Friday, January 29, 2016

The Mafia Hit Man's Daughter by Linda Scarpa

The world called him a killer. She called him Dad...


“We were always worried. Always looking over our shoulders...” Linda Scarpa had the best toys, the nicest clothes, and a close-knit family. Yet classmates avoided her; boys wouldn’t date her. Eventually she learned why: they were afraid of her father. A made man in the Colombo crime family, Gregory Scarpa, Sr. was a stone-cold killer nicknamed the “Grim Reaper.” But to Linda, he was also a loving, devoted father who played video games with her for hours. In riveting detail, she reveals what it was like to grow up in the violent world of the mob and to come to grips with the truth about her father and the devastation he wrought.



REVIEW

Stories about the Mafia definitely spur interest, and this book was no exception. The Mafia Hit Man's Daughter is a memoir by Linda Scarpa whose father was Gregory Scarpa, a member of the Colombo crime family. In the frank retelling of her family life, she brings to life her family's fears, loves, and horrors. She writes with frank honesty revealing her personal struggles with the Mafia lifestyle. With its many photos and stories of betrayal, jealousy, and violence, this is a great inside look at what it means for women and children of mobsters. Shocking, compelling, and highly entertaining! Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Orphan Moon by T.K. Lukas


Synopsis:  A gritty western saga and timeless love story, Orphan Moon gallops across the bleeding edge of the American frontier. 

1860 – Palo Pinto, Texas: Under the spectacular glow of a Comanche moon, a family is slaughtered, their homestead torched. Nineteen-year-old Barleigh Flanders survives the terrifying midnight raid. Fiercely determined to rebuild, she seizes an opportunity meant for another. Desperate, near penniless, her foolhardy, reckless scheme could prove calamitous or miraculous, yet it’s her only hope. Her grueling physical journey stretches from Texas, to Missouri, and into the rugged Utah Territory. However, it’s her emotional journey that takes her to places of uncharted darkness, discovery, and redemption when old family secrets are revealed. What she accepted as her past turns out to be a convoluted lie that reaches across generations, reshaping her memories of the Grandfather she despised, the father she adored, and the mother she never knew. Along her journey she encounters a mysterious stranger. In Hughes Levesque, Barleigh gains an unsought ally with dark secrets of his own. A Texas Ranger turned hired gun, Hughes makes it his personal mission to keep Barleigh safe. Doing so may cost him his life, his job, and his heart, none of which he’s keen to lose. Orphan Moon is a heart-wrenching saga of family love, loss, and betrayal. Both a gripping adventure and a timeless love story, it gallops across the bleeding edge of the western frontier. 
Writers’ League of Texas 2015 Top Five Finalist—Historical Fiction 
Readers' Favorite Five Star Award 

Review

It's no surprise this book gained acclamation in several book awards. Orphan Moon is a gritty, tell-it-like-it-is, in your face, tale about a courageous young woman who fights to regain her life after a terrible massacre. As I read along, this novel had me cheering, crying, and white knuckling my kindle. Barleigh Flanders looses everything after her family is massacred. Determined to fight for her money so she can rebuild her life and take care of her young sister, she sets out on an incredible journey for a young woman to make alone. Along the way, she works for the famous Pony Express and is befriended by the rugged and strong Hughes Levesque. The book flows with themes of romance, dark family secrets, past family conflicts, hope and dreams, and the primal instinct of survival! Orphan Moon is Book 1 of a trilogy. There are three stories within that intertwine, making this a rich and satisfying read. Definitely one of my favorites and not a surprise it received notice in several awards for historical and western fiction! Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Almost Invincible by Suzanne Burdon

