Guest Review + Giveaway: The Winters by Lisa Gabriele

Posted November 7, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Interview, Reviews / 26 Comments

Guest Review + Giveaway: The Winters by Lisa GabrieleThe Winters by Lisa Gabriele
Series: standalone
Published by Viking on October 16, 2018
Genres: Thriller
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“From the brilliant first line to the shattering conclusion, The Winters will draw you in and leave you breathless. . . . A must read.” —Liv Constantine, author of The Last Mrs. Parrish
Inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, a spellbindingly suspenseful novel set in the moneyed world of the Hamptons, about secrets that refuse to remain buried and consequences that can’t be escaped

After a whirlwind romance, a young woman returns to the opulent, secluded Long Island mansion of her new fiancé Max Winter—a wealthy politician and recent widower—and a life of luxury she’s never known. But all is not as it appears at the Asherley estate. The house is steeped in the memory of Max’s beautiful first wife Rebekah, who haunts the young woman’s imagination and feeds her uncertainties, while his very alive teenage daughter Dani makes her life a living hell. She soon realizes there is no clear place for her in this twisted little family: Max and Dani circle each other like cats, a dynamic that both repels and fascinates her, and he harbors political ambitions with which he will allow no woman—alive or dead—to interfere.
As the soon-to-be second Mrs. Winter grows more in love with Max, and more afraid of Dani, she is drawn deeper into the family’s dark secrets—the kind of secrets that could kill her, too. The Winters is a riveting story about what happens when a family’s ghosts resurface and threaten to upend everything.

How could I resist the lure of Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca revisited in an all new take on a gothic thriller that is still keeping readers riveted to the pages. Naturally, there was a great deal of curiosity to see a modern variation on the classic, a little trepidation, but also so much anticipation.

The Winters introduces a young unnamed woman, average and good, who has known poverty and her fair share of loss, working a job for a charter boat business in the Cayman Islands. She is bowled over by the older, debonair Max Winters’ charm. She’s living the fairytale until she leaves her island for his family home on a little island just off Long Island, NY. There she faces the challenge of living down his dead wife’s ghost in the lives of all who live on the estate and in the heart of the dead Rebecca’s bitter, spiteful teenage daughter who resents her mother’s replacement. But, slowly this young woman uncovers the secrets of Asherley and the Winters taking a dark twisting journey to the truth.

“Last night, Rebecca tried to murder me again.”

The opening line is as startling as the many lines after it take their time to build the story. The story is told framed by the present around the past. The narrator is telling the reader her story and she goes back to describe who she was before Max came, why she was susceptible to his charm and the safety of what he offered, and then why she was inadequately prepared to enter his world and the life at Asherley. Naive and woefully unprepared. The introductions to the main players take place including the ghostly woman who is at the heart of it all. I thought the author did an excellent job building her story and the suspense. She carried over the gothic tones that were so prevalent into this modern version well.

Now, its been many years since I read Rebecca and I’m actually thinking that is a good thing. It wasn’t fresh enough in my mind to draw as many comparisons. I felt the flavor of the classic, of course, but I’m pretty sure that this was very much the author’s original creation. I could give The Winters its due and not slighting it for not being Rebecca. I say this because I felt the connection, but really I just read and enjoyed the book for what it gave me.

I found myself considering Dani, Max and Rebecca’s teenage daughter, as someone I couldn’t pin down about how I felt, but she kept my attention the most even over the unnamed heroine. Dani was so multi-faceted and unpredictable. I loved how she was written. Actually, I was well pleased with how everyone and the background was developed. My only niggle was that this did move along ponderously for me in the first bit. That was where I think I missed the older version that got me wound up in the atmosphere a lot sooner. But, this one eventually got rolling and it had me flipping pages rapidly in the end.

So, for those who have not read Rebecca and also for those who have, I think readers will find this a worthy novel of modern gothic suspense that will leave them breathless in the end.

My thanks to Penguin Viking for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

And, now, an extra treat for our Night Owl Book Café readers!

Read on for a Q&A with the author and a giveaway hosted by the publisher, Viking.

A Conversation with Lisa Gabriele

Author of The Winters

1.       The Winters begins like a lot of books, with a handsome man sweeping a young woman off her feet. But at its heart, this is a story about women—our unnamed heroine, plucked out of her quiet existence; Rebekah, the dead first wife who haunts her dreams; and Dani, Rebekah’s vengeful teenage daughter. Did you set out to write a story about female relationships, power, and sexuality?

