The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

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Description (via Net Galley)

A Note From the Publisher

If you read me, you know I LOVE Rhys Bowen’s books — Molly Murphy Mysteries, Royal Spyness mysteries, Tuscan Child, In Farleigh Field, etc. etc. This novel is a stand alone, historical fiction piece, that reminded me a bit of In Farleigh Field, as it was a war story. I loved Emily’s character and found the historical piece so interesting — young women volunteering to work on farms in the British countryside as “land girls’. She is quite resourceful and plucky, though when she becomes pregnant she certainly has to make some decisions as to where her future will lie. There is a bit of mystery, too, as to the history of the cottage where she lives and its former inhabitant. All in all it was a great read and I hope Ms. Bowen continues to writes historical stand alones!
Thank you for my review e-copy!

Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz

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I loved this memorable and touching children’s story about a little girl who lives in a graveyard in the Philippines with her mother and her struggle to find her mother when she goes missing. Appropriate for grades 4 to 7, in my opinion, it sensitively tells Nora’s story while focusing on themes of friendship and loyalty.

I was fascinated with this idea of living in a cemetery, and here’s a great article with pictures in it from the New York Times about North Cemetery in Manila, where this story takes place.

Thanks, Net Galley, for my review e-copy! This title publishes in the beginning of October (2018).

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THE STORY OF ARTHUR TRULUV by Elizabeth Berg

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I think I’ve read everything that Elizabeth Berg has written and I’ve loved it all. Thus, I was excited to see that she had a new novel out and I could get it via Net Galley.

The Story of Arthur Truluv was a sweet and touching story that had me both laughing and crying. It reminded me a bit of “A Man Called Ove”, and I loved that novel as well.

Here’s the overview:

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I loved these characters so much, but especially Arthur. Elizabeth Berg has done it again, writing a beautiful novel with memorable characters and a resounding message.
Thank you for my review e-copy!

I LET YOU GO by Clare Mackintosh

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I grabbed this off Amazon a few weeks ago when it was on sale. I was late to the party on this one, but many of my friends loved it and said it was suspenseful (sounded good to me!).

Here’s the Amazon overview:

The next blockbuster thriller for those who loved The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl... “a finely crafted novel with a killer twist.” (Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Timesbestselling author of The Girl on the Train)
 
On a rainy afternoon, a mother’s life is shattered as her son slips from her grip and runs into the street . . .

I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and the rest of her painful past.

At the same time, the novel tracks the pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of this hit-and-run. As they chase down one hopeless lead after another, they find themselves as drawn to each other as they are to the frustrating, twist-filled case before them. Elizabeth Haynes, author of Into the Darkest Corner, says, “I read I Let You Go in two sittings; it made me cry (at least twice), made me gasp out loud (once), and above all made me wish I’d written it . . . a stellar achievement.”
 
*Peter James, author of Want You Dead
From the Hardcover edition.

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Couldn’t. Stop. Reading.

I really enjoyed this book. Poor Jenna – I felt for her and could understand why she would want to just disappear into the countryside! I can’t say too much without giving it all away, but if you enjoy books like Girl on the Train, etc. you would probably enjoy this one! I hope they make this into a movie.

Review of RIVER OF GRACE by Susan Bailey

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I’m happy today to be blogging about my friend Susan Bailey’s book: RIVER OF GRACE, which was sent to me via Net Galley. I know Susan from Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, and we have a lot in common.

Here’s the description of it via Net Galley:

Catholic recording artist and popular blogger Susan Bailey reveals, in this personal and moving narrative, how several major losses helped her rediscover creativity and faith. Filled with powerful insights on the presence and action of grace—in the Mass and sacraments, in nature, and even in grief—River of Grace guides readers to strengthen their faith during tough times and discover their own hidden gifts.

In just a few years’ time, Bailey experienced one challenge after another: the deaths of her father and mother, financial issues, and the loss of her singing voice. Using the rich imagery of a river of grace, Bailey relates how her devotion to the Eucharist inspired her to see Christ’s presence in her life and helped her to trust again.

Each chapter relates Bailey’s experiences of loss and growth and features original activities and personal rituals that include everything from Joni Mitchell music videos and hot baths to imagery and uncooked spaghetti. These inspirational tools guide readers to reflect on their own experiences. Prayers and poetry are found throughout the book and a set of insightful reflection questions are placed at the end of each chapter.