"She is singularly bold, somewhat imperious, and active of mind. Her desire of knowledge is great, and her perseverance in everything else she undertakes, almost invincible." Mary Shelley began Frankenstein in 1814, when she was eighteen. By then, she had been living for two years in a scandalous relationship with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was already married with children. The novel was conceived in a contest with him and Lord Byron to tell ghost stories. When she eloped with Shelley, Mary had been quite prepared to suffer condemnation from society. It was much harder to cope with her jealousy of Claire, her step-sister, who had run away with them and was also in love with Shelley. During the nine turbulent years Mary and Shelley were together, Claire was the ever-present third, whose manipulative behaviour often drove Mary to despair. Shelley was little help - his unconventional attitudes to love strained her devotion to its limits. They moved constantly throughout England, Switzerland and Italy, escaping creditors, censorious families and ill health. It was in Italy that they found their spiritual home, their 'paradise of exiles', but it was also there that the loss of her children nearly broke Mary's spirit. Her writing became her grip on sanity, and Shelley never wavered from his belief in her creative genius - as she believed in his.

The life and creativity of Mary Shelley continues to fascinate long after her death. In this version of her life, we are given a close glimpse into the people that helped shape her destiny - how the death of her writer mother impacted her, how her love for Percy Bysshe sucked her into a lower status and a bit of a debauched social life, her relationship with Lord Byron, and the responsibility she carried for her step-sister Claire Clairmont. Her loves, her sources for inspiration, and her talents are highlighted in wonderful detail. 

The book's pace is slow, but it is a biographical and is to be expected because of the research and details that have been included. Mary was not afraid to break with convention and face scandal. I think it is this that fascinates readers because she is of the Victorian era with strict morals and social norms. If you're looking for an accurate, rich, and descriptive biography about Shelley, then this is the book to read! Very well done!

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Girls from See Saw Lane by Sandy Taylor

Brighton 1963. Mary Pickles and I walked along the street with our arms linked, looking in shop windows. We were best friends and together we were invincible.
Dottie and Mary forged a friendship over a bag of penny sweets when they were eight years old. They’ve shared everything together since then – the highs and lows of school, family dramas, hopes and dreams and now, at seventeen, they’re both shop girls, working at Woolworths.
As they go out in the world in pursuit of love and happiness, the simplicity of their childhood dissolves as life becomes more complicated. The heady excitement of first love will consume them both, but the pain of unintentional betrayal will test their friendship in ways neither of them could ever imagine…
The Girls from See Saw Lane by Sandy Taylor is a novel set in 1960 England. It is a coming of age novel between two best friends - Mary Pickles and Dottie Perks. The two have been close since they were young children. 
As they graduate from high school, they enter the working world. Dottie dreams of staying home and raising a family, while Mary dreams of pursuing her dreams of art in Paris. Written in the first person narrative of Dottie and diary entries by Mary, I could easily understand each individual's motivations and aspirations. As the two women meet their young men, their friendship is shaken. One mistake leads to devastating results. Can the friendship endure? Heartbreaking yet there is redemption and understanding. It is a story that tested my emotions with totally believable characters that lit up the pages and defines what true friendship really is! I loved this story and how it ended. One of my very favourite books!
Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Wedding Tree by Robin Wells


National bestselling author Robin Wells weaves a moving epic that stretches from modern-day Louisiana to World War II-era New Orleans and back again in this multi-generational tale of love, loss and redemption.

Hope Stevens thinks Wedding Tree, Louisiana, will be the perfect place to sort out her life and all the mistakes she’s made. Plus, it will give her the chance to help her free-spirited grandmother, Adelaide, sort through her things before moving into assisted living.

Spending the summer in the quaint town, Hope begins to discover that Adelaide has made some mistakes of her own. And as they go through her belongings, her grandmother recalls the wartime romance that left her torn between two men and haunted by a bone-chilling secret. Now she wants Hope’s help in uncovering the truth before it’s too late.

Filled with colorful characters, The Wedding Tree is an emotionally riveting story about passion, shattered dreams, unexpected renewal and forgiveness—not only for others, but for ourselves.

