The More the Merrier by Linda Byler

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Pages: 200

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Published: October 1, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley: A Heartwarming Christmas Romance Set During the Great Depression

It’s 1931, and times are tough for the Miller family, who are raising eight children in the midst of the Great Depression. When Eli Miller passes away unexpectedly, and then a fire destroys their barn, Annie has no idea how she’ll make ends meet. The Amish community rallies around her and the children, as is their custom, but as days turn into weeks and then into months, Annie’s friends and neighbors return to their own routines and seem to expect Annie to do the same. Annie knows she needs to stay strong for the children and figure out a way to keep everyone warm and clothed and fed, but she is heartbroken and exhausted. She reminds herself that God will provide, but every day feels like an uphill battle.

When Annie receives a letter from a widower with six children of his own, she tries to put it out of her mind. Her critical mother reminds her that it’s too soon to start a new friendship with a man, and warns her that blending a family will be complicated. In the weeks and months to follow, Annie must learn to make her own decisions—and accept the consequences, good and bad—face her past, and embark on a new journey that will transform her and her large, complicated family. When life seems especially complicated one summer, she finds herself saying that by Christmas everything will start to come together, but she has no idea the challenges—and ultimately blessings—headed her way.

My review: My dad was born in the depression and the stories he tells of growing up with little to nothing is heartbreaking but the love his family had was beautiful. Annie’s story is one of heartache and despair but also one of resilience and love.

This is a beautiful Christmas read that is worthy to read no matter the season. An Amish love story from a real Amish author.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Skyhorse Publishing, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

The Snow Bear by Holly Webb

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Pages: 160

Publisher: Myrick Marketing and Media, LLC

Published: October 1, 2019 (November 26, 2012 (UK Edition)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley: Sara loves to listen to Grandpa’s stories of his adventures in the Canadian Arctic when he was a boy. As the snow begins to fall, she builds a snow bear just like the one in Grandpa’s story. In the middle of the night, Sara wakes up and sets out on an enchanted journey through a world of ice and meets a special polar bear cub who befriends her. But will she ever find her way back home?

My Review: An endearing read for children of all ages. The love between a grandpa and granddaughter is highlighted beautifully within the backdrop of the Canadian Arctic and a polar bear looking for his mama.

A bonus is a piece of educational information on polar bears and other arctic animals at the end of the book. A perfect book for an elementary classroom.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Myrick Marketing & Media, LLC, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

Killer in the Carriage House(Victorian Village Mysteries #2) by Sheila Connolly

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Pages: 288

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Published: July 9, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

Welcome back to Asheboro, Maryland, where real estate can be a matter of life and death. Killer in the Carriage House is the second book in the Victorian Village Mystery series from New York Times bestselling author Sheila Connolly.

Coming back to her hometown was never on the agenda for hotelier Katherine Hamilton. But when she’s offered a chance to lead the charge of transforming the landscape into a Victorian village and tourist attraction, Kate can’t quite refuse. The only problem? Nobody in Asheboro has the passion, nor the funds, to get plans off the ground…until Kate teams up with handsome historian Joshua Wainwright, who has ambitious ideas of his own involving an old mansion and a treasure-trove of documents that could attract investors and help seal the deal.

Then, just as Kate and Josh seem ready to pull the trigger, a dead body turns up in the town library. Do these mysterious papers spell danger instead of dollars? That’s what Kate intends to find out before all bets are off…and someone else ends up six feet under.

My Review:

I love the idea of turning a town into what it looked like in the past. Honestly, though, I wasn’t sure how this series was going to progress after the first book and still stay interesting. I was pleasantly surprised. The premise of Thomas Edison selling his electricity patents and Henry Barton buying them was a joy to read. I’m ashamed to say I have not taken the time to look this up and see if there is a smudge of truth to this or if creative artistic license was used. Either way, it made for interesting reading.

I am eagerly anticipating the third book in this series to see where we go next in the development in the town.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

The Sisters of Summit Avenue by Lynn Cullen

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Pages: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books

Published: September 10, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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NetGalley:

From Lynn Cullen, the bestselling author of Mrs. Poe and Twain’s End, comes a powerful novel set in the Midwest during the Great Depression, about two sisters bound together by love, duty, and pain.

