Autumn Alibi – Jennifer David Hesse

Now that the snow has melted and it feels like Autumn once again, I wanted to read some books set during this season. Luckily, the next book in the Wiccan Wheel Series was exactly what I was looking for!

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I began reading The Wiccan Wheel mysteries earlier this year partly because I was in a cozy mystery mood and partly because I’ve always been fascinated by various beliefs and religions that people choose to follow. What I discovered was a delightful series centered around, of course, the Wiccan Wheel which divides up the calendar into eight seasons and their corresponding celebrations such as Mabon and Yule Tide.

Keli Milanni is a successful attorney who is a Wiccan witch. Several of her cases, as well as the search for her mysterious aunt, often lead Keli to murderous endeavors. With the aide of her abilites, she solves the cases and brings closure to those who are left behind. She has interesting friends and co-workers who help her along the way, each bringing their own quirky personalities to the story.

The series, including Autumn Alibi, is a collection of well written, intelligent cozy mysteries. There are hints of romance but they are not the focus of the stories -the mysteries remain at the center throughout. This a fun series, especially if you enjoy cozy mysteries with a bit of a paranormal flair.

Strong Women Stories: Love Heart Lane, Things You Save in a Fire and A Bittersweet Surprise

Rather than concentrate only on “thrillers,” my go-to genre, I decided to read women’s fiction, including a few light romances. What I discovered was there quite a few solidly written books in these genres that make you proud to be a woman. Although all three are very different, they each feature a strong woman at the heart of the story.

FOXGLOVE FARM – #ChristieJBarlow

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Foxglove Farm is meant to be a sweet romance. I suppose that it is – to a point. Isla and Drew are experiencing marital problems and Isla is unaware of exactly why. The man she loves is suddenly withdrawn and sullen but refuses to tell Isla why or what might be wrong. When a birthday surprise blows up in her face, she flees with her infant until she can sort out what to do. The fact is that they are having financial difficulties which Drew has not shared with Isla. He is depressed and angry at not being able to provide for his family. Together they find a way to persevere and rekindle their love for one another once more but the journey is a difficult one.

There were multiple issues that the author introduced: lies and secrets in a marriage, the difficulty of having a newborn on a marriage and, of course, male depression and mental health. While all of these are very important topics – very – at times there was just too much hardship to be believed. There was one problem after another after another in such a short period and within a relatively short story. Yes, there are those who are faced with mounting challenges and generally when it rains, it pours. However, for the good of the novel and to really explore any of these topics thoroughly, either the book needed to be longer or there should have been fewer fires. Regardless, the story itself is well told, well-written and uplifting. This is the second in a series and each set of characters is different from the last, however, I felt as though I was missing some backstory that others might have known from reading the first book in the series. I would suggest reading them in order. They are quick reads so that shouldn’t be a problem.

 

THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE – @KatherineCenter

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There has been a lot of hype and publicity for Katherine Center’s latest book: Things You Save in a Fire and there is a good reason for that – it is a wonderful book featuring a strong, interesting, intelligent woman who also is a firefighter.

When Cassie is first introduced she is receiving a medal for valor and bravery. This really isn’t something that she wants but she deserves it. She’s with her department family having a great time when she becomes aware that the person is handing out her award is someone with whom she has a traumatic past. Things do not go well after that, to the point that she is giving the choice of being fired or transferred. She takes the transfer which is back her hometown, a new station, the need to prove herself once again and to a mother with whom she has a difficult past.

Through the remainder of the book we see Cassie as she grows into the person she was meant to become – strong, capable, funny and even loving. The transformation is poignant, heartfelt, hard and very relatable. Things You Save in a Fire is one of my favorite books of the year. With impeccable writing, believable characters and a story line that is captivating and heart-felt, this is a book you will not want to miss.

A BITTERSWEET SURPRISE @CynEllingsen

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Emma loves running her family’s candy shop, creating new delicious treats and seeing her friends savour her new offerings; however, her father left the candy shop to his second wife who is selling the shop to a corporation. The only way that Emma can keep the shop is to buy out her step-mother at a higher profit than the corporation has offered her. The catch, of course, is that Emma has no extra money and very little self-esteem to think outside of the box. What she does have is loyal customers, friends whom Emma has helped over the years who are ready to return the favor and…. a mysterious painting that has hung in the candy shop since her father was alive. When a stranger makes Emma a flabbergastingly large sum of money for the artwork, Emma begins to suspect there is more to the painting than she realizes.

