Review

American Duchess by Karen Harper

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Published: William Morrow
Date: February 26th 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

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A woman’s life story to rival any one made up in a fiction novel.

Who knew that so many American wealthy heiresses shored up the coffers of the British aristocracy. In the late Victorian era and early twentieth century this was quite the thing.

At the age of eighteen Consuela Vanderbilt was forced into marriage by a very ambitious and over zealous mother, with the then Duke of Marlborough. The mother achieved the honor of her daughter becoming a Duchess, her husband gained millions from the Vanderbilt wealth to shore up the huge Blenheim Palace.

We track the life of this marriage, the visits with royalty and the life of other famous people they mingled with. She was a good friend of Winston Churchill and his wife, he being a cousin of the Duke.

This is the life of Consuela – her family, her loves, her losses. We see her seek meaning and happiness in what appears to be an historically accurate retelling. As there is no great plot other than a reasonably eventful life, I found the book dragged a little here and there. However just as I felt the drag, I turned the page and my jaw dropped. What drama.

I enjoyed seeing a woman grow in stature and self reliance, seeing her reach out and help others and for herself find happiness.

With a little touch of Downton Abbey, and a reminder of a rather  infamous 1980’s royal marriage, readers who are intrigued by the British aristocracy and their ways should find this interesting.

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Review

Home Fires. Fiona Lowe

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Published: Harlequin Australia
Date: 18th February 2019
Genre: Women’s fiction

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I am still dabbing my eyes and swallowing the back taste of smoke as I finish Home Fires by Fiona Lowe. As I read into the book I just couldn’t put it down,  I was drawn into the lives of the people of Myrtle in Victoria, Australia.

We all watch devastating events happening most nights as they play out on our TV screens. As I read this book I am hearing about a fire devastate a town in my own country.  Home Fires explores the terrible destruction of fire that can spring up and engulf a community.

This is a book not only about the horror of fire out of control, but the lives of people both before and after the fire. There is the shock of loss of life and home and animals. Add into that the people who survive and the huge stress that is placed on them. The world forgets them, but they are left to pick up the pieces.

Home Fires presents us with a wonderful group of characters all who are dealing with fire related issues, and issues that were already present and greatly exacerbated by the fire. We see a motley group of people struggle and fall, challenge each other and support each other until… something new arises.

So worth reading! A fabulous Australian setting,a disaster event and the courageous response to it, family upheaval, violence and marriage issues, PTSD, crime, and above all family and community supporting each other. This book has it all. The title of the book is totally apt and the cover gorgeous.

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Review

The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

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Published: Lake Union
Date: 12th February 2019
Source:  Little Bird Publicity via NetGalley
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The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen explores the upheaval of World War 1 and the far flung impact on the people in England. Hardly one family was left untouched by loss, and if not loss – men who return deeply scarred by the experience.  Class barriers begin to tone down, women take on new roles – and The Victory Garden gave me, the reader a taste of that.

Emily – the main character was someone I came to really like and admire. She is a middle class woman with a Judge as a father. Her mother is very cognisant of class and was rather a sad case to behold. Because they had lost their son in the first year of the war they kept a tight hold on Emily and would not allow her to help out in the war effort. And the question of them is – when the chips are down “Does family matter?”

When Emily turns twenty one though all that changes and she sets off to become a land girl. The work is hard, but she is willing to give it a go and in doing so forms meaningful relationships with women of lower class and means.

The story moves along at a good pace and I found myself picking up the book happily at any chance I had. I loved the journey Emily had to take to find herself and her place among community. And she is supported by a very likeable group of people. I don’t want to give away all that happens to her, so no more.

If you enjoy books about the English countryside, people banding together in hard times and a heroine who ‘comes of age’ then I think you’d enjoy this.

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Review

The Military Wife by Laura Trentham

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Published: St Martin’s Press
Date: 5th February 2019
Genre: General Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

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Right from the first page I was hooked into this story that explores military life from so many different viewpoints. Firstly the men themselves, then the women who love them and the children in the family.  Military men are tough but they are also human, Laura Trentham explores PTSD, grief and loss, women who worry about their men and children who have either lost a parent to war or must tiptoe around because their dad just isn’t who he once was.

Harper Wilcox is a wonderful Mom to Ben. She has been through the mill – losing her husband Noah in a military mission. Fortunately she has the support of her mother and a delightful Ben. She wants more though about how Noah died beyond the terse military report. She believes Bennett who was on that mission may hold some answers.

Allison is Harper’s friend, she has three children and a husband who since returning from active duty has been morose and the family have had to tiptoe around him.

