Thursday 30 August 2018

Review: The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

A powerful novel of friendship set in a traveling circus during World War II, The Orphan's Tale introduces two extraordinary women and their harrowing stories of sacrifice and survival

Sixteen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier and being forced to give up her baby. She lives above a small rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep… When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the child that was taken from her. And in a moment that will change the course of her life, she snatches one of the babies and flees into the snowy night.

Noa finds refuge with a German circus, but she must learn the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, spurning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid. At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond. But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their friendship is enough to save one another—or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything.

Paperback, 353 pages
Published February 21st 2017 by Mira Books 
Genre: Historical Fiction
Kristine's Thoughts:

I listened to The Orphan's Tale on audiobook and I have to admit that the use of accents in telling the story threw me off a little at first. Particularly because the accent seemed to change at times for the same person. Once I got use to it I was able to submerse myself into the story. I am a fan of historical fiction and have read hundreds where the plot takes place during WWII. There were so many moving parts during that time in history that it would be impossible to ever read about all of them. I was not familiar with the travelling circus during this time frame so I was excited to learn about it. Although this story was fictional I find that after reading any historical fiction that I enjoy I end up researching the topic in order to learn more.

Sixteen year old Noa was kicked out of her home when she was discovered pregnant by a German officer, forced to give up the baby and working and living at a train station to survive. When she discovered a train car full of infant babies she took one without thinking that reminded her of the one she was forced to give away. While trying to clean the baby up she discovered that it was Jewish and she knew she would have to hide him if she wanted him to survive. So she took off with the child, not knowing where she was going.

Astrid was always part of the circus. Her family ran it and she was performing from the tender age of four. It was while performing that she met her husband, a German officer, and left the circus for a life of wedded bliss. The only problem was that she was Jewish and as the war raged on, her husband was forced to divorce and disown her, leaving her alone with nothing. Her family and their circus had disappeared and when she approached the neighbouring circus family with questions she was taken in to perform in their show. It was illegal to employ Jewish people so Astrid took on a new identity and was hiding in plain sight.

When Noa found herself at the same circus, an unusual love/hate friendship developed between the two women.

This book was a book of love and friendship and the lengths that people will go in the face of adversity to keep those they love safe. It was at times beautiful and overwhelming as I discovered their stories and took the journey with them. I felt like I was there with them as they forged their way through that difficult time. Although I was swept away in the story there were some things that irritated me and were far fetched. I guess that is why they call it fiction. I won't divulge any details so as not to taint any future readers but there was one characters actions that I found annoying, unlikely and a little ridiculous considering the circumstances. That character was Peter who was the main performing clown and Astrid's companion at the circus.

Although there were moments in the story that made me shake my head, there were more moments that left me breathless and aching for more. It was the unlikely friendship and bond between Astrid and Noah that really drew me in and left me appreciating everything I had just listened to. The Orphan's Tale was at times far fetched but it was still a beautiful, sweeping story of love and sacrifice in a most difficult and challenging time. I enjoyed every minute of it.


About the Author
Pam is the author of several novels, including her most recent The Orphan's Tale, an instant New York Times bestseller. Pam was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge University in England. Upon receiving her master’s in history from Cambridge, she accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The position provided a unique opportunity to witness and participate in operations at the most senior levels of government, including helping the families of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims secure their memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, observing recovery efforts at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and attending ceremonies to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of World War II at sites such as Bastogne and Corregidor.

Following her work at the Pentagon, Jenoff moved to the State Department. In 1996 she was assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Krakow, Poland. It was during this period that Pam developed her expertise in Polish-Jewish relations and the Holocaust. Working on matters such as preservation of Auschwitz and the restitution of Jewish property in Poland, Jenoff developed close relations with the surviving Jewish community.

Having left the Foreign Service in 1998 to attend law school at the University of Pennsylvania, Jenoff is now employed as an attorney in Philadelphia.

