Tuesday, June 6, 2023

After Anne by Logan Steiner (Bibliolifestyle Book Tour)

 


Thank you, Partner @bibliolifestyle @williammorrowbooks for a review copy of After Anne by Logan Steiner.  This book was published on May 30th.

Have you read or watched Anne of Green Gables?  What are your thoughts?

After Anne starts with L.M. Montgomery, Maud, as a spinster in her 30’s living with her Grandmother and just starting on her writing of Anne of Green Gables.  She loves spending time with her beloved cousin and best friend, Frede.  When a new minister comes to town, Ewan Macdonald, Maud wonders whether she has finally found her soul mate.  After a glorious birthday weekend with Frede and Ewan, Maud marries Ewan and together they build a life.  Sadly, their lives slip into despair over time.  How can a woman who wrote such beautiful novels have such a sad life?

I liked how this novel was put together.  It opens on the day that L.M. Montgomery is discovered to have committed suicide.  Was it an accident or intentional?  The book then flashes back to show her life.  The birthday weekend of 1907 is prominent, and the narrative keeps slipping back to that time frame when everything looked bright and wonderful for Maud.  Anne of Green Gables was about to be published, she was about to be married, and she had her best friend and cousin, Frede.  Maud had a lot of trials and tribulations as her husband slipped into madness, she lost those that she loved, and she had a troubled relationship with one of her sons.  She started to self-medicate to make it through her days which led to her ultimate demise.

I didn’t know much about her life, and I found this was an interesting biographical fictional novel.  It made me sad to learn that L.M. Montgomery had such a sad life, but I was happy that she was able to use the best parts of it for inspiration in her works.  This book has led me to want to read her journals and biographies of her life.  I may have read all of the fiction that she wrote, but I have not delved into her personal life at all until now.  I was particularly fascinated by how the war and the flu epidemic of 1918 affected her life and her writing of one of my favorite novels, Rilla of Ingleside.

I found the character of Maud to be likeable and sympathetic. I enjoyed learning more of her story and looked forward to the bright points such as her 1907 birthday party.  The pacing of the story was a bit slow, but I overall enjoyed the novel.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Suddenly That Summer by Lori Handeland (TLC Book Tours)

 


Do you have any summers that stick out for you in your past?  I definitely do.  2001 was the summer I stayed at college and had a blast.  1988 was a summer we went on a family trip to Washington DC.  I also went to church camp . . . and caught headlice.  I remember both being very hot and dry summers.

In the summer of 1967 in the small Wisconsin city of Willow Creek, two siblings are about to have their lives changed forever.  Billy has enlisted in the Army and finds his world altered by his tour of Vietnam.  His sister Jay has her world changed when one of her three best friends decides she no longer wants to be friends.  A newcomer to their conservative town, Paul, brings anti-war sentiments that don’t match anything that Jay has heard from anyone in her town.  As she starts to receive disturbing drawings from her brother Billy, she starts to wonder, is Vietnam really the just war to end communism that she has been led to believe?

Suddenly That Summer is an intriguing book.  I really liked the alternating chapters telling both Billy and Jay’s points of view.  The harsh realities of the war in Vietnam are juxtaposed against Jay’s summer and her changing views on the war in Vietnam.  I also like how this is visualized on the very nice cover of this book by having the girls with a seemingly happy summer on the top with their shadows being soldiers in Vietnam.

I loved how both Billy and Jay have a coming-of-age journey through the novel as they both try to work through the expectations they have been taught by family and their town, and what the realities are in their ever-changing world.  I really liked the ending of this book.  It also has great questions at the conclusion of the novel and would be a great book to discuss at a book club.

Book Source: Review Copy from author Lori Handeland.   Thank-you! I received a complimentary copy of this book as part of the TLC Book Tour. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Monday, May 29, 2023

The Do Over by Suzanne Park

 


If you had to go back to your college or high school to complete courses, would you, do it?  It would definitely be different now going back so long afterwards.  I’m sure I would love taking classes and meeting new people, but it wouldn’t be the same with the friends from my original college run not there.  With a job, husband, and kids, I wouldn’t be able to go back right now realistically!

Lily Lee has written a book and is making a success of her career.  She is about to start her dream job when she discovers she can’t be hired because she never actually graduated from college due to a technicality.  She returns to her alma mater determined to finish her degree with as little fuss as possible.  When she gets there, she discovers that her TA for her computer science class is her ex-boyfriend from college, Jake Cho.  How can this be?  Luckily her best friend Mia does not abandon her and visits a lot.  Will she be able to finish her degree, figure out her love life, and write her next book?  Lily has a lot on her plate.