I liked the way the story unfolded, the characters were ones I could take into my mind and heart. The story moved along at a good pace and I think gave me a good insight into the challenges, struggles and losses of those involved in military service. While I smiled from time to time, I also teared up. So an emotional read!

Such a mixture of loss, guilt, anger, despair coupled with love, strength, support, new hope and second chances. I will most certainly look for the next book in The Heart of a Hero series.

photo of authorLaura Trentham is the award winning author of contemporary and historical romance. She is a member of RWA and has been a finalist multiple times in the Golden Heart competition. A chemical engineer by training and a lover of books by nature, she lives in South Carolina.

 

Buy links can be found here.

 

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Discussion, Review

How Often Do You DNF a Book?

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Until recently I have been reluctant to DNF a book, I’d struggle through or speed read (that is skip huge chunks) and call it read. But just this month a couple of things changed my mind about this. I am going to take on a new attitude towards books.

Firstly I read a post by Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs Darcy encouraging readers to not finish books that they just weren’t into.  She argues that five or so hours reading a book is time investment from a reader and so the books should be worth that investment. I’d always thought of the hours spent by the author writing it!

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However I can now see that some books just aren’t for me. It’s not that the book is bad, but rather just not to my taste and I made a mistake in choosing to read it. This happened to be with Turning the Pages by Penelope Janu. I liked the idea of it involving the book world and the main character was an author. But… what I found and can own was the writing was very upbeat chick lit and the main character seemed to ditsy around.  I closed that book I am not sure how many pages in and returned it to the library. There is a queue waiting for it on reserve and readers that will just delight in it, but not me. I felt relieved and moved on.

When I have a book that I am counting the pages or looking to see what % I have read, it may be a sign that I am finding it not to my taste. Anne Bogel says to learn from the books you DNF. So I’ve learned and I sort of knew that I don’t enjoy upbeat chick lit romance and to leave it alone to those who do!

It hurts when I’ve bought the book (big OUCH) although Amazon and Audible are pretty good about returns although sometimes I don’t read them for so long after buying I wouldn’t do it.  But I have until now struggled on with the REVIEW  book! However from this day forward I have decided that they too will hit the DNF slot and I will just let the publisher know that. That’s fair feedback I do believe.

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I will count the DNF books for 2019 and feel successful if the list is longer than other years because that means I have moved on to books more to my taste and most likely avoided a reading slump. I will be happy to be guilty as charged and be a happy DNFer.

How about you? How often do you DNF a book, how do you feel about that? What was the last book you DNF’d and why?

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I am linking up with Nicole at Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts at Midnight. Check out all the discussions for January.

Review

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

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Published: Mira
Date: January 29th 2019
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
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Here and Now and Then is a time travel book, set in the twenty second century where they have advanced health wise and no longer eat that unhealthy fast food!

Kin Stewart is an agent who time travels back to a certain era and sorts out crime and other events that his superiors assign him. Only his device to travel back breaks and he is stranded in our time. And… he quickly forgets all that he has known before. He settles in and marries and has a daughter.  Only trouble is an incident brings him right back into contact with his previous world.  And back to it. Oh the anguish as he re-enters his own world again but does not forget his previous family. How might he reach them?

The story is full of interesting technology and the method of time travel and the idea of it was sort of believable.

What I did find was that while I wanted to know how things would work out I didn’t really emotionally connect for some reason to the characters. I was happy at how it all worked out for Kin but for me the momentum was not there.

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Review

Nightchaser by Amanda Bouchet

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Published: Hachette Au/Piatkus
Date: 1st January 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

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Nightchaser is the first in a new series by Amanda Bouchet. This series is set in the future in outer new galaxies. The world as we know it has imploded and people live in a variety of places in outer space. This “world” is ruled over by a despotic Galactic Overseer, who rules with an iron fist.

However there are pockets of resistance and none more so on board the cargo cruiser Endeavour, captained by Tess Bailey. She has a small crew with her and when we meet them for the first time they also have attached to them a stolen cargo that is going to be central to this book and further on.

Tess is tough, strong, young woman and along with her crew she has escaped the wily and cruel clutches of the Overseer – for the moment. At all costs they need to stay out of the hostile Dark Watch soldiers and do what they know is important. It turns out there are hidden depths to Tess and as the story unfolds much is revealed. I especially liked her total focus on the needs of Starway 8 where orphans live under the care of two amazing women. By the end of the book we and she understands herself more, but yet more is to be learned I suspect.

On board along with the stolen cargo is “big guy” and later when they dock, Shade is introduced. While there is a strong attraction immediately between Shade and Tess, things are rather till unclear about him.