Pam is the author of The Kommandant's Girl, which was an international bestseller and nominated for a Quill award, as well as The Diplomat's Wife and Almost Home.

Connect with Pam

Wednesday 29 August 2018

Review: A Healing Justice by Kristin von Kreisler

Two years ago, police officer Andrea Brady fell madly in love with a black-muzzled, slightly rumpled German shepherd who showed up at her house one misty autumn day. Now, with the brave and intuitive Justice as her expert K-9 drug sniffer, she's found an unbeatable partner. Then the unthinkable happens. A savage attack leaves a teenager dead and Andie trapped in every cop's worst nightmare. Placed on administrative leave, she's pursued by media and investigated by a deputy sheriff whose handling of the high-profile case could earn him a coveted promotion.

Haunted by self-doubt, Andie is in danger of losing everything--her career, her freedom, and the critically injured dog who's her soul mate. But as she finds kind allies in her Puget Sound island community, the road back becomes a journey of healing for both Andie and her canine companion. And Andie learns important lessons about justice--and about Justice--as she struggles to find the courage to forgive herself and reclaim the gift of her life . . .

Paperback, 256 pages
Expected publication: September 25th 2018 by Kensington Publishing Corporation

Terri's Thoughts

**I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

I am a sucker for any book that involves dogs.  I am a huge dog lover and I am blessed to have an adorable, lovable, beautiful and slightly sassy golden retriever in my household.  It was clear that von Kreisler is as well.  This story was filled with as many as I like to term it "dog voice overs" as my household is and I could certainly appreciate it.  While German Shepherds are not necessarily my favorite breed, I can still recognize them as loyal companions.

I am not going to dig in to the plot as I feel the book description does a good job doing so.  This story is essentially about love, forgiveness and loyalty.  It didn't go unnoticed that these are also traits of a canine companion.  The reader sees Andie experience a traumatic incident in which there is a death and then all of the subsequent events and emotions that follow in the aftermath.  Let me tell you I may have shrieked a little (lot) when Justice was injured as well.

I can't really put my finger on what it is that really made me enjoy this story.  Yes there is my love of dogs, but there was something else.  It may have been how the story flowed, or how the romantic aspect was a backstory as opposed to the focal point or it may just have been von Kreisler's writing style.  Whatever it was, I am going to continue to seek out further work from her in the future as this story was a winner for me.

About the Author

Kristin von Kreisler was born on October 4, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, and all her life she has loved and rescued animals. She writes bestselling books about them and has spoken about their welfare on Coast to Coast to 560 U.S. cities and on the Voice of America to 123 million people.

Her most recent book, Earnest is a novel about a couple in conflict over custody of their Labrador retriever. Before that, Kristin wrote An Unexpected Grace, a novel about a woman and a golden retriever helping each other recover from violence and abuse. A memoir, For Bea, is about Kristin's beagle who came from a medical lab and influenced her to become an animal writer. Her books have been translated into ten languages.

Kristin lives on an island in Washington, where, she says, she'd rather work in her garden than breathe. Her kale grows to looming giants, and her lavender and catmint are sirens calling bees. From her desk she watches ospreys and seals, and every hour a ferry passes by. She and her husband have just renovated a historic Victorian farmhouse, where the island's first postmistress and sheriff once lived with their seven children.

Before moving to the island, Kristin lived in California and freelanced for magazines and newspapers. Her articles have appeared in anthologies and textbooks and in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, Woman's Day, and Reader's Digest, where she was a staff writer. She has taught English at the University of Hawaii and journalism at California State University at San Jose

Tuesday 28 August 2018

Review: The Dutch Wife by Ellen Keith

Amsterdam, May 1943. As the tulips bloom and the Nazis tighten their grip across the city, the last signs of Dutch resistance are being swept away. Marijke de Graaf and her husband are arrested and deported to different concentration camps in Germany. Marijke is given a terrible choice: to suffer a slow death in the labour camp or—for a chance at survival—to join the camp brothel.