I absolutely loved and adored A Bittersweet Surprise. There was drama, family issues that had to be overcome but, most importantly, it illustrated how women, given the chance, can overcome obstacles in order to succeed. Emma not only has the skills necessary to be a successful business owner, she a heart that is full of gold. We see Emma as she selflessly helps the other people in her town, a homeless woman and her son, everyone she comes in contact with. She isn’t perfect but she shows what goodness means. I found myself completely immersed in Emma’s story and all of the characters in the book. A Bittersweet Surprise is the third installment of a series but it works beautifully as a stand-alone. Ellingsen uses the “shared universe” style of writing where, as readers, we are introduced to a town or setting that is common throughout the series but the characters, though they may be familiar to us, each have their own story and plot. She has done a great job introducing the characters so that you know their backstory without the need to read each book in order. I highly recommend the book and the entire series – which I’ve now read.

 

 

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Admittedly, I did not finish The Kiss Quotient but The Bride Test captured my attention for different reasons and once started, I could not put it down. It is one of the best romance, general fiction books that I’ve read in a while.

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Khai is on “the spectrum” and, while he loves his work, he has no interest in romance or marriage. His mother, however, is certain that he needs a woman in his life to make him more well-rounded and to keep him from becoming too isolated. Taking matters in her own hands, his mother finds a woman in Asia and brings her back for the summer. Esme is desperate for a different life and also wants to find her father who was in the military during the war and whom she never has met or known. Khai is furious but also amazed as Esme finds her own way in America and grows more independent.

To read this synopsis gives the impression that this is a typical romance story but it is far from typical. Esme and Khai are intriguing characters who show both depth and growth throughout the story. It is humorous, compelling and sweet but, most of all, it is a story of hope. Whether you read the first book or not, you will want to immerse yourself the lives of Esme and Khai.

@Edelweiss

A Life of Their Own by Pauline Tait

I am a huge fan of Pauline Tait’s series for children, The Fairy in the Kettle, and I could not wait to read her first “adult” book, A Life of Their Own.

Kate is on the run from an abusive husband. She and her two kids are quietly leaving him and moving across the country to place she had only dreamed of – Colorado. She has no plan, no idea how they will survive but she knows she has to get herself and the kids away from the abuse. She arrives at a guest home run by an older couple who treats them as family instead of guests. It is the first sign of kindness in a very long time for Kate. She also runs into an old flame who never stopped loving her. Soon, she is working for him and living on his ranch. But will Kate ever truly get over the abuse and the scars it has left on her.

A Life of Their Own is a sweet, very short book about hope and the healing power of love. I enjoyed reading it and the story itself kept my attention until the end. However, there were a few concerns that I had. The language is very dated. If this had been a piece of historical fiction or set in a different country other than the US, I might have understood. But Americans no longer speak in this stilted, very formal style of English. For example, I cannot remember the last time – if ever – a mother has referred to her kids as children. They’re kids as in “hey kids, let’s go” not “children we must leave.” There were multiple examples of British phrases used that are not used in the US. I had to look up what a “fleece” was because the mother bought two of them for the kids. (It’s a type of jacket) and, while I know what “tuck in” means in the UK, if you told an American sitting at a table to “tuck in,” they would get up and go to bed. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE British writers but if a book is going to be set in the US then it would be great if the author knew a bit more about American lifestyles and slang.

The bottom line is that A Life of Their Own is very sweet romance and if you can turn off that inner questioning voice, you will enjoy it. I did enjoy it. I just saw the flaws as well.

I received my copy of A Life of Their Own from #Netgalley

The Woman in the Park @teresasorkin @tullanh

A married woman meets a handsome stranger – In The Park. When the handsome stranger’s wife turns up dead, the only suspect is the married woman….

