annie mcdonnell, Annie’s Favorites, book review, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Friendship Fiction, Graydon House

#BookReview: The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman ~ 5⭐️

Date of Release: April 28th, 2020

Summary:

Iris Maynard lost her husband in World War II, her daughter to illness and, finally, her reason to live. Walled off from the world for decades behind the towering fence surrounding her home, Iris has built a new family…of flowers. Iris propagates her own daylilies and roses while tending to a garden filled with the heirloom starts that keep the memories of her loved ones alive.

When Abby Peterson moves next door with her family–a husband traumatized by his service in the Iraq War and a young daughter searching for stability–Iris is reluctantly yet inevitably drawn into her boisterous neighbor’s life, where, united by loss and a love of flowers, she and Abby tentatively unearth their secrets, and help each other discover how much life they have yet to live.

With delightful illustrations and fascinating detail, Viola Shipman’s heartwarming story will charm readers while resonating with issues that are so relevant today.

Review:

Once again, Viola Shipman wraps us up in a beautiful story about the capacity of the human heart and the power in its bonds.
“The Heirloom Garden” brings together two women suffering a loss of one kind from two different wars, decades apart. The very fabric of this friendship is described by way of gorgeous flowers found in a most beautiful garden. I can still envision it clearly!
You will think of spring and all it’s powers in renewal!
You will think of your friends and reflect on their place in your life. Viola Shipman always opens your heart with each story. He always teaches a lesson. Stories that make you consider your life are amazing! I want to be a better person because of this story.
I fell madly in love with Iris! And I loved her relationship with her neighbor, Abby.
I’ve always loved Viola Shipman’s novels, but this is by far my favorite now!
Now! If only I had a green thumb!
I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and hones review.

5 Stars.

annie mcdonnell, Annie’s Favorites, book review, Fiction, Psychological Thriller, suspense

#BookReview: Her Daughter’s Motherby Daniela Petrova ~ 5⭐️

Date of Release: June 18, 2019

Summary:

She befriended the one woman she was never supposed to meet. Now she’s the key suspect in her disappearance. For fans of The Perfect Mother and The Wife Between Us comes a gripping psychological suspense debut about two strangers, one incredible connection, and the steep price of obsession.

Lana Stone has never considered herself a stalker–until the night she impulsively follows a familiar face through the streets of New York’s Upper West Side. Her target? The “anonymous” egg donor she’d selected through an agency, the one who’s making motherhood possible for her. Hungry to learn more about her, Lana plans only to watch her from a distance. But when circumstances bring them face-to-face, an unexpected friendship is born.

Katya, a student at Columbia, is the yin to Lana’s yang, an impulsive free spirit who lives life at the edge. And for pragmatic Lana, she’s a breath of fresh air and a welcome distraction from her painful breakup with her baby’s father. Then, just as suddenly as Katya entered Lana’s life, she disappears–and Lana might have been the last person to see her before she went missing. Determined to find out what became of the woman to whom she owes so much, Lana digs into Katya’s past, even as the police grow suspicious of her motives. But she’s unprepared for the secrets she unearths, and their power to change everything she thought she knew about those she loves best…

Review:

Super Genius Thriller!!
We all know that being an egg donor or recipient takes a lot of courage, but we didn’t know that it might also require stalking skills!
What a truly riveting and exciting tale Daniela Petrova has pulled together! “Her Daughter’s Mother” is not only unique, it’s fabulous!
You won’t want to put this down once you start, so be prepared! Be careful, you won’t see it coming!
I received this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

annie mcdonnell, Annie’s Favorites, British & Irish Literature, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Sparkpress

#BookReview: The House Children by Heidi Daniele ~ 5⭐️

Date of Release: April 9, 2019

Summary:

In 1937, Mary Margaret Joyce is born in the Tuam Home for unwed mothers. After spending her early years in an uncaring foster home, she is sentenced by a judge to an industrial school, where she is given the name Peg, and assigned the number 27. Amid one hundred other unwanted girls, Peg quickly learns the rigid routine of prayer, work, and silence under the watchful eye of Sister Constance. Her only respite is an annual summer holiday with a kind family in Galway.

