Book Review

The Crowns of Croswald: The Girl with the Whispering Shadow by D.E.Night, The Continuing Fairytale!

Summary from Publisher: 

The Girl with the Whispering Shadow, the second novel in the middle-grade series The Crowns of Croswald, meets Ivy Lovely in a magical town, findable only by the whisper of its name. Banished from school and tasked with a mission that no other scrivenist has been able to accomplish, Ivy must dig deep––and reach out to friends––to begin to restore her world. Disappearing treasure, magical bottles, powerful spells, and mythical creatures abound in this rich, textured landscape. 

Curious and whimsical, both shy and brave, Ivy is a hero that connects with readers of all ages. For those who wished that Narnia, Harry Potter, and Alice in Wonderland could go on forever, Croswald opens a whole new world of magic. Recommended as a read-aloud for families and a first middle-grade fantasy read, The Crowns of Croswald is a four-part series that will carry readers to a whimsical world that they won’t want to leave.


My review:

The last time we were with Ivy Lovely, she had just been told she could not return to the Halls of Ivy as the Dark Queen knew where she was there. The Girl with the Whispering Shadow brings us to the Town. Ivy’s journey is just as entertaining as her journey was to the Halls of Ivy. Somehow Ivy always gets into some kind of trouble when she leaves the Hall and this is no different. 

I found The Girl with the Whispering Shadow to be even more entertaining than D.E. Night’s Crowns of Croswald, which I absolutely loved. I think that it’s because we get to know more about Ivy’s friends, such as Fynn’s background, we get to know where he comes from, who his friends are and we get to know a ton about The Town. 

Speaking of The Town, or the name I can not speak because right now it’s a secret to all of you readers. what a great place! To me, it feels a bit like Seattle or London with its low cloud cover, but what an adventurous way to get to know it. Ivy ends up taking the serendipitous route to arrive at the address that her Scrivenist gives her before she leaves the Halls of Ivy.

Where she ends up is a pleasant surprise! My favorite part of this adventure is the amazing places Ivy has to visit to further the education and learning of her power and the backstories that give even more depth to where Ivy comes from besides as a Scullery Maid. 

What I won’t tell you is whether evil or good prevails and how the adventure proceeds. I will tell you though that if you have fallen in love with Ivy, with her friends and the adventure, then you definitely need to read this second book in the series!  I look forward to reading the next book in the series that came out in May 2020- The Words of the Wandering!

D.E. Night has done a wonderful job at creating tension and terror at the hands of the Dark Queen and her cohorts and has continued building darling Ivy into the heroine that we love and cheer for. Ivy has her challenges, she has her weaknesses, but she also has the strength to keep fighting for her heritage, her friends, the people of The Town, and her role into the future. 

Buy this book from your favorite Indie book shop in-store or online, or if your shop doesn’t have a website and you need to buy online buy from http://www.Bookshop.org and support your favorite book shop by linking your favorite shop to bookshop.org’s option to do so.

I plan on reading this series to my granddaughters when they are older. I see myself reading this series over and over.  The Crowns of Croswald series is definitely a fairytale that will become beloved by current and future readers all because of a girl named Ivy Lovely!  

Thank you Netgalley, D.E.Night, and Untoldstories for the opportunity to read and review this book!

Book Review

The Memory Monster

The Memory Monster — I don’t even know how to explain this book, however, I will try to gather my thoughts and put them as simply as I can. I might actually have to include a few spoilers to get my feelings and thoughts down on the page, and I apologize for that here at the start. 

This book is about a man who works at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of WWII’s Holocaust, who is writing a letter report to the Chairman of Yad Vashem

 The Man who is writing this report works as a tour guide and expert in the extermination camps of WWII who takes student groups, VIPs, and at the end a Filmmaker through the Poland extermination camps. This book is shocking to me to how fast a person can become too deep into past history. I found it interesting that as the book moves forward in time, The Man, which btw- we never find out his name, becomes so mentally steeped into the lives of the Jewish people (victims) who died at the camps that I feel he starts to look like them when it comes to dressing and disheveled appearance. There are times when some of the students tell him to buy new shoes or clothes, his neighbor gives him a bag of clothes thinking he can’t afford new ones, or his wife tells him he looks sickly. I do believe that leading that kind of a tour day after day would start playing with your mind and cause distress to anyone, especially when you can visually see what was happening as the Jewish People entered the camps by way of deception. 

