Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Book Review: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate


Before We Were Yours

Lisa Wingate

 
Book Description:

Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family's Mississippi River shanty boat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge--until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children's Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents--but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility's cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancĂ©, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family's long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Based on one of America's most notorious real-life scandals--in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country--Lisa Wingate's riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

 

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My 5-Star Review:

Imagine that someone snatches your young children, then sells them to another family. Sadly, this actually happened, and the woman who did it was considered to be an upstanding person who was helping young orphans find homes. Mixing fact with fiction, Lisa Wingate creates this compelling story of family in her bestselling novel, “Before We Were Yours.”

In the present day, when Avery Stafford tours a nursing home with her father, she is approached by an elderly woman who confuses her for someone else. Intrigued, Avery visits the woman again and sees a photo on her nightstand of a woman who looks like she could be a member of Avery’s family. Slowly, she unravels a family secret of a tragic past. But it’s that past that has made them who they are today.

Weaving the past in among the current day story, Wingate creates a spellbinding novel that is impossible to put down. Tragic, heart wrenching at times, and poignant, this is a story you will not soon forget.

(I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.)

 

About the Author:

Lisa Wingate is a former journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the bestselling author of more than twenty novels. Her work has won or been nominated for many awards, including the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, the Oklahoma Book Award, the Carol Award, the Christy Award, and the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award. Wingate lives in the Ouachita Mountains of southwest Arkansas.

Selected among BOOKLIST'S Top 10 for two years running, Lisa Wingate writes novels that Publisher's Weekly calls "Masterful" and ForeWord Magazine refers to as "Filled with lyrical prose, hope, and healing.” Lisa is a journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the author of a host of literary works. Her novels have garnered or been short-listed for many awards, including the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, the Oklahoma Book Award, the Utah Library Award, the LORIES Best Fiction Award, The Carol Award, the Christy Award, Family Fiction's Top 10, RT Booklover's Reviewer's Choice Award, and others. The group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with six others for the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who promote greater kindness and civility in American life. She’s been a writer since Mrs. Krackhardt’s first-grade class and still believes that stories have the power to change the world.

IN THE WRITER'S OWN WORDS: A special first grade teacher, Mrs. Krackhardt, made a writer out of me. That may sound unlikely, but it's true. It's possible to find a calling when you're still in pigtails and Mary Jane shoes, and to know it's your calling. I was halfway through the first grade when I landed in Mrs. Krackhardt's classroom. I was fairly convinced there wasn't anything all that special about me... and then, Mrs. Krackhardt stood over my desk and read a story I was writing. She said things like, "This is a great story! I wonder what happens next?"

It isn't every day a shy new kid gets that kind of attention. I rushed to finish the story, and when I wrote the last word, the teacher took the pages, straightened them on the desk, looked at me over the top, and said, "You are a wonderful writer!"

A dream was born. Over the years, other dreams bloomed and died tragic, untimely deaths. I planned to become an Olympic gymnast or win the National Finals Rodeo, but there was this matter of back flips on the balance beam and these parents who stubbornly refused to buy me a pony. Yet the writer dream remained. I always believed I could do it because... well... my first grade teacher told me so, and first grade teachers don't lie.

So, that is my story, and if you are a teacher, or know a teacher, or ever loved a special teacher, I salute you from afar and wish you days be filled with stories worth telling and stories worth reading.

 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Book Review: The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White


Hi all,

This was the first novel I’ve read by Karen White and I absolutely enjoyed it. Here is the book description and my thoughts on this story.

 

The Night the Lights Went Out

Karen White

 

Book Description:

Recently divorced, Merilee Talbot Dunlap moves with her two children to the Atlanta suburb of Sweet Apple, Georgia. It’s not her first time starting over, but her efforts at a new beginning aren’t helped by an anonymous local blog that dishes about the scandalous events that caused her marriage to fail.

Merilee finds some measure of peace in the cottage she is renting from town matriarch Sugar Prescott. Though stubborn and irascible, Sugar sees something of herself in Merilee—something that allows her to open up about her own colorful past.

Sugar’s stories give Merilee a different perspective on the town and its wealthy school moms in their tennis whites and shiny SUVs, and even on her new friendship with Heather Blackford. Merilee is charmed by the glamorous young mother’s seemingly perfect life and finds herself drawn into Heather's world.

In a town like Sweet Apple, where sins and secrets are as likely to be found behind the walls of gated mansions as in the dark woods surrounding Merilee’s house, appearance is everything. But just how dangerous that deception can be will shock all three women....

 
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My 5 Star Review:

Marilee Dunlap is reeling after her divorce and moves with her two children into a sweet cottage home that she is renting from the elderly Sugar Prescott, a well-to-do woman who doesn’t suffer fools. The two women strike up an unlikely friendship, and Sugar feels compelled to tell Marilee stories of her scandalous past. Meanwhile, Marilee is facing trouble as a local blogger is intent upon digging up her own secrets. Despite that, Marilee is soon accepted by the most popular mother in the school, Heather Blackford, and they become fast friends. Sugar warns Marilee about Heather, but Marilee doesn’t see her new friend the way Sugar paints her. It won’t be long before Marilee will wish she’d heeded Sugar’s warning.

