book review, history, New Book

The House on the Hill

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Irina Shapiro. From the first page, I know there will be heartbreak, betrayal, and a story that will twist through time. So today, I’d like to introduce you to The House on the Hill.

  • Genre: Historical Fiction and Contemporary and Historical Romance
  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️
  • Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

In the modern day, Laura has recently been widowed, having lost her husband in Iraq. She leaves their apartment in the heart of Boston for a summer of healing in an old house on the shores of Cape Cod. She’s hoping to leave her ghosts behind and perhaps find new inspiration for a book. But a ghostly visitor shows her there’s something different about the Holland House.

In the 1700s, Sophie is on the cusp of adulthood, counting the days until she can marry Teddy, a boy she’s loved for years. Her book maker father has his sights set on a man with a title or some money, and forbids his only daughter from following her heart. When her hand is forced and she must make a decision to save herself, her life begins to unravel.

While Laura works to learn more about her ghostly visitor and sort out her feelings about the handsome vet she met in town, Sophie’s charmed world shatters. Both women are trapped in webs of lies and grief woven hundreds of years apart, but inexplicably tied.

Every time I read something by Shapiro, I’m instantly on edge. I know terrible things will happen, but I savor the slight feeling of apprehension. Wondering who will be the one to stab the man character in the back is something I’ve come to expect and thoroughly enjoy.

My historical specialty is European-based, so having American history tidbits was very welcome. I live on the East Coast and admittedly don’t know a lot about colonial life other than what’s taught in basic classes. I always like how Shapiro brings in facts to give her books a level of realism that inspires me to explore the themes more on my own.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to all lovers of historical fiction and romantic suspense.

book review

After Anna

I love horror and thrillers. Something about zombies and midnight murders really pull me into stories. But nothing gets to me quite like books with realistic bases. Nothing’s scarier to me than what people can to do to each other. I recently read After Anna by Alex Lake and I have a lot to say.

  • Genre: Thriller
  • Overall Rating 6/6 Glass slippers

Julia’s life isn’t perfect. She and her husband are separating, her mother-in-law hates her, and her meetings at work often run late. The one shining spot is her five year old daughter Anna. But one day, another meeting runs late and she doesn’t get to the school in time to pick Anna up. When she arrives, the school is empty and Anna is gone.

A week later, Anna returns. Julia thinks the nightmare is over, but maybe it’s only just begun.

What follows is the harrowing reality for Julia that she has become part of an international news story, the kind she used to read with her morning coffee and think, that would never happen to me. I wouldn’t be so negligent. I wouldn’t make the same mistake as those parents. I would find my daughter.

I have a five year old daughter, so this book hit particularly close to home for me. It mirrored some of my own fears about raising a child in a world so large, it’s scarily easy to disappear. The author did a fantastic job of bringing those feelings to the page in an uncomfortable, winding way that made my skin crawl.

Another element that was particularly jarring was the glimpses into the kidnapper. They had a plan, they were too smart for police, they would never get caught. They were so sure that everything would go just as they hoped, failure was not an option. This little peeks into their thoughts were just enough to drive home how deranged this person was, and how meticulous they were.

Overall, I really enjoyed the chilling tale, even if it had predictable moments. They really caught the terror one small mistake can ultimately bring.

book review, New Book

Try Easy

Escapism is on the top of my reading list, making a Hawaiian vacation themed romance the prefect read. I’d like to chat a bit about Try Easy by Jill Brashear, book one in the Aloha Series.

  • Heat Level: 4/6 Hearts
  • Genre: Sports/Vacation Romance
  • Overall Rating: 5/6 Glass Slippers

In the late 1960’s, fledgling photographer Mary Lou Hunter has always followed the rules to get the life she wants. She plans to marry her picture perfect boyfriend, live in a picture perfect house, and have a picture perfect life. When her best friend invites her on a Hawaiian vacation, Lou and her camera get a shot at something new. But when she steps off the plane and is greeting by a man with a busted lip and the broadest shoulder’s she’d ever seen, Lou realized things aren’t always perfect.

Keoni Makai is a surfing legend on his home island of Oahu. If he could, he’d make surfing his life and reclaim the sport his ancestors created, but the born and bred Hawaiians are still treated as second class citizens in their own homes. Between working at a pineapple cannery by night and surfing by day, he’s been trying to escape his demons, the ones he comes to face with nearly every day on the water. Keoni also has a rule about never getting involved with tourists, even ones who look like Lou.

As the time to Lou’s departure flight draws near, the siren song of the Hawaiian sea entangles her and Keoni in a way neither thought possible.

