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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.

From Across the Room

From Across the Room - Gina L. Mulligan

Author Thomas Galdwell takes a working vacation to the all new Hotel New Coronado in San Diego to find inspiration for his newest novel.  While there, he bumps into a young woman, Mary Harting.  Mary intrigues Thomas with her spirit and kind nature.   However, Mary's father is the railroad tycoon Charles Harting and has other plans for Mary that do not involve Thomas.  Thomas and Mary try their best to continue their relationship behind her father's back while Thomas attempts to finish two more novels on a tight deadline and unravel the mystery of the man Mr. Harting has chosen for Mary.  

Told in epistolary form, Thomas Galdwell's letters tell the story of a writer, a romance and a mystery in the late 19th Century.  All of the letters are written from by Thomas and are sent to his agent, his family, his friends and Mary.  At first, this fact threw me since I am used to seeing both sides of a correspondence.  Since there was only one side of the story being presented, I filled in a lot in my head, especially about Mary.  We are given glimpses into her personality when Thomas uses quotes or relays a story, but I would have liked to know a little more about her.  Through his letters, Thomas' character shines and I was taken on an emotional roller coaster as he dealt with deadlines, love, villains and interesting neighbors.  The ending through me for a loop but also made everything make sense. 

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

The War Between Us

The War Between Us - Sarah Creviston Lee

Six months ago the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and life changed for many people. Alex Moon, a California native with Korean Ancestry is encouraged by his father to join up immediately to fight the Japanese. But Alex has seen what the American people have done to the Japanese-American citizens and refuses his father's request. Because of this, Alex's father sends him on a train to his uncle in Washington, DC. Alex gets off on a train stop in the small town of River Bluff, Indiana only to be accosted and beaten up by locals who see the enemy in Alex's skin color. After being shipped to the police station, Reverend Hicks and his niece, Lonnie Hamilton come to check on Alex and offer him some kindness. Alex finds himself stuck in River Bluff and seeks out a friendship Lonnie. However, the rest of the town is determined to see Alex as one of the men that is fighting their sons overseas. Tensions mount in the small town as Alex and Lonnie's friendship grows into something more. Alex must face his identity as a Korean and American as well as his family's wishes for him. 

The War Between Us is a wartime romance that will sweep you off your feet. This is a sweet and clean romance that develops into something much more as the prejudices of an entire town are brought to light. Alex and Lonnie's characters are what brought me into the story and kept me interested. On the surface, this is a simple love story. However, both Lonnie and Alex are complex characters with intriguing stories. From Alex I learned about the feelings and prejudices that Korean and Chinese Americans went through after the Pearl Harbor as well as the complexity of emotions he faced when dealing with people who despised him for what they believed him to be. I did enjoy learning about some Korean customs and food as Alex introduced his culture to Lonnie. Lonnie was also an amazing character who faced a different adversity of not living up to what others had planned for her. Lonnie's grows a lot during the story as her mind shifts and realizes that you can not choose who you love. 

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

Temptation Rag

Temptation Rag - Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard

May Convery is a young woman living in New York City's upper class neighborhood in 1895. More than anything, May wants to make decisions of her own, including her love life and pursuit of poetry. May plans on going after her dreams beginning by sharing her romantic poetry with her piano teacher and love interest, Mike Bernard. Mike is faking it in the world in order to become a renowned musician. Mike and May's romance comes crashing down quickly as May's parents have other plans for May as Mrs. Theodore Livingstone. Meanwhile, the world is being overtaken by ragtime music. Mike quickly picks up the style and makes a name for himself as the Ragtime King of the World. Mike and May go their different ways, but will never forget what they once had.

