reviews

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the river Thames, an extraordinary event takes place. The regulars are telling stories to while away the dark hours, when the door bursts open on a grievously wounded stranger. In his arms is the lifeless body of a small child. Hours later, the girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can science provide an explanation? These questions have many answers, some of them quite dark indeed.

Those who dwell on the river bank apply all their ingenuity to solving the puzzle of the girl who died and lived again, yet as the days pass the mystery only deepens. The child herself is mute and unable to answer the essential questions: Who is she? Where did she come from? And to whom does she belong? But answers proliferate nonetheless.

Three families are keen to claim her. A wealthy young mother knows the girl is her kidnapped daughter, missing for two years. A farming family reeling from the discovery of their son’s secret liaison, stand ready to welcome their granddaughter. The parson’s housekeeper, humble and isolated, sees in the child the image of her younger sister. But the return of a lost child is not without complications and no matter how heartbreaking the past losses, no matter how precious the child herself, this girl cannot be everyone’s. Each family has mysteries of its own, and many secrets must be revealed before the girl’s identity can be known. (publisher)

An injured man appears in a tavern carrying a girl who seems to be dead. But suddenly she isn’t dead. No one knows who the man or the child is. But soon numerous people came and try to claim the child as theirs.

This is the first book I’ve read by the author, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Most of the book I wasn’t sure if this was set in a real Victorian era or in some fairy-tale world and it kind of bothered me. The book started good but in the middle, it slowed down a bit. I think that while it could have been shorter, it was well written.

There are many characters in the book and at times I had trouble remembering who was who and how were they connected.

I’m not sure how I feel about this book. While I enjoyed it, I wasn’t as thrilled by it as I expected to be. But it was different from what I usually read so it’s certainly well remembered.

3/5

Published: Atria Books (December 4, 2018)
Format: ebook
Source: Publisher

reviews

Imperial Passions: The Porta Aurea by Eileen Stephenson

Imperial Passions: The Porta Aurea by Eileen Stephenson

At the center of Byzantine society, fifteen-year old orphaned Anna Dalassena lives with her grandparents among the most powerful men and women in Constantinople. But the cutthroat politics of the Great Palace sends the family into exile in a distant corner of the mepire. Her bleak situation finally turns promising after meeing a handsome young soldier, John Comnenus, and his brother Isaac, before the are finally permitted to return home.

The vicious power struggles, uprisings, and betrayals at the highest levels of the empire push Anna and John unwillingly into its center as they struggle to deal with their own tragedies. When rebellion puts her life and those of everyone she loves at risk, is the reward a throne for her family – too big a gamble?

I’m not very familiar with Byzantine so this was an interesting read. At times it was rather difficult trying to keep the characters in order since everyone seems to be named either Anna or Michael…

We see the young orphaned girl grow into a confident and strong woman. Her family is connected enough to the rulers to be caught up in the power struggles. The book covers Anna’s life from a teenager until her brother-in-law Isaac Comnenus’ coronation. Last year I read a book about Anna Dalassena’s granddaughter, also called Anna, and it was interesting to learn more about her younger years.

This was my first book from the author and I’m looking forward to reading more.

3,5/5

Published: Blachernae Books (April 24, 2018)
Format: ebook
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

About the Author

I was born in Fort Worth, Texas, but after a peripatetic childhood ended up in the Washington, DC area, where I attended college, married, worked a day job in finance, and raised three children.

My first book, Tales of Byzantium, contains short stories taking place in the middle years of the Byzantine Empire. My second book and first novel, Imperial Passions – The Porta Aurea, introduces Anna Dalassena, the extraordinary mother of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Comnenus, and an unstoppable force in her time.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, November 19
Excerpt at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, November 21
Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, November 22
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Friday, November 23
Review & Excerpt at Locks, Hooks and Books

Monday, November 26
Feature at What Is That Book About

Tuesday, November 27
Interview at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, November 28
Excerpt at Tea Book Blanket

Thursday, November 29
Review at Passages to the Past

Monday, December 3
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Tuesday, December 4
Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, December 6
Excerpt at Introvert Booklover

Friday, December 7
Feature at Jathan & Heather
Review & Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads

Monday, December 10
Review at Bookramblings

reviews

The Monastery Murders by E.M. Powell

The Monastery Murders by E.M. Powell

Their lives are ones of quiet contemplation—and brutal murder.

Christmas Eve, 1176. Brother Maurice, monk of Fairmore Abbey, awaits the night prayer bell. But there is only silence. Cursing his fellow brother Cuthbert’s idleness, he seeks him out—and in the darkness, finds him brutally murdered.

Summoned from London to the isolated monastery on the Yorkshire Moors, Aelred Barling, clerk to the King’s justices, and his messenger Hugo Stanton, set about investigating the horrific crime. They quickly discover that this is far from a quiet monastic house. Instead, it seethes with bitter feuds, rivalries and resentments. But no sooner do they arrive than the killer strikes again—and again.

When Barling discovers a pattern to these atrocities, it becomes apparent that the murderer’s rampage is far from over. With everyone, including the investigators, now fearing for their lives, can Barling and Stanton unmask the culprit before more blood is spilled?

