Thursday, April 29, 2021

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

Lakshmi escaped an abusive arranged marriage and created a new life for herself in 1950’s metropolitan Jaipur. She uses her skills as a Henna artist and as a natural medicine healer to create a life for herself.  She has saved money and is having her dream house built.  Her entire world starts to change as a sister she never knew she had, Radha, arrives with the husband she left behind.  Will Lakshmi still be able to accomplish her dreams?

 I’ve gotten a bit behind here on reviews and will hopefully catch up soon!  I read The Henna Artist for the Page-turners’ Book Club April pick for the Kewaunee Public Library.  We had our discussion on it a couple of weeks ago.  The consensus was that we all enjoyed the story.  It was an interesting and unique plot and a look into a world that I don’t know much about.  I really liked Lakshmi’s perseverance and her desire to have a life on her own terms.

 Overall, The Henna Artist is great story of an independent woman in 1950’s India.

 Book Source:  Borrowed from the Kewaunee Public Library – Thank-you!

Friday, April 23, 2021

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

What book to film adaptations are your favorites?

I received Shadow and Bone for my birthday and read it this week so that I would be ready for the new Netflix series.  I thought it was a movie and was pleasantly surprised to see it is a series.  I can’t wait to watch it!

Shadow and Bone is a fantasy Young Adult novel and is the first in a trilogy.  Alina Starkov is an orphan along with her friend Mal.  She is a mapmaker while he is a tracker.  While they are passing through the Shadow Fold, a darkness filled with monsters, they are attacked. Alina saves the day with a power that she didn’t know that she had.  The mysterious Darkling comes and takes her away for training as a Grishna, a magical soldier of sorts.  As Alina tries to navigate her new world, she wonders what is her purpose and where is Mal?

I though this world was absorbing, and I really liked the story.  It was a unique fantasy world and plot.  Bardugo borrows from Russian themes and sets this in a far north type of world.  It is a coming-of-age story for Alina and also features a love triangle as well.  There is a lot of angst, but I enjoyed it as a light fantasy romance.  I really liked the dark ending.  I’ve ordered the next two books and can’t wait to see what happens next!

Favorite Quotes:

“We all did our part to bring about the end of the world.”

Overall, Shadow and Bone is a great fantasy novel with an interesting world. 

Book Source:  Birthday gift from my best friend Jen!

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Caste: The Origin of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson


Title:  Caste: The Origin of our Discontents

Author: Isabel Wilkerson

Read by:  Robin Miles

Publisher: Random House Audio

Length: Approximately 14 hours and 26 minutes

Source: Checked out on Overdrive from the Kewaunee Public Library.  Thank-you! 

 Our country has been going through a powerful racial reckoning during this past year.  Caste:  The Origins of our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson theorizes that much of our current day problems are because of an unspoken caste system or hierarchy that is used in America.  She compares the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany in this book.  Wilkerson shows the power of the caste system through a deep dive into history and into personal stories including her own.  She also talks about the future and how to make changes for the good including not just being anti-racist yourself but speaking up when you hear someone making racist comments.

 I found this book to be eye opening and vastly discomforting at times, but it made me really think about my own biases.   I found it to be very informative and it made a lot of sense for the state of our country now.  I was shocked to learn that the Nazis based their treatment of Jewish people on how America treated African Americans.  My one compliant is that I wish there would have been more explanation of the Indian caste system.  I’m still slightly puzzled by that system.  The book is very current ending last year when it was published during the COVID crisis.  It does not shirk away from talking about politics the last five years.

 Robin Miles was the narrator of this audiobook and I thought of her as the voice of the author.  Her voice was engaging, and I couldn’t stop listening to this audiobook.

 Favorite Quotes:

“Caste is structure. Caste is ranking. Caste is the boundaries that reinforce the fixed assignments based upon what people look like. Caste is a living, breathing entity.”

 “Evil asks little of the dominant caste other than to sit back and do nothing. All that it needs from bystanders is their silent complicity in the evil committed on their behalf, though a caste system will protect, and perhaps even reward, those who deign to join in the terror.”

 “So the real question would be,' he said finally, 'if people were given the choice between democracy and whiteness, how many would choose whiteness?'”

 Overall, Caste by Isabel Wilkerson is a book that every American should read.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

An Invincible Summer by Mariah Stewart (TLC Book Tours)

What are your favorite family drama novels? 

Maggie Flynn is returning to her hometown of Wyndham Beach for her 40th class reunion.  She has been recently widowed, but is eager to catch up with her best friends Lydia and Emma.  While at the reunion, old memories are awakened when she runs into her high school boyfriend Brett Crawford.  Why did the golden couple break up so long ago?  What secrets do they still keep?

Maggie’s two daughters are also going through a rough time as well.  The story details how all three women are faced with tragedy and changes in life and how they move forward.  It’s a story of friendship and family.  I greatly enjoyed it.  I also really loved that the main character was a woman in her 50’s.  I feel like that age group is very underrepresented in literature.  I read this book quickly as I enjoyed the plot and the characters. It reminds me of what my Great Grandma would say was a “good story,” which meant a character driven story in which you really cared about the characters and their lives.  I would love for this story to continue.  I see on Goodreads that it is listed as Wyndham Beach #1 so I hope that my wish for more to the story happens with another novel!