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The Woman in the Park is the exciting debut from the writing pair Teresa Sorkin and Tullan Holmqvist. A woman, Sarah Rock, is determined that her husband is having an affair with his young associate. Sarah, who has been under care for depression in the past, has weekly or twice weekly sessions with her psychologist through which we, the reader, learn more about Sarah, her family, her loneliness after her children leave for boarding school and, quite frankly, this appeared to be more of sad tale about mid-life rather than a suspenseful mystery. When Sarah meets Laurence in the park, however, things begin to change. Her life, formerly heartbreaking, appears to be filled with new life and energy – until the police show up at her door. There has been a murder in the park, a woman, and Sarah is their primary suspect. As Sarah’s world unravels, we go on a desperate journey with her to discover the truth, if the truth is capable of being found.

The Woman in the Park is a very short, extremely taut, marvelously written story that had me enthralled from beginning to the end. I literally read it in one afternoon never stopping once! While we know that Sarah is an unreliable narrator, the last section of the book is so surprising, so amazing that I never suspected until the very end. I was speechless!! Yes, The Woman in the Park really is that good!

Have you watched or do you remember The Sixth Sense with Bruce Willis when, at the very end, you sit there with your mouth hanging open and your head shaking in disbelief? That is exactly what I felt like at the end of The Woman in the Park. If you haven’t see that movie – you need to. If you haven’t read The Woman in the Park, you absolutely must! If this is their debut, I cannot wait to see all of the great books that will come from this writing pair!

Thank you #Edelweiss, the authors and @BeaufortBooks for my copy of this amazing book!

#TwoforTuesday #TheRunaway #OneLittleSecret

Riveting and captivating mysteries is the genre to which I always find myself returning. The Runaway by Ali Harper and One Little Secret by Cate Holahan are two marvelous books that exemplify this genre so well.

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The Runway is the second book in a series revolving around two young, female private investigators who run an agency specifically searching for missing persons. The gals from No Stone Unturned have, so far, only has solved one case but soon they find themselves with two complicated jobs – a missing boyfriend and a cold case involving a woman who never was identified. Each of these cases leads the women into areas they never have gone before, from flats for the extremely wealthy and well-known, to freestyle “raves” in open fields. As the evidence begins to mount, they soon discover that neither case is at all what it appeared to be and that discovery can, and does, lead to dangerous conclusions.

The Runaway is very “in the now” book. This is not your stodgy old mystery novel but rather a very current, realistic one with characters that are flawed, young and extremely capable. The vernacular is edgy, the characters are young and feisty as hell. You know I love books with strong female leads and Jo and Lee are about as strong and urbane as they come.

“Women aren’t taught to fight; they aren’t taught to stand their ground. Women are taught…. to run.”

These women do NOT run, they are not afraid and they definitely stand their ground. I loved them! I loved the book! While this is the second in the series, it reads as a stand alone quite well. I read it before I read the first in the series and, while I understand more about the women, I never felt lost while reading The Runaway. If you like mysteries with strong female leads the I cannot recommend The Runaway highly enough!

ONE LITTLE SECRET by Cate Holahan

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Over the summer I fell into a reading slump. I was behind in everything – reading, reviewing, commenting – and I truly felt as though I needed to throw in the towel as a blogger and reviewer. And then I read One Little Secret. It completely turned everything around for me! I read the entire book within hours and immediately went on a search for all of Cate Holahan’s books. I downloaded them and read them all as well. I was a fan! I was also out of my slump. Do I need to say more!?

Fine. One Little Secret is a marvelous “locked-room mystery.” Susan wanted nothing more than a peaceful get-away at the beach. She invited a few other couples to join her and her husband at a beach house rental. Susan thought it would be a dream vacation for them, a time of fun and games and a way to reconnect with one another. She thought wrong – deadly wrong. A night of drinking leads to diminished inhibitions, secrets are revealed and the next morning one of them is found dead on the beach. Who wanted this person dead and why, more importantly how?

One Little Secret is well written, suspenseful to the end and is one of the best “locked room” mysteries I’ve read in a while. It very easily could have slipped into campy but the craftily worded plot never allows it to go there. While many have called this a “summer beach read” because it set at a holiday house at the beach, this is a mystery that will be a good read any time of the year. When you’re finished with this one, go find Holahan’s other books. You will enjoy them as well!

Thank you #Netgalley, @CrookedLaneBooks, and @HarperImpulseandKillerReads for my copy of these terrific books.