On the other side of the barbed wire, SS officer Karl Müller arrives at the camp hoping to live up to his father’s expectations of wartime glory. But faced with a brutal routine of overseeing executions and punishments, he longs for an escape. When he encounters the newly arrived Marijke, this meeting changes their lives forever.

Woven into the narrative across space and time is Luciano Wagner’s ordeal in 1977 Buenos Aires, during the heat of the Argentine Dirty War. In his struggle to endure military captivity, he searches for ways to resist from a prison cell he may never leave.

From the Netherlands to Germany to Argentina, The Dutch Wife braids together the stories of three individuals who share a dark secret and are entangled in two of the most oppressive reigns of terror in modern history. This is a novel about the blurred lines between love and lust, abuse and resistance, and right and wrong, as well as the capacity for ordinary people to persevere and do the unthinkable in extraordinary circumstances.

Expected publication: September 4th 2018 by Park Row
Genre: Historical Fiction

Kristine's Thoughts:

** I received an advanced readers copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!**

The Dutch Wife took place during WWII and during the Argentine Dirty War in 1977. It told the story of three unique and completely different people. 

First there was Marijke de Graaf, a member of the Dutch resistance, who was captured and imprisoned at Ravensbruck Concentration camp. A group of handpicked women that included Marijke were asked to volunteer to be transferred to Buchenwald where they would have better food and accommodations. The only catch was that they would have to be a part of the new brothel program that the Nazis were introducing to reward prisoners for good behaviour. Fearing for her life and hoping that she would be able to find her husband, she stepped forward and volunteered.

SS officer Karl Muller was new to the world of camp life. After moving up the ranks quickly in an effort to please and follow in his father's footsteps, he found himself with a high ranking position of running the camp. It did not come easy to him and he struggled to be the man that he needed to be in the eyes of the SS. Marijke caught his eye one day and he soon found himself visiting the prisoners brothel on a regular basis, an added complication to his day to day affairs.

Luciano Wagner's ordeal occurred in 1977 during the Argentine Dirty War. He found himself captured, tortured and imprisoned for being a member of  a resistance movement. His struggle for survival and to continue to fight for what he believed in was detailed within the pages.

First of all, let me start out by saying that Luciano's story did not fit with the rest of the story and felt strangely out of place. Yes, there is a connection through a character but it didn't fit with the feel of the rest of the book. Every time the story would rotate to his, it felt like a speed bump slowing the rest of it down. Don't get me wrong, his story was interesting but it felt like a different book that was accidentally placed within the pages of The Dutch Wife. I feel like it would have been better served in a separate book, telling the whole story on its own. In turn, The Dutch Wife would have been better without his story. 

It was Marjike and Karl's stories that I enjoyed mostly in this book. Having read hundreds of books about WWII, I have to say that The Dutch Wife was not as detailed as many. It almost felt like more of a condensed version of events and time as I read it. It was very simply written and seemed to skim through events. For this I feel like it would be a great introduction for someone who is new and unfamiliar with this genre and topic. Although a dark subject and time it wasn't as gruesome and detailed as other books on this topic are. It's not to say that it was rainbows and unicorns because it was definitely not. 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Marijke's time in the prison brothel. Although this story was fictional, concentration camp brothels were not. I just recently visited a WWII concentration camp in Germany (not Buchenwald) and learnt quite a bit about prison brothels and the thought behind them. With that fresh in my head it was certainly interesting to read a story about it.

The biggest surprise for me was how I felt about Karl and his story. He was not a good man. He did atrocious things. Let me get that straight. However, he did have a conscience and struggled with some of his duties. In the end though, he saw his duties through. At times he showed moments of kindness and love even if they were naive and self serving. In his eyes, he was taking care of Marjike the best way he knew how even though he didn't see it through to the end. It showed that people are products of their environment and how society and duty can rule the way we think and act. In a different time and place, he may have been a kind and decent person.

