The Alchemy Thief by R.A. Denny

Book Cover
The Alchemy Thief by R.A. Denny


Date of publication: July 16th, 2021

Genre: Historical Fiction, Science Fiction

Purchase Links: Amazon

Format Read: Unedited ARC

Received From: Author

Goodreads Synopsis

When the secrets of the past threaten to destroy the future.

A tale of hope, resilience, and the indomitable spirit of a woman, this sweeping epic spans the Atlantic from New England to Morocco during the Age of Exploration.

2019: A young woman finds a relic engraved with a mysterious symbol off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Terrorists in Morocco steal a 17th-century book engraved with the same symbol. As the woman struggles to unravel the secrets behind the symbol, her life changes in ways she could never have imagined.

1657: Transported back in time, she meets the alchemist, John Winthrop, Jr. who is plotting to lure the greatest scientific minds to the New World. But the more she learns, the more she fears for the lives of the loved ones she left behind.

In a stunning twist of fate, a modern terrorist has traveled into the past, where he has become a Barbary Corsair. He has plans of his own. And he will stop at nothing to succeed.

First Line:

His parents called him Ismail after the Moroccan Warrior King, but even his new Glock-17 didn’t make Ismail feel like a warrior.

The Alchemy Thief by R.A. Denny

I am not a huge fan of time travel books. I have read a few books out of that genre that soured me on them. So, I was a little hesitant to read The Alchemy Thief. What eventually sold me on the book was the alchemy angle.

I am glad that I decided to read The Alchemy Thief. This book was action-packed and full of interesting facts about Colonial Massachusetts and the Barbary Corsairs (which I have rarely read about).

The Alchemy Thief started slow. Usually, I’m not too fond of it when books start slow. But, in this instance, Peri and Ayoub’s backstories needed it. Once the book explained their backstories, then it picked up speed. It stayed at a medium pace throughout the book. Again, I wasn’t bothered by it. The pace fits the book. If it went slower, the storyline would have dragged. If it went faster, then I feel that I would have missed out on some of the backstories. So, the pacing was perfect.

I felt awful for Ayoub’s character and thought that the author did a fantastic job of portraying him. She captured what war and extremism do to children. Ayoub was 10-11 when he was sent back in time. As a mother, I was horrified by what he was exposed to and what he was forced to do. I wanted to reach through the book, scoop him up, and hug him. But, even though he was sent back in time and became a Barbary Corsair, I think it was better than what he went through in modern times. But, as I said earlier, the damage was done, and it shaped him into the man he became later on in the book.

I was kind of “eh” about Experience when she first made an appearance in the book. She was too nice and very naïve. Oh, and trusting. She was very trusting to the point where I wanted to shake her and tell her to get rid of Liam. However, once she was transported back to Colonial Massachusetts, I felt that her character grew by leaps and bounds. She went from being this one-dimensional character to a fully fleshed-out person. I also liked that she forged friendships and relationships while figuring out how she was getting home.

As I mentioned above, the book’s alchemy angle was the reason I chose to read the book. I find alchemy fascinating, and The Alchemy Thief only added to that fascination. In addition, I enjoyed learning how the bodkins were made and how the main characters used them.

There is a romance angle to The Alchemy Thief. There are two main romances. The first one is Peri and Liam. I was 100% against Peri even looking at Liam. He came across as too smarmy. However, my instincts were right about him (the 100 virgins comment made me want to smack him).

The second romance was Peri and Daniel. Talk about a swoon-worthy romance. I loved the instant connection that they had. I also loved that Peri was able to confide in Daniel about where she had come from and what she was trying to do (go home). I also liked that Peri and Daniel’s romance came naturally. There was no Instalove and no instant sex. Instead, Daniel courted Peri and spent time with her.

The time travel angle of the book (which is tied into the alchemy angle) was very well written. I thought it was interesting how Ayoub and Peri were transported back in time. I liked that it was a one way only type deal. Once the main characters used the bodkin, it was gone. I also liked how the author didn’t have Ayoub or Peri give away the future. Well, Ayoub did, but he was written off as having a djinn. Peri was careful to keep her cellphone hidden and to keep up her Puritan facade.

The author had a glossary at the back that detailed the historical events. She also gave definitions to the Native American terms used. I found it helpful and was grateful that she included it.

The end of The Alchemy Thief was interesting. There is a big twist that I did not see coming, and it stunned me. She didn’t wrap up any of the storylines. Instead, with the way she ended the book, I want to read book 2. I need to find out what happens!!