Temptation Rag is a look into the lives of some of the real-life stars of the ragtime era and is written by the wife of Mike Bernard's grandson. While the story takes us from 1895 through 1920, the writing gives a good sense of the feeling of the ragtime era. One of the most interesting themes of the book was the cultural appropriation of ragtime music and how it persisted through time. Mike Bernard, crowned the Ragtime King of the World and his competitor Ben Harney, dubbed the creator or Ragtime were both white men. The African-American pianists, such as Scott Joplin, Strap Hill and Otis Saunders had to fight for their recognition. May's story, though fictionalized showed another side of the time period, though part of the upper class, May had no rights. Through time, May participates in the Women's Suffrage Movement, embraced her poetry and befriended African American artists. With this, she was finally able to take control of her life and forgive events of the past. Overall, a sweeping historical novel of the Ragtime era. 

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

A Light of Her Own

A Light of Her Own - Carrie Callaghan

Haarlem, Holland 1633, Judith Leyster is an apprentice painter to Frans de Grebber.  Judith is one of the only female painters along with Frans' daughter, Maria.  Judith will do anything to be admitted to the Guild so she can sell her work.  However, no female has ever been admitted.   Maria is working on a secret painting, although art is not her passion, religion and atoning for her own perceived sins comes first.  Judith is set on clawing her way to the top, and having independence.  Maria finds herself when she sets off on her own and discovers the art of healing and helping others.  The two women will need to find one another again as the men of the city decide to plot against the young, up and coming painters.


A Light of Her Own explores the lives of two little known female painters of the Dutch Golden Age.  I love learning about new and important female historical figures, Judith Leyster and Maria de Grebber were real painters.  History would obscure Judith's work and sell it under a man's name.  In the book, I enjoyed that the plot focused on the strained friendship of the two women and their faults.  The writing through Judith's eyes engaged me, the way Judith saw color, light and other features in the world around her transformed scenes that would typically be dull or boring into something magical.  Judith's ambition was also refreshing.  Though what she did was sometimes illegal or immoral, it was nothing that other male painters at the time weren't doing as well.  Maria's point of view shed light on the religious tones of the time in Holland as well as the social system.  The mystery of the disappearing linseed oil did help move the plot along, but was a little weak for me.  However, I did enjoy how Judith brought the truth out in the end. Overall, an engaging story that helps bring to light the lives of female Dutch Golden Age painters. 

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

The Journal of Angela Ashby

The Journal of Angela Ashby - Liana Gardner

Twelve Year Old Angela Ashby is dealing with a lot at the moment. Her parents are divorced and neither her mom or her dad seem to have time for her anymore. At school, there is a bully that loves to pick on Angela and her best friend, Mallory. Things begin to change, however when Angela and Mallory attend their school's carnival. A mysterious fortune teller gives each of the girls a gift, a necklace for Mallory and a journal for Angela. The journal comes with a warning though, "With great power comes great responsibility." It takes Angela a while to figure out what the warning means as the hopes and dreams that she writes down in her journal begin to come true in her life.

The Journal of Angela Ashby is an exciting and magical middle grade drama. Angela and Mallory were wonderful main characters and the inclusion of fairies, gnomes and unicorns helps to keep the book entertaining. The characters were realistic as pre-teens in their actions and motives. I enjoyed that the journal was not only a source of fun, but also responsibility that helped Angela to realize the impacts of her actions on those around her as well as help her grow into a caring person. There are also many good lessons on friendship, family and bullying. As an adult reader, the middle of the book got a little boring for me as Angela continued to test out journal entries to see what would happen, although this is also where many of the fun characters come in, so middle grade readers may be more entertained. Overall, an entertaining, supernatural adventure for middle grade readers.

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

When Women Ruled the World

When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt - Kara Cooney

When Women Ruled the World provides an in-depth examination of six female Egyptian rulers who were able to take hold and keep power within Ancient Egypt. The reigns of Merneith, Neferusobek, Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, Tawosret and Cleopatra are investigated combining strong research and intricate story telling.  Author Kara Cooney combines facts along with what was known about the political environment, climate and world affairs at the time to weave a plausible life story of each of these amazing women. With very little sources available, the conditions under which the six women were able to take hold and continue their rule are investigated and connected in many ways to our current political scene in the United States and the realities that women in politics face today.  There were also many other comparisons to current life that made the world of the Ancient Egyptians easy to understand.  I was very interested in the ways that these women were able to come to power, often at the end of a Dynasty when there was no other choice and when everything seemed to be falling apart, the women were there to pick the pieces up and put things back together.  I am by no means an Egypt specialist, but I have always been intrigued by their way of life.  The writing style and information was presented in an entertaining way and was easy to understand.  Looking at Egypt through the eyes of these six extraordinary women gave a very different view to an often misunderstood and glamorized time of history as well as much insight into how women behave in roles that are still seen as masculine to this day.

