Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Love And Lament by John Milliken Thompson

One dead child after another and then their mother.  How could Cicero stand any more?  He only had three of his nine children left and was constantly worried they would be gone too. His worry wasn't over with the three that were still living. 

LOVE AND LAMENT was the saga of Mary Bet Hartsoe and was set in the late 1800's when typhoid was rampant, when deaths were on a daily basis, and when inventions of machinery were beginning to surface to make factories and lives easier. The late 1800's was a time of change for everyone both personally and historically.  The book dealt with many social issues and is very deep, thoughtful and intellectual.  
LOVE AND LAMENT was beautifully written.  The author had amazing prose and detailed, remarkable descriptions. At times the descriptions were so vivid, you could feel the grass under your feet, smell the aromas in the air, and share the pain of the characters. Despite the marvelous writing, it was a bit tedious and difficult to get into at first, but once I became attached to the main character, Mary Bet, it held my interest.  
Mary Bet was the youngest of the nine children, the one who stayed with her father, and the one who was quite headstrong for a woman of that era.  It was amusing to see the social protocol of that time especially the "rules" for courting and the woman's role in following these "rules."
It was a book about family, suffering, and living life no matter what circumstances are thrown your way.  If you enjoy historical  fiction, description at its finest, but details a bit too drawn out at times, you will enjoy LOVE AND LAMENT. 4/5
This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

A simple letter, but was it really that simple?  A letter written long ago.  A letter indicating it was not allowed to be opened.  A letter that made John Paul’s wife, Cecelia, quite curious.

What harm would be done by opening the letter?  Cecelia was dying to open it, but the message  John-Paul wrote on the front of the envelope said it could not be opened until his death.  When Cecilia asked her husband about it, he said he had been sentimental when he wrote it, and that she should just put it away.  Obediently Cecilia, the good wife, put it away without opening it. 

Hints about the contents of the letter will peak your curiosity as it did Cecelia’s.  When she did open the letter and found out what John-Paul had written, she couldn't believe it. How could this be true? Cecelia the perfect wife and fixer of everything couldn't fix this. 

Cecelia was the perfect wife, mother, and town citizen.  She knew everyone in town, and she knew everything about the city residents.  She remembered Tess when she came back to her childhood town because her husband didn't love her any more.  Rachel was also part of Cecelia's circle.  Rachel had a few heartbreaking situations in the past.  But…what Cecelia found in that letter was going to be more than a heartbreak for Rachel. 

THE HUSBAND'S SECRET was focused on this letter, Tess, Rachel and Cecilia.  The letter’s secret had to do with an unknown connection between Tess, Cecelia, and Rachel and something that happened in the past that linked them together and something in the present that caused more heartache and pain.  

When the book begins, you will think it is going to be a book about a husband’s affair, but it is more sinister than that.  It actually is a tragic secret. 

THE HUSBAND’S SECRET is about more than keeping secrets,  though.  It deals with a parent’s love for his/her child and about the lengths parents go to in order to protect their children. It deals with right and wrong, and it deals with the thought - do we really know our spouse or significant other?

Don’t be mislead into thinking it is simply a book about secrets between a husband and his wife.  It is far more than that.  It is a book about secrets whether they are large or small and about our decisions to reveal the secret or to not reveal the secret.

THE HUSBAND’S SECRET is an excellent read that will keep you pondering life, pondering the decisions we make, and thinking about the secrets most of us have.  What is your secret?  5/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher and LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Serpent and the Pearl by Kate Quinn

Rome, corruption, Catholic cardinals fathering children, and of course murder all thrown into THE SERPENT AND THE PEARL.  

THE SERPENT AND THE PEARL was set in Rome where the powerful Borgia family was in charge.  You didn't want to go against the Borgia family.  The Borgia family ruled during the 1400's and had servants, money and power, but they mostly had corrupt family members. The corruption began in the book when Orsino and Giulia were married but Orsino never came to the marriage bed.  He had been paid off by the Cardinal.  Guilia found out that Cardinal Borgia wanted her for himself, and that he already had many children from previous women. Cardinal Borgia would hide his indiscretions by paying off and sending away the groom and then keeping the bride for himself.

