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100 Pages A Day...Stephanie's Book Reviews

I absolutely love historical fiction and read a lot of it; I love to learn history this way.  I also enjoy reading science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller and non-fiction science.

Nadya's War

Nadya's War - C.S. Taylor
Third Book for the 16 Festive Tasks- Square 3- WWII
 
 
Nadya has earned the nickname of Little Boar as a pilot within the Russian Red Army’s 586th all-female fighter regiment during World War II for her fierce determination and charging the enemy. Nadya dreams of becoming an Ace pilot and bringing pride to her family for her service during the war.  However, when an aerial fight leaves Nadya as the only survivor and with burns and trauma, she struggles to fly again.  Nadya soon finds herself addicted to morphine and able to fly, bent on revenge to shoot down the German Pilot who killed her friends.  She also finds herself under investigation with a very dangerous man.  With the help of her friends, her mechanic Karla and new partner, Alexandra, Nadya continues to fly and come closer to becoming an Ace as well as shooting down the German pilot.  
 
Nadya's war pulled me into the world of female pilots during the war.  While I was aware that women from several countries fought in the war, I did not know about the Russian all-female fighter regiment.  Nadya's point of view was very interesting, since she is very eager to prove herself, but does not fall in line with Stalin's values; primarily, Nadya is still religious.  The aerial fights drew me in the most, I could see the details of the planes and feel the adrenaline of the maneuvers.  The characters that made of the regiment were all interesting, however, I do wish some of the others were fleshed out more.  Nadya was steadfast in her beliefs, to the point of being boorish, earning her a nickname.  At points she did seem immature, although, like many of the others fighting in WWII, she was very young.  The romance that was introduced was very surprising, especially for Stalin's Russia, this was ok with me, but didn't seem to have enough of a prominent role.  The story arc seemed to be lacking something for me, I felt like I was waiting for something that didn't happen.  Either the romance or the revenge story needed to come to a head in a bigger way.  Overall, an intense story of women fighter pilots in World War II.
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
 

The IT Girls

The It Girls - Karen Harper
Sisters, Lucy and Elinor Sutherland grew up on the sleepy island of Jersey.  They were insatiably curious and had large ambitions; ambitions far bigger than the island.  Upon meeting the notorious Lillie Langtry one day in their youth, the sisters decide that they will one day become much more.  Through time, hard work and dedication, the two women eventually do realize their dreams. Lucy transforms into Lady Lucille Duff-Gordon fashion designer and entrepreneur extraordinaire.  Elinor becomes Elinor Glyn, scandalous romance writer whose books went onto the big screen.  Both Lucy and Elinor became the 'It' girls of their day; however, while both women excelled in their career goals, their dream came at a price in other areas of their life.

Elinor and Lucy quickly pulled me into their world of daring, creativity and determination.  I was amazed at what these two women accomplished in their lives, especially for women living in the early 1900's.  The story follows Lucy and Elinor from their youth through later life bouncing back and forth between the two women.  The writing showed the 'it' factor of each woman without laying it out.  Lucy had amazing grit while opening up her own fashion enterprise and ingenuity enough to make change in the fashion world.  Even though I knew of Lucille Duff-Gordon, mainly through her voyage on the Titanic, I never knew of her impacts on the fashion world and how they are carried through to the present.  Lucille was the first to use live models and do runway presentations,  she also led the way to get women out of corsets and into more natural silhouettes.  I did not know much about Elinor Glyn, but it seemed that her style of romance writing had an impact on many people.  It also seemed that she made an impact on Hollywood romance as well!  While the sister's careers and social standings skyrocketed, I was surprised to see that their personal and family lives took a toll.  Both women struggled in marriage and didn't seem to have strong relationships with their children, often living in separate countries.  This imbalance, to me, was a strong commentary on the lives of women at the time, showing that even successful, strong women had to choose either career or family.  Overall, a wonderful portrait of two strong, important women in history.  

This book was provided for free in return for an honest review. 

Night In Jerusalem

Night in Jerusalem - Gaelle Lehrer Kennedy

Square 8 for the 16 Festive Tasks....

