Friday, May 26, 2017

Julie's Review: One Perfect Lie

Author: Lisa Scottoline
Series: None
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 368
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Suspense, Thriller
Rating: 4.75/5
Bottom Line: A quick read that will having you saying "What?" a few dozen times
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Summary: On paper, Chris Brennan looks perfect. He's applying for a job as a high school government teacher, he's ready to step in as an assistant baseball coach, and his references are impeccable. But everything about Chris Brennan is a lie. Susan Sematov is proud of her son Raz, a high school pitcher so athletically talented that he's being recruited for a full-ride scholarship to a Division I college, with a future in major-league baseball. But Raz’s father died only a few months ago, leaving her son in a vulnerable place where any new father figure might influence him for good, or evil. Heather Larkin is a struggling single mother who lives for her son Jordan's baseball games. But Jordan is shy, and Heather fears he is being lured down a dark path by one of his teammates, a young man from an affluent family whose fun-loving manner might possibly conceal his violent plans. Mindy Kostis succumbs to the pressure of being a surgeon's wife by filling her days with social events and too many gin and tonics. But she doesn’t know that her husband and her son, Evan, are keeping secrets from her – secrets that might destroy all of them. At the center of all of them is Chris Brennan. Why is he there? What does he want? And what is he willing to do to get it? Enthralling and suspenseful, One Perfect Lie is an emotional thriller and a suburban crime story that will have readers riveted up to the shocking end, with killer twists and characters you won’t soon forget.

Review: One Perfect Lie is perhaps Lisa Scottoline's best novel today. Is there such a thing a perfect lie? If so, can you live it, breathe it and be it? Is a secret a lie? If so, everyone in this book is living a lie and I'm guessing most of us have a secret(s) we keep.

Chris Brennan isn't who he says he is but we aren't really sure who he is we just know he's telling some big lies that have a major end game in play. He weasels his way into a high school and as an assistant coach for the baseball team all so he can find a young impressionable boy to do his biding for him. He assesses the students and see which one that he can bring to his side.  He's got a limited amount of time to do this in because his deadline is less than a week. What is his deadline? What are his plans? As you are reading this, you just know that he is up to a nefarious act.

We also get to know a bit about each of the boys that Chris is targeting and their family. Raz has recently lost his dad to cancel and the family finds itself reeling in more ways than one in dealing with his death. His mother is at a loss on what to do because Neil was the glue that kept their family together.

Jordan has worked hard for his place on the varsity baseball team and his mom, Heather, couldn't be more proud. Will his hard work cost him his friendship with Raz? Heather is also dealing with her own issues since she walked out of her job. What will she do to support them?

Evan Kostis is the golden child. He's the one that has the charisma, the looks and the money. His mom though is hiding the fact that she drinks to hide the fact that her marriage isn't happy. The fact that her husband is never at home. She's not sure what is going on but she's determined to find out.

Ms. Scottoline covers a lot of ground with One Perfect Lie but she doesn't overreach, in my opinion. What I came away with though is that family always comes first, especially for us momma bears. If something is going wrong with our kids, we will be there to help them. There are twists and turns that I didn't see coming and caused me to go "whoa".

If you want a great suspense/thriller novel, then you will definitely want to pick up One Perfect Lie.


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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Julie's Review: The Dry

Author: Jane Harper
Series: Aaron Falk #1
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages: 336
Obtained: Library
Genre:  Mystery
Rating: 4.75/5
Bottom Line: An almost perfect mystery that really is a whodunit
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Summary: After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead. Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. And Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets.  

Review: The Dry is one of those novels that ropes you in and then slowly and tightly unravels the story. It is the key to a superb mystery novel and Ms. Harper nails it.

In Aaron Falk, we have a flawed and human protagonist. He has locked his past away for the last 20 years until it comes barely back at him with the murder of his childhood best friend. As he comes in at the request of Luke's father, he's take back to when he lost another friend during high school. Aaron isn't exactly welcomed back with open arms especially since they were run out of town costing him and his dad everything. Aaron feels that he owes it to Luke to figure out what really happened that day. As Aaron develops an alliance with the detective, they delve into what could have happened on that fateful day. Is it tied to what happened to Ellie Deacon in the past? Or was Luke deep in financial debt due to the drought? Could he have really been that far gone to do such a horrible thing?