At the tender age of thirteen, Peg accidentally learns the identity of her birthmother. Peg struggles with feelings of anger and abandonment, while her mother grapples with the shame of having borne a child out of wedlock. The tension between them mounts as Peg, now becoming a young adult, begins to make plans for her future beyond Ireland.

Based on actual events, The House Children is a compelling story of familial love, shameful secrets, and life inside Ireland’s infamous industrial schools.

Review:

Oh! Wow! “The House Children” is based on true stories shared with Heidi Daniele by 5 women raised in St. Joseph’s Industrial School in Ballinasloe, Galway, Ireland, 1940s and 50s. This story holds so much grief and regret, you actually feel the pangs of this absolute disappointment in what happened to the children at this time.
This deeply researched novel is not only absolutely fascinating, you sense Heidi’s sheer and utter passion towards the telling of this story. Reading this you sense this was Heidi’s life’s calling!
This alone makes the book worth the read! Add in all of her writing talents and you have a winning novel!

Be prepared to want to learn more about this story once you’ve finished!

This is a story that needed to be told! Thank you, Heidi Daniele!
I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

annie mcdonnell, Annie’s Favorites, Ballantine Books, book review, Fiction, Friendship Fiction, Historical Fiction, the write review

#BookReview: Lilac Girls(Lilac Girls #1)by Martha Hall Kelly ~ 5⭐️

Date of Release: April 5, 2016

Summary:

Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and secrets that were hidden for decades.

New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France.

An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.

For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.

The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.

Review:

This is historical fiction at its best! I was totally enamored with everything, I had to know more, to see which parts were true. I love flying down that research hole!
Martha Hall Kelly’s pen was meant to write this story! She was so invested, you could feel her love for her characters. I had the sense that special care went into each detail.
This is a Series to get lost in.

5 Stars.

annie mcdonnell, Annie’s Favorites, book review, Fiction, Flatiron Books, Historical Fiction

#BookReview: The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner ~ 5⭐️

Date of Release: March 3, 2020

Summary:

In Poland, as World War II rages, a mother hides with her young daughter, a musical prodigy whose slightest sound may cost them their lives.

As Nazi soldiers round up the Jews in their town, Róza and her 5-year-old daughter, Shira, flee, seeking shelter in a neighbor’s barn. Hidden in the hayloft day and night, Shira struggles to stay still and quiet, as music pulses through her and the farmyard outside beckons. To soothe her daughter and pass the time, Róza tells her a story about a girl in an enchanted garden:

The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings. He sings whatever the girl composes in her head: high-pitched trills of piccolo; low-throated growls of contrabassoon. Music helps the flowers bloom.

In this make-believe world, Róza can shield Shira from the horrors that surround them. But the day comes when their haven is no longer safe, and Róza must make an impossible choice: whether to keep Shira by her side or give her the chance to survive apart.

Inspired by the true stories of Jewish children hidden during World War II, Jennifer Rosner’s debut is a breathtaking novel about the unbreakable bond between a mother and a daughter. Beautiful and riveting, The Yellow Bird Sings is a testament to the triumph of hope―a whispered story, a bird’s song―in even the darkest of times.

Review:

Jennifer Rosner taught me something new about WWII in her novel “The Yellow Bird Sings”! Everyone knows that when I learn new things, I’m standing at attention while reading. But, this book makes you want to snuggle up in a warm blanket…look around your room and appreciate all the luxuries that you have.
Jennifer writes with such exquisite prose and tone, only making the story lift from the pages. I couldn’t imagine all Roza & Shira had to do to remain safe in 1941, Poland, but Jennifer Rosner expresses their life with dignity while still being honest. The birds singing are noe extra sweet!
Jennife Rosner is an author to watch! Whatever she writes will be superb!
I received a copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

annie mcdonnell, Annie’s Favorites, book review, Fiction, Literary Fiction, William Morrow, womans fiction

#BookReview: You and Me and Us by Alison Hammer ~ 5⭐️

Date of Release: April 7, 2020

Summary:

The heartbreaking, yet hopeful, story of a mother and daughter struggling to be a family without the one person who holds them together—a perfect summer read for fans of JoJo Moyes and Marisa de los Santos.