 

Yes. I’m obsessed with female relationships, sex, and power, and how they intersect. These are my favorite things to read and write about. The genesis of this book began with me thinking about the women in Rebecca, and all the ways modern female characters and a new setting would completely change their relationship with each other. Suddenly The Winters became an exercise in demonstrating how much women have changed in contemporary times, and how some men, especially rich and powerful ones, really have not. I mean, think about all the different ways patriarchy still shapes and molds our lives as women. My narrator certainly has agency, she has a job of her own that she’s quite good at, and a potential role model of a single working woman, but despite this, she’s still deeply susceptible to the lure of a “happily ever after.” And with Max’s daughter Dani, I got to play around with some of my worst fears around young women and social media, on the difficulty of getting your new boyfriend’s kid to accept you, and about feminism’s so-called generational divide. Dani is 15 going on 40, an heiress with a chauffeur, a tutor, and thirty thousand Instagram followers. She isn’t going to make life easy for her new stepmother-to-be. And what better wedge for her to use than the memory of her dead (perfect) mother, Rebekah? The relationship between her and the narrator was explosively fun to write. But this time, the primary question that hovers over the narrator’s image of the dead Rebekah isn’t about her sexuality, but rather her role as a mother—a much more loaded question these days.

 

2.      The Winters is inspired in part by Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel, Rebecca—an instant bestseller, first published in 1938, that has never gone out of print, reportedly selling 50,000 copies a year. And it’s obvious you’re a fan. What do you love about it, and what made you use it as the launching point for your novel?

 

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of Rebecca. My mother, who died almost twenty years ago, introduced me to Alfred Hitchcock’s movie first, and whenever I miss her I reach for it. In the fall of 2016, in the despairing days of the U.S. election, I bought some ice cream and threw in the DVD to drown out the bad news. But this time, instead of comforted, it left me feeling deeply uneasy. I had to remind myself that in Daphne du Maurier’s book Maxim de Winter killed his sexually rebellious first wife, a fact that Hitchcock, due to Production Codes at the time, erased. I suddenly felt this strong desire to avenge Rebecca and punish Maxim. So I guess you could say nostalgia inspired me to reread the book,but anger drove me to write mine.

 

3.      Much of The Winters is set at Asherley, Max Winter’s opulent estate in the Hamptons. Why did you choose that setting?

 

I’ve always been fascinated with Long Island’s moneyed elite; a couple of my favorite books are set there. I loved the storied Gold Coast ofThe Great Gatsby, and the deceptively serene town in The Amityville Horror. I needed a place that combined history and horror and the Hamptons seemed like a natural choice. However, to pull off the violent conclusion, I also needed a location that wasn’t only private, but remote. In the research stage, I visited the Suffolk County Historical Society in Riverhead and read about Gardiner’s Island. It’s one of the biggest swaths of privately owned land in America, purchased by Lion Gardiner from the Montaukett Indians in the 1600s, in exchange for a large black dog and some Dutch blankets. Today it’s worth more than $125 million dollars so keeping the island in the family has driven generations of Gardiners to sometimes concoct nefarious plots. So Winter’s Island was born, as was a motive for murder. I changed some geographic details, but the rest of its history and topography, its dense forests, the old ruins, the private beach and thick, marshy shores, are the same. Then there’s the mansion. I love a looming turret, so I made Asherley a Queen Anne Victorian—spookier, in my opinion, than the typical center hall design from the Gilded Age. Entering the house, with its paneled walls, oak and marble floors and mullioned windows, the reader falls back in time. The only modern touch is a dramatic, star-shaped greenhouse, Rebekah’s pride and joy, lodged, incongruously and a little violently, against the house, a constant reminder that this was once her domain. 

 

4.      As our narrator spends more time at Asherley and begins to discover her new family’s dark secrets, The Winters becomes a gripping slow-burn thriller. What are your tricks for building suspense and keeping the reader on the edge of their seat?   

 

E.L. Doctorow said, “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” With The Winters I never set out to “write a thriller.” I just metaphorically made my headlights a little dimmer and the road ahead a little snakier, but kept the speed the same, (barely) avoiding smashing through the guardrails. Also the whole story is told from one POV. The narrator’s. We are only in her head. We only know what she knows. And she’s fed different versions of the same stories. So who to trust? You can also use short staccato sentences. They ratchet up the tension. Sometimes.

 

5.      Like many fictional politicians—from House of Cards’ Frank Underwood to the Senator in Joyce Carol Oates’ Black Water—Max Winter is powerful, charismatic, and fiercely ambitious. Why did you choose politics for Max’s career, and what made you want to dip into that world? 

 

As I mentioned above, the 2016 U.S. election consumed me, and the subsequent presidency has upended all norms. It’s been a struggle to keep up with the controversies, the news being, for this former journalist, a constant distraction. But it’s also a source of inspiration. So I stopped fighting it. Since I couldn’t get away from the news, I folded some of my current fixations into my book. I didn’t want to date the book, or bog it down in current affairs, but divisive politics, and the corrosive effects of both social media and (questionable) Russian money on modern American life all make cameos. Presciently I finished the book at the start of the #metoo movement, which, like my book, demonstrates how important it is to believe women.

