Thursday, April 19, 2018

As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner

5 Star

In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters--Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa--a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without--and what they are willing to do about it.

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Kathryn - 5 Star

I learnt a lot from this book.  As Bright As Heaven covers the Spanish flu epidemic in the US at the end of the first world war. I knew absolutely nothing about the situation except for the vague notion that it had happened so the whole subject matter had me hooked.

The characters were intense and attached themselves to me immediately with their narrative. Each one had a different perspective based on their ages and their stages of life.   Pauline is a strong and capable women and it's interesting that the novel begins with her thought process after the recent loss of her infant.  The novel begins with death and death is a theme throughout because Pauline and her husband move to Philadelphia to help his uncle run his funeral home.  Each of their three children also has their own voice in the book which is interesting as they begin at ages 6, 12 and 15 and grow up over the story. The author does a fantastic job of keeping true to their voices and characteristics as they grew up.  

The novel is full of heartache so be forewarned but it is also though a wonderful example of family workings and relationships- quite apart from the history lesson.

Thank you to Berkley Publishing Group for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Susan Meissner:
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Friday, April 13, 2018

The Runaway Children by Sandy Taylor

3 Star

London, 1942: Thirteen-year-old Nell and five-year-old Olive are being sent away from the devastation of the East End. They are leaving the terror of the Blitz and nights spent shivering in air raid shelters behind them, but will the strangers they are billeted with be kind and loving, or are there different hardships ahead?

As the sisters struggle to adjust to life as evacuees, they soon discover that living in the countryside isn’t always idyllic. Nell misses her mother and brothers more than anything but she has to stay strong for Olive. Then, when little Olive’s safety is threatened by a boy on a farm, Nell has to make a decision that will change their lives forever…

They must run from danger and try to find their way home.

Together the two girls hold each other’s hands as they begin their perilous journey across bombed-out Britain. But when Nell falls ill, can she still protect her little sister from the war raging around them? And will they ever be reunited from the family they’ve been torn from?

Kathryn - 3 Star

I started reading this book with great anticipation as I have always been interested in the lives and families of the children evacuated during war.

Nell and Olivia are sent away during the blitz in London to remove them from imminent danger and we are very much aware that it is tearing this family apart.  Their older brother decides at the last minute to stay behind which leaves Nell to support her little sister in whatever may come next.  Luckily for the girls they are initially placed with a very loving couple who take them in as their own.   Despite missing their parents and siblings the girls are content in the country.  They are distraught when the couple must move and cannot take the two with them.  

Unfortunately their next billet isn't so nice and Nell is forced to try and escape with her little sister to safety.  They are then on their own with no money and no communication with anyone who can help them.  This portion of the novel was obviously distressing but I found it a tiny bit unrealistic.   I found it astonishing that children weren't checked on in these placements. They eventually find themselves in luck again though with someone who becomes very special to them and this bond was so special for both parties that it held throughout the remainder of the novel.

The girls learn to entirely rely on each other which was,for me, the heart of the novel.  The circumstances in which they found themselves were perhaps exaggerated at times but I still found the story gripping and worth reading and I did learn a few new tidbits of information about the process of evacuation from the novel.

Thank you to Bookouture for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

4 Star

The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They're both wrong.

One year ago, Caroline Johnson chose to end her life brutally: a shocking suicide planned to match that of her husband just months before. Their daughter, Anna, has struggled to come to terms with their loss ever since.

Now with a young baby of her own, Anna misses her mother more than ever and starts to question her parents’ deaths. But by digging up their past, she’ll put her future in danger. Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie…

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Sabrina-Kate - 4 Star

I always love a great, twisty mystery novel and I have always liked Clare Mackintosh therefore I was quite pleased to receive this book for review. The story started off kind of depressing, with Anna coming to terms with the recent deaths of both of her parents. I can imagine that being somewhat of an insurmountable place to be, so I definitely felt for her.

She never can let the double suicides go though and feels that something just isn't right, and of course, that is what this whole book is about. We learn about what she finds out and how, and how very terrible it is to discover the truth sometimes. Couple the investigation into her parents' suicides with the uncertainty of her new life with her partner and child, Anna was a person with a lot on her mind.

There were a lot of things that happened in the story that I was not expecting and the element of surprise did appeal to me.The story annoyed me at times though and at times I liked it but although I enjoyed this novel, and the twists within, I did not think it was really plausible so I didn't completely love it.

Thank you to Penguin Random House for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

Connect with Clare Mackintosh:
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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer

4 Star

The 2:00 a.m. call is the first time Lexie Vidler has heard her sister’s voice in years. Annie is a drug addict, a thief, a liar—and in trouble, again. Lexie has always bailed Annie out, given her money, a place to sleep, sent her to every kind of rehab. But this time, she’s not just strung out—she’s pregnant and in premature labor. If she goes to the hospital, she’ll lose custody of her baby—maybe even go to prison. But the alternative is unthinkable.

As weeks unfold, Lexie finds herself caring for her fragile newborn niece while her carefully ordered life is collapsing around her. She’s in danger of losing her job, and her fiancĂ© only has so much patience for Annie’s drama. In court-ordered rehab, Annie attempts to halt her downward spiral by confronting long-buried secrets from the sisters’ childhood, ghosts that Lexie doesn’t want to face. But will the journey heal Annie, or lead her down a darker path?

Kathryn - 4 Star

Many, many, aspects of this book captivated my attention and tore at my heart.  Kelly Rimmer writes with exactness so there is no chance of getting lost in descriptive details, which I appreciate.

I found the opening pages powerful and they had me initially connect with both Annie and Lexie.  Like some other reviewers though, I found Lexie frustratingly standoffish with her husband Sam and was constantly on edge with my desire to yell at her to listen to him and let him fully into her world. He truly had the patience of a saint.  In fairness, as Annie explores her past and their mutual history as children, I can see why Lexie pushes people away.  She must innately feel as if she's hard to love and accept and she's protecting herself by not letting Sam in completely.

Annie's story is intense and heart breaking and the baby involved just breaks your heart further. Most disturbing for me though was their mother who dragged them into a cult from which she had previously escaped herself?  I just couldn't grasp this at all, and then to know your daughters are being abused by your new husband and do nothing?  Unfathomable to me, even considering her grief...  I could not get on board with her at all.  But I suppose it made Lexie and Annie’s troubles more expected?  Her reappearance didn’t add to the novel or either daughter’s progress- I wish she’d been left in the past.

Overall the book is very powerful for its exploration of drug addiction but be prepared to be a little edgy with the subject matter and frustration level.

Thank you to Graydon House Books for our review copy.   All opinions are our own.

Connect with Kelly Rimmer: 
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