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

Miami Days, Havana Nights

Miami Days, Havana Nights - Linda Benntt Pennell

Sam Ackerman is a 17 year old Jewish boy trying to help his family with money in New York, 1926. Sam finds out he can make an extra two dollars working for a gangster in a speakeasy. Usually Sam is only tasked with cleaning up, however when Sam witnesses a hit and is tasked with dumping the body, he is seen by the police. Sam is hurried out of New York and sent to a contact in Miami, Moshe Toblinsky, the mob's bookkeeper. Indebted to the mob and Moshe, Sam continues working for the mob, now running alcohol back to the mainland. Sam is housed with the Scheinberg family and can't help but take notice of their daughter, Rebecca. Sam wants out of the mob in order to marry Rebecca, but is too far in. It seems that he will always owe someone a favor.

Presently, Liz Reams is trying to fish out the next big discovery in American Crime. She is desperately trying to keep up to her early career success from her last discovery about Al Capone, but keeps coming up empty. Liz finally gets a break when she finds a news article with pictures, but she still needs to identify the man with the scar on his face and his connection to Moshe Toblisnsky. However, now she is indebted to the man who lined up all of her contacts.

I always love a good dual time story and Miami Days Havana Nights is no exception. The chapters alternated between Sam and Liz's points of views and each chapter always seemed to end on a small cliffhanger making me devour the next chapter so I could see what would happen next. Both Sam and Liz had equally compelling stories and I'm glad that their relationship was only historical figure and researcher, what tied their stories together was simply their sense of obligation to those who have helped them. Sam's story showed how kids were pulled into the mob and kept there. Sam never had any intention of joining, he just wanted extra money to support his family, because of his ideals and work ethic, he was the perfect person to fulfill mob tasks. From Sam's story, I also learned of the extent of the Jewish people within the mob. Moshe Toblinsky's character is loosely based on Meyer Lansky. LIz's story dives into the high pressure in the world of academia and research, especially as a female researcher looking into American Crime. I appreciated how Liz grew more aware of her actions and how she felt as she was digging deeper into Sam's life. Overall, a fast-paced dual-time story exploring Florida's Jewish mob connections.

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

Love Notes

Love Notes - Tammy Andresen

Derek is the lead singer of the band, Echo Station. Tattooed and burly, Derek fits the look of the bad boy to a tee, and usually has a short term girlfriend to match. Derek has just had a crazy breakup with now ex-girlfriend Nicole and decides to swear off women for a while. Band mate Drew brings in marketing major, Melissa to watch the band perform and see if she can help them get bigger crowds. Melissa is career focused and has a plan for love and boyfriends. While trying get some promo shots, Melissa instantly notices Derek's presence; however this bad boy is not the Harvard guy she imagined herself with and Derek seems to think she an annoyance. At some point these two realize that love doesn't always look like they think it should. 

The third installment in the Accidental Kisses series does not disappoint. In Love Notes the sweet and sassy romance continues with the friends of characters met in the first two books. This being said, you do not have to read the first two books to understand this one, but it was nice to see the other relationships from the outside. Melissa and Derek are complete opposites. Melissa has life planned out in her head, with a man exactly like her. Derek thinks he can only have girls that fit into his rock lifestyle, but those girls are always caustic. When the two meet, sparks fly, but not in a good way. Like the other books in the series, the point of view alternates between the the two so we get an inside look into Melissa and Derek's thoughts. I enjoyed seeing the uncertainty and leaps of faith as the romance blossomed. I liked that Derek didn't fit his outward stereotype in the end and that both Melissa and Derek both could see that there is more to a person than their outward appearance. An intense and fast-paced sweet romance that I read in one sitting, I can't wait to see who falls in love next.

