For My Ears: The Guestbook by Sarah Blake

Overview:

A lifetime of secrets. A history untold. 

No. It is a simple word, uttered on a summer porch in 1936. And it will haunt Kitty Milton for the rest of her life. Kitty and her husband, Ogden, are both from families considered the backbone of the country. But this refusal will come to be Kitty’s defining moment, and its consequences will ripple through the Milton family for generations. For while they summer on their island in Maine, anchored as they are to the way things have always been, the winds of change are beginning to stir. 

In 1959 New York City, two strangers enter the Miltons’ circle. One captures the attention of Kitty’s daughter while the other makes each of them question what the family stands for. This new generation insists the times are changing. And in one night, everything does.

So much so that in the present day, the third generation of Miltons doesn’t have enough money to keep the island in Maine. Evie Milton’s mother has just died, and as Evie digs into her mother’s and grandparents’ history, what she finds is a story as unsettling as it is inescapable, the story that threatens the foundation of the Milton family myth.

Moving through three generations and back and forth in time, The Guest Book asks how we remember and what we choose to forget. It shows the untold secrets we inherit and pass on, unknowingly echoing our parents and grandparents. Sarah Blake’s triumphant novel tells the story of a family and a country that buries its past in quiet, until the present calls forth a reckoning.

While I listened to this one while driving around this summer, I almost wished that I had gotten it as a book as I really needed to pay attention to it and that’s hard to do in traffic! This was the story of a family that moved across time, but not chronologically, and I had moments of confusion. At the end of the book I had questions: How/why did one character drown? Who was one character’s father? What did I miss? None of my friends were able to answer me. The audio felt super long to me (but not boring) and a quick check just showed me that it’s almost 500 pages. One note that seriously irritated me was that the narrator referred to this wealthy family attending “Groton” but pronounced it, on at least two occasions, as “Grow-ton”. Groton is a very famous prep school that is alive and well today, so a quick check would tell the people directing this audio that it is pronounced “Graw-tin” with no long /o/. Somebody make a note of it!

I’d love to discuss this book with someone who also read it. I felt that Ms. Blake made some statements through her novel regarding race, class, and gender that the reader should not overlook. It would make a great book club pick!

Overall, I really liked it and would look to read more by this author.

(purchased with an audible credit)

My Name is Eva by Suzanne Goldring

Description (via Net Galley)

You can pay a terrible price for keeping a promise …

Evelyn Taylor-Clarke sits in her chair at Forest Lawns Care Home in the heart of the English countryside, surrounded by residents with minds not as sharp as hers. It would be easy to dismiss Evelyn as a muddled old woman, but her lipstick is applied perfectly, and her buttons done up correctly. Because Evelyn is a woman with secrets and Evelyn remembers everything. She can never forget the promise she made to the love of her life, to discover the truth about the mission that led to his death, no matter what it cost her…

When Evelyn’s niece Pat opens an old biscuit tin to find a photo of a small girl with a red ball entitled ‘Liese, 1951’ and a passport in another name, she has some questions for her aunt. And Evelyn is transported back to a place in Germany known as ‘The Forbidden Village,’ where a woman who called herself Eva went where no one else dared, amongst shivering prisoners, to find the man who gambled with her husband’s life …

A gripping, haunting and compelling read about love, courage and betrayal set in the war-battered landscape of Germany. Fans of The Letter, The Alice Network and The Nightingale will be hooked.

As you readers know, I love the WWII genre and never tire of reading about courageous and resilient women who survived the war. The novel was told both in present day and then the past, as we see the events shaping Eva’s life, her husband’s, and the man she came to despise. What I loved about this novel, though, was how Eva worked hard to come across as a bit “batty” in the present day so that no one could discover her secrets.

A great read that is not the typical “formula” fare. Highly recommended!

Thank you for my review e-galley!

Find Your Light by Beverly Conyers

I recently was sent a copy of Find Your Light: Practicing Mindfulness to Recover from Anything from Ms. Conyers’ publicist. This is a lovely little book that is quick to read and very pertinent to daily life. You can read it in little bits or read it straight through. The focus is on how you can be mindful and use mindfulness to aid in recovering from addiction or really any type of stressful and demanding situation (full disclosure: I do not suffer from addiction, but found this little book very pertinent and helpful).

Here’s the overview:

Author Beverly Conyers—one of the most respected voices in wellness and recovery—has guided hundreds of thousands of readers through the process of recognizing family roles in addiction, healing shame, building healthy relationships, releasing trauma, focusing on emotional sobriety, as well as acknowledging self-sabotaging behaviors, addictive tendencies, and substance use patterns. With her newest work, Conyers shows us how the practice of mindfulness can be a game-changing part of recovering from any- and everything.

Early in our recovery journey, we focused on healing. Further along in the process of recovering, we dare to believe it’s possible to embark on a new chapter, but often feel stuck. At times, we wonder…how do we create the breakthroughs we want?

