Friday, July 31, 2020

Books Read in July

What did your July reads look like?

I see SEVEN mystery/thrillers in my July reads.  :)

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Spotlight: A Universe of Two by Stephen P. Kiernan


Information in this post is courtesy of Lisha Samuel of Wunderkind PR.
The release of UNIVERSE OF TWO will coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and Kiernan’s carefully researched novel zeroes in on the creation of this weapon of mass destruction, the moral dilemma each scientist and mathematician faced, the consequences of their actions, and their ultimate drive for redemption. In reality, it was far more complicated.
“Kiernan (The Baker’s Secret, 2017) movingly charts a couple’s relationship alongside the development of WWII’s Manhattan Project… Kiernan recreates the zeitgeist of America leading up to the atomic bomb on a national and personal level: the eager anticipation of wartime’s end, the grimly fascinating science, and the growing sense of guilt and dread. Simultaneously tender and hard-hitting, this riveting story offers much to reflect upon.” 

"General readers and those interested in the time period will enjoy this brutally honest novel by the author of The Baker’s Secret.”
—Library Journal 

Universe of Two by Stephen P. Kiernan skillfully educates, entertains and enlightens as great historical fiction should. This masterfully researched and exquisitely told story of one man’s struggle of conscience is a fictionalized account of the life of Charles Fisk, a gifted young mathematician who was drafted to build the detonator for the atomic bomb.”
—The Boston Globe

“Stephen P. Kiernan writes with heart and humor. Both Brenda and Charlie are flawed and interesting, dealing with the disruptions of young love and uncertain war. Kiernan manages to balance serious historical questions and ethical issues with lively characters, sharp dialogue, and marvelous historical detail… Kiernan uses the outline of Fisk’s story to ask his own questions about personal and national responsibility and explore conflicting attitudes among those who built the atomic bombs. A great read.”
—Historical Novels Review

“Stephen Kiernan has pulled off the nearly impossible, reminding us by wrapping a war story in a love story that although we hold the power for our own extinction, we also have the power to redeem, heal, and save.  The most tender, terrifying, relevant book you’ll read this year.”—Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Lost Family


“Rarely does historical fiction get everything so right as UNIVERSE OF TWO: compelling characters, faithful detail, a story packed with unexpected twists, and a sure, authentic voice that never wavers. In this novel of the dawn of the atomic age and its profound consequences, Stephen Kiernan leads us along a journey of conscience as complex and infinite as the science itself.”—Beatriz Williams, New York Times bestselling author of The Golden Hour



 Behind Universe of Two
The secret behind my new novel, Universe of Two, is that it is based on a real person. Four years ago, I read an essay in The Georgia Review about a man who worked on building the atomic bomb, and later went on to become a world-famous cathedral organ builder. I remember exactly where I was sitting, because I lifted my head and said out loud, “That is a novel.”

The man was named Charles Fisk. As I dug into his past, I realized there were numerous reasons that his story would not provide a coherent narrative. And so, I used two aspects of his life – bomb builder, organ maker; destroyer, creator – as the skeleton on which I built a fully-fleshed, fictional character.

Research for this novel was terrifying and fascinating. I read deeply on the technology of the bomb. I was hassled by Department of Energy officers when I traipsed all over Los Alamos. On the way home, airport security emptied my bags completely, inspecting my belongings item by item (with many questions about why I was carrying books about bombs).

Conversely, I stood inside the pipes and bellows of some of the finest organs in North America. I toured an organ factory. I received a private concert by the university organist at Harvard. Also, I had profound conversations with clergy and philosophers about conscience – especially how we recover when we have not followed its commands.

There were many surprises. The average age of the workers at Los Alamos, for example, was twenty-seven. Manhattan Project director Robert Oppenheimer was called “the Old Man,” and he was just thirty-nine. Most importantly, I learned that many people building the bomb had misgivings. They met on Sundays and debated whether to work the next day. Some resigned when Germany surrendered, because Japan had no bomb program to threaten the U.S. Hundreds of them signed petitions to President Truman, calling for the bomb never to be used on human beings. Till now, that story has gone untold.