Alexis Gold knows how to put the “work” in working mom. It’s the “mom” part that she’s been struggling with lately. Since opening her own advertising agency three years ago, Alexis has all but given up on finding a good work/life balance. Instead, she’s handed over the household reins to her supportive, loving partner, Tommy. While he’s quick to say they divide and conquer, Alexis knows that Tommy does most of the heavy lifting—especially when it comes to their teenage daughter, CeCe. 

Their world changes in an instant when Tommy receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, and Alexis realizes everything she’s worked relentlessly for doesn’t matter without him. So Alexis does what Tommy has done for her almost every day since they were twelve-year-old kids in Destin, Florida—she puts him first. And when the only thing Tommy wants is to spend one last summer together at “their” beach, she puts her career on hold to make it happen…even if it means putting her family within striking distance of Tommy’s ex, an actress CeCe idolizes.

But Alexis and Tommy aren’t the only ones whose lives have been turned inside out. In addition to dealing with the normal ups and downs that come with being a teenager, CeCe is also forced to confront her feelings about Tommy’s illness—and what will happen when the one person who’s always been there for her is gone. When the magic of first love brings a bright spot to her summer, CeCe is determined not to let her mother ruin that for her, too.

As CeCe’s behavior becomes more rebellious, Alexis realizes the only thing harder for her than losing Tommy will be convincing CeCe to give her one more chance.  

You and Me and Us is a beautifully written novel that examines the unexpected ways loss teaches us how to love.

Review:

Tissues! Intensely powerful story about losing your “anchor”! Both Individually and for the family. Alison Hammer draws a beautiful scenario of loss within a family and how it effects them, and how they work through it. This is a lesson on grief! This is a love letter to those left behind, those feeling less whole when they lose someone.

“You and Me and Us” will bring you to tears. It will make you examine parts of your life. It will help you see the beauty left in still learning to really live!

I received a copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

annie mcdonnell, Annie’s Favorites, book review, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Kensington Publishing Corporation, the write review

#BookReview: The Undertaker’s Assistant: A Captivating Post-Civil War Era Novel of Southern Historical Fiction by Amanda Skenandore ~ 5⭐️

Date of Release: July 30, 2019

Summary:

“The dead can’t hurt you. Only the living can.” Effie Jones, a former slave who escaped to the Union side as a child, knows the truth of her words. Taken in by an army surgeon and his wife during the War, she learned to read and write, to tolerate the sight of blood and broken bodies–and to forget what is too painful to bear. Now a young freedwoman, she has returned south to New Orleans and earns her living as an embalmer, her steady hand and skillful incisions compensating for her white employer’s shortcomings.

Tall and serious, Effie keeps her distance from the other girls in her boarding house, holding tight to the satisfaction she finds in her work. But despite her reticence, two encounters–with a charismatic state legislator named Samson Greene, and a beautiful young Creole, Adeline–introduce her to new worlds of protests and activism, of soirees and social ambition. Effie decides to seek out the past she has blocked from her memory and try to trace her kin. As her hopes are tested by betrayal, and New Orleans grapples with violence and growing racial turmoil, Effie faces loss and heartache, but also a chance to finally find her place . . .

Review:

Amanda Skenandore reminded me of The Reconstruction Era, an era in our history I had forgotten about. This story is one of my favorite’s this year. It is rich in actual-history, which had me looking everything up to teach myself more about this era.
Effie Jones is a character I would love to sit and talk with. She is a strong, powerful survivor!
Reading a book that makes me smarter is always an ace in the hole!!
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

Algonquin Books, annie mcdonnell, Annie’s Favorites, book review, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

#BookReview: The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai ~ 5⭐️

Date of Release: March 17, 2020

Summary:

With the epic sweep of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and the lyrical beauty of Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the BanyanThe Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Tran family, set against the backdrop of the Viet Nam War. Tran Dieu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Noi, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Ho Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that will tear not just her beloved country but her family apart.

Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Viet Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope. This is celebrated Vietnamese poet Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s first novel in English.

Review:

“The Mountains Sing” is a glorious novel which sweeps across land, generations and hearts. This is a novel you must open and absorb and get to know. Intimately!

Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai is someone you must get to know because you can feel the pulse of her novel being of generous mind and spirit, even though it is about her families experience with the Vietnam War!! To be a witness was a privilege!