A beautiful story surrounded by a cover just as beautiful. Yes, I definitely loved this novel. It drew me in immediately and I could not help but be fascinated with the characters. The setting is the town of Wedding Tree, a small town in Louisiana. Hope's grandmother has lived there for many years, but she is starting to suffer from a touch of dementia. The large home is no longer safe for her, so Hope arrives to help her pack up and move to California to be with the rest of her family. Slowly, with all the items that need to be sold or donated, memories return to fill grandmother's mind. Secrets she has kept long buried resurface and she begins to share them with Hope. Hope is also at a cross-roads in her life. The time she is spending with her grandmother leads her to Matt, a widower with two wonderful children and an ex-sister-in-law bent on marrying her dead sister's husband. 

Sweet and moving, this is a novel about loss and and finding love and meaning in one's life again. The endearing characters had me believing every word. I enjoyed how seamlessly the past and the future joined together. And there was an incredibly satisfying ending too. I loved this "FEEL GOOD" book and highly recommend it! 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Memory Weaver by Jane Kirkpatrick


Eliza Spalding Warren was just a child when she was taken hostage by the Cayuse Indians during a massacre in 1847. Now the young mother of two children, Eliza faces a different kind of dislocation; her impulsive husband wants them to make a new start in another territory, which will mean leaving her beloved home and her departed mother's grave--and returning to the land of her captivity. Eliza longs to know how her mother, an early missionary to the Nez Perce Indians, dealt with the challenges of life with a sometimes difficult husband and with her daughter's captivity.

When Eliza is finally given her mother's diary, she is stunned to find that her own memories are not necessarily the whole story of what happened. Can she lay the dark past to rest and move on? Or will her childhood memories always hold her hostage?

Based on true events, The Memory Weaver is New York Times bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick's latest literary journey into the past, where threads of western landscapes, family, and faith weave a tapestry of hope inside every pioneering woman's heart. Readers will find themselves swept up in this emotional story of the memories that entangle us and the healing that awaits us when we bravely unravel the threads of the past.


I am always on the look out for novels based on true stories. With it's stunning cover, this novel was an enjoyable novel that was easy to read. It is the story of Eliza Spalding Warren who was considered a heroine of the Whitman Massacre where a band of disgruntled Cayuse Indians attacked and massacred those who lived at the Whitman Mission. She witnessed the massacre and was one of forty-six captives taken. The details of all that she endured are presented as her own reflections and through her mother's diary, which tends to mellow the drama a bit. 

Rather, the book focuses on her journey to overcome her tragic past and forge a path for her future. Through the help of her mother's diary, the reader moves from past to present as Eliza discovers an alternate interpretation and compares it to her own thoughts and life.

The book was very enjoyable, although I wish the story focused more on Eliza's first hand experiences. Despite this, it is a very good, accurate accounting of the Whitman Massacre and the hardships of life on the American frontier. I recommend this to fans of historical fiction based on true stories. A lovely, entertaining, and moving read.

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest
 review.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Medicis Daughter by Sophie Perinot

Winter, 1564. Beautiful young Princess Margot is summoned to the court of France, where nothing is what it seems and a wrong word can lead to ruin. Known across Europe as Madame la Serpente, Margot's intimidating mother, Queen Catherine de Médicis, is a powerful force in a country devastated by religious war. Among the crafty nobility of the royal court, Margot learns the intriguing and unspoken rules she must live by to please her poisonous family.
Eager to be an obedient daughter, Margot accepts her role as a marriage pawn, even as she is charmed by the powerful, charismatic Duc de Guise. Though Margot's heart belongs to Guise, her hand will be offered to Henri of Navarre, a Huguenot leader and a notorious heretic looking to seal a tenuous truce. But the promised peace is a mirage: her mother's schemes are endless, and her brothers plot vengeance in the streets of Paris. When Margot's wedding devolves into the bloodshed of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, she will be forced to choose between her family and her soul.
Médicis Daughter is historical fiction at its finest, weaving a unique coming-of-age story and a forbidden love with one of the most dramatic and violent events in French history.

This is a story of love, passion, intrigue, betrayal, and cruel violence - a true representation of this turbulent time in history. Plenty has been written about Catherine de Medici, so I found it incredibly fascinating to read about her daughter and the struggles she would have had living under her mother's controlling thumb. I quite enjoyed learning some of the machinations and descriptions of the The St Bartholemew's Day Massacre. The author did an outstanding job in bringing this turbulence to life in a very realistic and easy to understand fashion. 