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

She Did It! 21 Women Who Changed the Way We Think

She Did It! 21 Women Who Changed the Way We Think - Emily Arnold McCully

Women are often the driving force behind positive changes we see in the world, however, their accomplishments are often overshadowed by their male counterparts or simply swept under the rug of history.  She Did It!  profiles 21 women who have inspired positive change in US history.  Each profile includes a mini-biography of the woman's life from birth to death or present time.  Their inspirations, failures, hardships and successes are all included.  Their journeys were rarely easy.  The writing is done so that middle grade readers can clearly understand, complete with definitions and vocabulary; although it is still informative for an adult reader.   Many of women who are profiled are women that I have heard of, some were not.  I was impressed with the variety of women throughout time, women from different backgrounds, ethnic groups and who led change in areas from human rights, civil rights, equality, the arts, media and the sciences.  

I was very happy that the book included some of my personal heroines including Rachel Carson, Isadora Duncan, Grace Hopper and Temple Grandin.  Many of these women are not well known outside of their own spheres of influence; however changes that were affected by their advancements are still in use today.  I was glad to read about the difficult parts of their lives, their struggles and perseverance for what they wanted to accomplish.  It is important to know that creating change is not usually easy, but still very possible.  I was also happy to learn about women who I was unaware of including Gladys Tataquidgeon, a leader for Native American rights and culture, Ella Baker, who was integral in the civil rights movement alongside Martin Luther King and Alice Waters, whose work with food accessibility is still being accomplished today.  As I read through these women's stories, I began to see that even as they lived at different times and were champions of different causes, that each victory they had connected to and helped fuel the next, fully revealing the meaning of sisterhood.

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

The Uninvited Guest

The Uninvited Guest - Troy Aaron Ratliff

19 year old Jose decides to drag his friend Harland to the wedding of an acquaintance of his mother. Jose and Harland clearly don't want to be at a wedding for someone they don't know at a hunting cabin in the middle of the woods, but make the best of it by taking advantage of the food and dance floor. However, before the guys can bust out their dance moves, an uninvited guest crashes the party and Harland decides to try out some hero action before all of the guests are put on the menu

The Uninvited Guest is a short thriller that has a lot of bite. Told from Harland's point of view, the story begins slow and has a lot of build up as well as a lot of information that seems useless to the reader; however, as it is a 19 year old recounting the story, this somehow makes perfect sense. As the halfway point of the story came and went, I was wondering where the climax of the story would be and then it suddenly hit full force in terrifying and gory detail keeping everything very tense until the end.

The Spite Game

The Spite Game - Anna Snoekstra

Ava has a confession to make, she knows something about the disappearance of high school classmate, Mel. As she waits to be interviewed by the detective, Ava recounts the choices that led to her sitting in the police station. In high school Ava wanted nothing more than to be friends with Mel, Saanvi and Cass. However, when Ava proves her worth to ringleader Mel, she begins to see the truth of the girls and their friendship. Still, Ava does what she needs to do to stay within their good graces, even when Mel makes life more and more difficult for Ava. After high school is over, Ava can't shake the feeling that she was wronged by the girls; she stalks them on social media and then in real life, watching for when they will make a mistake, something she can use to destroy their life, like they did to her. Some of the players are easy to destroy, but Mel proves more difficult. As Ava carries out the game she has created, she wonders if she has turned into the psycho that they called her in high school.

The Spite Game is a psychological thriller that is all about revenge. There really isn't much mystery here as the book begins with Ava going to the police to confess, the suspense is built as we find out exactly what happened to Ava and what she did. I was glued to the pages as Ava's story unfolded and her retribution is brought to fruition. It did take me a chapter or two to realize that the book is set in Australia and to grasp language and setting differences. The timeline also skips back and forth through Ava's memories as she attempts to piece all of the important events together in her head, which is slightly discombobulating. This style of writing did keep me turning pages, though, as Ava slowly revealed the terrible things that happened to her and how she managed to right them, at least in her mind. As events unfolded, I thought a lot about the psychology of what the girls did in high school along with what Ava did as an adult. It was really interesting to read a book where none of the main character were likable and to see how everything turned out for Ava at the end.

