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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.

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. 

 

The Most Happy

The most happy: An alternate history of Anne Boleyn - Helen R. Davis

Imagine what England might have been like if Anne Boleyn had birthed a son for King Henry VIII.  This story imagines just that, instead of being cast aside after the birth of Elizabeth, Anne Boleyn gives birth to twins, Elizabeth and Edward VI, securing a legitimate male heir for the throne.  King Henry VIII still entertains his womanizing ways, but his jousting accident comes before he can push Anne aside and Henry names Anne the Regent until Edward comes of age.  It is now up to Anne to weather the tense political climate building between England, France and Spain and to secure the throne for her children until Edward comes of age.  

As an avid reader of all things Tudor, I was very excited to see what could be imagined for Anne Boleyn if her life was continued past her short reign as Queen. Some points in history were kept the same throughout this alternative historical fiction tale, but some were obviously changed.  It was interesting to see the new roles that Henry VIII's real life next wives took, many now served Queen Anne, some more faithfully than others.  I was also fascinated by the insight of Queen Anne as she aged.  She was very remorseful of her treatment to Katherine of Aragon and Mary, especially since she was almost placed in the same situation.  Queen Anne also explained many times that it was not she who pushed herself onto Henry, but she merely could not say no to the King.  I was also intrigued how, at the end everything seemed to turn out the way that history intended.  I did wish that the book went into more detail, this was a shorter story, so time moved quickly and many events simply happened and were not experienced through reading.  I would have loved to be engrossed in this alternate history for a little longer and have had the characters expanded upon a bit more.  Overall, an insightful look into what might have been for Henry VIII's 'Most Happy' Queen. 

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

Last Christmas in Paris

Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I - Heather Webb, Hazel Gaynor

In 1969 Tom Harding makes a final trip to Paris for Christmas.   While he is there he re-reads all the letters sent between 1914 and 1918.  In 1914, Evie Elliot's brother, Will and best friend, Tom  leave for the Front.  Evie diligently writes to both of them. In their letters, the three divulge their greatest wishes, fears, and emotions.  Most of all, they all wish for the war to be over by Christmas so they may celebrate the holiday in Paris.  Little do they know how much the War will change all of them.  

An all at once heartwarming and heartbreaking story of love and loss during World War I.  Told almost entirely in letter exchanges between Evie and her loved ones, this book completely enveloped me as I devoured every word.  There was so much passion in the writing, especially the letters between Thomas and Evie, I felt as if these could be two real people.  I felt like I was immersed into their most intimate moments and my heart raced for when they would finally declare their love for one another.   Through the letters, I was able to see the impact of the war from all sides. Through Evie, I got a sense of how it felt to be left behind, the worry, dread and depression of fearing that your loved ones may not come home and the overwhelming urge to do something about it.  Through Tom, the gruesome depictions of the Front that the media wouldn't let anyone know of as well as the mental toll that war takes on the soldiers.  Also, through Evie's exchanges with her friend Alice, we learn of the many ways that women jumped in to help from delivering the mail, to nursing and driving ambulances to the Auxillary Corps and even writing newspaper articles.  What affected me most was Tom's re-reading of the letters and his opening of the final letter at the end.  Overall, a wonderfully written historical novel reminding me of the sacrifices made by our veterans. 

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

Journey From Skioria

Journey from Skioria - Kandi J Wyatt
Nine-year-old Tania has become shipwrecked in a boating accident. She washes up on a distant shore. Unknown to her, Tania has found the land of Skioria. She is taken in by Trillicus and his mate Holley. They are Skiorians and are the same height as Tania, despite being adults. Skiorians live high in the trees and are experts in the forest. Tania wants to get back home and to her parents, but that is difficult. The Skiorians will have to travel with Tania back to the human world. It is a treacherous hike and the Skiorians are not known to the human populations. With help from a Terran, an Avarian and another friend, Tania will find her way back, but will she want to leave her new friends?

This was an easy to read, exciting middle grad adventure set in a magical world. Tania is desperate to get back to her parents after washing up in Skioria, however she is also captivated by their magical world and the Skiorians themselves! I found myself wanting to explore their world more and how they lived. I was a little dissapointed in the patriarchal society that was reinforced in Skioria, further showing middle grade readers that this is the norm. Tania's adventure home was the best part for me. During her adventure Tania formed deep bonds of friendship and pushed herself to do things that she never thought she could do. As an adult reader there were several times I had to take large suspensions of disbelief, especially at the end when her parents don't seem overly concerned that their daughter who has been missing for more than a month is reunited with them; however, as a middle grade reader I would have found this book to be a fun adventure into and out of a mysterious world hiding under our noses.

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

 

Sick

Sick - Tom Leveen

One more book for Halloween Bingo!  This is obviously for "The Dead Will Walk" square when it is called. 