I really enjoyed Lily’s journey in this book.  I really liked the honest look the book took at mental health and the expectations that our families place on us.  In Lily’s case, her parents’ expectations caused worsening anxiety to develop over time.  It also had an interesting discussion of how mental health is not often discussed in South Korean families. 

This novel had an overall theme of female empowerment that I enjoyed.  Lily has an arch enemy couple of rich siblings who seem to be ripping off her book series idea and are writing their own self help book in the same vein as hers.  It is hilarious as the brother that is part of the team mansplains at events what it is like in the working world for women and seems to not see the problem with doing this. 

I liked the second chance romance storyline with Jake.  The book flashed back to show what ended their relationship ten years previously.  The romance didn’t seem to be as well developed as it seemed to be a secondary storyline in this novel, and I was okay with it. 

Overall, I really enjoyed The Do-Over.  I loved Lily and her journey.

Book Source: Review Copy from NetGalley and Avon Books.   Thank-you! Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum by Temple Grandin

 


Title:  The Autistic Brain:  Thinking Across the Spectrum

Author:  Temple Grandin and Richard Panek

Narrated by:  Andrea Gallo

Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC.

Length: Approximately 8 hours

Source: Checked out with Libby through the Kewaunee Public Library.  Thank-you!

What person would you like to learn more about?  I keep seeing interesting things about Temple Grandin and decided to listen to the audiobook The Autistic Brain to learn more about her and about autism.

The Autistic Brain is a great look into Temple Grandin’s life and her research on autism.    When Temple Grandin was born, autism was first being named and understood.  In this book, she discusses the latest research into autism while explaining her experiences.  I love that she was looking at Amazon reviews of her earlier book in the 1990s and it inspired her to do more research.  The review said not all autistic people think in pictures, which truly astounded Temple Grandin.  She decided she needed to learn more about this and how autistic people think.  She discusses picture-thinkers, pattern-thinkers, and word-fact thinkers.   She still does try to categorize people into these three categories, but I don’t think people can be categorized that neatly.

Grandin takes a fascinating look into possible causes of Autism and various ways it manifests. She talks about brain imagining and genetics, and other studies for possible causes.  It appears to be genetic.  She talks about how there is a very wide spectrum and that the key is it to find the strength of the autistic person and work with them using that strength.  There was also great information and detail about various sensory issues.

 Other interesting tidbits:

-        10% of autistics are savants.

-        Most savants are autistic.

-        Many autistics are good at seeing details, although many can’t see the big picture as they are too focused on the details.

-        Temple Grandin asks autistic people she meets after her talks what their favorite subject is and the most common response is history.

Andrea Gallo was an interesting audiobook narrator.

Great quote: "I've seen these cases--kids who are considered to have severe behavior problems at school until you give them math lessons that meet them where their brains are. Then their behavior normalizes, and they become productive and engaged--maybe even model students."

Overall, if you would like to learn more about autism, this is a great book with a lot of very interesting information. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The East Indian by Brinda Charry

 


Title:  The East Indian

Author:  Brinda Charry

Narrated by:  Vikas Adam

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio

Length: Approximately 10 hours and 44 minutes

Source: Review Copy from Simon & Schuster Audio.  Thank you @simonandschuster #BookClubFavorites for the free books!

What is your favorite adventure or travel novel, movie or show?  I really enjoyed The Eat Indian by Brinda Charry and another book I loved in the past was The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert.

The East Indian is an intriguing adventure historical fiction novel.   Tony is a young man growing up in India.  His life is thrown into turmoil after his mother’s death.  He soon finds himself on the way to England in a new position as a servant.  While in England, he soon finds himself kidnapped off the streets of London and sent to the new world of America.  Working as an indentured servant in America, Tony dreams of becoming a physician’s assistant.  He faces many dangers and hardships, but also finds love and hope.

 Vikas Adam was a good audiobook narrator.  It was an interesting audiobook to listen to.  I am ready for more!  Strangely the audiobook didn’t have the great author’s note that is at the end of the physical book.   I am always intrigued to learn that the past was a lot more diverse than many people realize.  “Tony” is the earliest known mention of an East Indian in America.  He was brought over in 1635 by Gorge Menefe to work as an indentured servant in Virginia.  There were many other East Indians living and working in colonial America and involved in the Revolutionary War.

