Friday, June 7, 2024

The Hudson Collection by Jocelyn Green (Austenprose PR Book Tour)

 



Do you like birds?  Do you enjoy watching them at a bird feeder or do you like them as subjects of art or science?

Elsa Reisner is an ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.  She puts together displays of birds including skeletons and taxidermy of birds.  An older lady who has just passed away has left her collection of taxidermy rare birds to the museum. Elsie is sent by her boss to inventory the collection at the estate.  Elsa makes new friends at the estate and together they start a treasure hunt for a missing rare, illuminated manuscript from the middle ages that can help secure the servants’ futures when the estate is sold.  Will they find the manuscript?

My thoughts on this novel:

·       This novel is set in 1926.  I loved the descriptions of New York City during this time frame and what a night out on the town for young people would be like.

·       Elsa has a handicapped leg from having polio as a child.  She must work through illness and issues with her handicap.  I thought it added an interesting dimension to the story.

·       I also found Elsa’s job fascinating at the museum.  I learned a lot about being an ornithologist and about birds in general.  It made me really want to visit the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

·       Luke is a World War I veteran and an architectural salvage dealer.  He is working at the estate at the same time as Elsa.  He is still dealing with his own internal issues from the war.

·       I also thought it was interesting that a young girl in the novel, Danielle, displays symptoms of what now would be called autism, but it was not well understood in that time period. 

·       I enjoyed the sweet and clean romance between Elsa and Luke.  The romance was slow burn which is one of my favorite tropes.

·       This novel had an overall theme of forgiveness.

·       There was an interesting discussion of eugenics in the novel.  It was a hot topic during that time period.  The characters all had imperfections, but they were made in the image of God.  I thought this was a powerful theme of the book.

·       I enjoyed the very informative author’s note at the end of the novel.  A lot of the story was based in fact and some of the characters were real people from history.

Overall, The Hudson Collection was a powerful story of forgiveness and acceptance.  I enjoyed the characters, time period, setting, and romance.  It was a unique story, and I would love to read more by this author.

Book Source:  Review copy from Bethany House Books as part of the AustenprosePR Book Tour. Thank-you!  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


 BOOK DESCRIPTION

Step into the beguiling world of 1926 New York and discover the power of resilience, friendship, and love from award-winning author Jocelyn Green.

Elsa Reisner's lifelong dream of working as an ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History is fading as the job begins to drain her passion. But fate takes an unexpected turn when she is assigned to catalog the bequest of a recently deceased patron whose Gothic country mansion holds secrets and treasures waiting to be discovered.

As Elsa delves into her task, she forms an unlikely bond with the estate's delightful gardener and her daughter, as well as an architectural salvage dealer who still bears scars from the Great War. Together, they embark on a thrilling treasure hunt for a missing relic intended to safeguard the servants' futures before the estate is sold. At the same time, Elsa's body seems to betray her with new symptoms from a childhood disease that isn't through with her yet.

With the brooding veteran and her handsome colleague joining the search, Elsa must navigate the tangled web of secrets and hidden motives along with the changing state of her health. As her deadline looms ever closer, will she be able to secure a new life for her friends before the estate slips from their grasp?


AUTHOR BIO

Jocelyn Green (JocelynGreen.com) inspires faith and courage as the bestselling author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books, including the Christy Award-winning The Mark of the King and Drawn by the Current and her On Central Park series.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Sunrise by Susan May Warren

 

Title:  Sunrise

Author:  Susan May Warren

Narrated by:  Cynthia Farrell

Publisher: Recorded Books, Inc

Length: Approximately 11 hours and 45 minutes

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

Sunrise or sunset?  I think both are beautiful, but living in Wisconsin on Lake Michigan, the sun rising over Lake Michigan is extraordinary.

I read Sunrise in May for the Page-turners Book Club at the Kewaunee Public Library.  I unfortunately missed the book discussion due to work obligations.  Dodge left his hometown of Copper Mountain, Alaska after a huge family fight.  He returned a decade later after his father has an accident.  His old high school girlfriend and center of the family feud, Echo is still in town working as a dogsledder and research guide for the Department of Natural Resources. When one of Echo’s friends and fellow researchers goes missing, will Echo and Dodge be able to find her?

My thoughts on this book:

·       I did enjoy listening to this audiobook during some long drives for work.  The exciting adventure kept me entertained. 

·       Sunrise is part one of the Sky King Ranch novels. 

·       I loved the Alaskan setting.  I always enjoy books set in Alaska and this had the bonus of dogsledding, homesteading, snowmobiles, and grizzly bears.  These are all topics I enjoy reading about.

