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Blog Tour & Giveaway: Saving Abby by Steena Holmes

[ 0 ] May 30, 2016

saving abby book coverPlease join Steena Holmes, author of Saving Abby, as she tours the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours!

Enter to win a copy of the book below! Open to U.S. and Canada residents only

Reviewed by Bethany Kelly

Saving Abby by Steena Holmes is an emotional, yet beautiful, book. One that will make you cheer for joy and cry in despair. One that will elicit sighs of relief and grievous sobs.

Claire and Josh Turner have spent the past six years trying to get pregnant. However, when their doctor tells them that there is virtually no chance of them conceiving a child of their own, they give up on their dream of becoming parents.

After coming home from a trip to deal with their grief, they get joyous news: Claire is pregnant! Unfortunately, their stint on cloud nine is quickly gone. Claire begins to get crippling headaches, blurred vision, fainting spells, and waves of exhaustion that aren’t normal in a pregnancy. After visiting her doctor for these symptoms, Josh and Claire get a devastating diagnosis…one that she can’t beat without putting her miracle child’s life at risk.

In the end, Claire and Josh have a difficult decision to make: save Claire, or save their baby?

When I read the synopsis for this book, I knew that it was going to be a difficult read. This assumption was obviously right, but in a good way. Saving Abby shows the unconditional and selfless love that a mother has for her child. It shows the difficult decisions that we are sometimes faced with. It is a real-to-life novel and shows a situation that many are faced with during their pregnancies…should a woman put herself first? Or her unborn child?

On top of the fascinating, yet difficult, subject matter, this novel is very well written. All of the characters are well-rounded and developed well. Within a couple of chapters I found myself not only invested in the main characters, but the supporting characters as well. Plus, there are a few sub-plots in this novel that are also very interesting.

Saving Abby is written in multiple perspectives: Claire’s, Josh’s, and Millie’s (Claire’s mom). This gives the story more depth. Seeing this difficult situation from the perspective of all involved gives the reader the availability to look at Claire’s diagnosis from all vantage points. We, as readers, get to experience multiple emotions evoked by Claire and Josh’s difficult situation, and get to “live through” the difficulty of how it feels to know that the only way your daughter or wife may survive is by putting your grandchild or child’s life at risk. It definitely is both heartbreaking and eye-opening.

If you prefer not to read about emotional matters, this book is not for you. However, if you are all right with getting your heartstrings pulled, this is definitely a great read. I would even go as far as saying this is one of the best books that I have ever read.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Bethany Kelly is currently getting her MFA at Goddard College and has a BA in English. She is a writer, editor, and stay-at-home mother and wife who spends her spare time (when she has some) reading and cooking. Check out her website at www.bckwritingcorner.com.

Review and giveaway copies were provided by Lake Union Publishing. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Giveaway: Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

[ 10 ] May 28, 2016

finding audrey book coverTo celebrate the recent release of Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella in paperback, I have a copy to give away! Open to U.S. residents only

About the book

Sophie Kinsella, the author of such favorites as the Shopaholic series, Can You Keep a Secret?, Wedding Night, and Remember Me?, introduced readers to 14-year-old Audrey Turner, a teen in the throes of a severe social anxiety disorder after a bullying incident at school, and following her journey to rediscovering herself and her happiness. Receiving much critical acclaim from reviewers and fans, the book was hailed as “heartfelt,” “engaging,” and “relatable.”

Audrey spends most of her days hiding behind her dark sunglasses and in the safety of her own home, surrounded by her lovable but chaotic family. Interaction with non–family members has been almost impossible to master since the incident at school. But then one day Linus arrives at her house. A friend of her brother’s, Linus makes an instant connection with Audrey and starts to chip away at her exterior, exposing the girl underneath—the girl Audrey herself has been searching for. What results is a tender love story that begins as a friendship and continues in the local Starbucks, where Audrey begins to heal the wounds that have threatened to hold her captive.