Ruth has been single-handedly raising four young daughters and running her family’s Indiana farm for eight long years, ever since her husband, John, fell into a comatose state, infected by the infamous “sleeping sickness” devastating families across the country. If only she could trade places with her older sister, June, who is the envy of everyone she meets: blonde and beautiful, married to a wealthy doctor, living in a mansion in St. Paul. And June has a coveted job, too, as one of “the Bettys,” the perky recipe developers who populate General Mills’ famous Betty Crocker test kitchens. But these gilded trappings hide sorrows: she has borne no children. And the man she used to love more than anything belongs to Ruth.

When the two sisters reluctantly reunite after a long estrangement, June’s bitterness about her sister’s betrayal sets into motion a confrontation that’s been years in the making. And their mother, Dorothy, who’s brought the two of them together, has her own dark secrets, which might blow up the fragile peace she hopes to restore between her daughters.

An emotional journey of redemption, inner strength, and the ties that bind families together, for better or worse, The Sisters of Summit Avenue is a heartfelt love letter to mothers, daughters, and sisters everywhere.

My Review:

I enjoyed this book enough to give it four stars but I was not thrilled with the style of writing. The story jumps from past to present and between the sisters and Dorothy. Normally that does not bother me but in this book, I thought it took the punch of the story away. I would get really invested in the current storyline and then, bam, it would switch.

I knew going in, this was a work of fiction but I really thought I’d get to the end and be told it was loosely based on a true story. Alas, that did not occur. I have found myself reading what I can on the creation of Betty Crocker.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Gallery, Pocket Books, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

Red Dove, Listen to the Wind by Sonia Antaki

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Pages: 232

Publisher: One Elm Books

Published: October 15, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

Abandoned by her white father, thirteen-year-old Red Dove faces another lean winter with her Lakota family on the Great Plains. Willful and proud, she is presented with a stark choice: leave her people to live in the white world, or stay and watch them starve. Red Dove begins a journey to find her place in the world and discovers that her greatest power comes from within herself.

My Review:

A very moving middle-grade book. You will not want to put down once you are near 50% done.

Red Dove is geared to middle-grade readers but I find it may be difficult for them to read and understand on their own. It speaks of the horrible way our ancestors treated the Indians as we populated the country by moving West. Some kids may find the ruthless killing discussed a trigger for harsh emotions.

I would love to see this incorporated in a 5th-grade classroom using many of the subjects. History (Sitting Bull and Custer), Reading, Science (the herbs Indians relied on), Art and Music. There is much to be learned from this book and lessons we can apply today on how to treat others fairly.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, One Elm, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

All the Flowers in Paris: A Novel by Sarah Jio

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Pages: 291

Publisher: Random House Publishing

Published: August 13, 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

Two women are connected across time by the city of Paris, a mysterious stack of love letters, and shocking secrets sweeping from World War II to the present—for readers of Sarah’s Key and The Nightingale.

When Caroline wakes up in a Paris hospital with no memory of her past, she’s confused to learn that for years she’s lived a sad, reclusive life in a sprawling apartment on the rue Cler. Slowly regaining vague memories of a man and a young child, she vows to piece her life back together—though she can’t help but feel she may be in danger. A budding friendship with the chef of a charming nearby restaurant takes her mind off her foggy past, as does a startling mystery from decades prior.

In Nazi-occupied Paris, a young widow named Céline is trying to build a new life for her daughter while working in her father’s flower shop and hoping to find love again. Then a ruthless German officer discovers her Jewish ancestry and Céline is forced to play a dangerous game to secure the safety of her loved ones. When her worst fears come true, she must fight back in order to save the person she loves most: her daughter.

When Caroline discovers Céline’s letters tucked away in a closet, she realizes that her apartment harbors dark secrets—and that she may have more in common with Céline than she could have ever imagined.

All the Flowers in Paris is an emotionally captivating novel rooted in the resiliency and strength of the human spirit, the steadfastness of a mother’s love, and the many complex layers of the heart—especially its capacity to forgive.