 

High school is a place where many kids feel like they just don't fit in. That is definitely true for Brian and his friends, a collection of misfits who decided to skip a few classes they day of the school pep rally. They get back to school just in time for stagecraft class, and for a deadly virus to take hold of their school. A strange sickness has rapidly spread, something that gives people a drawn, wasted look and develops crusty scales, oh- and it gives the infected person a taste for human bone. Ground zero is the pep rally, but the theatre building is farther away and able to be protected. It's too bad that Brian's sister and ex-girlfriend decided to go to the pep-rally, now Brian has to find a way to get the girls out of the zombie infested hallways as well as the stagecraft class.

 

This is a very fast-paced young adult zombie outbreak story that does not skip on the gore and held me in suspense. Centered in a high school with high schoolers as the only uninfected people left, I was really interested to see how high school dynamics would go into play. Especially since this high school was overcrowded, had a lot of racial tension and general intolerance of anyone who is different. Luckily, this group of survivors is centered in the theatre, where different is the norm. When any differences are brought up, they manage to be quickly resolved or changed in the minds of the teenagers for the benefit of survival. I was really interested in the virus itself and I got a little bit of information on it through Brian's mom, who was on the first response team. I did want to find out if there was a cure and how it began. The book really just focused on the outbreak itself and how this small group of highschoolers was able to survive. There were some very awesome moments of zombie smackdowns and creative weaponry, but there was no resolve after the teens were rescued from the school.

 

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

 

The Smallest Thing

The Smallest Thing - Lisa Manterfield
Emmott Syddall wants nothing more than to leave her small town and move to London.  She does not want to become another dead Syddall buried in the small Eyam cemetery.   Emmott make plans to move to London with her boyfriend, Roland right before her 18th birthday.  However, before she can get out of Eyam, her neighbors begin dying.  At first, it looks like a weird flu, but no one really knows, and then, Eyam is quarantined.  There is no leaving, the exits are surrounded by military patrol.  Relief workers in yellow haz-mat suits flood the town and begin asking questions.  No one wants to go out and about or interact with anyone else.  Except for Emmott, who just wants to escape and her father, who just wants to help his neighbors.  Emmott's mind begins to change about leaving when a suited up relief worker named Aiden begins visiting.
 
The Smallest Thing is a creative re-imagining of the self-imposed quarantine of the village of Eyam in the 1660's due to the plague.  At that point in time, the villagers of Eyam were seen as selfless, heroic- allowing the plague to ravage them, saving countless others.  In modern times, with social media and aggressive TV reporters, the town is a spectacle, the victims are no more than statistics. Emmott is very easy to identify with, restless and burgeoning on adulthood, her story is one of growth and finding her place.  I enjoyed watching her change her opinion of her father from a fearful man who is tying her down, to a hero who allowed her to grow.  The virus also interested me, this was not just a resurgence of the plague, but something unknown, brought about possibly by climate change and increased human movement.  The romance in this felt just right, not rushed, not insta-love, but definitely intensified by the situation. If not for the fact that it was a haz-mat suit, the fact that Emmott saw nothing but Aiden's eyes felt almost exotic  their connection was based on something deeper than physical attraction when Emmott wants nothing more than to connect with someone.  Overall, a heartfelt story of devastation and how a community can pull through. 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 
 

 

Twilight Empress

Twilight Empress: A Novel of Imperial Rome (The Theodosian Women Book 1) - Faith L. Justice

Galla Placida is sister to one of the last Roman Emperors in 400 AD. As a young woman Placida is captured by the Goths. Growing up in their camps, she comes to respect their way of life and skills. Placida especially enjoys the company of Ataulf. She eventually marries Ataulf and becomes Queen of the Goths by his side, helping with decisions and in battle. Placida's brother, however, sees her marriage to Ataulf as a political move by the Goths and orders her home. Unfortunately, Ataulf is killed in a plan to overthrow him. Placida is captured and uses her strength and intelligence to escape and enact revenge. Now, she must return to her brother and the marriage that he has arranged for her; although, she returns with a groups loyal to her until the very end.

Placida is a force to be reckoned with. I am so happy I got the chance to learn about her life. Even though women were not allowed to rule in their own right, Placida managed to keep Rome together in its dying days. I was amazed by her patience and willingness to understand and learn from the Goths when she was originally captured instead of just fight back. She seemed to continually look at decisions long term and for the good of her people and land. The story follows Placida from a young women to her death. I very much enjoyed watching her grow and seeing how she hand a hand in political decisions through her brother, both of her husbands and her son. As conflict rose throughout the territories and Placida aged, Placida's job became more and more difficult. Through the writing, I got a wonderful sense of Placida's character while sticking to the history of the time period. Overall, a breathtaking and immense journey through one inspirational and impactful woman's life in Rome.

A Gift of Ghosts

A Gift of Ghosts - Sarah Wynde

My Second Halloween Bingo Read!  I know that the ghost square has been called, but I'm going to use this for Romantic Suspense since I have a bunch of other ghost stories to read.

