The Last List of Judith Kratt @AndreaBobotis

Miss Judith has inherited all that the Kratt family had to offer: a pie safe, a copper clock and a murder no one talks about. 9781492678861_34d7d

Being born and raised in the southern part of the US, I came to love southern literature. It has a flow and charm to it, a rhythm that is unlike any other. When it is done well you can smell the gardenias and magnolias on every page and feel the grit from the dusty Delta roads. The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt is such a novel, one that envelops you and transports you to the hot, humid backroads of the deep south complete with its oppressive heat and family turmoil.

Miss Judith wants to make a list of all that she owns before it is her “time to go.” She doesn’t have much; in fact, she doesn’t have anything of value really except memories and stories and secrets. She would like to keep the worst of those secrets all the way to her grave but she knows that will be impossible when her sister returns home hell-bent on exposing all that she knows regardless of the cost to anyone around her.

The actual story itself is, for many of us, as old as the hills: a family that has grown apart due to a tragedy that had to be kept quiet, in this case a murder that was covered up decades before the story takes place. As Miss Judith tells her story, catalogues her belongings and her life, however, we realize that this is more than an ordinary tale, but rather one that is told beautifully, with eloquence and in a manner not unlike the great story-tellers of the past: Faulkner and Harper Lee, even a touch of Flannery O’Connor’s biting wit comes through in the tapestry that Bobotis has woven together.

Don’t be fooled, however. This is not just a piece of fiction, an historical account of Miss Judith’s life. There is a mystery here, deep and dark, that must be resolved for all those concerned. Regardless of your genre of choice, this is a book for everyone, a classic in the making.

Thank you to #Eidleweiss, @Sourcebooks and #AndreaBobotis for my copy of this amazing book on sale today at your favorite bookseller and Amazon.

You Are Not Your Thoughts: The Secret Magic of Mindfulness #FrancesTrussell

Recently I was told that my negative thoughts were killing me and that because I was thinking so much about getting old, I actually was creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hmmm… At first I was quite angry. I like to think of myself as more forward thinking than they were suggesting. But then I realized that they were absolutely right! All of my life I have had nothing except negative thoughts about myself. The reason for this is myriad and complex but the causes are not the same as the solution. I had no idea how to change my thoughts which would, in turn, change my behavior. Then, several months ago this little gem popped up in my “to read” list. Am I ever glad that it did!

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I understand all of the different beliefs and have had a semi-working knowledge of the ideas that are presented in You are Not Your Thoughts, including mindfulness, meditation, and more. I won’t go into everything in the book, a lot of which is a very simplified of version of Buddhism – which is NOT a religion, I might add – but the exercises, the ideology behind the message of the book has helped me tremendously.

We live in a world that is too stressed, too obsessed, too over-the-top which permeates nearly every aspect of our waking moment. It is nice to learn how to step back, breathe deep and live in the moment. This is a super short book, a very quick read. I took time before writing this review so that I could actually put some of the suggestions into play, to see if it was all hocus-pocus or not. It wasn’t. For me, it has been a real eye-opening, thoughtful experience, one that I hope you also will try.

Thank you to #Netgalley and the publishes for my copy of #YouAreNotYourThoughts

Moonlight on the Thames @lwestwoodwriter

SundayWhat a marvelous Serendipity Sunday! The weather is perfect, chilly and gorgeous and I discovered a new author whose book is as delightful as my Midwestern weather!

I admit that when I first looked at Moonlight on the Thames, I assumed it would be another cozy holiday story – and it is that – except there is far more to this book than first impressions would lead you to believe!

51A4XdE0tNLMoonlight on the Thames by Lauren Westwood is an intriguing tale of two star crossed strangers who meet by chance at Waterloo Station. Dimitri, formerly of Russia, is leading a “pop up choir” in a round of carols to entertain the passengers as they change trains. Nicola is a corporate star who in the middle of a bit of a romantic crisis with a co-worker and has no time to waste on the holidays, much less carolers in the middle of the station. As she makes a scene in front of everyone, she comes face to face with Dimitri and she is, at once, enchanted – as is he. But this pair brings with them a lifetime of baggage overflowing with abuse that neither has been able to entirely cope with. It’s the holidays and it will take a holiday miracle to bring these two together.