My Review:

I was captivated by Celine’s story. My heart filled with pain and anguish every time I would read her story. The fear she had to face and the decisions she had to live with was heart-wrenching. No matter how many WWII stories I read I never get immune to the pain they suffered. I learn something new every single time. I cannot even begin to comprehend what our ancestors experienced. I pray a time like that never occurs again.

Caroline’s story is equally filled with raw emotion. To wake up one day and not know who you are? Terrifying to say the least. I would probably die of a panic attack. She is a brave woman to trust those around her to find herself again.

Be prepared: have a full box of tissues at your side and don’t have any plans. You will not want to put this book down. It is a powerfully, moving story that will captivate you from beginning to end.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Random House Publishers, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

A Fatal Appraisal (Antiques and Collectibles #2) by Ellery Adams

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Pages: 645

Publisher: Beyond the Page

Published: January 22, 2015

Rating 4 almost 5 stars

Amazon:

In the world of antiques and collectibles, it helps to have a sharp eye for quality, a good ear for gossip, and a nose for murder.

Molly Appleby loves her job at Collector’s Weekly covering auctions and estate sales all over the South. When her latest assignment takes her to Richmond, Virginia, to interview the staff of the hit TV show Hidden Treasures, she’s expecting a quick, fun trip. But when one of the show’s appraisers is found murdered, Molly realizes that once again she’ll have to put on her detective’s cap until the culprit is captured.

As Richmond locals flock to the show hoping their family heirlooms turn out to be valuable antiques, Molly’s busy behind the scenes interviewing the show’s staff and tracking down clues. When yet another staff member is killed and Molly herself is threatened, she’s determined to discover which of the expert cast members of Hidden Treasures might be hiding a sinister secret, because no matter how priceless, she knows that no antique is literally to die for.

My Review:

“Fewer and fewer Americans possess objects that have a patina, old furniture, grandparents’ pots, and pans – the used things, warm with generations of human touch… – Susan Sontag, On Photography

Ellery Adams opens chapter 1 with this quote and I tell you I was blown away. It hit me like a ton of bricks because it is so true. Everyone wants new, new, new and nothing from their parents or grandparents. The thought is, “Just throw it away.” I look around my house and I have a lot of hand-me-downs from my parents and grandparents and those items seem to be my favorite things to use. I am currently using a blender and food chopper from my great aunt who bought them new in the early 80s. Every time I get them out I think of her and miss her. I feel as if she is in the kitchen with me. This is what Adams does when she writes, she makes you think and reflect on your life. I have no idea if she is aware she does that but she does.

A Fatal Appraisal is one of her earlier books she originally published under Jennifer Stanley. I really liked it and you can see she has always been a gifted writer. Molly, her main character, in The Antiques and Collectibles series is a gem. She is, what I call, average size, but she thinks she is too heavy and is wanting what most of us what in life, someone to love and share our daily life with. Unfortunately, her current interest gets called away on a family emergency to Ohio and she gets to sent to North Carolina to write an article on an antique and collectible show. Of course, she finds a dead body or two.

I could not put this book down and then when I finished I listened to the audiobook. I wanted to see how well the narrator portrayed the characters and I was impressed. Either way, you read this book I do not think you will be disappointed. I suggest starting with the first book in the series, A Killer Collection but you do not have to.

Judge Thee Not (A Quaker Midwife Mysteries #5) by Edith Maxwell

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Pages: 327

Publisher: Beyond the Page

Published: September 10, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

Quaker midwife Rose Carroll must fight bias and blind assumptions to clear the name of a friend when a murderer strikes in nineteenth-century Massachusetts . . .

