Thursday, March 22, 2018

I Was Anastasia - Historical Fiction Review

Rating: Very Good! 
Source: NetGalley

Russia, July 17, 1918 Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed.

Germany, February 17, 1920 A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal in Berlin. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless, horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia.

Her detractors, convinced that the young woman is only after the immense Romanov fortune, insist on calling her by a different name: Anna Anderson.

As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre, old enemies and new threats are awakened.

Genre: Fiction 

Why I Picked This Book:
  I've always been fascinated by Russian history - especially this chapter of it and this is an author I've really enjoyed in the past.

My Impression:
  I have fallen down the Anna Anderson/Anastasia Romanov rabbit hole a number of times starting when I first watched the Discovery documentary about the discovery of the mass grave back in the early 1990s.  I've also read a few books on the subject including a book that focused on Anna Anderson.   Needless to say this is a case that intrigues me quite a bit!

This is a heartbreaking story.  Neither Anastasia or the woman known as Anna Anderson had happy lives and Lawhon brought them to life with her incredibly well researched tale.  I could feel the pain of 17 year old Anastasia as her world completely explodes around her and the frustration and isolation of the older Anderson as she fights for recognition.

Lawhon did a remarkable job bringing a complicated story to life and making it a compelling read.  This is a story that I believe I know the ending to and yet that didn't keep me from becoming completely immersed in the book.  While not the fastest read it's interesting, informative, heartbreaking and thoroughly entertaining.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  While I've read the first book by this author there is still one I have yet to read.

Would I Recommend this Book?
  If you enjoy historical fiction I think you'll enjoy this book.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Brush with Shadows - Historical Mystery Review

Rating: Loved it!
Source: Publisher

July 1831. It's been fifteen years since Sebastian Gage has set foot in Langstone Manor. Though he has shared little with his wife, Lady Kiera Darby, about his past, she knows that he planned never to return to the place of so many unhappy childhood memories. But when an urgent letter from his grandfather reaches them in Dublin, Ireland, and begs Gage to visit, Kiera convinces him to go.

All is not well at Langstone Manor. Gage's grandfather, the Viscount Tavistock, is gravely ill, and Gage's cousin Alfred has suddenly vanished. He wandered out into the moors and never returned. The Viscount is convinced someone or something other than the natural hazards of the moors is to blame for Alfred's disappearance. And when Alfred's brother Rory goes missing, Kiera and Gage must concede he may be right. Now, they must face the ghosts of Gage's past, discover the truth behind the local superstitions, and see beyond the tricks being played by their very own eyes to expose what has happened to Gage's family before the moors claim yet another victim...

Genre: Mystery - Historical

Why I Picked This Book:
  I've been wanting to read this series for ages and this one sounded particularly intriguing.

My Impression:
  This series has been on my TBR for quite some time but other than it being a historical mystery series I really didn't know all that much about it.  Since this is book 6 I was a little concerned that it might be confusing but I really didn't find that to be the case.  Both Kiera and Gage have some complicated and unhappy backstories but I felt like I was given enough information (without the dreaded info dump) to be able to become invested in the characters and caught up in the story.

I'll start with the characters.  Kiera is an interesting lead.  In terms of logic, intelligence, and deductive reasoning she reminded me a bit of Laurie R. King's Mary Russell but Kiera is also a talented artist and is a bit more emotional (without being angsty).  Her delight in her relationship with Gage as well as the couples' love for each other is wonderfully evident and adds a sweet note at times but isn't sugary.  While Gage doesn't have the scandalous past that Kiera does his childhood was deeply unhappy and his relationship with his father is complicated and definitely not loaded with trust.  These are two characters who needed each other and are both so appreciative to have found each other.  The addition of Gage's valet and Kiera's maid adds the gossip from below stairs which frequently aids in the investigation as wells as a bit of humor as they most definitely have their own personalities and opinions.

The mystery is deeply personal to Gage as it involves not only his estranged family but his maternal family home which he has avoided for fifteen years.  The house itself had a very Rebecca feel with dark and narrow hallways and a hostile presence in the form of Gage's Aunt Vanessa - a more aristocratic and meaner version of Miss Danvers.  The tension is palpable and right from the start neither the reader nor Kiera can really tell who to trust.  Everyone has their own agendas and the secrets from the past are plentiful.  While the house did remind of Rebecca the writing style did not.  While I wouldn't say it's light and breezy it is fast paced and cleanly written.  It drew me in from the start and kept me turning pages - partly to spend more time with Gage and Kiera and partly to find out just what happened to Alfred and what is lurking in the shadows of Langstone Manor.

I expected to enjoy this one as I love historical mysteries, family secrets, and mysteries from the past but I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed it.  Right from the start the characters felt real and I found myself just wanting to read "a few more pages".  If you enjoy historical mysteries or mysteries in general this is a must read series!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?
  Absolutely!  I'm looking forward to reading the first 5 books and will be anxiously awaiting book 7.