There are many suspects in The Dry and Ms. Harper does a great job of making each a viable option. Each character is richly drawn and you feel that you really know what makes them tick. What drives them to be the way they are? How much has the drought affected the small farming town? Is it what is making people edgy and more suspicious? Is it because Aaron used to be one of them but left under suspicious circumstances?

Ms. Harper basically lets you know the true suspect when she wants to and when she does, it makes a lot of sense. I like it when I can go back and follow the bread crumbs dropped by an author. I also appreciate when both plots come together in a way that makes sense. Aaron needed closure on Ellie's death and he got that by returning home to help the Hadley's.

If you are looking for a mystery that is taut but has an underlying keg of powder that might blow at any point, then pick up The Dry.  I can't wait to see what Ms. Harper writes next.


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Friday, May 19, 2017

Julie's Review: Girl in Disguise

Author: Greer Macallister
Series: None
Publication Date: March 21, 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Pages: 320
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A wonderful historical fiction novel with a kick-butt female protagonist
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Summary: Inspired by the real story of investigator Kate Warne, this spirited novel follows the detective's rise during one of the nation's times of crisis, bringing to life a fiercely independent woman whose forgotten triumphs helped sway the fate of the country. With no money and no husband, Kate Warne finds herself with few choices. The streets of 1856 Chicago offer a desperate widow mostly trouble and ruin―unless that widow has a knack for manipulation and an unusually quick mind. In a bold move that no other woman has tried, Kate convinces the legendary Allan Pinkerton to hire her as a detective. Battling criminals and coworkers alike, Kate immerses herself in the dangerous life of an operative, winning the right to tackle some of the agency's toughest investigations. But is the woman she's becoming―capable of any and all lies, swapping identities like dresses―the true Kate? Or has the real disguise been the good girl she always thought she was?

Review: I seem to be on a Chicago history kick lately because that's the main setting for Greer Macallister's wonderful Girl in Disguise. Kate Warne is a force to be reckoned with and to behold. She doesn't shy away from challenges and one of her first hurdles is to just get hired on by Pinkerton. Of course, being the first female detective isn't going to be easy and she has her battles including the one where all her male co-workers think she's sleeping with the boss. Kate is damn good at her job and can slip into different persona's easily.

I loved the cases that Kate was put on because they showcased her skills and her keen ability to read people. This has to do with how she was brought up by her parents. She also hones her skills by watching how her partners do their job as well.  Was Kate lonely? Absolutely and she wrestled with this all the time. She was married to her job and a man wouldn't understand that kind of dedication by a woman.

It's never easy to be a pioneer in anything but Ms. Macallister shows just what battle that was for Kate. She never stopped trying to be the best even when a lot was riding on her case, including the welfare of the country. She knew what needed to be done and got it done, even with great personal sacrifice.

I love knowing something that my husband doesn't know especially since he likes all the typical spy, subterfuge movies and he had no clue about the Pinkerton Detective Agency let alone the first female P.I. I have to say I was a bit smug about it. Plus then I had to use Google to find out if they are still around and they are but the focus is Risk Management.

Girl in Disguise is a wonderful historical fiction novel with a strong, kick-butt female as the protagonist. I can't recommend this book enough!


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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Julie's Review: Before the Rains Fall

Author: Camille Di Maio
Series: None
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: Lake Union
Pages: 334
Obtained: Get Red PR
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A story of sacrifice, family, and forgiveness
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Summary: After serving seventy years in prison for the murder of her sister, Eula, Della Lee has finally returned home to the Texas town of Puerto Pesar. She’s free from confinement—and ready to tell her secrets before it’s too late. She finds a willing audience in journalist Mick Anders, who is reeling after his suspension from a Boston newspaper and in town, reluctantly, to investigate a mysterious portrait of Eula that reportedly sheds tears. He crosses paths with Dr. Paloma Vega, who’s visiting Puerto Pesar with her own mission: to take care of her ailing grandmother and to rescue her rebellious younger sister before something terrible happens. Paloma and Mick have their reasons to be in the hot, parched border town whose name translates as “Port of Regret.” But they don’t anticipate how their lives will be changed forever. Moving and engrossing, this dual story alternates between Della’s dark ordeals of the 1940s and Paloma and Mick’s present-day search for answers―about roots, family, love, and what is truly important in life.  