Favorite Quotes:

“Letting go of the anger Maggie’d held on to for so many years felt like dropping a hundred-pound weight she’d been carrying on her back.”

“Friendship is complicated.  Families are complicated.  Love is complicated.”

Overall, An Invincible Summer by Mariah Stewart is a great character driven family drama novel.

Book Source:  Review Copy as part of the TLC Book Tour.  Thank-you!  For more stops on this tour, check out this link.

For a giveaway of this book, check out my Instagram (link is in the upper right hand corner of this blog).

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie

I read about the ReadChristie 2021 Challenge on Instagram and decided I wanted to join.  Lord Edgware Dies is the March pick, so I am a bit behind, but I’m going to keep on plucking along.  I just started reading Agatha Christie mysteries a few years ago and I’ve found I really enjoy them.  This challenge is a good way for me to read even more of her mysteries.

Lord Edgware dies is a Hercule Poirot novel.  It has an interesting start. Hercule Poirot and his friend, the narrator of the novel, Hastings, meet the American actress, Jane Wilkinson.  She asks Poirot to meet her husband, Lord Edgware to ask him for a divorce as she would like to marry someone else.  Poirot meets with Lord Edgware and is surprised when he is found murdered shortly thereafter.  All signs point to Jane as she has often talked about getting “rid” of Lord Edgware.  Jane was a party with friends at the time of the murder, how could she also have been seen entering Lord Edgware’s library at the same time? 

I greatly enjoyed this mystery.  Christie really knows how to have an interesting and intricate plot.  I had no idea how this would end, but as the pieces came together at the end, it made perfect sense.   This was a unique mystery and I loved it!

Favorite Quote:

“The memory of the public is short.  Already the intense interest and excitement aroused by the murder of George Alfred St. Vincent Marsh, fourth Baron Edgware, is a thing past and forgotten.  Newer sensations have taken its place.”

Overall, Lord Edgware Dies is a great mystery with an interesting and intricate plot.

Book Source:  Purchased from

Thursday, April 15, 2021

A Castaway in Cornwall by Julie Klassen

 Laura Callaway lives on the coast of Cornwall and loves to take walks looking for items that have washed ashore.  She returns them to their family or lets loved ones know that a family member has perished.  Laura is an orphan and lives with her Uncle and his new wife and stepdaughter.  As her Aunt works to marry off her cousin, Laura often feels like the odd one out.  After a shipwreck, she helps to rescue and care for a mysterious stranger that has survived, Alexander.  As clues wash ashore, Laura has to put them together to determine what happened.  Who exactly is Alexander?

I greatly enjoyed this story.  I love stories set in Cornwall especially about the shipwrecks that occurred and how they were handled.  The time period of this novel was during the Napoleonic War with the French and I found it fascinating.  I listened in to an interview with author Julie Klassen at the Minnesota January JASNA meeting. Her research into this area and time period were fascinating.  I loved the historical details that were included in this novel. I also loved the characters as Klassen is a great character author. 

This is an inspirational novel, and I enjoyed the theme of finding your purpose. 

I think fans of Poldark, Daphne Du Maurier, and of course Klassen herself would enjoy this novel.

Favorite Quotes:

“Life can be hard, and yours has not been easy.  But I can honestly say that serving God and serving others has given me purpose and fills my soul when life is sometimes disappointing.  I would love for you to find that same fulfillment.”

“Tears overflowed, streaking her cheeks and cleansing the final traces of resentment from her heart.”

Overall, A Castaway in Cornwall is a great historical novel set during a fascinating period of time, the Napoleonic Wars, and has many interesting characters.

Book Source:  Review Copy from Netgalley and Bethany House Publishers.  Thank-you!

Monday, April 12, 2021

Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig


Title:  Band of Sisters

Author: Lauren Willig

Read by:  Julia Whelan

Publisher: HarperAudio

Length: Approximately 15 hours and 59 minutes

Source: Review Copy from HarperAudio and Netgalley.  Thank-you! 

 Band of Sisters is the story of nineteen Smith College graduates who go to the front lines in World War I France to help French civilians survive after being ravaged by the Germans.   Emmie Van Alden convinces her best friend Kate Moran to go with her to France after a rousing speech from Smith alumna Betsy Rutherford.  Emmie comes from a life of privilege with a domineering mother, while Kate lived a hardscrabble life and was a scholarship student at Smith.  As the ladies arrive in France, they face many obstacles and the true brutality of war.  Will they be able to make a difference and will they make it home alive?

 I was fascinated by this story.  I had never known about American women social workers in France during World War I and the important work that they completed to help French women and children survive.  I loved their stories and how they worked to ensure that there would be food and education for the people.  I also loved how they were resourceful and made do with what they had, including putting together their vehicles.  They also faced hard and scary situations.  Together the women are able to make their way through it, although like in many situations, there were people who didn’t get along with everyone else.  I loved their bonds that they forged.  I also loved a wonderfully sweet romance that occurs as well. 