Miracle on the Thames is beautifully written, whose characters are fully dimensional and enchanting. Dimitri has suffered so much abuse in his lifetime that it appears impossible for him to love again or faith in people. As a former rising star in the music world, Nicola melts his hardened exterior to allow the music to flow from scarred hands once more. Nicola, through Dimitri’s kindness for his fellow man, his hope and his music, feels herself beginning to have emotions that she thought she never would experience again. All of this is told with such  incredible empathy that I literally cried with pain and joy throughout its telling. Through the use of a Russian fable, Firebird, and through the music – which you can listen to via a special link, Dimitri and Nicola’s story unfolds in beautiful, lyrical prose. It an astonishing read, especially for someone who was expecting a “cosy romance.”

I highly recommend Moonlight on the Thames and hope you will make time for it this season.

Thank you so much to Lauren Westwood for my copy of Moonlight on the Thames. This was my first book by Westwood, it will not be my last!

I love serendipitous discoveries! Is there something in your world that has been a pleasant discovery this week – a book, a song, something of a surprise? I’d love to hear about it!

House of Gold by @NatashaSolomons

House of Gold is a sweeping saga of the Goldbaum family during World War One and the events leading up to the great war.

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I am finding myself reading more and more historical fiction often for the actual history that is included in the books. Some of these authors have done extensive research on fashion, important families and, most importantly, the events of the era about which they are writing. Natasha Solomons’ House of Gold is no exception. Based on the Rothschild family, the Goldbaums are one of, if not, the wealthiest families of Europe. They are the bankers, financiers and confidants of the most influential politicians and land owners. Specifically, House of Gold follows the branches of the family in Austria, Germany, France and England just prior to WW1. The story primarily is told by Greta, from Austria, and her brother Otto. Greta is married off to a distant cousin in England. As the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand occurs, the branches of the family are severed with the families in Eastern Europe cut off from those in the west.

In the first portion of the book, Solomons delves deep into the opulence of this wealthy family – their parties, their castles, their travels throughout Europe in their specially designed train car. Once Greta is settled into England, we then extensively learn about the elaborate gardens and greenhouses created by both Greta and her mother in law. These garden descriptions are, in fact, based on the Rothschild’s famous gardens in Europe. Ultimately, however, the latter portion of the book covers the war and the division of the family. I was stunned at the great detail that Solomons took in her description of the war. I could read historical text after text and never quite get the emotional turmoil that she evokes with her recounting of these characters’ fate during the war. This portion of the book, alone, is reason enough to read House of Gold.

Overall, I found House of the Gold to be one of the best books in this genre that I’ve read. The details are well researched, the character development amazing. However, as with all historical texts or fiction, the author will bring with them their own slant to the events that they are telling. This particular book really pushed home the rise of anti-Semitism and, unfortunately, not everything was historically accurate from that perspective. There was a lot of anti-Russian sentiment brought into play that really did not occur in Europe in WWI but was more a part of the post WW1 era and leading up to, of course, WWII. It’s important to remember, always, that Russia was part of the western alliance during both world wars and suffered the greatest casualty count, greater even than that of France. This story would lead you to believe that Russia was the enemy to the west. Not so. I also did not realize before I read the book that it would be intricately  tied to the Rothschild family. Call me a crazy American, and I am, but I truly despise that particular family and its global machinations. Every time I would begin to sympathize with one of the characters, I would pull myself back again because it’s really the Rothschilds that are being described and I couldn’t care less what their fate might have been and, in reality, I know the ultimate end result and their role in the world today. IF the book had solely dealt with a fictional affluent family and there had been no reference to the Rothschilds, I would have enjoyed the book to its fullest. Again, it’s the crazy American in me and perhaps other people may not have a problem with this.