 

David Bennett travels to Jerusalem in 1967 on a journey to find himself. His cousin Johnathan has been studying Judaism in Jerusalem and believes that his mentor, the chief rabbi, Reb Eli will be able to help David with his troubles. David arrives in Jerusalem planning only to stay one month, however, he is quickly taken in by the beauty of the city and Reb Eli's ways. When Reb Eli suggests that David visits a local brothel for help with his women's troubles, David is taken aback. However, when he finally decides to visit, David meets Tamar and his troubles seem to vanish. Meanwhile, Reb Eli's widowed daughter, Sarah is feeling depressed and out of place without a husband or child within her Orthodox community. Sarah longs to love once again and when a mysterious Englishman enters her home, Sarah's senses are awakened. As David and Sarah begin their new journeys in romance, the Six Day War breaks out in the Middle East and forever alters their lives.

Recreating the biblical story of Tamar in a more modern setting, Night in Jerusalem has a fairy-tale quality to it. I immediately felt immersed in the city of Jerusalem, from the golden glow of the city, to the quaint diners and the people of many religions mingling together. I easily took to David and Sarah's characters as lost souls as well as Reb Eli's comforting character. I was surprised at Reb Eil's suggestion for David's troubles as well as how sensuous many of the scenes were. Along with learning the tale of Tamar, I learned many things about Jewish Traditions and life in Jerusalem. The intricacies of Shabbat seemed beautiful and I wish I could have heard Sarah's singing. The Six Day War was something else that I learned of, I had no idea that this tragedy or the reasons why it had happened. The most interesting aspect of this story is the interwoven tale of Tamar told through David and Sarah. Their mystery to one another kept the story suspenseful and their romance kept me intrigued. Overall, an interesting portrait of Judaism in 1960's Jerusalem interwoven with an updated biblical story.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

A Sea of Sorrow: A Novel of Odysseus

A Sea of Sorrow: A Novel of Odysseus - Vicky Alvear Shecter

First book for 16 Tasks- Square 2- Bon Om Touk-  Taking place on the Sea

 

We have all heard of Odysseus' journey and the fanciful tales he brought back while being away for 20 years after the War of Troy. We have heard the stories from Odysseus' point of view, now the H Team brings us the stories from the point of view of those that he told the tales about. Through Penelope, we find out how she ruled singularly as a Queen, through Telemachus, we learn what it was like to grow up without a father and King, we learn the stories behind the Kyklops and Sirens and the witch Circe as well as Calypso. 

I have loved reading the past stories that the H Team has cooked up and couldn't wait to read what they have developed for Odysseus. Seven different stories and points of view woven seamlessly together to tell of Odysseus from the other side. To me, this was an ingenious way of getting to know the real Odysseus, as he was known as a trickster. In this context, the gods and goddesses still existed, however, some of the mythology was dispelled. I enjoyed reading every different story on their own and couldn't wait to see who would give me insight into Odysseus next. The themes of Odysseus' tales stayed true, pride, oath, service, gratitude, survival and perseverance are still strong subjects throughout each tale. While I appreciated each story, there were several that stuck out for me. Penelope and Telemachus' tales were those of survival. I was impressed with Penelope's cunning and skill to stop her people from attacking her home in the absence of a king and her ingenuity to make money for her land. Telemachus was an interesting character for me, I felt his pain at his father's departure and wanted him to grow into a leader as much as Penelope did. Circe's tale also entranced me. Instead of a witch who trapped Odysseus on an island, Circe has been banished to the island with her handmaids and has been making do on her women-led island. When Odysseus arrives, he is a problematic for the women and uses them at his will. Overall, I was amazed at how Odysseus' story changed from the point of view of the other characters and how I was still entranced by the amazing journey and stories that have been created. 

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

 

Ghost Chronicles 2

THE GHOST CHRONICLES 2 - Marlo Berliner

My Halloween read for a bingo!

 

Michael and Sarah are dead, but that doesn't mean that they can't make the most out of their afterlives. For some reason they are stuck in between as ghosts. Just now, months after Michael's death and decades after Sarah's death are they learning their true purpose for remaining on Earth. However, their positions come with danger. Michael is being chased by demons who are wreaking havoc on the spirit world and the corporeal world and they are using Sarah as bait. Meanwhile, Michael and Sarah are trying to make the most of their afterlife romance while learning what they can from other ghosts around them, checking in on Michael's living family and trying to come to terms with their newfound purposes.

