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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 Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter

The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter - Hazel Gaynor

Grace Darling is the daughter of the Longstone Lighthouse keeper in the Farne Islands. She has dedicated her life to helping her father keep the light. Although, for a young women in the 1830's, this is not the life that is expected of her. Grace's life is put into the spotlight when she assists her father in rescuing the survivors of a shipwreck. One of the survivors of the shipwreck is Sarah Dawson, who has lost both of her children to the sea. Sarah is also the brother of George Emmerson, an artist who visited Longstone and formed a strong bond with Grace. Grace and Sarah become fast friends after their ordeal on the island and share a bond of courage and heartache.

One hundred years later, Sarah's great-great granddaughter, Matilda arrives in Rhode Island disgraced and pregnant, sent away from her hometown in Ireland to stay with her cousin and lighthouse keeper, Harriet. To keep herself busy Matilda sorts through an old chest, finding momentos of Grace Darling and George Emmerson. By learning the stories of Grace, Sarah and Harriet, Matilda finds strength within herself to what must be done.

The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter is a story of courage and bravery carried through time. The phrase "Even the brave were once afraid" is a theme throughout the book and something that each character realizes over time. I was pleased to learn the history of Grace Darling, I name I have heard of, but didn't know anything about. Much of what is written about Grace is fact-based and well researched. Through the writing I could perfectly picture Grace and her attention to her duties and well as her unease at becoming a heroine for simply performing the duty of a lighthouse keeper. Matilda and Harriet's story took a little bit longer to capture my attention; however, when all of the secrets throughout time are revealed, their bravery shines through and everything falls into place. As always, Hazel Gaynor's writing transports me easily through time periods with poise and captures multiple characters personalities perfectly. Overall, an amazing story of courage and love.

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

Stanley & Hazel

Stanley & Hazel - Jo Schaffer

Murder Most Foul Square for Halloween Bingo!


St. Louis, 1934- the Great Depression has created a rift, sending most people into a spiral of poverty and accentuating the few rich families of Lindell Boulevard.  The upcoming famed Veiled Prophet Ball is supposed to be a celebration for everyone in the city, but has morphed into a debutante ball where the mysterious prophet chooses his Queen of Love and Beauty.  Hazel Malloy is one of the future debutantes of Lindell Boulevard. Her best friend Sandra's sister was queen last year.  Hazel would much rather go out on the town and watch the latest movie.  It is at the theatre that she meets Stanley, a budding news reporter whose family has been hit by the depression.  Stanley is the leader of the Knights, a group that is trying to help impoverished families.  Stanley insists on walking Hazel home after the movie when they stumble upon a masked man and a murder.  When they see that the woman murdered is Sandra's sister Evelyn, Stanley and Hazel feel compelled to dig deeper and uncover a plot connecting the families of Lindell, the Veiled Prophet and the radical new leader in Germany.
Stanley and Hazel is an adventurous, fast-paced historical murder mystery.  There is a lot going on in this book and it did take a bit of reading to introduce everyone and set the scene.  I really enjoyed Stanley and Hazel's characters and dynamic together.  Stanley is determined to do good with the station he was given and has an immense drive. Hazel is adventurous, intelligent and able to see outside of her world.  The time period of this book made everything more interesting.  The writing was excellent in transporting me to 1930's St. Louis with the differences between the classes of people, the gangs, the baseball games, the movies and manner of speech.  The mystery was excellent; a lot of different elements were incorporated, with different players, danger and unseen forces as well as the ominous rise to power of Hitler overseas. While one mystery is solved at the end, the bigger mystery of the Veiled Prophet remains to be solved in the next book.