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

Help for the Haunted

Help for the Haunted - John Searles

One more for the Halloween Bingo Board- Relics and Curiosities!

Sylvie Mason has always been the good daughter compared to her sister, Rose.  Sylive and Rose's parents have given the girls an interesting life- to say the least.  Their parents made a living by helping people who are haunted, they often took objects or even people into their home.  Sylvie and Rose's life changes drastically after Penny, a doll and Abigail, a troubled girl come into their lives.  After their parents take these cases, their parents are killed.  Rose is left as Sylvie's guardian and 14 year-old Sylvie is the only witness to her parent's deaths.  As Sylvie tries to recollect what happened that night, she recounts her strange life in order to figure out who or what actually killed her parents.
 
Help For The Haunted is a creepy murder-mystery that seems to be inspired by the life of the Warrens.  The narration skips back and forth between time from Sylvie's childhood and the events leading up to her parents deaths and after Sylvie's parents have died, the result of this is slightly disorienting, but brings us into Sylvie's mindset.  As the story unfolds, the battle of the natural versus the supernatural begin to unfold as Sylvie tries to determine what really caused all of the strange events in their lives and who really killed her parents.  I was very intrigued by Penny and Abigail and why they were believed to be haunted as well as their real sources of power of people.  Rose's character was an enigma, as well as an important part of the story; it seemed that no one understood her, including her parents that were supposed to be able to help children who were struggling.  The ending wrapped up rather quickly as Sylvie exposed the truth of her family .Overall, a suspenseful crime thriller with plenty of supernatural elements that will keep you guessing. 
 
 

The Disembodied

The Disembodied - Anthony Hains

My free space for Halloween Bingo so I can finally say I have a BINGO!

 

Griffin Rinaldin is a thirteen year old boy that is dealing with a lot of crap. His abusive father recently died and now Griffin has been diagnosed with Depersonalization disorder, where Griffin feels like he is outside of his body and looking at himself from someone else's point of view.  Griffin's sources of comfort in his life are his cousin Tanner, whose father is also abusive as well as his Grandfather Soren.  Soren tells Griffin stories of a mysterious young man with red hair taking revenge on abusers.  The stories are meant to help Griffin with coping strategies, but the red haired boy begins to take form in Griffin's life and Griffin is seeing him more and more often along with his out of body experiences.  
 
The Disembodied is a gripping psychological horror story that slowly pulls you in by weaving together different elements from both the natural and supernatural world.  A unique narrator and well developed characters fascinated me and made the book difficult to put down. All of the characters felt very real; they made mistakes, they felt real emotions and tried their best to get through everything.  Perhaps the most terrifying thing about the book is that most of the horror elements are firmly rooted in the natural world: abuse, mental illness, and addiction are all prevalent throughout the story.  My favorite parts however are the stories that Soren tells of the red-haired boy throughout history; these are great ghost stories that would stand on their own.  Overall, a thrilling and powerful story of love that masterfully combines elements from the horror world.
 
 

The Girl They Left Behind

The Girl They Left Behind - Roxanne Veletzos

Natalia was not yet four when the Bucharest Pogroms began, the killing of Jewish families in the streets. Natalia's parents are on the run when they make the heartbreaking decision that will keep both Natalia and themselves alive, they leave Talia on the steps of an apartment building while they escape to a friends attic and then Switzerland. Talia is quickly found and brought to an orphanage where she was adopted into the Goza family. Talia's wealthy adoptive parents, Despina and Anton give her everything she could hope for, they make it through the war only to have the Iron Curtain come crashing down on them. While the Goza's are doing their best to survive with the help of their friend Victor who works for the Party, Talia's birth parents are still searching for her and they might be the answer to Talia's survival once again.


