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Aug 16, 2016

Time and Regret by M.K Tod

Tuesday, August 16, 2016
I am honored to post the following article as submitted to me by Mary Tod to celebrate the release of her newest novel.
Time and Regret releases August 16 2016

Synopsis:When Grace Hansen finds a box belonging to her beloved grandfather, she has no idea it holds the key to his past—and to long buried secrets. In the box are his World War I diaries and a cryptic note addressed to her. Determine to solve her grandfather’s puzzle, Grace follows his diary entries across towns and battle sites in northern France, where she becomes increasingly drawn to a charming French man—and suddenly aware that someone is following her. From her grandfather’s vivid writing and Grace’s own travels, a picture emerges of a many very unlike the one who raised her: one who watched countless friends and loved ones die horrifically in battle; one who lived a life of regret. But her grandfather wasn’t the only one harbouring secrets, and the more Grace learns about her family, the less she thinks she can trust them.

Five WWI Novels that Influenced My Writing by M.K. Tod

I write about WWI. A woman who hated history in high school, studied math and computer science and worked in business for thirty years. Go figure! Nonetheless, here I am busily engaged in a second career writing historical fiction with WWI settings.

A huge leap is required to turn your life upside down and do something completely different and I had a lot to learn about war. Beyond the usual internet sources and history books about those times, five novels stand out for the beauty of their writing, their evocation of sights and sounds and the tidbits of historical detail that are seamlessly woven into the stories. I’ve read these five, reread them, unlined sections and even marked particularly interesting pages with little yellow stickies. They are my go-to source whenever I need an injection of WWI atmosphere to spark my writing.

Anne Perry’s WWI series: I read At Some Disputed Barricade before realizing it was the fourth book about the Reavley family and a shocking conspiracy at the highest levels of British government. Now, I’ve read them all and not only are the story and its central mystery page turning, but the author brings the war to life from different angles: nurse, war chaplain, soldiers, politicians, those in the secret service.

“Every now and then star shells went up, lighting the landscape, with its jagged tree stumps, erratic gouges out of the clay now filled with mud and water. There were wrecked vehicles by the side of the road and here and there carcasses of horses, even sometimes helmets to mark where men had died. Broken gun carriages and burned-out tanks showed up in the glare, and once the barrel of a great cannon sticking up out of a crater, angled at the sky.”

Regeneration by Pat Barker: I began with Pat Barker’s Life Class and then read Regeneration, a novel that has won awards for its powerful writing and exploration of war’s effect on the mind and soul. It is based on real experiences of British officers like Vidal Sassoon who suffered from shell-shock and were treated at Craiglockhart War Hospital. The Regeneration Trilogy includes two other novels: The Eye in the Door and The Ghost Road.

“Sometimes, in the trenches, you get the sense of something, ancient. One trench we held, it had skulls in the side, embedded, like mushrooms. It was actually easier to believe they were men from Marlborough's army, than to think they'd been alive a year ago. It was as if all the other wars had distilled themselves into this war, and that made it something you almost can't challenge. It's like a very deep voice, saying; 'Run along, little man, be glad you've survived.”

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks: I’ve rarely been in a conversation about WWI without someone mentioning Birdsong. Its renown has reached almost mythical proportions. The novel begins in 1910 with a young Englishman who arrives in Amiens for work. A clandestine love affair tears apart the family with whom he lives and sets the stage for his war experiences. A compelling tale of the human spirit and a condemnation of war.

“He was awed by the sound the guns were making; so many of them in rolling sequence on a line of sixteen miles, the heaviest providing the continuous rumble like a sustained roll of timpani, and the lighter adding unpredictable pattern and emphasis. Within an hour the whole line was pouring out shells, filling the night with a dense traffic of metal. The noise like thunder breaking in uninterrupted waves.”

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden: This haunting story combines the experiences of two Cree snipers in the battlefields of Ypres and the Somme with the journey one of them takes to get home after the war. Joseph Boyden is a celebrated Canadian author whose writing deserves words like powerful, passionate, extraordinary and inspiring.

“You hear the thunk of a mortar land close to you, know you can run away from it if you’re quick. It’s the only bomb you can do that with. The big shells you can hear coming from a long way off and just pray that they aren’t heading for you. Now listen careful, boys, it’s the smaller shells, the whiz-bangs, that are the most damaging, the ones that sound like a mosquito whining in the distance. You hear them coming and you dive flat into the earth and bury your nose deep as you can into the mud.”

The First Casualty by Ben Elton: Elton gives us a story about a man who investigates a murder amidst the Third Battle of Ypres. It explores some fundamental questions: What is murder? What is justice in the face of unimaginable daily slaughter? And where is the honour in saving a man from the gallows if he is only to be returned to die in suicidal battle?