 

6.      You’ve been a journalist and an award-winning producer, in both radio and TV, for more than twenty years. When (and how) does your journalism background seep into your novels?

 

It always does, sometimes subtly and sometimes more obviously, but I am first and foremost a journalist. The books I write require research to get the settings, tone, and era right, but it’s my favorite part of the job. And for me it’s unavoidable. My characters tend to arrive almost fully formed. So when the unnamed narrator of The Winters insisted she worked on boats, and Max decided to run for reelection in Suffolk County, I had some research to do. Learning about politics at the state level and proper boat terminology was interesting and fun. But I also consult experts. I reached out to a PhD in mortuary archeology to confirm how many years it would take for a body buried in a shallow grave to completely turn to skin and bones. And, thankfully, one of my best friends is a family lawyer, so I ran by her all the details about conservatorships and inheritances. The hardest part was trying to understand the murderous lengths to which some people will go to maintain their wealth and privilege, but one need only turn on CNN these days for that kind of research.

 

7.      The Winters takes many of its cues from classic novels—a plain unassuming heroine; a dashing older gentleman; a lavish estate; an inconvenient first wife. But the ending is decidedly more modern—even feminist. Without giving too much away, can you speak to how you went about crafting a contemporary version of these kinds of novels?

 

Writing a modern book that that still pays tribute to a beloved classic is a tricky balancing act. I am a huge fan of the ones done well: Jane Smiley’s King Lear redux, A Thousand Acres, Jean Rhys’ The Wide Sargasso Sea (which is actually a prequel to Jane Eyre, which du Maurier herself retold with Rebecca), Curtis Sittenfeld’sEligible (a hilarious retelling of Pride and Prejudice), and Joanna Trollope’s Sense and Sensibility. The best ones preserve the original’s landmarks, though the terrain is completely different. They’re written in a contemporary style, though a sharp-eyed reader will spot my own iambic hexameter. And while the characters feel familiar, they’re not facsimiles. No character embodies all of these ideas more than Dani Winter, a 15-year old girl with all the traits of the average Millenial, minus any disadvantages. She has everything a girl her age could want, plus total freedom and the run of the house. She plays with her mother’s clothes and makeup, and the stories she tells about her run completely counter to her father’s. This presents a very current dilemma for our narrator. Does she believe the man she loves or his bratty kid? Dani becomes, then, a reminder that we longer live in an era where stories men tell about women take primacy over the ones they tell about themselves, as the #metoo movement is proving. Women just aren’t having that anymore. I know Dani’s generation isn’t.

 

8.      Finally, considering the evocative setting of The Winters, where do you think is the best place to read a book like this?

 

You should read The Winters at one of my favorite hotels, The Chequit Inn, on Shelter Island. You should be sitting on the deep front porch that overlooks the Peconic River, sipping sweet tea. Funny enough, in a very early draft I wrote a scene where our teary, breathless narrator, running for her life, bursts into the lobby of The Chequit Inn demanding to use their phone. They let her. They get her a glass of water and calm her down. They offer her a chair. In the end, the incredible staff at even my imaginary Chequit Inn sucked the tension right out of the scene, so I had to redirect.

GIVEAWAY OPPORTUNITY FOR U.S. RESIDENTS

One print copy of The Winters by Lisa Gabriele will be given away to a lucky commenter on this post. The giveaway will be open for one week following postdate and the winner will be a random pick from the comments. Winner must have a US postal address and the address will be forwarded to publisher. Penguin-Viking will handle the actual giveaway. Good Luck!

 

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: A Deadly Brew by Lynn Cahoon

Posted October 23, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 12 Comments

Guest Review: A Deadly Brew by Lynn CahoonA Deadly Brew by Lynn Cahoon
Series: A Tourist Trap Mystery #9.5
Published by Lyrical Press on August 4, 2018
Genres: Cozy Mystery, Paranormal
Pages: 67
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

As Halloween approaches South Cove, California, four couples get into the spirit of the holiday by conjuring up spirits. . .
The house has sat empty for fifteen years, taking up prime real estate along the picturesque coastline. Built by one of the founders of South Cove, its last known owner, Maryanne Demerit, vanished without a trace. Now her home will be demolished for a condo development, but until then, it’s the perfect spot for a Halloween haunted house.
Jill Gardner, owner of Coffee, Books, and More, her boyfriend, and three other couples are spending the weekend in the Demerit home. But what begins as an all-in-good-fun fright fest turns into a mystery begging to be solved as Jill is contacted by the ghost of Maryanne . . .

A light spooky cozy mystery from the Tourist Trap mystery series caught my eye when I was hunting for an Autumn seasonal read. It was my first time with author and series and it was a great experience that has me eager to return for more.

A Deadly Brew is book 9.5 in the A Tourist Trap Mystery series. It probably wasn’t the best place to start as it was obvious that the heroine and those in her circle had prior experiences together, but, that said, I had no trouble diving in because the author gave a brief intro to the characters and setting as it appeared in the story.