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

Madam Velvet's Cabaret of Oddities

Madam Velvet's Cabaret of Oddities - Nancy Stohlman
Creepy Carnivals for Halloween Bingo!
A woman so determined to be famous, she'll try anything.  So will her reflection.  Together, woman and reflection travel around until they find a place where they belong.  However, when they get separated, one is not sure how to function without the other. 
Written in the style of flash fiction, each chapter of Madam Velvet's Cabaret of Oddities ranges from a sentence to several paragraphs.  I have only read a few flash fiction short stories before, so reading an entire book in this style was definitely a new experience for me.  It did take me a few chapters to get into the story, but once I was in the groove, I was devouring page after page.  Much like the shards of the broken reflection, the story is told in bits and pieces.  Information is received out of order and sometimes out of context, there are flashbacks to the woman's childhood as well as visits from her future self.  There are peeks into the lives of other carnival workers like the Four-Legged Woman and the Human Skeleton as well.  With this style of writing, my imagination went wild creating the settings and characters in my mind.  Some of the settings and scenarios were outrageous, such as the Fantasy Hand-Job brothel, but the themes of self-worth and longing will be able to connect with any reader. Madam Velvet's Cabaret of Oddities is an eerie and different flash-fiction read, easily consumed in one sitting.

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

Lore: Tales of Myth and Legend Retold

Lore: Tales of Myth and Legend Retold - Brinda Berry, Karen Y. Bynum, Laura Diamond, Jayne A. Knolls, Theresa DaLayne, Cate Dean
Diverse Voices Square for Halloween Bingo!
Lore is a collection of six short stories that re-imagines folktales and mythology from around the world and places interesting and romantic twists into each.   Written by six different authors, each story has a unique feeling and setting.  
Shimmer takes the mermaid tale and gives it a fresh spin with Draven and Coral.  Draven is spending the summer at his father's cottage after a heartbreak when he sees Coral alone at night, seemingly drowning herself. Draven is compelled to help Coral, but she may not need it.  I really enjoyed these characters for the short time that we know them as well as the modernized mermaid mythology.  I did think it wrapped up a little too quickly, but that is the nature of short stories.
Between is a modern story of the Arabic djinn brought to a modern high school. Lucy and Natasha have made peace with their bodies and have found love with each other at fat camp this summer.  When Lucy returns home skinny, everything changes.  She is finally accepted into the popular group, the Royals.  However, being a lesbian does not fit their mold.  This one made it difficult to like any of the characters, but there was growth even within the confines of the short story.  I enjoyed the arc of the djinn the most and that Lucy and Sienna were able to realize that love wins over popularity. 
Sunset Moon incorporates lore from the Blackfeet Native American mythology in order to reawaken a troubled teen.  Eloise takes the rap for her boyfriend and now has one strike too many, it's either jail time or nine months at a juvenile work home.  While there, Eloise is forced to learn about her heritage and meets Ven.  Ven is bound to help Eloise through the darkness, but she must accept the light.  I really liked learning about the dreamcatcher lore as well as watching Eloise find hope in her life.  This is one that I would have loved to see develop into a longer story.
The Jewish Golem and Frankenstein's monster are combined in The Maker.  After Brett is left with a traumatic brain injury, courtesy of his now ex-girlfriend Cassandra, his life is changed forever and he is bent on revenge.  Unable to get out and about much by himself, Brett unearths his family's hidden manuscripts and makes a creature that will be sure to seduce Cassandra and humiliate her.  The Maker is definitely the creepiest story of the bunch, but also the most surprising.  The Golem is the best character of this story.  
A Beautiful Morning was one of my favorite stories, a tale of the Mayan sun god Kinish and flower goddess Ishel.  Their love for one another made perfect sense, but was forbidden.  This was a sweet romance that incorporated the destructive nature of some of the other Mayan gods that may have led to the downfall of the civilization. I really enjoyed these characters and the glimpse into the complicated lives of the Mayan deities.
The Barricades turned out to be another favorite of mine even though the premise seemed really strange to me.  Set in the future on another world, the Fae and humans have escaped a dying Earth.  They were set to live as equals, but the Ethernal Fae's powers have placed the above the humans in every way.  When the dying Eternal prince Daniel is found within the human area, a very caring human girl, Casey risks everything to save his life.  This was a very sweet and action packed story laced with magic, greed and romance.  A lot of development was packed into this short story that made it seem like much more.