“Kingsley was now only a hundred yards from the front but the going was very slow. First he had to traverse along the reserve trench in order to reach a communication trench that would take him up to the support line. The trenches were fashioned in a zigzag pattern resembling a series of cogs: viewed from the air, they would appear like a battlement stretched out across the ground. This design was to minimize the effect of the blast from a shell landing directly in a trench and exploding out along it, or of the enemy getting in and setting up a machine gun which could then rake along the line.”

I could continue quoting from these novels to show how they illuminate the sights, sounds, smells and conditions of war as well as everyday matters such as how to assemble a rifle, walk along duckboards, make tea in the midst of filth, comfort a wounded soldier, reinforce a trench, heft a sandbag, don a gasmask, lay wire for signaling purposes and on and on. These aren’t the only novels about WWI that I’ve read but they have inspired my writing and will continue to do so.

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website

Time and Regret by M.K. Tod: A cryptic letter. A family secret. A search for answers.
When Grace Hansen finds a box belonging to her beloved grandfather, she has no idea it holds the key to his past—and to long buried secrets. In the box are his World War I diaries and a cryptic note addressed to her. Determine to solve her grandfather’s puzzle, Grace follows his diary entries across towns and battle sites in northern France, where she becomes increasingly drawn to a charming French man—and suddenly aware that someone is following her.

Purchase Time and Regret:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada 
Amazon UK

Jul 15, 2016

Mini Reviews of Summer 2016 Reads

Friday, July 15, 2016

From June 2016 onwards I picked up some great reads from the library, and we all know how annoying it is to feel forced to write a review. But I did want to highlight some of them because they were very good reads. I no longer review "for others" so all these were either purchased or were library loans.

released April 2016

A sweeping new drama from the beloved, bestselling author of Roses.

Texas in the early 1900s, its inhabitants still traveling by horseback and barely familiar with the telephone, was on the cusp of an oil boom that, unbeknownst to its residents, would spark a period of dramatic changes and economic growth. In the midst of this transformative time in Southern history, two unforgettable characters emerge and find their fates irrevocably intertwined: Samantha Gordon, the privileged heiress to the sprawling Las Tres Lomas cattle ranch near Fort Worth, and Nathan Holloway, a sweet-natured and charming farm boy from far north Texas. As changes sweep the rustic countryside, Samantha and Nathan's connection drives this narrative compulsively forward as they love, lose, and betray. In this grand yet intimate novel, Meacham once again delivers a heartfelt, big-canvas story full of surprising twists and deep emotional resonance.

My thoughts:
I was first introduced to author Leila Meacham in 2010 while she was on tour to promote her release of Roses, a saga about a Texas family. It was a wonderful experience to actually meet the author and I did a quick interview with her before she spoke at a bookstore event. I was thrilled to receive the gorgeous hardcover edition of Titans for Mother's Day this year. This novel had the same feel of a family saga that we love about Meacham's writing, and this time there was a bit of a suspenseful nuance as we wondered how and when the next horseshoe was to drop. It was a very good read about family bonds during the era of Texas growing as an oil-rich state but in the end I did feel like the author was leaving some of her passion behind. Still a very good read with intriguing characters and written pretty much in line with her previous works.

released March 2016

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Spellman Files series, Lisa Lutz’s latest blistering thriller is about a woman who creates and sheds new identities as she crisscrosses the country to escape her past: you’ll want to buckle up for the ride!

In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it...

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time.

She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born.

It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret…can she outrun her past?

With heart-stopping escapes and devious deceptions, The Passenger is an amazing psychological thriller about defining yourself while you pursue your path to survival. One thing is certain: the ride will leave you breathless.
My thoughts:
This was a very fast-paced thrill of a read. I pretty much devoured it and didn't want to put it down. There was mystery and suspense that kept me guessing, and you can't help but root for the main protagonist no matter what dastardly deeds she was forced to do. A comfort read, a summer read, a perfect fit for the mystery reader who likes to be entertained.

released January 2015

EVERY DAY THE SAME Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.  UNTIL TODAY And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

My thoughts:
This was a very dark and emotionally intense thriller of a read. When your own marriage is on the fritz I really wouldn't recommend reading this however as it can really depress the crap out of you and perhaps highlight characteristics of your own sad life that would make you want to slit your wrists. Very moody, yet such a good story that really sucks you in with skillful writing. You kind of get the gist of who the bad guys are but it is hard to really tell where the author will take you next as the narrative shifts around. Very well plotted and yet I am not sure how the future movie will be able to portray the power of the author's words in this one.

