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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

#BookReview: The Briar and the Rose by Laura Mills-Alcott

Reviewer: Phyllis Jones Pisanelli

679D196A-CD2A-4C06-95BB-EE2961A9C17ESummary:

THE BRIAR AND THE ROSE is Regency Era Historical Romance set in Ireland and London.

THE BRIAR…
One moment Raven is alone in the world and working as a maid in the gardens of a grand estate in Ireland; the next she finds herself handed the life of a lady by the dark and handsome Marquess of Castlereagh. Devan insists his intentions are honorable, and that he only wishes to help reunite her with her family. But Raven finds herself in a constant struggle to deny the smoldering attraction between them, and in her secret heart, wishes he wanted more.
THE ROSE…
Devan, Marquess of Castlereagh, is tormented by his past and determined to live out his days in quiet solitude at his Ireland estate. That is until Raven enters his life. With the face of an angel, the body of Aphrodite, and the tongue of a drunken Irishman, he’s never met any woman so infuriating… so seductive… so… his match.
THE LEGEND…
From historical Ireland and its mystical legends to the elegant ballrooms of Regency London, together Devan and Raven discover the truth of the past and a love so strong it cannot be denied.

Based loosely on the ballad “Barbara Allen”, and more specifically on Dolly Parton’s version of the ballad, THE BRIAR AND THE ROSE is set in Ireland and London.

Review:

I might be hooked! It has been several years since I read a historical romance and it might not be so long the next time. I loved the history behind this story. It is loosely based on the ballad of “Barbara Allen” and the old Irish folktale of “The Briar and the Rose”.

Right after I finished this book there was a documentary of country music and I was excited to hear them talking with Dolly Parton about Barbara Allen and the old Irish folktale. Have you ever had that happen to you? First, you were ignorant about something and then you hear it again within a short period of time. That was nice because now I knew something about The Briar and the Rose.
This book is definitely worth the time to read. You won’t be sorry! There is something for everyone. However you have to do it, go out and obtain a copy of The Briar and the Rose by Laura Mills-Alcott today.
I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

 

 

#BookReview: The Roux in the Gumbo by Kim Robinson

Reviewer: Serena Soape

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From the 1800’s in Louisiana to 1997 California

Experience the history of a family as the author makes you laugh and cry through their adventures.

Review:

“Every Person’s life is like a pot of gumbo, you get out what you put in”

This was one of my favorite sayings from Kim Robinson’s book right from the beginning.

I listened to the Audible version of “The Roux in the Gumbo” and I feel like I was able to get a real feel for the book, with all of the different characters and their voices and situations.

This story is sometimes heartbreaking and hard to hear. What they went through was often horrific! But, there were also a lot of happy points highlighted in the book, as well. Sometimes the difficult parts of the book concerned me about whether I could keep going, but I am glad I did.

I did find it a little difficult to keep up with all of the characters, as there were so many of them, but I think listening to the made that easier for me (versus reading the book) with the distinct voices.

The fact that she was able to create this novel from all of her elders stories through the years was truly amazing and a work of art.

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

4 Stars.

#BookReview: Cilka’s Journey (The Tattooist of Auschwitz #2) by Heather Morris

Reviewer: Phyllis Jones Pisanelli

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Release Date: October 1, 2019

From the author of the multi-million copy bestseller, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, comes the new novel based on an incredible true story of love and resilience.

Her beauty saved her life – and condemned her.

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, in 1942. The Commandant at Birkenau, Schwarzhuber, notices her long beautiful hair, and forces her separation from the other women prisoners. Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly given, equals survival.

After liberation, Cilka is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to Siberia. But what choice did she have? And where did the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was sent to Auschwitz when still a child?

In a Siberian prison camp, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she makes an impression on a woman doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing. Cilka begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.

Cilka finds endless resources within herself as she daily confronts death and faces terror. And when she nurses a man called Ivan, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love.

Review:

I am in awe! Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris is a beautiful book.

If you read the Tattooist of Auschwitz, you will love Cilka’s Journey. We met Cilka in the Tattooist of Auschwitz and as you can guess this is her story. I fell in love with Cilka as she is such a warm, kind person. Reading what she went through will break your heart.

I am not going to tell you anything about the book because I want you to discover her and her journey on your own. This book was a little easier to experience than the Tattooist of Auschwitz. I am not sure if it was because I thought I knew the horrors that would be coming or if this was truly a more gentle story just as Cilka is.

Please don’t miss reading Cilka’s Journey!
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
5 Stars.

#BookReview: The Beautiful Strangers by Camille Di Maio

The Beautiful StrangersSummary:

A legendary hotel on the Pacific becomes a haven where dreams, love, and a beguiling mystery come alive.
1958. Kate Morgan, tethered to her family’s failing San Francisco restaurant, is looking for an escape. She gets her chance by honoring a cryptic plea from her grandfather: find the beautiful stranger. The search takes her to Hotel del Coronado, the beachfront landmark on the Southern California coast where filming is underway on the movie Some Like It Hot.
For a movie lover like Kate, it’s a fantasy come true. So is the offer of a position at the glamorous hotel. And a new romance is making her heart beat just as fast. But as sure as she is that Coronado is her future, Kate discovers it’s also where the ghosts of the past have come to stay. Sixty years ago a guest died tragically, and she still haunts the hotel’s halls.
As the lives of two women—generations apart—intertwine, Kate’s courageous journey could change more than she ever imagined. And with Coronado wending its way through her soul, she must follow her dreams…wherever they may lead.

Review:

Make room on our bookshelf for The Beautiful Strangers! This book is Epic! I was totally blown away!! I didn’t even realize that I have a penchant for ghost stories and old Hollywood, so I was definitely entranced with this story. I don’t want to give anything away.
I walked away wanting to know more about the main character of the book, and I am sure you will too. Or, at least a trip to Coronado!

Camille Di Maio wrote a story that I absolutely fell in love with. It was unlike any other book I’ve read. She took timelines sixty years apart and wrapped them up like a gift!

You already know the summary, so let me say that Camille really left me breathless.

Until the very last line.

5 Stars Plus.

pro_readerI would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel via Netgalley.