The Promise of Tomorrow

The Promise of Tomorrow - Annemarie Brear
Charlotte and Hannah Brooks flee their guardian's home suddenly after McBride attempts to force himself upon Charlotte in hopes of her becoming his next wife and having control of the substantial fortune that she was left when her parent's died.  Charlotte and Hannah have been on the road for a year before coming to a small mining town in Yorkshire.  There, the sisters are taken in by shopkeepers Stan and Bessie Wheeler.  Life begins to normalize once again for Charlotte and Hannah as Charlotte helps out around the shop and Hannah is enrolled in school.  However, a chance run in with McBride brings danger back into their lives.  No longer safe at the shop, Charlotte and Hannah are taken in by Harry Bellmont.  Harry has silently adored Charlotte from afar.  He is also quite lonely between managing his estate and the coal mine in town.  Charlotte and Harry's romance develops quickly and helps to keep her shielded from McBride, although his threat still looms.  With a War beginning, tensions rise as Harry joins up and Charlotte takes responsibility for the manor, Harry's unruly sister and the mine. Charlotte must now protect herself and her growing family while Harry is away.
The Promise of Tomorrow is a passionate historical romantic suspense.  We are thrown directly into Charlotte's nightmare as she is escaping McBride and thrown to the mercies of the open road.  The pace did slow down once the sisters found the Wheeler's shop, from there it seemed like every man in town was simply after  Charlotte for her novelty and looks and not much else.  I actually did not like how Charlotte and Harry first came together, it seemed very forced; however, once the two got their feelings out, the romance felt better.  The pace as well as my interest picked up again as the war began.  With both Harry and Charlotte's perspective of the war, I could feel the emotions and struggles from each side as Harry took pride in his unit, the teamwork and leading the effort with the men from his town for the war while Charlotte took on every responsibility she could in order to keep her mind off of the danger Harry was in as well as keep the town running.  With the war, I could see the depth of the love Charlotte and Harry held for one another. The suspense rose with McBrides's threats continued throughout the war and Harry's unit was endangered.  Written with engaging characters, history, suspense and sweet romance, The Promise of Tomorrow is a sweeping tale of World War I.

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

Days of Reign

Days of Reign - Elisa M. Hansen

Doomsday for Halloween Bingo!


The planet of Eldon, formerly Earth, controls its citizens with religion and a strict, but corrupt moral code that holds great consequences when broken.  Women are not allowed to go to school, except to train as wives upon their 19th birthday.  They are property of men that are held in high regard.  Education for all has gone by the wayside and knowledge of religion is revered.  Infrastructure is crumbling, everything is polluted and  people are dying.  Zelenka is unique, her parents married for love and educated her including how to read and write.  Now, Zelenka is spying for the  Amaryllians, the people who defected from Eldon.  Fianna, an Amyrillian is trying to set up an interplanetary trade in order to rescue some of the more enlightened Eldon's.  Zelenka makes the decision to follow Fianna to a new planet when the man she believed loved her, Fraco, refuses a love match.  With Zelenka's 19th birthday approaching, leaving Eldon is her safest bet.  Amyrillis is paradise for Zelenka, but not for long.

Days of Reign is a unique dystopian read that takes common elements of our current society and brings them to the extreme to create a horrific world, but one that is not to different from our own.  Zelenka's character was easily relatable, an educated women in a society where women were supposed to be owned or kept, she is working for a way out and takes it.  Fraco is a very interesting character, he seems motivated by love, but is stunted by the world he lives in and how he has been raised.  He is willing to destroy an entire planet in order to get back the woman he believes he owns.  The world building on Eldon and Amyrillis is detailed, I could easily picture degradation of Eldon and the serenity of Amyrillis.  The books is written from multiple points of view, some of which I didn't quite understand the purpose of, at least yet.  The first part of the book takes place on Eldon and is fast paced and laced with danger.  The second half takes place on Amyrillis and is idyllic and refreshing, but slower paced as Zelenka takes in a new culture.  There is foreboding danger lurking, however which rises to a shocking and sudden cliffhanger ending.  
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

The Monster Upstairs

The Monster Upstairs (Bloodseeker, #2) - Elle Klass

Cryptozoologist for Halloween Bingo!


Sixteen year old Mandy arrives home to find her mother on the brink of death-injured by something or someone very dangerous.  Before Mandy's mother passes, she imparts some important but mysterious information to her.  Mandy is then whisked off into a new and dangerous world by her upstairs neighbor, Joel.  Very quickly, Mandy learns that her life is not what is seems.  Mandy is a twin daughter of a dark witch and light witch as well as the next amethyst Slayer.  The woman she thought was her mother, as well as Joel are really Werewolves who have been protecting her.  Now, it is time that Mandy learn to harness her powers.  The rest of the Slayers need Mandy in order to help rescue her twin, Veronica.