All in all, I enjoyed this book and I feel like other people will too.

About the Author

Winner of the HarperCollins/UBC Prize for Best New Fiction, Ellen Keith is a Canadian writer and a recent graduate of the University of British Columbia’s MFA program in creative writing. Her work has appeared in publications such as the New Quarterly and the Globe and Mail. She currently lives in Amsterdam.

Connect with Ellen

Monday 27 August 2018

Review: Night and Day (One Night in South Beach #5) by Andie J. Christopher

A Romantic Dreamer
Letty Gonzalez is a true romantic. She’s spent her life waiting for flowers, poetry, the grand gesture that will finally sweep her off her feet—without any luck. After her latest dating fiasco, she’s ready to give up on the idea of Prince Charming—but not on down and dirty fantasies about her new
boss—gorgeous, out-of-her-league Max Delgado.

A Restless Romeo
Max is more pragmatic than romantic—and with his looks and charisma, beautiful women usually fall at his feet. Bubbly, generously curvy Letty just isn’t for him, and maybe if he finally lets his grandmother set him up with someone new, Letty will finally believe it.

A Sultry Surprise
But the senior citizen’s matchmaking is trickier than anyone anticipated. And when Letty and Max find themselves stuck in Key West together for a seductively sexy weekend, one kiss is enough to light a fire neither of them wants to put out . . .

Kindle Edition

Published September 18th 18 by Lyrical/Kensington

Terri's Thoughts

** I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

This is book five of the One Night in South Beach series.  I had not read any of the previous stories before picking this up so I am not in a position to compare it to the previous instalments in the series.

Ok, full disclosure.  This is going to be more of a rant than a review as this story brought up some really strong feelings.  This book was an example of everything that is wrong with females in our society.

You have no idea how many woman/girls I know that define their self worth based on their clothing size and/or on how a man sees them.  Both are absolutely wrong.  First of all, beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and has nothing to do with number on a designer label.  True beauty comes from the inside in the form of confidence, humor, compassion and how you treat other people to name just a few.

Don't even get me started on the man aspect.  If you can't love yourself and who you are flaws and all, you are in no position to love anyone.  No man will change that regardless of the compliments they may lay on you.  A man cannot, as this book suggests, bring you self esteem, only you can.

This story just played in to all the doubts and worries that can plague a woman and essentially said they can all be cured with the right man.  It is so not the right message to be sending and as a result I could not get onboard.  While it is truly an amazing thing to be in a loving relationship, the only person who can define your worth is yourself.  If you find someone to walk along beside you in life (not in front or behind, then that is a bonus but not the end of the world.

I wish I could shake everyone who feels otherwise!

So this story was a no go for me.  The only plus was the plus size modeling (although size 14 is the average female not a plus size however we know the modeling industries take on it)

About the Author

Sunday 26 August 2018

Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

Hardcover, 344 pages
Published March 22nd 2011 by Philomel Books 
Genre: Historical Fiction/Young Adult 

Kristine's Thoughts:

I have been making my way through a list of the top books about WWII of the decade that I came across. This was one of them and happened to be on my daughter's bookshelf. Between Shades of Gray is not a new book and it has been reviewed hundreds of thousands of times. For that I will keep my thoughts short and sweet.

I was not overly familiar with how Lithuania or its people were affected by the war and during Soviet occupation. I have just recently been reading about it. I was also not very familiar with the Siberian work camps and the atrocities that occurred within them. Although fictional and told from a teenage girls perspective, this book gave a good look at all of it.

Between Shades of Gray was beautifully written and completely captivating. It was heart breaking and sad but absolutely stunning in how it captured people's will to live and the kindness and generosity of others even during their darkest moments. The love and bond of family was something I can't possibly put into words.

