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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.

Jaybird's Song

Jaybird's Song - Kathy Wilson Florence

Josie Flint, affectionately know as Jaybird to her family, is nearing her 50th birthday when tragedy strikes.  The family matriarch and her namesake, Annie Jo has died.  This change in family structure causes Josie to look back at her childhood and stir up some memories, some which are better forgotten.  With the absence of her grandmother, Josie looks back on coming-of-age, the death of her father, friendships and desegregation in 1960's Atlanta.  

Jaybird's Song is an ode to southern women, their strength and their place within the family.  Josie is an amazing woman to follow as the writing ping-pong's back and forth between her memories from growing up in the 1960's with her amazing grandmother, Annie Jo, to present day where Annie Jo is gone and Josie finally comes to deal with some of her issues.  I was surprised when what seemed to be a series of memories from Josie's childhood turned into something much more, not only does Josie unleash the truth of her father's death, but a memory of a bathrobe and an African-American student who joined Josie's high school class combined with a package found at Annie Jo's house turns into a murder mystery.  Overall, a passionate story that takes place throughout turbulent years in America's south that examines the tenacity of women. 

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

The Daughters of Ireland

The Daughters of Ireland (Deverill Chronicles) - Santa Montefiore

Celia Deverill has bought the ruins of her family's castle after it was burned down in the war.  The year is 1925 and Celia and her husband have plenty of money to rebuild the castle and upgrade everything to Celia's extravagant and opulent demands.  While Celia is busy redecorating, Kitty Deverill and her husband Robert Trench are raising Kitty's half-brother, Little Jack.  Kitty is concerned that Little Jack's real mother, Bridie Doyle will come and steal him away. Kitty is also wrestling with her feelings for her true love Jack O'Leary.  She will have to make a decision to tear apart her family and move to America with Jack or deny her true love and stay with her family and her home in Ireland.  Meanwhile, Bridie Doyle has become a new person in New York.  Now a wealthy widow, she is determined to reclaim the son that was taken from her as well as the Castle where she once worked.

Once again, I was enraptured by the stories of the women of Castle Deverill.  Picking up right after The Girl in the Castle, the stories of Kitty, Bridie and Celia continue to grow and shine.  Now adults, these women are making their own decisions and affecting the lives of those around them as well as the ghosts who still inhabit Castle Deverill.  I was very pleased that Barton Deverill's story was expanded upon and I was able to understand the reasons for the curse.  I love that the supernatural and folklore are a part of the story, bringing out the magic of Ireland in a sophisticated way.  I was completely captivated by all of these women's stories while they  were busy trying to navigate life and come to terms with what has been handed to them their stories went in such different ways then I could have ever imagined. I became so frustrated at points when their decisions seemed immature or senseless, I just wanted to shake them!  However, through masterful storytelling, the saga of the Daughters of Ireland engrossed me all the way through.  I was definitely surprised at the end, but I believe they are one step closer to breaking the curse of Castle Deverill.

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

I got my Halloween Bingo Card!

Yay!  Now I can start planning...


The Velvet Prison

The VELVET PRISON - Sheldon Friedman
Travis Kane grew up under the watchful eye and heavy hand of his grandfather, Barclay Kane.  Travis' father was killed fighting in the Great War, meanwhile, his mother continued to grow distant until the birth of his baby sister.  Shortly after giving birth, Hannah Kane gathered up her things and her new baby and disappeared.  Left with his grandfather, Travis continued to practice the art that he loved, but was continually pushed toward a career in law by Barclay. When Travis becomes serious about his art, he decides to show and sell some paintings in a speakeasy.  Through the speakeasy, Travis finds friends that pull him into the underworld of rum running, but also opens him up to the world of professional art. Meanwhile, Lindsay Wayne is entering the world of professional theatre with the help of her mother.  Lindsay and Travis' worlds soon collide through Travis' friend, Gino. 
This historical saga took me on a journey from the end of WWI through the beginning of WWII. Through Travis and Barclay I had a very unique view of the politics of World War I, prohibition, the depression and the tensions rising to World War II.  More interesting than the perspective on history however, was the family dynamic of the Kanes.  From the beginning, the family had significant issues. Clearly, Travis' mother felt uncomfortable in Barclay's house, there are several reasons explored throughout the story, but none that we know for sure.  Though, there was something strong enough for Hannah to force herself to abandon her son and leave with her newborn daughter.  Travis is the most affected by his mother's abandonment and his grandfather's pressure to make him into something he is not.  I'm not sure his character ever really comes to terms with his mother's actions or his grandfather's will.  However, I am glad that Travis seems to finally do what makes him happy in the end.  I was really interested in Travis' artwork, his style and the mission he was sent on.  Hopefully I will discover more in book two!
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 