At one point in time, The Man convinces an Auschwitz survivor to accompany them on the tour to tell his story. oh the hell of his experience, what I felt of his reliving it by visiting is too painful to talk about except that he ended up collapsing. The poor, poor man. What torture to make him re-experience that period of his life.  Talk about PTSD.

This book had some seriously mixed up stuff in it.

The Man takes Israeli HS students on a tour of the remnants of the Concentration Camps. A description of The Man’s take on the students feeling’s of what he heard and observed about the German Nazi soldiers was shocking to me as a grand-niece of a victim at Auschwitz-Birkenau who was liberated. It hurt my heart to actually understand that although this book is written in Satire to an extent people do actually feel as these students did.  Here is The Man’s description of the feelings of the students: 

“They didn’t hate the Germans, the kids in my groups; not at all, not even close. The Murderers barely registered…They hated the Polish much more. When we walked around the streets in cities and villages, whenever we met the local population, they would mutter words of hatred at them, about the pogroms they had committed, their collaborations, their anti-semitism. But, it’s hard for us to hate the Germans. Look at photos from the war. Let’s call a spade a spade: they looked totally cool in those uniforms, on their bikes, at east, like male models on billboards. We’ll never forgive the Arabs for the way they look, with their stubble and their borwn pants that go wide at the bottom, their houses without whitewas and the open sewers on the streets, the kids with pink-eye. But that fair, clean, European look makes you wan to emulate them.” 


So… they hate the Polish people, but not the Germans who did the actual torturing & killing? Disgusting. But poor little Arab kids with pink-eyed kids are unforgivable?!!!  I know I don’t know the relationship very well between the Arabs and the Israelis, but seriously, these are little kids who didn’t choose where they were born or to whom…

At different parts of the report The Man asks questions like, would you be able to take in a Jewish boy if he showed up at your door? Would you risk the danger? Another time, What would you do as a Jewish person put in charge at one of the camps, would you do the job to save your own life and end the lives of others, or would you protest and die with the others? These are questions aren’t as cut and dry as you would think.  I feel until you are actually put in the same exact situation you can’t really give an honest answer. 

Speaking of honesty, I had to take a break from reading for a while because it just hurt too much to continue reading sometimes. The descriptions of the sites themselves, the rooms and what they were meant for, the numbers of people killed and buried in Mass Graves, and the lies, oh the lies the Victims are all told to get them into the gas chambers was overwhelming, to say the least. 

The Memory Monster by Yishai Sarid is well written, a poignant piece of writing that everyone should read, not only for the immensely tragic tale of the victims which has to be retold, but also the prediction that comes from reading: as the saying goes, “if you don’t learn from the past, you will relive it in the future.” This hatred of a race or religion of people should never be taken to the extreme that Hitler took. We can not let it be repeated and The Memory Monster is a cautionary tale of how we can forget and commend those whose hatred was so vile that to some they were heroes. 

I am thankful that to Restless Books, and Yishai Sarid for allowing me the honor of reading this book in exchange for an honest review. It truly has challenged my thinking and opened up some extremely deep processing on how we can become too immersed in history and the problems of the world to the detriment of our future.

Yishai Sarid was born and raised in Tel Aviv Israel. He studied law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and has a Public Administration Master’s Degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is the author of five novels.

Book Review

The Light After The War Anita Abriel

The Light After The War
Anita Abriel
Atria Books
February 4, 2020




The Light After The War is a lesson in life:
how to continue through tragedy, heartache, guilt and sometimes continuing mean that you have to do it over and over again.

Publisher’s summary:

Inspired by an incredible true story of two Jewish friends who survived the Holocaust, this sweeping novel of love and friendship spans World War II from Budapest to Austria and the postwar years from Naples to Caracas, perfect for fans of The German Girl and We Were the Lucky Ones.

It is 1946 when Vera Frankel and her best friend Edith Ban arrive in Naples. Refugees from Hungary, they managed to escape from a train headed for Auschwitz and spent the rest of the war hiding on an Austrian farm. Now, the two young women must start new lives abroad. Armed with a letter of recommendation from an American officer, Vera finds work at the United States embassy where she falls in love with Captain Anton Wight.