Everyone should read this book. It was beautiful and heart wrenching and hopeful and sad. If there is any emotion you can feel, this book will make you feel it. A stunning and easy to read book that you won't regret picking up.

About the Author

Ruta Sepetys was born and raised in Michigan in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. As an author of historical fiction, Ruta is drawn to stories of strength through struggle. Her award-winning debut novel, "Between Shades of Gray" was inspired by her family's history in Lithuania and is published in 45 countries. Her second novel, "Out of the Easy" is set in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1950, and her third novel "Salt to the Sea" exposes one of the greatest hidden disasters of World War II. Ruta lives in a treehouse in the hills of Tennessee.

Connect with Ruta

Saturday 25 August 2018

Review: Give and Take (The Thorne Brothers #2) by Lee Kilraine

Six Brothers Construction was built to reunite a family and heal a painful past. So far it’s opened to rave reviews. But the youngest sibling is about to discover that the right woman can shake even a rock-solid foundation . . .Wyatt Thorne was so traumatized by his mother’s abandonment he didn’t speak until he was six. At 26, he’s still the quiet type—strong and silent, most comfortable with a hammer in his hand and work to do. But the reassuring rhythm of his life is interrupted when his brother Beckett decides to pay forward their unused office space to a needy start-up. Enter Rhia Hollis, flighty, impulsive, and outspoken—everything that drives Wyatt crazy. Only this time in the sexiest, most irresistible way . . .

Rhia is determined to disprove her reckless, party girl image by making her new company, Seize the Day, the premier event planning firm in Raleigh. She has big dreams, and the Thornes’ offer of a free command center is a huge help. But Wyatt’s gruff, stubborn resistance to her presence is an annoying hindrance. They’re as different as night and day, yet when they begin to meet in the middle, the sparks fly hot. Is this a case of opposites distract—or the beginning of a beautiful long-term project? . . 

Kindle Edition

Expected publication: September 18th 2018 by Lyrical Caress

Terri's Thoughts

** I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!**

This is the second in the Thorne brother series and let me tell you that I love the Thorne brothers.  I was excited that this second installment followed the first so closely.  It allowed me to spend more time with the brothers without forgetting how much I enjoy them.  I can only hope the third book is released as fast.  I would recommend starting the series at the beginning as there is a running plot throughout the series thus far and you would be missing out if you started with this one.

I have a soft spot for the somewhat nerdy, quiet type male lead.  Wyatt was this to a tee, albeit a very attractive quiet nerdy type.  I was a goner as far as he was concerned right from the beginning.  Then pair him up with his extreme opposite and you know there will be fireworks.  Rhia was someone who would probably annoy the crap out of me in real life yet perfect for this story.  Someone who could get under Wyatt's skin and stay there.

In comparison to the first book, which I really liked, this one had amped up the humour factor.  I found myself giggling the whole way through the story.  For such an unlikely couple, Rhia and Wyatt really worked for me.

Perhaps my favorite thing about this book and the series thus far is the underlying theme of the importance of family, sticking together and facing life as a team.  The bond between these brothers is the biggest charm for this series and is what makes me want to keep coming back for more.  I don't know who the next story will feature but the groundwork is there for my favorite series from Kilraine so far.

About the Author

Lee Kilraine lives in the pine woods of North Carolina. When she isn't typing away on her computer with her golden retriever, Harley, destroying something at her feet, you might find her on her front porch swing plotting her next book while guarding her garden from the local gang of deer. She has a weakness for dogs, bacon cheeseburgers, red wine and Alpha heroes. She loves reading and writing stories with a HEA and if they make her laugh...well, that's perfect.

Thursday 23 August 2018

Review: The Last House on Sycamore Street by Paige Roberts

As intriguing as it is relatable, Paige Roberts' compulsively readable novel delves into the secrets and ties that lie between friends--and neighbors.