Concentration Camps of Canada

Concentration Camps of Canada: Based on a True Story - Baron Alexander Deschauer, Lucky Deschauer
Migizi is an Indigenous Canadian who is pulled away from his family and sent to a residential school with other Indians as the government attempt to strip away everything 'Indian' about him.  Migizi is now called David, he is not allowed to speak his own language, practice any customs or traditions or talk about his old life.  All of the children must work and if they fall ill, they are sequestered away until they die.  No doctors are called.  The children that survive are often abused by the Brothers and Sisters that run the school.  After school, Migizi is still required to get a permit whenever he would like to leave the reservation.  Migizi works for a living but soon falls into a cycle of alcohol abuse and spousal abuse.  Trying to set himself right, Migizi joins the army and returns a war hero.  Even with this status, in Canada, he is still considered an Indian and has limited rights.
This was a very eye-opening read.  I had no idea that indigenous Canadians were put through injustices for so long.  Through following Migizi from third grade through adulthood I had a good picture of the abuse of the Indigenous Canadians throughout time and how the government practices perpetuated the cycles of addiction and abuse.  I was appalled at the school that Migizi was sent to; how the Brothers and Sisters felt they could beat the Indian culture out of the students and that they received no medical care.  I was even more upset at the fact that this practice continued to happen as Migizi's grandchildren went through the schools.  Migizi's time in the Service seemed to be the only time that he was treated as an equal.  I was impressed with Migizi's skill and dedication to the army and how his missions helped to win WWII.  However, the racism that prevailed when he returned as a war hero quickly erased all of his accomplishments. Overall, this is an overwhelming story that increased my understanding of the struggles and injustices that the Native Canadians have faced and continue to face today.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 


The Sworn Virgin

The Sworn Virgin: A Novel - Kristopher Dukes

During the early 20th century in Albania, the Law of Lekë ruled.  Women were under the strict authority of men and men could shoot each other for honor with no consequence.  However, if a woman wanted to swear to live as a virgin for the rest of her life, she could live with the freedoms of a man including the style of dress, carrying a gun, and killing another man for honor.  Eleanora has lived a privileged life for a young woman in a small mountain Village of Albania.  She has spent most of her life traveling with her father who works as  a healer.  This life has given Eleanora extended freedom, a different skill set than most other women and a passion and talent for art.  Eleanora's father, Francis believes he can secure a place for his daughter at an art school in Venice.  While traveling, Francis is recognized and killed in the street as an honor killing.  With no other choice, Eleanora makes the trip back to her village with her step-mother, Meria. Believing she is doing what's best, Meria arranges a marriage for Eleanora with Edi, a cruel man from a neighboring clan.  Rather than become a subservient wife, Eleanora declares herself a sworn virgin. When an injured stranger enters their life, Eleanora fears breaking her vow.