 

Sunday Morning for the Kids #TheFairyin the KettleGetsMagical and #TheArtistWhoLovedCats #MothersDaywithSnowmanPaul

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It’s Sunday, and here at Macsbooks that can only mean one thing – Children’s Books! I have greatly missed posting about all of the marvelous children’s books that have been published. My inner child loves reading them almost as much as kids do! This week I have three marvelous books to share with you!

THE ARTIST WHO LOVED CATS: The Inspiring Tale of Theophile Alexandre Steinlen by Susan Schaefer Bernardo, illustrations by Coutenay Fletcher

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I’m sure we’re all familiar with the famous painting Le Chat Noir, the black cat from Paris, but few know who the artist is behind the painting: Theophile Alexandre Steinlen. The Artist Who Loved Cats is the delightful story of this man and his love of cats. The story line is set in an antiquities shop in Paris. Antoinette sees something in the window that catches her and, once inside, meets the proprietor who knows the stories behind each and every object in the store. Through beautiful, rhythmic prose, he begins to tell her of the man who loved cats – Steinlen. Steinlen was in Paris in the 1800s to study fabric and design. He created hundreds of illustrations about the industry but he always came back to painting what he loved most: cats. In this delightful tale, children not only learn about this incredible illustrator/artist, but they will be fascinated by the details of Paris in the height of the artisan age, the golden age of Paris.

The Artist Who Loved Cats is wonderfully written and the illustration are simply stunning. I can only hope that this is the beginning of series featuring more artists from this era. I think kids – as well as adults – would be thrilled by it. I have to share my favorite quote from the book with you because it’s actually one that I live by here in my Victorian home: “Each thing has a past, each place has a history.” Isn’t that just so incredibly true? I do hope you will read this marvelous book and share it far and wide with the children in your lives.

THE FAIRY IN THE KETTLE GETS MAGICAL by Pauline Tait

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If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time then you know that one of my favorite series is The Fairy in the Kettle. I became enamored with the fairy kingdom of Fairy Glen and with Lenora, the adorable and spunky fairy who lives in a kettle. The Fairy in the Kettle Gets Magical, by Pauline Tait, is the latest addition to the series.

The fairies of Willow Glen are horrified to discover that the fairy dust of Willow Glen is becoming scarce. Unsure of what to do, they decide to leave the glen in search of more magic. Their adventures are perilous  and the fairies find that the only way to succeed in their mission is to work together. As always, the story is both entertaining as well as subtly adding a moral within, a key to any good, clever children’s book. It is, however, the illustrations that are most captivating. They are striking watercolors that will capture the imagination and attention of children of all ages. While the books are geared toward ages 4-8, I suspect younger children will love the rhythm and colors of the story if it is read to them. It is gorgeous book that would make a great addition to any library.

MOTHERS DAY WITH SNOWMAN PAUL by Yossi Lapid

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A few months ago, I had the pleasure of being gifted a beautiful book for a new series, Yara’s Rain Forest. You can read my review HERE.  The author, Yossi Lapid, is well known for his Snowman Paul series that is a favorite of children all over the world. In May (!) I was asked to read Mother’s Day with Snowman Paul but, you know, life interrupted my blogging and I was unable to post a review until now which is a shame because it is one fantastic children’s book!

The story is simply told, beautifully illustrated but carries a far deeper message than just “mother’s day.” Snowman Paul explores the concept of mothers of all types, especially Mother Earth. It is an amazing tribute to mothers – human, animal and environmental. I absolutely loved this and, more importantly, so did all of the children I have shared it with. The direction of Lapid’s books toward environmental education is one that I find sorely lacking in children’s books today. When my kids were younger that is all that they read and they have grown to be acutely aware of the destruction we are causing the planet, so much so, that my daughter is now with the US State Department in their climate office and was one of the authors of the Paris Agreement. This is due, in part, to the love of our earth that she received from books just like Lapid’s. I want this love of nature, our earth, our environment for all children which is why this book and the Rain Forest series are so very dear to me and I hope they will be to you and your family as well. I would give all of Lapid’s books TEN STARS if I had five more available to me!

Many thanks to #Netgalley, #InnerFlowerChildBooks, #SilverWoodBooks,the authors, and especially to Yossi Lapid for allowing me to read these beautiful books.