Would I Recommend this Book?
  Definitely!  If you enjoy historical mysteries - especially Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series or Jennifer Ashley's Kat Holloway series - than this is a must read.  I had no problem jumping in on this book if you don't want to go back to the beginning.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday - Spring TBR

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from That Artsy Reader Girl  is Spring TBR.  I love the TBR posts!  While I'm not fantastic about actually getting them all read I do like going through my TBR and picking 10 books that I can pretend I'm going to read.  It's lots of fun!

1.  Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty - This one has been on my TBR for ages and when I saw my library had gotten it in audio I figured this was the time to listen to it!  Now I just have to wait for it to get to my turn.

2.  Family Gathering by Robyn Carr - I've really enjoyed the previous books by Carr I've read and I love the look of this one.

3.  Sugarhouse Blues by Mariah Stewart - The first book in this trilogy was one of my top reads for 2017 and I'm so excited about this one.

4.  Lost and Found Sisters by Jill Shalvis - I got the 2nd book in this series off Edelweiss so I figured it was time to read the 1st book.

5.  The Spook in the Stacks by Eva Gates - I've been wanting to read this series for ever.  It involves a library in a lighthouse and there's no way I can resist that!

6.  Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman - I read my first Alice Hoffman book last year and really want to read more.  This one seems to be a favorite.

7.  The Blackbird Season by Kate Morretti - This is another one that I've wanted to read since I first heard about it and my library just got it on audio.

8.  Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn - I love Julia Quinn but I've been falling behind on her books lately.  I'm really looking forward to getting around to read this one.

9.  A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman - Another one that's been on my list forever and I've heard it was great on audio.

10. Ghost Night by Heather Graham - I love a good paranormal romantic suspense and I loved the first in the trilogy.  I think it's time to get around to this one!

What's on your TBR this spring:?

Monday, March 19, 2018

Ramblings from the Stacks - Authors vs Books

I remember a time, pre-blogging, pre-Twitter and other social media, and pre-Facebook, when authors seemed mysterious shadowy figures.  The bio paragraph and the picture on the dust jacket was about all I knew about them.

That's not the case anymore.  Between Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and all kinds of other social media so many authors are incredibly accessible.  My  Twitter feed and my book shelf have many of the same names which most of the time is absolutely amazing.  I can see their progress on their current work in progress, learn publication dates and all kinds of bits of trivia about how they work or where their inspiration come from.  It's fascinating.  However, what also happens when authors step out of the shadows is that they become actual people - actual people with opinions and personalities.  And sometimes I don't always love the person revealed.

Now my question is - does not liking an author effect the readers enjoyment of the book?  For me not really.  There was a case several years ago when an author decided it was okay to essentially stalk a blogger and show up at her house after a bad Goodreads review.  That'll probably keep me from picking up that particular person's books.  I'll also hesitate if an author is mocking reviewers or responding to reviews in a negative manner.  However, a mishmash of political views or personalities doesn't bother me.  I might unfollow them on Twitter but if I like the book it'll be on my pre-order list just the same as if we were best friends.

How do you feel about the accessibility of authors - especially when it comes to the negative side?

Sunday, March 18, 2018

This Week in Reading - March 18

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

My mailbox was full this week but with all great books!  I can't wait to get started on these.

Queen Anne's Lace by Susan Wittig Albert 

Murder in the Bowery by Victoria Thompson

Wedding Cake Crumble by Jenn McKinlay

A Magical Match by Juliet Blackwell

Cinco de Murder by Rebecca Adler

Date with Malice by Julia Chapman

The Cottages on Silver Beach by RaeAnne Thayne


Reading:  The Secret of Flirting by Sabrina Jeffries and The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

Listening:  I finished Secrets of the Tulip Sisters by Susan Mallery this week and am about to start Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer.  I know nothing about it so it should be interesting.

Watching:  We discovered there was a season of The Great British Bake-Off on Netflix that we hadn't seen so we've been watching that.  I've also been watching the reboot of MacGyver which while the quality isn't great I find incredibly entertaining.

Off the Blog:

This week was a bit complicated.  Our internet went down again so I'm way behind on commenting though thankfully I was enough ahead that it didn't effect my post schedule.  It's fixed now I think but I'm on my last bit of patience with the company we use.  The only problem is that if I change companies I'll have to get a new DVR and I'm so behind on the shows I watch!  Small problems I know but annoying.  

It was also book fair week at school and I ended up volunteering to run a cash register for 3 days.  We have 2 days where parents come to lunch and then shop with the kid and 1 day where grandparents come.  Grandparent day especially is crazy busy and it essentially doubles the take from the rest of the week.  By the time I got home I had a crick in my neck, my feet hurt and I had a massive headache but it was a lot of fun and so good to see kids excited to get books and family so supportive.

Oh and I forgot all about Daylight Savings time until I woke up last Sunday morning and saw the time.  I'm not a morning person on the best of days and losing that hour of sleep made me want to cry though I do enjoy it being light out past 5 in the afternoon.

