#BookReview: Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

DEB69DAB-BB7E-42F4-812D-9A5EA3D09FD7Reviewer: Phyllis Jones Pisanelli

Date of Release: January 14, 2020

Summary:

North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women’s Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn’t expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?

Review:

Count me a lucky girl! I just finished Diane Chamberlain’s “Big Lies in a Small Town”.

The story follows two women in two different time periods. 

The chapters rotate between the two women. I have always had a problem with this type of book because I always feel like I am shifting gears. I understand why the author chose this format and I have to say it didn’t hamper this novel in my opinion. It was brilliant! 

I learned the difference between an artist and an art restorer. They both take a lot of talent, use different skills and different perspectives. 

It was longer in pages than I expected but, I flew through it and did not want it to end. I felt like it ended rather abruptly but, when I thought about it, I decided it was a perfect ending. I had all the information that I needed and indeed it was the perfect ending. 

This is my first book by Diane Chamberlain and it won’t be my last. I like how she built the stories of both women and how I came to care for them both. 

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

5 stars.

 

#BookReview: The Moonshiner’s Daughter by Donna Everhart

8120C117-B598-41F8-A4E5-A8627DA1B92D
Reviewer: Serena Soape

Date of Release: December 31, 2019

Summary:

Set in North Carolina in 1960 and brimming with authenticity and grit, The Moonshiner’s Daughter evokes the singular life of sixteen-year-old Jessie Sasser, a young woman determined to escape her family’s past . . .

Generations of Sassers have made moonshine in the Brushy Mountains of Wilkes County, North Carolina. Their history is recorded in a leather-bound journal that belongs to Jessie Sasser’s daddy, but Jessie wants no part of it. As far as she’s concerned, moonshine caused her mother’s death a dozen years ago.

Her father refuses to speak about her mama, or about the day she died. But Jessie has a gnawing hunger for the truth–one that compels her to seek comfort in food. Yet all her self-destructive behavior seems to do is feed what her school’s gruff but compassionate nurse describes as the “monster” inside Jessie.

Resenting her father’s insistence that moonshining runs in her veins, Jessie makes a plan to destroy the stills, using their neighbors as scapegoats. Instead, her scheme escalates an old rivalry and reveals long-held grudges. As she endeavors to right wrongs old and new, Jessie’s loyalties will bring her to unexpected revelations about her family, her strengths–and a legacy that may provide her with the answers she has been longing for.

 

Review:

“The Moonshiner’s Daughter” grabbed me from the very beginning and did not let go.

The characters were interesting and well written.

There were a few surprises in the story that caught me off guard. The end had me gaping open-mouthed….. literally !!!!!

Historical Fiction is not my typical genre, but I have to say I’m glad I took this book for a whirl!

I definitely recommend this book by Donna Everhart! Hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I did.

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

4 Stars.

#BookReview: Wrapped in the Stars by Elena Mikalsen

E607C3F5-958D-4B63-8FFC-73FCB49961E0
Reviewer: Serena Soape

Date of Release: February 19, 2018

Summary:

Struggling with guilt over her sister’s death and the stress of her medical residency, Maya Radelis runs away to Scotland. A robin seems to lead her to an antique shop, where she finds a century-old engagement ring. But what is the ring’s history? She follows the slim paper trail, wondering if it is only coincidence that her dreams reveal the story of a Swiss woman physician who wore the ring during World War I.

In Paris she meets fellow New Yorker David Fischer, a lawyer with family in Switzerland as well as America. He helps Maya follow the memories stored in the ring as they lead her around Europe. The attraction between David and Maya grows, and when they discover a connection between the ring and David’s family, they learn, bit by bit, more about the ring’s earlier owner. Will Maya’s own life have the same tragedy of lost love?

Review:

Elena Mikalsen took me away to so many different places in “Wrapped in The Stars”. I listened to it on Audible and I feel that made the visits feel like really getaways!

Maya’s story before and after she found the ring was like a vacation through Edinburgh, Paris and other European countries to find the origin of the ring.

I loved the characters and how they were woven into the ring’s story.

romances were yet complex. These love stories were nostalgic and magnificent.

Throughout the book, I found myself trying to figure out the ring’s story myself and when I thought I had it figured out, it was only to find out that I was wrong.

The different chapters going from present to the past was not confusing and kept me wanting to listen.

I was totally enthralled listening to this Audible book read by Ginger Wiseman. The narration was great. I highly recommend this version!

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

5 Stars.

#BookReview: Westering Women by Sandra Dallas

1A58D2C3-4C9C-417E-B9F0-32ECCEFDD447
Reviewer: Phyllis Jones Pisanelli

Date of Release: January 7, 2020

Summary:

From the bestselling author of Prayers for Sale, an inspiring celebration of sisterhood on the perilous wagon-trail west

“If you are an adventuresome young woman of high moral character and fine health, are you willing to travel to California in search of a good husband?”