It was eye opening looking into how indentured servants made it to America and how they were treated.  Tony has a young friend named Sammy who was also kidnapped with him.  He really wants to hear from his family back in England.  He is not treated kindly by his overseer which leads to devastating consequences.  

It was also eye opening to see how Tony was treated.  Most people did not know what ethnicity he was and made various assumptions about him.  Tony just wanted to have the same opportunities as all settlers.

I loved the adventure of this book as Tony continually discovers new places.  One of my favorite bits is when he goes west to explore with his master.  It’s also a coming-of-age story as Tony grows into a man and identifies what kind of life he wants.

Overall, The East Indian is a great coming-of-age historical fiction adventure story set in the 1600’s. I would love to read more of Tony’s story or of his family through time.  I’ll be looking for what author Brinda Charry writes next.

Favorite Quote:

“I will go home now – the western sky is flush with light and my wife and child are waiting.”

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

 


Title:  Death on the Nile

Author:  Agatha Christie

Narrated by:  David Suchet

Publisher: Macmillian Audio

Length: Approximately 7 hours and 59 minutes

Source: Checked out with Hoopla through the Kewaunee Public Library.  Thank-you!

If you could go on a cruise anywhere, where would you go?  I’ll admit, the Viking River Cruise ads on PBS work on me and I really want to sale down in the Rhine one day. A trip down the Nile also does sound fantastic . . .unless everyone starts to be murdered on your boat!

I read Death on the Nile for both the #ReadChristie2023 May pick for “jealousy” and for the Back to the Classics Book Club at the Kewaunee Public Library.  I read this book last year, so this time I listened to the audiobook.  David Suchet was a fantastic narrator.  Besides being the true voice of Hercule Poirot, he has unique voices for each character and really acts out the story.  This was a very enjoyable audiobook to listen to.  I highly recommend it.

Death on the Nile is the story of young newlyweds Linnet and Simon.  Linnet is rich and beautiful, and the only thing that seems to wreck her honeymoon is the fact that her former best friend Jackie keeps following Linnet and Simon.  Jackie is not pleased that her former fiancĂ© has married Linnet.  After a murder happens on their cruise down the Nile, it turns out that many of the people on the cruise have something to hide.  Luckily for them, Detective Hercule Poirot is on the scene to investigate with his friend Colonel Race.  Why does death always occur where Poirot vacations?

We had an interesting discussion on the book at our Classics Book Club last night.  We talked about the racist passages that were in the book.  It was published in 1937.  It was jarring hearing some of them on audiobook.  Agatha Christie novels are also currently being edited by sensitivity editors to update the language.  We had a good discussion about changing an author’s work and the appropriateness of doing this (we were not in favor).

We also had a good discussion about all of Christie’s unique characters on this boat down the Nile and their various issues.  I think we all decided we did not want to be on this cruise with all of the dead bodies piling up. 

It was interesting to listen to the story again a second time and pick up on details I missed the first time.  I’m torn on Linnet as a character.  I both dislike her for her treatment of her friend and feel sad for her as she seemed to have no one in the world who really liked her for herself. 

Overall, Death on the Nile is a good story and a classic Agatha Christie that I’m sure I’ll reread several more times in my lifetime.

Monday, May 22, 2023

The Late Mrs. Willoughby by Claudia Gray (Austenprose PR Book Tour)

 



Do you have a favorite kind of tea?  I love purchasing loose leaf tea from Tea Source.  One of my favorite flavors is Georgia Sunshine which has black tea and ginger root in it.  I just ordered a new batch today!

Jonathan Darcy, the son of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy, has been invited to stay with a former classmate, Mr. Willoughby.  Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby have just inherited Allenham Hall and are celebrating by inviting three former classmates of Mr. Willoughby.  Jonathan quickly realizes that he was invited for Mr. Willoughby to poke fun at him as he did in school.  His dismay turns to delight when he finds that his friend, Miss Juliet Tilney (daughter of Henry and Catherine Tilney) is in the neighborhood visiting Colonel and Mrs. Marianne Brandon.  Unfortunately, they find themselves investigating a new mystery when Mrs. Willoughby suddenly dies at a party after drinking a special cup of port meant to welcome her and Mr. Willoughby to the neighborhood.  Who killed Mrs. Willoughby and why?

I was just as delighted with The Late Mrs. Willoughby as I was with the first novel.  Claudia Gray perfectly captures the original Jane Austen characters, while creating fascinating new characters.  Juliet Tilney and Jonathan Darcy are delightful.  I especially like that Jonathan appears to be on the spectrum and has to work out how behave properly in society.  Would I believe that a character like him would be picked on by Mr. Willoughby at school?  Yes.   Jonathan and Juliet have a hint of romance that I hope develops further as the series goes on.