August 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is my fervent hope that Universe of Two will humanize the misgivings shared by the bomb’s architects, through its story of a man and woman trying to love one another while they are trapped in creating the strongest instrument of slaughter in human history.
—Stephen P. Kiernan, Author

UNIVERSE OF TWO (May 2020) is Stephen P. Kiernan’s sixth publication, following the novels THE BAKER'S SECRET (2017), THE CURIOSITY (2013) and THE HUMMINGBIRD (2015), and two works of nonfiction, LAST RIGHTS (2006), and AUTHENTIC PATRIOTISM (2010).

Together with his work as a journalist, he has earned more than 40 writing awards, including the George Polk Award and the National Journalism Award (Scripps-Howard).

A graduate of Middlebury College, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, he has worked at the Breadloaf School of English and the Breadloaf Writers Conference.

A longtime board member of the Young Writers Project, he lives in Vermont.

Connect with Stephen!


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

He Started It by Samantha Downing

Why would their grandfather require his grandchildren to re-live a trip they took with him when they were young in order to inherit his fortune?

They were doing it by the book because the attorney was adamant that it was the only way he would release the money.

The trip was not fun, but they did remember some of the places they went.  

It was ok for the first day, but then everyone was getting on each other’s nerves, someone crashed into them and seemed to be following them, they had to stay in cheap motels, and had a flat tire.

There is also a diary one of the children shares with us that reveals secrets that everyone doesn’t know about.

The book had chapters that left you hanging, but I was getting tired of this trip too.  

HE STARTED IT dragged on and on with flashbacks of the original trip and the current trip.

I kept reading because I wanted to know where this was going.  

This was not a favorite book nor one that I couldn’t wait to get back to.

The ending was nothing outstanding, but since the story flowed, my rating is 3/5.

This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020


NEVER LET YOU GO has tension oozing through the pages and keeps you turning the pages as you want to know what is going to happen next.


Monday, July 27, 2020

The Orphan Collector by Ellen Marie Wiseman

It’s 1918, and the Spanish flu is running rampant. Family members are passing away right in front of their loved ones' eyes, food is scarce, and the living conditions in the tenement and slums are deplorable.

The flu took Pia’s mother, and then Pia is left with the care of her twin infant brothers since her father was fighting in the war. Pia was doing well until she needed to leave the house to find food. She didn't take her brothers because they would be too much to carry, but she wouldn’t be gone long.

We then meet Bernice. Bernice is a distraught mother in another building whose baby had passed away from the flu and who saw Pia leaving without her twin brothers and decided she would take them for her own.

We follow Pia as she struggles with her life and the guilt about leaving her brothers. You will feel sorry for Pia. 

You will not feel sorry for Bernice because of her deceitful, unethical, uncaring ways.

Ms. Wiseman's description of the plight of the people of Philadelphia during the pandemic is exceptional.  You will feel every emotion the characters are feeling.

THE ORPHAN COLLECTOR is an outstanding novel that touches on human empathy as well as people taking advantage of others.  


You will see the similarities to the pandemic of 2020 but hope something good happens to Pia.  

THE ORPHAN COLLECTOR is heart wrenching but will have you glued to the pages as well as have you wondering what evil deed Bernice will do next.

A highly recommended book for historical fiction and suspense fans. 5/5 

This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

COVER REVEAL - Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig

Book details: BAND OF SISTERS by New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willing (William Morrow hardcover; on-sale March 2, 2021)


All information in this post is courtesy of Danielle Bartlett of Harper Collins.



A group of young women from Smith College risk their lives in France at the height of World War I in this sweeping novel based on a true story—a skillful blend of Call the Midwife and The Alice Network—from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig.

A scholarship girl from Brooklyn, Kate Moran thought she found a place among Smith’s Mayflower descendants, only to have her illusions dashed the summer after graduation. When charismatic alumna Betsy Rutherford delivers a rousing speech at the Smith College Club in April of 1917, looking for volunteers to help French civilians decimated by the German war machine, Kate is too busy earning her living to even think of taking up the call. But when her former best friend Emmeline Van Alden reaches out and begs her to take the place of a girl who had to drop out, Kate reluctantly agrees to join the new Smith College Relief Unit.

