Sunday, September 19, 2021

An incredibly quiet week and weekend with lots of time to curl up with good books!

A
 meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. 

Finished this past week:
When Sparks Fly by Helena Hunting
The Happy Accidents by Jamie Beck
What She Did by Carla Kovach
My Daughter's Mistake by Kate Hewitt
The Duchess by Wendy Holden

Currently Reading:
A Plague Among Us by Deb Pines

Next on the TBR pile:
The Ice Coven by Max Seeck
The Perfect Daughter
by Kerry Wilkinson

Publisher: Bookouture
Pages: 272
Format: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  Rain pounds the windscreen in the pitch-black evening. She knows this winding country road like the back of her hand, dodges the potholes with ease. But then she hears a crunch. A thud. She slams on the brakes.

Since Katie’s dad left it’s just been the two of us, but we’re a team – singing in the kitchen at cheesy pop songs, tackling her homework. My teenage daughter is everything to me.

But one night, as we’re curled up in front of the TV, the messages start. I keep my phone away from Katie so she can’t see the terrifying words: I know what you did. Now you’re going to do something for me…

I have no choice but to obey. Because if I go to the police, come clean about what I did to protect my girl, all the questions and prying eyes would soon discover Katie’s secret too. And that would tear her life apart.

So I drive where they tell me, do what they say, send the photo evidence they want. I feel sick when they ask me to cause someone harm, and it’s clear they know everything about our lives. I thought I was keeping a secret to keep my girl safe. But have I actually put her in even more danger?


Kritters Thoughts:  Jen is running late to pick up her daughter as most parents feel as though they are shuttle drivers always running late!  But a decision Jen makes while on the way will forever alter both her life and others as she made a decision that could cost her her life or someone else's.  

I liked that Jen was neither unreliable or reliable as a character.  I both questioned and believed her when she was describing the events in this book.  The author nicely danced the line of presenting her as a reliable mother who cares for her daughter, but is also possibly going through something that could affect her reacting to events in the best way. 

I love when a book surprises me until the very end and while I thought I had it all figured out a quick turn at the end made me second guessing myself and I enjoyed that I wasn't so sure until the final page!  I appreciate when a mystery book makes me want to immediately reread it so I can look at the clues through a different lens and wonder if I would make a different guess earlier with more knowledge.  This was an eery ride that I enjoyed and would suggest for a great fall weekend during the upcoming spooky season.  

This was my third Kerry Wilkinson read and have enjoyed each of them, so I am close to declaring fan status and hope for many more to come from this author.  


Rating: definitely a good read, but can't read two in a row

Ebook 2021 Challenge: 113 out of 100

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Bookouture.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Friday, September 17, 2021

A Most Clever Girl
by Stephanie Marie Thornton

Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  1963: Reeling from the death of her mother and President Kennedy's assassination, Catherine Gray shows up on Elizabeth Bentley's doorstep demanding answers to the shocking mystery just uncovered about her family. What she doesn't expect is for Bentley to ensnare her in her own story of becoming a controversial World War II spy and Cold War informer...

Recruited by the American Communist Party to spy on fascists at the outbreak of World War II, a young Bentley--code name Clever Girl--finds she has an unexpected gift for espionage. But after falling desperately in love with her handler, Jacob Golos, Elizabeth makes another unexpected discovery when she learns her lover is actually a Russian spy. Together, they will build the largest Soviet spy network in America and Elizabeth will become its uncrowned Red Spy Queen. However, once the war ends and the U.S. and U.S.S.R. become embroiled in the Cold War, it is Elizabeth who will dangerously clash with the NKVD, the brutal Soviet espionage agency.

As Catherine listens to Elizabeth's harrowing tale, she empathizes with her, that is, until she uncovers startling revelations that link the two women's lives in shocking ways. Faced with the idea that her entire existence is based on a lie, Catherine realizes there can be many sides to the truth. And only Elizabeth Bentley can tell her what that truth really is.
 


Kritters Thoughts:  Elizabeth Bentley is only one of the many names that she went by.  As she "fell" into the Communist party in America she ended up with many more names and oh so many secrets!  She became a part of the biggest Russian spy organization in America, but I won't tell her story because the way the book is presented - she tells it herself!

