Friday, September 22, 2017

Review: "The Trust" by Ronald Balson

Synopsis: When Liam reluctantly returns to Northern Ireland he learns that not only was his uncle shot to death, but he’d anticipated his own murder. In an astonishing last will and testament, Uncle Fergus has left his entire estate to a secret trust, directing that no distributions be made to any person until the killer is found. Did Fergus know, but refuse to name his killer? Was this a crime of revenge, a vendetta left over from Northern Ireland’s bloody sectarian war? Or is it possible that the killer is a family member seeking Fergus’s estate? Otherwise, why postpone distribution to the heirs? Most menacingly, does the killer now have his sights on other family members?

As his investigation draws Liam further and further into the past he had abandoned, he is forced to reopen doors long ago shut. Now accepting the appointment as sole trustee of the Fergus Taggart Trust, Liam realizes he has stepped into the center of a firestorm.

My Thoughts:  I LOVE Ronald Balson's and The Trust is no different.  This is the first book I've read by him that wasn't set during the Holocaust so I didn't know what to expect.  That being said, I shouldn't have worried because this book was quite the page turner!

First off, Liam and Catherine are back!  I really love these characters and was excited to follow them on a new adventure.  This book focuses primarily on Liam and allows us to get to know his family and his past a lot more.  I enjoyed getting to see where he grew up in Ireland and learning more about who he was as a character and what his motivations are.

My favorite part of this book was the family relationships.  Liam had a difficult relationship with some of his family and a great relationship with others and I enjoyed reading about how he navigated his very large family.  There were so many neat characters within the family and they really made the story.

I really know very little about the conflicts in Northern Ireland so this story was quite the eye-opener.  I think the author did a great job of weaving the complexity of the conflict and the civilian cost into the story. I definitely want to read more about it and was intrigued by the depth of hatred felt between the groups. 

I did figure out part of what was going on before it was officially revealed but the overall story was so good that I didn't really care.  There was one final twist at the end that I did not see coming and it completely rounded out the whole story.  

In the end, I loved this book; I couldn't put it down!  Mr. Balson is a wonderful story-teller and in this book, he created a really enthralling mystery.  I would recommend this book to anyone; you don't have to have read his other books to read this one (though they're so good, I would recommend them too!).  4 stars.

About the Author:

RONALD H. BALSON is a Chicago trial attorney, an educator and writer. His practice has taken him to several international venues. He is also the author of Karolina’s Twins, Saving Sophie and the international bestseller Once We Were Brothers.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

What I've Been Up To

 Hey!  It's been a ridiculous summer and I haven't been around much.  Since I've been kind of MIA lately, I thought I should update y'all on where I've been.

We celebrated Julia's birthday at the end of June.  She was so excited to turn 4! We celebrated with family and then had a small party with her friends.  This year I made her a Moana cake and am pretty happy with how it turned out.

Right after Julia's birthday party, we had to drive down to Arkansas to see my family.  My step-dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December and had been going through chemo and had multiple surgeries and procedures.  They told us on June 29 that the cancer was everywhere and that he did have much longer to live.  He passed on July 5 but I'm so glad that we got to see him, talk to him and say good-bye.  It was so fast and difficult to process for a bit. We had a lovely memorial to him a week later and while I miss him a lot, I'm really glad he's not in pain anymore.

In the midst of all that, my husband and I bought a house!  We closed on July 10 and moved a few weeks later.  The move was crazy and we moved the majority of our stuff on the hottest day of the summer which was quite the adventure.  It's not super fun to move when it's 106 degrees!  But we got it done and starting to feel somewhat settled.  We still have stuff to go through in our garage and a lot of yard work to do before winter but we're getting there.  I love the house and Julia is so excited to have a big girl bed in her room.  Even though it was a challenging move, it was so worth and I'm very happy here.

August is one of the busiest times at my job.  I felt like I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off for the whole month.  All that to say, reading and especially blogging has gone to the wayside.  I did read 18 books this summer but that didn't make a huge dent in my goal.  Goodreads keeps reminding me how behind I am on my reading goal, I think it's around 12 books now.  I'm hoping to still hit 100 but we'll see.  I want to get all caught up on my review books and then read holiday romance books for the rest of the year.  That sounds like heaven!

All the whining in this post is to say that things are finally getting back on track and I should be back here more often.  I have a lot of reviews to write so there should be some posts coming soon.  I'm slowly getting back in the swing of blogging and excited to be back!