Review: My first question before jumping into Before the Rain Falls was how does anyone actually serve 70 years in prison?! Seriously?! How can you even function? What is left for you on the outside? Will you even know how to function?These are all the issues Della Lee is facing as she returns to her home town to live out her days and to tell her truth about what really happened that fateful afternoon with her sister, Eula.

Mick is in Puerto Pesar to chase a story about the crying portrait of Eula Lee because he's basically in a scandal back home and his editor needs him to be scarce. Paloma is back in Puerto Pesar because her grandmother had a heart attack and needs to be cared for. She's torn about being home and also about starting her job in New York. She dreads being back but she's also pulled there as well. There is something about going home that leaves one with mixed feelings.

I loved how Ms. Di Maio told Della's story in flashbacks and also in telling her story to Mick. Mick realizes that the story isn't about if the portrait of Eula Lee but it is what Della has to say that needs to be told. As Della's story is revealed it isn't too hard to see what happened but why Della did it is ingrained in culture and religion.

Ms. Di Maio does a fantastic job of describing Puerto Pesar and the culture of a small town. In some of the scenes you feel that you are right there having mango margaritas and sopapilas with Mick and Paloma. I loved Paloma's relationship with her Grandmother; they really loved and cared for each other.

While this was my first time reading Ms. Di Maio, I will be going back to read The Memory of Us and I look forward to what she writes in the future. 


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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Julie's Review: Windy City Blues

Author: Renee Rosen
Series: None
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 480
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: A fantastic look at the Chicago Blues scene through the eyes of fictional characters
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Summary: In 1960s Chicago, a young woman stands in the middle of a musical and social revolution. A new historical novel from the bestselling author of White Collar Girl and What the Lady Wants. Leeba Groski doesn’t exactly fit in, but her love of music is not lost on her childhood friend and neighbor, Leonard Chess, who offers her a job at his new record company in Chicago. What starts as answering phones and filing becomes more than Leeba ever dreamed of, as she comes into her own as a songwriter and crosses paths with legendary performers like Chuck Berry and Etta James. But it’s Red Dupree, a black blues guitarist from Louisiana, who captures her heart and changes her life. Their relationship is unwelcome in segregated Chicago and they are shunned by Leeba’s Orthodox Jewish family. Yet in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, Leeba and Red discover that, in times of struggle, music can bring people together.

Review: If you are looking for a novel that blends history and fictional characters so well that you consult Google, then Windy City Blues is for you! Having grown up in the suburbs of Chicago and spending my college years there, I am always intrigued by all the history it has to offer. I'm also quite astounded by the things I don't know.

What I loved about this novel is the rich history of the Chicago Blues scene but also how Ms. Rosen weaved in the Civil Rights movement. I love how Leeba leaped into that movement with Red, because it was something that both of them were affected by personally not just him because he was black. I can't even imagine being in a interracial relationship back in the 1950s and the trials and tribulations the dealt with, even up North. Leeba risks every thing because she falls in love with Red but they lift each other up and encourage each other in ways that no one every had before.

While this novel focuses on the music industry and specifically the Blues, it is multi-layered. Ms. Rosen deals with race relations, sexism, bigotry, family drama, and substance abuse. Each of the characters she brings into the novel has a purpose for moving the story forward. The story starts off slowly but that's not to say things aren't happening, it's just that she's laying the ground work.

I loved Leeba. She was tenacious, generous, loving, tough and strong. She knew what she wanted and didn't hesitate to go and get it. She wanted to write songs, so she did. She wanted to get someone to perform and record them, so she pestered Leonard until he let her record it. Her love for Red never wavered, even when he was in self-loathing mode. She stuck by him through all the ups and downs, which is what any marriage goes through. They had more uphill battles than plateaus though.

As the decade moves on we see the music industry shift how it does business, how the music interest changes and how this affects the musicians. I can only imagine how hard it is to become irrelevant when it is your livelihood. We see the Chess brother's struggle with the changing of the tide as well.