The Monster Upstairs picks up right where The Vampires Next Doorleaves off and bounces between Mandy and Joel's story and Allison, Rodham, Lacy and Veronica's story.  In The Monster Upstairs we get to meet even more supernatural creatures:  werewolves, shifters and boggarts.  Mandy's journey is a supernatural adventure that is action-packed from the start.  I enjoyed learning about the light and dark witches, the werewolf pack and how they fit into everything.  With Mandy's gifts, the Slayers are growing in strength, but not complete yet.  It seems that Veronica has some tricks up her sleeve to help the others get to her and when Allison's friend Vicky visits, they might find another piece of their Slayer puzzle.

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


The Vampires Next Door

The Vampires Next Door - Elle Klass

Dead Lands for Halloween Bingo!


Allison is the new girl in St. Augustine, she misses her friends in Virginia and hasn't had much luck in her new home except for swooning at the boy across the hall, Rodham. Allison's luck soon changes as noisy and strange neighbors move into the apartment complex; they party all night, aren't seen during the day and their arrival has sparked strange visions and a green glow that Rodham can't seem to resist. Rodham teams up with Allison to figure out just what these neighbors are up to. Together, Allison and Rodham open up a dangerous world that they have been fated to. As Slayers, they are two parts of a team that was created to destroy the Bloodseekers in a deadly game that has gone on for centuries.

A well-crafted, intense paranormal romance with vampires that packs a lot into a short book. Allison was a very easy character to relate to and I enjoyed her coming into her own as she became confident in her relationship with Rodham and discovered her gifts as the Garnet Slayer. I enjoyed learning all of the elaborate details and history of the Witches of darkness and light, Bloodseekers and Slayers. I appreciated the creation story as it gave a purpose to all of the different beings. The constant action and discovery of new magic and beings kept the story quick-paced. With a shorter story, there were a lot of lucky coincidences that brought people together rather quickly; however I was still easily wrapped into the story and can't wait to meet more Slayers. 

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

When The Men Were Gone

When The Men Were Gone - Marjorie Herrera Lewis
Tylene Wilson was born and bred in Texas, a football fan through and through.  More than that, she fully understood the game and the players thanks to her father's lessons.  Tylene is now the assistant principle in Brownwood, TX, the year is 1944 and most of the men have gone to war, including some of her students and their football coach.  Tylene knows the importance of football for the boys and the town; with the threat of the football season being cancelled, she is determined to find a worthy coach for her boys.  After scouring the town, she finds that the best football coach may be herself.  Although the decision to take on coaching the football team was a tough on Tylene, it is even more difficult for those around her to accept that a woman will be coaching football.  
When the Men Were Gone is a heartfelt story of a real woman in our history, Tylene Wilson.  Though her actions may not have helped to win the war, she showed immense bravery and compassion as she stepped up to do a job that not many believed she could do while protecting the male students from leaving for war too early and reinvigorating her small town.  Tylene's story is so genuinely portrayed using many facts from her life told to the author by Tylene's grand-niece.  Sharing the connection of being a female football coach, author Marjorie Herrara Lewis was easily able to relate with what Tylene must have been feeling as she navigated through a job that only men had previously done. I am not really a football fan, however Tylene's passion for the game and her students carried me through the story as well as the author's understanding of the game and ability to describe what is happening.  I could feel Tylene's need to keep the boys safe over her need to prove herself as a coach among the men.  Her personal story was touching and I could see how she saw all of the football team as her own sons.  I was surprised at just how much opposition she faced when she decided to take on coaching, but even more surprised at how much support she received as well. 

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

Witch Dance

Witch Dance - Lori Crane

Southern Gothic for Halloween Bingo!