·       There was a strong element of faith and forgiveness in this novel.

·       I loved the sweet and clean romance between Echo and Dodge.

·       Both Echo and Dodge were strong characters.  I really enjoyed Echo as a tough lady dogsledder. Dodge was a military pilot in his past and now a rescue pilot in Alaska.  It was exciting to read about his flights and near misses. 

·       I would classify this novel as romantic adventure or romantic suspense.

·       It did take me awhile to get into this story.  Once the story got moving, it was a great adventure.

·       Cynthia Farrell was a great narrator.

·       I have put the next book, Sunburst, on my TBR list.  Dodge is a triplet, and the adventure continues in the series with his brothers.

·       Susan May Warren is a popular author at our library, but this is the first book I’ve read by her.  Have you read any of her books?  What do you think?

Overall, if you are looking for a nice, clean and Christian romantic adventure, I recommend Sunrise by Susan May Warren.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Long Haul: Hunting the Highway Serial Killers by Frank Figliuzzi (Bibliolifestyle Book Tour)

 


Thank you, Partner @bibliolifestyle @marinerbooks for the review copy of Long Haul by Frank Figliuzzi.

Are you a fan of true crime?  I am and I love to listen to true crime podcasts.  Long Haul is a true crime story by former assistant FBI director Frank Figliuzzi.  The FBI put together the Highway Serial Killer Initiative to hunt for those responsible for 850 homicides across the country that are linked to long haul trucking.

My thoughts on this non-fiction book:

·       There is a great map at the beginning of the book that shows the victim locations.  It visually shows what a real problem this is across the United States.

·       The author interviews long haul truckers and does a ride along to get a sense of the road.  I thought this was very interesting to learn more about long haul trucking in general.

·       The book includes details on trafficking victims and survivors.

·       The book also features how the FBI profiles serial killers.

·       It also specifies the mentality of the victims as well as the predators.

·       I learned that long haul trucking is the most likely occupation for serial killers, which I had never heard of before.

·       The book focused mostly on the overall culture of long-haul trucking and trafficking with short summaries of true crimes that had occurred.

·       Overall, there was a look at truck stop culture, the history of long hauling and how it included the sex trade.  It even detailed very aggressive prostitutes and pimps trying to meet quota by banging on truck windows trying to engage truckers that were sleeping.  Drugs are highly involved in this culture.  It makes it an environment ripe for serial killers.

·       Times have changed and trafficking and the sex trade has gotten higher tech and has moved away from truck stops to meet ups with truckers elsewhere.

·       I learned a lot and I will never look at a truck stop the same way again.

·       This was a short and easy read.

If you are looking for a true crime book to learn about long haul trucking and how it has been used by serial killers in the past and present, Long Haul is an interesting and unique read.

Monday, June 3, 2024

The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley

 


Title: The Ministry of Time

Author:  Kaliane Bradley

Narrated by:  George Weightman and Katie Leung

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio

Length: Approximately 10 hours and 22 minutes

Source: Review Copy from Simon & Schuster Audio.  Thank you!

Do you like movies, books, or shows that feature time travel?  I love them!  The Ministry of Time is a brand-new time travel novel.

An unnamed civil servant works for the new Ministry of Time in London.  She is tasked with helping Graham Gore, an artic explorer from 1847, acclimate to modern times.  The ministry plucked five individuals that were going to die from different time periods and brought them back to London in modern times.  The time travelers form unlikely friendships with each other as well as their handlers.  As the shadowy “general” starts to stalk the time travelers, will they be able to survive in this new time?

My thoughts on the novel:

·       The Ministry of Time is a unique blend of sci-fi, historical fiction, mystery, and romance.

·       Graham Gore is an actual historic figure that was a part of the ill-fated Franklin expedition.  He has a parallel story in the novel narrated by him where he details what happened to him on the expedition.  This matches what is known about the real-life expedition.  A great note at the end discusses Gore.

·       I thought it was interesting that the main character was never named in the novel.  She has mixed heritage with an English father and Cambodian mother.  This brought some depth to her character.  I wanted to learn even more about her.

·       I enjoy that time travel makes one think through many moral and ethical quandaries.  What gives people the right to “save” people from the past from their certain deaths?  Is it really saving them?  What is the correct timeline if time travel keeps changing what happened?  Should you travel back into your own timeline?

·       It was also interesting that the narrator had basically fallen in love with a historical figure that she had researched in the past and then had the chance to meet him and get to know him.  Graham calls her out on it later in the book.

·       Graham and the narrator have a torrid romance towards the end of the novel.  It was slightly awkward to listen to it on audiobook, but luckily, I could skip ahead.