It’s February 1852, and all around Chicago Maggie sees the postings soliciting “eligible women” to travel to the gold mines of Goosetown. A young seamstress with a small daughter and several painful secrets, she has nothing to lose.

So she joins forty-three other women and two pious reverends on the dangerous 2,000-mile journey west. None of them are prepared for the hardships they face on the trek through the high plains, mountains, and deserts. Or for the triumphs of finding strengths they did not know they possessed. And not all will make it.

As Maggie gets to know the other women, she soon discovers that she’s not the only one looking to leave dark secrets behind. And when her past catches up with her, it becomes clear a band of sisters will do whatever it takes to protect one of their own.

Review:

Looking through her list of books, I realised that I have read a few books by Sandra Dallas. They have all stuck out in my mind as very special books. “Westering Women” is another one of those srories. It is at once heartwarming, heartbreaking, encouraging, hopeful and joyful. 

This novel is based on a true story of women that joined a wagon train moving to California to find husbands who may have struck it rich panning for gold. Some of them were carrying secrets and some were just looking for a good man. Their losses were heartbreaking, their triumphs were joyful. They encouraged one another, became family and carried their hope with them. They were strong, walking 2,000 miles to California and doing the work of men when the hired men stoled their provisions and left them in the lurch. These were strong women! 

I loved this book and recommend it for anyone that likes historical fiction. 

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

5 Stars.

#BookReview: The Clergyman’s Wife: A Pride and Prejudice Novel by Molly Greeley

A4553CE1-039F-4B6A-B81F-8539CEF7235D
Reviewer: Annie Horsky McDonnell

Date of Release: December 3, 2019

Summary:

For everyone who loved Pride and Prejudice—and legions of historical fiction lovers—an inspired debut novel set in Austen’s world.

Charlotte Collins, nee Lucas, is the respectable wife of Hunsford’s vicar, and sees to her duties by rote: keeping house, caring for their adorable daughter, visiting parishioners, and patiently tolerating the lectures of her awkward husband and his condescending patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Intelligent, pragmatic, and anxious to escape the shame of spinsterhood, Charlotte chose this life, an inevitable one so socially acceptable that its quietness threatens to overwhelm her. Then she makes the acquaintance of Mr. Travis, a local farmer and tenant of Lady Catherine..
In Mr. Travis’ company, Charlotte feels appreciated, heard, and seen. For the first time in her life, Charlotte begins to understand emotional intimacy and its effect on the heart—and how breakable that heart can be. With her sensible nature confronted, and her own future about to take a turn, Charlotte must now question the role of love and passion in a woman’s life, and whether they truly matter for a clergyman’s wife.

Review:

“The Clergyman’s Wife” by Molly Greeley really walks in the path alongside Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice”. I felt the same tempo, magic and slow passage of time as when I read Jane Austen. There is nothing better than a book that makes you want to stop time!

I loved Charlotte Lucas, so it was wonderful to revisit with her.

Often these Austen retellings feel forced, and definitely not taken in stride; but that does not happen here. I truly felt taken away….Taken away in the beautiful use of language, and and a truly magnificent storyline.

You’ll need some time to spend frolicking with Charlotte and her family and friends through her days, because you won’t want to put the book down.

I hope that Molly Greeley has more stories in the making that are of this classical fraction, because she sure hits the nail on the head. This is certainly her wheelhouse.

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

5 Stars.

#BookReview: The Moonshiner’s Daughter by Donna Everhart

00689DCC-2CD7-4DE5-91A2-2E4FC181F309
Reviewer: Phyllis Jones Pisanelli

Date of Release: December 31st, 2019

Summary:

Set in North Carolina in 1960 and brimming with authenticity and grit, The Moonshiner’s Daughter evokes the singular life of sixteen-year-old Jessie Sasser, a young woman determined to escape her family’s past . . .

Generations of Sassers have made moonshine in the Brushy Mountains of Wilkes County, North Carolina. Their history is recorded in a leather-bound journal that belongs to Jessie Sasser’s daddy, but Jessie wants no part of it. As far as she’s concerned, moonshine caused her mother’s death a dozen years ago.

Her father refuses to speak about her mama, or about the day she died. But Jessie has a gnawing hunger for the truth–one that compels her to seek comfort in food. Yet all her self-destructive behavior seems to do is feed what her school’s gruff but compassionate nurse describes as the “monster” inside Jessie. Resenting her father’s insistence that moonshining runs in her veins, Jessie makes a plan to destroy the stills, using their neighbors as scapegoats. Instead, her scheme escalates an old rivalry and reveals long-held grudges. As she endeavors to right wrongs old and new, Jessie’s loyalties will bring her to unexpected revelations about her family, her strengths–and a legacy that may provide her with the answers she has been longing for.