					

Saturday Shorts: #Bethlehem #SixthWickedChild#HerSistersSecret

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In my attempt to catch up on all of the reviews I missed while out sick (months ago, I’m good now) I’m writing some rather brief reviews of the books I read/listened to while away. Okay, they’re brief in comparison to what I normally write, recognizing that for some, they still are full reviews.

BETHLEHEM by Karen Kelly

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Honestly, I would love to have that cover in a frame in my Victorian house. I think it’s gorgeous! That also sums up my thoughts about the book – beautiful! As you know, this is the favorite era in US history – the Gilded Age as industry and new inventions are just beginning to flourish but the mass corruption hasn’t quite taken hold. The novel, however, has a dual timeline as it spans the multi-generational story of a family in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the second of which is the 1960s. Bethlehem is a tale of family secrets, heartbreak, survival and, most of all, love. Kelly has created characters that truly represent a generation as a whole and families in general. Most of all, it is a story of forgiveness and is one from which I think many readers and their families might benefit.

Bethlehem is shelved as “historical fiction,” and it is that but so much more. I’ve read where others have suggested that it be classified solely as “women’s fiction,” but that is selling the book short. Not every historical novel has to deal with major, monumental events in history, nor should they. It is the basic human story that has to be told or else we, as a people, tend to gloss over our past. Families are history. Every day mundane tasks are history. It is how we learn from the past so that we may do better in the future and to that end, Kelly has given us a marvelous example, a wonderful read. This is a must-own book for my shelves and I hope it will be a “must-read” for each of you.

THE SIXTH WICKED CHILD by J.D.Barker

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The Sixth Wicked Child is the action packed conclusion to JD Barker’s 4MK trilogy. If you have not read The Fourth Monkey and The Fifth to Die, do not read this one until you have done so. There is absolutely no way to fully understand the plot or the characters without reading the entire series. Unfortunately, I wish I had stopped at The Fourth Monkey. I thought it was one of the best books I ever had read. Not just thriller or horror or fiction, but one of the best in general. The characters were witting, biting, mysterious and thrilling. I loved the dialogue, the intelligence that went into the writing. Simply stated, I loved The Fourth Monkey! I was sorely disappointed with The Fifth to Die and, had The Sixth Wicked Child not been the conclusion, I would have passed on it entirely. The wit, the marvelous dialogue, the humor and the intellect were missing from the second and third installments.

In The Sixth Wicked Child, we pick up exactly at the cliffhanger of the second book. As it progresses we – and they – are presented with “facts” that show both Detective Porter and Anson Bishop as the possible serial killer. In addition, the girls who were rescued at the end of The Fifth to Die were injected with what is believed to be deadly contagion. Half of Porter’s team is in lock-down at the hospital and the other half, including the FBI, are on a manhunt for Porter. If this sounds confusing and conflicting that is because it is! There was so much information stuffed into this novel and so many questions to be answered that adding the contagion seemed like too many pieces of pie after a huge holiday meal. By the end of the book, I just wanted it to end, to give me the answers I needed to feel satisfied with the series, but no, it just kept going. The ending finally came with a “surprising twist!” Two surprises actually. Both of which were so incredibly unbelievable that I just shook my head in sadness. All that I had come to know and love about J.D.Barker’s writing was undone by the last chapters of the book. I detest twists that you know are just there for shock purposes. I also detest vigilante justice. That’s all I will say. If you like this series then I know you’ll read the conclusion. If you haven’t read the series – stop after the first. You will be glad you did.

HER SISTER’S SECRET by E.V. Seymour

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Her Sister’s Secret by E.V.Seymour begins with a woman killed in a car crash. We read her emotions, thoughts, fears and anguish as the car careens into another. We suspect, and eventually so do the police, that this was no accident and the driver intentionally killed herself via the fatal crash. But that is just the beginning to the twists, secrets and questions that we encounter within.

There are three Napier siblings – one is perfect and adored, one struggles to live up the image her sister has set while never quite achieving that goal in the eyes of their parents. The third doesn’t even try to meet the parental expectations and is now a recovering addict. When the perfect sibling dies in this car crash, one sibling withdraws back into their addiction and the other, Molly, goes on a quest to learn the truth. Why would her perfect sister with a perfect husband and perfect life kill herself – and did she intentionally attempt to kill the other driver as well? As Molly searches for the truth, she discovers more questions and secrets than anyone, including herself, are prepared to answer.