When Amy Kravitz opts to leave Washington, D.C., behind in favor of a less stressful life in the Philadelphia suburbs, she has a certain kind of house in mind. And on a charming street in a
family-friendly neighborhood, she and her husband Rob find it. It's a perfect brick colonial with plenty of space, a beautiful yard, and great schools nearby. The sellers, Julian and Grace Durant, are eager to make a deal. In an unexpected bonus, the Durants' young son, Ethan, strikes up a friendship with Amy and Rob's introverted four-year-old, Noah.

Soon, Amy is unpacking boxes in her new home and arranging playdates for Noah and Ethan. But as weeks go by, Amy suspects something isn't quite right. Julian's mail keeps arriving at their old address, and Amy can hardly miss the "Final Notice" stamped on the envelopes in big, red letters. Behind the
laid-back veneer projected by the Durants, Amy senses lives reeling out of control. But how much does Grace know, how much is she choosing to ignore--and is there more at stake in Amy speaking up or in staying silent?

Paperback, 352 pages
Expected publication: September 25th 2018 by Kensington Publishing Corporation 
Genre: Fiction
Kristine's Thoughts:
** I received an advanced readers copy from Kensington via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!**

The synopsis  for The Last House on Sycamore Street really intrigued me and was the reason I decided to read it. It sounded like it would be a little mysterious and exciting.

While reading I kept waiting for something exciting to happen and for the story to gain momentum but it never did. It detailed every little movement of the Kravitz family which you can appreciate in real life but it was extremely dull and monotonous in the novel. I kept waiting for something to happen and instead I got a detailed account of every step and thought that Amy had throughout each day.

I had a really hard time connecting with Amy. If I'm being completely honest, she bugged me. She was incredibly naive and continuously projected her insecurities on to her son. Her desperation to foster his one friendship with Ethan (and hers in turn with her mother) was ridiculous. It was made even more ridiculous by the fact that there were other options for both of them. Her need to help Grace even with the thousand red flags made her seem more like a needy pre-teen than a married adult with a family.

I won't pretend that I didn't want to give up on this book many times. However, I kept with it because I thought that it would pick up. It didn't and there really wasn't any climax to speak of. The best word to describe this book would be boring. It definitely was not for me.

About the Author
Paige Roberts is a writer, journalist and author of VIRTUALLY PERFECT and THE LAST HOUSE ON SYCAMORE STREET. She lives outside Philadelphia with her family.  

Connect with Paige

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Review: Bare Devotion (The Bayou Bachelors) by Geri Krotow

Sweet and sultry, hot and wild…that’s desire, Louisiana-style. And there’s no one better to explore it with than one of the Bayou Bachelors…
  Returning to her flooded New Orleans home to face Henry Boudreaux, the man she jilted at the altar, is the hardest thing attorney Sonja Bosco has ever done—even before she discovers she’s pregnant. Sonja backed out of the marriage for Henry’s sake. He wants to be part of his father’s law firm, and his parents will never approve of an interracial marriage. Better to bruise his heart than ruin his life.

Henry can’t forgive Sonja, and doubts that he can trust her again. But learning that they’re going to be parents means there’s no avoiding each other. Springtime on the bayou is already steamy enough…now they’re living in the same small space while their damaged house is repaired. And with each passing day they’re getting a little more honest. A lot more real. And realizing that nothing—not even New Orleans at Mardi Gras—glows brighter than the desire they’re trying to deny…

Kindle Edition

Expected publication: September 11th 2018 by Lyrical Caress

Terri's Thoughts

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

This was the second in the Bayou Bachelor series.  You will definitely want to read the first in order to understand the backstory on this one.  I was so excited to read this after the first book however in comparison this one let me down.

I could not get past the constant bickering and blame that was doled out in large size portions throughout this book.  I was 37% in to the story and the only thing that had happened was Sonja blaming Henry for everything wrong in their relationship, not taking ownership, and then some rather steamy sex scenes.  Wash, rinse, and repeat.  I found Sonja wasn't being fair to Henry, after all, she is the one that left him standing at the alter.  Usually I am all about girl power and sticking together however sorry Sonja, I really didn't like you.