Four months later, Kate and seventeen other Smithies, including two trailblazing female doctors, set sail for France. The volunteers are armed with money, supplies, and good intentions—all of which immediately go astray. The chateau that was to be their headquarters is a half-burnt ruin. The villagers they meet are in desperate straits: women and children huddling in damp cellars, their crops destroyed and their wells poisoned.

Despite constant shelling from the Germans, French bureaucracy, and the threat of being ousted by the British army, the Smith volunteers bring welcome aid—and hope—to the region. But can they survive their own differences? As they cope with the hardships and terrors of the war, Kate and her colleagues find themselves navigating old rivalries and new betrayals which threaten the very existence of the Unit.

With the Germans threatening to break through the lines, can the Smith Unit pull together and be truly a band of sisters? 



Pre-order link HERE.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Saturday, July 25, 2020


Thanks to these Litsy folks for today’s prompt:





Ms. Patrick has written another heartwarming book with characters you will fall in love with and a story line that will keep you turning the pages.


Friday, July 24, 2020

The Wife Who Knew Too Much by Michele Campbell

Money and power seemed to be the only thing that mattered to Connor Ford.

He took what he wanted with his charm and wealth, and broke Tabitha's heart many years ago.

Connor is now married to wealthy Nina, but cheats with Tabitha.

Where can this lead?  It leads to deceit, murder, lies, and another fantastic Michele Campbell book.

You don't know who to trust or want to trust. 

Every character has something to hide or some trait that doesn’t seem above board.

The suspicions about who the murderer is will keep you on the edge of your seat and have you worried about Tabitha‘s safety in all of this.

Was she brought on the scene to conveniently be accused of or complicit in the murder or blamed for anything else Connor had done so he wouldn’t be blamed?

THE WIFE WHO KNEW TOO MUCH has everything a thriller promises. You will not be able to stop reading.

Make this book a must on your summer reading list.  5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Review and Giveaway of The Kiminee Dream by Laura McHale Holland

Her family and the entire town knew Carley Mae Foley was gifted from the minute she was born.

She could read at two years old, she could paint as though she were a professional artist at seven, and could play the violin like a master.

When a tornado made its way into Kiminee and took away her father, found her mother doing things she shouldn't be doing, and buried Carley under a chicken coop almost left for dead, the town was worried.

THE KIMINEE DREAM has sweet characters, some complicated characters, some odd characters, and a lighthearted theme with drama of course and one big crime. 

Something was always going on in the town, and the reader is treated to multiple interesting story lines but has you wondering how they fit together.  You will see that it all comes together in the end for a sweet read and all circling around to Kiminee.

I enjoyed the small town aspect and how everyone pulled together when things got tough.

The author's easy writing style made the book even more enjoyable.

THE KIMINEE DREAM is a book you will want to read if you enjoy going back in time to a less complicated lifestyle and a little bit of magic.

Enjoy if you read this book. 4/5

This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.


I am partnering with the author for this giveaway:



JULY 23 - JULY 30

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Book Of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

Was Eva seeing correctly?  Did this newspaper article actually show the book she had used during the war to put children's names in that they had to change to protect their identity?

Eva had to go to Berlin immediately to claim it.

We now move from present day to 1942 where Eva and her Mother escape from Paris with documents she forged the morning after her father was arrested and taken to a prison camp.

Eva and her mother travel to Aurignon, France, on the advice of a friend where they found lodging and an observant owner that realizes their papers aren’t real.

That turned out well, though, because the owner was part of the French Resistance. Eva was asked to help forge travel documents and birth certificates for Jewish children.

Eva didn’t want to allow the children to be lost forever to their real names so she and Rémy invented a code that would keep the children anonymous but be able to know their real names some day.

The code they used was brilliant, and Eva saved many children.