·        It was interesting that the future has different ways it could end.  It’s really a loop from the future to the past that those from the future are trying to alter.

·       I enjoyed the friendship between the time travelers.

Overall, I enjoyed The Ministry of Time.  It was a unique novel with a great story, characters, romance, and mystery.  I felt myself caring for both Graham and the narrator and wishing there was a book two.

 

Die for Love by Elizabeth Peters

 


Title: Die for Love

Author:  Elizabeth Peters

Narrated by:  Grace Conlin

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing

Length: Approximately 9 hours and 14 minutes

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

Have you ever been to a fan convention?  I have always wanted to go to one, especially the Jane Austen Society of North America’s (JASNA) conference, but it has not been in the cards for me yet.  I just attend engineering and water quality conferences for work.  Die for Love is set at The Historical Romance Writers of the World conference.

Jaqueline Kirby is the assistant head librarian at Coldwater College in Nebraska.  She has traveled to New York City for the Historical Romance Writers of the World conference.  Jacqueline considers the conference a tax-deductible business expense, but also starts to dabble in romance writing herself.  After a woman is murdered at her table with a poisoned glass of wine, Jaqueline is on the case.  Will she be able to uncover the murderer before they strike again?

My thoughts on this novel:

·       This was a very fun audiobook.  I really loved Grace Conlin’s narration.

·       This is a summer selection of my JASNA Northwoods Book Club.  Besides being a fun read, the descriptions of the conference will be discussed as compared to JASNA conferences.

·       This was my first read of a book by Elizabeth Peters.  I have wanted to read her mysteries for a long time.  I need to pick up more of her novels.  I would also like to read more about Jaqueline Kirby as an amateur detective.  I need to start this series at the beginning as this was book three.

·       I loved the satire of the romance writers conference.  My favorite was that they had a man with glued on chest hair as a representative of a sexy romance novel book cover hero.  It reminded me of The Lost City starring Sandra Bullock.

·       I always make fun of older romance novels that use rape as a plot device.  This conference had protestors against those types of storylines, and it was discussed throughout the novel.  The author parodies or makes fun of a lot of romance plot devices of the 1980s.

·       The mystery itself was fun.  I didn’t spend too much time trying to figure it out and just let the plot lead me to where it would go.  I enjoyed it.

·       Jaqueline Kirby was a delightful main character.  She was sarcastic, smart, and fun.  It would be hilarious to be at such a convention with her.

Overall, Die for Love is a fun mystery with a great heroine and a fun setting of a romance writers conference.

 

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Serabelle: Where the Wealthy Come to Play by Tavi Taylor Black (TLC Book Tours)

 

What trees are flowering near you?  We have beautiful flowering pink trees in Northeast Wisconsin right now, but I am not sure what they are.  My lilacs are now in bloom.

In Maine, rich people have built mansions that they visit during the summer to get away from the City in the early twentieth century.  Serabelle is a beautiful cliffside “cottage.”  The Hunt family spends their summers at the estate.  Mr. Hunt and Mrs. Ainsworth-Hunt both came from wealthy families and married to combine their fortunes.  Now in their middle age, they find they have nothing in common, but can mostly keep apart in their large home.  Mabel is a young teenage maid starting her job at Serabelle, and she has quickly caught the eye of Mr. Hunt.  As their affair heats up, and family squabbles come to head, will Mabel be able to get the life that she deserves?

My thoughts on this book:

·       I loved the Downton Abbey in America feel to this book.  I always love it when we get an intertwined story of the rich family as well as the servants who live on the estate.

·       I felt bad for poor naïve Mabel and the choices she must make after she discovers she is pregnant with Mr. Hunt’s child.  It made me wonder how many “arranged marriages” there were back in the day to cover up pregnancies by a married man.

·       There was also an interesting subplot involving Mr. Hunt’s jewels that shines a light on the families disfunction.

·       There were many storylines between the family members, the servants, and the interactions between the family members and servants.  They all came together to a stunning conclusion.

·       I really loved one character and I was shattered by their death at the end of the novel.

·       The descriptions of Serabelle and Maine were beautiful.  It made me want to visit.

·       I enjoyed the themes of inequality, suffrage, and socioeconomic class divide that were throughout the novel. 

·       The author’s grandmother worked as a cook for an estate in Maine.  I thought that was very interesting in the acknowledgements at the end of the novel.

Overall, Serabelle was an atmospheric story with great characters and setting. I enjoyed reading it.  I would recommend it for those that like me enjoyed Downtown Abbey, The Gilded Age, or the novels of Edith Wharton.

