“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 them 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 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Sophie convinces her withdrawn, artistic sister that they should ignore their aunt’s request and should both travel to London.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.

 

“The nesting” C. J. Cooke

The nestingRated 3 stars *** ARC. ebook. Berkley (Penguin Random House). To be published September 29, 2020.

Lexi had grown up in foster care with a mom who hated her. After a suicide attempt, she lost her job and was dumped by her boyfriend. Helpless and homeless, she spent hours riding commuter rail trains where she overheard a conversation about a nanny job in Norway. Lexi didn’t know anything about being a nanny, but knew she needed this job. She took over the resume and persona of Sophie Hallerton, the commuter who’d been thinking about applying for the job, and sent off her application.

After getting the job Lexi enjoyed her life in Norway with Coco and Gaia, her two young charges. However, Norway had its own secrets. What was the terrifying creature that regularly appeared in the house and grounds? What really happened to Coco and Gaia’s mother? Why did it seem as if the very earth wanted them all gone?

I enjoyed this book, and felt great sympathy for Lexi. HOWEVER I have BIG questions about the ending. For those who are reading my review, if you don’t want to spoil the ending for yourself, please don’t read below the SPOILER ALERT! banner. These questions, and resulting uncertainties, made me drop two stars from my rating.

However, since the storyline is very imaginative, I will recommend it for Adults. I hope the situation I mentioned below gets fixed before the book is published.

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

******SPOILER ALERT! ******* SPOILER ALERT! **********SPOILER ALERT! ********

******SPOILER ALERT! ******* SPOILER ALERT! **********SPOILER ALERT! ********

I am VERY confused over how Aurelia died. In Derry’s version she wades into the fjord, submerges and drowns. However this doesn’t jive with what was written earlier in the book because Aurelia imagined herself wading into the fjord with reindeer and then returned home. She didn’t die during that particular visit to the fjord.

In the Prologue Cooke wrote that Aurelia died when she accidentally fell off a cliff while being chased. Did the author forget what she’d written and decide to make up a completely different death for Aurelia? Did she fall off the cliff OR did she drown while having hallucinations with the reindeer? If she drowned with the invisible reindeer then the Prologue needs to be rewritten.

Also, why did Tom decide to let Lexi stay on after her accident? He didn’t feel bad about her attempted suicide when she told him why she’d impersonated Sophie. He could have insisted she return to London after she got out of the hospital. What changed? I hope the author or publisher have answers for me. Thanks.

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.

“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.

“The lions of Fifth Avenue” Fiona Davis

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Penguin Random House. To be published July 21, 2020.

The lions of fifth avenueIn 1913 Laura Lyons struggles during a time in history when women were expected to be complacent with their roles as wife and mother.

In 1993 Sadie Donovan hasn’t gotten over her long ago divorce and is insecure about everything in her life. She has sealed herself off from getting hurt again, so the only thing that gives her joy is answering reference questions and working with rare books at her NYPL job.

Laura lived with her superintendent husband Jack and two children in an apartment hidden away in the recently built New York Public Library. Her dream was to go to school to become a reporter, but she soon learned that women who dreamed faced uphill battles. The more she got involved with free thinking women in the Heterodoxy Club, the more she realized it would take great courage to risk everything she held dear to be truly happy.

Sadie’s career and job is in danger when rare books continue to be stolen from under her nose and she becomes a suspect. It doesn’t help matters when her research into her grandmother’s life discovers that her grandfather was accused of stealing rare books from the same library in 1913. Sadie will have to learn to work with others who share similar goals if she wants to clear her name and, in the process, unveils 80-year-old secrets about her own family.

I enjoyed the dual voice narratives of Laura and Sadie, and how Davis tied the stolen books to both of their stories. I also enjoyed learning about the history of the NYPL, its collections, immigrant babies, and free thinking women of the early 20th century. This is a great book for those who enjoy historical fiction, and who want to learn more about what it was like to be a woman who had dreams in 1913.

Highly recommended for Adults.

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

 

 

 

“Oligarchy” by Scarlett Thomas

1 star * ARC. ebook. Publisher’s Group West (Ingram). To be published November 7, 2019.

OligarchyA bunch of rich girls are in a boarding school somewhere in England, where they rule the school. They spend all their time thinking about ways to avoid eating, measuring nonexistent body fat, and weighing themselves since almost all of them are anorexic. The tepid storyline of “Oligarchy” goes on and on with anorexia as its main theme, jumping disjointedly and dispiritedly from character to character.