Both Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai & “The Mountains Sing” will leave you feeling inspired!

Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai writes this story as if she is making a call to your soul to bring peace to the world! She wants us to read between the lines, and see and feel even more than her words! It is her writing that grabs you and won’t let go!

She pours this very essence onto her pages! You walk this journey with her. You weep, you bleed, you ache, yet….you still look up at the sun!

Quế Mai’s call to peace is heard as we flip the pages!! I trust that as her novel made its way around the globe, hearts are being moved like mountains and they are singing!!

“The Mountains Sing” has a clear message.

I believe this book is a gift to those who read it! To know more about Quế Mai is an honor! She is an entrancing author!

“The Mountains Sing” needs to be read by everyone!

It is a rare gem that I will never forget.

5 Stars.

annie mcdonnell, Annie’s Favorites, Fiction, Mystery, Romantic Suspense, suspense, Thriller

#BookReview: A Child Lost(Henrietta and Inspector Howard #5 by Michelle Cox ~ 5⭐️

Date Of Release: April 28th, 2020

Summary:

A spiritualist, an insane asylum, a lost little girl . . .

When Clive, anxious to distract a depressed Henrietta, begs Sergeant Frank Davis for a case, he is assigned to investigating a seemingly boring affair: a spiritualist woman operating in an abandoned schoolhouse on the edge of town who is suspected of robbing people of their valuables. What begins as an open and shut case becomes more complicated, however, when Henrietta―much to Clive’s dismay―begins to believe the spiritualist’s strange ramblings.

Meanwhile, Elsie begs Clive and Henrietta to help her and the object of her budding love, Gunther, locate the whereabouts of one Liesel Klinkhammer, the German woman Gunther has traveled to America to find and the mother of the little girl, Anna, whom he has brought along with him. The search leads them to Dunning Asylum, where they discover some terrible truths about Liesel. When the child, Anna, is herself mistakenly admitted to the asylum after an epileptic fit, Clive and Henrietta return to Dunning to retrieve her. This time, however, Henrietta begins to suspect that something darker may be happening. When Clive doesn’t believe her, she decides to take matters into her own hands . . . with horrifying results.

Review:

Michelle Cox saved the best story for last! At least for now! “A Lost Child” is a true stunner! It has everything, and I fell right into this rabbit hole! It was too exciting! Of course, it tugged at my heart strings because of the lost child! But, what a story! Michelle sure can deliver a well-researched, heartfelt, mysterious story that you don’t want to put down. She is on the pulse of what readers want!
I give Michelle Cox’s writing the highest praise!

I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

annie mcdonnell, Annie’s Favorites, book review, Fiction, Mystery, Romantic Suspense, suspense

#BookReview: A Veil Removed(Henrietta and Inspector Howard #4)by Michelle Cox ~ 5⭐️

Date of Release: April 30th, 2019

Summary:

Murder is never far from this sexy couple . . . even during the holidays! 

Their honeymoon abruptly ended by the untimely death of Alcott Howard, Clive and Henrietta return to Highbury, where Clive discovers all is not as it should be. Increasingly convinced that his father’s death was not an accident, Clive launches his own investigation, despite his mother’s belief that he has become “mentally disturbed” with grief. Henrietta eventually joins forces with Clive on their first real case, which becomes darker—and deadlier—than they imagined as they get closer to the truth behind Alcott’s troubled affairs. 

Meanwhile, Henrietta’s sister, Elsie, begins, at Henrietta’s orchestration, to take classes at a women’s college—an attempt to evade her troubles and prevent any further romantic temptations. When she meets a bookish German custodian at the school, however, he challenges her to think for herself . . . even as she discovers some shocking secrets about his past life.

Review:

Without a doubt Michelle Cox is a master-craft writer and researcher! When delving into “A Veil Removed” I never expected to learn so much about Chicago in the 1930’s. I felt like I was there alongside Henrietta & Clive! It was breathtaking to be swept away and deeper into the book as I flipped pages. Between the murder mystery, love and romance and high adventure, I was extremely satisfied while reading this novel! Nothing like reading a book that covers everything!

I received a copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 Stars.