Try Easy was a good read and a solid travel romance that wasn’t just a cut and dry tale of holiday lust. I curled up on my back deck over several warm afternoons and drifted along the story Brashear wove happily, really never able to guess what would happen next. Every time I thought I had the ending figured out, something else came to pass that was so wonderfully human in that messy way. There was no straight shot to the last page, which was a nice change to some books where you can guess where the story’s heading.

Keoni’s experience as a native Hawaiian was also one I found particularly interesting, from a historian’s standpoint. Hawaii’s entrance into the United States wasn’t some simple signing of papers, but an overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy started by white plantation owners. The racial issues and prejudices began years before Queen Lili’uokalani was forced off her throne and continue to this day. I liked how Brashear touched upon these ongoing issues though Keoni being barred from participating in a local surfing competition, although his white friend, who wasn’t as talented as him, was formally invited.

My only issue with this book is that there wasn’t more! The time jump during Lou’s trip to Hawaii killed me. I’m a huge deal person and thrive on really being in the moment. I would have liked to see the moments between her and Kione really fleshed out, mostly since whenever they did have a scene together, I could really feel the tension between them, which I adored.

Overall, I recommend this book to anyone who misses the feeling of sand between their toes as they’re staying safe at home.

book review, New Book

The Fae King’s Curse

I’m back to chat about The Fae King’s Curse, the second book in the Between Dawn and Dusk series. If you remember, I actually read and reviewed Between Dawn and Dusk already and it got my fantasy romance seal of approval!

  • Genre: Fantasy Romance
  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️❤️❤️
  • Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

The firstborn children of all Fae king are blind and can only regain their sight when they meets their fated mate, or soul mate. If they do much as kiss someone else, they will remain blind forever. Kirian, the prince of the Night Realm is no exception. Though he wishes he were as soon as he meets Quinn, a human girl who saves his life when he’s just a child.

Quinn is twelve when she meets Kirian, an odd boy she fishes out of the water. He promises to come back through the timed portal and see her the next day, but a day in the human world is a year for a Fae and she nearly doesn’t recognize him. This continues for years of daily meetings for her and centuries of yearly meetings for him until Quinn is eighteen.

Quinn’s loved him since childhood and fears one day he won’t appear in the woods near her house and he’ll be off with his true fated mate. Before she’s set to leave for college, she tells him she can’t meet him anymore. Loving him and knowing he will one day leave her forever kills her. Then, Kirian does the worst thing possible…he kisses her.

With one kiss, the pair is woven into a tapestry of curses, stardust, and fate.

This is what I was missing in Between Dawn and Dusk. I adore first meetings and Schlosser gave me a good one when a lavender eyed Fae prince and a small town girl in overalls met beside the river and felt sparks. The slow burn was perfect.

I love, love, loved this book and I’m not a huge fantasy romance fan, usually steering more towards the JRR Tolkien vein of elves and dwarves. But the way Quinn and Kirian’s relationship developed and the small quirks they each have had me swooning. I literally read it it one siting with a single break to make whipped coffee and turn on a light. It was funny and heartwarming, but steamy and dark all at the same time.

Congrats, Jamie Schlosser, you just created a fantasy romance fan.

book review

Between Dawn and Dusk

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a fantasy romance with true magical elements. But when I saw the gorgeous cover for Between Dawn and Dusk by Jamie Schlosser, I knew I had to take a chance.

  • Genre: Paranormal Romance
  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️❤️❤️
  • Overall Rating: 5/6 Glass Slippers

In a far off world, fated mates are vital to survival, and if a pair is separated, they’ll slowly go mad until both are dead. Zella, the princess of the Day Realm, fears this may happen to her, as while she’s already met her fated mate, her father has sworn him to be their enemy. He wants Zella to marry someone in their kingdom, but she refuses to accept anything less than true love with the man she’s adored for years.

King Keryth of the Night Realm has been waiting for Zella for ages. He knew it was a fated match when he first saw her, and has been patient for the king of the Day Realm to allow them to marry. But when a wedding is planned between Zella and a man who certainly isn’t him, Keryth knows the time for waiting is long gone.

The Day Realm is dark with kidnappings and ruled with an iron fist, something Zella can no longer live with. The Night Realm promises peace and a chance at happiness. But first, Zella and Keryth will have to survive the wedding.

I enjoyed the book and look forward to reading the second, The Fae King’s Curse. But I do feel like I was missing a lot of delicious details that would have made the book all the better. I wish I could have seen the couple meet, read more about the mysterious illness that killed the women, really get a sense of the world they live in before being thrust into the heart of action. The premise is fantastic and the characters have such deep feelings, I just wish there was more!