Margaret and Thomas Speedwell are looking forward to a relaxing vacation with their twin girls Sarah and Emily at the Witch Dance campground near Margaret's home town in Mississippi.  The area of Witch Dance not only carries the story of the witches themselves, areas where the witches danced in circles, where grass no longer grows.  It is also where the people of the Choctaw tribes  settled and buried their people in what are known as the Bynum Mounds.  Sarah and Emily run off to play on the Mounds as soon as the family arrives, however only Emily comes back from the Mound.  Sarah has disappeared without a trace and Emily won't talk.  Margaret is desperate as search efforts and police turn up with nothing.  However, Margaret's childhood friend Rich digs up reports from the past about other children disappearing from the same area.  They are all children who are twins and none of them have returned.  Determined to find her daughter, Margaret will have to accept help from an unlikely and unbelievable source and dig into a story that is centuries old. 

An intriguing mystery that combines history and the supernatural for a chilling tale.  Lori Crane weaves together the legend of Witch Dance and the stories of the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes  in order to concoct a compelling reason for the children to disappear from the Mounds.  I was pulled into Chicksah's wife, Salina's story as she dealt with tragedy and found her way into a life changing coven.  Margaret is a difficult character, she is a doting mother but clearly suffering from postpartum anxiety.  This was a fast paced read where time moved quickly.  The mystery and suspense intensify as Salina and Margaret's stories converge as to how and why Sarah was taken.  Clues are dotted throughout the book, however some of the twists were very surprising to me.  Witch Dance is a shorter read and the a so I felt some details were skipped that could have added a lot more ambiance and suspense to the story.  Overall, a unique thriller combining different aspects of historical myths and modern day sleuthing.

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

The Silver Shoes

The Silver Shoes - Jill G. Hall

Anne has been struggling in a long-distance romance with long-time boyfriend, Sergio.  Anne is an artist based in San Fransisco and Sergio a New York City designer.  Anne wants Sergio to buckle down and commit to the relationship, but that may not be where either of their hearts lie.  On a trip to New York, Anne picks up a pair of antique rhinestone shoes.  With the shoes comes a strand of pearls and a hidden picture of two flappers wearing just those shoes.  The shoes inspire Anne to create several art pieces as well as think about her situation with Sergio.  In 1929, Clair, the original owner of the shoes, admires the footwear from the window.  She knows her father would never let her own them.  Although, Clair finds a friend in a performer, Winnie, who introduces Clair to speakeasies and uncovers Clair's hidden talents.  When Clair's life seems to be controlled by everyone but her, Clair's father pushing her into an arranged marriage with an odious man named Farley and not allowing her to continue her college education, the stock market crashes.  Clair decides to carry on and follow her heart becoming the provider of the family by secretly performing in  a Broadway Review.  When Anne learns of the woman behind the shoes, she takes a page from Clair's book and decides to follow her heart. 

A beautifully written dual-timeline story of two women learning to follow their hearts.  I enjoyed both Anne and Clair's characters and their willingness to strike out on their own, even if it took a lot of convincing.  The quick flow of the chapters with switching points of view between Anne and Clair kept my reading at a good pace.  Clair's story stole my attention as I was pulled in by her spirited nature and willingness to strive forward in life despite everything thrown in front of her.  The ambiance of 1929-30 shown through with the extravagance of hotel living,  debutante balls, speakeasies, FBI raids and the devastation felt after the crash. Anne's story was a slow journey to self realization that took more time to reel me in.  Both women are wonderful examples of determination and perseverance in times of strife. 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