First, I love how this story is told.  Catherine Gray a woman enters Elizabeth's home and wants answer and wants them quick, so Elizabeth must tell her story to Catherine and share all the secrets of the past - but do spies always tell the truth!  While I don't typically like an unreliable narrator, it was fun to follow the twists and turns of the story and wonder if and when Elizabeth was telling the whole truth.  

I always love when stories are based in fact and love when a book makes me want to google and see where the author infused some fiction and this book did that.  While there were moments where the story slowed down for me and I wanted some action, in the end, I loved how Elizabeth told her story and where it all ended.  

One of the things I loved was the small special guest appearance of Ethel Rosenberg as I had just finished a whole non fiction book about her and her husband Julius, so to see them arrive in this book and the potential link between them and Elizabeth Bentley was a fun surprise.  I love it when the books I read work well with each other and compliment each other - it makes the reading life even more fun!

I was a fan of Stephanie Marie Thornton and while this book isn't my favorite of hers, I still appreciate her for her focus on women in history and spotlighting women who may not always get all the air time.  


Rating: definitely a good read, but can't read two in a row

Ebook 2021 Challenge: 112 out of 100

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Berkley.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.


Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Last Chance Library
by Freya Sampson

Publisher: Berkley Books
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  June Jones emerges from her shell to fight for her beloved local library, and through the efforts and support of an eclectic group of library patrons, she discovers life-changing friendships along the way.

Lonely librarian June Jones has never left the sleepy English village where she grew up. Shy and reclusive, the thirty-year-old would rather spend her time buried in books than venture out into the world. But when her library is threatened with closure, June is forced to emerge from behind the shelves to save the heart of her community and the place that holds the dearest memories of her mother.

Joining a band of eccentric yet dedicated locals in a campaign to keep the library, June opens herself up to other people for the first time since her mother died. It just so happens that her old school friend Alex Chen is back in town and willing to lend a helping hand. The kindhearted lawyer's feelings for her are obvious to everyone but June, who won't believe that anyone could ever care for her in that way.

To save the place and the books that mean so much to her, June must finally make some changes to her life. For once, she's determined not to go down without a fight. And maybe, in fighting for her cherished library, June can save herself, too.


Kritters Thoughts:  June Jones returned to her home town to help take care of her mother as she was dealing with a medical hurdle, and when she died June Jones stayed and maybe was a little stuck in one place.  And June Jone had been living that life until the town council announces their intentions to close the library she works at and her and the regular patrons are going to fight hard to stop them.  

A fun cast of characters and a reminder to book lovers of the importance of a library for the community no matter if you, yourself visit it or not.  I loved how the author painted such a fun cast of characters who visit the library and are thankful to have a place that can meet their needs - no matter what they are!  It was so heartwarming to see these people through June Jones' eyes as she appreciated each of her patrons.  

While there were for sure parts of the book that were predictable, it didn't take away from the heart of the story.  I may have called a few of the plot points before they occurred, but it didn't ruin things for me.  I would recommend this sweet book to any reader who loves a love letter to reading and readers.   


Rating: definitely a good read, but can't read two in a row

Ebook 2021 Challenge: 111 out of 100

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Berkley.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Machiavelli for Women
by Stacey Vanek Smith

Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: 224
Format: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  Women have been making strides towards equality for decades, or so we’re so often told. They’ve been increasingly entering male-dominated areas of the workforce and consistently surpassing their male peers in grades, university attendance, and degrees. They’ve recently stormed the political arena with a vengeance. But despite all of this, the payoff is—quite literally—not there: the gender pay gap has held steady at about 20% since 2000. And the number of female CEOs for Fortune 500 companies has actually been declining.

So why, in the age of #MeToo and #TimesUp, is the glass ceiling still holding strong? And how can we shatter it for once and for all? Stacy Vanek Smith’s advice: ask Machiavelli.