With a mindfulness practice—meditation and other habits of awareness—we develop the courage to look within. As we hold space for ourselves, we find the light within that can spark change, personal growth, and self-compassion. Mindfulness is an irreplaceable part of the health and healing toolkit because it illuminates our true selves; as a result, it illuminates our recovery.

Conyers gives us an approachable mindfulness book with carefully designed reflections and practices that set us on a path forward. Her insight guides our way whether recovering from unhealthy relationships, addictions of all types, compulsive habits, anxiety and stress, workaholism, disordered eating, or mental health and emotional challenges—and whether we follow the Twelve Steps or not.

Discover why Beverly Conyers’ books have been a mainstay for support groups the world over, and why so many have turned to her insights and guidance. As the author of the recovery classic Addict in the Family, she has inspired hope and healing in a way few others have managed to match.

Thank you for my review copy!

HFVBTour for DRAGON LADY by Autumn Bardot

I’m excited to be part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for Autumn Bardot’s crazy good novel: DRAGON LADY. It’s got pirates, adventure, romance, and excitement and is based on the true story of the infamous Asian lady pirate: Zheng Yi Sao.

Here’s the overview:

Prostitution required the violation of my body. Piracy required my soul. The first enslaved me. The second set me free.

A young girl is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a floating brothel. Xianggu begins as a servant, but soon her virginity is bought by the highest bidder. Ambitious and determined, she learns the business in hopes of earning her freedom from the madam. Her dreams are washed away when a midnight pirate raid changes her life.

Kidnapped by the notorious Red Flag boss, Xianggu embarks on a journey that demands beauty, brains, and brawn. But Xianggu must do more than learn to wield a sword, sail a ship, and swim across the bay, she must become indispensable to the pirate boss if she hopes to survive. The winds, however, never blow in the same direction, and Xianggu must make a decision that requires her to battle jealous men, ancient prejudices, and her own heart.

The triumph of the notorious Zheng Yi Sao is a sexy, fierce, and unflinchingly realistic story of how a prostitute became the most powerful and successful pirate in the world.

In 18th century China, when men made and enforced the rules, the Dragon Lady lived by her own.

Even though there is violence in this book (physical and sexual) and also sexually explicit scenes (fair warning), I loved this story and couldn’t help but admire Xiang gu. She was a definite bad a** woman of history! I had not read anything by Autumn Bardot before, but I found this engaging and well-written and definitely well-researched.

Here’s a bit about Ms. Bardot:

About the Author
Autumn Bardot writes historical fiction and erotica about sassy women and daring passions!
Her erotic fiction includes Legends of Lust, Erotic Myths from around the World, published by Cleis Press. Confessions of a Sheba Queen (erotica) will be available Jan 2020.
The Impaler’s Wife, her debut historical fiction, released in April 2019.
Autumn has a BA in English literature and a MaEd in curriculum and instruction. She’s been teaching literary analysis for fourteen years
When Autumn’s not writing or working, you’ll find her hanging out with her ever-growing family, spoiled husband, and pampered rescue pooch. Her favorite things include salty French fries, coffee, swimming, and a great book.

Highly recommended for those who like this genre!

Thank you for my review galley and for making me part of the tour!!

For My Ears: Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A READ WITH JENNA • TODAY SHOW BOOK CLUB PICK 

NAMED A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK BY New York Times • Time • Marie Claire • Elle • Buzzfeed • Huffington Post • Good Housekeeping • The Week • Goodreads • New York Post • Publishers Weekly and many more

“This is a true beach read! You can’t put it down!” – Jenna Bush Hager, Today Show Book Club Pick

“Powerful  . . . A twisting tale of love, loss, and dark family secrets.”  — Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water

A poignant and suspenseful drama that untangles the complicated ties binding three women—two sisters and their mother—in one Chinese immigrant family and explores what happens when the eldest daughter disappears, and a series of family secrets emerge, from the New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Translation

It begins with a mystery. Sylvie, the beautiful, brilliant, successful older daughter of the Lee family, flies to the Netherlands for one final visit with her dying grandmother—and then vanishes.

Amy, the sheltered baby of the Lee family, is too young to remember a time when her parents were newly immigrated and too poor to keep Sylvie. Seven years older, Sylvie was raised by a distant relative in a faraway, foreign place, and didn’t rejoin her family in America until age nine. Timid and shy, Amy has always looked up to her sister, the fierce and fearless protector who showered her with unconditional love.

But what happened to Sylvie? Amy and her parents are distraught and desperate for answers. Sylvie has always looked out for them. Now, it’s Amy’s turn to help. Terrified yet determined, Amy retraces her sister’s movements, flying to the last place Sylvie was seen. But instead of simple answers, she discovers something much more valuable: the truth. Sylvie, the golden girl, kept painful secrets . . . secrets that will reveal more about Amy’s complicated family—and herself—than she ever could have imagined.