 I listened to the audiobook version and it was hard to stop listening to it.  It was excellent.  I especially like the author’s note at the end where she discussed her research and the real story.  She used snippets from the real letters written by the women and real events to create this fictional story. 

 Overall, Band of Sisters is a riveting historical fiction novel about a group of brave women who made a difference in World War I and deserve to be remembered.

Friday, April 9, 2021

The Windsor Knot by SJ Bennett

The Windsor Knot is a delightful, unique mystery where the sleuth is none other than Queen Elizabeth II.  In 2016, Queen Elizabeth hosted a party just ahead of her ninetieth birthday celebrations.  Unfortunately, a Russian pianist ends up dead.  It looks at first like an accidental death, but Queen Elizabeth and MI5 suspect foul play.  Will they be able to solve this mystery?

I liked the unique premise of this book.  Queen Elizabeth has to solve the mysteries from the background without looking like she is solving the mystery.  She has her staff find information for her based on her judge of character and she puts it in the way of the investigators to put them on the path to the correct answer.  I like how she was treated as an elderly woman by some who didn’t realize that even though she is old, she has a sharp mind.  I also enjoyed her relationship with Prince Phillip.  I was saddened to hear of his passing this morning. 

 I think the Windsor Knot would be the perfect book for fans of The Crown, the royal family, cozy mysteries, or Agatha Christie.

 Favorite Quotes:

“Because when you consider them, fairy tales always have dark forces at their heart.  Evil lurks where we most desire it not to be, and evil often wins.”

“She set her face grimly to the drizzle and prepared to be patronized.”

Overall, I greatly enjoyed The Windsor Knot.  It had a great mystery, characters and premise.  I look forward to the next book in this great new series.

Book Source:  Review Copy from William Morrow. Thank-you!

Thursday, April 8, 2021

A Solitude of Wolverines by Alice Henderson

What is the last book you read that kept you up too late?

Alex Carter is a wildlife biologist.  After a shooting at a wildlife dedication, Alex decides it is time to go back out to the wilderness.  She takes a job studying wolverines at the Land Trust for Wildlife Conservation in Montana.  Once she arrives onsite, she discovers she is staying in a remote, abandoned ski chalet that has a dark history of its own.  Alex finds the elusive wolverines, but she also uncovers another mystery.  Will Alex be able to solve who is engaging in the illegal activity on the conservation, and even more importantly, will she be able to survive as she becomes the hunted?

I could not put a Solitude of Wolverines down.  Much to my husband’s dismay, I couldn’t stop reading this book, giving a gasp, and then updating him on the action that was taking place.  This suspense novel had a unique premise and plot and I enjoyed it.  I really liked the description of the wildlife and Alex’s work.  I also enjoyed that the plot kept moving and was very intriguing.  Alex does become more of a movie action hero at the end, but I enjoyed it.  There was an overall mystery that was hinted at and not tied up.  I hope this is the first in a new series as I can’t wait to read the next one!

As an environmental engineer, I really liked a side story in the novel about ethics.  Alex had to do an environmental impact survey and her boss wanted her to violate her ethics and hide the fact that she had found threatened snowy plovers.   Of course, Alex stuck with her ethics, but she lost her job and boyfriend.  This was a great, unfortunately, real world situation.

Favorite Quote:

“The wetlands dedication ceremony was a resounding success until the gunman showed up.” – This was quite the opener for this book and immediately drew me in.

Overall, A Solitude of Wolverines is a great new thriller set in the wilderness.  I loved it and highly recommend it.

Book Source:  Review Copy from William Morrow.  Thank-you!

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Let Us Dream by Pope Francis


Title:  Let Us Dream

Author: Pope Francis

Read by:  Arthur Morey

Publisher: Simon Audio

Length: Approximately 4 hours and 5 minutes

Source: Review Copy from Simon Audio.  Thank-you! 

Let Us Dream was the perfect book to listen to during Holy Week and is a perfect read for our troubled times.   Pope Francis has a call to Catholics to apply their faith to help out with modern problems including COVID, racism, and the environment.

The book is divided into three parts; a time to see, to choose, and to act.  Pope Francis talks through what was currently happening last year including COVID, George Floyd, the destruction of statues, populism, etc. and puts them into a faith perspective.  He overall talked about his experiences and Biblical passages to put everything into perspective.  His overall message was that we need to put aside our differences and start caring for people as individuals. 

I found this audiobook to be uplifting and thoughtful.   Arthur Morey was a great narrator, and I enjoyed the afterword where it was discussed how conversations with the Pope were the driving force on putting this book together.

Favorite Quote: 

“We need a movement of people who know we need each other, who have a sense of responsibility to others and to the world. We need to proclaim that being kind, having faith, and working for the common good are great life goals that need courage and vigor, while glib superficiality and the mockery of ethics have done us no good. The modern era, which has developed equality and liberty with such determination, now needs to focus on fraternity with the same drive and tenacity to confront the challenges ahead. Fraternity will enable freedom and equality to take its rightful place in the symphony.”

Overall, Let Us Dream is an inspirational book perfect for today.  I highly recommend it.