Look at the life they have, look at how beautiful it is! I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.” ― Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train

released April 2016
 From the author of the New York Times bestseller and beloved book club favorite The Kitchen House, a novel of family and long-buried secrets along the treacherous Underground Railroad.
Jamie Pyke, son of both a slave and master of Tall Oakes, has a deadly secret that compels him to take a treacherous journey through the Underground Railroad.
Published in 2010, The Kitchen House became a grassroots bestseller. Fans connected so deeply to the book’s characters that the author, Kathleen Grissom, found herself being asked over and over “what happens next?” The wait is finally over.
This new, stand-alone novel opens in 1830, and Jamie, who fled from the Virginian plantation he once called home, is passing in Philadelphia society as a wealthy white silversmith. After many years of striving, Jamie has achieved acclaim and security, only to discover that his aristocratic lover Caroline is pregnant. Before he can reveal his real identity to her, he learns that his beloved servant Pan has been captured and sold into slavery in the South. Pan’s father, to whom Jamie owes a great debt, pleads for Jamie’s help, and Jamie agrees, knowing the journey will take him perilously close to Tall Oakes and the ruthless slave hunter who is still searching for him. Meanwhile, Caroline’s father learns and exposes Jamie’s secret, and Jamie loses his home, his business, and finally Caroline.
Heartbroken and with nothing to lose, Jamie embarks on a trip to a North Carolina plantation where Pan is being held with a former Tall Oakes slave named Sukey, who is intent on getting Pan to the Underground Railroad. Soon the three of them are running through the Great Dismal Swamp, the notoriously deadly hiding place for escaped slaves. Though they have help from those in the Underground Railroad, not all of them will make it out alive.
My thoughts:
This is a sequel to Grissom's The Kitchen House which was a favorite read of mine for 2010. The synopsis above is a thorough account of what to expect, and I found this follow-up to be well worth the wait. The USA (which is pretty much becoming an oxymoron) will always have the hostile environment that we created with our practice of slavery and this novel shows how deeply jaded the human race can be in regards to differences in color. Very enjoyable plot that is fast paced and replete with unforgettable characters. A book that is in the rare running for a re-read.

released September  2002

This powerful new novel by the bestselling author begins when a teenage couple drives up, late at night, headlights out, to Blessings, the estate owned by Lydia Blessing. They leave a box and drive away, and in this instant, the world of Blessings is changed forever. Richly written, deeply moving, beautifully crafted, Blessings tells the story of Skip Cuddy, caretaker of the estate, who finds a baby asleep in that box and decides he wants to keep her, and of matriarch Lydia Blessing, who, for her own reasons, decides to help him. The secrets of the past, how they affect the decisions and lives of people in the present; what makes a person, a life, legitimate or illegitimate, and who decides; the unique resources people find in themselves and in a community—these are at the center of this wonderful novel of love, redemption, and personal change by the writer about whom The Washington Post Book World said, “Quindlen knows that all the things we ever will be can be found in some forgotten fragment of family.”
My thoughts:
When I found this one, I was searching for a book to take my mind off things and something that would hold my interest without having to invest too much time and thought. This was a perfect fit with its lovable characters who try to do the right thing even if it might not be the best thing overall. It was kind of like a feel-good type of story, but yet not too many good things are really happening "action" wise. It is the interaction of the characters and the way that society is portrayed to highlight the things that are blessings in one's life. I enjoyed the novel and will look forward to looking for more of Anna Quindlen's backlist.

released May 2016

From the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Little Bee, a spellbinding novel about three unforgettable individuals thrown together by war, love, and their search for belonging in the ever-changing landscape of WWII London.
It’s 1939 and Mary, a young socialite, is determined to shock her blueblood political family by volunteering for the war effort. She is assigned as a teacher to children who were evacuated from London and have been rejected by the countryside because they are infirm, mentally disabled, or—like Mary’s favorite student, Zachary—have colored skin.

Tom, an education administrator, is distraught when his best friend, Alastair, enlists. Alastair, an art restorer, has always seemed far removed from the violent life to which he has now condemned himself. But Tom finds distraction in Mary, first as her employer and then as their relationship quickly develops in the emotionally charged times. When Mary meets Alastair, the three are drawn into a tragic love triangle and—while war escalates and bombs begin falling around them—further into a new world unlike any they’ve ever known.
v A sweeping epic with the kind of unforgettable characters, cultural insights, and indelible scenes that made Little Bee so incredible, Chris Cleave’s latest novel explores the disenfranchised, the bereaved, the elite, the embattled. Everyone Brave Is Forgiven is a heartbreakingly beautiful story of love, loss, and incredible courage.
My thoughts:
I kept seeing the cover of this novel during internet browsing and its premise called to me. I was fortunate to get the eBook pretty early on via the library and it was a nice surprise. The writing is one that is full of prose and very descriptive, and while I tend to dislike overly wordy literary style novels, this one was just the right blend of emotion, beauty and tragedy. This was a realistic look at how lives were changed through the effects of war and it was very matter-of-fact though with a underlying thread of hope. The plot was a simple one, but its slow progression is precisely the beauty of this novel. 

May 17, 2016

The Lake House by Kate Morton

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Lake House by Kate Morton
Atria Books, October 2015
606 pages
Source- Kindle Library Loan
Burton Book Review Rating: 5 stars

One of People magazine's Best Books of Fall—"Morton's moody, suspenseful latest is the perfect page-turner for a chilly night."

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Secret Keeper and The Distant Hours, an intricately plotted, spellbinding new novel of heartstopping suspense and uncovered secrets. Living on her family's idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure...