This episode of the Ghost Chronicles was action packed. Michael and Sarah's story picks up right where it left off in book one. I was glad to see that they were still happy in their situation in the afterlife as well as finding out more about why they were not able to move on. Ghost Chronicles Two was kept fast-paced with interchanging scenes of of levity, parties and fun with demons, battles and suspense. I really enjoyed learning more about the afterlife and how all of the ghosts were content to be equal in death no matter of race, religion or station in life. It was also very fun being able to see glimpses of famous ghosts such as Albert Einstein. Most of all, I appreciated how Michael's new position allowed me to see how good can come out of death. It was interesting learning about the Cocoanut Grove fire through the eyes of those who were there. I can't wait to read more about Michael and Sarah's new found job and amazing powers in the next book.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

My American Nightmare

My American Nightmare: Women In Horror Anthology - Azzurra Nox, Nicky Peacock

I'm late, as usual, reporting the rest of my Halloween Bingo squares...but this one was for Terrifying Women!

 

Ghosts, zombies, slashers, abductions, creepy dolls, and of course witches are included in this selection of creepy short stories. All written by women  My American Nightmare  contains everything from macabre to disturbing, perfect for Halloween time reading. With all stories set in the United States of America, some stories are historically set, some are current, the stories range from new horror to familiar retellings.    With all short story collections I enjoyed some stories more than others, however with Halloween right around the corner I gobbled up all the stories and appreciated the atmosphere that they gave to this time of year.  

One of my favorite stories was the Ballad of Sorrow and Lila which shows the power of strong feelings and why a bully never wins.

I also enjoyed The Pickman Sisters of Salem which will reverberate with any who loves Hocus Pocus.  

The last story in the grouping was a perfect send-off.  Mr. Button's Tea Party had a lot of elements, abductions, dolls and disfigurement; however, the creepiest part was that it felt like something that might actually happen to a person or a story you might hear about on the news.  This is one that I would have loved to see expanded upon. 


Overall, these short stories show that women in horror makes for a wonderfully spooky mix. 

Dead Scared

Dead Scared: The Mortsafeman - Ivan Blake

Another for Halloween Bingo....'80's Horror!

 

Chris Chandler has problems. As a seventeen year old boy, his problems are just getting started. Chris' family has just moved to the small town of Bemishstock, Maine in the autumn of 1985. Wherever Chris and his family move, they can count on being unpopular. Chris' father works for a company that closes down factories. They are in Bemishstock to close down an Allied Paper Products plant, where most of the town works. Chris is used to putting up a front since everyone in town usually hates him. Things in Bemishstock start out as usual, students hate him teachers hate him, the local cops try to blame Chris for every mishap in town. However, Chris does manage to get friendly with several locals including Gillian, the girl who Chris' family rents from and the popular Mallory Dahlman. Chris has taken to hanging out in the local graveyard at night and witnesses some strange happenings in the small town, including possible grave robbing. As his relationship with Mallory intensifies, he learns some disturbing facts about her as well. Chris finds that small town life isn't so quaint and that his girl troubles might be worse after the girl is dead.

Dead Scared grabbed my attention from the prologue and then wrapped me in a slow burn of suspense throughout the rest of the story. Chris' situation paired with the strange small town feel gave an ominous tone from the beginning. All of the characters in the tightly-knit Blemishstock community popped with personality; Chris definitely entered this town as a black sheep. Mallory quickly peaked my interest; from the outside, she was miss perfect, however with her interest in Torajan burial rituals and spells it was clear there was something darker going on. I was surprised that more people didn't catch on to her games. The Goatman, or Dr. Meath was another nefarious force, a doctor and a grave robber, his deeds gave Chris something to set right and a path with the ancient order of the Mortsafemen. There were plenty of mysteries that Chris was determined to solve and danger that he brought to himself. I loved that this story was set in the 1980's where rumors, gossip and letters were used to spread information instead of technology. In the end, Chris was left in a precarious situation and I would love to know what happens next.


