“The lost apothecary” Sarah Penner

The lost apothecaryRated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Park Row. To be published March 2, 2021.

After her mother’s untimely death, Nellie carried on her apothecary business with a twist. Now, in 1791, though she still sold healing herbs and antidotes she also helped women escape men and abusive situations by dispensing medicines in quantities that would ensure their deaths. Her shop was a place where struggling women’s voices could be heard. Eliza, a young servant girl, allowed herself to be drawn into Nellie’s world which had unexpected consequences for both of them.

In present day London Caroline hoped to distract herself from her cheating husband by immersing herself in the city’s history. While on a mudlarking tour by the Thames, she discovered a colorful vial with a bearlike image. As she searched for its origins the love she’d had for history, which she’d buried for her husband’s sake, began to revive. With every step closer towards learning more about the vial and the mysterious apothecary from whence it came, Caroline peeled away the layers covering her own needs and desires as she learned more of Nellie and Eliza’s two hundred year old story.

Told in alternating voices between the past and present, readers are treated to an historical mystery that draws themĀ into the story of three women striving to break free of the bonds placed on them through the men in their lives.

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“The Enigma game” Elizabeth Wein

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Hyperion (Disney). Code Name Verity. To be published November 3, 2020. Includes “Author’s declaration of accountability,” “Further reading,” and “A handful of interesting links.” ‘

The Enigma GameNineteen-year-old Jamie was the leader of his Bristol Blenheim bomber plane squadron in 1940 Scotland, fighting the much faster German Messerschmitt 110 night fighters. Jamie was tired of his men being killed, and of being the underdog in these battles. He wanted a small advantage so, when the Enigma Machine came his way, he kept it secret.

Louisa Adair was orphaned at fifteen-years-old. She desperately needed a job, as doors were closed in England because of being half-Jamaican and half English. When she saw an ad to care for an elderly German woman in Scotland she took the job over the phone. Louisa had always wanted to fly and have adventures so, when she met a German spy and came into possession of the Enigma Machine she kept it secret.

Eighteen-year-old Ellen was a Gypsy Traveller. She’d spent her life being disrespected so, when she became a driver for the RAF, she didn’t tell anyone about her background. She had grown up with Jamie and knew how badly he wanted to beat the Germans, so, when she learned about the Enigma Machine she kept it secret to help Jamie and his men.

None of them knew that the Enigma Machine would play such a big part in the war, and that the Germans wouldn’t stop until it was destroyed.

The story of the Enigma Machine and its impact on the RAF is told through alternating viewpoints and, what’s really interesting is that it actually did exist, and played a big role in Allied victories.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

“The invention of Sophie Carter” Samantha Hastings

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. ebook. Swoon Reads (Feiwel and Friends & Macmllan Publishing Group). To be published July 14, 2020.

The invention of Sophie CarterIn 1851 Victorian England, orphaned twins Sophie and Mariah have turned eighteen. After repairing clocks for years, adventurous Sophie is determined to become an inventor so wants to see the Great Exhibition. She writes their rich aunt to ask for a place to stay in London. Instead their aunt decides to sponsor her for a season so she can land a rich husband to support Mariah, who she doesn’t invite.

Sophie convinces her withdrawn, artistic sister that they should ignore their aunt’s request and should both travel to London. They wind up sneaking into their aunt’s house, and taking turns going out each day with no one the wiser. What follows is a series of adventures and misadventures as they maneuver their way through rich London society, figure out how to have their heart’s desires, and break a few hearts on the way.

This was a light, romantic comedy, though lax in the social mores of the day. However my biggest annoyance was missing transitions. Many times there was nothing to show a scene change was taking place. Lack of transitions occurred throughout the book, and gave me whiplash.

However it’s a cutesy beach read, so I will recommend it for ages 14 and older.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

“Being Toffee” Sarah Crossan

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Bloomsbury YA. First published in Great Britain in May 2019 (Bloomsbury Publishing Pic.) United States of America edition to be published July 14, 2020.

Being ToffeeSixteen-year-old Allison’s mom died when she was born, leaving her with a father who mentally and physically abused her. For years she tried to stay out of his way but when he got angry, there wasn’t anything she or his girlfriend Kelly-Anne could do to avoid his cruelty. After Kelly-Anne left them, things got so bad that Allison ran away.

