Friday, February 22, 2019

The Girl from Berlin by Ronald H.Balson

5 Star

An old friend calls Catherine Lockhart and Liam Taggart to his famous Italian restaurant to enlist their help. His aunt is being evicted from her home in the Tuscan hills by a powerful corporation claiming they own the deeds, even though she can produce her own set of deeds to her land. Catherine and Liam’s only clue is a bound handwritten manuscript, entirely in German, and hidden in its pages is a story long-forgotten…

Ada Baumgarten was born in Berlin in 1918, at the end of the war. The daughter of an accomplished first-chair violinist in the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic, and herself a violin prodigy, Ada’s life was full of the rich culture of Berlin’s interwar society. She formed a deep attachment to her childhood friend Kurt, but they were torn apart by the growing unrest as her Jewish family came under suspicion. As the tides of history turned, it was her extraordinary talent that would carry her through an unraveling society turned to war, and make her a target even as it saved her, allowing her to move to Bologna―though Italy was not the haven her family had hoped, and further heartache awaited.

What became of Ada? How is she connected to the conflicting land deeds of a small Italian villa? As they dig through the layers of lies, corruption, and human evil, Catherine and Liam uncover an unfinished story of heart, redemption, and hope―the ending of which is yet to be written.

Kathryn - 5 Star

I have enjoyed many novels now by Ronald H. Balson partly due to the historical twists and partly because I enjoy the relationship of Catherine and Liam.  

They are this time in Italy trying to help a friend's aunt trace the ownership of the land she's been living on for most of her life.  Someone is claiming title which would have her evicted and she's sure the land is hers.  The study weaves through the history of the original owner via her daughter's diary of sorts and explores the land grab traits of the nazi party all accross Europe during the second world war.   Through the diaries the thread of ownership is eventually explained though I was constantly trying out my own theories.  (,I find this happens to be a lot reading these novels.).  
I cannot give away the ending so I will say that the author is very good at creating suspense, empathy and intrigue in a readable fashion.  He also includes aspects of history that may not be well known but paint more depth to history we are already aware of.  I'm sure to keep reading these.

Thank you to St.Martin's Press for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

Connect with Ronald H.Balson:
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Friday, February 15, 2019

Stranded on a desert island with Stephen Evans

Please welcome Stephen Evans, author of  The Island of Always, as he tackles our Desert Island Interview!

About Stephen:

Stephen Evans is a playwright and the author of several books, including The Marriage of True MindsA Transcendental Journey, Painting Sunsets (available 12/2018) and The Island of Always (available 1/2019).

Connect with Stephen:

Stephen Evans-  Stranded on a Desert Island

If you could only have one book with you, what would it be?

My father used to read Swiss Family Robinson every year. That might be handy.

What one luxury item would you want to be stranded with?

A really comfortable chair.
What is the one practical item you would want to have with you to use?

“A towel has immense psychological value.” 

Would you enjoy the solitude, even briefly, or would it drive you crazy?

It would drive me crazy after a few decades.

If you could be stranded with one other person, who would you want it to be?

Katniss Everdeen.

What modern technology would you miss the most?

My laptop. Though writing in sand may not be less permanent. 

What food or beverage would you miss the most?

“Many’s the long night I’ve dreamed of cheese -toasted, mostly”.

How many days do you think you would cope without rescue?

How many do I have?

What is the first thing you would do when rescued?

Depends on who rescued me.

What would be your first Tweet or Facebook update upon your return?

Vacation photos.

The Island of Always

Minneapolis environmental atttorneys Nick Ward and Lena Grant are no longer partners in law and marriage. But neither Lena's heart nor Nick's imagination can seem to accept that fact. As Nick pursues ever-wilder animal rescue schemes, Lena continues to rescue him. But who will rescue her?

Available at:
Amazon Barnes & Noble Kindle Kobo Nook 

Friday, February 8, 2019

A Gift from the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson

4 Star

Christmas has never been Katie Seddon’s favourite time of year. Whilst everyone else shares memories of families coming together and festive number ones, the soundtrack to Katie’s childhood wasn’t quite so merry.

But since she moved to the village of Budbury on the gorgeous Dorset coast, Katie and her baby son have found a new family. A family who have been brought together by life’s unexpected roads and the healing magic of a slice of cake and a cupful of kindess at the Comfort Food CafĂ©.

This year, Katie’s new friends are determined to give her a Christmas to remember, and with a gorgeous newcomer in town, Katie’s Christmas wish for a happy home for her son might just come true.

Kathryn- 4 Star

Took me a bit of time to get used to the first person narrative and oddly it was also a bit longer before I felt the character of Katie.  I suspect it's because we started off with her voice describing her past and then quickly jumped to the present.  I found the leap a bit brusque.  However I loved Katie so much that this was quickly forgotten as I embraced her loving nature as well as her vacillation.