Filled with poignancy and laugh-out-loud moments, Finding Audrey gives readers a character they can relate to and a family to embrace. Kinsella’s story tackles serious topics with humor and heart and creates the next YA couple to root for in Audrey and Linus.

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Review: The Fine Art of Murder by Emily Barnes

[ 2 ] May 28, 2016

the fine art of murder book coverReviewed by Kelly Ferjutz

If you’re a woman of a certain age, you should love Katherine Sullivan. You could love her even if you’re not a woman of a certain age. She’s a feisty, sensible and sensitive retired Chief of Police, a grandmother who has learned from life the lessons we all need to enable us to pay attention at various times of our lives.

Her husband had also been on the police force, and was killed during a bank robbery gone wrong.  Katherine stayed on the force for a while, then retired, determined not to settle into being the stereotypical old lady. Trust me, she’s anything but that!

Nathan Walker, now a widower, who with his wife Terry had been a frequent foursome with Kathy and Sully, also retired and bought a security firm, which he runs with his ‘crew’. This is the most delightful batch of misfits you’ve encountered in a long time–if ever. Security companies have various needs, and Nathan hand-picked his employees accordingly. There’s Brock, a cross between a rock and a brick – a bear with a beard, if you will – and the ‘muscle’ of the team. E. T. is a rather non-descript, easy to overlook expert at nonlethal weaponry and martial arts who installs alarms, and other electronic gizmos. The staff side is composed of the twenty-something Polly, a redhead with a pierced eyebrow who is at once an electronics and computer genius and a surveillance expert, and Rosie (who deceptively looks like the WWII Rosie the Riveter) with short hair and tattoos, but no visible piercings. She’s in her 50s, and is both a master locksmith and a breaking and entering expert.

Kate’s daughter, Liz, is an attorney, now divorced, with two kids on the verge of teendom: Cameron, a boy with Asperger’s and his sister Chloe who is seriously addicted to her phone. Although Kate was always artistically inclined, she never really had the time to indulge herself, until after she retired to New Mexico from her native Edina, Minnesota. Now she takes her paints and paraphernalia with her wherever she goes. She’s thrilled to discover that Cameron also has an artistic side, although vastly different from her own.

Soon after Kate arrives in Edina, the body of a young woman is discovered, in a local mansion that is in the process of being restored and bestowed on the community as a Heritage property. The current owner, Randall Pierce, is the last of his family, and has also just opened a new art gallery in the town. There are numerous rumors about artistic treasures buried within the walls of the mansion. His aunt, Jacqueline Bannister-Pierce, thinks the mansion should rightfully be hers, so, accompanied by her current boy toy, Hank Slater, she comes home to claim her property. Slater, a former professional football player, is now primarily a bully who likes to flex his muscles in an attempt to terrorize anyone who gets in his way.

Randolph had hired Stacey Jordan to help in his gallery and at the mansion, as needed, on the recommendation of the noted French art expert and connoisseur, Antoine Rousseau.

All of these people – and the various plot lines – are skillfully woven into a tapestry of enormous complexity; one that makes for a very engrossing mystery along with enough real-life adventures to keep you involved and interested from beginning to end. I will have a hard time waiting for the next adventure of Kate Sullivan, but I guess there’s little choice but to do just that.

A note about the publisher of this book. Crooked Lane is new on the scene, and those of their books that I’ve read so far make me want to jump up and shout ‘Bravo!  You’ve done good. Just please keep it up!’