Review:

“The Moonshiner’s Daughter” by Donna Everhart was a fabulous novel! When I started this book, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it and then about 10% into it,I couldn’t put it down. It grabbed me and sucked me right into that rollercoaster of a story. Oh my goodness you just have to go along for the ride. 

I wanted to hug Jessie Sasser. She was a girl who thought she knew what she stood for and fought for her convictions with all of her might. I was right there rooting for her through the whole story. I loved the school nurse Mrs. Brewer. It felt like she was the only one that took an interest in Jessie a majority of the time. 

Have you ever put a book down because you thought you knew how it was going to end and you didn’t want to see it end that way? I did with this book. About an hour later, I couldn’t stand it any longer and I had to know how it all wound up. I don’t want to give away the ending but, it was a perfect ending to the story. 

This book was so different than what I expected and I highly recommend it!

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

5 Stars.

#BookReview: The Ivy Creek Sewing Circle: Stories from the heart of Appalachia by Tammy Robinson Smith

402A2DCF-143E-4E4D-A07B-24124183A9B9
Reviewer: Phyllis Jones Pisanelli

Date of Release: September 15, 2019

Summary:

What happens when tragedy strikes? Well, if you are a member of The Ivy Creek Sewing Circle, your friends jump in and help you through it. That’s what happened in Ivy Creek during the summer of 1971 when Emmybeth Johnson’s family faced a heartbreaking event. Nine-year old Emmybeth is narrator to the whole episode as she watches the women of The Ivy Creek Sewing Circle gather round her family to support them during a time of crises. It’s a time when “Girl Power” becomes real in Emmybeth’s life and when she learns lessons that serve her well into adulthood. Come to Ivy Creek and witness what can transpire when women friends form a sisterhood and troubles are shared. It is a story that will in turn warm your heart, feed your soul and sometimes make you laugh out loud as you become part of the Johnson family and The Ivy Creek Sewing Circle. (Previously published as “Emmybeth Speaks.”)

Review:

I finished “The Ivy Creek Sewing Circle” by Tammy Robinson Smith last night before I went to sleep. I was totally entertained by this book which is the first of more to come in a series. This was a wholesome and refreshing novel. 

I loved that this story was told from the voice of a nine-year-old girl whose name is Emmybeth Johnson. She is a quite a character! She thinks things and then apologises to God for those nasty little thoughts. I liked hearing what she thought about her little brother and all that was going on around her and her constant conversation with God. 

This was a particularly rough year for her family and Tammy Robinson Smith showed the importance of our women friends and how they will rally around us in times of trouble. Emmybeth has many fine examples of strong women in her life. 

I am looking forward to reading more of this Appalachia series! 

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

4 Stars.

#BookReview: Stay by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Hyde-Stay-27325-CV-JK-v3.inddReviewer: Phyllis Jones Pisanelli

Date of Release: December 3, 2019

Summary:

An unforgettable novel about the power of friendship and kindness by the New York Times bestselling author of Pay It Forward.

In the summer of 1969, fourteen-year-old Lucas Painter carries a huge weight on his shoulders. His brother is fighting in Vietnam. His embattled parents are locked in a never-ending war. And his best friend, Connor, is struggling with his own family issues. To find relief from the chaos, Lucas takes long, meandering walks, and one day he veers into the woods.

There he discovers an isolated cabin and two huge dogs. Frightened, he runs. And the dogs run with him. Lucas finds unusual peace in running with the dogs, and eventually he meets their owner, Zoe Dinsmore. Closed off and haunted by a tragic past, Zoe has given up. She doesn’t want to be saved. She wants out. But Lucas doesn’t want her to go, and he sees an opportunity to bring more than one friend back into the light. It’s either the best or worst idea he’s ever had, but Lucas isn’t giving up on Zoe or Connor.

Their unexpected connection might be the saving grace that Zoe thought she’d lost, that Connor needs, and that Lucas has been running toward.

Review:

“Stay” by Catherine Ryan Hyde is one spectacular novel! 

If you have not read this book yet, do yourself a favor and add it to the very top of your “To Be Read” pile. I can’t say this is the happiest book or the saddest book I’ve read but, it is the most satisfying and profound book I’ve read in a long time. There are a lot of life lessons to be learned in this story.

The writing was smooth and poignant. I found myself re-reading sentences and passages because they grabbed me and I didn’t want to ever forget them. This book deals with addiction, families and many thoughts of suicide. 

I woke up this morning thinking about this story and why I loved it so much when on the surface it felt so sad. This book carries with it an abundance of HOPE. What do we have in life if we don’t have hope? 

I will never forget this book.