I would say the story started to turn around for me at roughly the 50% mark.  This is when the all important aspect of communication began and I could actually tolerate the characters.  I became invested once the effort was being put in to repairing the damage they caused each other.  I still feel a little like their communication breakdown was a whole mountain out of a mole hill situation but at least there were positive attempts.

It is clear I was let down by this story.  Neither character was strong enough for me and their issues seemed petty.  Even so, I will still follow this series.  Why?  The first in the series was good and I am excited to see where the next one goes if it is going to feature who I think it will.  There are so many possibilities and directions it could take.

About the Author

Award winning, bestselling author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. A US Naval Academy graduate and former Navy Intelligence, Geri uses her global life experiences to bring her readers thrilling stories. 


Tuesday 21 August 2018

Review: The Girl They Left Behind by Roxanne Veletzos

A sweeping family saga and love story that offers a vivid and unique portrayal of life in war-torn 1941 Bucharest and life behind the Iron Curtain during the Soviet Union occupation—perfect for fans of Lilac Girls and Sarah’s Key.

On a freezing night in January 1941, a little Jewish girl is found on the steps of an apartment building in Bucharest. With Romania recently allied with the Nazis, the Jewish population is in grave danger, undergoing increasingly violent persecution. The girl is placed in an orphanage and eventually adopted by a wealthy childless couple who name her Natalia. As she assimilates into her new life, she all but forgets the parents who were forced to leave her behind. They are even further from her mind when Romania falls under Soviet occupation.

Yet, as Natalia comes of age in a bleak and hopeless world, traces of her identity pierce the surface of her everyday life, leading gradually to a discovery that will change her destiny. She has a secret crush on Victor, an intense young man who as an impoverished student befriended her family long ago. Years later, when Natalia is in her early twenties and working at a warehouse packing fruit, she and Victor, now an important official in the Communist regime, cross paths again. This time they are fatefully drawn into a passionate affair despite the obstacles swirling around them and Victor’s dark secrets.

When Natalia is suddenly offered a one-time chance at freedom, Victor is determined to help her escape, even if it means losing her. Natalia must make an agonizing decision: remain in Bucharest with her beloved adoptive parents and the man she has come to love, or seize the chance to finally live life on her own terms, and to confront the painful enigma of her past.

Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Expected publication: November 13th 2018 by Atria Books 
Genre: Historical Fiction
Kristine's Thoughts:
** I received an advanced readers copy from Atria Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!**

Anyone who reads my reviews knows that I really enjoy historical fiction, more specifically, ones surrounding WWII. Although fictional they always manage to teach me something about that terrible time in history that I end up researching when I'm finished. I have such a keen interest that my recent travels have taken me to places like Russia that I have read about and researched after. However, I was not very familiar with what happened in Bucharest and Romania in general. That is what drew me to this book and made me want to read it.

This book began in 1941, in the throws of WWII, when Romania was aligned with Nazi Germany and the Jewish citizens were at risk. A young couple left their daughter on the steps of an apartment building in order to give her a chance of surviving. If they all stayed together they all would have died. Natalia was placed in an orphanage where she was quickly adopted by another young and wealthy family that was unable to have children of their own. This was her story.

I could not pry myself away from this book. Not only did it take place in Bucharest during WWII but also after when it was under Soviet occupation and the family was behind the Iron Curtain. It followed this family from when they were an affluent and wealthy family to a family with nothing. Throughout all of their struggles there was one constant, the love the family had for each other and the risks they would take for each other. It was beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.

I don't want to go into too much detail. I actually feel like the synopsis gives away too much of the story. This book gave life to a story from the author's past that had none. It was based on her mother who was left on the steps but never got to know the story behind her birth parents. This novel gave her a fictional story to change that. I highly recommend reading her notes at the end of the book. I found them to be as interesting as the novel itself.