This is an amazing story that introduced me to a culture that I knew nothing about. The writing transported me to the mountainous villages of Albania. The rich culture, vibrant landscapes, houses, food and clothing came to life for me.  Eleanora's character was captivating, I loved her passion for art, her unwavering spirit and following her on her journey to find out how she can fit in. The gender roles and Eleanora's place within them was an intriguing journey that carried throughout the story.  I was very interested to see if she would thrive in her role as a man when she was a sworn virgin or enjoy her role as a traditional woman.  I was not surprised at the outcome.  The suspense created by the many different feuds and the effects they caused on the families was very direct and created a dangerous web that Eleanora fell into which led to a very different ending than I suspected.  Overall, a unique and vibrant tale about a woman's life in early 20th century Albania.  

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

Dunkirk: A Miracle of Deliverance

Dunkirk: A Miracle of Deliverance - David Boyle

With historical accuracy, Dunkirk: A Miracle of Deliverance describes the evacuation of the British forces from the beaches of Dunkirk.  I have always enjoyed reading about historical events, especially when they are brought back into the spotlight by pop culture; I like knowing the facts from the fiction.  This was a concise overview of the events leading up to the evacuation and the evacuation itself. I learned about Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsey along with the difficult decisions and unique calls that he had to make. I was very interested in the planning and decisions made on Ramsey's end and Hitler's end and the eventual outcome, since this book provided a general overview, I'm sure there is much more to learn and discover when delving into those specifics.  I was also amazed at how many people were willing to use their boats to deliver the soldiers from Dunkirk and I would definitely like to delve more into their stories.  Overall, I was amazed simply by the facts of how many people were able to escape.  I would have loved to have seen pictures, maps and any other historical artifacts included in the book; however, this was a wonderful primer of the overall event.

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

The Beat on Ruby's Street

The Beat on Ruby's Street - Jenna Zark
Eleven-year old Ruby Tabeata is growing up in Greenwich Village in 1958.  She is part of the Beat generation and lives a slightly different kind of life than those around her.  Ruby loves poetry and writes some herself, her biggest dream is to hear Jack Kerouac perform.  However, her parents aren't exactly married, her house isn't the cleanest and she doesn't attend a normal school.  All of this plus being mistaken for stealing from a market stall gets Ruby in trouble and gets the attention of a social worker.  The social worker does not approve of Ruby's home life and takes her to a children's home.  While there, Ruby does whatever she needs in order to return to her mom and home.
The Beat on Ruby's Street was a very interesting look into the life of a child of the Beat generation.  I really don't know much about people who did consider themselves Beatniks, and never thought about the children that they raised.  I was very interested in Ruby's way of life and I adored her poetry.  I thought it was very interesting that they were treated without respect because of their different way of life.  However, I didn't like that the social worker was portrayed as a villain rather than someone who came to understand a different way of living.  I was very happy that Ruby did finally get to meet her poet and perform her poetry.  Overall, an inspiring piece of historical fiction for middle grade readers. 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

The Cottingley Secret

The Cottingley Secret - Hazel Gaynor

Do you believe in fairies?  In 1917, in the midst of World War I, two girls from Cottingley, England believed in fairies and had the whole world believing with them.  Cousins Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright loved to play in the beck at the bottom of their garden and Frances began to see the magical creatures that have been rumored to live there.  Fueled by the need for her family to believe, Elsie takes a staged picture with Frances and the fairies.  The picture soon spreads and grabs the interest of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, making the girls and their fairies an international sensation. The two girl stuck to their stories of the pictures being real for decades. When the truth finally comes out, Frances shares her side of the story in a manuscript.  One hundred years later, Olivia Kavanaugh finds Frances' manuscript at a turning point in her life. Olivia's grandfather has died, leaving her his antique bookstore, Something Old.  When Olivia goes to the bookstore to get everything in order, she discovers the manuscript and begins reading Frances's story.  Olivia also finds an interesting connection to Frances and her fairies in the manuscript along with the courage to make an important change in her life.