I hope you all are having a great week!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Review and Giveaway: "Woman Enters Left" by Jessica Brockmole

Synopsis: A woman sets out on a cross-country road trip, unknowingly tracing in reverse the path her mother traveled thirty years before.

In the 1950s, movie star Louise Wilde is caught between an unfulfilling acting career and a shaky marriage when she receives an out-of-the-blue phone call: She has inherited the estate of Florence “Florrie” Daniels, a Hollywood screenwriter she barely recalls meeting. Among Florrie’s possessions are several unproduced screenplays, personal journals, and—inexplicably—old photographs of Louise’s mother, Ethel. On an impulse, Louise leaves a film shoot in Las Vegas and sets off for her father’s house on the East Coast, hoping for answers about the curious inheritance and, perhaps, about her own troubled marriage.

Nearly thirty years earlier, Florrie takes off on an adventure of her own, driving her Model T westward from New Jersey in pursuit of broader horizons. She has the promise of a Hollywood job and, in the passenger seat, Ethel, her best friend since childhood. Florrie will do anything for Ethel, who is desperate to reach Nevada in time to reconcile with her husband and reunite with her daughter. Ethel fears the loss of her marriage; Florrie, with long-held secrets confided only in her journal, fears its survival.

In parallel tales, the three women—Louise, Florrie, Ethel—discover that not all journeys follow a map. As they rediscover their carefree selves on the road, they learn that sometimes the paths we follow are shaped more by our traveling companions than by our destinations.

My Thoughts:   I absolutely loved the setting of this book!  I loved reading about 1950s Hollywood and all the stops that Louise made on Route 66.  The author did an amazing job of painting an amazing picture of life during that time: the clothes, the home decorations, the different places and people that Louise encountered.  The 'visuals' she created were my favorite part of the story.

I also really enjoyed the diary parts of the story.  I liked how Ethel tracked what she and Florrie ate and the cost of each ingredient; it was really interesting to see what was 'expensive' in 1926.  I also liked that the diary let you see the events unfolding through both Ethel and Florrie's eyes; it was interesting to see how each one interpreted the same events.  My only complaint about the diary is that at times it took a little bit to figure out whose voice we were hearing.  It was always clear as it jumped back and forth between Ethel and Florrie.

Louise was my favorite character, she just seemed so ahead of her time.  She wasn't portrayed as the typical 1950s woman, she had a complicated life and didn't fit in to the nice little wife stereotype.  I also found her very sympathetic as she dealt with her marriage, the loss of her mother and her dreams of being taken serious as an actress. 

The story did have a lot going on and at times, it seemed very busy. There were a lot of big issues touched on throughout the story and it seemed a little unrealistic that these few people would be dealing with all of that at the same time. 

Overall, I did enjoy the story and I thought the ending was really sweet.  3 stars

I received this book from HFVBT in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

Jessica Brockmole is the author of At the Edge of Summer, the internationally bestselling Letters from Skye, which was named one of the best books of 2013 by Publishers Weekly, and Something Worth Landing For, a novella featured in Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War. She lives in northern Indiana with her husband, two children, and far too many books.

For more information, please visit Jessica Brockmole’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 2 signed copies of Woman Enters Left! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form HERE.

Giveaway Rules
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on October 6th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Mailbox Monday (77)

 Hey y'all!  This is my first Mailbox Monday in a while!

It's been quite the summer so I haven't been around much but I thought I would share the books I got last week.  It's been a really relaxing weekend and I'm starting to feel like I might be able to get caught up on my reading.  I have more books than I know what do with right now!

For Review:

 A Crime in the Family by Sacha Batthyany
 I have been wanting to read this for a while so I was very excited to see it on NetGalley.

Empress of the East by Leslie Peirce 
This one was a surprise but I'm looking forward to reading it.  The premise sounds fascinating.

I hope you all have a great week!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Book Spotlight and Giveaway: "Sarah's Secret" by Beverly Scott

Sarah's Secret: A Western Tale of Betrayal and Forgiveness by Beverly Scott

Publication Date: January 31, 2017

eBook & Paperback; 306 Pages

Word Project Press

Genre: Fiction/Historical/Western

Follow the paths of Sarah and Will (or Sam) as they tell their stories of trust, secrets, and betrayal on the frontier in the old West. Their pioneer spirit helped to fuel the expansion into the Western territories of the United States. The two are historically on their separate journeys, yet they remain intimately connected. Through the fictionalized Western frontier tale of Sam and Sarah, the author, Beverly Scott, was inspired to reveal rumored secrets from her family history.