Barling and Stanton are sent to Fairmore Abbey, an isolated Cistercian Abbey cut off from world, to investigate a series of murders that happened there. While summoned by the Abbott, they’re not taken in with enthusiasm and the monks are reluctant to have an outsider to help them.

This is a second book in a series but works well as a standalone.
Barling and Stanton are learning to work together and starting to trust each other better. Their too different personalities still cause friction between them at times but they’re getting to know each other better. We also learn more about Barling’s past when he tells Stanton how he knows the Abbott from his youth in Paris.

Great addition to the series and I’m looking forward to reading their next mystery.

4,5/5

Published: Thomas & Mercer (September 27, 2018)
Format: ebook
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

About the Author

E.M. Powell’s historical thriller Fifth Knight novels have been #1 Amazon and Bild bestsellers. The King’s Justice is the first novel in her new Stanton and Barling medieval murder mystery series. She is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill magazine, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is the social media manager for the Historical Novel Society.

Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in North-West England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.

Find out more by visiting www.empowell.com. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, October 22
Feature at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, October 24
Review at Donna’s Book Blog

Saturday, October 27
Feature at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Monday, October 29
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Tuesday, October 30
Feature at What Is That Book About

Monday, November 5
Excerpt at T’s Stuff
Review & Excerpt at Locks, Hooks and Books

Friday, November 9
Feature at The Book Junkie Reads

Thursday, November 15
Review at Hoover Book Reviews

Monday, November 19
Guest Post at Jathan & Heather

Wednesday, November 21
Review at What Cathy Read Next

Thursday, November 22
Review at Jaffa Reads Too

Monday, November 26
Review at Curling up by the Fire

Wednesday, November 28
Review at Rachael’s Ramblings

Thursday, November 29
Review at Impressions In Ink

Friday, November 30
Review at A Darn Good Read

Monday, December 3
Feature at The Lit Bitch
Review at Maiden of the Pages

Tuesday, December 4
Review at A Book Geek

Wednesday, December 5
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Thursday, December 6
Feature at CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, December 7
Review at Bookramblings 

 

reviews

Goodbye for Now by M.J. Hollows

Goodbye for Now by M.J. Hollows

Two brothers, only one survives.

As Europe is torn apart by war, two brothers fight very different battles, and both could lose everything…

While George has always been the brother to rush towards the action, fast becoming a boy-soldier when war breaks out, Joe thinks differently. Refusing to fight, Joe stays behind as a conscientious objector battling against the propaganda.

On the Western front, George soon discovers that war is not the great adventure he was led to believe. Surrounded by mud, blood and horror his mindset begins to shift as he questions everything he was once sure of.

At home in Liverpool, Joe has his own war to win. Judged and imprisoned for his cowardice, he is determined to stand by his convictions, no matter the cost.

By the end of The Great War only one brother will survive, but which? (publisher)

George and Joe are brothers who at the break of World War I make very different decisions. George can’t wait to go to war and has a bit romanticized view of the war. Joe, on the other hand, is a pacifist who refuses to raise a hand to kill others. Their father is a Boer War veteran who doesn’t take Joe’s beliefs kindly.

Both brothers admit that they’re never been close and don’t have much in common, but they are concerned for each other’s well-being during the war which was great to see.

It was interesting to read about Joe’s time at home because I haven’t read much about the men who refused to go to war or the people’s treatment of conscientious objectors. He was branded as a coward, but I admire him for standing up to something he believed in.

It was a great debut book from the author and I really enjoyed reading it.

3/5

Published: HQ Digital (October 12, 2018)
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

reviews

Stealing Mr. Smith by Tanya E. Williams

Stealing Mr. Smith by Tanya E. Williams

“I’ve always deserved better. Nobody ever told me so. It is simply a fact I’ve always known to be true.”

After surviving the loss of both her parents – one to illness and the other to abandonment – Bernice Rosin finds herself at a South Dakota orphanage that will never feel like home. Longing for a life free of poverty and misfortune, she takes matters into her own hands, determined to secure her own happily ever after no matter the cost.

In 1948, a relocation west promises a life rich with upper-class pleasantries until a naive mistake shatters both Bernice’s pride and her heart. Convinced she can still rise above her allotted station, she returns to South Dakota to calculate her options.

Desperate for a hero all her own, she singles out John Smith, a simple man with a kind heart and a gentle smile. John appears to be the perfect escape from a life fraught with disappointment. The fact that he comes with the baggage of two children and a past he seldom speaks of, has little bearing on her new obsession. Caught unprepared for such cleverness and deception, John falls right into the path of Bernice’s affection as she has set her sights on changing her last name to Smith, even if she has to steal it. (Goodreads)

Bernice Rosin’s mother dies when she is young and because her father is unable to care for his children, she is sent with her sister Patty into an orphanage. She can’t wait to leave the place as soon as possible and to get the life she thinks she deserves. Eventually, she meets John Smith from the first book and sets her mind to get a husband.

Bernice is the very opposite of Violet, Smith’s first wife, and that alone would have made me dislike her, but she was so selfish, manipulative and rude that I didn’t like her at all. I had just begun to think better of her and then the ending just made me hate her…
It was interesting to see that while Bernice and Patty had the same beginning, they both have very different attitudes to life.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this works out between them and if they can make a life together.

3,5 /5

Published: Rippling Effects (September 25, 2018)
Format: ebook
Source: Author