This was such an entertaining novel with a touch of intrigue and mystery included. I adored the character, Sugar, despite her prim and proper ways. Her story of her youth is so interesting that it’s hard to believe this is fiction. And the relationship that grows between Marilee and the uptight Sugar is heartwarming. The plot is more than one or two stories—it is many stories and mysteries infused into one novel. It keeps the reader thinking throughout and is an enjoyable read. I highly recommend.

(I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.)

 

About the Author:

I grew up being a voracious reader and it was a natural step to turn my interest to writing. I have published award-winning and bestselling novels including my latest release THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT published by Penguin Random House in April, 2017. This is the book I'm calling my "Steel Magnolias" meets "The Girl on the Train." Spanning from the Depression era to modern day, it's a story of three very different women, and the true meaning of friendship.

I write what others have termed "grit-lit"--southern women's fiction, as well as a contemporary paranormal mystery series (The House on Tradd Street is the 1st book in the series) set in Charleston, South Carolina. All of my books are set in the US South, and feature a female protagonist at a crossroads in her life.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Book Review: For The Brave (The Gentrys of Paradise, Book 2) by Holly Bush

Hi all,

Those of you who read my blog already know that I love books by author Holly Bush. I began reading her novels years ago starting with Train Station Bride, and have read every one ever since. So, when the opportunity arose to read her latest – For The Brave – I jumped at it. Was I ever in for a sweet surprise. I’m already a big fan and already believed that Holly was a talented writer, but For The Brave proved to me that she is much more than just talented. Her writing is vivid and compelling, making it difficult to put this book down. I’m in awe of how much she has grown as a writer, and I think we should look forward to big things happening for Holly Bush.

Here is more about the book and my 5-Star review.

 

For The Brave
(The Gentrys of Paradise, Book 2)

Holly Bush

 

Book Description:

1869 – Matthew Gentry joined the Confederate Army at eighteen years of age after an argument with his father, leaving Paradise, his Virginia home and famed horse breeding stables, for the fields of Gettysburg. Having survived the War Between the States, Gentry is haunted by the violence and inhumanity of the war. He continues to roam the country long after the conflict is over, finding solace in the arms of soiled doves and at the bottom of whiskey bottles. Finally traveling home after learning of a family tragedy, he nearly loses his life in a spring-flooded riverbed.

Annie Campbell, lone survivor of her family, lives at a remote farm near the North River, raising pigs and trying to grow enough to feed herself, and to stay out of the crosshairs of the Thurmans, violent men who run the town of Bridgewater. Annie’s secrets threaten her safety, even as she rescues and nurses Matthew Gentry.

Matthew knows he must return to Paradise, to grieve with his family. Will his heart lead him back to Bridgewater and Annie Campbell?

 

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My 5-Star Review:

For The Brave continues the story of The Gentrys of Paradise which began with the novella, Into The Evermore. Eleanor and Beau’s son, Matthew, leaves home at age eighteen to fight in the Civil War. After what he’s experienced at Gettysburg, as well as other battles, he’s found it easier to lose himself in a bottle and by traveling anywhere except home. Until one day when an beloved employee and good friend of his family finally finds him. Tragedy has struck his family, and it is time for Matthew to come home. However, on the way home, Matthew almost dies crossing a swollen river and is saved and cared for by the spunky Annie Campbell. After months of recuperating at Annie’s home, Matthew finds himself drawn to the strong, caring Annie. He is torn as he knows he must go home, but he doesn’t want to leave Annie behind.

For The Brave immediately pulls you back in history to a time and place when life was simpler but difficult. Matthew starts out in the story as a rough and tough, hard drinking and fun seeking man who is reigned in quickly after hearing he must go home. While recuperating at Annie’s, we see his softer side as he instinctively wants to protect her, despite her protests. Matthew is a fully fleshed out character with a past that we soon learn about that helps you to understand how he’d ended up so unhappy. In turn, Annie’s character is also well-written and fully rounded. I found myself wishing only the best for these two haunted characters who needed love to make them feel whole again.

Vivid, well-written, and compelling. This novel is definitely author Holly Bush’s greatest achievement so far, and I can’t wait to read the next one in this series.

(I received an advance copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest review.)

 

About the Author:

“. . . I intended to be fearless tonight, and found it was easier to face cannons in battle than show feelings that might not be returned. But you’re my brave warrior.” For the Brave

Holly Bush books are set during the turbulent and transformative years of the late 1800’s. The first two books in her newest series, The Gentrys of Paradise, will release in the spring of 2017, beginning with Into the Evermore where readers will meet Virginia horse breeders, Eleanor and Beauregard Gentry. The following books will feature their children, Adam, Matthew, and Olivia. For the Brave is Matthew’s story and is the first full length book of the series.

The Crawford Family Series following the fortunes of the three Boston born Crawford sisters and includes Train Station Bride, Contract to Wed, Her Safe Harbor, and companion novella, The Maid’s Quarters. Cross the Ocean and Charming the Duke are both British set Victorian romances. Fan favorites stand-alone historical romance novels include Romancing Olive and Reconstructing Jackson. Her books are described as ‘emotional, with heartfelt, sexy romance.’

Holly makes her home with her husband, one happy Labrador Retriever, and two difficult cats in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

 

Connect with Holly:


Twitter @hollybushbooks,


 

 

Check out my other reviews of Holly Bush’s books:

Train Station Bride

 

Contract to Wed

 

The Maid’s Quarters

 

Her Safe Harbor

 

Charming the Duke

 

Cross the Ocean

 

Romancing Olive

 

Reconstructing Jackson

 

The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

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