The Girl They Left Behind is an astounding story of hope and courage based on the life of the author's mother. From the beginning when Talia's parents made the heartbreaking decision to leave her on the doorstep, I knew I had to find out the rest of her story. This book explored a part of World War II that I did not know a lot about including the Pogroms and life in Romania during the War. Talia's character showed amazing growth throughout the story, from a scared orphan to a woman taking risks for her survival. I could not imagine being either Talia's birth parents or adoptive parents and having to leave or send away their child for her own safety. I could also not imagine being Talia and knowing that two sets of parents sacrificed everything for my safety. More than anything, I was amazed that the author so very closely followed the story that her own mother had lived through, seeing the pictures at the end of the book really solidified the honesty of the story. Overall, a heartfelt account of remarkable people during World War II and the Soviet Occupation.

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

 

Check out my blog post for a chance to win!

The Devil's Grin

The Devil's Grin - Annelie Wendeberg

Darkest London for Halloween Bingo!

 

​Dr. Anton Kronberg is England's leading bacteriologist.  Dr. Kronberg is called in to investigate a case of a cholera victim floating in the city's water supply.  While the fact that the victim died of cholera is pretty clear cut, the way the disease was received and how the body  found its way into the water supply opens up to many more mysteries.  When Sherlock Holmes is also brought into the case, Dr. Kronberg has even more to fear as Holmes quickly discovers Dr. Kronberg's secret that Anton is really Anna Kronberg.  Holmes and Anna find a tenuous relationship as the case brings them into dangerous scenarios with devious men and treacherous plots.


The Devil's Grin is an engaging Victorian Era mystery.  Dr. Kronberg is a very interesting character.  Her choice to live as a man in order to practice medicine is honorable, yet has many difficulties and bears the consequence of death if found out.  Since she could legally practice medicine as a woman in other countries, this seems like a strange and dangerous predicament to place herself into.  Other than that, I really enjoyed the sharp and witty writing, the mystery and the passion behind Anna's character.  The mystery was a slow burn and grew on me with a series of well crafted layers that started with what seemed like a simple case but quickly grew into a large conspiracy that took Anna under cover.   Another interesting aspect of the story was Sherlock's character, a tortured soul and amazing detective, yet very different from the classic Holmes character.  Overall, an engaging historical thriller in Victorian London. 

 

The Game of Hope

The Game of Hope - Sandra Gulland

 Hortense de Beauharnais  grew up during the unfortunate time of the French Revolution.  During this time many members of the aristocracy were woken in the middle of the night, dragged away and then imprisoned or killed.  Hortense's father was one of the many executed by guillotine and Hortense's mother, Josephine was one of the many imprisoned.  Josephine is now married to Napoleon, who is rising to power.  While Napoleon is fighting, Hortense attends The Institute, a boarding school for young women.  Hortense is a good student, especially in the arts.  Hortense  prayis for the protection of her brother Eugene, while fighting with Napoleon's troops.  She is also secretly pining for Christophe, a fellow officer with Eugene and dealing with Caroline, Napoleon's troublesome little sister.  Hortense has many painful memories of the past and her future is quickly changing as Napoleon gains power.  

The Game of Hope is the story of  Hortense de Beauharnais' coming of age.  Hortense would go on to become the Queen Consort of Holland; however, the events of her childhood help mold the adult she will become.  Focusing on the years of 1798-1800, we get to see a few years of Hortense's life as the Revolution was shaping France, it's people and Napoleon's rise to power.  Throughout everything that was going on with her country and her personal life, I felt that Hortense was very much captured as a regular young woman.  Written with much historical detail, I was fascinated to learn about the effects of the Revolution on those who survived as well as details of Hortense's private life.  I was amazed to know that Hortense was a composer, and that I am able to listen to her pieces being performed today.  While the focus of the story was on Hortense, I also had many glimpses into the rest of her fascinating family including the relationship between Napoleon and Josephine as well as fascinating Caroline.  Overall, an engrossing historical biography of an amazing woman in history that is filled with hope and strength. 

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