Overall, this brief and easy read was a cute story that I truly hope will be further delved into in The Fae King’s Curse!

book review, history

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Since beginning social distancing, I’ve been diving into my massive TBR list containing books that I’ve had waiting for months upon months. First up, The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. It’s the memoir of Ludwig “Lali” Sokolov nee Eisenberg, called Lale in the book, and he was once the tattooer of Auschwitz.

  • Genre: Memoir
  • Overall Rating 5/6 Glass Slippers

In April of 1942, Lale arrived in Auschwitz-Berkinau. Due to his wit and talent for languages, he was soon made the tattooist’s apprentice, then the tattooist himself. He was put in the dangerous and prestigious position of tattooing the numbers on the arm of everyone who entered the camp. He had to be a cog in the Nazi machine, but was also able to help save a few lives.

His tattooing bag is a free pass through the camp, a sign of his status as an essential worker. He’s able to speak with guards, meet the workers from the nearby village who are building the crematoriums, and barter for food with goods slipped from the warehouse used to store and sort the stolen possessions of the prisoners. But Lale uses the most of his influence to keep someone special alive.

He first notices Gita’s dark eyes, and soon he’s smitten with the young woman in a way he can’t explain. He begs and steals, cutting deals to get her a job in the administration office where at least she’ll be warm in the long winter months. He trades hidden gems for chocolate with the village workers for her, and does everything in his power to make sure that when they’re free, they’ll have a future together. But first, they have to survive.

In college, I studied the Holocaust in depth, reading memoirs, taking classes, and taking advantage of my school’s Holocaust Resource Center where survivors would often come to speak. Overall, I found the memoir to be both heart wrenching, and a good lesson in humanizing what happened and how it changed the world. It’s easy to look at numbers in a text book and skim over the labels of Jew and Gypsy without really internalizing what those numbers truly mean. Lali wasn’t a number, nor were any of the other victims.

I wrote many papers on that part of history in my genocidal studies program, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Dr. Mengele in particular. I found some inconsistencies in how Morris portrayed Mengele and his experiments, fabricating some parts perhaps for shock value, although what he did was so terrible without the additional attractions, I didn’t see the reason for them. There were other inconsistencies highlighted by the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center, but I won’t go into because after all is said and done, this isn’t a history book, it’s a memoir based on the extraordinary life of one man.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and the story it told, even with the inaccuracies and simple phrasings. Memories, like memoirs, are tricky things, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget the story of Lali Sokolov.

audiobook, book review, New Book, review

The Broken

My favorite time hopping series is back in audiobook form. That’s right, I’m talking about Echoes from the Past by Irina Shapiro. Today, I’d like to discuss the series’s grand finale, The Broken. As always, I will try to keep my review relatively spoiler free, but if I surprise you, remember this amazing series is on book eight!

  • Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers
  • Genre: Historical and Contemporary Romance and Drama
  • Heat Rating: ♥♥

In 2015 Dr. Quinn Allenby is called to inspect the skeletal remains of an infant for the hit TV show Echoes from the Past, a program that “solves” old murders and deaths from centuries ago. A mother herself, the work is especially difficult, as the remains have been tampered with and the skeleton is new enough that, for the first time, the family might be still alive. But with the help of a broach found with the baby, she’ll work to put a name to the remains.

In 1955 nurse Helen meets David, who sweeps her off her feet. At first, their courtship is secretive, as Helen’s mother despises the thought of her only child being whisked away. And once they’re allowed to wed, Helen believes herself to be the luckiest woman alive. But when a chance discovery in her mother’s bedroom threatens not only her marriage, but her immortal soul, Helen will have to decide if the truth is worth her happiness.

Through the decades, a secret has been kept, one buried in the garden of an unassuming London home.

As always, I was immediately drawn into the story in a way I’m normally not when it comes to most books. Falling back into Quinn’s complicated life with her messy, extended family is always fun, as is following her into the past to untangle the life of someone who’s only left bones behind. Her tale is one of back stabbing siblings, unreliable parents, and a marriage stronger than most I read about. She has to fight for the shreds of normalcy like packing her daughter Emma’s lunch for school and setting up coffee meetings with her boss in between fact checking her visions.

Since this is the last book in the series, I’ll miss it greatly. The way Shapiro is able to weave the past and present together to form a seamless story is something I’ll always admire. She ended the series in a strong, yet organic, way where most storylines are tied up, and while the future is uncertain for some of the cast, they’ve all more or less ended up just where they needed to be.

Overall, and as always, I recommend this book, and all of Echoes from the Past to all contemporary and historical fiction fans who are looking for their next six glass slipper read.