It's no wonder at all that she has a hard time letting people in and she's trying to protect her little boy from the chaos she grew up in. She's in full mama bear mode which only served to show that you can make your life what you wish, despite how you were raised.   Saul is adorably three and his enthusiasm would many anyone's heart open up.  The lovely lovely people in the village and cafe are also warmers of the soul and made my spirit happy.  There's also the very appealing Van who sends Katie into confusion- he was ideal and perfectly appropriate also.  

There isn't really a character out of place in this novel- except Katie's parents.   Much as I wanted to accept them the way they were I just couldn't make myself see their side.  Especially on Christmas Eve.  That entire scenario made me really angry.  I admired that Katie was a bigger person than I am.

Overall this novel will spark your hope in humanity and the triumph of the human spirit.  

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

Connect with Debbie Johnson:

Website     Facebook     Twitter     Goodreads

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Secrets We Keep by Kate Hewitt

4 Star

When Tessa arrives at the little house by the lake with her two children Ben and Katherine, it is an escape. For all of them. Never mind that the rental house is a bit small – it’s theirs for the summer. A place to hide… 

Their isolation is disrupted when they meet the family from the big house next door. Three children Charlotte, Zoe and Max and their glamorous mother Rebecca – who seems absolutely determined to invite Tessa in to their lives. 

But Rebecca is harbouring a dark secret of her own. One that will put not only her family at risk, but Tessa’s too. And when she discovers she has no option but to leave her children for several weeks, Tessa feels like the only person she can trust. 

Suddenly Tessa finds herself living a life she could only have dreamed of. Wealth, a large brood of children, and Rebecca’s handsome husband Josh visiting at weekends. 

But even as powerful bonds are forming between them, secrets have a way of catching up with people. And as the summer comes to an end, who will learn to love again and who will risk losing everything? 

Kathryn - 4 Star

The introduction of Tessa and her children was so well done that I could picture the kids and their moods and even the faces they were making. They were so well painted I was entirely hooked and emotionally drawn into their situation.    The picture isn't filled in though and the gaps take the entire novel to slip into place.  That could be a little frustrating at times mostly because motive for certain actions are unclear for so long.  That is how we do suspense though!    

Tessa is an interesting juxtaposition of confident and unsure.   She is intimidated by her seemingly perfect neighbour Rebecca and yet finds herself running two households and all the kids lives with ease when she is needed. 

The two women become really close... to be honest though I was never really comfortable with their relationship.  It may have felt more authentic from the inside but from the outside it made me nervous.  And there was reason to feel that way... but I'm not going to give it away. 

The novel is slow burn with cautious intensity and I loved the intrigue and the bonds between women and mothers.   I wish I could have known what happened further down the line on their lives.

I loved this book by Kate Hewitt but wished there had been a few more ends tied up!

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

Connect with Kate Hewitt:

Friday, January 4, 2019

Dear Mrs.Bird by A.J.Pearce

5 Star

London 1940, bombs are falling. Emmy Lake is Doing Her Bit for the war effort, volunteering as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. When Emmy sees an advertisement for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent seem suddenly achievable. But the job turns out to be typist to the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. Emmy is disappointed, but gamely bucks up and buckles down.

Mrs Bird is very clear: Any letters containing Unpleasantness—must go straight in the bin. But when Emmy reads poignant letters from women who are lonely, may have Gone Too Far with the wrong men and found themselves in trouble, or who can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she is unable to resist responding. As the German planes make their nightly raids, and London picks up the smoldering pieces each morning, Emmy secretly begins to write letters back to the women of all ages who have spilled out their troubles.

Kathryn - 5 Star

I loved this one!   At one point my ereader stopped working and I couldn't get it to reboot - I was so frustrated I had to procure myself a new one asap. 

The story has a modern feel for a historical novel for me- it felt like the plot moved quickly and was easily read but was firmly set during WWI.  I immediately loved Emmy, her energy, her optimism and her determination.  A force to be reckoned with she did her best to make the best of being Mrs.Bird despite not really feeling the part. Unfortunately, her desire to help didn't entirely work out and I felt for her when her optimism started to dwindle and she questioned herself.  Apart from the writing job she also juggles a voluntary position for the war effort and some lovely friends who added a lot to her personality.  

The appeal to this book for me wasn't just the job but the whole package.  The development of characters and storyline didn't miss a beat and it was a good perspective on women in the workforce during the period that I hadn't investigated before.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

Connect with AJ Pearce:
Website     Facebook     Goodreads     Twitter 


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