Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert Publication Day!

Daughter of Moloka’i is the anticipated follow-up to Alan Brennert’s highly successful, book club favorite Moloka’i, the evocative story of Rachel, a woman with leprosy who is forced to surrender her child, Ruth, upon birth. This is Ruth’s story.

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Daughter of Moloka’i is told in three very distinct parts: Ruth’s life after she is removed from the leper colony, adopted and her subsequent move to the states; her time spent in an internment camp during WWII, and then her life after the war ends. Brennert’s prose is atmospheric and descriptive which allows the reader to embrace a sense of both the Hawaiian and Japanese cultures as well as the horrors of the depression and war. However, there are times that a bit of self-editing would have gone long way. Like William Faulkner, Brennert suffers from the need to use 15 words when one very well placed adjective would suffice. This resulted in the book dragging in several places. In addition, it has been stated in pre-publication reviews that this book works as a stand-alone. It doesn’t, not really. If you’ve read the first book I can understand that you might think so. If you have not read the first book, you will find yourself trying to fill several story gaps.

I appreciate other readers’ rave review for this one. It is a lovely book but not one that I savored or can fully recommend.

Thank you to #netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read and review Daughter of Moloka’i.

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The Familiars @Stacey_Halls

There are times when I get absolutely giddy over a book that I’ve just finished, so much so that I start babbling to my neighbors, call up family members, talk about it to strangers in stores despite their strange looks as though I’ve lost my mind. That is exactly what I have found myself doing with Stacey Halls new book, The Familiars.

39835415Are you familiar with familiars? Yes, I know. I’m part Scottish so these things are embedded into my DNA but for many, I now realize, they are not. A familiar is an animal that is close to a witch who does certain things for the witch. They can act as protectors, spies, a type of servant or, most often, a close companion. If you see one, you most often will see the other because they rarely are separated. 12187815_10153804022438755_392989809902135028_nYou know, kind of like this photo. 😉  Okay fine.

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is the 17 years old mistress at Gawthorpe Hall. The year is 1612, and she pregnant for the fourth time. The problem, however, is that she has yet to bring a child to term, something both she and her husband are concerned about, each for very different reasons. By chance, Fleetwood encounters a woman in the forest on her property. This woman, Alice Gray, claims to be a midwife and promises Fleetwood that she can help her give birth to a healthy child. They agree on terms and Alice is brought into Gawthorpe Hall where Fleetwood almost at once begins to feel better. There are problems, however. King James, as we all should know, is on a witch hunt and his minions who wish to stay in his favor will do whatever necessary to stay in the king’s good graces, including accusing innocent women of witchcraft. Fleetwood has the misfortune of living near Pendle Hill and one of her husband’s dearest friends and benefactor’s is just the sort of man to gather up innocents to appease the king – and that is exactly what he does – including Alice Gray.

I live in a town named Pendleton settled by men originally from Pendle Hill. We actually have a place called Pendle Hill in our tiny town so I have a strange, slightly bizarre fascination with the Pendle witches of Lancashire. When I first read about The Familiars, I was led to believe that it was a witch story and somewhat cutesy. That is far from the truth. This is a story of the women in the surrounding village who eventually were charged with murder and witchcraft at Pendle Hill, specifically, Alice Gray. It is the story of Alice’s friendship with Fleetwood and the extreme measures that Fleetwood took in order to save her friend. It is a beautifully told story of women, devotion, love, motherhood, history and so much more but it is very much rooted in historically accurate research. At the heart of the tale is Fleetwood and her desire to bring her child into the world safely and alive. In order to do so, she truly believes she must have Alice by her side. It isn’t about magic or witchcraft, it is about herbs and knowledge passed down from one generation of women to the next. As we learn, these women were being rounded up far too often because of men who merely wanted them gone for reasons of cheating, anger, because the women were more knowledgeable, not unlike what is happening today when intelligent women are mocked in the public arena. They were also being hanged because their religion no longer aligned with that of King James. Then, as now, religion was a source of war. Isn’t it amazing how absolutely nothing has changed after all of this time? How we have learned nothing from the past?

I absolutely loved the transformation of Fleetwood from silly, frivolous socialite to the mature woman willing to fight for her child and her friend. Women will do that when they have the right influences to guide them and it was beautiful to see how Alice, so quiet and unassuming, could give the much needed confidence to Fleetwood, not with magic but through friendship and care. In the end, this is a novel of historical fiction and it stays true to the story. Twelve women were charged with witchcraft, some were hanged, one landed in stocks for a fortnight and one is released. This is a wonderful imagining of their story, one that I highly recommend!

Thank you to #Netgalley, #Harlequin-Mira and #StacyHalls for my advanced copy of #TheFamiliars.