Now homeless, Allison eventually wandered into a home where an elderly woman lived alone. Marla’s dementia caused her to mistake Allison for a long-lost friend named Toffee so, for lack of anywhere to go, Allison moved in with her. They soon struck up a friendship but as Marla’s dementia got worse, Allison’s peace of mind improved. As Marla helped her learn to find her voice, she helped Marla gain the strength she needed to face changes coming in her own life.

Allison’s moving story of love lost and found is told in poetic verse. Readers will find themselves rooting for both Allison and Marla. I’m glad Bloomsbury YA decided to release this book in the United States. It’s an important story of finding hope and joy in unusual ways.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

“Little disasters” Sarah Vaughan

Rated 4 stars **** ARC.. ebook. Atria/Emily Bestler Books. To be published August 18, 2020.

Little DisastersLiz, Jess, Charlotte and Mel met at a prenatal class, and grew close through play dates and nights out together. Over the ten years of their friendship Liz, Charlotte and Mel always felt that Jess was a perfect mom because she had the cleanest house, cooked the best food, expertly parented her two boys, and got her figure back just a few weeks after giving birth to her third child.

However, shortly after Betsey’s birth, things seemed to change. Jess didn’t spend as much time with her friends; was easily distracted, and was obsessed with cleaning. Because her husband worked long hours, she was left to care for three small children on her own. She internalized everything and, though she grew more and more withdrawn, no one realized she was hiding a secret that would forever change all of their lives.

Through flashbacks and the present time, readers gain insight into secrets from Liz, Jess and Charlotte’s pasts that made them into the women they are today. As the situation with Jess gets darker and more complicated, and Liz struggles with her own issues, it is the bonds of friendship that keep their heads above water.

I thought the storyline between Liz and Jess was compelling and kept me guessing up until the very last page, but I disliked the flashbacks the author used to talk about their pasts. I thought there was too much back and forth going on between the past and present. However, because the subject matter is very important, I will recommend it for Adult readers.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Elizabeth I: The making of a Queen” Laura Brennan

3 stars *** ARC. ebook. Pen and Sword History. To be published July 19, 2020. (Includes lists of primary and secondary sources, as well as period photographs).

Elizabeth IThis book about Queen Elizabeth I is divided into several parts, concentrating on historical and political events from before Elizabeth was born, before she became Queen, and that transpired during her 45-year reign. She saw how her father, King Henry VIII, treated his wives and watched men conspired against their wives, leaving them powerless. This inspired her to remain single, and keep her own power. England’s religious battles, and the strained relationship she had with her sister Queen Mary I are also detailed. Thus, as Queen, Elizabeth used the experiences of her past and present to help her become a strong willed Queen.

Learning about Queen Elizabeth I was interesting because I believe that it’s important to “put [what is being studied] in its time and place,” a quote attributed to my former college professor. However I disliked how Brennan jumped from one event or person to another, then circled back again a few chapter or paragraphs later with information that would have been useful to know when she first began talking about that person or event. This made the book feel disjointed.

There are interesting facts about Elizabeth I mixed in with everything else, so I will recommend it to Adult readers who want to know more about this monarch.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Lady Clementine” Marie Benedict

Rated 5 stars ***** 2020. Sourcebooks. 310 p. (Includes “Author’s note,” “Reading group guide,” and “A conversation with the author”)

Lady ClementineAlmost everyone over the age of 50 has heard about Winston Churchill, and how his speeches, tenacity and love for country led Great Britain through World War II. Despite all of the historical information available on Churchill, his wife has remained a shadowy figure. “Lady Clementine” seeks to address this oversight, and does so in a very enlightening manner.

Benedict focuses on the Churchill’s from their 1908 marriage through the end of World War II in 1945. Important historical events, family life, the ups and downs of Churchill’s political career, and her own battles are told from Clementine’s point of view. Constantly at Churchill’s side, she evaluated his speeches, made speeches of her own on topics near to her heart, and worked tirelessly behind the scenes for her husband. In that time period, being a strong minded and strong willed female in a man’s world often led to ridicule by his associates and her peers for her “unseemly behavior.” Despite naysayers, Clementine continued to further the cause of women’s equality and was a powerful, yet largely unknown, force behind Churchill’s greatness.