The book was based on fact and was filled with corrupt, evil characters with chapters devoted to each character.  Guilia Farnese was the main character along with Carmelina, Cardinal Borgia, and Madonna Adriana.  Cardinal Borgia and Madonna Adriana, Guilia's mother-in-law, were the most evil of all in my opinion. The characters and the book itself were interesting, but it took a while to get the gist of what was going on.  It was difficult to follow and seemed to be a tale focused on the Cardinal and Guilia’s lovemaking.  It is unbelievable this really occurred back in the 1400's.

I liked Leonello, the dwarf and bodyguard, the best. Even though he murdered people, he seemed to be the most likeable of the characters.  I also liked Carmelina, the chef. She was believable and a hard worker.  I completely disliked Cardinal Borgia (later Pope Alexander VI) simply because he was evil, cunning, and selfish.  Guilia was likeable, but also a bit naive.   

I can't say I didn't like THE SERPENT AND THE PEARL, but I can't say that I did.  I do like history and I definitely learned a great deal, but the book seemed to drag.  I wasn't "dying" to get back to the book.  Perhaps since I didn't read Ms. Quinn's other books, I missed out on something.   

The reader can’t deny, though, that the writing was excellent, very descriptive, and well researched.  Ms. Quinn definitely did thorough research.  The historical facts were detailed and accurate.  In some respects, this era was a bit comical, and it was difficult to believe that these activities with the Cardinals/Popes took place.  

Not sure what my rating should be, but I am going to go with 3.5 out of 5 simply because it was a bit tedious with the day-to-day living being repeated.  Other than that, if you are a fan of this era, you will not be disappointed.  History was masterfully brought to life through Ms. Quinn’s talents.

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.

I am THREE!!!

Photo courtesy of

Today is my Blogoversary!!!!

Three years of wonderful, enjoyable blogging experiences and most of all three years of meeting amazing people and reading fabulous books.

Thanks to all who stop by and read my  posts.

And...many thanks to Kathy of Bermudaonion who was my encouragement to begin a blog.  

Look at all the fun I would have missed if I hadn't gotten started.  :)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Winter at Death's Hotel by Kenneth Cameron

While the cat was away, the "mouse" was playing.  Louisa Conan Doyle, the wife of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, had an accident in their NY hotel and wasn't able to go with Arthur on his American book tour.  She took advantage of being a woman of the 1800’s without her husband. She was getting to play detective, and it wasn't a murder in one of her husband's books.

Before Arthur left, though, he warned his wife about getting involved in this murder investigation and also about the social implications of her going out alone, but Louisa wasn't one to listen to her husband when she had something on her mind that she "HAD" to do.  Louisa knew she saw a murder victim walking out of their hotel the first day they arrived, and she wanted to make sure the police knew she had information. 
Despite Louisa's being told to stay out of this investigation by her husband as well as the authorities, she pursued it.  She said she must let everyone know what she knew and that she could help them find out where the murder took place, who was involved, and who the murderer was.  

Was it pure luck that she had fallen down in the hotel and was not able to go on the tour with her husband?  She thought it had been luck because now she would be able to help solve the murder, but the New York Police Department wasn't feeling lucky.  

Louisa wanted justice served and just couldn't understand how New Yorkers and Americans could take murders and disappearances so lightly. She took on the Police Department as well as the hotel manager and the hotel detective to set them straight. 

Louisa was a great character and a character very much ignoring the rules set for a proper English lady or any lady in the 1800's.   I laughed at her antics and her bravery. She just wouldn't give up.

The other characters included policemen, hotel guests, and the hotel owners.  The book was right on for the time period and its social protocol both in and out of the police station. 

I thoroughly enjoyed WINTER AT DEATH'S HOTEL.  I enjoyed the characters, the detailed descriptions, and definitely the humor and the storyline. The ending had the murder solved, but it was a comedy of errors.  