I have always loved a good fairy tale, and The Cottingley Secret provides one that very well might be real!  This was a perfect mix of history with a dash of magic.  I loved the dual story line and that as Olivia read Frances' tale of discovery.  Olivia not only discovered strength within herself through Frances, but she was able to connect further with her grandmother and past generations of her family. I enjoyed that Frances and Olivia shared a connection, but not in an obvious way.  The writing captured me and transported me back to Cottingley in 1917 in order to relive Frances' fairy tale, I had no trouble picturing the idyllic beck that Frances and Elsie played in or the glimpses of fairies that visited.  I also had no trouble picturing the Something Old bookshop filled with stories waiting to be read or its mysterious fairy window.  Most of all, I loved that this book was filled with women who changed people's minds and beliefs with their sense of wonder.  Frances and Elsie managed to give the world hope at a time of despair while Olivia made strides for herself and began to revitalize her community.  Overall, a wonderful story of hope, secrets and magic.  
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

Tales From the Warming

Tales from The Warming - Lorin R. Robinson

Tales from the Warming presents a series of ten short stories set in the near future that tells about the impact of global warming on human life.  All of these stories exhibit in a very realistic fashion what will happen to people from all around the Earth if we do not try to stop or at least slow or global Carbon Dioxide emissions.  Beginning with the very near future in 2022, we follow a weather reported to the top of Kilimanjaro where the last of the snow is melting.  This event in itself is not all that dramatic, but it is just the tip of the iceberg.  The emotion in the writing that is conveyed through this one event is what carried me through the rest of the stories in the book.  As the years pass, the effects of climate change spread and take route in humans lives, causing the characters to adapt and change their way of life as the new climate takes hold.  

As I read through each story and the years pass, the climate slowly worsens for the human way of life. People are beginning to die, and those that have survived are finding more radical ways to live.  What impressed me the most is that nothing unrealistic or from science-fiction was brought into any of the stories.  Many of the events that so drastically changed the lives of the characters are events that are happening now: air pollution so terrible that it is killing people, earthquakes resulting from fracking and changes in growing seasons and locations. Overall, a very thought provoking and practical look into our most likely future if we do not begin to change our habits. 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

Casanova's Secret Wife

Casanova's Secret Wife - Barbara Lynn-Davis

Caterina Capreta became entangled with the infamous Giacoma Casanova at the age of fourteen and has harbored a secret of her love affair and wedding to him for her adult life.  When Caterina is called back to the Murano convent where she was a boarded for four years, the memories of Caterina and Casanova's love affair return to her full force.  The Abbess, Marina, is an old acquaintance of Caterina's from her time there.  Marina asks Caterina for a favor that she cannot refuse; to take in a young pregnant border until the child is delivered.  Leda, has found herself in a compromising position from what she believed was true love.  As Caterina recognizes herself in Leda, she shares her story of her turbulent time with Casanova.  The two women find their similarities, gain friendship and realize the many definitions of love. 

I was immediately pulled into Caterina's story along with the inviting setting of Venice.  As an adult, Caterina secrets feel compelled to come pouring out.  From the time Caterina meets with Marina, I knew there was something deeper there. The mystery of what happened between Caterina and Casanova and how it created a tumultuous divide intrigued me.  Through Caterina's letters and stories that she tells Leda, we get to see Casanova in a different way, how he was with one woman whom he truly loved.  I was also pleased to see that this is based on some facts that have been discovered.  At first, I was a little put off by the fact that Caterina was 14, but apparently this is how old she actually was.  I was happily surprised that this was not really a love story, but more of a story of acceptance and coming to terms with the past.  With Leda, Caterina is finally able to review that part of her life with someone who understands and put in behind her.  Overall, a historical retelling of one of Casanova's many loves and it's consequences from the women's point of view.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 
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The Essential Carl Mahogany

The Essential Carl Mahogany - Zach Boddicker

Nashville Country star and award-winner Carl Mahogany is entering middle age, and his label is beginning to believe he's entering the end of his music career as well.  They are letting him know this by releasing an Essentials album and sending him on a tour.  Carl agrees to the tour on his own terms and will be driving his beat-up van, Percy along the way.  However, things quickly turn more interesting as Carl hooks up with Rhonda, the local mechanic right before the tour and then receives an interesting message from an ex-girlfriend who wants to join him on tour.  Things go from interesting to upside-down as Carl is forced to take a hard look at his life while trying to complete his tour.