In 1878, Will is on the run after killing a man in a barroom gunfight. He escapes the Texas Rangers by joining a cattle drive as a cook headed to Dodge City. He struggles with the dilemma of saving his life or attempting to return to his pregnant wife and five children. Just when he thinks he might be able to return home, he is confronted by a bounty hunter who captures him and plans to return him to Fort Worth, Texas to be hanged.

Although Will changes his name to Sam, he remains an irresponsible, lonely and untrustworthy man on the dodge from the law who abandons the women he loves. He ultimately seeks redemption and marries Sarah.

In 1911, Sarah, a pioneer woman and widow with five children struggles to find the inner strength to overcome betrayal, loneliness, fears, and self-doubt. Her husband, Sam, thirty years her senior, died with a mysterious and defiant declaration, “I won’t answer!”. Despite poverty and a crippling illness, she draws on her pioneer spirit to hold her family together and return to Nebraska to be near her parents and siblings.

When Sarah returns to Nebraska she receives staggering news which complicates her efforts to support her children. She is shocked, angry and emotionally devastated. Since she is attempting to establish herself in the community as a teacher, she believes she must keep her secret even from her own family. Will Sarah find forgiveness in her heart and the resolve to accept her new life alone?

Praise for Sarah's Secret

“In the flash of one moment, the trajectory of a man’s life and of those who loved and depended on him changes forever. The developing plot draws the reader in as we wait to see how this one action reaches into and impacts the lives of future generations. Set against the backdrop of a post-Civil War nation, when thousands headed west to escape their past, disappear into the horizon, and remake themselves, this biography is a rich study of pioneer ethos and the risks faced every day. The women touched by this man, who kept his secrets close, are heroines of courage, steadfastness and goodness. Beverly Scott is an author who has a way of painting word pictures that make you feel like you are a part of the story as it unfolds towards the discovery of his devastating secrets.” -Patricia and Craig Neal, co-founders, Heartland Inc.

“Using the plain spoken language of the women and men who scratched out life on the hard scrabble plains in the early days of this young country Bev Scott crafts a sharp picture of the violence and the love that shaped the middle of this nation. Every river crossing, each spring planting reveals the conflicts inside the characters and their struggle to survive in contested territories.” -Jewell Gomez, Author, The Gilda Stories

Amazon | IndieBound

About the Author

Bev specialized in serving executives and managers as a leadership coach and organizational consultant for over thirty-five years. She taught organization psychology and founded The 3rd Act, a program whose mission supports positive aging. As she grew into her own third act, she started a genealogical journey to uncover the details of her grandparents’ lives. She concluded that the story needed to be told as fiction using the known facts as her framework.

“Sarah’s Secret: A Western Tale of Betrayal and Forgiveness,” Bev’s debut novel, is the culmination of her long-held desire tell the family story and confirm the whispered story about her grandfather.

Bev previously focused on publishing non-fiction work, including the second edition of “Consulting on the Inside,” which she co-authored with Kim Barnes, published in 2011. She has written numerous professional articles and contributed to “70 Things to Do When You Turn 70,” edited by Ronnie Sellers and Mark Chimsky. Bev blogs on several sites, including her own, “The Writing Life” on

Bev enjoys traveling, visiting with friends, reading and spending time with her grandsons. She lives with her spouse in San Francisco.

You can connect with Bev on Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 14
Kick Off at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, August 15
Guest Post at History From a Woman's Perspective
Excerpt at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Wednesday, August 16
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Thursday, August 17
Review at WS Momma Readers Nook

Friday, August 18
Excerpt at What Is That Book About
Interview at Dianne Ascroft's Blog

Monday, August 21
Feature at So Many Books, So Little Time

Tuesday, August 22
Review at A Holland Reads

Thursday, August 24
Review & Interview at T's Stuff
Review & Interview at Books and Benches

Monday, August 28
Feature at A Literary Vacation

Tuesday, August 29
Review at Book Nerd
Feature at Mello & June, It's a Book Thang!