No stranger to judgmental attitudes in her small town of Amesbury, Quaker midwife Rose Carroll is nonetheless stunned when society matron Mayme Settle publicly snubs her good friend Bertie for her nontraditional lifestyle. When Mrs. Settle is later found murdered—and a supposed witness insists Bertie was spotted near the scene of the crime—the police have no choice but to set their sights on the slighted woman as their main suspect.
Rose is certain her friend is innocent of the heinous deed, and when Rose isn’t busy tending to her duties as a midwife, she enlists the help of a blind pregnant client—who’s endured her own share of prejudice—to help her sift through the clues. As the two uncover a slew of suspects tied to financial intrigues, illicit love, and an age-old grudge over perceived wrongs, Rose knows she’ll have to bring all her formidable intelligence to bear on solving the crime. Because circumstantial evidence can loom large in small minds, and she fears her friend will soon become the victim of a grave injustice . . .

My Review:

This is the second book I have read in the series and I really need/want to read the ones I have missed. Rose is a spitfire whose escapades I enjoy.

I find I not only learn about midwifery and how people lived in the 19th century but I also learn about the Quaker faith. The Quakers are very interesting and I have high respect for how they stood up to others to stay true to their faith.

Maxwell is not afraid to touch on themes such as lesbianism and rape. She handles them with such poise. I like how she includes them but does not feel the need to make it the focal point.

The Quaker Midwife series is a noteworthy addition to the genre of cozy mysteries.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Beyond the Page, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

Prologue to Murder (A Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery #2) by Lauren Elliott

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Pages: 336

Publisher: Kensington

Published: April 30, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley: After a career working with rare books at the Boston Public Library, Addie Greyborne is back in her seaside New England hometown—where, unfortunately, murder is not so rare . . .

Gossip columnists love a bold-faced name—but “Miss Newsy” at Greyborne Harbor’s local paper seems to specialize in bald-faced lies. She’s pointed a finger of suspicion at Addie after librarian June Winslow never makes it home from a book club meeting. And when June’s found at the bottom of a steep flight of stairs, Addie’s not only dealing with a busybody but a dead body.

It’s a good thing the guy she’s dating is the police chief. But both the case and her love life get more complicated when a lanky blonde reporter from Los Angeles shows up. She’s trying her hardest to drive a wedge between the couple . . . as if Addie doesn’t have enough problems dealing with angry townspeople. Despite all the rumors, Addie doesn’t know a thing about the murder—but she plans to find out. And the key may lie in a book about pirate legends that June published. Now she just has to hunt down the clues before she becomes a buried treasure herself . . .

My Review: I enjoyed the second book in the series more than the first. I believe it is because I didn’t feel bogged down by background. I got to know Addie and the other characters quite well.

I’m usually not a fan of love triangles but the one between Marc, Simon, and Addie is currently working. Both guys appear to be caring and love Addie to pieces but Addie does need time to fully grieve David. I’d hate for her to make a wrong choice based on rebounding.

A solid mystery with red herrings to keep you guessing until the end.

I received a complimentary copy from Kensington through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

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Pages: 320

Publisher: SOURCEBOOKS/Landmark

Published: May 7, 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

NetGalley: The hardscrabble folks of Troublesome Creek have to scrap for everything—everything except books, that is. Thanks to Roosevelt’s Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, Troublesome’s got its very own traveling librarian, Cussy Mary Carter.
Cussy’s not only a book woman, however, she’s also the last of her kind, her skin a shade of blue unlike most anyone else. Not everyone is keen on Cussy’s family or the Library Project, and a Blue is often blamed for any whiff of trouble. If Cussy wants to bring the joy of books to the hill folks, she’s going to have to confront prejudice as old as the Appalachias and suspicion as deep as the holler.
Inspired by the true blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service of the 1930s, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman’s belief that books can carry us anywhere — even back home.

My Review: Wow, what a learning experience while reading Cussy’s story. When a book teaches me something I enjoy it even more. I knew about Pack Horse Librarians but never thought about the dangers they faced daily or the extreme weather conditions they traveled through to reach their customers. Dedication at its best.

Cussy will find a way into your heart. It’s hard to imagine what she and other “blue” people experienced. Discrimination on all points is wrong no matter who you are.

There are a few semi-violent scenes but they add feeling to the story and show what was happening at the time. Faith is strong throughout the story. A book I would share with my older, mature teenagers. The perfect book for book clubs.

I received a complimentary copy from Sourcebooks through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.