But as Vera and Edith grapple with the aftermath of the war, so too does Anton, and when he suddenly disappears, Vera is forced to change course. Their quest for a better life takes Vera and Edith from Naples to Ellis Island to Caracas as they start careers, reunite with old friends, and rebuild their lives after terrible loss.

Moving, evocative, and compelling, this timely tale of true friendship, love, and survival will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

Although this book is told through narrative that tells instead of shows the lessons that are learned are poignant.

Vera’s mother-in-law, Alessandra Albee, a strong, independent women who lectures at the local University, but knows that Venezuelan men expect certain behaviors from their wives, teaches Vera a very important lesson when she first meets Vera.

Do you know what the most important human trait is? It is not Piety, as our Catholic priests would wish; it’s not honesty or even loyalty. It is empathy. If we don’t have empathy for others, we are finished. How can we learn empathy without studying history and geography and Literature?”

Empathy is not a normal virtue in most people’s lives. Usually, it is either something you are born with, or something you can learn if you are willing to let life show you the beauty of each human being. Not everyone will ever learn to be empathetic. Most live selfish lives only thoughts of what life can give them. This might be because they aren’t being stretched through hardship and struggle as people did during WWII. Life is much easier when there is prosperity.

Vera lives an empathetic life. She observes everything around her, she sees that life can have meaning and that you can add meaning to other’s lives too. Most of The Light After The War comes from her interactions with others she encounters in the four years that she is wandering with Edith trying to find a life that gives meaning to the both of them.

Vera meets Rabbi Gorem after she learns her parents are alive and they arrive in Venezuela. He plays chess with her father, Lawrence, and provides Vera with a spirituality that Vera hasn’t had while trying to find meaning in her life after being pushed off the train to Auschwitz. I personally believe that combined with Alessandra’s lesson on empathy and this lesson from Rabbi Gorem, there is hope that the world will never repeat the atrocities that happened during WWII if we keep teaching what happened to all generations after ours.

In Judaism we take the study of the soul very seriously. God could not create the soul in everyone equally. Some people are born with Souls that reach for the light like buds in spring. For others it’s more difficult to seek true meaning, their thoughts get in the way.
But God makes sure no one’s life is for nothing. Every Jew who died in the camps left behind something: a piece of music or a poem or a new idea.”

Anton, Vera’s first love (and boss,) while on a trip to Capri teaches her about the light that can be found even during darkness.

During the Roman Empire, Tiberius built twelve villas in Anacapri… He ruled the most important empire on earth from this spot. After the Roman Empire fell, civilization went dark. For centuries the world revolved around war and disease and death. But now we have the Sistine Chapel and the Louvre. We have Shakespeare and Dante and Proust. Symphonies perform Mozart and Beethoven, and museums display Rembrandt and Monet. Europe will recover from Hitler’s atrocities, and a new crop of artists and philosophers will emerge. No one man can wipe out truth and beauty. Human beings were born to create great things, and they will do so again.”

I truly believe that “not one man can wipe out truth and beauty”. That is paramount to remember, especially during times where people believe that a dictator or a president can destroy the fabric of their lives. Hitler’s ideas and values devastated and killed millions of innocent lives. Survivor’s had guilt, they mourned, they pushed on to live how they could. Some decided they could push on even in the concentration camps because the Germans couldn’t take their thoughts and their prayers away even if they took everything else.

Like the sun coming through the clouds even after a devastating storm there is brightness and light if only we look for it and add to it.

Thank you Netgalley, Atria Books and Anita Abriel for the opportunity to read The Light After The War in lieu of my honest review.

Personal, Reading

Curiosity Killed the Cat: Why Do You Read?

Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com

Why do you read?  Is it to escape, enlarge your world, or perhaps to gain empathy…

I read mostly to learn about other people I may not encounter in my little town in Wonder Bread Utah. I read to engage my mind in a life that I might never experience and sometimes am thankful that I don’t. Mostly, I learn to understand. I want to understand other’s experiences through their hardships, their joys, and their frustrations; how they overcome such hardships, how they express their anger, rage, and even happiness. This can happen from engaging with people too but what if you live in a place where everyone is more or less the same in their culture, in their dress, and in their monetary value? Individuals are just that individuals, but when they are growing up in the same area the individuality is not as significant as it would be living in the melting pot of humanity. 

I used to read a lot of classics. Books on the plight of the turn of the century during the climb second stage of the industrialization age, the struggles that people had as workers, and trying to create laws that protected those workers, or the plight of Dicken‘s characters just to eke out an existence in the grey world of London. 