This was a quick read novella that falls between the usual novel-length mysteries. It was a lock in haunted house weekend for four couples. They wanted to explore the old house by the sea that would be torn down for developments and have a nice weekend getaway. But, strange things start to happen and Jill Gardner, local bookshop owner and amateur sleuth, begins to wonder if the ghost of the long time missing owner is trying to help her discover the truth of what happened back in the past.

The four couples were a fun group together and I liked the cold case and spooky manifestations. I thought their time at the old spooky place was fun and entertaining. The backstory and descriptions of the world and setting were minimal and things moved along swiftly with the mystery, but it worked just fine for an afternoon quick read. The heroine Jill was engaging enough and I liked the time with her boyfriend the town police detective, her friends and neighbor. It did have a nice twist or two even if it was a light-weight story.

I think those looking for a fun, light cozy mystery that would be perfect for Halloween would find this one a good bet.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Posted October 7, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 22 Comments

Guest Review: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth WareThe Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Series: standalone
Published by Gallery/Scout Press on July 19, 2016
Genres: Psychological Thriller
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Source: Won
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3 Stars

In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

I took one look at the quote on the back cover “if you’re a fan of Agatha Christie…” and read a few of my favorite book bloggers talking this one up and I just had to read it. I was unfamiliar with the author until this book released so I was eager to give her a try.

Well, I really wanted to say I loved this one and I was riveted, but that turned out not to be the case. I think I went in with incredibly high expectations and an expectation of a Christie whodunnit when this wasn’t Christie and it wasn’t fair to give it such a high standard to reach. This one was by no means lousy and the writing was strong and good. The setting of a cruise off the coast of Norway and the assembled group of high flyers and travelers was a nice International Intrigue feeling. There is a sense of wondering if the narrator is reliable or not which I do love. I liked the ‘did it really happen that way? Was it even real?” Quite a clever premise and set up.

But, when it came down to it, The Woman in Cabin 10 turned out to be a so-so read for me until the last third when it finally grabbed me. If I hadn’t seen others I trust loving on it, I might very well have stopped reading early on.

I didn’t connect with the female protagonist, Lo. I didn’t hate her, but I didn’t exactly like her or admire her either. She’s not a nice person and she drinks enough to destroy her liver and is definitely an alcoholic which is nuts since she’s got an anxiety disorder and is on medication. I think I was meant to be wary of connecting with her and wondering about her part in all this.

No, what almost had me it setting aside was me impatiently waiting for something to happen between little blips of action or suspense. I found the action-suspense points good, but the slow built to each one had me drifting as I flipped pages waiting for the next intense moment. I didn’t feel like there was a point to much of it like it was treading water until the next momentous event could occur and I spent a lot of time in Lo’s head which wasn’t interesting to me and was frankly annoying because she dwells on stuff and leaps with her logic. To be fair, I might not have been in the right frame of mind for this style of psychological thriller. I think I was looking for a more pounding pace which is why the last portion was when I finally clicked with this book. It just took off like a rocket and left me breathless and twitching for what would come next.

So, in the end, I was glad to have read this one and I do want to read more of the author’s books, but now I know what to expect and I think that will make all the difference in the world.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Audio review: A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain, Lucy Rayner

Posted September 28, 2018 by Lily B in Audio, Guest Post, Reviews / 22 Comments

Guest Audio review: A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain,  Lucy RaynerA Twist in Time by Julie McElwain
Narrator: Lucy Rayner
Length: 16 hours 54 minutes
Series: Kendra Donovan, #2
Published by Tantor Audio on April 4, 2017
Genres: Time-Travel
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Former FBI agent Kendra Donovan's attempts to return to the twenty-first century have failed, leaving her stuck at Aldridge Castle in 1815. And her problems have just begun: in London, the Duke of Aldridge's nephew Alec-Kendra's confidante and lover-has come under suspicion for murdering his former mistress, Lady Dover, who was found viciously stabbed with a stiletto, her face carved up in a bizarre and brutal way. Lady Dover had plenty of secrets, and her past wasn't quite what she'd made it out to be. Nor is it entirely in the past-which becomes frighteningly clear when a crime lord emerges from London's seamy underbelly to threaten Alec. Joining forces with Bow Street Runner Sam Kelly, Kendra must navigate the treacherous nineteenth century while she picks through the strands of Lady Dover's life. As the noose tightens around Alec's neck, Kendra will do anything to save him, including following every twist and turn through London's glittering ballrooms, where deception is the norm-and any attempt to uncover the truth will get someone killed.

Following close on the heels of the first book, A Murder in Time’s adventures, A Twist in Time takes modern woman and tough FBI agent, Kendra Donovan to the bright lights and society of Regency London to solve a murder that hits close to home.

