• ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Recommendations

    The Socialite: a review

    About The Socialite

    Paperback: 368 pages

    Publisher: Thomas Nelson (April 14, 2020)

    Glamour, treachery, and espionage collide when an English socialite rushes to save her sister from the Nazis.

    As the daughter of Sir Alfred Whitford, Kat has a certain set of responsibilities. But chasing her wayward sister, Ellie, to Nazi-occupied Paris was never supposed to be one of them. Now accustomed to the luxurious lifestyle that her Nazi boyfriend provides, Ellie has no intention of going back to the shackled life their parents dictate for them—but Kat will stop at nothing to bring her sister home.

    Arrested for simply trying to defend himself against a drunken bully, Barrett Anderson is given the option of going to jail or serving out his sentence by training Resistance fighters in Paris. A bar owner serves as the perfect disguise to entertain Nazis at night while training fighters right below their jackboots during the day. Being assigned to watch over two English debutantes is the last thing he needs, but a payout from their father is too tempting to resist. Can Barrett and Kat trust each other long enough to survive, or will their hearts prove more traitorous than the dangers waiting around the corner?

    Review

    If you enjoy historical fiction, set in WWII Paris, with a dash of romance, this book is for you. WWII fiction rarely keeps me on the edge of my seat nor do I typically find the genre to be a page-turner. Neither was true with this book. Danger seemed to be around every corner and I could not put it down.

    I connected with the characters and found myself worrying about them even when I wasn’t reading the book – that’s got to be a sign of a good book! The writing was excellent, especially the dialogue. The backstories of the characters were quite interesting and did not slow the book down – a common issue I have with backstories.

    I finished this book in less than 24 hours and I’m still thinking about the history, the characters, and the outcome. I won’t provide any spoilers but there are several  scenes that are unforgettable.

    If you are a fan of books like 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑵𝒊𝒈𝒉𝒕𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒂𝒍𝒆 and 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑨𝒍𝒊𝒄𝒆 𝑵𝒆𝒕𝒘𝒐𝒓𝒌 you will most likely enjoy this book

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    Thanks to Thomas Nelson, TLC Book Tours and NetGalley for the gifted copy and ebook in exchange for my unbiased review.

    Purchase Links

    Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Thomas Nelson

    About J’nell Ciesielski

    With a passion for heart-stopping adventure and sweeping love stories, J’nell Ciesielski weaves fresh takes into romances of times gone by. When not creating dashing heroes and daring heroines, she can be found dreaming of Scotland, indulging in chocolate of any kind, or watching old black and white movies. Winner of the Romance Through the Ages Award and the Maggie Award, she is a Florida native who now lives in Virginia with her husband, daughter, and lazy beagle. Learn more at http://www.jnellciesielski.com.

    Connect with J’nell

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

     

     

  • Book Reviews,  Recommendations

    Hope And Other Dangerous Pursuits: blog tour & review

    Author: Laila Lalami

    Publish date: October, 2005

    Publisher: Algonquin Books

    Pages: 188

    Genre: Adult Fiction

    Synopsis:

    𝑯𝒐𝒑𝒆 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝑶𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓 𝑫𝒂𝒏𝒈𝒆𝒓𝒐𝒖𝒔 𝑷𝒖𝒓𝒔𝒖𝒊𝒕𝒔, the debut of Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist Laila Lalami, evokes the grit and enduring grace that is modern Morocco. The book begins as four Moroccans illegally cross the Strait of Gibraltar in an inflatable boat headed for Spain. What has driven them to risk their lives? And will the rewards prove to be worth the danger?

    There’s Murad, a gentle, unemployed man who’s been reduced to hustling tourists around Tangier; Halima, who’s fleeing her drunken husband and the slums of Casablanca; Aziz, who must leave behind his devoted wife in hope of securing work in Spain; and Faten, a student and religious fanatic whose faith is at odds with an influential man determined to destroy her future.

    Sensitively written with beauty and boldness, this is a gripping book about what propels people to risk their lives in search of a better future.

    Review:

    This powerful book may be small but packs a powerful and timely punch. Originally published in 2005, it’s just as relevant – if not more – today.

    Following four individuals illegally fleeing to Spain from Morocco, while a relatively short physical journey, the emotional journey was incredible.

    The structure of the plot and book are what made the book for me. The reader begins their journey in a boat crossing the Mediterranean with unfamiliar characters. Lalami then delves into the backstory of each of the four characters. Without spoiling the story, each person has a compelling reason for fleeing and the real journey begins.

    The writing is gritty, realistic, and perfectly captures the nuances of the Moroccan culture, the Muslim religion, and the timeless and universal struggle of people seeking a better life in another land.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the book and learned a tremendous amount about a time and a place I wasn’t familiar with. This was my first book by this Pulitzer and National Book Award finalist author but it definitely will not be my last.