One midsummer's eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.
Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo's case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather's house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone...yet more present than ever.

A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies, this latest novel from a masterful storyteller is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.

This is Morton's fifth novel and I have most- if not all- of her other novels. Time is not my friend however and so this newest release of hers is actually the first one I have read. It was slow going at my first try; it could have been personal pressures etc. but I wondered if I was going to be able to finish this digital library loan before it expired. Then I realized it was six hundred pages and I really worried! Soon though, I was able to dig in, and get completely absorbed in the story of a young girl whose family is perfect on the outside and yet things are never what they seem.

It is one of those stories that flip through different generations back and forth with different characters, which gets a little confusing to explain, but it was very well done this time as we are trying to solve little mysteries along the way of what happened way back when on a glorious family estate in Cornwall.

Little clues are given along the way and you really think it's going this way, but in the end I can definitely say I did not see that coming. It was a feel-good happy ending that made me teary. If you like Susanna Kearsley, you will love this one. It's a chunky one and it was just awesome for when you can settle in and sink your teeth into a great story that has suspense, romance, mystery and drama all rolled up into a pretty engrossing package. Definitely pushing the back-list closer to my will-read-this-lifetime-so-help-me-God pile.

Apr 4, 2016

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Monday, April 04, 2016
A well-known favorite for many..

Redeeming Love  by Francine Rivers
Multnomah Books, pub. 2004
Personal copy

California’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep. Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child, she survives by keeping her hatred alive. And what she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside. Then she meets Michael Hosea. A man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything, Michael Hosea obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation until, despite her resistance her frozen heart begins to thaw. But with her unexpected softening come overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband’s pursuing love, terrified of the truth she can no longer deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael Hosea does…the One who will never let her go. A life-changing story of God’s unconditional, redemptive, all-consuming love. 

So I have been on this kick lately to read whatever I want whenever.. you know, like REAL people do. So glad to kick that whole reviewing for others thing; so toxic to my sanity. It seemed logical that in my awesome reads for 2016 that my first Francine Rivers novel should be Redeeming Love. Everyone raved about it. It's got five stars on Amazon. I have the "new" aka "redeemed" edition. And I think perhaps that's what killed it for me. The original 1991 Bantam novel apparently did not completely skip the romantic love making scenes where our two protagonists got together emotionally, spiritually, sexually.. at least, that is what I could ASSUME is happening with my "redeemed" edition.

The gist of this thing is that poor prostitute Angel has had a very horrible time of it, pretty much being a whore because that's all she was ever born to be. Lo' and behold a handsome man wants to save her from all that. A real-life honest to God knight in shining armor. And she is like, no thank you. I was born to be a prostitute and God is dead to me. You're great for asking me to marry you on sight but no thanks because I love being a sex slave. And this is where you really can't feel too bad for Angel/Tirzah/Marah/Amanda anymore.

So Michael Hosea (surprise! from the biblical story of Hosea who marries a prostitute) manages to bring her to his humble home, show her how to cook and farm, and pretty much saves her life (and gives her several names because Angel won't say her real name). He loves her to pieces because God told him to.

She runs away because she just doesn't feel like she deserves him.

He gets her back.

She runs away again.

It can feel a bit stalkerish actually.

All the real character building and "redeeming love" that happened behind closed doors -- and deleted from our "redeemed" edition really did no favors for me. I love Christian fiction, I love biblical fiction. This was beginning to seem like a waste of my time personally because I would love to have that Christian man myself, begging me to just love him back and I was a but jealous of our beautiful harlot. Having said that, I can say that the last chapter was really a special one, and it very aptly sums up the title. If you have an open heart to hear God's word, and are in a place to be open to the message of forgiveness and renewal, it can be a very touching novel. There is a rebirth/renewal theme along with compassion and mercy that goes through all the required motions in order for it fully come about, and this takes the entire novel to achieve but can be very moving for the reader.

The biblical quotes at the beginning of each chapter were a nice touch, and if you are at a place where you are ready to explore God's undying love and proof of this, the novel could be a satisfying read. However, those readers who are cynical and in a tough place at the moment may find it all too unrealistic. I have a feeling I would have preferred the 1991 untouched version even though I am normally not too interested in the romance scenes, but the way you could sense it was obviously skipped in this later edition was just an annoyance for the story line. You might gather that I'm a bit on the fence on this one. The historical atmosphere was very well done with the neighboring families helping to add dimension to the novel and to support the transformation in Angel's character. I can definitely understand where so many have felt the message of love and forgiveness set forth in this novel but again you have to want to hear the message especially since it ties so closely to the biblical story of Hosea.