Using The Prince as a guide and with charm and wit, Smith applies Renaissance politics to the 21st century, and demonstrates how women can take and maintain power in careers where they have long been cast as second-best. Based on the latest research, tips from successful women across many industries, and experiences from Smith’s own life, Machiavelli for Women is a powerful, entertaining, and inspirational guide for a new generation of successful women.


Kritters Thoughts:  A women's empowerment book that uses the book The Prince for inspiration to create lessons to show women what they can do to move the needle to more of an equitable society.  (Not that women should be doing all the work) But lessons for women to ask for what they want and need in a way that uses the skills that women typically possess to get the outcomes they want.  

While the author includes the references needed from The Prince to show her points, for me, I wish I had recently read it and was a little more educated in the source material and I think the book would have been a smoother and more enjoyable read for me.  

The thing I loved about this book was the moments where the author used general traits about women and flipped the script to show women how to use these general traits that we typically have because we are women and use them to our advantage.  The chapters that I will be referencing a lot in the future are two and three with money and confidence.  It was so eye opening to read why women don't ask for a promotion as we want to be 100% ready for that next step in the career and I can understand that and that we will accept less pay because sometimes we are just darn happy to be employed!  

While The Prince references were great and an interesting way to present the material in a new way because I am not familiar it didn't quite do it for me, but as said before I could see myself enjoy that if I was more aware of the material.  


Rating: enjoyable, but didn't leave me wanting more

Ebook2021 Challenge: 110 out of 100

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Simon and Schuster.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.


Friday, September 10, 2021

The Slow March of Light
by Heather B Moore

Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  Sometimes all you have is hope.

In the summer of 1961, a wall of barbed wire goes up quickly in the dead of night, officially dividing Berlin. Aware of the many whose families have been divided, Luisa joins a secret spy network, risking her life to help East Germans escape across the Berlin Wall and into the West.

Bob Inama, a soldier in the US Army, is stationed in West Germany. He’s glad to be fluent in German, especially after meeting Luisa Voigt at a church social. As they spend time together, they form a close connection. But when Bob receives classified orders to leave for undercover work immediately, he doesn’t get the chance to say goodbye.

With a fake identity, Bob’s special assignment is to be a spy embedded in East Germany, identifying possible targets for the US military. But Soviet and East German spies, the secret police, and Stasi informants are everywhere, and the danger of being caught and sent to a brutal East German prison lurks on every corner.


Kritters Thoughts:  Two main characters make up this story - Bob Inama, a true person who gave the author hours of interviews in order to create his story and then gave the inspiration for Louis Voigt the other main character who had a little more fiction involved in her story.  Bob was a solider with the US Army stationed in West Germany during the very hard time as the Berlin Wall was being constructed and the borders were affecting the people of both Berlin and Germany.  Louisa was a German resident, a daughter of a police officer and a recent graduate of nursing school who was watching her home country fall apart.  

Switching back and forth between Bob and Louisa's point of view, this book focused on a time and place that isn't often represented in books - post World War II as countries are occupying Germany and the country is trying to heal from a war that split the population into several pieces.  Before reading this book, I was more familiar with the news of the Berlin wall coming down, while I was young when it happened, I have been more aware of the anniversaries and the news of those events, so to read about the people before it went up and the months after it was built was educational.  

While the events were interesting to me while reading this book, the characters were built a way that it was hard to put this down as you follow both of them through the ups and downs of the volatile events of the day.  Louisa's parts were my favorite, maybe because I am married to a police officer or maybe because I hope I would react like she did and step up and risk my life to help people, but her parts were riveting.  I appreciated that Bob's story was so close to fact, but that also made reading his part of the story hard because I knew that his story wasn't far from fiction and there were moments where his story was hard to read.  

This was my second book I have read by Heather B Moore and I have loved both, so I want to dive into her backlist and anticipate what she has coming next.  


Rating: definitely a good read, but can't read two in a row

Ebook 2021 Challenge: 109 out of 100

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Shadow Mountain Publishing.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.