This is a wonderfully unique mash up of time travel and historical mystery with a dash of romance. Kendra is a 21st woman with excellent profiling skills and FBI training who inexplicably ends up in 19th century England. She’s fortunate enough to have landed in the Duke of Aldrige’s castle and that he is something of a Renaissance man who can handle her odd quirks from the start. Kendra becomes romantically entangled with his nephew the Marquis of Sutcliffe, friends with a Bow Street Runner and a lady with feminist leanings. She is torn between her sense of not belonging where women are still second class citizens and her skills make her an oddity and knowing that this is the first time she has ever been around people who like and yes, love her.

Kendra has to set all that aside when Alec, Lord Sutcliffe, gets accused of a brutal murder of his former mistress. The clues lead Kendra through the balls and soirees of London Society to the darker alleys of Cheapside. Lady Dover’s life held secrets and one of them was enough to make someone not only kill her, but mutilate her face. Kendra’s detection skills paired with the forensics and policing of that day along with her companions’ knowledge of Regency norm all come together to bring this enchanting whodunnit.

As with the first book, I was most taken with how a modern person gets along more than two hundred years in the past. It was fascinating to see her do police work when modern method and tech aren’t there to help and she is bucking an all-male system all the way.

Kendra has abandonment issues from her parents and issues because of things that happened in her own time so she struggles to accept Alec’s love and wishes that she be with him. I confess that I wanted to shake her after a while. I get it, but it really does all come down to her own fear and need to trust someone and little to do with anything in her own time waiting for her. Alec is being punished because her parents turned their backs on her. At least she is starting to realize this in this one. I’ll look forward to where this romance thread goes in future books.

Also, her ‘I am woman hear me roar’ bit of ‘I can take care of myself’ was driving me nuts. She goes racing into the London slums alone to prove to herself and others something when it’s just stupid not to take back up. Even in modern times, she would have a partner or back up. She’s also constantly ragging on the times even though some of it is her own preferences and prejudices rather than something was necessarily wrong (which yes, it gets old when she compares things to modern times and overlooks that it’s not some great Utopia in our day and age). I get it, a woman’s lot really sucked back then as did the class system, but she chooses to toss it all out rather than see that some things were actually good if not better). This is part of her modern arrogance that because she knows the future that she knows better- you’d think she would have learned after what happened in the last book. But, at the same time, I find that the struggles Kendra goes through are a wise move on the author’s part to show that adjusting to a time travel situation would never be easy. The author did her homework on the historical setting and social mores of Regency times and brings those out through Kendra’s eyes.

The narration by Lucy Rayner continues to have me on the fence. I love aspects of her work like her accepts and ability to vocalize genders and tone. But, she gets a sing-song pattern and I feel that her Kendra voice (which is the primary one) gets whiny or snippy which might be influencing some of my issues with Kendra. I don’t dislike her work, but I don’t love it, either and had to get used to it all over again when I started this book.

Still, it was another great installment in a series that I think historical murder mystery fans and time travel lovers would enjoy.

My thanks to Tantor Audio for the opportunity to listen to this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: The Whale: A Love Story by Mark Beauregard

Posted September 8, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 6 Comments

Guest Review: The Whale: A Love Story by Mark BeauregardThe Whale: A Love Story by Mark Beauregard
Series: standalone
Published by Penguin Books on June 26, 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A rich and captivating novel set amid the witty, high-spirited literary society of 1850s New England, offering a new window on Herman Melville's emotionally charged relationship with Nathaniel Hawthorne and how it transformed his masterpiece, Moby-Dick
In the summer of 1850, Herman Melville finds himself hounded by creditors and afraid his writing career might be coming to an end--his last three novels have been commercial failures and the critics have turned against him. In despair, Melville takes his family for a vacation to his cousin's farm in the Berkshires, where he meets Nathaniel Hawthorne at a picnic--and his life turns upside down.
The Whale chronicles the fervent love affair that grows out of that serendipitous afternoon. Already in debt, Melville recklessly borrows money to purchase a local farm in order to remain near Hawthorne, his newfound muse. The two develop a deep connection marked by tensions and estrangements, and feelings both shared and suppressed.
Melville dedicated Moby-Dick to Hawthorne, and Mark Beauregard's novel fills in the story behind that dedication with historical accuracy and exquisite emotional precision, reflecting his nuanced reading of the real letters and journals of Melville, Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and others. An exuberant tale of longing and passion, The Whale captures not only a transformative relationship--long the subject of speculation--between two of our most enduring authors, but also their exhilarating moment in history, when a community of high-spirited and ambitious writers was creating truly American literature for the first time.

Earlier this year, I enjoyed an author taking two famous authors and writing their stories side by side. So, when I was introduced to this book not only telling of two famous American author stories, but showing their friendship, their work, and a little something more, I was all in. It read like a love story tucked inside a historical fiction.