Except for as a small child I never really read strictly for entertainment. As a teen I devoured books, books about my heritage, books on relationships, books on world views I could never even imagine. If I owned it I had written in the margins, If it was borrowed I would copy quotes in a notebook (which I still have today,) or photocopy the page to remember all the beautifully used words. However, I still didn’t delve deep enough. What I could have learned if I paid attention to what Charlotte Bronte and her sisters were trying to say in a world where they had no say would have helped me to guide my own destiny instead of always following behind someone else’s plans for me.

As a youth, I hated school, not because I struggled with the subject matter, but that I wanted to discuss ideas. I wanted to learn why you had to do fractions and why it would pertain to my life later on. I wanted to KNOW. 

Photo by Kathy Jones on Pexels.com

Like in the rest of my life it was “do as I say” and not what would make my learning experience better, or help me love to learn on a larger scale. I felt squelched because according to people, especially teachers, “I was a darling girl, but I talked too much in class.” Damn, right I did!  I wasn’t learning anything that interested me, except during English and History where we learned about expression and how other people expressed themselves in the here and now, and in the past. The rest of the time it was all memorization and rote information that was taught over and over again to generations of kids just like me. I wanted more. I wanted as I said before, TO KNOW. I wanted expression, I wanted feelings, I wanted two sides to each history lesson, not just the popular telling of it which marginalized the information that I received. I read to close these gaps that I felt were not being taught in school. So, my parents and grandma would introduce me to books that were sometimes a bit of a stretch for my understanding, and yet, I understood. My german grandma and her (and mine) heritage branched me out to the Holocaust, the lives of the Jewish people and the aftermath of that horrific time. I learned about the resistance that so many Germans secretly gave to help the marginalized and misrepresented. I even learned the thought process of the man who decided that Jewish people were an affront to his life and a danger to his unified world. Mein Kampf for a 12-year-old was a scarily deep and disturbing book (it still is) and yet, I wanted to, no, I needed to learn about it as it affected all sides of my German family.

Still, I didn’t expand out past the USA or even the European nations, I didn’t read internationally ALL OVER the world. I am grateful that those options are now part of my reading repertoire and all the way down to small children through so many fabulous picture books.

It wasn’t until I started taking college courses at the age of 43 that I found my voice. That I could express my frustration to professors, that I could dig deeper when I asked a question on our discussions. I wanted to expand my knowledge and feel more empathy towards others. I had a few professors that took the thirst I had for more and pored all their experiences, ideas, and knowledge into my brain during class; after class, and through emails. I felt empowered. I felt acknowledged for the first time for the intelligence I had and wasn’t belittled for asking questions or throwing out ideas. I am sure I drove my fellow school mates crazy. Those 19/20-year-olds that just wanted to get the assignment and get the heck out of the classroom. I wanted a discussion that expanded the topic at hand. It was a glorious time. 

After we moved and college wasn’t an option for me anymore, that didn’t stop me from learning. It just built up the desire even more. So, I started reading international books, books by authors who weren’t famous, books with tough subjects because those are the books that teach the most. I’ve found that emotional connection and different ideas from all walks of life, faith’s and countries expand our hearts and minds to what could be, what should be, and what will be if we work towards a collective betterment and kindness towards those we come in contact or see on the news. Empathy towards others and seeing people’s struggles help make the world a smaller place. It makes you want to know but also to do. Serve, improve, and build a bridge. As the tribes of third world countries have shown, it definitely takes a village to raise those who might not have anyone to raise them.

Don’t get me wrong, I read for entertainment too, but overall I read to expand my individual universe so I am a better community member of this spinning blue and green marble we call Earth. 

Because of this, over the next year, you will see more diversity of subject matter in my book review choices, more international authors, and some amazing covers that don’t blend into the popular canvas of publishing.

I am extremely curious to know: WHY DO YOU READ And will you expand that way of reading throughout 2021?

I can’t wait to hear and learn from you in the comments. 
        

~Sandra.

Happy Reading!

Book Review

And We Came Outside and Saw the Stars Again — Covid-19 Pandemic a collection of stories

And We Came Outside and Saw the Stars Again compiled by Restless Books Publisher, Ilan Stavans was a very interesting collection of essays based on the world quarantine due to Covid-19.