When Elephants Fly

When Elephants Fly - Nancy Richardson Fischer
Tiger Lilly Decker is hoping to make it through the next twelve years.  Her genetics have predicted her future and it doesn't look good.  Lilly's mom had schizophrenia and attempted to kill Lilly and herself by jumping off the top of a building when Lilly was seven years old.  Now, as a senior in high school, the danger zone for the onset of schizophrenia is approaching.  Lilly follows a strict regiment to ensure that she will not trigger any of the symptoms including reducing stress, getting plenty of sleep and avoiding certain foods.  Lilly's handsome, rich, popular and not yet out of the closet, best friend, Sawyer supports her through.  With Lilly's internship at the local paper, she has been reporting on the birth of an Asian Elephant Calf, Swifty.  After the calf is born however, the mom rejects Swifty and Lilly is triggered to run in front of the charging elephant mother to protect Swifty.  With a strong bond to the calf, Lilly is invited to follow Swifty as she is sent to the circus to be with the father that sired her.  Lilly continues to report on Swifty and the circus conditions and digs until she uncovers the cruelty that happens there.  With Swifty slowly dying, Lilly decides to break all of her rules and the law to get Swifty to safety.
When Elephants Fly is a powerful story of one person's journey with schizophrenia. If that weren't enough, the story also focuses on animal rights and sexuality.  Lilly's story is an important one, putting into focus that people with a mental illness are people first and should not be characterized by their illness.  Lilly is careful, guarded, and has an amazing heart.  Her fear of inheriting schizophrenia is understandable, but rules her life.  Lilly's journey to accept that she can not change her genetics is very meaningful especially when it is tied into the story of saving the life of Swifty.  With Swifty's story Lilly learns that there are bigger things in life than herself.  Swifty brings to light the plight that all elephants are facing now in the wild and the role of zoos in animal conservation along with the difficult decisions that people make on the elephant's behalf.  Along with that, Lilly learns that some people aren't what they seem as she uncovers that hidden animal abuse at the zoo.  The writing does a wonderful job of showing the complex emotions that elephants have as well as the complicated nature of a mental illness. As Swifty's life is endangered, Lilly's symptoms also begin to show, although it doesn't seem like anything that Lilly can't deal with.  Inspiring and hopeful, When Elephants Fly beautifully takes difficult subjects and weaves them into an intricate and enjoyable story. 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

Bewitching Hannah

Bewitching Hannah - Leigh Goff

Third book for Halloween Bingo- Spellbound!


Hannah Fitzgerald would like nothing more than to be a normal 16 year old. However, Hannah is descended from a long line of witches and the magic in her is beginning to bubble over. With both of her parents deceased, Hannah moves to Annapolis with her aunt. Annapolis is where her coven is located and has many witches as well as other people with special gifts living among the ordinaries. At school Hannah quickly makes a friend in Summer and her brother Mateo and enemies among the Queen J's, especially their leader, Emme. At her coven meeting Hannah finds out just why she is so hated amongst the J's as well as a few clues to why her parents may have died. A prophecy that foretells of two witches in of Hannah's generation, a battle and then either peace or a downfall. Hannah would prefer to hide from her magic and ignore the prophecy, but with the help of a mysterious friend, she learns to embrace the magic within her. 

Bewitching Hannah is an enchanting young adult paranormal romance that eventually pulled me in with a variety of magic and great characters. The beginning had a lot of information to take in and it seemed like I had missed something and needed to catch up. However, once Hannah was in school and the other witches found her, the suspense, danger and mystery quickly ramped up. I loved that so many magical being lived under the noses of everyday people in Annapolis and that their power was tied to history and culture. I enjoyed watching Hannah grow and make decisions as she came to terms with her magic with the help of the mysterious W. W added a touch of sweet romance and a bit of a Beauty and the Beast feeling. The ending tied everything together with an exciting and twisty display of magic . Complete with witches, curses, ghosts, and shapeshifters, Bewitching Hannah is a perfect Halloween time read. 

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

I am Mrs. Jesse James

I Am Mrs. Jesse James - Robert Wahler

Zee Mimms grew up in the Missouri countryside. She is an obedient and helpful daughter to her parents who run a boarding house, dutiful in every way except allowing her parents to arrange a marriage for her. During the Civil War, Missouri was split between neighbors, Confederate and Union sympathizers were neighbors and friends. Zee's family, the James' felt deeply for the Confederate cause and her cousins, Jesse and Frank fought bravely for what they believed in. After the war, Jesse was badly wounded and a wanted man. He made it to the Mimm's where Zee took charge of his care. Over the course of Jesse's healing, Jesee and Zee fell in love. However, the life Jesse leads is not what Zee's parents want for her. Jesee is still fighting battles from the war, always on the run and living the life of an outlaw. Zee decides that love is worth the risk and steals away with Jesse for a life on the run.