The Whale: A Love Story didn’t exactly grab me like I was hoping it would. I’ve read books by both authors: Moby Dick by Herman Melville, House of Seven Gables and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. After being exposed to their writing and studying them a bit in college lit class, I was eager to learn more about the men behind the books. I was all kinds of curious about the suggestion that they were gay and had a love affair. I was open to not only buying in to even a whiff of it, but enjoying it even if it was just a very loose fictional story. Unfortunately, I got lost in the author’s writing style and couldn’t really like the Melville portrayed in this book (to be fair, he was something of a romanticist in real life) or get on board with the romance. He says and does idiotish things and being inside his head was torturous or mind-numbing in turn for me.

It wasn’t all a slog. I did enjoy the letters and I felt the author got the details of the time period down. Melville drove me nuts the way he got himself into trouble with his family, with entanglements, and all bumbling over his crush on Hawthorne, his muse. I liked the friendship between Hawthorne and Melville. I got a better feel for both men which is what I wanted.

I think I would recommend this for historical fiction fans who are open to broader interpretations of the characters and don’t mind an awkward romance at the heart of the story.

My thanks to Penguin-Random House for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet

Posted August 20, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 8 Comments

Guest Review: The House Swap by Rebecca FleetThe House Swap by Rebecca Fleet
Series: standalone
Published by Pamela Dorman Books on May 22, 2018
Genres: Thriller
Pages: 294
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Be careful who you let in . . .
When Caroline and Francis receive an offer to house swap--from their city flat to a townhouse in a leafy, upscale London suburb--they jump at the chance for a week away from home, their son, and the tensions that have pushed their marriage to the brink.
As the couple settles in, the old problems that permeate their marriage--his unhealthy behaviors, her indiscretions--start bubbling to the surface. But while they attempt to mend their relationship, their neighbor, an intense young woman, is showing a little too much interest in their activities.
Meanwhile, Caroline slowly begins to uncover some signs of life in the stark house--signs of her life. The flowers in the bathroom or the music might seem innocent to anyone else--but to her they are clues. It seems the person they have swapped with is someone who knows her, someone who knows the secrets she's desperate to forget...

The idea of a couple swapping houses with a stranger and slowly realizing that this stranger is something more was intriguing and I was all in. I’ve noticed a few reader buddies enjoying domestic thrillers lately so thought I’d pick one up and try one out for myself.

The House Swap was a fast read and moved along at a good, steady pace. I was curious about blending the elements of a married pair along with the mystery and how I’d like that. Turns out that I found this mesh to work well. The thriller part was subtle particularly at first with the marriage issues of the pair taking the lead. The story was told in both the past and present so the reader experiences the current situation and how it got there. This worked to help with building suspense and revealing the secrets in a jaw-dropping way. I actually worked out several of the reveals before they came, but there were still a few shockers.

Now, in truth, this book was something of a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed the thriller aspect and a bit of how the flawed marriage was meshed with it. However, I really didn’t like Caroline, the main character. To be fair, the reader isn’t meant to like her as far as I can tell. The whole situation is pretty much her own doing. She claims she wants to renew what has been lost in her marriage, but it takes little for her to slip back into her old ways. She snarls and prods, keeps secrets that affect them both, and lies to her husband who is bending over backwards to make this house swap and vacation week work. I think what did it for me was that she wasn’t over her ex. He ended the affair and its obvious that she’d fall right back into it if she could. I really wanted to see Francis just snatch their son, walk away, and keep going.

So, my first domestic thriller was alright. It did leave me eager for more. I thought the author wrote a good twisting plot so I’ll watch for more of her work. This is for those who don’t mind flawed characters and a soft thriller paired together.

My thanks to Penguin-Random House for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry

Posted July 19, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 14 Comments

Guest Review: How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica HenryHow to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry
Series: standalone
Published by Penguin Books on July 10, 2018
Genres: General Fiction
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

"Absolutely delightful." --People
The enchanting story of a bookshop, its grieving owner, a supportive literary community, and the extraordinary power of books to heal the heart
Nightingale Books, nestled on the main street in an idyllic little village, is a dream come true for book lovers--a cozy haven and welcoming getaway for the literary-minded locals. But owner Emilia Nightingale is struggling to keep the shop open after her beloved father's death, and the temptation to sell is getting stronger. The property developers are circling, yet Emilia's loyal customers have become like family, and she can't imagine breaking the promise she made to her father to keep the store alive.
There's Sarah, owner of the stately Peasebrook Manor, who has used the bookshop as an escape in the past few years, but it now seems there's a very specific reason for all those frequent visits. Next is roguish Jackson, who, after making a complete mess of his marriage, now looks to Emilia for advice on books for the son he misses so much. And the forever shy Thomasina, who runs a pop-up restaurant for two in her tiny cottage--she has a crush on a man she met in the cookbook section, but can hardly dream of working up the courage to admit her true feelings.
Enter the world of Nightingale Books for a serving of romance, long-held secrets, and unexpected hopes for the future--and not just within the pages on the shelves. How to Find Love in a Bookshop is the delightful story of Emilia, the unforgettable cast of customers whose lives she has touched, and the books they all cherish.