This enthralling, quick moving novel about an important women in history who had been largely unknown, kept me reading late into the evenings. I love historical fiction (especially when rich with historical details) and Benedict did not disappoint. I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

Highly recommended for Adults.

“In a dark, dark wood” Ruth Ware

Rated 3 stars *** Scout Press (Simon & Schuster). 2015. 310 p.

In a dark, dark woodNora got an email that brought forth memories she’d been repressing for 10 years from when she’d been in love with James at the age of 16. Though it had ended badly, she’d never gotten over their relationship. Her ex-best friend Clare was getting married and Flo, her maid of honor, was writing to invite her to Clare’s Hen (bachelorette) party. After debating whether or not to go Nora decided to attend.

Six people showed up to a glass walled house buried deep in the spooky woods, where she finds out Clare is marrying James. With memories overwhelming her, Nora is desperate to leave but stayed to save face though no one has phone reception, the landline goes dead, and Flo is obsessed with pleasing Clare. Getting drunk, playing silly games and passing on snide comments about each other turn to seriousness when a Ouija board spells “murderer”, and the back door opens by itself in the middle of the night.

By this time they are all paranoid so, when someone comes up the stairs and is shot dead, no one remembers who did the actual shooting that killed James. Nora developed amnesia after the shooting but, for James’ sake, is determined to recover her memories and find out what happened that night. Who shot James? Did she do it?

The book started out slow and dragged through a few chapters before it started to pick up steam. I enjoyed the suspense, and whodunit feel. I had my suspicions, but was surprised when the villain was revealed. What I didn’t like were loose ends that weren’t explained, how much Nora reverted to her high school self around Clare, and why she went to the Hen when she wasn’t invited to the wedding.

Though the book had its hiccups I will recommend it to Adult readers who like suspense. It will definitely keep you guessing.

 

“First & then” by Emma Mills

Rated 4 stars **** Henry Holt and Company. 2015. 267 p.

First & thenDevon and Cas have been best friends for years and, though she’s secretly in love with him, she keeps that part under wraps. Frustrated at her inability to feel any interest in everything that comes with college plans, she takes it out on Foster, her 14-year-old nerdy cousin, who has just moved in with them.

The worst part about school for Devon is having to take gym with a bunch of freshmen – including Foster. She and Ezra Lynley, the football team’s newest star, are the only seniors in the class but seem to rub each other the wrong way. It seems as if every conversation ends in disaster. When Ezra discovers Foster can kick a football extremely far, he becomes his mentor and helps Foster join the varsity team.

As Foster becomes cool with his fellow freshmen, Devon struggles with her feelings towards Cas, Lindsay and Ezra. Though he annoys her, she likes his protectiveness towards Foster. In time, Devon realizes she needs to look outside of the box she’s placed around herself in order to discover a real life instead of the make-believe one she’s fashioned for herself.

I empathized with Devon in her complicated feelings towards both Lindsay and Cas, and was glad she got her act together in regards to both Ezra and Foster, as they deserved more chances than life had given them. It was a good book and a quick read, though I’m a bit confused as to what the title is supposed to mean.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

 

“I am watching you” by Teresa Driscoll

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. Thomas & Mercer. 2017.

I am watching youSixteen-year-old Anna Ballard and her best friend Sarah were at a party when Anna wanted to leave. She was very drunk, but Sarah had her eye on a guy and didn’t want to leave. Anna decided to go outside to find a taxi, and was never heard from again.

As the police do everything they can to investigate her disappearance, those who had some involvement with Anna tell their stories in alternating chapters. Ella saw Anna and Sarah on a train hanging out with two men who’d just gotten released from prison. Could they have had something to do with Anna’s disappearance? Maybe one of them is sending her threatening postcards.

Sarah feels guilty over what happened the last time she saw Anna, but doesn’t dare tell the police about what happened before the party. Anna’s father is heartbroken over her disappearance, and keeps repeating her last words to him “you disgust me dad.” Will he ever get the chance to make it up to her?

With each chapter readers gain clues into what may have led to Anna’s disappearance, but the shocking conclusion telling us what really happened came as a huge surprise. It was such a surprise that I immediately began rereading the book to find out what I had missed. It was just as good, and still just as shocking, the second time around.

Highly recommended for Adults.