    Thanks to Algonquin Books for this beautiful gifted copy in exchange for promotion and my honest review.

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Recommendations

    Fierce, Free, And Full Of Fire: review & give away

    When was the last time you read a genre-bending book? Meet my latest.

    Book Details:

    Author: Jen Hatmaker

    Publish Date: 4/21/2020

    Publisher: Thomas Nelson

    Pages: 256

    Genre: Christian Self Help

    Synopsis

    New York Times bestselling author Jen Hatmaker, with cheeky candor and fearlessness, guides readers to a deep dive into how they are wired and provides them with the tools to walk in that identity with freedom and guts.

    Stuck in people-pleasing or fear, many women hide and pretend, then end up sidelined in their own lives. But what they want is to be brave, to claim every gift, dream, quirk, and emotion inside, to stop performing and start living.

    Beloved New York Times bestselling author Jen Hatmaker understands the struggle to find firm footing in a culture that operates from stereotypes and often unreachable expectations. In this new book, she offers women encouragement, challenge, and humor as she helps them identify everything that makes them tick and gain the confidence to live it all out. She leads them through five self-reflective categories—who I am, what I need, what I want, what I believe, and how I connect—and helps them:

    • identify the exact ways they pretend, and learn instead how to be genuine at all times, in all ways, in all contexts;
    • be empowered to say yes and no without guilt;
    • learn to voice both their spiritual questions and convictions; and
    • opt out of drama and into healthy adult relationships.

    With wry humor, earnest passion, and been-there insight, Jen calls women to the life-giving freedom of leaning into the identity, convictions, and community they’ve been given.

    Review

    Enneagrams, Anne Lamott, Tina Fey, RBG – these are a few of my favorites things. And they are all in this book.

    Each reader will find something different here. Some struggle with being too much, others not enough. Some have had the patriarchy so ingrained in them that breaking out of that mindset seems impossible. Others have stood up for what is right, despite what their social and religious circles have insisted on, and paid dearly.

    I’ve followed Jen Hatmaker for years and I have seen the vicious attacks by the religious mean girls. I remember when she lost her book deal – after the books were on the shelves – when her husband and her spoke in support of their LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

    So to have the opportunity to read and review her new book has been like coming home to a remodeled home – one that breaks the mold and encourages women to take up all the space they need.

    I read this book in less than twelve hours. Like I said, each reader will find something different for their life. For me, there were several things but the most resounding was the encouragement for spiritual curiosity.

    By nature readers are typically intellectually curious individuals. I also firmly believe that those who do not read or at least embrace the company of readers are missing out on a big part of the world. So why should that curiosity stop with secular texts that we read?

    For those of us who were raised around religion that answer is simple: because they said so. They being pastors, teachers, mentors, etc.

    This book systematically reconstructed my religious experience as a youth and as an adult and then swiftly tore it down with an answer for every piece of framework it removed. The freeing part? Hatmaker didn’t rebuild anything. That’s where the curiosity becomes important. And I didn’t necessarily need someone to tell me that it’s acceptable to question Scripture but it certainly did not hurt to hear the encouragement either.

    There are plenty of other points of encouragement as well which ultimately lead the reader to create 12 statements about themself. These are obviously different for everyone and I am looking forward to creating my own.

    This book is perfect for nearly anyone – from the person who has been hurt by religion, to the exhausted mom, to the person who is in a career transition, to the individual worn down by the hatred in our world, or simply someone who is so tired of modern-day religion that insists that there is one belief system and if you dare to ask questions then you simply do not fit.

    Thank you to TLC Book Tours, Thomas Nelson, and Jen Hatmaker for my gifted copy of this book, both on eNetGalley and hard copy formats in exchange for my honest review.

    This book is available today from your local bookstore or you can enter to win one of two copies here!

    Giveaway ends Sunday, 4/26 at midnight. Sorry, US entrants only. Due to COVID, please be patient with shipping times. Giveaway not affiliated with Instagram.

    Purchase Links

    Amazon |Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble Thomas Nelson

    About Jen Hatmaker

    Jen Hatmaker is the author of the New York Times bestseller Of Mess and Moxie (plus twelve other books) and the host of the For the Love! with Jen Hatmaker podcast. She and her husband, Brandon, founded the Legacy Collective and also starred in the popular series My Big Family Renovation on HGTV. Jen is a mom to five, a sought-after speaker, and a delighted resident of Austin, Texas, where she and her family are helping keep Austin weird.

    Connect with Jen

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

     

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Recommendations

    Cross Her Heart: blog tour and review

    Publisher: Amazon Publishing

    Pages: 351

    Date available: 3/17/2020

    A homicide detective’s violent family history repeats itself in #1 Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon Charts bestselling author Melinda Leigh’s new novel of murder, secrets, and retribution.