I’ve included this book toward the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge at Passages to the Past. Won’t you join us as we read our way through history?
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The Secret of Clouds @AlysonRichman

From the #1 international bestselling author of The Lost Wife and The Velvet Hours comes an emotionally charged story about a mother’s love, a teacher’s promise, and a child’s heart…

the-secret-of-cloudsMaggie Topper has left the bustling life of a New York public relations world to become a teacher on Long Island, a job she adores and one at which she is quite good. She is approached to tutor a homebound child who is too ill to attend daily classes and, although Maggie is uncertain at first due to a past trauma of her own, she comes to enjoy and look forward to her time with Yuri, the young Ukrainian-American boy who is quite ill. Soon they are bonding over baseball and their mutual love of reading and writing. As  her weekly visits become routine, Maggie discovers more about Yuri’s parents’ tragic life that they left behind in Ukraine, including their survival of the horrific Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

This is so much more than just Maggie and Yuri’s story. Told in alternating timelines, there are flashbacks to Katya and Sasha’s time spent in Ukraine. We read as their love unfolds and grows and their struggle to reach a decision about leaving their families behind to come to the US. We also have Maggie’s interactions in her private life as she struggles with relationships: private, familial and with her other students in the classroom. It is a joy to watch as she grows as a woman, as a teacher and as a friend to those around her.

The Secret of Clouds touches on so many important topics and, if there was one critique, and really there are none but if there was to be a minor one, it would be that there almost were too many important topics covered. The Holocaust is a recurring topic and a very poignant section of the book is when one of Maggie’s co-workers recounts a memorable story of an art teacher who taught Jewish children in the concentration camps, most of whom were killed. The story is tragic and beautiful but brief. There is Chernobyl and the horrific after-effects of this disaster, how even today this tragedy still is playing out physically and mentally in those who were affected and their offspring and even in their offspring. And then there is Maggie and her parents, her familial relationships, her budding romance, her work as a teacher. It was quite a lot for a short book. All of that not withstanding, Richman does an incredible job weaving it all together seamlessly and the book flows brilliantly so that it is over before you realize and far sooner than you wish for it to be.

This is a rare book about friendship on so many varied levels. It is a look at cross cultural relationships and how important it is for each of us to interact with one another. Most importantly, it is about hope and love and learning to live a life with a full and open heart. It will make you smile, cry, and laugh but, most of all, it make you ponder long after you turned that very last page.

With a grateful heart to #Edelweiss, #AlysonRichman and @BerkleyPub

The Moroccan Girl @CharlesCumming

I had a bit of “ooops” moment yesterday apparently. For whatever reason, this was supposed to have posted on its pub day and it did not. However, after visiting Amazon, they also are having a “glitch” with the book so it is just as well. I promise that my review did not cause the glitch despite the fact that my family is convinced that I can break all things electronically related. It’s a myth – really. It is.

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At its heart, The Moroccan Girl is more fiction/romance than spy thriller despite what you will be told otherwise. I used to read espionage books like they were going out of style. This borders on spy thriller but it is more “espionage wannabe” than the actual fact.

Kit Carradine – not to be confused at all with Keith Carradine the real-life actor – is a spy thriller writer with international fame. He is approached by MI6 to deliver a “package” to someone when he travels to Morocco for a writer’s conference. Carradine is ecstatic! He finally has an opportunity to actually do so spy work rather than just write about it. He soon realizes, though, that he has been manipulated (duh moment here) and that the request has far deeper implications than he realizes. The woman, Lara Bartok aka the Moroccan Girl, whom he is supposed to be on the look out for, is missing. She is part of a subversive, revolutionary group called “The Resurrection” who is targeting alt-right groups across the globe. As the search for Bartok continues, Carradine is unsure who and what to believe. I can’t really blame him. 

The Moroccan Girl was an extremely interesting, very fast paced thriller. It is, quite literally, ripped from today’s headlines. The part that actually involved Carradine was bit contrived – I’m not sure MI6 would involve an author in this manner – but the CIA has done stranger things than this recently so what do I know. Cumming has masterfully crafted a intriguing set of characters that are both relatable and secretive, just as good subversives should be. In all, it is a riveting spy/romance tale that will keep you thoroughly engrossed from beginning to end.

 

The Psychology of Time Travel #Kate Mascarenhas – #PublicationDay

The Past, Present and Future collide in Kate Mascarenhas’ brilliant debut book, The Psychology of Time Travel. 

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I love and adore the concept of time travel. Thinking about the books and movies that I grew up with, some of my favorites included The Time Machine, Star Trek, Back to the Future and, of course, the cult classic, Somewhere in Time. Today we have books like Outlander that take us back and forth in time and our concept of time and relativity has grown more fluid over the past few decades. So, naturally, when I saw this book, I just had to grab it up and read it. And I loved it!

The Psychology of Time Travel begins with the story of the pioneers of human time travel who, quite wonderfully, are four female scientists. In fact, the entire book is magnificently woman powered and it is one of the aspects of the book that I found so marvelous! As we transition into the second phase of the book, the present, we find that one of the pioneers is now an old woman who is with her granddaughter. They receive a mysterious post regarding a death that will happen in the future – which, of course, leads us to the future section of the book where the murder will take place. From there the book has a fluid timeline as the characters attempt to solve the crime – or stop it from happening – either in the present or future or, for some, in the past. Confused yet? Yes, there are times that the back and forth in time does get a bit mind boggling, but the story itself is one of mystery and crime and that is what makes the book so fascinating. It’s a detective story set in time – or space – or in the time warp continuum. Hmmm. It’s like Dr. Who meets Hidden Figures.