Now that it is 65 years later she hopes to help find the children and let them know their real names.

THE BOOK OF LOST NAMES is another impressive Kristin Harmel gem.

It will grab your heart and pull you in.

Words cannot express the beauty of this book.

All I can say is you must read this book to appreciate it.  5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Vacation by T. M. Logan

We meet four good friends and their families vacationing together in France after many years of not seeing each other.
What could go wrong in a quaint, beautiful villa in Southern France??

Well...quite a few things.

To begin with one of the friends found some texts that indicated that her husband was having an affair.
Another couple has a lot of tension between them and a very spoiled child.

Surprisingly one of the friends who is single and they never thought would join them showed up for this vacation.

As the week of vacation continued, the adults were realizing that this vacation was a bad idea for many reasons.

To add to their concern, a fire starts in the villa with disastrous results. 

THE VACATION was a bit slow and had a lot of domestic drama and characters with secrets - adults and children alike.

Cliffhangers were placed at the end of each chapter that definitely were intriguing, but I wasn't "dying" to get back to reading the book until around 50% in.

There was a slow build up with hints at things not being right, but the last chapters definitely made up for it all.

The ending was typical, amazing Mr. Logan that was oh so good and satisfying because most of the characters were not likeable. 4/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via Netgally in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 20, 2020


Thank you to eggs of Litsy:



Today’s Prompt:  REUNION

An annual reunion of friends at a new location with the added beauty and terror of a huge snowstorm that cuts everyone off from the rest of the world is where THE HUNTING PARTY begins and where we meet the characters.


Saturday, July 18, 2020

Town or City In The Title

Thank you to eggs of Litsy:




All good reads.

Any you have read?

Which can you add?

Friday, July 17, 2020

Books With Girl In The Title

All have gorgeous covers, great story lines, and all are reviewed on this blog.

Please add any you can think of.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Which Is Your 8th Book From The Left?

What is your 8th book from the left on any shelf?

Have you read the 8th book on my shelf or any of these books?

All are reviewed on this blog.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020


No more crunching numbers....only a serene life filled with painting and relaxing. That is what Beth thought she would find when she moved to Virginia Point Cove.

The book has an appealing, unique storyline with an ending that is heartwarming and one that is kept secret until the very last pages.  It was a plot with a different twist. 


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Safe Place by Anna Downes

Emily never could keep a job.

The day she was fired from the last job she had was definitely the start of something different.

Her old boss tracked her down and told her she was not fired and he had another position.

Emily couldn’t imagine what position Scott had for her, but it turned out to be unique and unbelievable.

Emily finds herself in a remote paradise with Scott’s wife and odd daughter.  There is no phone service or wi-fi, but her day's work and the beauty of the estate make up for the lack of both.

Something is very odd, though, and Emily still hasn't figured out what it is.  For one...why does Scott never visit or cancel his flights when it is time to visit?

Meanwhile, she decides to just enjoy until something happens.  And....things definitely happen.

THE SAFE PLACE keeps you turning the pages because you have no clue what's going on with the bizarre behavior of Nina and her daughter, Aurelia.

Just what did Emily get herself into?  Was this really a dream job?

THE SAFE PLACE has a slow buildup to a very riveting ending.

A great summer thriller you won’t want to miss.  5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via BookishFirst in exchange for an honest review.


THE WOMEN OF CHATEAU LAFAYETTE by New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Dray (Berkley hardcover; on-sale March 30, 2021)


All information in this post is courtesy of Loren Jaggers of Penguin Random House.


July 14th marks Bastille Day, a pivotal turning point in the French Revolution, now celebrated as France’s national independence day.



An epic saga from New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Dray based on the true story of an extraordinary castle in the heart of France and the remarkable women bound by its legacy in three of humanity's darkest hours.

Most castles are protected by powerful men. This one by women...

A founding mother...

1774. Gently-bred noblewoman Adrienne Lafayette becomes her husband's political partner in the fight for American independence. But when their idealism sparks revolution in France and the guillotine threatens everything she holds dear, Adrienne must choose to renounce the complicated man she loves, or risk her life for a legacy that will inspire generations to come.