If you have any interest in the Chicago Blues scene or music history in general than I highly recommend Windy City Blues. I don't think you will be disappointed.


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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Julie's Review: The Forever Summer

Author: Jamie Brenner
Series: None
Publication Date: April 25, 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pages: 368
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Captivating read about losing and finding yourself
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Summary: Marin Bishop has always played by the rules, and it's paid off: at twenty-eight she has a handsome fiancé, a prestigious Manhattan legal career, and the hard-won admiration of her father. But one moment of weakness leaves Marin unemployed and alone, all in a single day. Then a woman claiming to be Marin's half-sister shows up, and it's all Marin can do not to break down completely. Seeking escape, Marin agrees to a road trip to meet the grandmother she never knew she had. As the summer unfolds at her grandmother's quaint beachside B&B, it becomes clear that the truth of her half-sister is just the beginning of revelations that will change Marin's life forever. THE FOREVER SUMMER is a delicious page-turner and a provocative exploration of what happens when our notions of love, truth, and family are put to the ultimate test.  

Review: Forever Summer is a book that you will fly through in one or two sittings because you will want to see how it all plays out in the end. Marin is career driven and focused, until a short office affair causes her to lose her job and lose the life she's been living. She's become a big un-moored and then a stranger shows up on her doorstep claiming they are half-sisters. So her life really isn't as it seems.

Rachel, on the other hand, couldn't be more excited to find out who her biological father is since she'll finally have the family she's dreamed of. Rachel's mom is more like her best friend than her mom and isn't the most stable of human beings. Rachel seizes this opportunity to redefine her life and her family history.

The person I felt the most for was Marin's mom Blythe. She has to reconcile a lot of her history with Marin and with herself. She has to reconcile her actions and the outcome of those. It is also her realizing that while her marriage wasn't necessarily a happy one or a true partnership, there was a lot of good to it.

There is a lot of wit and heart within the pages of this book but at times I could feel where the story was going and in the end it was wrapped up with a nice bow. Both girls found love and came to terms with what family meant to them and not really letting it define them.

I did fall in love with the setting of the novel and for me it was just as important as any of the characters in the book. It helped them heal and helped them change in a way that only some settings can do.

Forever Summer is a book that you can sink yourself into and escape into a beachside B& B.


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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Julie's Review: Beneath the Scarlet Sky

Author: Mark T. Sullivan
Series: None
Publication Date: May 1, 2017
Publisher: Lake Union
Pages: 524
Obtained: Little Bird Publicity
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Biography
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: A stunning novel about love, loss and living. A must read!
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Summary: Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior. In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier—a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders. Now, with the opportunity to spy for the Allies inside the German High Command, Pino endures the horrors of the war and the Nazi occupation by fighting in secret, his courage bolstered by his love for Anna and for the life he dreams they will one day share. Fans of All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale, and Unbroken will enjoy this riveting saga of history, suspense, and love.  

Review: I really feel that  Beneath a Scarlet Sky should come with a warning regarding how you will have a serious book hangover when you finish this one. Pino Lella is a typical 17 year old hanging with his friends, trying to find love when things start to take a turn for the worse in the war and Milan gets sucked right into it. In order to keep his family safe, Pino's father sends him to the Italian Alps to help serve with Father Re and to keep him out of harms way.

It is here that he finds his purpose by hiking the mountains and gaining strength. It is here that he helps the Catholic church get Italian Jews out of harms way and into Switzerland. Pino has a way with helping people and keeping them calm even in the scariest moments. It wasn't always the Nazis that you had to worry about but the weather in the mountains. So when he is sent back to Milan he isn't very happy about it. Even more so after he finds out that his Uncle and Father want him to enlist so that he's not drafted. If he enlists, they can help him get a better job. It still doesn't keep him out of harms way and after he's injured in a bombing, he is inadvertently made the driver for General Leyers, who sits on Hitler's counsel. By being his driver this gives Pino the opportunity to be a spy and gain the Allies some advantages. Things never go as planned and Pino often wrestles with what he is doing and how he is helping.