Mar 25, 2016

Doc: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell

Friday, March 25, 2016

Doc: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell
Published May 3 2011, 389 pages
eBook library loan
Born to the life of a Southern gentleman, Dr. John Henry Holliday arrives on the Texas frontier hoping that the dry air and sunshine of the West will restore him to health. Soon, with few job prospects, Doc Holliday is gambling professionally with his partner, Mária Katarina Harony, a high-strung, classically educated Hungarian whore. In search of high-stakes poker, the couple hits the saloons of Dodge City. And that is where the unlikely friendship of Doc Holliday and a fearless lawman named Wyatt Earp begins— before the gunfight at the O.K. Corral links their names forever in American frontier mythology—when neither man wanted fame or deserved notoriety.

Having totally loved Epitaph by the author - it was a favorite for this year- I went back to read the novel that came before it. This novel is a wonderful re-imagining of Doc Holliday's life and is very enjoyable. The writing is very well done but the only draw back is when the author seemed to digress into another person's detailed mini-biography. The author was clearly showing her research prowess of the era, but there were times this detail drew me away from the story at hand.

If you like the movie Tombstone, and enjoy the wild west type of stories, each of the novels by Mary Doria Russell will fit the bill. It is a very character-driven atmospheric tale, and the Earps are an intriguing lot. Add them to the story of Doc Holliday and it's a win-win.

I'm really enjoying my 2016 of Books, as I read whatever the heck I want on any old whim. I am also loving the eBook library loan feature plus the free book a month via Prime (just one?!) as I've finally embraced my Kindle Voyage full force.

Mar 23, 2016

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Adored this novel!

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley
Sourcebooks re-issue 2012
Source eBook plus own personal autographed copy

My previous Susanna Kearsley posts and reviews can be found here.

The first time Julia Beckett saw Greywethers she was only five, but she knew that it was her house. And now that she’s at last become its owner, she suspects that she was drawn there for a reason.

As if Greywethers were a portal between worlds, she finds herself transported into seventeenth-century England, becoming Mariana, a young woman struggling against danger and treachery, and battling a forbidden love.

Each time Julia travels back, she becomes more enthralled with the past...until she realizes Mariana’s life is threatening to eclipse her own, and she must find a way to lay the past to rest or lose the chance for happiness in her own time.

I am not really sure why it took me so long to get to this novel, especially given how I love this author and her work; this novel marks the seventh of the author's that I have read. I have had the eBook since 2012, and I recently went to an author event and purchased another copy there so I could have her autograph it. I finally read the eBook on my Kindle so I wouldn't spoil the newness of my new copy.

This book is another one of the time slip historical gothic novels that Kearsley is known for, and this one has romance, paranormal activity/fantasy, religion, time travel, suspense and historical details. When I say religion it just is a small conceptual fact to add to the history-- so atheists will still enjoy this. The time slip has Julia flashing back to the Charles Stuart era with folks wanting Richard Cromwell to rise up and defend his father's dream of the Commonwealth.

 Do you have a soul mate? Do you believe in reincarnation?

I absolutely love loved loved it, and the ending really was so good that I was tearing up. If I had been alone at that exact moment I probably would have let the tears flow. I loved how Julia's character was portrayed as she was so realistically portrayed that she was easy to like and then of course the time-slip counterpart of her was also a character that was very easy to empathize with. There were probably so many tiny clues hidden that when I finished the novel and finally realized the "mystery" I felt compelled to start over. I will miss Julia and would love to see another book with this set of characters. I always enjoy the settings of Kearsley's novels of England and I could wax poetic but there's no need.

If you have not read Mariana yet, please go do so. Thank me later.

I love the resolution of 2016 -- reading what I want, when I want. It has meant that my reviews are all going to be for good books, because I am not going to waste time on books I don't like anymore!

Mar 14, 2016

The Midwife's Revolt

Monday, March 14, 2016


The Midwife's Revolt by Jodi Daynard
Published April 7, 2015
426 pages

Source: free eBook via Kindle Lending Library

"On a dark night in 1775, Lizzie Boylston is awakened by the sound of cannons. From a hill south of Boston, she watches as fires burn in Charlestown, in a battle that she soon discovers has claimed her husband’s life.
Alone in a new town, Lizzie grieves privately but takes comfort in her deepening friendship with Abigail Adams. Soon, word spreads of Lizzie’s extraordinary midwifery and healing skills, and she begins to channel her grief into caring for those who need her. But when two traveling patriots are poisoned, Lizzie finds herself with far more complicated matters on her hands—she suspects a political plot intended to harm Abigail and her family. Determined to uncover the truth, Lizzie becomes entangled in a conspiracy that could not only destroy her livelihood—and her chance at finding love again—but also lead to the downfall of a new nation."

I came across the author browsing for available selections in the Amazon Prime Member's Kindle Lending Library. I was intrigued by 'Our Own Country' and saw that it was actually a sequel of sorts to The Midwife's Revolt, so I started in the beginning despite other reviewers indicating that the titles could read as a stand-alone.

The Midwife's Revolt is a novel set in the very intriguing period of America's birth. The American Revolution has begun, and Lizzie is forced to make do on her own on a modest farm, but it turns out that neighbors are Abigail Adams and the Quincys, which makes for a captivating storyline of political intrigue and the nuance of hobnobbing with the royalty of America.