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I really enjoyed this short and very readable book and immediately purchased a copy of it for a friend who had recently had a loss in her life. The image of a river, along with Susan’s inspirational writings about faith and dealing with loss, make this book a unique and meaningful read. I like how she has included short, optional activities at the end of each chapter. Being Catholic, I can identify and relate to Susan’s devotion to the Eucharist and the healing power that God’s grace can bring to us through it in our time of need.

Thank you for my review copy!

About Susan — from her publisher:

Susan Bailey is a blogger, musician, and speaker who frequently contributes to CatholicMom.com and the Association of Catholic Women Bloggers. Her work has also appeared on Catholic.net, and Catholic Online. Bailey blogs at Be As One and Louisa May Alcott is My Passion. She also writes a monthly column for The Catholic Free Press called Be As One. Bailey, who works as a marketing/advertising assistant, was a member of the Commission for Women of the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts, where she served as chair and secretary and helped organize the biennial Gather Us In conference. Formerly a professional musician and graphic artist, Bailey released three CDs and worked as a cantor for fifteen years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education (US History and music) from Bridgewater State University. She and her husband, Rich, have two grown children and live in North Grafton, Massachusetts.

Three for Christmas — from the Ho Ho Ho Readathon

I had a great time reading and participating in the Ho Ho Ho Holiday Readathon this past week! I set a goal of three books for myself, and I easily reached it (I also finished two more to review and started a third – guess I had time to read!).

The first book I read was A NEW YORK CHRISTMAS by Anne Perry. In this novel (and apparently Anne Perry writes a Christmas novel every year) it is 1904 and Jemima Pitt has accompanied her friend Phinny to New York from England for Phinny’s marriage. Poor Phinny doesn’t have much family and her mother left her while she was quite young under what seems to be mysterious and unfavorable circumstances. Jemima is hardly there when a dead body shows up – Phinny’s long-lost mother – and Jemima appears to be the main suspect in her killing (though with little motive). Determined to prove her innocence, Jemima joins forces with local policeman Patrick Flannery to figure out who the real killer is.

This was a fun read – and very quick for me (a few hours – less than 200 pages). Call me stupid but I never could figure out exactly WHY the murder took place and what it served. It seemed to stir up a lot of trouble, that’s for sure.

This was my first Anne Perry book, but she has a legion of fans and several other Christmas stories.

Thanks, Net Galley, for my copy!

Next I read CHRISTMAS TRUCE by Aaron Shepard. This was a children’s picture book that I got a pdf of from Net Galley. It tells the story of the WWI Christmas truce in fighting between the front lines of British and German men. This was a beautiful (and true) tale, with lovely illustrations by Wendy Edelson. Great for a read aloud to children!

Finally, from Blogging for Books, I got The 13th Gift: A True Story of a Christmas Miracle by Joanne Huist Smith. I just loved this book. This author lost her husband unexpectedly in the fall of 1999. They had three children, aged 10 to 17. That Christmas was incredibly painful and difficult for them. This true story tells how some unknown “true friends” delivered to them small surprise gifts each day leading up to Christmas and, in essence, helped them to feel the spirit of Christmas again. Not only was this a heart-wrenching read, especially because the grief was so poignant on these pages, but it was so inspiring to read the end and how the whole 13 gifts tradition got started, why, and how. What a beautiful and inspiring story — truly a favorite Christmas read for me.

Quick Review: THE HEADMASTER’S WIFE by Thomas Christopher Greene

So I had heard about this book when it first came out and put it on my wish list. I bought it as a birthday gift from Amazon (yes, my bday is on Saturday!). Most bloggers had said things like “I can’t even talk about what this book is about because I will give it away!” or something similar, so all I knew was that it was about a headmaster and his wife at an independent boarding school. If you know me, you know I’ve spent my professional life in independent school (aka “prep” schools) and I LOVE to read about them.

So – the bloggers were correct. I can’t talk about this book without giving it away. It is MUCH better to go into this book not knowing what to expect. When I started reading last night after dinner I thought, “Oh no. Not THIS storyline again.” However, I continued, and at the end of part one (there are three major parts/POV in the book) I was blown away and so hooked that I kept reading straight through until the book was finished at 11 PM.

This was a fascinating read – one that kept me guessing and puzzling and thinking about it long after it was over. It some ways it reminded me of “Gone Girl”. In other ways, it reminded me of “Shutter Island”. Regardless, I’ve said enough. Do yourself a favor and if you choose to read it, read it cold. Be surprised.

You can see it on Amazon where I got mine.