This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

The Crows of Beara

The Crows of Beara - Julie Christine Johnson

One more for Halloween Bingo...Magical Realism!

 

Annie Crowe is a recovering alcoholic and though it seems like her life should be coming together, it is falling apart at the seams. Annie's marriage has ended due to her actions while being an addict and now her prestigious job at a PR firm is at risk. In order to simultaneously escape her failed marriage and try to get her career on track, Annie takes a high-risk assignment in Ireland. On the shores of Ireland, in the remote Beara Peninsula, Annie is supposed to get the townspeople to agree that a copper mine in Ballycarog Cove would be the best choice for the economy and people there. However, once she arrives in Ireland and is given a tour by hiking guide Daniel Savage of the land that the mining would destroy and the bird that would be displaced, Annie seems starts to think that she might be on the wrong side. Daniel Savage is also haunted by his past mistakes and has closed himself off to getting close to anyone else, but when Annie Crowe arrives for his hiking tour, he feels a connection; and on the wind they both hear the disembodied call of Mise Éire calling them.

Before I was swept into Annie and Daniel's stories, I was entranced by the opening, the Hag of Beara in her glory, looking out over her beautiful land. I had to know more about this legend and how she would effect the story. Written in changing points of view between Annie and Daniel, I was thrown into their lives. Both characters are broken, recovering alcoholics. Annie wants to escape her past and start over. Daniel would rather wallow in his guilt, believing this is what he deserves. Through the writing and the voice on the wind, I was able to feel their immediate connection. The internal struggles in both Annie and Daniel were mirrored in the external struggles of the mining company and the environment. In addition to these strongly developed characters, I felt fully immersed in the beauty of Ireland and Ballycarog Cove. The red-billed chough also caught my attention, I too would surely be rooting to save the unique habitat of this special bird. The rise of fall of tension between Annie and Daniel kept me absorbed within the story and I almost forgot about the trouble of the mine and the birds. Overall, a charming story with a mix of redemption, love, folklore and environmental themes.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

 

Last Words

Last Words: A Diary of Survival - Shari J Ryan Emma's grandmother, Amelia is the rock of her family. That is, until the day Amelia suffers a stroke. At this point, Emma's life is forced to come into focus. Amelia suddenly wants Emma to find her old diary, one she wrote during the Holocaust, and a man named Charlie. Oh, and Amelia has also conned her cardiologist, Jackson into taking Emma on a date. When Emma finds her grandmother's diary, she is launched into a world of secrets from Amelia's life and horrors that she could not believe. In addition, Emma also reads about love found within the concentration camp. Amelia and Nazi Soldier, Charlie Crane find one another during the worst of times. Charlie, though a Nazi, has simply been forced to serve since a youth. In reading Amelia's story of survival and love, Emma comes to realize what she has been missing and dives into her new relationship with Jackson. However, she is now in a race against time to find the Charlie from her grandmother's past as Amelia's health worsens. I have always loved historical fiction and I'm so glad Shari took on such a heavy topic. Inspired by her own grandmother, Shari has weaved together a story of past and present, survival and loss and heartbreak and love. I was pulled into Amelia's story with her strength and tenacity throughout the pain, hardship, loss and desperation of being separated from her family and watching those around her continuously die while she lived with help and hope from Charlie. With alternating viewpoints of Amelia's diary and Emma's blossoming love life, I was given a reprieve from the Holocaust and given a taste of Shari's specialty with Emma and Jackson, a sweet and sultry romance. Through reading Amelia's diary together, Emma and Jackson are brought together quickly, realizing that love is something that you should hold on to. With just enough hints of spice, their relationship heats up quickly. I was also engrossed by the mystery of Charlie; was he alive, had he moved on, would Emma find him on time? I was glad for Amelia's happily ever after, although it came seventy-four years late. Most of all this story this story is about remembering those who fought to survive and the power of love when we have lost all else. This is also a way to remember those who have survived this hateful time in history and to make sure we have all of their last words recorded so that we will never forget. This book was received for free in return for an honest review

The Murderer's Maid

The Murderer's Maid: A Lizzie Borden Novel - Erika Mailman

Serial/Spree Killer for Halloween Bingo!