A daring visionary...

1914. Glittering New York socialite Beatrice Astor Chanler is a force of nature, daunted by nothing--not her humble beginnings, her crumbling marriage, or the outbreak of war. But after witnessing the devastation in France and delivering war-relief over dangerous seas, Beatrice takes on the challenge of a lifetime: convincing America to fight for what's right.

A reluctant resistor...

1940. French school-teacher and aspiring artist Marthe Simone has an orphan's self-reliance and wants nothing to do with war. But as the realities of Nazi occupation transform her life in the isolated castle where she came of age, she makes a discovery that calls into question who she is, and more importantly, who she is willing to become.

Intricately woven and beautifully told, The Women of Chateau Lafayette is a sweeping novel about duty and hope, love and courage, and the strength we find from standing together in honor of those who came before us.


What made you fall in love with Adrienne Lafayette and why do you think readers will fall for her as you did?

Thanks to a popular musical, the Marquis de Lafayette is known to a new generation as "America's Favorite Fighting Frenchman"--and there's good reason for that. He's easily the most lovable of our Founding Fathers, and his wife, whom he called his dear heart, is just as lovable if not more so. Adrienne was our French Founding Mother, so right up my alley as a heroine, but at first I worried she was too sweet, devoted, and forgiving. In short, too gentle for a novel. Little did I realize that more than any other historical heroine I've ever written, Adrienne fought and sacrificed for her principles, courageously threw herself into danger, confronted tyrants, and endured trials that would have broken lesser mortals. She truly humbles me, and when I talk about the Lafayette legacy, I think of it as every bit as much hers as it is his.

How long did it take you to write this book? Did the story evolve as you researched, or did you always know you wanted to take on the lives of these particular women?

I was always interested in Lafayette--an interest that grew as Laura Kamoie and I co-authored America's First Daughter and My Dear Hamilton. I think I had the germ of the idea for a Lafayette novel at least seven years ago, but I had other projects in the way. And I was always in search of an angle that would be fresh and unique. That came to me when I discovered that Lafayette's castle in Auvergne, which had been purchased and renovated by Americans, served to shelter Jewish children from the Nazis. Knowing how deeply the Lafayettes both felt about religious freedom, I knew this would have pleased them, and it touched me. I was then determined to know which Americans had purchased the chateau, and when I found out, yet another glorious chapter in the Lafayette legacy was born. That's when the story took shape for me about one special place on this earth where, generation after generation, faith has been kept with principles of liberty and humanity. I find that very inspirational, now more than ever.

The book is centered around Lafayette’s castle, the Château de Chavaniac, and the pivotal role it played during three of history’s darkest hours—the French Revolution and both World Wars. If you could have dinner with any three people (dead or alive) at Chavaniac, who would you choose and why?

Believe it or not, this is actually a difficult choice because so many incredible men and women passed through those doors. I'd have to start with the Lafayettes--though I hope they would not serve me pigeons, which were a favorite at their wedding banquet. To join us for dinner, I'd choose the colorful stage-star of the Belle Epoque, Beatrice Chanler, because she was a force of nature without whom Chavaniac might not still be standing. Actress, artist, philanthropist, decorated war-relief worker and so-called Queen of the Social Register, she was as mysterious as she was wonderful, and even after all the startling discoveries I made researching her larger-than-life existence, I have a million questions about the early life she tried so hard to hide. I can't wait for readers to meet her!
Stephanie Dray is the New York Times bestselling co-author of America’s First Daughter and My Dear Hamilton. Now Dray turns her eye towards the French founding mother Adrienne Lafayette, in an epic generational saga based on Lafayette’s extraordinary castle in the heart of France, and the remarkable women bound by its legacy through revolutionary upheaval and two world wars.


✭✭✭ PRE-ORDER✭✭✭



You can enter for a chance to win an advanced digital review copy of the book HERE(NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. US Residents, 18+. Ends 7/19. See official rules at official website.)