I liked the mystery.  I went along with a couple of red herrings and did not figure out who the murderer was in this one until the end of the novel.

The Late Mrs. Willoughby is the second book in the “a Mr. Darcy & Miss Tilney Mystery” series after last years The Death of Mr. Wickham.   You could probably read it as a standalone novel, but it would be a lot more enjoyable to read them in order.  There are events and characters from the first book referenced in the second book.  It would also work best to be familiar with Jane Austen’s works and characters.

The Late Mrs. Willoughby by Claudia Gray is perfect for lovers of Agatha Christie and Jane Austen.

Favorite Quotes:

“Surely it would be easier to be a fox at a hunt than to be an unmarried girl too near Mrs. Jennings!”

“Such is the evil of money, Elinor.  Greed can sully the finest human feelings, even the love that should exist between mother and child.”

“The supposed worth of a thing sometimes increases with its impossibility.”

Book Source: Review Copy from Vintage Books.   Thank-you! I received a complimentary copy of this book as part of the Austenprose PR Book Tour. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

QUICK FACTS

  • Title: The Late Mrs. Willoughby
  • Series: A Mr. Darcy & Miss Tilney Mystery (Book 2)
  • Author: Claudia Gray
  • Genre: Historical Mystery, Cozy Mystery, Austenesque
  • Publisher: Vintage Books (May 16, 2023)
  • Length: (400) pages
  • Format: Trade Paperback, eBook, & Audiobook
  • ISBN: ‎978-0593313831
  • Tour Dates: May 15 – 29, 2023

BOOK DESCRIPTION

The suspenseful sequel to The Murder of Mr. Wickham, which sees Jonathan Darcy and Juliet Tilney reunited, and with another mystery to solve: the dreadful poisoning of the scoundrel Willoughby's new wife.

Catherine and Henry Tilney of Northanger Abbey are not entirely pleased to be sending their eligible young daughter Juliet out into the world again: the last house party she attended, at the home of the Knightleys, involved a murder—which Juliet helped solve. Particularly concerning is that she intends to visit her new friend Marianne Brandon, who's returned home to Devonshire shrouded in fresh scandal—made more potent by the news that her former suitor, the rakish Mr. Willoughby, intends to take up residence at his local estate with his new bride.

Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley are thrilled that their eldest son, Jonathan—who, like his father, has not always been the most socially adept—has been invited to stay with his former schoolmate, John Willoughby. Jonathan himself is decidedly less taken with the notion of having to spend extended time under the roof of his old bully, but that all changes when he finds himself reunited with his fellow amateur sleuth, the radiant Miss Tilney. And when shortly thereafter, Willoughby's new wife—whom he married for her fortune—dies horribly at the party meant to welcome her to town.

With rumors flying and Marianne—known to be both unstable and previously jilted by the dead woman's newly made widower—under increased suspicion, Jonathan and Juliet must team up once more to uncover the murderer. But as they collect clues and close in on suspects, eerie incidents suggest that the killer may strike again, and that the pair are in far graver danger than they or their families could imagine.

 

PRAISE FOR THE LATE MRS. WILLOUGHBY

·       “An absolute page-turner full of well-plotted mystery and hints of simmering romance.... More of the Jane Austen characters we love (as well as those we love to hate).” —Mia P. Manansala, author of Arsenic and Adobo

·       ”Gray makes her endearing leads’ sleuthing both plausible and entertaining while evoking the wit and feel of Austen’s classic novels. Admirers of P.D. James’s Death Comes to Pemberley will be delighted.” Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

·       ”Absolutely delightful! Fans of Jane Austen and historical mysteries will fall in love with this series. Gray remains true to Austen’s style and intent for her beloved characters while still adding her own spin on them and their progeny—one that is both refreshing and absorbing. I’m already looking forward to the next installment.” —Anna Lee Huber, USA Today bestselling author of the Lady Darby series

 

PURCHASE LINKS

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOKSHOP | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS

 

AUTHOR BIO

Claudia Gray is the pseudonym of Amy Vincent. She is the writer of multiple young adult novels, including the Evernight series, the Firebird trilogy, and the Constellation trilogy. In addition, she’s written several Star Wars novels, such as Lost Stars and Bloodline, and Jane Austen-inspired series, A Mr. Darcy & Miss Tilney Mysteries. She makes her home in New Orleans with her husband Paul and assorted small dogs. 