Each International Author created a unique view of what was happening on their part of the Earth.

I really found the personal stories the most effective. Didn’t love the Political stories which tended to be extremely off putting to those who don’t believe the same viewpoint which is how I read things when reviewing for a wide general audience.

I think my favorite was the introspection of author, Lynne Tillman. It struck me, like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, she tried to make each day interesting, however, after a while it’s all tedium day after day, unless when looking out windows or wandering the streets of New York.

Each essay was either creative writing- Poetry, photography, etc; personal experiences or stories that held your interest that related to their feelings and were expressed in a way that took you away from the tension, the extreme stress, fear or boredom.

I think this book is worthy of being read if you need to commiserate and want great writing.

Thank you, Edelweiss Plus, Restless Books and Ilan Stavans for the opportunity to see how other people were dealing with the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic in lieu of my honest review.

Personal

Books, Books, Books… Conundrum

Photo by Ann Nekr on Pexels.com

You all know that I love books, movies based on books and books about books, however did you know that I started writing a book for youth that isn’t fantasy based?  Yup, that’s right. My book is actually about three characters who interexchange through their lives without knowing each other and is connected by minor characters. I am not going to talk more about it, however because I am not anywhere near completing said book.

I love writing as much as I love reading, except that I struggle sticking to a schedule and I am apt to get writer’s block easy. It’s part of the “I get bored working on a project and jump to something new” syndrome, a creed I hold that often got me into trouble in High school. I would do the homework and then not turn it in, it was like, “why should I turn it in when the test on the work was a great grade?” this attitude causes me stress in the fact that I have a lot of “almost” finished projects that aren’t done.

I tend to do this with books too, but that isn’t a bad thing. If the book isn’t worth my time and I am bored with it, it’s time to close the cover and maybe come back to it at a later date. Do any of you do the same thing?  Is a book always worth finishing? that’s my dilemma right now. I am reading a book that I am not loving and am halfway through, sadly, it’s something that I need to read and review at the request of a publisher (mind, you, this book is an backorder request… I tend to read three books at once — one that I missed during its release – for review; one to be released soon – for review; and a classic read that I love. This makes it easier, for me, so that I can cleanse my palate by reading the one I love. 😉)

I love the book’s subject. I love the idea of the book it’s just not capturing my engagement and I am afraid to drop it and move on as I don’t want to be dropped by the publisher.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So, does anyone have any suggestions? Drop me your ideas in the comments below, please!

Book Review

The Kensington Kidnap– A Cozy Mystery

The Kensington Kidnap
Katie Gayle
Bookouture
December 2, 2020
Cozy Mystery

The Kensington Kidnap
Katie Gayle
Bookouture
December 2, 2020
Cozy Mystery

I have been a big fan of Kate Carlisle’s Fixer-Upper series and so I thought I would give this Cozy Mystery a whirl. I loved the premise of The Kensington Kidnap: A catastrophically affected young woman, Ephinany Bloom, or “Pip” who lands into a mistaken identity to solve the disappearance of a famous teenage boy who was involved with a “save the environment” group: The Green Youth For Truth. 

The main character Pip is not your typical run-of-the-mill super-sleuth who knows how to solve mysteries or a capably-talented woman who is fantastic at solving lost items at a construction site or an Agatha Christie’s type of mystery sleuth.  She is a bumbling, irresponsible woman who happens to land into a job that isn’t really for her. Does she know how to do this job? No. Will she confess to her mistaken identity? Probably not. Pip is selfish, low on funds, and very behind on her rent, I didn’t necessarily like Pip for half of the book, I did like some of the other characters in this story, Her Sister Felicity for one. They are better fleshed out, have nuances that you can understand, and relationships that are realistic. Pip on the other hand was extremely flat for the first few chapters. Her antics are more entertaining the further you get into the book and her relationships are what make this story.

*Katie Gayle does a decent job of writing this cozy mystery except for her main character. I feel that Pip is an unreliable narrator of her own life and I don’t feel as if the character and the authors had much of a relationship with each other as the authors had with the story idea itself and the supporting cast. 

I was fascinated by was little back comments made in passing with people Pip met of adventures that she had all over the world. Those are stories I would really like to hear.

The mystery itself, one of kidnapping, murder, and intigue was a good plotline, it has a triangle of potential romance and I really liked the story, I just didn’t love Pip. She was likable, I just didn’t love her. 