Although Margaret de Valois has been much maligned throughout history, I liked how her motivations were presented and it helped to understand some of the hard choices Margaret had to make to survive in the tumultuous French and Italian courts. 

Everything about this story appealed to me - the era, the political climate, and the religious difficulties facing France and the French people. This fictional account of her life was well rendered and magically delivered. Definitely recommended!

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Daughter of Sand and Stone by Libbie Hawker

I love ancient history. Author Libbie Hawker has gathered up a great deal of research and written a compelling recreation of Queen Zenobia who lived in the 3rd century, in a novel entitled, DAUGHTER OF SAND AND STONE. 

Book Synopsis:  Zenobia, the proud daughter of a Syrian sheikh, refuses to marry against her will. She won’t submit to a lifetime of subservience. When her father dies, she sets out on her own, pursuing the power she believes to be her birthright, dreaming of the Roman Empire’s downfall and her ascendance to the throne. Defying her family, Zenobia arranges her own marriage to the most influential man in the city of Palmyra. But their union is anything but peaceful—his other wife begrudges the marriage and the birth of Zenobia’s son, and Zenobia finds herself ever more drawn to her guardsman, Zabdas. As war breaks out, she’s faced with terrible choices. From the decadent halls of Rome to the golden sands of Egypt, Zenobia fights for power, for love, and for her son. But will her hubris draw the wrath of the gods? Will she learn a “woman’s place,” or can she finally stake her claim as Empress of the East?

Review:  Daughter of Sand and Stone by Libbie Hawker is a novel about Zenobia, the famous warrior queen of Palmyra. She lived in the 3rd century, and it cannot be easy to successfully re-imagine her life, but Libby Hawker has done just that, and who doesn't love a story about a strong woman thrust into a man's world who must fight not only for her survival, but also for her throne and kingdom. 

Zenobia's tale is a tad rags to riches, a tad coming of age, and a whole bunch of cunning! She not only conquered Egypt, she also posed a serious threat to great Roman army. Sadly, Zenobia's tale can also be considered tragic, and I think that's why this novel is an engrossing read. It offers a vivid portrayal of the realities of life and love, of hearth and home, of power and ambition in a most credible way. The author's level of research is evident in the vivid pictures she paints, her thought-provoking scenes, and the joy of reading the elegant prose.


This is a wonderful historical biographical novel--one that I highly recommend.

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Giveaway - Canadian Bestseller - Tides of Honor

Starting today, you can enter to win an autographed copy of Tides of Honour by Genevieve Graham. All you have to do to enter is click on the link below the banner! The contest runs until January 29! 




Monday, January 11, 2016

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton


In the tradition of Memoirs of a Geisha and The Piano Teacher, a heart-wrenching debut novel of family, forgiveness, and the exquisite pain of love
 
When Amaterasu Takahashi opens the door of her Philadelphia home to a badly scarred man claiming to be her grandson, she doesn’t believe him. Her grandson and her daughter, Yuko, perished nearly forty years ago during the bombing of Nagasaki. But the man carries with him a collection of sealed private letters that open a Pandora’s Box of family secrets Ama had sworn to leave behind when she fled Japan. She is forced to confront her memories of the years before the war: of the daughter she tried too hard to protect and the love affair that would drive them apart, and even further back, to the long, sake-pouring nights at a hostess bar where Ama first learned that a soft heart was a dangerous thing. Will Ama allow herself to believe in a miracle?


Review
by

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding is a novel that sets a mood while evoking rich emotion. The story reaches back in time to Nagasaki Japan during World War II on the day the bomb fell. From there, it describes the horrific aftermath, carnage, and death as families are forever altered or separated. several goals. It is very much a story about "what if" and explores the guilt and anguish suffered by the Japanese people. 