What I absolutely loved about the book was that you felt like you were living Pino's experiences with him. You felt what he felt. You felt the shame and pride. You felt how young and innocent he was when he first went to Father Re and how at the end of the war he had seen things he would never forget. Some things he would spend the rest of his life trying to forget and running away from. You felt the terror of the war and at the same the bliss of first love between Anna and Pino. It is this love that gives him hope in times of despair.

In the end, Beneath a Scarlet Sky, is a gorgeous and heart-wretching story about being brave in the face of evil. It's about finding happiness when you think it's been taken from you and remembering that each day is a gift. Pino Lella is an ordinary person, who did extraordinary things when it counted the most and cost him as well. I don't always read the author notes at the end of a novel, but I felt compelled to because of the preface. In some ways I believe Pino's story saved Mark Sullivan's life.


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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Julie's Review: Slightly South of Simple

Author: Kristy Woodson Harvey
Series: Peachtree Bluff #1
Publication Date: April 25, 2017
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: 400
Obtained: Author
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction,Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Sometimes it is important to go home and remember who you were and who you were meant to be
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Summary: Caroline Murphy swore she’d never set foot back in the small Southern town of Peachtree Bluff; she was a New York girl born and bred and the worst day of her life was when, in the wake of her father’s death, her mother selfishly forced her to move—during her senior year of high school, no less—back to that hick-infested rat trap where she'd spent her childhood summers. But now that her marriage to a New York high society heir has fallen apart in a very public, very embarrassing fashion, a pregnant Caroline decides to escape the gossipmongers with her nine-year-old daughter and head home to her mother, Ansley. Ansley has always put her three daughters first, especially when she found out that her late husband, despite what he had always promised, left her with next to nothing. Now the proud owner of a charming waterfront design business and finally standing on her own two feet, Ansley welcomes Caroline and her brood back with open arms. But when her second daughter Sloane, whose military husband is overseas, and youngest daughter and successful actress Emerson join the fray, Ansley begins to feel like the piece of herself she had finally found might be slipping from her grasp. Even more discomfiting, when someone from her past reappears in Ansley's life, the secret she’s harbored from her daughters their entire lives might finally be forced into the open. Exploring the powerful bonds between sisters and mothers and daughters, this engaging novel is filled with Southern charm, emotional drama, and plenty of heart.  

Review: For those of you looking for a book about family and relationships, then look no further than Slightly South of Simple. Caroline Murphy comes from a strong family of women but she might be the strongest of all of them based on her sheer will to keep it together during a very humiliating separating from her husband. You see, he decided to go on a reality tv show dating a model while he was still married to her. She can't stand the embarrassment so she packs up her daughter and goes back home. Except Caroline thinks Peachtree Bluff is the worst place on earth.

Ainsley finds comfort in Peachtree Bluff. It is the place where she came to when she lost her husband and had to finish raising her girls. It is the place where she has rebuilt her life. She has a successful decorating business and loves all the local characters. Ainsley has her own secrets that she has hidden from her girls. As her secrets are revealed, I didn't feel that she was holding back because of the secrets but because she doesn't want their memories of their father to be tainted. She's a wonderful matriarch to the family and knows how to deal with each of her girls in their own way.

While the novel is told from Ainsley and Caroline's points of views, we get to know the other 2 Murphy girls, Emerson and Sloane through their eyes. I'm hoping that in the next books we get to know Emerson and Sloane a bit more through their own stories.

While at times I found Caroline annoying and righteous at times, I did feel that her instructions to her sisters and mother came from a place of love. I did feel that her coming back helped ground her in the real world a bit more than her high society lifestyle in New York. Her sisters help bring her down to earth as well.

There are some strings that were left untied with Slightly South of Simple, so I am very much looking forward to the second book in the series.


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Monday, April 17, 2017

Julie's Review: The Women in the Castle

Author: Jessica Shattuck
Series: None
Publication Date: March 28, 2017
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 368
Obtained: TLC Book Tours
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: A perspective that isn't often told in WW II novels
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Summary: Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined—an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding.  Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows. First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war. As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.