I hate to do this even though I did like the premise of the mystery, I think it had wonderful potential. It just took too long to connect with Pip, (even with her adorable quirks especially of stealing a three-legged cat from the vet before it was put to sleep,) and because of that this Cozy Mysteries just wasn’t my cup of tea. I have to give this book a 3-star rating. 

Fun fact: 

‘Katie Gayle is the writing partnership of best-selling South African writers, Kate Sidley and Gail Schimmel. Kate and Gail have, between them, written over ten books of various genres, but with Katie Gayle, they both make their debut in the cozy mystery genre. Both Gail and Kate live in Johannesburg, with husbands, children, dogs and cats.” Bookouture

Thank you, NetGalley, Bookouture (I have loved all your other books approved to me), and Katie Gayle for the opportunity to read The Kensington Kidnap in lieu of my honest review.

Book Review

The Crowns of Croswald

The Crowns of Croswald
D.E. Night
Untold Stories PR
July 21, 2017
Middle Grade Fantasy

What do Cinderella, Harry Potter, and The Crowns of Croswald have in common? Awesome orphans, hiding away, and magic. 

Yes, friendship is a theme in this book, however, it is not the first day at school gelled together, it’s built like real-life friendships are made – commonalities and personality connections, turn into companionship through struggles which turns into loyalty and hardcore desire for protection.

What makes The Crowns of Croswald different than my old fairy tale favorite, and the ever-popular Harry Potter book series? Ivy Lovely is so much more endearing!! A little Scaldrony Maid who takes care of the dragons that cook the castle food (the fire squad) for the family she works for in the middle of the Slurry Fields on the far outskirts of a village that can’t be found without knowing its name since this village is a secret as the author says, we will just call it “The Town”.

The cast of characters in this book are unique. I especially loved Ivy’s friend Fyn. The setting, like in Harry Potter, is at a school housed in a castle — The Halls of Ivy, some hidden spaces, which I will not disclose as it will ruin the fun of the story, and a lot of great adult mentoring and a few questionable, curiously strange professors. Ivy, like Harry, is very much a rule breaker! I mean, come on, there are mysteries to solve! That is where the similarities end. Ivy’s transformation isn’t guided by teachers, her history isn’t given to her straight out and little does she know what her future will hold.

At the beginning of Ivy’s story, Ivy is thrown out of the castle she works at because one of the dragons becomes sick and pukes all over Ivy’s boss after Ivy slept in. Wondering where she will go, what she will do with her life, Ivy finds a letter and a pouch of money left for her by her friend Rimbrick, “an ancient woods dwarf” who she only sees in the late evenings. In the middle of a foggy rainy open fields, she is picked up by a carriage where she meets Woolem, a cabby, he accompanies her into the carriage where she meets Lionel Lugg a scrivenist who is the admissions officer for the Halls of Ivy.

Ivy can’t believe her ears, she is to go to the Halls of Ivy as a Sqwinch and learn to be a scrivenist?! She’s just a little Scaldrony Maid!

I became invested in wanting to know who Ivy was, what made her tick, and why all these weird things kept happening to her. The adventures she goes on just add to the mystery and little does Ivy know what her future holds for her.

The Crowns of Croswald is the first book in The Crowns of Croswald Series. The Author D.E. Night created a world that had me hyperventilating off the Dock of an unknown scrivenist underworld; she had me cheering for a little girl who comes into more than she bargains for, the dangers that await her are vast, powerful and yet, I truly believe she can overcome them with her sassiness, her strength and her sense of humor. I look forward to the next book in the series — The Girl with the Whispering Shadow then on to book three The Words of the Wandering.

To be honest, I thought I was going to be disappointed in this book, with the magical world similarities to Harry Potter, I thought It would just be a shadow of that series. Yet, I truly believe that Ivy Lovely and her friends are so much more realistic, so much more endearing and so much more of a classic than Harry Potter and that is saying much since it is one of my all-time favorite series! I think I might have found my new dreamy fantasy series.

The Crowns of Croswald has the makings of a beloved fairy tale. If you love a good fantasy filled with vibrant characters and/or if your child loves mysteries and magic, this book is for you and them. It is an instant hit for me and I NEED to read the next two books to find out where Ivy goes next.

I give this book 4.5 Stars which is all due to Ivy Lovely
and her personality and great storytelling!