Jesse James is a name that everyone knows, a handsome and cunning outlaw who continued to fight for his Confederate beliefs well after the war was over. However, not much is known about his wife, Zerelda. Told from Zerelda's point of view, I Am Mrs. Jesse James imagines the life that the wife of an outlaw would have lived. Taking the few little known facts about Zee Mimm's life, Pat Wahler weaves a story of immense love, trust, danger and concealment that became Zee's adult life. Zee was a very relatable character compared to her headstrong, fugitive husband. I was very surprised that Jesee James married a first cousin, although their love must have been strong in order to endure all the trials that they went through. Zee's life was a series of moves and living under different names, isolated in many cases since she was not allowed to get to know neighbors. I was even more astonished to know that Zee probably didn't know exactly what her husband was up to until later in her life. I felt strongly for Zee and Jesse's children, born into a world of peril and constant movement, unable to make friends of even use their real names. Even with all of this, Zee's love for Jesse kept her strong and unwavering. Overall, an informative and powerful story of the life of the woman behind the man who was Jesse James.

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

The Adventures of Phatty and Payaso: Central Park

The Adventures of Phatty & Payaso: Central Park - Marie Unanue


Phatty is a tabby cat who lives a luxurious life with his brothers Clyde and Stanley in a New York City apartment overlooking Central Park.  Phatty is usually scared and uncoordinated but is friendly and caring.  Every year Phatty looks forward to his friend Payaso visiting for the summer.  Payaso is well traveled, knows different languages and a lot about how things work. One day, an escaped hawk from teh zoo, Crawler comes to visit Phatty's window.  He threatens to hurt Phatty, Clyde and Stanly and steal their mother's jewels.  Phatty decides to overcome his fear and take care of Crawler.  He escapes to Central Park in hopes of finding Crawler's zoo keeper.  Phatty's friends race after him with the help of a boy named Max who can communicate in a different way and understands the animals.  Together, the friends will go on an adventure overcoming their fears.

An exciting adventure through the eyes of animals that revolves around conquering your fears, friendship and being your best self.  In the vein of A Pet's Life, The Adventures of Phatty and Payaso: Central Park focuses on what the pets do when the humans are not around.  I think the middle grade audience would enjoy the variety of characters and their interactions.  Phatty is encouraged by his friends to come up with ideas to fend off Crawler as well as overcome his fears.  When Phatty is exploring Central Park he is able to learn even more about himself through the eyes of the many animals that live there in addition to making some new friends. I loved the addition of Max as well, a boy who seems have autism, though it is never mentioned.  He has trouble communicating with people, but can talk with animals just fine.  He shines as he helps the pets solve a series of problems as they track Phatty through Central Park.  Another important part of the story was the treatment of Crawler's character.  Although he was the bully of the story, the characters were able to realize the deeper reason for his actions and help him rather than retaliate.  Overall, a fun animal adventure with plenty of life lessons for a middle grade reader.

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

The Mind's Eye

The Mind's Eye - Perry Prete

My 2nd book for Halloween Bingo- Amateur Sleuth


Paul is a middle-aged detective in a place that doesn't have much crime at all.  Then, a dismembered arm in found in a snow bank, after that more body parts are unearthed.  The crimes might be connected, but he has no idea how. With no real leads, Paul turns to Nicole, a guest at the same party as one of the victims.  Nicole has developed a gift- she can see pictures move and can see the moments before and after.  Nicole has kept her gift mostly a secret and plays it off as a parlor trick.  Paul is desperate and Nicole is cute, so he asks her to use her gift on the victims photos.  Carl is a crime reporter at a struggling newspaper and desperate for a good story.  With some anonymous tips, Carl begins to put together the murders for himself and goes in deeper to the story than he should.  Will is on a mission, he also has a special power that leads him to who he wants, but would never guess that Nicole is not far behind tracking his every move. 

A unique murder mystery told through they eyes of three very different people trying to solve the crime as well as the murderer.   It did take me a little while to get into the story as the first few chapters jump from different points of view to introduce characters.  Nicole's gift reeled me into the story it was so distinctive and she seemed to have a bond with the women who were being taken as well as the murderer.  Along with Nicole, Will's story drew me in.  The scenes where Will was tracking, killing and dismembering were gruesome in detail.  I was also intrigued by the insight into his mind and what he was seeing and feeling.  The medical details of the writing were very accurate and detailed as well. The reasons why the killings were done was the real mystery here, and it was truly disturbing, but I'm glad Carl was able to get the details out of Will.  The ending was thrilling and surprising as the cat-and-mouse game comes to an end, but not without a few twists.  One thing that bothered me at the end was that the reason for Nicole's intense connection with Will was never explained.  Overall, a thrilling, threatening and surprising murder mystery.  

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