunities and revolution.

park ave summerAlice Weiss has left her small, midwestern town in search of big dreams and opportunities in New York City. It’s the mid-60s and times are changing, particularly at Cosmopolitan, the failing magazine where Alice has landed a job. The new editor, Helen Gurley Brown has shocked everyone as the first female editor of the publication but more so with her shocking bestseller, Sex and the Single Girl. Alice soon learns that it’s a man’s world as those in power try to draw her into a scheme to sabotage Brown’s work and ultimately lead to the failure of Cosmo. Alice learns, however, that in this new world a woman can make demands and have it all, succeed and come out on top!

Admittedly I’m a child of the 60s and 70s and remember well the days of both the sexual revolution and the feminist movement. Reading Park Avenue Summer was very much like a walk down memory lane for me. There was a very clear division in my life’s timeline: a before, when women were one way, and after, when things were very different. We have women like Helen Gurley Brown to thank for that. While Park Avenue Summer is the story of Alice’s time at the magazine, there is quite a bit of historical fact throughout the book. Much of what happened at Cosmopolitan and what transpired with Brown is documented. While we look back on her with our present sense of power and women’s rights, at the time so much of what she did and wrote about was considered scandalous. Churches across America were preaching against Brown and her magazine. Men wouldn’t allow their daughters or wives to flip through the pages of it at stores, much less buy it. The only place I ever saw it was at the hair dresser’s. We went there often. 😉  Through Alice’s eyes we see the world as it is changes; we see young women like Alice growing bolder and realizing their own power and strength. That is exactly what this period was about and Rosen captures that time, the feelings of empowerment beautifully. Park Avenue Summer is, in fact, the perfect 1960s historical fiction to illustrate the evolution of women from one era to the next.

“Filled with wit, heart and verve, Rosen’s novel dazzles and empowers” ~ Chanel Cleeton, author of Next Year in Havana

Many thanks to @ReneeRosen1 and Elisha @BerkleyPub  Park Avenue Summer will be available April 30 at your favorite bookseller and at amazon

First Line Fridays: Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel

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Saturday, June 14, 1930, O’Leno, Florida

Jack Jammed a finger into each ear and swallowed hard. Any other time, he wouldn’t even notice the stupid sound. The river always sorta slurped just before it pulled stuff underground. His stomach heaved again. Maybe he shouldn’t even look, either, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the circling current. When the head slipped under the water, the toe end lifted up. Slowly the tarpaulin wrapped body went completely vertical…. 

CaponeOh yeah, you betcha!! A book that begins on my birthday – not the year just the day, thank you! And it is about my all-time favorite gangster!! I am beyond excited about this book. Actually, there are no words to describe… well, I jumped up and down and nearly passed out when I was asked to join the blog tour if that gives you any idea at all. So – does that make YOU excited too??  Please say yes!!!  🙂 

What about you!? What are you absolutely thrilled over this week. Share your First Line here and let me know!! 

 

Shakespeare’s Witch by Samantha Grosser #BlogTour #HFVBT

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Love, Witchcraft, Sorcery, Madness.
A fortune told …
When Sarah Stone foresees Will Shakespeare’s latest play has opened doors to evil, she begs the playwright to abandon it. But Will refuses, aware the play is one of his best. And so rehearsals for Macbeth begin.
Forbidden desires …
After her vision, Sarah fears for her life – she has never known the shewstone to lie, and she turns to her brother Tom for comfort. A strange darkness seems to haunt the playhouse, and when Tom sets out to seduce John Upton, the boy actor who plays Lady Macbeth, the boy sees the hand of witchcraft in his own forbidden desires for men. Then Sarah weaves a spell to win the love of the new lead actor, and John, terrified for the safety of his soul, begins to make his accusations.
The Spirits have spoken …
As rehearsals continue, Sarah and Tom must struggle to convince John he is mistaken and that his sins are his own – their lives and the fortune of the play are at stake. But the Spirits have spoken – will the fate that Sarah foresaw come to pass or is their destiny their own to decide?
Set against the first production of Macbeth in 1606, Shakespeare’s Witch is a seductive tale of the origins of the curse of the Scottish Play.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble

From the time that I first performed in a high school production of Macbeth, I have known of the rumors regarding the curse associated with the play. In fact, the curse has become as well known as the play itself.  Set against the backdrop of the original Macbeth production in the 1600s, coupled with sorcery and fate, Grosser has created a tale that is suspenseful, seductive and captivating.