    𝐒𝐲𝐧𝗼𝐩𝐬𝐢𝐬

    For more than twenty-five years, Philadelphia homicide detective Bree Taggert has tucked away the nightmarish childhood memories of her parents’ murder-suicide…Until her younger sister, Erin, is killed in a crime that echoes that tragic night: innocent witnesses and a stormy marriage that ended in gunfire. There’s just one chilling difference. Erin’s husband, Justin, has vanished.

    Bree knows how explosive the line between love and hate can be, yet the evidence against her troubled brother-in-law isn’t adding up. Teaming up with Justin’s old friend, former sheriff’s investigator and K-9 handler Matt Flynn, Bree vows to uncover the secrets of her sister’s life and death, as she promised Erin’s children. But as her investigation unfolds, the danger hits close to home. Once again, Bree’s family is caught in a death grip. And this time, it could be fatal for her.

    𝐑𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰

    I could not put this book down! Police procedurals are my favorite types of thrillers and this book did not disappoint.

    The characters all had pasts and were troubled but that was not the path this book took. Their individual tragedies and secrets played a role but were not the central focus which I appreciated.

    I felt a connection to nearly all the characters and despite the dark twists and turns, the details weren’t upsetting or triggering for me – which is why I think I love procedurals so much – solving the mystery from the police perspective is the primary focus.

    The writing was done well and while I had my own ideas about the crime, I was guessing until the end. The author gave the reader just enough to keep the plot moving and that made this book a page-turner for me. There was also a hint of romance and this being the first book of this series, I’m interested to see where that goes in the next book.

    Overall, this was a fantastic start to the series and I can’t wait for the second book. This book is available today from your favorite book seller!

    Thanks to OTPR and Amazon Publishing for this gifted copy in exchange for my honest review.

    And be sure to check out my Instagram for a giveaway of this book with a signed bookplate! International entires are welcome.

    About the author

    Her other novels include She Can Tell, She Can Scream, She Can Hide, She Can Kill, Midnight Exposure, Midnight Sacrifice, Midnight Betrayal, Midnight Obsession, Hour of Need, Minutes to Kill, Seconds to Live, Say You’re Sorry, Her Last Goodbye, Bones Don’t Lie, What I’ve Done, Secrets Never Die and Save Your Breath. She holds a second-degree black belt in Kenpo karate, has taught women’s self defense, and lives in a messy house with her family and a small herd of rescue pets. For more information, visit www.melindaleigh.com

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Recommendations

    The Mountains Sing: blog tour & review

    Publisher: Algonquin Books

    Pages: 352

    Date: 3/17/2020

    “An epic account of Việt Nam’s painful 20th century history, both vast in scope and intimate in its telling . . . Moving and riveting.” —VIET THANH NGUYEN, author of The Sympathizer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

    Synopsis:

    With the epic sweep of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and the lyrical beauty of Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, The Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Trần family, set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam War. Trần Diệu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Nội, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Hồ Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that tore not just her beloved country, but her family apart.

    Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Việt Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope.

    The Mountains Sing is celebrated Vietnamese poet Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s first novel in English.

    Review:

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    What a captivating novel! Within the first several pages I was transported to another time and place. This intergenerational novel tells the story from within Vietnam – one that many are unfamiliar with if you learned your country’s historical perspective of that time period.

    The writing was lyrical and Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai did a phenomenal job of creating an atmosphere for the reader to experience not only the beauty of the country and people but also the horrors suffered.

    I loved learning about the culture, traditions, and proverbs that prevailed despite the turmoil and hardships faced. It was all so real and as I read, there were times I had to put the book down to process the author’s words. This book is an experience – far more than just words on a page.

    I felt a strong emotional connection with the characters and I have yet to stop thinking about this book. It’s one that I can recommend to anyone and I believe that this is one of those books that everyone should read. There are so many lessons to be learned, historical perspectives to be told, and experiences to be shared.

    This book has already made it into my top books of 2020 and I cannot wait to read what this author writes next! She is immensely talented.

    About the author:

    Born into the Viet Nam War in 1973, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai grew up witnessing the war’s devastation and its aftermath. She worked as a street vendor and rice farmer before winning a scholarship to attend university in Australia. She is the author of eight books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction published in Vietnamese, and her writing has been translated and published in more than 10 countries, most recently in Norton’s Inheriting the War anthology. She has been honored with many awards, including the Poetry of the Year 2010 Award from the Hà Nội Writers Association, as well as international grants and fellowships. Quế Mai first learned English in 8th grade and The Mountains Sing is the first novel written in English by a Vietnamese national to be published by a major American publisher. Currently based in Indonesia, Quế Mai’s journalism regularly appears in major Vietnamese newspapers. For more information, visit www.nguyenphanquemai.com.

    Thank you to Algonquin Books for a gifted copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review and promotion.

     

     

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