But the heroine Lizzie was a fun character to watch, as she was intelligent, rash, emotional only at the most passionate times, and was a true friend to all. There were several characters who helped to round out the story and add romance and mystery at the same time. There was a traitor somewhere and people were being murdered, and Lizzie had to be very cautious. Book two will tell me the continuing story of Lizzie's friend and sister in law, Eliza, and I am looking forward to it. The historical details were really well done and the novel is another example that we need more American Revolution novels!

The author's writing was well paced and kept me interested throughout the plot, even though some unrealistic moments had to be brushed off. And the other annoyance was the way the novel would stop and say 'dear reader, I must tell you..' and I didn't want to be reminded that I was merely reading a story, just tell me the story but don't make me a part of it. It was a quick weekend read, and as soon as I am able to get another free ebook from Amazon I will download Our Own Country.

 *The link to the title on Goodreads where the novel has about a 4 star rating after 3,000 reviews:

Feb 26, 2016

Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral by Mary Doria Russell

Friday, February 26, 2016
Absolutely captivating novel on Wyatt Earp and his life

Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral by Mary Doria Russell
March 2015
Borrowed from library
Burton Book Review Rating: 5 stars
Mary Doria Russell, the bestselling, award-winning author of The Sparrow, returns with Epitaph. An American Iliad, this richly detailed and meticulously researched historical novel continues the story she began in Doc, following Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday to Tombstone, Arizona, and to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
A deeply divided nation. Vicious politics. A shamelessly partisan media. A president loathed by half the populace. Smuggling and gang warfare along the Mexican border. Armed citizens willing to stand their ground and take law into their own hands. . . .

That was America in 1881.
All those forces came to bear on the afternoon of October 26 when Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers faced off against the Clantons and the McLaurys in Tombstone, Arizona. It should have been a simple misdemeanor arrest. Thirty seconds and thirty bullets later, three officers were wounded and three citizens lay dead in the dirt.
Wyatt Earp was the last man standing, the only one unscathed. The lies began before the smoke cleared, but the gunfight at the O.K. Corral would soon become central to American beliefs about the Old West.
Epitaph tells Wyatt’s real story, unearthing the Homeric tragedy buried under 130 years of mythology, misrepresentation, and sheer indifference to fact. Epic and intimate, this novel gives voice to the real men and women whose lives were changed forever by those fatal thirty seconds in Tombstone. At its heart is the woman behind the myth: Josephine Sarah Marcus, who loved Wyatt Earp for forty-nine years and who carefully chipped away at the truth until she had crafted the heroic legend that would become the epitaph her husband deserved.

I don't know what prompted me to borrow this book from the library (digital library loan, my new bff!), as I am not a passionate fan of the Earps, the Wild West, or Tombstone. Something told me I would be missing out if I passed this up, based upon the many rave reviews on Amazon. I read this chunky 597 pages in a four day span - with me working full-time and chauffeuring kids etc, and so that tells you something right there.

This is not a novel that is just based on the O.K. Corral shootout - but everything that leads up to it and why. Characters such as the Earp brothers and their ladies are the main draw, but the novel actually opens with Josephine Marcus, aka Sadie, who later became the significant other to Wyatt Earp. Doc Holliday is prominent as well, and I cannot wait to sink my teeth into the author's previous novel, aptly titled 'Doc'. The political scheming of the era, with the law men, Cow-Boys, and newspaper editors all come together to breathe glistening life into the author's story which I just could not put down. I loved every minute of it, and the research of the author shows in her words.

Tombstone movie watchers will find it hard to not have those actors playing through their minds as they are reading the book, but that was not a bad thing for me. I am going to re-watch that movie just to relive it again. A wonderful novel on an epic time period of America that won't disappoint.

BEST OF 2016 - my first find for the year as a new favorite!

This is another book to add to my personal resolution of 2015 to read my own books, and ban review books. 

Feb 24, 2016

Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen
Berkley, July 2015
Source- borrowed from my library
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars

In the new novel by the three-time Christy Award-winning author of The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, a woman’s startling secrets lead her into unexpected danger and romance in Regency England…
 One final cry…“God almighty, help us!” and suddenly her world shifted violently, until a blinding collision scattered her mind and shook her bones. Then, the pain. The freezing water. And as all sensation drifted away, a hand reached for hers, before all faded into darkness…
Now she has awakened as though from some strange, suffocating dream in a warm and welcoming room she has never seen before, and tended to by kind, unfamiliar faces. But not all has been swept away. She recalls fragments of the accident. She remembers a baby. And a ring on her finger reminds her of a lie.
But most of all, there is a secret. And in this house of strangers she can trust no one but herself to keep it.
One of the quotes/blurbs you will see on Klassen's works is:
“[It’s] what readers love of Jane Austen, Downton Abbey and even a bit of Jane Eyre…everything a historical romance reader looks for.”—Historical Novels Review which is actually from a review I had written for the HNR site. You can read my reviews of Klassen's work here. This novel is written for less of an inspirational perspective as it is not published by Bethany House like most of her other work, and as such could disappoint her most avid readers, and judging from Amazon reviewers I think it did due to the fact that there were some romantic scenes throughout.