When you’re a time traveler, the people you love die, and you carry on seeing them, so their death stops making a difference to you. The only death that will ever change things is your own.

This is, by far, my favorite passage in the entire book and, I think, it is one of the reasons that I find time travel so intriguing. Since the beginning of time, mankind has been curious about what happens after death but what if this is what happens? We are simply transported to a different time, a different place. Perhaps time, and life, and our souls are merely traveling from place to another. It’s not too unreasonable to imagine – if you dare. 😉

I suspect there are those who will say that they don’t read books like this and that’s okay. This definitely was a book for me and I enjoyed it a LOT! I hope some of the skeptics out there will at least give it a look, I think you will like it if you do.

Thank you to the author, #Netgalley and #CrookedLaneBooks for my copy of #ThePsychologyofTimeTravel.

In The Dark @CaraHunter

“She opens her eyes to darkness as close as a blindfold”

Cara Hunter is back with her second, equally enthralling, psychological thriller In The Dark. It is rare for a second book to be just as good as, if not better than, the first but Hunter has succeeded with this twisty, very unexpected dark tale.

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When a young woman and child are found in a basement and an old man suffering from dementia is found in a stupor upstairs, my first thoughts went to ROOM. I honestly thought this was going to be another version of “kidnapped girl, has child in captivity” story. WOW – I couldn’t have been more wrong if I tried. In fact, despite the fact that I managed to discern bits and pieces of the story as I read along, there was no way – none at all – to have guessed the premise or ending of this book. The final page of this story, well, WOW, just WOW. In the past few months there have been a few books that have startled me with the endings, not just the ending but the very final page of the book, and this definitely one of those!

Of course, the lovable, yet extremely flawed DI Adam Fawley is back and I have to admit that I love this guy. I’m not sure what it is about this character but I really do enjoy reading about him and I’m even coming around to liking his wife, more so in this book than the last. The characters in this book, as the last, are very well created, they are incredibly believable. Boy, are they are ever believable! In The Dark, while a psychological thriller, still is a police procedural at heart and each piece of the puzzle is slowing and surprisingly revealed at just the perfect moment. The build up is slow but that is what makes the ending so fantastic! Have I said WOW? I think I have, but perhaps not enough. I really liked that ending! I think you will too!

If you haven’t read the first book, Close to Home, that’s okay. This works as a stand alone but it helps to have the back story on the Fawley’s. This promises to be a great series and if you like series, I absolutely recommend that you read both of these terrific books. In the meantime, pick up In The Dark. It’s available now in paperback and ebook. You’ll be glad that you did! Just don’t read in it In The Dark!

NOTE: The third in the series, No Way Out is due to be published in 2019 as well. I cannot wait!

Thanks to #Edelweiss, @PenguinPublishing and #CaraHunter for my copy of this terrific thriller.

Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop @RebeccaRaisinAuthor

Rosie had everything she ever had wished for: the perfect husband, she was the sous chef at a Michelin rated restaurant, two perfect children – well, they were perfectly planned out in her future where they would be perfect to be sure – and she lived in a perfect apartment. Until she walked in on her birthday to find her not-so-perfect husband with a pre-packed bag walking out on her for another woman! Rosie’s very perfect life was shattered. So she did what any sane woman would do – she drank a lot of cheap wine and unknowingly used all of her savings to purchase a hot pink RV named Poppy! Rosie gives it all up – the perfect apartment, the perfect job, the Michelin stars and hits the road with Poppy to open a pop-up tea shop.

41962558I’ve recently read quite a few books about women who have hit a crisis point in their lives and, throwing caution to the wind, leave everything behind to open a bakery, bookstore, coffee shop, etc. Rosie’s story, however, hit notes of reality that I found myself relating to on multiple layers. She was alone, in fact she was a loner in general. She had used her savings to purchase Poppy so money was not a luxury for her. When Poppy breaks down, she has to rely on the kindness of others and scrabble together new ways to make money to pay for the repairs. She got herself mixed up in a “catfishing” scheme that was extremely realistic and, sadly, happens far too often to women online. I found myself nodding throughout the book, saying yes, yep, been there, done that. I suspect we all have – or will – find ourselves in similar situations. That’s not to say that Rosie did nothing except make mistakes. Along her journey, she made true friends, learned real lessons, renewed her self-esteem and discovered that she could fall down, take chances, and get back up again to carry on. She found love and laughter in the most unusual places but learned that she also could stand on her own two feet when she needed to do so.

Rosie’s Traveling Tea Shop is a wonderfully written story of friendship, love, self-discovery and person growth – a true delight to read for all.

Many thanks to #Netgalley, @Jaxandwillsmum and @HQDigital