Amaterasu suffered the loss of her daughter and beloved grandson that day that started so normally, but ended with so much devastation. Unable to find her loved ones, after some time, Amaterasu and her husband leave to begin a new life in the United States. Decades pass and then one day, a horribly disfigure young man shows up on her doorstep - it is her grandson - long believed dead. 
At first there is denial, but through letters, Amaterasu begins to read and converse with the young man, slowly revealing, one by one, her darkest secrets and lost hope. 

This is an easy to read, but very complicated tale filled with not only a great deal of historical detail, but that explores the human psyche's emotions of love, loss, and survival. 5 stars is not enough for a book of this quality. It is creative, bold, and packs a powerful punch! Many life lessons are shared by a cast of highly believable, intense characters. A must read! Loved this book immensely, but get ready for a roller coaster ride that will rip the emotions right out of your chest!


Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Fragrant Concubine by Melissa Addey


China, 1760. The Emperor conquers Altishahr, a Muslim country to the west of his empire and summons a local woman from his new dominion to come to the Forbidden City as his concubine. 

Meanwhile in the market of Kashgar a girl named Hidligh is kidnapped by Iparhan, a woman scarred by the Emperor’s conquest of her homeland and bent on vengeance. Iparhan offers her a deal: Hidligh will become the Emperor’s concubine, living a life of luxury. In return she will act as Iparhan’s spy. 


But when Hidligh arrives in the Forbidden City, she enters a frightening new world. Every word she utters may expose her as an imposter. Iparhan is watching from the shadows, waiting to exact her revenge on the Emperor. The Empress is jealous of her new rival. And when Hidligh finally meets the Emperor, she finds herself falling in love… 




A passionate story, richly imagined in the spaces of real history. Melissa Addey meticulously evokes a strange, beautiful and harsh society. Emma Darwin, award-winning author of The Mathematics of Love and A Secret Alchemy. 



Melissa Addey has given us a new take on the cherished but controversial legend of ‘the Fragrant Concubine,’ one that weaves together the many conflicting versions of the story and plausibly embraces how romance might have blossomed between the brilliant Manchu monarch and his fragrant Muslim consort. Professor James Millward, author of A Uyghur Muslim in Qianlong’s Court: The Meanings of the Fragrant Concubine 



If you enjoyed Lisa See's Peony in Love, Anchee Min's The Last Empress and Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha then The Fragrant Concubine will be a new favourite. Set in China's Forbidden City in the 18th century, where the women of the court vie for the Emperor's attention and every concubine must fight for her position.

Review
by


The stunning cover and the exciting back cover blurb of THE FRAGRANT CONCUBINE drew me in from the start. And after judging a book by its cover, I can say my instincts were right with this one. First, I love historical fiction that can take me on a journey to a different time and place. In this tale we are swept into China's Forbidden City in the late 18th century. At the heart of the story is a young girl named Hidligh, a street urchin with a bleak future, but who is crafty enough to survive her harsh life. She comes into contact with a man and a woman named Irphan with treacherous, treasonous motives. This couple prepares her to become a spy, a concubine to the emperor. And Hidligh more than succeeds in catching the emperor's attention. She becomes his favorite, but earns the enmity of his other wives and concubines in so doing. With a slight tone of fantasy, the author has weaved a fascinating, dangerous story that captured and held my attention throughout. 

I love books set in places that I am not familiar with and with characters that are unlike others that I have read before. The setting was especially captivating to me. This book takes place in the 1700s in China, which is a time and location that I have not read much about. The author takes us into the court of the Emperor, a place that is filled with social rules and obligations. At first, Hidligh is not familiar with any of the rules she will have to follow. One of my favorite parts in the book is when Iparhan and her servants are trying to teach Hidligh how to be a proper lady.