 

Akira Malone is a scientist, a researcher, she fully believes in the tenets of her field, physics.  That is why she fully quantifies her ability to see and talk to ghosts as part of her biology, the ability to see energy that others can not. However, when she publishes a mention of this residual energy in a paper, she is thrown out of the academic community.  Luckily, a job opportunity at General Directions in Tassamara, Florida presents itself.  When Akira interviews with Zane Latimer, she doesn't get a good sense of the job, but Zane is good looking at will let her continue her research.  Akira soon learns that all of Tassamara has some kind of gift, but her ability to see and talk to ghosts is one of a kind, and that is what General Directions was looking for.  What General Directions doesn't know is that Akira just doesn't see nice ghosts, but has tangled with dangerous ghosts as well and the most dangerous might be the one in Zane's house. 

This was a fun and sexy read with a great addition of the paranormal.  I loved Akira's character, a scientist who can see and talk to ghosts; however, this is a part of her life that she would rather not have, at least until she can explain it. General Directions and the town of Tassamara is a mystery, I still can't wait to find out more about the rest of the inhabitants of Tassamara.  As soon as Akira meets Zane, I knew there would be chemistry.  Zane is intriguing and has a gift of his own.  The ghosts in this story were entertaining and full of character. I think there is still a lot to learn from them and about them.  Overall, an entertaining and amusing paranormal romance, with ghosts!  I'll definitely be checking out the rest of the series. 

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

The Long Way Home

The Long Way Home - Kevin Bannister


Thomas and Murphy are slaves toiling away on a southern farm in the late 1700's.  Both want something more of their lives and itch for freedom.  However, they have vastly different personalities.  Thomas is mature, patient and a long-term thinker.  He was from a ruling family in his former land and held slaves of his own.  Murphy was born in the New World and is quick to act, ferociously strong and lives in the moment.  Together, they try several times to escape their bonds and fail.  That is, until unrest erupts between the colonists and the British.  and the British declare that any slave that can make it to British property is free.  Thomas and Murphy make it to a British ship and join up.  They make a ferocious team and move up through the ranks.  When the war is over, the British promised their soldiers benefits, but the former slaves still seem to get the short end of the stick.

This is an inspiring story of courage, determination and perseverance.  I was immediately intrigued by Thomas and Murphy's characters as well as the setting.  I have not read much at all about slavery before or during the War of Independence and have not read anything about the runaway slaves who fought for the British during the War.  The unique characters shed a different light on slaves for the time period; both men were educated and Thomas came from a family that had owned slaves, which gave him a shifting outlook on life.  I enjoyed learning about the real regiment that Thomas and Murphy originally joined, Lord Dunmore's Ethiopian Regiment, I had no idea that so many former slaves fought in the war of independence and had a major impact for the British.  The men's outlook on life was what impressed me the most, the entire story encompasses the struggle for freedom; even when Thomas and Murphy were fighting for the British, they knew that no matter what side won, they might still be slaves in the end, but, they were willing since it meant they were fighting as free men.  This also showed their willingness and inspiration, Thomas and Murphy knew they were fighting for the future; even if they still ended up slaves, their actions now might make things better for future generations. The writing presented an honest, gritty and realistic image and war and what people went through.  These men did not have easy lives, from slavery, to war and even after, when they were promised land in Canada. the realities of Thomas and Murphy's struggles and hopes are presented sensibly.  Overall, an eye-opening read about two amazing men during the War of Independence. 

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

Shine Your Light on Me

Shine Your Light on Me - Lee  Thompson, K. Allen Wood

Book one for Halloween Bingo!  I decided to use this for the "Terror in a Small Town" Square when it gets called.  I am going to stick the cover on there for now, books will get an orange glow around them when the square is called.  

 

Aiden LeDoux would just like to be a normal kid, someone who flies under the radar.  However, that is unlikely after his father is literally crucified by the son of a man who he has wronged.  One night while at his father's bar, Aiden feels overwhelmed and uncomfortable.  In his anxiety a bright light bursts from his face, illuminating the entire bar.  To add to that, anyone who was bathed in the light is now healed of any physical malady, from a scratch or scar to cancer.  Of course the miraculous event spreads like wildfire, and the small town becomes ignited by zealotry by Aiden's miracle.  Aiden is now being held hostage by those who will do anything to have him perform the miracle again.  

This book threw me for a loop; simultaneously diving right into the action and setting the scene, I was thrown into a small town bar that Aiden's father, Jack owns.  Immediately, I had a feel for many of the characters and the varied dynamics between them.  Then, everything changes.  I was amazed at how quickly the town turned.  However, some people remained the same.  Aiden really becomes a side character and the focus turns on how the town reacts to him.  The horror was not in Aiden's incident, but the quick turnaround to chaos, panic and illogical thinking that takes over an overwhelming amount of people. Pine, the brother responsible for Jack's injury was easily the most terrifying character and could probably have an entire book written about his antics.  There were a few plot holes for me, especially the absence of any law enforcement until the end. Overall, a well crafted book that looks into the dynamics of small town incidents with well placed elements of horror and psychological thriller. 

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

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.