Wednesday, August 30
Review at Linda's Book Obsession

Friday, September 1
Review at Creating Herstory

Monday, September 4
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a paperback copy of Sarah's Secret! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on September 4th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Sarah's Secret by Beverly Scott

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Review and Giveaway: "Casanova's Secret Wife"

Synopsis: Set in eighteenth-century Venice and based on an actual account by Giacomo Casanova—here is a lush tale of desire and risk.

Caterina Capreta was an innocent girl of fourteen when she caught the attention of the world’s most infamous chronicler of seduction: Giacomo Casanova. Intoxicated by a fierce love, she wed Casanova in secret. But his shocking betrayal inspired her to commit an act that would mark her forever …

Now twenty years later on the island of Murano, the woman in possession of Caterina’s most devastating secret has appeared with a request she cannot refuse: to take in a noble-born girl whose scandalous love affair resembles her own. But the girl’s presence stirs up unwelcome memories of Caterina’s turbulent past. Tested like never before, she reveals the story of the man she will never forget.

Bringing to life a fascinating chapter in the history of Venice, Casanova’s Secret Wife is a tour de force that charts one woman’s journey through love and loss to redemption.

My Thoughts: I haven't read too many books set in Italy but after reading Casanova's Secret Wife, I may have to change that.  I loved the descriptions of Venice; the city, the homes, clothes, everything.  Ms. Lynn-Davis' writing was marvelous and she painted a lovely picture of life in Venice during that time period.

While the love affair between Casanova and Caterina was interesting to read about, I was more enamored by the relationship that Caterina built with Leda.  I really enjoyed watching Caterina and Leda pull each other out of their shells and becoming almost like family.  In the beginning of the story, I was worried that Leda was going to cause trouble but she almost became like a daughter to Caterina.  There was just something about their relationship that really struck me.

Marina was a really good, and unexpected, villain.  Villain might be too strong of a word but man, I didn't like her.  She was so manipulative and self-centered despite the fact that she tried to spin her actions as being out of love.  She was very well-written and even though I didn't like her, she was a really strong character.

Casanova's Secret Wife was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I'm so glad I picked this one up! 3 1/2 stars.

About the Author:

Barbara Lynn-Davis graduated from Brown University with a degree in art history. She then worked at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice and later spent a year there while completing her Ph.D. in Renaissance art at Princeton University.

She currently teaches art history and writing at Wellesley College, and lives outside Boston with her family.

For more information please visit Barbara Lynn-Davis’ website. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Goodreads.

Enter to win a paperback copy of Casanova's Secret Wife here !  

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US & Canada only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Review and Giveaway: "Lilli de Jong" by Janet Benton

Synopsis: A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can’t accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.

Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family’s home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers. “So little is permissible for a woman,” writes Lilli, “yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”

My Thoughts:  I've been in a terrible reading rut lately so I was looking forward to picking this book up. I've read a lot of good things about it over the past couple of months and I must say, this book definitely lives up to the hype.  The writing is quite lovely and the story is so very good.

I've never read a story quite like this one.  It is told from the point of view of Lilli who keeps a diary recording her life in a Quaker group and her time in a home for unwed mothers.  She has such a passion for writing and it adds a lot to the story to hear it told in the main character's own words. 

Lilli's story really showcased the struggles unwed mothers faced at the end of the 19th century.    Everything about Lilli's life was precarious, she had to balance finding ways to make sure her daughter was safe while also trying to keep up with her job responsibilities.  I loved her strength and devotion to her daughter.  And really, it seemed like Lilli was one of the lucky ones; other women she knew ended up in some bad situations and their babies didn't stand a chance.  It also told of the limits placed on women and the expectations people had of them based on their situation.  At every turn, the reader was shown how limited a woman's options were. 

Lilli de Jong is an excellent book and I would really recommend it to anyone.  It's definitely a page turner, I couldn't believe how fast I zoomed through it!  4 stars.

About the Author:
 Janet Benton’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Glimmer Train, and many other publications. She has co-written and edited historical documentaries for television. She holds a B.A. in religious studies from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and for decades she has taught writing and helped individuals and organizations craft their stories. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Lilli de Jong is her first novel.

Visit Janet Benton’s website for more information and updates. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away TWO Notebooks featuring quotes from Lilli de Jong! Notebooks are spiral-bound (4×6 inches) with 50 blank pages. To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Enter the giveaway here!

Imagination Designs