WINTER AT DEATH'S HOTEL is an enjoyable, change-of-pace mystery with a marvelous, entertaining, and determined main character. 5/5

This book was given to me free of charge without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Lemon Orchard by Luanne Rice

California, Mexico, a lemon orchard, an estate owner, and a special Mexican worker in the lemon orchard.

Roberto, a worker in the lemon orchard, and Julia, the niece of the owner of the lemon orchard had one thing in common, and they were drawn to each other.

Julia and Roberto had both lost children, one in an accident and one in the desert.  Both of their lives were consumed with the grief of their loss even after five years, and they shared this common bond.

THE LEMON ORCHARD was a beautiful story about the cruelty as well as the beauty our lives hold for us.  You will become a part of the lives of Julia and Roberto in this splendidly told tale of what it means to truly love and to truly lose something or someone you love.

Ms. Rice’s descriptions of the California and Mexico landscapes was amazing.  I could easily visualize the lemon orchard, the estate's house and grounds, and the raging forest fire as well as the desert and the path Roberto had to follow to cross the border from Mexico into the United States.

The characters were well developed and believable.  The authenticity and reality of the border control operation and the suffering of the Mexicans crossing the border definitely had been well researched.

This is the first book I have read by Ms. Rice, and I  was very pleased with her writing as well as the storyline.  The story flowed nicely, kept your interest, and the ending pages had me turning as fast as I could to see how things would turn out.  The book will pull you right in as you soak up the beauty of the Malibu countryside as well as the lives of the characters.

Marvelously written and researched, I hope you are able to read this book.  It took a few pages to see where the book was headed, but THE LEMON ORCHARD is well worth the wait.  ENJOY!!  5/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Story of Sassy Sweetwater by Vera Jane Cook

Sassy Sweetwater was always sassy but also very sweet.

Sassy was born out of wedlock on the riverbank of Sweetwater River.  Her mother used Sassy as her first name just because, and she used Sweetwater for her last name because she didn't want Sassy to know who her father was. Right after her birth Sassy and her mother, Vi, left the area and stayed away for thirteen years until Vi decided to return to her childhood home.

After thirteen years, coming back home was quite difficult for Sassy because she knew no one and was never told she even had any family.  It was wonderful for Vi, though.  Once Sassy saw the family home, she had no desire to live in this huge house and especially with Grandma Edna, but that is what her Mama wanted. Sassy found out very quickly more than she wanted to about her "kin" and about family secrets.

The Story of Sassy Sweetwater was a perfect portrayal
of a Southern family.  I loved the descriptions Ms. Cook used to describe the beautiful home Sassy's mama grew up in, the landscape, and especially the characters.  The Southern mansion and its surroundings sounded fabulous.  Despite the beauty of the home and landscape, though, the McLaughlin family was definitely made up of an odd bunch of characters.

This book has adult situations and is set during the time of segregation. The Story of Sassy Sweetwater is an easy read that flows nicely despite the book always seeming to have a sinister, gloomy undertone that included murders along with everything else strange and dysfunctional. 

It was an unusual book, not what I normally read but it was so different that I continued.  I loved the Southern charm and life style. The ending did turn out well for made a full circle from Sassy's poverty-stricken childhood to a rich, fulfilled Southern woman with the reader sharing her pain as well as her happiness.

The book will appeal to most readers but I would steer young readers away. There was quite a bit of adult content.  4/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the author in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich

Holly had been secluding herself from society ever since her husband died, but a chance meeting on a plane changed her life. She became more social and decided to do something about her weight gain.

Her personal trainer became more than her personal trainer, and she got to meet some people she never would have met before.

BIG GIRL PANTIES was an ok read for me. It isn't normally what I read.  There was too much romance in it, but it was very entertaining.

It wasn't bad at all for a first book by the author. The characters were believable, and the plot flowed nicely.  If you like romance as well as some fun, you will want to read BIG GIRL PANTIES.

My rating is based on the fact that I normally don't read this genre, so don't let it keep you from reading it. 3.5 out of 5.

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation in return for an honest review.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Always Watching by Chevy Stevens

A haunting, terrifying read, but oh so good.