The quickest summary of the novel is one of a type of a Cinderella or rags to riches story. The maid gets mistaken for the true wife of a gentleman, thus the title "Lady Maybe". There is a large amount of hiding identity, thus untruthful aspects are applied to our heroine. The gothic tones we come to expect from Klassen are no longer evident, and it really just reads like a regency style romance with a bit of a thrill interlaced which in itself is not a bad thing.

I enjoyed the characters, and the pacing was swift and kept me guessing. The plot deals with the summary above and the heroine having to choose between two men and I ultimately had no idea which way it was going to go as the novel didn't really address a certain back story very thoroughly. While written with less of the gothic and inspirational undertonees, Klassen's beloved compelling writing style is still evident here.While it may not be a favorite Julie Klassen novel and its certainly not an epic read, I am still glad I was able to enjoy this novel for free via my local library's eBook program.

This is another book to add to my personal resolution of 2015 to read my own books, and ban review books. 

Feb 21, 2016

Prophet by Frank E. Peretti

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A look at the machine of media, politics, and cover-ups

Prophet by Frank E. Peretti
first published 1992, my edition published 2003 Living Books
575 pages
Personal copy
Burton Book Review Rating: 4 stars

Read my review of Peretti's Illusion here

A thriller that penetrates to the very heart of a vast struggle that threatens to tear our society apart. Successful news anchorman John Barrett is caught in a suspenseful moral and spiritual battle over the importance of Truth. Using all the elements of edge-of-your-seat fiction, master storyteller Frank Peretti weaves a prophetic tale of our times.
This is the second Frank Peretti book that I've read and I am now even more looking forward to reading his others from his back list, such as The Visitation, which was made into a movie (of course, the book is way better than the movie). One of the draws to his novels is that most of them are chunky - five hundred plus pages - which means less of an opportunity to rush through the narrative although it could mean a slow start. While Prophet is an older published novel the context is still relevant today as it delivers on a hot topic of abortion using a news anchorman as the medium. The story focuses on how the political bigwigs use their clout to cover up poorly run clinics and how they react to the direct results of deaths of young women due to the shoddy practices at these clinics.

The complex plot features John Barrett and his family and how he is reluctant at first to draw attention to the botched abortion issue due to the fact he is a well respected anchorman and the face of the popular news station. He has bosses to deal with, not to mention forces behind the camera that would rather bury the ugly truth. It is this very 'Truth' that emerges as the major theme, and how it has been ignored and needs to be restored. The title of the book is 'prophet' for a reason and the entire media circus and the facade of political translucency is brought into the open as the story develops. There is a lot going on with several characters but suffice to say that there are plenty of realistic portrayals of several stereotypes of people within our culture, from poor waitresses to doting moms to the thug who is hired to kill people.

While Peretti is not a very prolific author of adult fiction, the eight that he has written thus far are told with a strong voice that weaves his faith and natural storytelling abilities together, giving Peretti the reputation of changing the face of Christian fiction. The plots are intriguing and twisting, and they dare to look deeper to discern the obscured meanings, translating the truth from what is fiction. With over 15 million novels in print, this author is not one to miss if you are looking for a faith based novel with captivating themes surrounding spiritual journeys.

And yes ma'am, this is just another book to add to my personal resolution of 2015 to read my own books, and ban review books. You go, girl.

Jan 28, 2016

Lament for a Lost Lover by Philippa Carr

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Lament for a Lost Lover by Philippa Carr
Various editions, circa 1977
Daughters of England Series, book 5
My previous reviews from this series

I edited this synopsis myself to avoid spoilers:
 Arabella Tolsworthy
Against the background of an England torn by civil war, religious persecution, and political treachery in the turbulent era of Cromwell and the Stuart Restoration, Philippa Carr has set the passionate story of Arabella Tolworthy, whose loves and destiny are inextricably linked to the plight of her nation.
The dethroned Charles I had met the executioner's ax with regal calm, and as Oliver Cromwell tightened his Puritan grip on English church and state, thousands of royalists fled their confiscated lands. Among them was young Arabella, her family seeking safe harbor in France where they hoped to serve the exiled royal heir, Charles II. Separated from her parents, confronted by the unaccustomed hardships of political banishment, she finds solace in the company or the ravishing and charismatic actress, Harriet Main.
Little does Arabella suspect the threat Harriet will pose to her future happiness.
Nor does she envision what lies ahead when dashing Edwin Eversleigh, Cavalier and heir to a titular fortune, makes her his bride after a whirlwind courtship. For in the deceptive peace following Parliament's Restoration of the Crown,  Arabella returns to England bearing a new scion of the Eversleigh estate.
With its skillful narrative, Lament for a Lost Lover is a worthy and engrossing successor to the previous novels of the Daughters of England saga.