Review: Women in the Castle is the story of regret, guilt and most of all forgiveness. It's about learning from the past but also learning to move on from the past. The novel revolves around 3 women who have had very different experiences during the war. Marianne is the stoic one who believes that as a widow of a man in the resistance it is her duty and privileged to track down those women who also had husband's died for the cause. So she travels around trying to find them to bring them back to Burg Lingenfels to recover and figure out where to go next. Her first mission is to track down the wife of her dear childhood friend Connie and their son. Marianne also fashions herself a bit righteous because her husband was part of the resistance and because she never fell for Hitler's rhetoric. She's also clearly the mama bear of the group and no-nonsense.

Benita, sweet and naive, but so angry and lost. She was a young bride who married what she thought was a wealthy man only to have a war disrupt their marriage. He also never clued her in on the plans and so she felt like she was left in the wind. Her anger eats at her for years but the shining light in her life is her young son Martin.

Then you have Ania, she's the one who is the most reserved and the most quiet. She's the one who knows how to cook and she's practical. She keeps a watchful eye over her boys. She and Marianne have the closest bond of all the women. She also has the most interesting back story and perhaps the most surprising of the 3 women.

This is a perspective of World War II and the aftermath that isn't told much through historical fiction but it is important. For those of us who ask, how could the German people follow Hitler and his atrocities? I think it's important to recognize that in most cases they didn't have a choice or more importantly felt that there were no options. It's also important to realize that we are looking at their lives through 20/20 hindsight and while we can pass judgment we truly don't know what it was like to walk in their shoes.

At times, I felt that the story was slow and drawn out but I enjoyed how Ms. Shattuck wrapped up the story. These women aren't particularly likable but I kind of think that's the point in some way. People's experiences shape who they are and how they look at the world for good and bad.

Women in the Castle showcases that it really does take a village to raise kids and sometimes just to survive. It teaches us the importance of learning from the past but living for the present.


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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Julie's Review: Gone Without a Trace

Author: Mary Torjussen
Series: None
Publication Date: April 17, 2017
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Mind=BLOWN
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Summary: A jaw-dropping novel of psychological suspense that asks, If the love of your life disappeared without a trace, how far would you go to find out why? Hannah Monroe's boyfriend, Matt, is gone. His belongings have disappeared from their house. Every call she ever made to him, every text she ever sent, every photo of him and any sign of him on social media have vanished. It's as though their last four years together never happened. As Hannah struggles to get through the next few days, with humiliation and recriminations whirring through her head, she knows that she'll do whatever it takes to find him again and get answers. But as soon as her search starts, she realizes she is being led into a maze of madness and obsession. Step by suspenseful step, Hannah discovers her only way out is to come face to face with the shocking truth...  

Review: Gone Without a Trace has left my mind blown. I finished it a couple hours ago and it's still rattling around in my head. I just didn't really see that coming at all. Hannah is happy; she's got a great job, about to get promoted, a boyfriend (Matt) she loves and house she adores. Overall, she's got what she wants. That is until she comes back from out of town to find every trace of Matt and their life together wiped away from their house. She can't figure out what the heck has happened. What went wrong? Why is he gone? Why did he do this to her? How can someone just erase themselves from your life?

Hannah can't seem to move on from this though. She has to know why and is on war path to find Matt. She can't seem to focus on anything else. She slowly starts to come undone. She starts to map out on post it notes places that she has looked for Matt. Her kitchen slowly becomes a map of her mind and her slow descent in to crazy. Her friends try to encourage her to move on but Hannah has to know why he left her.

As excited as she was for her promotion, her all consuming quest to find Matt, has left not only her promotion in jeopardy but her job. She can't concentrate, she makes mistakes and shows up late consistently which doesn't go unnoticed by the partners.

While she descends into madness, you feel as if you are right there with her. The book gets creepy as you feel like she's being stalked but then you question if she's delusional and taking you along for the ride. At one point, I felt like I was going a little crazy myself.

Ms. Torjussen keeps you reading and turning those pages as fast as you can. It reeled me in from the very beginning and never let its hooks out of me. In Hannah she has a protagonist that you want to both smack and hug, sometimes simultaneously. Much like her best friend, Katie, you want her to let go of what obviously is over and yet you want to hug her because she's in such pain. She just wants answers and frankly we've all been there a time or two.

I can't recommend this book enough because I can guarantee your mind will be blow. I suggest that you go and get Gone Without a Trace.


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