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS

 


Sunday, May 21, 2023

The Awakening by Nora Roberts

 


Title:  The Awakening

Author:  Nora Roberts

Narrated by:  Barrie Kreinik

Publisher: Macmillian Audio

Length: Approximately 15 hours and 27 minutes

Source: Purchased from Amazon.com

 

Are any trees flowering where you live?  There are some very beautiful flowering trees in my neighborhood.

Nora Roberts is a prolific author that can cross genres.  I have been meaning to read her new fantasy trilogy since the first book of the Dragonheart Trilogy, The Awakening, was published in 2020.  Luckily, it was the May selection for the Page-turners Book Club at the Kewaunee Public Library.

Breen Kelly is living with her best friend Marco, just trying to make ends meet.  She is a people pleaser and focuses on trying to keep her mother and everyone around her happy instead of pursuing her own dreams.  One day while caring for her mother’s plants, she comes across a bank statement and realizes her mother has been hiding from her that her missing father has sent her vast sums of money over the years.  Breen uses the money to fund a trip to Ireland with Marco to find out what happened to her father and more of her roots.  While there, she discovers a portal to another world and her real past.  Will she be able to defeat the evil force that is waiting for her?

I liked the character development and world building in the Awakening.  The descriptions of Ireland were wonderful.  I really liked her best friend Marco and how he helped push her to achieve her dreams.  I also liked the theme of found family.  Breen’s mother is something else, but luckily, she has others in her life that help her out when she needs them.

I didn’t like that The Awakening was a very slow-moving novel.  There were dreams of future things to come, but no climatic battle.  It was really about meeting the characters and Breen training for some future battle.  I really wanted more to the story.  I really didn’t like Breen’s mother.  I couldn’t believe what a cold person she was.

We had a good discussion about this book at book club.  I still need to figure out if I want to continue with the trilogy or not.

 Barrie Kreinik was a good narrator, and it was enjoyable to listen to in an audiobook.

Friday, May 19, 2023

What Happens in the Ballroom by Sabrina Jeffries (TLC Book Tours)

 


What is blooming in your neighborhood right now?  Tulips are up and looking beautiful in my yard.

What Happens in the Ballroom is an enjoyable regency romance.  Eliza Pierce is a young widow that enjoys working with her sisters planning events and helping the gentry find spouses as part of “Elegant Occasions.”  One day, her late husband’s best friend, Nathaniel Stanton, the Earl of Foxstead, stops by to hire Elegant Occasions to help find a husband for his ward, a young war widow.  Mrs. March is young and mysterious.  Is Nathaniel in love with her himself?  What secret are they trying to hide?   Will Nathaniel and Eliza be able to put the past and secrets behind them to forge a future together?

I loved the romance of this novel, the setting, and the characters. The flirting and banter between Nathaniel and Eliza was very fun.  This book was a quick read.  This book did have two steamy love scenes in it.  I guessed the secret, but I really wasn’t sure if I was right until the end.

This is the second book in the Designing Debutantes series.  It was fine to read it as a standalone, but I definitely want to go back and read the first book, A Duke for Diana.

Overall, What Happens in the Ballroom is a delightfully fun regency romance.

Book Source: Review Copy from Kensington Books.   Thank-you! I received a complimentary copy of this book as part of the TLC Book Tour. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

The Lie Maker by Linwood Barclay (Bibliolifestyle Book Tour)

 


Thank you, Partner @bibliolifestyle @williammorrowbooks for the review copy of The Lie Maker by Linwood Barclay.

If you could be moved anywhere else and become anything else as part of the witness protection program, what would you choose?  I think I would choose to be an English Literature Professor in Hawaii.

Jack Givins is a down on his luck author.  He is happy to get hired by the U.S. Marshalls to write back stories for people that are placed in the witness protection program.  He thinks it’s a great opportunity to ask them about his dad, who entered the program when Jack was only 9.  There is only one problem, his dad has recently gone missing, and the U.S. Marshalls do not know where he is.  Where has he gone, and will Jack find him?

I really liked this unique plot.  Barclay writes riveting thrillers. This is a quick moving read.  He kept me guessing throughout the story which I liked.  The story was told mostly from Jack’s point of view, but there are also other characters with related storylines who get to narrate, including his father.  I liked seeing where all of these pieces of the story led and loved the twist.

The Lie Maker was published today May 16, 2023.