From the very beginning, Carl felt like someone I would like to get to know.  Down to earth, approachable and realistic in every aspect of his life, Carl seems the antithesis of an award-winning musician.  I loved that he kept a side gig as an exterminator and held on to his old tour van, Carl shows a sentimentality, vulnerability and unique sense of humor that easily carried me through the pages.  It seemed that no matter what Carl did, that life quickly got in the way; he meets a nice woman and his boss is her crazy ex-boyfriend, releasing a CD and he receives a prank CD back, and a multi-layered request from an ex turns into more than he could imagine. The supporting cast of characters made Carl's life all the more interesting.  I loved Rhonda, the independent, takes no crap car mechanic and Sheila who was always hiding a separate agenda.  Most of all, I truly cared about Carl's story and how he ended up.  Overall, a unique story of a musician figuring out life like the rest of us.
This story was received for free in return for an honest review. 

Lilli De Jong

Lilli de Jong - Janet Benton

Lilli De Jong is a young woman who grew up in the Quaker faith in Germantown, Pennsylvania.  She enjoys her post as a schoolteacher and is engaged in her 1883 community.  However, when her mother passes, Lilli's life takes a turn.  Lilli's father turns cold and Lilli seeks solace in the arms of Johan, her father's apprentice.  One night of passion leaves Lilli pregnant after Johan has moved to Pittsburgh for work in the steel mills. With no news from Johan, Lilli finds herself at a charity of unwed mothers.  However, when the time comes to give up her daughter, she can't, throwing Lilli down a path of hardship all for the sake of her daughter.

Intimate details of Lilli's hardships are shown through her private journal entries, pulling me into the unknown world of wet nurses and limited women's rights at the time.  Reading Lilli's journey was an intensely emotional experience for me, as I imagine it would be for anyone who has had a child. I was most impressed by the writing of the reality of having a baby and the overwhelmingness of it all.  I could not imagine having to go through what Lilli did.  I was happy that the writing included the true feelings of new motherhood- the ups, the downs, the fatigue, not knowing if you can carry on, all while falling hopelessly in love with the person you have created.  Lilli's voice is unique in that she is an intelligent, outspoken and passionate woman who has fallen into an unfortunate circumstance for her time period.  However, even with these attributes, she is barely able to pull through as an unmarried mother in 19th century America.  I am aware that being an unmarried mother definitely had its challenges in early American history, although I was surprised at some of the challenges Lilli faced and how they paralleled mothers in today's society.   Overall, a passionate and engaging book about the bond between mother and child and the will to conserve that bond in 19th Century America. 

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

Third Chronicles of Illumination

Third Chronicles of Illumination: The Library of Illumination-Book Eight - C. A. Pack

The Third Chronicles of Illumination picks up right after book two.  Johanna and Jackson have almost caught the shapeshifter who wishes to take over the world along with Nero 51, another Library Curator who simply wishes to control all of the Libraries of Illumination.  Johanna and Jackson's Library is right in the middle of the whole debacle and the two are under immense stress trying to save several worlds and their relationship is put to the test.

This was another great adventure in the Library of Illumination!  I have always loved the idea of a library where the books come to life, and that aspect is still delivered.  I love that Johanna and Jackson get to talk to Stephen Hawking about time travel.  Now that the two curators are embroiled in a plot with the Libraries on other worlds, we get to explore the beings and ways of life on those planets even deeper.  I really like to women of Romantica and the children of Juvenailia.  Even with all of the different worlds, each one is well thought out and complete; it is obvious that a lot of imagination and planning went into the creation of each.  The situation between Jackson and Johanna left me on edge as much as the potential destruction of the worlds, but I will have to wait to see how that plays out. Overall, an exciting and magical adventure!