 

Bridget Sullivan was the Borden’s maid during the time of the murders, she was even home when it happened; however, when was outside washing the windows, a fact that might  have saved her life.  As the maid, Bridget was privy to much of the Borden’s private quarrels and any inside information of how the strange family lived and gotten along.  Bridget’s testimony during Lizzie’s trial had the potential to sway guilt or innocence upon Lizzie.  Bridget’s side of the story during the Borden murders is one that is still left to be told.  In the present, Brooke , the daughter of a Mexican-American maid shares a distant connection with Lizzie and Bridget.  While celebrating the 4th of July with her mothers employer and family, the Carr’s, Mrs. Carr drowns.  Years later, Brookes mother is murdered and Brooke receives evidence that she is next, Brooke goes off the grid and moves frequently believing it is the only way to stay alive.  It isn’t until Brooke digs into her absent fathers past that she unravels the mystery of the deaths and feels confident to once again live her life.

I have always been in I have always been intrigued by the Lizzie Borden murders and Lizzie Borden herself. I truly do believe that she was a woman out of her time wondered how her life would have been different if she were born a century later. While I cannot say whether not Lizzie was guilty or innocent, I do enjoy reading stories that dare to guess  about the true circumstances that happened that day. Replete with historical detail and intense emotion, Bridget's side of the story gave a point of view that I have never heard before. Bridget's place within the family gave her a front row seat to the drama of the Borden's life. Along with her place on that fateful day, Bridget maybe one of the only other people who truly did know what happened to Mr. and Mrs. Borden.   Paired with Brooke's story in the modern-day The Murderer's Maid lends an interesting twist. Brooke seems to have much in common with Bridget as the daughter  of a maid to a family with many issues themselves. As Brooke finds her life unraveling, she comes across Lizzie’s story and an unlikely connection which helps her bring everything together.  I was entranced by the voices of these two women, one of whom history might have swept under the rug due to her position within life and another which modern society might dismiss due to her lot in life.  I will continue to be haunted by the Borden murders, and The Murderers Maid has shown me even more nuances to this complicated case.  
  
This book has been received for free in return for an honest review. 

The Last Ballad

The Last Ballad: A Novel - Wiley Cash

Ella May Wiggins is a 28 year-old woman with five kids, one who has already died.  Six days a week she walks two mile to work the night shift at American Mill No.2, a textile mill in 1929, for $9.00 a week.  With no husband, this is barely enough to keep her family afloat.  Luckily, Ella may has the help of her colored neighbors in Stumptown when she is at work.  Fed up with the long hours, dangerous conditions and paltry pay, Ella May joins the labor union movement.  She is quickly elevated as a poster child for the movement, especially because of her unique voice and songwriting skills that weave her experience in the mill into a ballad that all workers can relate to. 

Told through alternating viewpoints of Ella May and people who came in and out of her life, we learn about Ella May's involvement in the  labor union movement and how it ultimately led to her demise. This is not a spoiler as this is revealed quite early on in the story.  However, this was quite a shock to me and for the rest of the story I was wondering how all of these other viewpoints would lead up to that moment.  I did enjoy learning about this time in history and the labor union movement, especially the role that women played.  I was definitely inspired by Ella May's song and was glad to learn that it had such an impact on those around her. Through the different voices, I was lead through a dark part of US history, the fight for and against worker's rights.  I do wish that there was more of a centralized voice, with so many narrators I did have a little trouble focusing on Ella May and seeing how everything fit together in some cases. 

This story was received for free in return for an honest review. 

Pleasing Mr. Pepys

Pleasing Mr Pepys - Deborah Swift
Deb Willet's aunt has found employment for Deb as a companion to Mrs. Pepys. As the companion to the wife of Samuel Pepys, administrator to the navy of England and Member of Parliament, Deb is placed among society's finest. However, Deb quickly learns that Mrs. Pepys is insecure in her placement and Mr. Pepys has roaming hands. One of the Pepys' favored pastimes is going to the theatre. Through their theatre outings, Deb is introduced to Abigail Williams, the mistress of Lord Bruncker, President of the Royal Society. Needing a friend, Deb takes up Abigail's invitation. However, being a friend to Abigail is much more complicated than simple outing. Soon, Abigail is having Deb bring her things from Mr. Pepys office and having Deb copy letters of Lord Bruncker. Before she knows it, Deb has become a spy for the Dutch, just like Abigail. 