Book Source:  Review copy from author Tavi Taylor Black as part of the TLC Book Tour. Thank-you!  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Friday, May 31, 2024

The Goddess of Warsaw by Lisa Barr (Bibliolifestyle Book Tour)

Thank you, Partner @bibliolifestyle @harperperennial for the review copy of The Goddess of Warsaw by Lisa Barr.  This book was just published this week on May 28th.

What is the last book that you read that you couldn’t put down?  The Goddess of Warsaw had a riveting plot line and I kept finding myself reading this whenever I had a moment.

Lena Browning is a legendary actress that is mostly retired in 2005.  When a new and upcoming actress, Sienna, asks to play Lena in a biopic of her life.  Sienna gets more than she bargained for as Lena launches into her true-life story.  Lena was born Bina Blonski in Warsaw and was a wealthy Polish Jew when WWII started and destroyed her life.  Bina becomes a spy, an assassin, a whore; whatever it takes to protect her family and fellow Jews while also exacting revenge on the Nazis.  She rises to stardom in the 1950s and continues as a femme fatale in real life tracking down and executing Nazis living under cover in the United States.  Will Lena ever be able to put the past behind her?

My thoughts on this novel:

·       This was a very engaging novel – a real page turner.  I would class this as an action-adventure historical fiction novel.

·       Bina is blonde and able to pass as an Aryan woman.  She uses this and her acting skills to help smuggle weapons and food into the ghetto during WWII.

·       I didn’t feel the love triangle between Bina, her husband Jakub, and Jakub’s brother Aleks.  I didn’t understand her undying love for Aleks.  She first saw him as a teenager across the room and played hard to get.  He instead dated and married her best friend, and she married his brother Jakub.  I did feel like the end of the novel really pulled this part of the story line together.

·       Luckily, the plot moved on from the love story and focused more on Bina as a femme fatale which I really enjoyed.

·       This was a novel of revenge and vengeance through time.  The timelines were WWII, 1950s, and 2005.  I got a The Count of Monte Cristo vibe from this novel with Bina as Edmond Dantes.

·       As a WWII novel mostly set in the Ghetto in Warsaw, there is a lot of tragedy, loss, and sadness in this novel.  It did make me tear up at times, but the story kept moving and didn’t let me wallow in the tragedy.

·       I thought the ending of this novel was perfect and really tied together the complete story and all the timelines.

·       I enjoyed the author’s note at the end that explained the inspirations and real history of this novel.  I had never heard of the Warsaw Uprising and it is an important part of history.  This novel was a unique story different than other WWII fiction I have read.

·       I also thought it was touching that author Lisa Barr’s own grandmother was a holocaust survivor.  This was my first Lisa Barr novel, but I will be reading more of her work.

Favorite Quote: “What you don’t know, what Nazis can’t sniff out or tell by a tic or nervous gesture, is that I am nearly twenty-four years old, and I have portrayed practically every part imaginable:  heroine, wife, lover, mistress, daughter, almost-mother, villain, maid, whore, seductress, smuggler, assassin.  I am a woman born to become anyone other than who she really is.”

 Overall, The Goddess of Warsaw is a riveting historical fiction adventure and a great tale of revenge.

The Six: The Untold Story of America’s First Women Astronauts by Loren Grush

 


Title: The Six:  The Untold Story of America’s First Women Astronauts

Author:  Loren Grush

Narrated by:  Ines del Castillo

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio

Length: Approximately 11 hours and 41 minutes

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

Can you name the first six women astronauts?  Before I read this book, I only knew about the first woman in space, Sally Ride.  I was very happy to learn the remarkable story of the first class of female astronauts selected in 1978:  Sally Ride, Judy Resnik, Kathy Sullivan, Anna Fisher, Margaret “Rhea” Seddon, and Shannon Lucid through the new book The Six by Loren Grush.

My thoughts on this book: 

·       I read this both as a physical book and listened to the audiobook.  I liked that the book had a brief two pages of the “cast of characters” describing the six women astronauts.  It helped me to keep the ladies straight while I was listening to the audiobook.  I would reference this section often at the start of the book.

·       The physical book has great pictures and index.

·       Nichelle Nichols visited Nasa’s newly named Johnson Space Center to talk about the space shuttle and a new crop of astronauts.  These astronauts were going to be more than just test pilots.  They wanted scientists and engineers, women, and people of color to apply.  This sounds like it was a very inspirational pitch that got a lot of people to apply.

·       Just like their male counterparts, all six women were extraordinary, very smart, and successful people.

·       Unfortunately, the novelty of female astronauts caused a lot of press and strange questions to them.  I can’t imagine as an engineer being asked about make-up and dating rather than your skills that got you to your position.