Rating: ★★★★★ 

First and foremost, Kelly is a reader, then a writer and editor. She adores Regency-set novels, and cozy mysteries. Every now and then, however, she finds something else to enjoy if it has a great premise with characters who belong in there, and fabulous writing! She writes under her own name, as well as her pen-name, Hetty St. James.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Crooked Lane. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Beautiful to the Bone by PG Lengsfelder

[ 2 ] May 27, 2016

beautiful to the bone book coverReviewed by Lauren Cannavino

Do not be intimidated by the length of PG Lengsfelder’s Beautiful to the Bone, the over 300 pages will fly as the story unravels. This shadowy tale centers on the intelligent and strange Eunis and the often terrible cast of characters that make up her life. Eunis is an albino and the book begins in her childhood with her mother essentially seeking justification from a doctor that “something is wrong with her”. Eunis is surrounded by cruelty and quickly comes to believe that not only is something “wrong” with her, but that she is also bad luck as everyone tells her, particularly her family. Her only ally for a short time is a three-legged mutt named Nemo, that gives her the love and companionship she so desperately lacks elsewhere. Eunis retreats into a life of solitude, study and calculated observation that will continue on long into her adult life. The novel, part of a trilogy, follows Eunis into her mid-thirties and creates a quiet darkness that creeps throughout the story.

Beautiful to the Bone is hard to categorize as there are themes of fantasy, magical realism, suspense, psychological drama and more. The text is not heavy as a result of these themes, but rather moves the story along in a very fluid manner, like the currents of the water that Eunis seeks refuge within. In high school she gets to hide while she performs as her school’s Beaver mascot and finally finds love and adoration, only while wearing a mask. Eunis is quietly obsessive, with beauty, with mating rituals, bodies and anatomy and more. She takes an unlikely job with a taxidermist and not only enjoys the work, she excels at it. Eunis is a hard character to read. She’s sympathetic because of the cruelty that she endures, but there is a prickling sense of foreboding that travels with her across the pages, never fully opening her up. Her investigative qualities make her exciting and her aloof demeanor makes her a fascinating, rather than polarizing figure. This seems to be exactly the plan that PG Lengsfelder intended. When Eunis meets her eventual husband Harold, it seems for a moment that she has finally discovered what happiness is, yet that too is fleeting. With the events that follow, there is a shift in the book and a shift in Eunis’ resolve. A different level of Eunis is exposed. The twists and turns that the story takes are fast-paced and well thought out, the evolution of the characters and the strong, twisted and interesting plot showcases Beautiful to the Bone as a novel that will appeal to all readers, looking to get tangled in a murky drama.

PG Lengsfelder crafts an interesting story about a woman often overlooked and while the story is not a coming of age tale, it does showcase a woman coming into her own through her own devices, with little outside assistance. Lengsfelder’s characters are strong and invoke a lot of powerful emotions, some that open up further contemplation of motives or processes. This story is one that will definitely stick with the reader after completion.

 

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.wordpress.com.

Review copy was provided by PG Lengsfelder. 

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Review: Tara’s Halls by Tom Gallagher

[ 1 ] May 27, 2016

tara's halls book coverReviewed by Poppy Johnson

Tara’s Halls is a delightfully written memoir chronicling Tom Gallagher’s life in Ireland during the 1950s and 60s. He tells of his childhood in a large family–how the family loved, laughed, survived and sometimes barely managed. Gallagher traversed his childhood like a blind lamb and a brave bull at the same time. He lets readers into the inner circle of his life right away, revealing intimate details and showing them what it’s truly like to be Irish. The back of the book offers some regional word definitions, and there are black-and-white photos of the author and his family throughout the book.

There are 24 chapters in the book; these start rightly at the beginning of the author’s life and move easily through his upbringing. Gallagher lived on a farm, was sent to school for a time, had a first attempt at love, endured pranks and punishments from his elders, and grew up to join the FCA (Irish military), a Local Defense Force in his region. One by one, he watched his older siblings leave home for a better life, and remembered the personal and private tragedies he has had to endure throughout his life. He dreamed of going to America, and at last made good on that pledge to himself. He later lived in the United States and served with the American Armed Forces; he remains in the U.S. today.