Shakespeare’s Witch is, by far, one of the most intriguing and unique historical novels I’ve ever read. When Will Shakespeare’s new play is about to open, he calls on his friend, Sarah who is known to dabble in the occult, and asks her to see if his play will be a success or not. What Sarah sees badly frightens her and she begs Will not to go forward with the play. Of course, as we know, he does not listen and the play is forever cursed.

Grosser has done an amazing job creating believable characters that wind around one of the most well-known figures in history, Shakespeare, and brings him to life in a way I’ve never read before. They all are young, living in a time that is dark, forbidding, harsh and brimming with both religion and the occult. It is a confusing time on the brink of a new age, but still hidden in the shadows of so much darkness and ignorance. The way that Crosser illustrates this is sheer brilliance.

I admit that there are portions of the story that made me uncomfortable, and they should. The book does include incest, but that is a part of this era that cannot be overlooked. Only now are we able to look back on this time in history and take off our puritanical/Victorian glasses and see this era as it was, not what it would become. It’s important to remember when the story takes place and that England had very different ideas about a lot of things at that time. For me, this heightened the story, not detract from it, which is why I highly recommend it to you if you like historical fiction from this era. The magical realism works perfectly with the historical aspects from this time.

You can find the book on sale now. I am very appreciative to Amy @HFVBT @SamanthaGrosser and #SamanthaGrooserBooks for my copy of #Shakespeare’sWitch

About the Author:

untitledHistorical fiction author Samantha Grosser originally hails from England, but now lives on the sunny Northern Beaches of Sydney with her husband, son and a very small dog called Livvy.
Combining a lifelong love of history with a compulsion to write that dates from childhood, Samantha is now bringing her passion for telling compelling stories to the world.
Samantha has an Honors Degree in English Literature and taught English for many years in Asia and Australia. She is the author of wartime dramas Another Time and Place and The Officer’s Affair and The King James Men, set during the turbulent early years of 17th Century.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | BookBub | Pinterest | Instagram

Blog Tour Schedule:

Wednesday, March 20
Review at Passages to the Past

Thursday, March 21
Review at Book Reviews from Canada

Friday, March 22
Interview at Jathan & Heather

Saturday, March 23
Feature at Broken Teepee

Monday, March 25
Review at Amy’s Booket List

Tuesday, March 26
Feature at What Is That Book About

Wednesday, March 27
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Friday, March 29
Interview at Passages to the Past

Sunday, March 31
Review & Excerpt at Clarissa Reads it All

Monday, April 1
Review at For the Sake of Good Taste

Tuesday, April 2
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, April 4
Interview at Hisdoryan

Monday, April 8
Review at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

Tuesday, April 9
Review at Bibliophile Reviews

Wednesday, April 10
Review at Macsbooks

Friday, April 12
Review at A Book Geek

Monday, April 15
Review at Donna’s Book Blog
Excerpt at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Tuesday, April 16
Feature at CelticLady’s Reviews

Wednesday, April 17
Review at Bookramblings
Review at Coffee and Ink

 

 

 

 

The Editor #Steven Rowley

Fridays are generally set aside for fabulous fiction here at Macsbooks and The Editor by Steven Rowley, author of the amazing book, Lily and the Octopus, certainly fits that description! 9780525537960_5fcef
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James is a writer living in New York with his boyfriend, struggling to make ends meet and hoping for his first big break. His publisher calls informing him that his editor requests a meeting with him, which scares him senseless enough; but, when he discovers that his editor is Jackie Kennedy Onassis he is speechless. As Ms. Onassis continues to work with James through rewrites and deeper explorations into his novel and his own personal relationships, James realizes that his editor is, indeed, the perfect one to help him grow as a person and as a writer.

To say that I have a love affair with the Kennedys is an understatement, There are few, if any, books written by or about this family that I haven’t read. When I saw that this was a historical fiction book featuring Kennedy-Onassis in her final years as an editor, I literally jumped at the chance to read it. It did not disappoint in the least. As with Lily and the Octopus, Rowley has created a story that illustrates how even the most flawed characters can be lovable and redemptive. He weaves this story around an amazingly famous person but manages to place her in a tale that makes her human and real. To do this with someone like Kennedy-Onassis truly is astounding and my hat is off to Rowley for this alone. Most importantly, however, the core of The Editor is based on familial relationships; the struggle between a son and his mother. This is the story that is worth reading and it is here in which lies all of the beauty and the charm of this novel.

The Editor will available on April 2 and I highly recommend it.

Thank you to #Edelweiss, @StevenRowley and @PutnamBooks for my copy of #TheEditor