Thanks to D.E Night’s publisher, Daniela of Stories Untold Press for reaching out to me for a review in lieu of my honest opinion. This is that opinion. Thanks to NetGalley for providing the E ARC, and especially to D.E. Night for such a fun, loving, and strong little character. She sure is one of a kind, that little Ivy Lovely.

Book Review

Secrets and Lies… The Housewarming by S.E. Lynes

Publisher’s Synopsis

Everyone is going to the housewarming party.
All the same people who lived on the street the day Abi vanished…
Will her mother finally learn the truth?

Ava only left her daughter in the pushchair for five minutes. The buckle was fastened, and she was sure it was safe. But when she came downstairs, the door was open and Abi was gone – she walked down the road, past the Lovegoods’ house, and was never seen again.

A year later, the Lovegoods are planning their long-anticipated housewarming party. Ava doesn’t want to go. She can’t bear to look down that end of the road, to see the place where Abi vanished, and she doesn’t want to spend time with people who don’t share her grief. Her husband Matt persuades her: he’s worried about her. A night out might do her good.

But as her friends and neighbours chat, and the drink and gossip flows, Ava learns something new about the day she has re-lived a thousand times. A throwaway comment which could change everything.

Ava thought she knew every last detail of that day.

She’s about to find out she was wrong…”

My Review

I really don’t like sharing Publisher’s synopsis because I feel as if a lot of times they give away what the reader should really experience for themselves. The synopsis for this book gives enough, yet, doesn’t spoil it for anyone.

Ava’s world is rocked when she finds her front door open and her two year old daughter, Abi, is nowhere to be seen. What would that feel like? I have had this feeling without a front door open, yet, I found my child under his bed asleep between the dust ruffle and the wall after 40 minutes of frantically searching on my own and then calling the cops where they knew exactly where to look for him. Mind you, I looked under his bed, He was just covered by the dust ruffle it was a nightmare, one that when I started reading this book slammed me to the floor and sucked me dry all over again.

The Housewarming is full of twists and turns, heartbreak and more heartbreak and yet the love of friends old and new doesn’t let you down until… well, until it does.

Ms. Lynes does a masterful job of telling Ava and Matt’s story, their friendship with Matt’s oldest friend Neil and his wife Belle, and the neighbor who tries to help Ava move on over a year from her grief of never knowing what happened to Abi.

I didn’t see the book arc even when it was coming, I just didn’t see it. Which is to be said the perfect way to create a psychological thriller.

My one complaint is that on the cover of The Housewarming it says that this book is “unputdownable” and yet, I had to gather up my emotions again and again so I step away for an hour or two before I could go back to reading. Because of this claim I had high expectations and about 30% in I lost a bit of focus as the story moved a little slower than the rest of the book, or maybe, just maybe, it was my shared grief with Ava that made the reading slower, I am not sure. I will let you make that decision. If you read this book and agree with me let me know. If you don’t agree with me, I’d like to hear that too if you’d be so kind. 😉

The lesson that I learned from this book is we can never underestimate the growing abilities of a toddler so we have to watch them like a hawk does a mouse: every second of their waking moments, which makes for a very tired and distractible mommy. Also, honesty is everything!

S.E. Lynes’s The Housewarming is a cautionary tale of the cost to family and friends when you hold secrets, and tell a years worth of lies…

I rate this book 3.5 only for the fact I won’t probably read it again as it was too much of a thriller for me.


Thank you Netgalley, and S.E. Lynes for the opportunity to read The Housewarming in lieu of my honest review.

Personal

The Fierce Perez Girls are here…

Next Year In Havana

You guys, this book, the first in a series is a hit! The Cuban Revolution is in the midst of ruining lives and causing havoc on people’s ideologies. One thing that is held on to for the Perez Family is that they will be returning to Havana when Fidel is overthrown which could be any day…

Isabelle, Beatriz, Elisa, and Maria Perez are sisters who take different actions between Batista and Castro’s power. Some do what their mother expects, marry rich influential men, others fall in love with revolutionaries and some just keep secrets of their experiences in times of terror and uncertainty.

Getting to know these girls was a delight even when you wanted to shake them and tell them to grow-up, or get smart. Elisa’s story is in the foreground and her life changes the minute that she meets a strong, dark professor at the university her brother has attended. No longer a naive young girl, Elisa’s story interchanges with her granddaughter, Marisol’s desire to fulfill her grandmother’s request to be buried in Cuba in a place that is a treasure hunt of her grandmother’s heart and story of her youth.