·       I really identified with Judy Resnik and loved her story.  I was horrified to discover that she was killed on the Challenger.  I was eight when the Challenger exploded, and we watched it live on TV at school.  Christa McAuliffe, a schoolteacher going to space to show that space travel was for everyone, is the person that most stuck in my mind from this disaster.  I was glad to learn more about the rest of the crew.

·       Besides learning the early history of each woman and why they became astronauts, and how they made their way through training and going to space, I learned a great deal about the space program in the 1970s and 1980s.

·       I also learned a lot about the Challenger disaster and Sally Ride’s involvement in the investigation afterwards.  I want to learn more.

·       Each woman was treated in the book as an individual and we also learned about their lives outside of the space program.

·       Sally Ride was chosen as the first woman in space as it was believed she could best handle the overwhelming attention she received.  It is amazing how much attention she received compared to the other five women.

·       The writing was very engaging, and I learned a lot from this nonfiction book.  I read most of this book for Women’s History month in March and finished it up at the beginning of April.

 Overall, The Six is a captivating nonfiction book that chronicles that true stories of the first six women astronauts.  I recommend it to everyone.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Daughter of Mine by Megan Miranda

 


Title: Daughter of Mine

Author:  Megan Miranda

Narrated by:  Ines del Castillo

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio

Length: Approximately 10 hours and 19 minutes

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

Do you like to vacation by a lake, ocean, or other body of water?  I always think it’s fun to canoe, boat, and swim in water during vacations.

Hazel Sharpe’s father has recently passed away.  She returns home to Mirror Lake for his funeral and to settle the estate.  Much to her surprise, she discovers that her father, a long-time detective in town, left her his house, and her brothers his assets, but his accounts are empty.  As the town goes without rain, two cars are discovered in the lake as goes to record lows.  She realizes that her father has left her clues to follow to figure a mystery that is ongoing at Mirror Lake.  What does it all mean, and what does it have to do with her mother’s disappearance when she was a child?

My thoughts on this novel:

·       This thriller had a lot of twists and turns that were very exciting.  It was a great thriller for keeping me engaged and awake through a long drive last month.

·       This was my first book by author Megan Miranda, and I definitely need to read more of her novels.

·       I love water and my career is based on it.  I really liked how each chapter started with a summary of how many days the community had been without rain.  I liked how the water was tied into the story.

·       I felt a sense of foreboding throughout the novel that was tied in with the weather.  It all cumulated in the climax at the end.  I had some hints along the way, but I didn’t guess the ending.

·       I liked the family dynamics and how they played out in the novel.

·       I felt bad for Hazel as she spent her life grappling with being abandoned by her mother.

·       I love the setting – it made me want to visit Mirror Lake, North Carolina.  I had to Google it when I finished the novel, and it looks like it is a real place!

·       I liked how the book had the theme of “daughters are different.”

·       Ines del Castillo was a great narrator!

Overall, Daughter of Mine was a riveting thriller and I greatly enjoyed it.

 

Everyone on This Train is a Suspect by Benjamin Stevenson

 


Have you taken a trip on a train?  I’ve been on a train a few times in my life, but a fun trip I’ll always remember is going with my Mom, sisters, and our kids on a train to Chicago for a day trip and a visit to the American Girl Doll store.  It was a lot of fun.

The Australian Mystery Writer’s Society has invited the narrator of this novel, Ernest Cunningham, to their crime writing festival aboard the Ghan, a famous train that travels between Darwin and Adelaide.  Ernest wrote a book called Everyone in My Family has Killed Someone and is looking for inspiration for his second novel.  His girlfriend Elizabeth is along for the trip, and she also wrote a book about their experiences.  There are other famous mystery authors on the trip, and when one ends up dead, they are all trying to solve the crime.  Fans, publishers, and agents are also on the train.  Who was the murderer and why?

My thoughts on this book:

·       I still need to read the first book, Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone, but I thought this would be a fun read.  I read and enjoyed this book in February and I’m finally just now getting my review posted.  This book can be read as a standalone.

·       Ernest cracked me up.  He has a great sense of humor and just the way the book was written, it often had me laughing.

·       I loved the first-person narration and the breaking of the fourth wall.

·       I also enjoyed the references to the golden age mysteries and authors, such as the obvious Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.

·       I did not guess the ending of this mystery and it kept me guessing throughout.

·       I didn’t like the sheer number of characters.  I kept mixing them up as I was reading this novel.

Overall, Everyone on Train is a Suspect was a fun and exciting mystery.  It was very enjoyable, and I recommend it for anyone who enjoys golden age mysteries.

Book Source:  Review copy from Mariner Books. Thank-you!  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.