I did NOT like this book, but forced myself to keep going because I had to review it. If you want a book that endlessly repeats the same problems, without any solutions, then this is for you. I’m unhappy I wasted so much time slogging through it, but will leave it up to teens aged 15 and older to decide if you want to read it or not.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

 

 

“Lost Autumn” by Mary-Rose MacCall

Rated 3 stars *** ebook. ARC. Published by G.P.Putnam’s Sons. To be published March 3, 2020.

Lost AutumnIn 1920 seventeen-year-old Maddie is learning how to be Prince Edward’s correspondence secretary on his train tour of Australia, feeling overwhelmed by her proximity to royalty.

In 1997 Victoria, a reporter, is asked to cover the death of Princess Diana, but finds herself at a loss for words.

In 1981 Maddie finds herself coming to terms with the loss of everyone she’d ever loved, wondering what she can to do right old wrongs.

In 1918 Helen, an ambulance driver in France, and Rupert, batman to the Prince of Wales, meet on the battlefield when she transports him to the hospital against the rules. They fall in love, but fate steps in to tear them apart.

The author bounces back and forth between these years as she tells stories of love, betrayal, broken relationships, strength and survival. Grief and loss, tinged with hope, survival and strength are woven throughout these stories.

I thought each storyline was interesting, and would have preferred to have each in its own standalone book. A particular favorite of mine was the World War I love story between Helen and Rupert, which inspired Maddie to write “Autumn leaves.” However, having so many storylines in one book was very confusing. In the many switches between timeframes, I had to constantly reread to figure out what had happened to that character earlier in the book.

Therefore I was a half fan of “Lost Autumn,” and will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

Recommended for Adults.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

“The glittering hour” by Iona Grey

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. St. Martin’s Press. To be published December 10, 2019.

The glittering hourIn early 1936, nine-year-old Alice was confined to her grandparent’s estate while her beloved Mama goes on a business trip with Papa. Polly, her Mama’s former servant, is the only one to show her kindness as most of her time is spent with her Governess or in the nursery. Grandmama doesn’t want her around, while the only bright moments in her dreary life is receiving letters from Mama where she recalls her time as a young flapper in 1925. Her letters contain clues to a treasure she has to find – just like her Mama used to do when she was younger.

In 1925 Selina spent her days and nights drinking and partying with her rich friends. They traipse from one wild party to another, as she tried to forget the pain of losing her brother in the War and to break away from her parent’s tight grip. They want her to stop scandalizing the family name and settle down, but Selina wants to live her life as outrageously as possible. It was during one of her boisterous nighttime hijinks that Selina met Lawrence, a poor painter and photographer, earning his way through portrait commissions. Though they came from two vastly different places in society, they were instantly smitten with each other and fell madly in love.

Told in alternating viewpoints between the past and present, Selina and Lawrence’s love story draws you deep into the emotional whirlwind of their lives. Theirs is a love story that will leave you longing for a Lawrence of your own, someone who will love you forever and whose love is deeper than the deepest sea. I laughed. I cried. I couldn’t put it down. You will feel the same way. My only criticism is the cover. It, as well as the flowery UK cover, are too bland as neither captures the emotions this book generates.

This cover (see below) was the best of the three. download

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“A fire sparkling” by Julianne Maclean

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2019. Lake Union Publishing.

A fire sparklingAfter catching her boyfriend with another woman Gillian escaped to her grandmother’s Connecticut home, where her father revealed mysterious photos from World War II that he’d found in a secret compartment. They showed her 96 year-old grandmother in poses that proved she was once in love with a Nazi officer. After confronting her with the evidence, they convinced her to tell them what had happened during the war and why she had been with a Nazi.

In alternate chapters, readers are told harrowing tales of twin sisters, a rich Earl, the London Blitz, Nazi atrocities, spying, the French Resistance and more. These stories of bravery, loss, betrayal, love and grief, ultimately allow Gillian the freedom to realize she too can be a strong, independent woman like her grandmother, which gives her the strength to decide how she really wants to live her life.

I felt the author did a good job realistically capturing what was going on during World War II, but I thought Gillian was very immature. She was too trusting of her playboy boyfriend, and I was glad when she finally got her act together about him.

This is a great historical fiction book for Adult readers who enjoy reading about World War II, the French Resistance, and spies against Hitler.