It was a complicated story that took place during a complicated and constantly changing time in history so I admit there were times in the story that I got a little confused. Veletzos managed to put me in the middle of the story. I felt like I was there and enduring all of the struggles with Natalia and her family. I could feel the bombs, the heartache, the worry and the hunger. Her attention to detail is what I think made that possible.

This story is going to stick with me for a very long time. Also, you can bet that I will now be adding it to my list of places to research so that I can learn more. I enjoyed every minute of it.

About the Author
Roxanne Veletzos was born in Bucharest, Romania and moved to California with her family as a young teen. Already fluent in English and French, she began writing short stories about growing up in her native Eastern Europe, at first as a cathartic experience as she transitioned to a new culture. Building on her love of the written language, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has worked as an editor, content writer and marketing manager for a number of Fortune 500 companies. Since 2012, Roxanne has been writing historical and contemporary fiction and is the author of two novels.

Connect with Roxanne

Monday 20 August 2018

Review: Lighthouse Bay by Kimberley Freeman

From the author of Wildflower Hill, this breathtaking novel travels more than a century between two love stories set in the Australian seaside town of Lighthouse Bay.

In 1901, a ship sinks off the coast of Queensland, Australia. The only survivor is Isabella Winterbourne, who clutches a priceless gift meant for the Australian Parliament. This gift could be her ticket to a new life, free from the bonds of her husband and his overbearing family. But whom can she trust in Lighthouse Bay?

Fast-forward to 2011: after losing her lover, Libby Slater leaves her life in Paris to return to her hometown of Lighthouse Bay, hoping to gain some perspective and grieve her recent loss. Libby also attempts to reconcile with her sister, Juliet, to whom she hasn’t spoken in twenty years. Libby did something so unforgivable, Juliet is unsure if she can ever trust her sister again.

In these two adventurous love stories, both Isabella and Libby must learn that letting go of the past is the only way to move into the future. The answers they seek lie in Lighthouse Bay.

Paperback, 416 pages
Published April 9th 2013 by Touchstone

Terri's Thought

I was looking for my next audio book and this story came up as a recommended read on Goodreads for me.  As I am familiar with Kimberley Freeman's work, I thought this would be a perfect choice.  I was not disappointed.

I am a sucker for historical fiction and for dual storylines that intermix between the past and the present.  This story was both, if you count 2011 as present day.  Since the book was published in 2013, I would say so.

I was wrapped up in Isabella's story from the very beginning.  I wanted to see how she would navigate her new reality starting with no material possessions or money.  It was a good glimpse at the era as well as the geography of the time.  I couldn't wait to see how it would play out.

Libby's story was pretty good as well.  Hers was more about healing relationships, mourning the past and looking towards the future.  While I was a little disappointed that she didn't learn anything from past and repeated her same mistakes, I was as equally pleased that for the remaining aspect of her life she was able to let go of her past and move forward.

I am a fan of Kimberley Freeman.  In fact I think I may embark on a blitz of her books so stay tuned for more reviews in the future.  Be patient as I will be using the audio book format and it is so much slower than if I were to read it myself.  Speaking of, for those who use audio books, I really liked the narrator on this one.  I forget her name but she did a really good job and fit the storyline.

About the Author

Kimberley was born in London and her family moved back to Australia when she was three years old. She grew up in Queensland where she currently lives.

Kimberley has written for as long as she can remember and she is proud to write in many genres. She is an award-winning writer in children’s, historical and speculative fiction under her birth name Kim Wilkins. She adopted the pen name Kimberley Freeman for her commercial women’s fiction novels Duet and Gold Dust to honour her maternal grandmother and to try and capture the spirit of the page-turning novels she has always loved to read. Kim has an Honours degree, a Masters degree and a PhD from The University of Queensland where she is also a lecturer. She lives in Brisbane with her young family.