The novel was easy to read, and although a times the pace slowed, the overall story was very engaging and worth reading to the very satisfying ending. This is a definite book to acquire, especially if you love stories about concubines and the mysterious Forbidden City of China. 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Tapestry by Christopher Largent

In 1035 AD, a lame boy named Cuin escapes an assassin’s attack at the Duke of Normandy’s castle and spends the next decade developing into Normandy’s emissary to Flanders, Denmark, Norway, and England.
Though his true identity remains a mystery, Cuin trains with a local warrior-turned-hermit and travels through Flanders and Denmark as an ambassador. Relentlessly pursued by an assassin, he is aided by powerful friends who are close to the kings of England and Norway.

When a false accusation forces him to escape to Iceland and then to North America, Cuin receives further instruction from both an Icelandic prophetess and a Mi'kmaq wise man. Finally able to return home, he uses his talents to help resolve political crises for Duke William of Normandy. But even as Cuin discovers the truth about his origins, the new King of England runs afoul of the Pope, who has Duke William in his power. A fight for supremacy seems imminent, and Cuin’s talents may not be enough to stop it.
Steeped in rich historical detail and meticulously crafted in the tone of the eleventh century,Tapestry looks behind the scenes at the history of the Battle of Hastings—and its elegant cover-up.

Review
by

Tapestry is a novel set in 11th century England in the time of William the Conquerer. Richly researched, its subplot pertains to the making of the Bayeux Tapestry, an embroidered cloth depicting the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England that culminated in the Battle of Hastings. A portion of the tapestry is depicted in the cover. 

Author Christopher Largent brought this period to vivid life through wonderful characterization and intense research.  The tale he weaves had plenty of subplots with some unexpected twists, a sprinkling of humor here and there, and rich battle scenes that seemed all too real. For those passionate about this period in English history, this is not a book to pass up! Highly recommended.

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris


On a cold night in October 1937, searchlights cut through the darkness around Alcatraz. A prison guard's only daughter--one of the youngest civilians who lives on the island--has gone missing. Tending the warden's greenhouse, convicted bank robber Tommy Capello waits anxiously. Only he knows the truth about the little girl's whereabouts, and that both of their lives depend on the search's outcome.

Almost two decades earlier and thousands of miles away, a young boy named Shanley Keagan ekes out a living as an aspiring vaudevillian in Dublin pubs. Talented and shrewd, Shan dreams of shedding his dingy existence and finding his real father in America. The chance finally comes to cross the Atlantic, but when tragedy strikes, Shan must summon all his ingenuity to forge a new life in a volatile and foreign world.

Skillfully weaving these two stories, Kristina McMorris delivers a compelling novel that moves from Ireland to New York to San Francisco Bay. As her finely crafted characters discover the true nature of loyalty, sacrifice, and betrayal, they are forced to confront the lies we tell--and believe--in order to survive.

Review 
by 

The Edge of Lost begins in Ireland with a young Shanley Keagan who earns a living for him and his impoverished, abusive uncle as a comic in pubs. When he learns above the love story between his mother and his "real" father who lives in America, he is determined to escape his Irish homeland to find him. 

While crossing, he meets and befriends a young Italian boy named Nick and his family who help him enter New York under the name of their dead son, Thomas Capello. With his adopted family, Shan finds love and family and he grows to manhood while searching for his father. When Nick becomes involved in organized crime, Thomas comes to his aid, but is accidentally involved in a crime for which he takes the blame to save Nick. 

Thomas finds himself serving time in the notorious prison of Alcatraz where he befriends a young girl, the daughter of a guard, who has a painful secret of her own. 

This emotionally provocative story is one of adversity and hope, enduring love and incredible sacrifice. It brings to life the plight of immigrants as they struggle and sacrifice to achieve a better life. From its nail-biting opening pages, to its ultimately satisfying ending, and all the heart-wrenching scenes in between, this is one luxurious story! With its many subplots and little mysteries, there was much to keep me entertained and flipping pages. The characters drew me in because they were so credible and unpredictable. Plot and characters combine to thrust readers onto a roller coaster like ride of emotion. The details of life for prisoners on Alcatraz was well researched and meticulously written. 

This is one novel worth reading because it is so perfectly written and highly entertaining. Every page is rich with life, betrayal, sorrow, and above all, love! 

Than you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.