Thursday, September 9, 2021

The Living and the Lost
by Ellen Feldman

Publisher: St Martin's Press
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  Millie Mosbach and her brother David escaped to the United States just before Kristallnacht, leaving their parents and little sister in Berlin. Now they are both back in their former hometown, haunted by ghosts and hoping against hope to find their family. Millie works in the office responsible for rooting out the most dedicated Nazis from publishing. Like most of their German-born American colleagues, the siblings suffer from rage at Germany and guilt at their own good fortune. Only Millie’s boss, Major Harry Sutton, seems strangely eager to be fair to the Germans.

Living and working in bombed-out Berlin, a latter day Wild West where the desperate prey on the unsuspecting; spies ply their trade; black markets thrive, and forbidden fraternization is rampant, Millie must come to terms with a past decision made in a moment of crisis, and with the enigmatic sometimes infuriating Major Sutton who is mysteriously understanding of her demons. 


Kritters Thoughts:  A book that starts in a post World War II Berlin as they are dealing with the repercussions of the war and they rebuild a city and a country into something that the people can be proud of.  

For me this book really enlightened me of the feelings that people had as they were returning to their homeland and wanting to get rid of the people who were responsible for the destruction.  I never considered the feelings of not just the Jewish population, but anyone who fled the Nazi regime and how they would want to exterminate anyone associated with the horrible Nazi agenda.  I really appreciated this different viewpoint and made me want to read more books that take place in this unique moment right after the war.

I have said this a few times on this blog and I mean it every time, but this one felt unique and while we don't want to forget the horror of the concentration camps of World War II, it is nice to read a book that takes a look at this time, but doesn't go to the far deep end.  

I do not want to bring politics into a blog about books, but reading this book while the news was dominated by the evacuation of Afghan people out of their country was eery and made me really listen to their stories a little closer.  Interesting how a book about a time period that is more than 70 years ago can still relate to news in 2021.  

My third Ellen Feldman book and while I have a few left in her backlist to read, I have loved each of the ones I have completed and am excited to see what she has coming next.  


Rating: definitely a good read, but can't read two in a row

Ebook 2021 Challenge: 108 out of 100

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from St Martin's Press.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.


Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Truth About Melody Browne
by Lisa Jewell

Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 359
Format: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  When she was a child, Melody Browne’s house burned down, destroying all her family’s possessions and her memories. Ever since this tragic event, Melody Browne has had no recollection of her life before she was rescued from the flames.

Now in her early thirties, Melody is a single mother, living in the middle of London with her teenaged son. She hasn’t seen her parents since she left home at fifteen, but Melody has no desire to reconnect until one night, while attending a hypnotist show with a date, she faints. When she comes around, she is suddenly overwhelmed with fragmented memories of her life before that fateful fire.

Slowly, she begins the arduous process of piecing together the real story of her childhood. Her journey takes her up and down the countryside, to seaside towns to the back streets of London, where she meets strangers who seem to love her like her own. But the more answers she uncovers, the more questions she is left with, and Melody can’t help but wonder if she’ll ever know the whole truth about her past.


Kritters Thoughts:  Melody Browne lost all of her physical possessions in a house fire at the age of nine and in the fire she also lost her memories of her life before that point.  A chance encounter with a hypnotist reignites her brain and memories start coming back to her and with that she must confront the pain and joy of the past that she lost in and before the fire.

From her early childhood to the present day as a single mom, the chapters in the book are clearly labeled, but bounce back and forth as Melody remembers the childhood she lost.  It was so easy to keep track of the plot of this story as everything felt like it was labeled and easy to know where in the timeline we were reading.  I loved how it was laid out and how it worked out.

I always thought of Lisa Jewell as an author that would keep me on the edge of my seat with suspense and while I couldn't put this one down at all, the air of suspense wasn't in this one, but instead there was a feeling of wanting to know more about Melody and find out what memory she would unlock next!  In this book, Lisa relied on character and she wrote a fantastic character that I couldn't wait to keep reading and watching her find herself.  

After finishing this Lisa Jewell, it made me want to dive into another one.  I still have quite the backlist of hers to catch up on and I wouldn't mind finding another like this one where the suspense may be a little diminished and the characters were amplified.  


Rating: definitely a good read, but can't read two in a row

Ebook 2021 Challenge: 107 out of 100

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Atria Books.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.
 

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