This is the fifth Carr book I've read, which is a series written under a pseudonym of Jean Plaidy/Eleanor Hibbert. My fellow Carr reader and I had a mini read along as we could not wait to get to the next book in the Daughters of England series after finishing book 4, Saraband for Two Sisters. The story picks up with the next generation, and Arabella does not disappoint. What was a pivotal character in this one, the witchy one again - was Harriet. Once Harriet comes along, poor Arabella doesn't know which way was up. She had a fascination for the dramatic Harriet and Arabella lets herself be led around like a marionette. It was wicked fun to watch and while the Gothic tones were minimal in this one, there was still a sinister something out there that was a dun dun dunnnn waiting to happen.

I really enjoy these novels in spite of the formulaic plots centered around marriage, birth and death. The characters are the spice of the story, and there are many times the reader could be screaming at the character to open your eyes! I loved how the historical details were a little more in depth with this novel as the focus was always on whether Charles could have his English Crown back.The London Fire and the plague also make their appearance, and how it affects Arabella is part of the novel.

The next novel looks completely totally delish and I cannot wait to read book six, The Love Child. I need to make sure my life is not too crazy because I want to be able to enjoy that one, too! Come visit our Goodreads group for more read alongs on Jean Plaidy's works.

Jan 27, 2016

Sage's Eyes by V.C. Andrews

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sage's Eyes by V.C. Andrews
Simon and Schuster, January 26 2016
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you.
Burton Book Review Rating: 3 stars

From V.C. Andrews, bestselling author of Flowers in the Attic (the first in a series of Lifetime movie events about the Dollanganger family), comes the tale of a young girl kept under the watchful eye of her adoptive parents, as if they fear who—or what—she’ll become… Sixteen-year-old Sage is a lonely child. Her adoptive parents watch her obsessively, as if studying her for warning signs of…something. And maybe they’re right to—even she can’t make sense of the strange things she sees and hears. She possesses knowledge that other teenagers don’t, that her parents and teachers—no adult—could possibly have. So when Sage finally makes a friend who understands her alarming gift, he becomes her confidant, a precarious link to the truth about who she really is. For Sage and the alluring new boy at school share many things in common. Perhaps, they’ll learn, far too many things.

This newest novel from the ghostwriter for the V.C. Andrews estate has a very intriguing premise. Sage is struggling to fit in high school with her friends, as she seems wise beyond her years. She is gorgeous too, and the boys want her so much that the girls envy her. Her parents treat her in an odd way, something of over-protective gone weird. They act strangely and makes Sage realize that she is different than others even where family is concerned. The bulk of the story is how Sage interacts with others as she slowly discovers new things about herself and her 'abilities'. When the new hot kid comes to town, things get interesting. Finally the ending comes and we figure out why Sage has different abilities, and why her parents have been sheltering her.

While the story was intriguing enough to make me want to find out what happens to Sage, there were times that it was too over-thought. Told in a first person narrative, there was a lot of "I think.. I feel.. I wonder" and not a lot of action going on. The narratives could become cumbersome and this was my biggest complaint of the novel with the next being "really? that's it?" at the finale.

As a whole, it was pretty tame, and suitable for young readers - but die hard fans of V.C. Andrews will likely be disappointed. There is not a lot of a suspense feel, just more like a small mystery waiting to be solved. The Gothic Evil Tones of vintage V.C. Andrews is missing.

Jan 26, 2016

Mary Magdalene by Diana Wallis Taylor

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Mary Magdalene: A Novel by Diana Wallis Taylor
published June 2012 by Revell
personal kindle copy
Burton Book Review Rating: 4 stars
Long maligned as a prostitute or a woman of questionable reputation, Mary Magdalene's murky story seems lost to the sands of time. Now a portrait of this enigmatic woman comes to life in the hands of an imaginative master storyteller. Diana Wallis Taylor's Mary is a woman devastated by circumstances beyond her control and plagued with terrifying dreams--until she has a life-changing confrontation with the Savior.
 Lovers of historical and biblical fiction will find this creative telling of Mary's story utterly original and respectful as it opens their eyes to the redeeming work of Christ in the lives of those who follow him.

This was a inspired story about Mary of Magdala. It focuses on her life primarily until the Messiah arrives and then she follows Him, bringing the focus more on what she witnessed. I felt like the tone changed with that and the whole build up for empathizing Mary seemed to be ignored until the final chapters.

The beginning of the novel was an imagined story of what life could have like for Mary as someone who was "possessed" or not in control of her thoughts. Through this she was still portrayed as a simple and humble young lady, wishing for peace in her life. The characters that were created in the novel really did a nice job of supporting the story line and helped to flesh out the time line that the author was moving through.

 I enjoyed it fully but felt the last third wasn't as good as the first parts. I read the novel fairly quickly and would still of course recommend it to those interested in biblical fiction. I am looking forward to reading more from Diana Wallis Taylor, perhaps Martha will be the next from her that I will get to.