What is most interesting about the book is that the facets of the author’s life are told through the eyes of a child. And the “voice” matures as he does through the ages (and pages). This story is absolutely charming, and the author’s perspective shines through so brightly that you feel as if you really know him, because he is the type of stand-up guy you’d want to call your friend.

I found myself laughing and smiling at many passages, and was not at all embarrassed as I read the book while out waiting in public places. When people stared at me for shamelessly enjoying while reading, I just held the cover up a little higher for them to properly read the title themselves.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about Irish history, or to anyone who is aspiring to be a writer themselves. This author’s voice can only be described as sensational, interesting, and distinct. I only wish for this book to one day be used for a literature course. Maybe it could be titled, “Significant Irish Authors.” That is one course I’d love to teach myself.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

After a decade of working in several NYC law departments and teaching, Poppy decided she enjoyed writing full-time. She currently works as a freelance writing consultant, and lives with her husband and sons on the East Coast.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Tom Gallagher. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Raif Badawi, The Voice of Freedom by Ensaf Haidar

[ 2 ] May 26, 2016

voice of freedom book coverReviewed by Meredith Kelly

Raif Badawai, The Voice of Freedom is a beautifully written memoir that tells the story of how the author, Ensaf Haidar, and her husband, Raif, met and came to be married, and of their subsequent struggles to preserve their family and their lives. Despite strict opposition from their families, Ensaf and Raif were determined to be together and refused to give up. After eighteen months of harassment, Ensaf’s family allowed her to sign the marriage contract.

The newlywed couple was able to settle into the traditional marriage arrangement quickly. In Saudi Arabia, men felt it was their duty to make all the decisions and to ensure the material well-being of the family. At first, Raif rarely consulted Ensaf with anything. Making new friends and reading more progressive books, Raif soon started an internet forum for Saudi liberals. As a result, he started granting Ensaf more rights as a woman and even asking for her opinion on different matters. This represented a major change in his attitude about the treatment of women–traditionally very archaic.

As the forum became more popular it came under the suspicion of the “Religious Police”, made up of clerics and ultra-conservatives. Raif’s liberal views were not favorable to the Holy State. As retaliation, the “Religious Police” tried to take the forum offline but were not successful. It was on a foreign server. They raided Raif’s office and home looking for evidence to bring a trial against him. Raif endured many hours of questions and often brutal beatings at the police station. Unfortunately, he also found out that the country moved to deny his “existence” and he lost all his rights, including his right to leave the country.

When Ensaf noticed the words “fatwa” imposed on Raif’s website, she was terrified. Fatwa is a legal opinion made by clerics that demands the death penalty. This message led Raif to insist that they must get away to another country and began an odyssey that took Ensaf and their three children to Egypt, and then Lebanon.

Soon after arriving in Beirut, Ensaf attempted to contact Raif with no success. Something was wrong. She finally got through to his lawyer and found out that Raif was in jail, held in “investigative custody” without any official charges. Raif’s father, Abu Raif, a devout Muslim, had gone public with his hatred for his son because of his lack of respect for the Islamic faith. Backed by the clerics and the ultra conservatives, Abu Raif made a public appeal on Facebook asking the king, his emirs and the Saudi government for the right to bring up Raif’s children.

Their need to escape ever more urgent, Ensaf worked with a lawyer at the UN to gain refugee status and immigrate to Canada. After a long and arduous journey, Ensaf and the children finally landed in Quebec in late 2013. With the help of Amnesty International, Raif’s case has received enormous international support. However, at the time this book was released,  Raif was still in jail in Saudi Arabia.

Voice of Freedom was an unforgettable book that I will carry with me for a long time. “Man’s inhumanity to man” is the first thought that came to mind when I finished Raif’s story. This is a must read for anyone interested in world politics and for those who believe in human rights for all.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Meredith has been an avid reader since childhood and loves to talk about books. A bit of a Luddite, she has only recently become acquainted with eReading and online book reviews. She finds exposure to such a wide audience of opinion on books fascinating.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Other Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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