As the cover quote says, this is a love story to a bookshop and its late owner. However, there is something magical in the air of this shop because love in many forms makes its way into the lives of those who come to the shop and for a woman who finds her way back home.

How to Find Love in a Bookshop starts out on a low melancholy note and gently meanders its way through the lives of some the people living in the small village of Peasebrook. Julien opened the shop and now his daughter, Emilia, has his big shoes to fill when the shop comes to her. Everyone loved him and his friendly, non-judgmental yet wise ways.

The narrative switches between the handful of people most affected by the magical pull of Nightingale bookshop. There is Sarah with her secrets and life as lady of the manor, Dillon who has a hidden unrequited crush, Theodora too shy to go for it with her attraction to Jem, two couples on the verge of splitting for good, an older woman getting a second chance, and young Emilia struggling with the shop, grief, and an attraction to a man who sees her as a friend.

The book transfers between the stories, but they aren’t disconnected. I loved how the author wove them separately, but brought them together with the bookshop at the heart. And, what a lovely place it is. The old shop on the High street near the stone bridge with lovely old atmosphere inside with its wooden floors, showcase windows, mezzanine upstairs, stone fireplace and nooks- every booklover’s dream place.

The conflict is mostly within the character’s relationships and keeping the shop open. I liked the drowsy way the story pulled me along. It was not one that kept me riveted and I could put it down, but I was always eager when I could pick it back up again. I only had one niggle. In Dillon’s story, I loved how that turned out, but I do wish that the jerk who lied had gotten a stronger comeuppance for the trouble he caused.

So, this was lovely and full of depth and richness. I think those who want an easy-reading gently paced low-key story with love on the side would enjoy this one.

My thanks to Penguin-Random House for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: The Cottages on Silver Beach by RaeAnne Thayne

Posted July 10, 2018 by Lily B in Reviews / 14 Comments

Review: The Cottages on Silver Beach by RaeAnne ThayneThe Cottages on Silver Beach by RaeAnne Thayne
Series: Haven Point #8
Published by HQN Books on June 19, 2018
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Years after betraying her, he's back in Haven Point…and ready to learn the truth.
Megan Hamilton never really liked Elliot Bailey. He turned his back on her family when they needed him the most and it almost tore them all apart. So she's shocked when Elliot arrives at her family's inn, needing a place to stay and asking questions that dredge up the past. Megan will rent him a cottage, but that's where it ends-no matter how gorgeous Elliot has become.
Coming back home to Haven Point was the last thing bestselling writer Elliot Bailey thought he'd ever do. But the book he's writing now is his most personal one yet and it's drawn him back to the woman he can't get out of his mind. Seeing Megan again is harder than he expected and it brings up feelings he'd thought were long buried. Could this be his chance to win over his first love?

Elliot Bailey has always had some sort of feelings for Megan Hamilton, but wasn’t unable to do anything about it due to the fact that he came home one day to her dating her brother. Now, Megan Hamilton is not his biggest fan when Elliot turned his back on her family when her brother’s wife went missing because Elliot thought he was responsible for the disappearance. Now, year’s later, Megan’s brother is still living with the stigma as a walking criminal and Elliot Bailey is back in town, working on a new book, digging up old dirt, and causing all kinds of mixed feelings.
This was a cute read, I enjoyed Thayne’s easy writing a lot. She has a way that really makes me feel invested in the story and all the characters. A lot of the characters from the previous books make an appearance here because it’s just part of one big happy family.
The characters were easy to like and the romance was sweet. The story engaging and it really makes me want to know what is going to happen in the next book after the secret’s that Elliot has uncovered and how they will effect Megan’s brother.

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Review: Rainy Day Friends by Jill Shalvis

Posted July 5, 2018 by Lily B in Reviews / 14 Comments

Review: Rainy Day Friends by Jill ShalvisRainy Day Friends by Jill Shalvis
Series: Wildstone #2
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on June 19, 2018
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Heat:two-half-flames

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Following the USA Today bestselling author of Lost and Found Sisters comes Jill Shalvis' moving story of heart, loss, betrayal, and friendship
Six months after Lanie Jacobs’ husband’s death, it’s hard to imagine anything could deepen her sense of pain and loss. But then Lanie discovers she isn’t the only one grieving his sudden passing. A serial adulterer, he left behind several other women who, like Lanie, each believe she was his legally wedded wife. 
Rocked by the infidelity, Lanie is left to grapple with searing questions. How could she be so wrong about a man she thought she knew better than anyone? Will she ever be able to trust another person?  Can she even trust herself?
Desperate to make a fresh start, Lanie impulsively takes a job at the family-run Capriotti Winery. At first, she feels like an outsider among the boisterous Capriottis. With no real family of her own, she’s bewildered by how quickly they all take her under their wing and make her feel like she belongs. Especially Mark Capriotti, a gruffly handsome Air Force veteran turned deputy sheriff who manages to wind his way into Lanie’s cold, broken heart—along with the rest of the clan.
Everything is finally going well for her, but the arrival of River Brown changes all that. The fresh-faced twenty-one-year old seems as sweet as they come…until her dark secrets come to light—secrets that could destroy the new life Lanie’s only just begun to build.