You will be on the edge of your seat as the fear and tension oozes from the pages of ALWAYS WATCHING.  Don't read this book when you are alone or in a room without curtains.  Someone may be watching.

What started out to be a patient/doctor relationship moved to more sinister waters as Nadine's treatment of Heather brought back repressed horrors from her own childhood.  Could Nadine’s treating a patient really bring back memories of her own? Nadine was beginning to have flashbacks about things that took place at the same commune her patient had been in.  The same commune that may have caused her claustrophobia and her fear of water.

The basis of ALWAYS WATCHING was the flashbacks. The flashbacks will keep you wondering what Nadine was going to find or who she was going to run into from her past as she investigated the commune that her mother and her brother were a part of when she was thirteen.

What she began to find out and remember was not pleasant.  Was this investigation a wise decision or one that would make her childhood fears surface more and cause more trouble for her especially since she was doing all of this on her own?

ALWAYS WATCHING was tense and gripping.  It dealt with mental issues, mind games, and brainwashing.  Quite frightening and disturbing.   

I had a difficult time putting the book down. I haven't read a thriller for a while nor have I ever read a book by Chevy Stevens. 

If you enjoy edge-of-your seat plots, you won't be disappointed in ALWAYS WATCHING.  5/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole

A poem, a letter, subsequent letters, and then blossoming love.

LETTERS FROM SKYE is a book of letters from a fan to a poet…fan letters that turned into more than just correspondence.  The fan lives in the United States, and the poet lives in the Isle of Skye and is set during WWI and WWII.  The letters spanned decades and makes the reader ponder about whether it is wise or unwise to decide to find someone to love during war time.  

These letters told the story of "Sue" and Davey and how their letters and decisions changed an entire family.

Telling the entire story in letters was quite clever as a premise for a book, and it was enjoyable to read, but it didn't grip me to the point that I couldn't wait to get back to the book until the ending pages.

I do have to say, though, that Ms. Brockmole’s detail is amazing.  I could feel the pouring rain as Maisie, "Sue's" daughter, was walking through Skye and trying to find Portree. 

I could visualize the landscape and the sheep roaming. 

I remember all of this when I visited The Isle Of Skye, my favorite part of Scotland, and the reason I wanted to read LETTERS FROM SKYE.  

LETTERS FROM SKYE is a fun, well written read with a love story and history woven in.  

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley

Castles, hidden rooms, families, World War II, and history coming alive as past and present blend together for an incredible, marvelously detailed read.  
Emilie de la Martinieres is the sole surviving member of her family and is left with a chateau with vineyards and another home in Paris.  Both homes are filled with memories and contents worth millions. But, the millions won't be Emile's because of the debt her mother mounted over the years. Emilie needs to decide if she should sell or keep the chateau. She never had to deal with finances and was doing it alone until a complete stranger, Sebastian, came on the scene.

Sebastian's family had some connection to Emilie's chateau and vineyard, and the winemakers on the estate knew what that connection was. 
The account of the important family connection is revealed through Constance's life during WWII and her connection to the de la Martinieries' family.  But, did Sebastian suddenly appear and help Emilie because of the family connection or because he was interested in the valuable paintings inside her estates and most of all her family inheritance?

THE LAVENDER GARDEN moves back and forth from current day to WWII making a beautiful story even more enticing.  The WWII details were fascinating and very well researched.

The detailed descriptions of the castle, the French society during WWII, the hint of mystery about the de la Martinieries' history, and the current-day love story make this book another amazing, mesmerizing, and fantastic Lucinda Riley novel. 
THE LAVENDER GARDEN had wonderful characters that were believable as well as characters that you would want to share a day with. 
Being in a beautiful chateau with a vineyard, being in Paris and a small French village, being in an English castle, and being with characters you definitely will bond with made the book even more appealing. 

This is by far my favorite Lucinda Riley book.  I loved her detail about the French and English countryside and absolutely loved the specifics of the ancestry of Emilee's family.  Digging into a family's history is my favorite historical thing to do.  The ending is wonderful.

I hope you get to read it.  5/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation in return for an honest review.