I do not read books more than one time but, I am going to make an exception for “Stay”. This book is definitely worth another read and will be read at least one more time. Thank you Catherine Ryan Hyde for such a beautiful and profound book.

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

5 Stars.

#BookReview: The Fourteenth of September by Rita Dragonette

4E635F81-22E1-4EDE-85FA-B8A7EF5E7402

Reviewer: Annie Horsky McDonnell

Date of Release: September 18, 2018

Summary:

On September 14, 1969, Private First Class Judy Talton celebrates her nineteenth birthday by secretly joining the campus anti-Vietnam War movement. In doing so, she jeopardizes both the army scholarship that will secure her future and her relationship with her military family. But Judy’s doubts have escalated with the travesties of the war. Who is she if she stays in the army? What is she if she leaves?

When the first date pulled in the Draft Lottery turns up as her birthday, she realizes that if she were a man, she’d have been Number One—off to Vietnam with an under-fire life expectancy of six seconds. The stakes become clear, propelling her toward a life-altering choice as fateful as that of any draftee.

The Fourteenth of September portrays a pivotal time at the peak of the Vietnam War through the rare perspective of a young woman, tracing her path of self-discovery and a “Coming of Conscience.” Judy’s story speaks to the poignant clash of young adulthood, early feminism, and war, offering an ageless inquiry into the domestic politics of protest when the world stops making sense.

Review:

I was honored to have been able to read Rita Dragonette’s Novel “ The Fourteenth of September” during the 50 year Anniversary of the actual date that this story was wrapped around.

You see this is the year 1969, and the first Draft Lottery for the Vietnam War is 19 year old Judy Talton’s Birthday, September 14.  The awareness that if she were to have been born a man was so emboldened within her, that she makes choices that are going to be pivotal for her entire future.

Judy is in college on an Army Scholarship, and with this comes a certain level of responsibility. So does being the daughter of a Mother that served in World War II. Choosing her own path at this time in history was obviously not an easy one. Rita Dragonette wrote an absolutely stunning, beautiful, powerful and heartfelt story; one that finally is being heard!

It will leave your heart bleeding as lottery numbers are called. You will cry out for Veterans. You will truly empathize so often, because you will feel as if you are truly part of each scene. You see, let me try to explain! There will be no separation between you and Rita Dragonette’s Story….because you won’t feel like you are reading it as an outsider looking in; she takes you inside each moment in time. It is more than saying “I felt like I was there”…it’s deeper!! It’s almost Visceral!!

I cannot applaud this novel enough, because I could discuss it forever…

And, I will recommend it for the next 50 years!

I received this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

Side Note:

One of my Favorite Covers!

I have such a better understanding of what my Uncle, and husbands Uncle went through. A better understanding of their families..and their traumas.

It is a book that will make you think..What choices would you have made?

Perfect Book Club Book! High School Requirement!

Thank you Rita, for opening my eyes!

#BookReview: How Fires End by Marco Rafalà

63C7F2C6-E6EE-4D11-8A6E-5B754AFE2418
Reviewer: Annie Horsky McDonnell

Release Date: October 15, 2019

Summary:

A dark secret born out of World War II lies at the heart of a Sicilian American family in this emotional and sweeping saga of guilt, revenge, and, ultimately, redemption.

After soldiers vacate the Sicilian hillside town of Melilli in the summer of 1943, the locals celebrate, giving thanks to their patron saint, Sebastian. Amid the revelry, all it takes is one fateful moment for the destiny of nine-year-old Salvatore Vassallo to change forever. When his twin brothers are killed playing with an unexploded mortar shell, Salvatore’s faith is destroyed. As the family unravels, and fear ignites among their neighbors that the Vassallo name is cursed, one tragedy begets another.

Desperate to escape this haunting legacy, Salvatore accepts the help of an Italian soldier with fascist ties who ushers him and his sister, Nella, into a new beginning in America. In Middletown, Connecticut, in the immigrant neighborhood known as Little Melilli, these three struggle to build new lives for themselves. But a dangerous choice to keep their secrets hidden erupts in violence decades later. When Salvatore loses his inquisitive American-born son, David, they all learn too late the price sons pay for their fathers’ wars.

Written with elegiac prose, How Fires End delves into the secret wars of men; the sins they cannot bury; and a life lived in fear of who will reveal them, who will survive them, and who will forgive them.

Review:

Marco Rafalà’s “How Fires End” is a Triumph! It is a powerful ache that you read until you find relief.

Rafalà puts his emotion on the pages; poignant moments shared between the characters and across seas and continents. He literally leaves your heart to cry or pound! All wrapped up in the hope I trust he wants us to believe in.

“How Fires End” is more than a story, it is an absolute truth being shared after generations of secrets.

Do not miss this debut novel, for I am sure this is the first of many evocative, strong, and must read novels by Rafalà.

 5 Stars.