It takes awhile to become acquainted with this world, but once all the details are gathered, I was completely along for the ride. The main and minor characters are interesting and many of them soon started to grow on me. I look forward to seeing how they all develop in the next book.

The story is full of adventure, while at times there are lulls, there is always a sense of danger either right there or just ahead.  The romantic element is strong without being overpowering.

The book leaves us all set up for the next one, the adventure or quest has began but is no means finished or near finished. I certainly will want to read the next one and am waiting eagerly.

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Review

The Best of Us by Robyn Carr

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Published by: MIRA
Date: 8th January 2019
Pages: 384
Source: Little Bird Publicity
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The Best of Us is #4 in Robyn Carr’s small town series of Sullivan’s Crossing, Colorado.  A new book in any of her series has always been a delight and this is just as much so in this case.

I liked especially the variety of age range in this book. Firstly we have I guess what might be the central couple of Leigh Culver – the local doctor and Rob Shandon the local pub owner. Leigh is thirty four, Rob is forty and has two teenage sons.  Rob is the brother to Sid, we met her in a previous book when she fell for Dakota Jones.

It’s not long before Leigh and Rob fall for each other, there is a fun first meeting and from then on its all on. But… do this couple have their act together? They both have previous experiences that make them cautious. When one is hot the other is cold on a permanent relationship. So will they ever be on the same page… and believe me they sure need to get there!

Helen is Leigh’s aunt and she comes to stay with Leigh. In fact she brought Leigh up as Leigh lost her mother at the age of four. Helen is a retired teacher and a writer of mystery books – quite gory ones if her new reader can be believed!  She finds that she loves sitting on Sully’s porch out at the camp at Sullivan’s Crossing, looking out at the wild life while she writes. And that’s not all that she finds herself looking at.

The young people are represented by Finn (Rob’s son)  and his girlfriend Maia,  both just finishing high school and preparing for college. They are a delight and full of tender, young love. There is a rather huge crisis that brings Finn stepping up very much to the plate and indicates what kind of man he is going to grow into.

This is very much a story of family, being there for each other, sorting through challenges and coming out the other side. Another charming developed story, with characters I couldn’t help falling for.  Sean and Finn looking right at you!

 

Review

December 2018 Reading in Review

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Welcome in, do join me by sharing your link to your look back at this month. I’m looking forward to visiting and seeing what everyone has been up to.  The link will be open for you to share your post whenever you post over the next few days.  Do visit each others’ posts.

Total books read this month: 14

New to me authors:

Mike Chen
Jon Cohen
Celeste Ng
Marion Lennox

Reading Challenge Update: How I finished the year!

2018
Full House Reading Challenge
23/25 books

Audiobook Challenge 28/28 books

Modern Mrs Darcy Challenge11/12 books

Library Challenge 33/24 books

Emilie Richards Reading Challenge 17/18 Books

Top Books for December

Looking forward to reading in January

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Main Reading Goals for January..

  • Enjoy my books
  • Get my reading challenges off to a good start

Incoming Books for December….

Purchased

Yes that says Middlemarch by George Elliot for reading … at some point!

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Library Books

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From NetGalley or Edelweiss

Audio Books

 

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General, Review

Celebrating 2018 Books and Reading

Top Books for 2018

I read about 155 books this year and here are the ones I really loved.

A Favourite New to Me Author

This Irish author – I’ll be back reading her books as time goes by, I have already purchased an audio for future happiness. Trish from Between my Lines introduced me to this book, and I just loved it. I borrowed it from the library but I am waiting till I can buy it with this cover and then I will buy it. I know this cover doesn’t look much, but read the book and then went “perfect cover”.

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A Debut that I Liked

Extraordinary book for a debut, beautifully written, one that sucked me in, even though I wasn’t happy about the ending but that is neither here nor there!

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Coverlicious

This cover just says “read me” when I look at it, and I love the colours and the Christmas lights.

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Addictive Read

Well that would be the Fatal series by Marie Force and this year was no different. And as can be seen from my Goodreads Year in Books – so many other readers are with me on that! By the way that’s not the highest rated book on Goodreads. Just out of the books I’ve read this year! This series I just love. Romantic suspense in spades. But should be read from Book one.

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So thought provoking

This one touched my heart and mind. What about you might ask? Homelessness. Such a memorable book.

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Best Library find

I borrowed this from the library in CD audiobook format, a bit of a pain listening on CD but I made it work for me and was great listening. Saved me a credit at Audible! That said, 2018 was the year of the library for me, so many new 2018 books read from there.

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Thank you to the wonderful authors who wrote these books and many thanks to bloggers who shared their reads and hooked me in to reading them.