This coming week is kind of slow and next week is Spring Break.  We don't have any real plans other than to adjust to the time change though I am hoping to make a day trip or two.

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Ramblings from the Stacks : Books vs Author
Tuesday:  Top Ten Tuesday - Spring TBR
Wednesday:  A Brush with Shadows - Historical Mystery Review
Thursday:  I Was Anastasia - Fiction Review
Friday: Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday: TBD

What are your plans this week?  Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Three Fates - Romantic Suspense Review

Rating: Loved it!
Source: Purchased

When the Lusitania sank, one survivor became a changed man, giving up his life as a petty thief—but keeping the small silver statue he lifted, a family heirloom to future generations. Now, nearly a century later, that priceless heirloom, one of a long-separated set of three, has been stolen. And Malachi, Gideon, and Rebecca Sullivan are determined to recover their great-great-grandfather’s treasure, reunite the Three Fates, and make their fortune. The quest will take them from their home in Ireland to Helsinki, Prague, and New York where they will meet a brilliant scholar who will aid them in their hunt—and an ambitious woman who will stop at nothing to acquire the Fates...

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Why I Picked This Book:
  I read this book years ago and really enjoyed it.  It'd been awhile since I read it so I figured it was time to give it another try.

My Impression: 
I have a small stack of books that makes up my reread shelf and every time I reread one it has to earn its place back on the shelf.  I hadn't read this one in years and so I wasn't quite sure where it would fall.  Pretty quickly in I knew it's place on the reread shelf was safe!  Nora Roberts typically has one stand alone and one trilogy a year.  Three Fates is kind of like a trilogy turned into a stand alone.  There's an ensemble cast of 6 and while the who ends up with who is not a surprise it's so much fun to watch it happen.  My favorite character overall was Tia Marsh.  She's from a wealthy family that owns an exclusive antique store and has for generations.  She herself has made a name for herself studying mythology and writing books but she's incredibly insecure and nervous and terrified of the world around her.  However, while many people easily dismiss her as unimportant it's really more that she's never given herself a chance.  Watching her find her strength and herself was thoroughly enjoyable.  The Sullivan siblings all play a big part of that.  Malachi, Gideon, and Rebecca Sullivan have turned their family fishing business in Cobh, Ireland into a tourist boat tours to where the Lusitania sank so long ago.  The Sullivan connection to the Lusitania sinking along with their connection to Tia's family is intriguing.  The siblings are all interesting people with different skills and different personalities.  Their mother, Eileen, plays a small but memorable role and adds moments of humor along with a calming presence.  Cleo Tolliver and Jack Burdett and the final members of the group.  Cleo is street smart with all kinds of walls and Jack is very savvy and very good and focused on running one of the best security firms in the world. Both have interesting connections to the Fates and add nicely to the team.  The six are on a mission to recover all three fates - a set of little silver statues - and more importantly, keep them out of Anita Gaye's hands all while keeping themselves safe.

Anita made for a pretty fantastic villain and it was easy to see how she fooled the people around her.  The mystery itself is page turning and I loved watching as everything unfolded.  My favorite component of the book was the relationships between the people themselves - not just the romance (which was nice) but the friendships as well.  I especially enjoyed watching Cleo and Tia develop a friendship.  If I had to name one flaw I'd say that the characters can be a little inconsistent.  Cleo, Tia, and Gideon are all well rounded and wonderfully fleshed out whereas Malachi, Jack, and Rebecca are a little more one dimensional.  It definitely didn't keep me from thoroughly enjoying my revisit of this book and it's definitely earned it's shelf space on the keeper shelf!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?
  Absolutely!  I read pretty much anything that Roberts writes.

Would I Recommend this Book?
  I would if you're in the mood for romantic suspense.  Since this essentially three books in one some of the character development gets lost and the connections happen fairly fast.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Friday Linkups - A Brush with Shadows

It's Friday linkup time!  I'm linking up with the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings of Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
Who is your favorite children's book author and why?

My Answer:
This is a tough question as I have a number of favorite children's book authors so it's hard to narrow the list down to one.  I love Carolyn Keene, L.M. Montgomery, and so many more but I guess my favorite is probably Elizabeth Enright.  I love her Melendy series and the Gone-Away Lake books.  They're such fun adventure stories that really don't feel dated and read well even for adults.  

This week's book is one in a series that I've been wanting to read for awhile - A Brush with Shadows by Anna Lee Huber.  I've been on a big historical mysteries kick lately and I've ha heard really great things about this one.  I'm not very far in but so far I'm really enjoying it.

The Beginning:
The first time I laid eyes on Langstone Manor, I could not blame my husband for having stayed away for over fifteen years.

My Thoughts:
Well that sounds a bit foreboding!

The 56:
I would have liked to fall back asleep, but my mind was too alert.

My Thoughts:
I can relate to this!  This happens to me all the time but I'm very rarely in the middle of a murder investigation.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?