A deeply moving story of family, secrets, identity, and longing, Searching for Sylvie Lee is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive portrait of an immigrant family. It is a profound exploration of the many ways culture and language can divide us and the impossibility of ever truly knowing someone—especially those we love.

******************************

School is in session, which means I’m spending over two hours a day in the car, commuting and listening to audiobooks. I had heard through the blogosphere that this was a good novel, so I purchased it with my audible credit. What a great book! It’s rare that a novel will hold my attention constantly while I’m driving, but this one did. I loved Jean Kwok’s writing and this story of two sisters, which is part mystery, part story of a Chinese immigrant family. I loved the characters and even though this was a sad story, it was beautiful, too.

This book moves about in time and is aptly told in three voices (with three different narrators) – Sylvie, her sister Amy, and their mother.

Apparently it’s a Today Show bookclub book, too.

Highly recommended!

HFVBTours: Feature of Farewell My Life by Cynthia Haggard

Today I’m blasting it up for Historical Fiction’s Virtual Book Tours with FAREWELL MY LIFE by Cynthia Haggard.

(FYI – this book contains adult themes and would be rated “R”. I have not personally read it).

Farewell My Life by Cynthia Haggard
Publication Date: October 29, 2019eBook & Paperback; 586 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Angelina led a life which required her to fib. When Angelina, the black sheep of the Pagano family, meets the mysterious Mr. Russell, she has no idea that she has seen him before…in another country. And so begins Farewell My Life, a novel in three parts, which spins an operatic tale of dangerous love and loss.
The Lost Mother, the first part of this novel, slices back and forth between time and space, opening in the charming village of Georgetown, Washington D.C. while reflecting a family’s troubled past in the lovely village of Marostica in the Italian Veneto.
An Unsuitable Suitor, the second part of the novel, is a Cinderella-ish tale with not-so-charming princes who inhabit the edgy setting of 1920s Berlin.
Farewell My Life, the last part of the novel, set again in Berlin, Germany, during the dark 1930s as the Nazis gain power, takes comfortable lives, assumptions and civilizations and crumbles them into ash.

About the Author
Cynthia graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, Cambridge MA, in June 2015.
Her first novel, Thwarted Queen, a frustrating tale (hence the title) of Lady Cecylee Neville (1415-1495) who was nearly crowned Queen of England, was shortlisted for many awards, including the 2012 Eric Hoffer New Horizon Award for debut authors. To date, sales have surpassed 38,000 copies.
Her forthcoming novel, Farewell My Life, is a Cinderella-ish tale with not-so-charming princes who inhabit the edgy setting of 1920s Berlin.
When she’s not annoying everyone by insisting her fictional characters are more real than they are, Cynthia likes to go for long walks, knit something glamorous, cook in her wonderful kitchen, and play the piano. 

PICTour for Colleen Coble’s Strands of Truth

I’m happy to take part in the Partners in Crime Tour for Colleen Coble’s new novel Strands of Truth. Ms. Coble is a popular writer who blends mystery, romance, and Christianity into her storyline.

This was a great read – very suspenseful with a well-plotted mystery. I really enjoy Colleen Coble and like how her novels very often have a “touch of Christianity” in them without being overly preachy or unbelievable. I also learned some interesting things about marine life! Highly recommended for fans of this genre!

Thank you for my review e-copy and for making me part of the tour!

Strands Of Truth by Colleen Coble

Tour September 9 – October 4, 2019
 Synopsis:

Strands of Harper Taylor’s childhood are resurfacing—but will the truth save her . . . or pull her under?

Harper Taylor is used to being alone— after all, she grew up in one foster home after another. Oliver Jackson finally took her under his wing when she was a runaway teenager, and now Harper pours her marine biology knowledge into Oliver’s pen shell research. But she’s never stopped wishing for a family of her own.So when a DNA test reveals a half-sister living just two hours away, Harper is both hopeful and nervous. Over warm cinnamon rolls, Harper and Annabelle find striking similarities in their stories. Is it just a coincidence that both their mothers died tragically, without revealing Harper and Annabelle’s father’s name?Oliver’s son Ridge still sees Harper as a troubled teen even all these years later. But when Oliver is attacked, Ridge and Harper find themselves working together to uncover dangerous secrets that threaten to destroy them all. They must unravel her past before they can have any hope for the future.
Book Details:Genre: Romantic Supsense
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: September 10th 2019
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 0718085906 (ISBN13: 9780718085902)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Author Bio:
Colleen Coble is a USA TODAY bestselling author and RITA finalist best known for her coastal romantic suspense novels, including The Inn at Ocean’s Edge, Twilight at Blueberry Barrens, and the Lavender Tides, Sunset Cove, Hope Beach, and Rock Harbor series.

Connect with Colleen online at:
colleencoble.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @ColleenCoble
Twitter – @colleencoble
Instagram – @colleencoble
Facebook – @colleencoblebooks