Everything about Her Sister’s Secret was interesting: the characters were complex, the writing was exceptional and the plot was riviting. There were plenty of red herrings to keep me guessing how the ending would play out. I had my own suspicions, but the nuances of the story line kept me intrigued to the very end. This is exactly how thrillers and suspense should be written. If you haven’t picked up Her Sister’s Secret yet, then I highly encourage you to do so.

And those are my “shorts for Saturday.” Have you read these three, one or all? What did you think about them? Let me know. As always, I’m appreciative to #Netgalley for my copies of these books and to @StMartinsPress and @HarperImpulse as well as to the authors who make it all possible. Happy Reading!

 

FREE Book Weekend! — His Name Was Zach

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I have this one downloaded and ready to read. I hope you guys will take a look at it as well and let me know what you think about it.

Get ready, because tomorrow and Sunday (September 14th and 15th), His Name Was Zach will be FREE to download on Kindle! If you’re one of my faithful followers, please share this post far and wide! I’d love to see as many people as possible get their hands on a FREE version of my debut novel!

via FREE Book Weekend! — His Name Was Zach

The Grace Year @Kim_Liggett

This summer has been the season of feminist books for me and I have loved each and every one of them! Adding to the latest feminist reads is The Grace Year by Kim Liggett. I have to admit that it was labeled as a “young adult” book but everything about this book is geared toward women of all ages. It is phenomenal!

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In this dystopian novel, the women live very subjugated lives along side men who rule with an iron fist. They are not allowed to gather and talk with one another in public, not allowed to hum or sing believing that they are using their “magic” to seduce or trick men – because we all know that men are easily seduced or tricked. Yes, we do. When they sixteen years old, the girls are sent away to a camp far in the woods to survive on their own for a year in order to rid themselves of their “magic” and come back pure and ready for marriage. The woods surrounding them are filled with “poachers” who are waiting for the girls to make a wrong move so they can skin the women alive, capture their magic and sell it back to the men in the county. There are outcasts and usurpers and these girls know that they do not want to become either of those women. Only a few will survive their “grace year” and those who do never breathe a word about what transpires in the woods. Until now. Tierney is determined to survive this year and prove there is no magic at all. As the girls become more insane and more of them are dying and being killed by the poachers, Tierney is targeted as one who much be cast out. Survival  becomes her only goal – will she succeed?

The Grace Year has been compared to The Handmaid’s Tale and The Power but in all truthfulness I found The Grace Year far more interesting and realistic. We live in a world where women who once were gaining ground, marching on the road to equality, suddenly find themselves at the mercy of very angry, emphasis on very, men. Not just in the US but in so many countries all over the world. We now are marching backward with no say over our own bodies, no say over the world in which we live as we watch strong, intelligent women being mocked by those with half of their intellect. We are, literally, just shy of the ignorance that the males portray in The Grace Year. Sadly, we women are allowing this to happen without whimper.

However, what I found most refreshing was the end of this book. Without giving away what transpires, the women who were raging against one another form a bond. They begin making subtle changes to themselves and toward their group as a whole. They discover that there are men in their county who are willing to stand up for them, who help them and those who have been outcast. While the story itself is extremely dark, horrifically brutal – this really is a story of hope. If only we, as women, could or would bond together as a whole, stop tearing one another down, just imagine the power that we would have and the good that we could do for the world. That is the essence of this book: Hope.

This is a long-ish book and I thought, at first, that perhaps it needed editing to make it more palatable to those who no longer read longish books. However, there is nothing to edit. This book is perfect as it and well worth the time it takes to read it. In fact, I stayed up all night to finish it because I had to know the ending. It was beautiful! If you do not read another book this year, I encourage you to read The Grace Year and then follow it up with Athena’s Choice by Adam Boostrom. We’ll make a good feminist out of you yet.

My thanks goes out to #netgalley, @WednesdayBooks @StMartinsPress and #KimLiggett for allowing me to read and review this incredible book on sale October 8, 2019.