Intricate and historically detailed, Pleasing Mr. Pepys brought me into the spy world of the 17th Century. I really didn't know much about Samuel Pepys or what was happening around London in the late 1600's except for some notorious doings of Charles II and his mistresses. I felt for Deb's character while at the same time being intrigued. I felt like she continually received the short end of the stick throughout her life; her mother left, she was thrust into the care of an aunt who saw her and her sister as a nuisance, was then sold off as a companion to Mrs. Pepys only to be taken advantage of by Mr. Pepys and cajoled into being a spy for Abigail Williams. Throughout all of this however, Deb manages to find strength and carry on. At one point she states "Very well, if she was a whore and a traitor, she would be one that survived." I found myself continually pulled into the writing by different elements, the mystery of Deb's mother, the blossoming romance between Deb and Jem and the continual danger of the spy games. Through Deb and Abagail, I was pulled into the world of a spymistress and given a different look into a woman's life in 1600's London. 
I was pleased to find out that Deb Willet was a real character in the life of Samuel Pepys and written about in his diary. While Deb's true role in his life might not be fully known, Deborah Swift's creation is an exciting possibility. 

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
 
 

 

The Fire By Night

The Fire by Night - Teresa Messineo

Jo McMahon and Kay Elliott are friends and nurses in New York City.  When the call goes out for nurses to serve in the war, Jo and Kay enthusiastically sign up. Jo and Kay are sent to opposite fronts.  Kay begins her service basking on the beaches of Hawaii only to have the reality of war come crashing down on her quickly. Captured by the Japanese and transferred to an internment camp in Malinta, Kit has only begun to scratch the surface of the horrors of War.  Jo eventually ends up in France, her field hospital is set up to transfer, but the Doctor keeps her back with six patients who don't fit on the transport van. However, the transport van never comes back for them.  Eventually running out of supplies and hope, Jo does her best to keep her soldiers alive until help arrives.  Both women try to think of happier times in their friendship to keep themselves going. 


Powerful, captivating, raw and real, I could not tear my eyes away from Jo and Kit's stories.  I of course knew that women did much more in the War than they were ever given credit for, but Jo and Kit's stories are just two small examples of how much the heroic nurses accomplished.  I was astounded by Jo's courage, strength and skill in keeping her six soldiers alive while danger loomed constantly around her as well as Kit's will to survive the dark, festering internment camp where people were constantly dying of starvation.  The alternating story lines between Jo and Kit kept me rapidly turning pages to see where their stories would lead.  I enjoyed that Kit and Jo were very much their own person and chose different paths.  Their experiences also showed the real effects of war.  I was constantly amazed by how much I didn't know about women's roles during World War II, especially the nurses who were captured in the Japanese internment camp and how they were forbidden to talk about their experience.  Deemed the 'Angels of Bataan' these are the women who should be our heroes.  As Kit says "if the world of men ever tears itself apart again, it will take an army of nurses to put it back together."  Written with passion and rich historical detail, this is a story I will never forget. 

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

The Shores of Our Souls

The Shores of Our Souls - Kathryn Brown Ramsperger

​Dianna is looking for something new and exciting to get her out of her slump.  In 1980's New York City, Dianna works for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, however she is stuck typing out little green cards all day.  Dianna longs to travel and help people, do something useful.  Dianna meets Qasim and sparks fly.  Qasim is older and well traveled.  He is an Arab-Muslim U.N. official from Beirut, Lebanon.  Qasim has known war in his home country for most of his life, and the present is no different.  Qasim longs for peace and is trying his best to help through his position.  As Dianna and Qasim spend more time together, they find out that love may not be enough to span the distance of race, religion, cultural differences and two histories filled with different pains.