Oh my heart guys, I almost forgot how much I like Jill Shalvis romance.

I’ve struggled with some of the books in her Heartbreaker Bay series due to my disliking some of the characters in there that keep popping up, but Rainy Day Friends hit all the marks for me.

We follow Lanie Jacob’s whose husband’s death brought on a deep sense of pain and loss, until she discovers that she isn’t the only one grieving his death and that her husband apparently had an addiction to marrying a lot of women, four in fact.

Lanie takes a job to reinvent all the packaging for a very successful winery, where she meets the owner’s son, Mark an Air Force veteran turned sheriff who gave up his military career for his two twin daughters.

My heart. I adored this book. It was funny, it was charming, the romance was just right and awesome. I was a bit worried because I have completely struggled with romances lately and this just hit all the marks and pulled me out of the slump long enough to really enjoy it.

Now I know there is a mention that a lot of the jokes in here came from meme’s, I don’t follow meme’s enough to distinguish that fact, so I guess it did not bother me, but I can see how it can bother other people.

Overall, I think despite that little tidbit, I absolutely ended up adoring this. I adored the romance and how Mark’s daughters chipped down her walls. I loved the setting of the winery and the family. I struggled with the character of River and felt for Lanie with what she went through, it was unfortunate so it was awesome to see her find happiness.

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Review: The Endless Beach by Jenny Colgan

Posted July 4, 2018 by Lily B in Reviews / 3 Comments

Review: The Endless Beach by Jenny ColganThe Endless Beach by Jenny Colgan
Series: The Summer Seaside Kitchen #2
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on May 22, 2018
Genres: Chick-Lit
Pages: 416
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Heat:one-flame

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookshop on the Corner and The Cafe by the Sea comes another enchanting, unforgettable novel of a woman who makes a fresh start on the beautiful Scottish Island of Mure—only to discover life has more surprises in store for her.
When Flora MacKenzie traded her glum career in London for the remote Scottish island of Mure, she never dreamed that Joel—her difficult, adorable boss—would follow. Yet now, not only has Flora been reunited with her family and opened a charming café by the sea, but she and Joel are taking their first faltering steps into romance.
With Joel away on business in New York, Flora is preparing for the next stage in her life. And that would be…? Love? She’s feeling it. Security? In Joel’s arms, sure. Marriage? Not open to discussion.
In the meanwhile, Flora is finding pleasure in a magnificent sight: whales breaking waves off the beaches of Mure. But it also signals something less joyful. According to local superstition, it’s an omen—and a warning that Flora’s future could be as fleeting as the sea-spray…
A bracing season on the shore sets the stage for Jenny Colgan’s delightful novel that’s as funny, heartwarming, and unpredictable as love itself.

A character driven book that takes place on a Scottish Island of Mure.

The book follows Flora MacKenzie, who moved to Mure for a fresh start and opened up Cafe by the Sea. She never dreamt that her difficult but adorable boss would follow her. Joel is fed up with city life and is tired of sleeping with supermodels and is now looking for some peace and quiet and Mure seems to bring that peace to his soul. Joels walls are still pretty high due to his past and he is now harboring a secret that causes him to feel sick.

The book also follows Saif, a refugee doctor who is awaiting news of being reunited back with his wife and children. This storyline to me was my favorite, I really liked Saif’s, character and it just felt emotional and more interesting. It really hit me in the feels. There is a schoolteacher named Lorna who is absolutely in love with him, but things are complicated for Saif so it be interesting to see if there is another book.

The ending was kind of sad and happy at the same time, there is a bit of heartbreak added to the end of the story and as I did not read book one, it felt a bit like it was added for a shock factor or to add more substance to the story.

The book is character driven, so you kind of have to like the characters in order to enjoy the book. It follows these people in their life so not much happens for a while in the story and it can feel a little slow at points. I had a difficult time with Flora to be completely honest, she just could not seem to respect Joel’s wishes. I understand why she did it, but she felt pushy. Also, she was a complete push over and I wish should would stand up for herself in the end, and I was waiting for it to happen but it never did. What happened with her Cafe and the wedding, she should have used her voice.

Going to end this review on that note because at this point I am rambling. Overall, it’s a really great beach read.

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