The slight familiar path of Marisol’s romance and Elisa’s romance is endearing and yet, so different. The surprises in this book are unforeseeable and I love that about this book.

I have read all three in the series thus far and though this book is well written and the characters full of depth and people you could become friends with, this is not my favorite of the three books, this book comes close though, although it is my second favorite of the Perez girls storylines. My favorite being the last of the three thus far: The Last Train to Key West.

I understand why Reese Witherspoon picked this book as one of her Hello Sunshine Book Club picks in 2018. It was meant to be read and relished.

When We Left Cuba

I have now reread all three of Ms. Cleeton’s book about the Perez women. My favorite is her last- The Last Train to Key West, however, Beatriz is by far my favorite Perez Woman. She was independently fierce. She knew what she didn’t want in life which is what her mother only wanted for her: motherhood and to be a wife to an influential man. Did she fall in love with an influential man, yes, she did. Did he realize the rest of her mother’s only desire for her girls? Nope, not at all. She had other plans. Things that created her to grow, stretch, and sometimes fall down.

This book, Next Year in Havana is full of romance, historical fiction, and some badass action through espionage.

Ms. Cleeton’s writing is strong, her research in the history full of depth, and I highly recommend reading this book! Of course, start with Next Year in Havana!

The Last Train To Key West

Publisher’s Summary

one person’s paradise can be another’s prison, and Key West-native Helen Berner yearns to escape.

The Cuban Revolution of 1933 left Mirta Perez’s family in a precarious position. After an arranged wedding in Havana, Mirta arrives in the Keys on her honeymoon. While she can’t deny the growing attraction to the stranger she’s married, her new husband’s illicit business interests may threaten not only her relationship, but her life.Elizabeth Preston’s trip from New York to Key West is a chance to save her once-wealthy family from their troubles as a result of the Wall Street crash. Her quest takes her to the camps occupied by veterans of the Great War and pairs her with an unlikely ally on a treacherous hunt of his own.”

Key West the Southernmost Point in the United States. It was the end of the earth for those who needed to escape to and/or from where you could cross the ocean 90 miles and arrive in Cuba. For those who wanted to disappear, and just live the simple life no matter if it was into a bottle, a boat or to a chair on the beach where you could sit all day and die there if you really wanted to. Key West was perfect you could arrive by the train on the newly laid tracks of Henry Flagler railroads, or his “Flagler Folly” as some called it, however, it had a enemy; that lady of beauty, the lady of warmth and sunshine, the lady of temper –– Mother Nature…

Key West is one of my children’s favorite stomping grounds when we lived in Florida. They were amazed at the street vendors, bums, and street acts on Mallory Square. They loved dipping their toes into the warm Florida Straits, building castles and body statues in the white sands, visiting the six-toed cats at author Ernest Hemingway’s Florida estate and eating to their hearts delight at every imaginable food option in town. That is the experiences we had. That is not the experiences in Chanel Cleeton’s new book, The Last Train to Key West. Ms. Cleeton’s novel is a side of Key West that most don’t want to know. The stories of three women and their different experiences of the island life. Experiences that will change their lives forever. There is love, heartache, horror, and humor.

I have read all of Ms. Cleeton’s novels. The Last Train to Key West might be my favorite thus far. It could be because I could picture the environment surrounding Mirta, Helen and Elizabeth stories. I don’t think though that it was important to enjoying this book by knowing all of that mostly because the book is full of deep imagery and fantastic storytelling. The kind that you can feel in your bones. You gasp, grasp, and gag on the swirling watery apparent paradise.

I loved the Intersectionality of this book. I bet it was so fun to build Mirta, Helen and Elizabeth’s stories and then see where they could happenstance-ingly meet each other. That writing fun is felt in the book in the pure emotions that each encounter provides. Each woman has her personality challenges, each woman finds her strength and realizes that the life she has been living is miniscule compared to what it is when this novel ends. I love reading novels where there is growth through introspective, physical change and walking to your own true decisions.

I will not give away the story, I don’t believe in ruining that for other readers. I will say though that this book had me dreaming of Florida, and going back to Key West and still there were times I would rather look out my office window at my Conch Shells sitting in my breezy garden as I am now while I write this review. 😉