I was drawn to the unique setting and issues that were covered in this story.  I was very young when the war in Beirut was raging and I was glad to learn more about it from Qasim's point of view.  With everything negative that we are inundated with from the Middle East, I enjoyed reading about the beauty of the land, the customs and Qasim's schooling.  Dianna and Qasim's romance kept me in suspense.  Moving very quickly at first and then getting derailed at several cultural, religious and social differences along the way.  I was torn between Dianna and Qasim- feeling frustrated for Dianna, who was trying so hard to understand Qasim's culture and background and me mindful of their differences, however, she was never really filled in by Qasim except for being told it was too dangerous for her and for Qasim's need to separate himself from the negativity and weight of war and his strong ties to his homeland.  I do wish that both Dianna and Qasim's pasts were delved into a little more, as I felt there would have been even more understanding uncovered there.  Overall, a poetic and moving love story that uncovers much more than a romance. Although set thirty years ago, The Shores of Our Souls echos with themes that we are still struggling with today.  

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

The Winner: A Ballroom Dance Novel

The Winner: A Ballroom Dance Novel - Erin Bomboy

This was supposed to be Nina Fortunova's year to win. Instead, she is divorced, without a partner on and off the dance floor. Nina takes to training a young couple, Carly and Sam. Soon, teacher and student become competitors as Nina finds a new partner in Jorge, a Latin Dancer who wants to transition to smooth and Carly gets picked up by Trey, a three time National champion. Both ladies will do whatever it takes to win, but will they take it too far?

Riveting and captivating, The Winner threw me into the exciting world of competitive ballroom dancing. I did ballroom dancing for a few years in college, which is what initially sparked my interest in the book, so I had no trouble following along with the styles, techniques and feelings evoked by each dance. However, even if you know nothing about dance, you should be able to follow along just fine without feeling overwhelmed. The scenes described in the practice studio and the competition were so vivid that I could smell the sweat and hairspray. I enjoyed reading the contrasting storylines of Nina and Carly. Nina, an older dancer who, determined to win the Nationals after working her way through the ranks and Carly, a new dancer to the scene who wants to win Nationals in a short period of time. Both Carly and Nina are determined and talented, but have very different motivations. The side stories of both Nina and Carly's backgrounds added drama to the story. Nina believes she must accomplish a great feat and be successful for her mother who sacrificed everything to come to America and give her opportunities; whereas Carly's parents are forcing her to be a special education teacher in order to better help people like her brother, Archer, who is autistic. When Carly finds a dream of her own, they are not supportive. What was highlighted most for me however, was the connection you find while dancing, especially with a partner.


"And with connection, all things were possible. One person's limits were halved and his or her prospects doubled when paired with another. Four legs rooted into the earth, allowing two hearts and two heads to reach heavenward."

The ending was very surprising and moved quickly through time seeming a little disjointed with the rest of the book. Overall, an immersive and enthralling read taking you deep into the world of ballroom dancing. 

​This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

The Witch and Other Tales Re-Told

The Witch and Other Tales Re-told - Jean Thompson

Another for halloween bingo!  You would think this would be for the witches square, but with only one short story of a witch, I will use this for genre: horror.

 

The Witch and Other Tales Re-Told is a short story collection of reimagined fairy tales in modernized settings with a twist. Many of the stories are barely recognizable until I found a few telling points or a certain phrase came up.  All of the stories were rooted in the real world, but had a creeping darkness around the edge or a sense of something not quite right.  The writing conveyed a sense of knowing many different characters and being able to get into their heads.

One of my favorite was the first story, The Witch, a modern Hansel and Gretel where siblings Kerry and Jo are taken in by the Department of Children and Family Services to a foster home run by Mrs. Kojo.  Outwardly, Mrs. Kojo appears perfect, for the children, however, things are different. Jo quickly picked up on how Mrs. Kojo operated and when there was an opening, she channeled her inner Gretel.

Another favorite was Prince, a very turned upside down Cinderella.  In this version, Ellen has a slight and manageable mental health issue and a very controlling sister.  Ellen finds a stray dog and names him Prince, Prince is very grateful for Ellen's care and he tells her that-in words.  Prince was definitely the most charming story, but true to the fairy tale, the sister does not come out on top.