If you can read the book as a totally fictional account of a totally fictional family, then it is an amazing read. I did enjoy the book and I do recommend it, I just had to overlook a few elements in order to do so.

My thanks to Natasha Solomons, #Edelweiss and #GPPutnamsSons and #PenguinPublishingGroup for my copy of this fascinating tale.

Seconds to Midnight

Philip Donlay has given us a fast-paced, action packed spy thriller that hooks you from the first paragraph and doesn’t let go – long after you’ve finished the book!

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When I selected Seconds to Midnight, I knew nothing of Philip Donlay, his primary protagonist – Donovan Nash – nor did I realize that it was an espionage thriller. How fortuitous that I was unaware of these things or I might not have read this incredible thriller.

Seconds to Midnight is the latest in a series of spy thrillers by Donlay. However, despite my knowing nothing of the primary characters, their history and relationships, this book could easily have been read as a stand-alone. Donlay does an excellent job filling in the characters’ backstory as the main character, Donovan Nash, catches up with others in the book.

Nash works for an NGO, “Eco-Watch” and uses this to “solve” world-wide incidents. In the beginning of Seconds To Midnight, the crew discover a mysterious woman who either was escaping from some very nasty fellows, or she was part of the group and the only survivor. She cannot remember and has left no clues to her identity. As the tale twists and turns, we are introduced to a myriad of spies, thugs, heroes and mercenaries and, often, it is difficult to distinguish between any of them. As their machinations unfold, we are  us thrust down the path toward a very climactic conclusion.

As with any spy thriller, there is a massive amount of violence, near misses with death and, to some extent, a pass on believability. However, Donlay has woven together an exciting, well-written novel full of action and suspense. If espionage is your thing, you will find this one to be very satisfying. If you are fan of Tom Clancy’s older novels or James Rollins’ Sigma Force series, then you will love Seconds to Midnight.

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #PhilipDonlay and Oceanview Publishing for this thriller.

Angels Can’t Swim – a novella

Sundays

I don’t often read books from first time authors who are not represented by a publishing company; however, lately I have found that many of these books – while a bit more roughly edited – are like finding diamonds in the rough. Angels Can’t Swim is a perfect example!

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There are three girls, competitive swimmers, each holding secrets inside of them that have the potential to destroy their swimming careers and, ultimately, their lives. As the novella unfolds, we learn about each of the girls: their passions, their fears, their innermost thoughts and feelings.

One is beautiful, talented but holding back in the pool because of her secret.

One is gay, barely out of the closet and not yet comfortable in her own skin.

One is seemingly “perfect,” not the best swimmer on the team but the one who appears to have her act together.

However, before the book is finished each of these girls must confront a pregnancy, bulimia and rape.

In a very straight forward account of these three girls, you will become engrossed in their stories. There was a part of me, the editor/proofreader in me, that wanted to edit the writing, but then I realized that this very blunt, unvarnished account is what makes this story so compelling – and it is very gripping. Perhaps it’s because I’m a mother of diver who competed with the US Olympic Diving team, but these stories were so real that I simply could not put it down. From start to finish, which only too a few hours, I never once stopped reading!

The author was a competitive swimmer and she writes as only someone who has been there/done that, can do. I suspect that she personally knew girls who experienced each of these things and I hope that they, too, came out on the other side as a whole and not in pieces. Sadly, I watched too many female divers who did not.

Angels Can’t Swim is not just for athletes, although their lives never are as wonderful as you would think. It is for women of all ages who struggle with self-perception. However, it is specially written for young women who need to know, absolutely should know, that always are people who are willing to help, listen and care. This book affected me deeply and I encourage all women to read it. Again, it is short, only 100 pages, and each page is well worth your read.

I’m giving it 4 stars simply because it did need editing – the story, however, is a solid 5+ stars! You can find this book now at Amazon. Angles Can’t Swim at Amazon  My appreciation to Alexandra McCann, the author, for sharing this book with me.