I enjoyed reading The Alchemy Thief. It was engaging and kept my attention glued to my Kindle!!

I would recommend The Alchemy Thief to anyone over the age of 16. The Alchemy Thief is a clean book (no sex). There are some disturbing scenes of a suicide bombing. Ayoub has PTSD and has flashbacks about killing people as a child (he was forced). There is a scene where Peri is forced naked and has a man forcibly check her vagina (she was accused of being a witch).

The Hollywood Spy (Maggie Hope: Book 10) by Susan Elia MacNeal

Book Cover

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam

Date of publication: July 6th, 2021

Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction, Thriller

Series: Maggie Hope

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary—Book 1

Princess Elizabeth’s Spy—Book 2

His Majesty’s Hope—Book 3

The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent—Book 4

Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante—Book 5

The Queen’s Accomplice—Book 6

The Paris Spy—Book 7

The Prisoner in the Castle—Book 8

The King’s Justice—Book 9

The Hollywood Spy—Book 10

Purchase Links—Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Format Read: Unedited ARC

Received From: Publisher

Goodreads Synopsis:

Los Angeles, 1943. As the Allies beat back the Nazis in the Mediterranean and the United States military slowly closes in on Tokyo, Walt Disney cranks out wartime propaganda and the Cocoanut Grove is alive with jazz and swing each night. But behind this sunny façade lies a darker reality. Somewhere in the lush foothills of Hollywood, a woman floats, lifeless, in the pool of one of California’s trendiest hotels. When American-born secret agent and British spy Maggie Hope learns that this woman was engaged to her old flame, John Sterling, and that he suspects her death was no accident, intuition tells her he’s right. Leaving London under siege—not to mention flying thousands of miles—is a lot to ask. But John was once the love of Maggie’s life . . . and she won’t say no.

Maggie is shocked to find Los Angeles as divided as Europe itself—the Zoot Suit Riots loom large and the Ku Klux Klan casts a long shadow. As she marvels at the hatred in her home country, she can’t help but wonder what it will be like to see her lost love once again. But there is little time to dwell on memories once she starts digging into the case. As she traces a web of deception from the infamous Garden of Allah to the iconic Carthay Theater, she discovers things aren’t always the way things appear in the movies—and the political situation in America is more complicated, and dangerous, than the newsreels would have them all believe.

First Line:

It was 1943 and America was at war.

The Hollywood Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

I have a fascination with World War II. And being fascinated with it, I have read a ton of books that have taken place in various countries during World War II. But, to my knowledge, I never have read a book set entirely in Los Angeles during World War II. When I read the blurb and saw where this book was set, this book caught my interest.

The Hollywood Spy is book 10 in the Maggie Hope series. Readers can read this book as a standalone, but I highly recommend that the other books be read first. There are people and events referenced that I had no clue about, and it drove me nuts.

There were two distinct plotlines in The Hollywood Spy. The first being the plotline where Maggie is investigating the death of John’s fiancee. The second involved the KKK and a plotline to cause as much mayhem as possible. I had zero problems keeping the plotlines separate.

The pacing and flow of The Hollywood Spy were good. It did take forever for the book to get going, but once it did, it kept up a steady pace until the end of the book. The same goes for the flow of the book. It flowed nicely between characters and plotlines, with little to no lag.

I liked Maggie and thought she was a relatable character. She dealt with everything that life threw at her with grace and a bit of humor. I also liked that she was super bright but had to be careful not to tread on people’s toes.

The mystery angle of The Hollywood Spy was interesting. There were so many twists and turns in the plotline that I didn’t know where it would take me. I wasn’t that surprised at who the killer ended up being or why that person did it. Considering the times and how close-minded people were (and still are), it made sense.

There was a massive twist in the plotline with John and Maggie. I did not see it coming, and it took me 100% by surprise when he dropped that bomb on her. It also saddened me because what I was hoping wasn’t going to happen.

I do want to add that racism and homophobia are very much a part of this book. Seeing that it is set in the 1940s, I wasn’t that surprised that it was portrayed. It was still heartbreaking to read (the scene with the nanny in the diner made me cry). It was even more painful because 80+ years later, there is still blatant racism. The author discussed this in her author’s note at the end of the book.

The end of The Hollywood Spy was well written. The author ends the storylines in the book but is left open enough for book 11.

The Hollywood Spy was a well-written mystery. I enjoyed reading it and was kept on edge with the different twists and turns that the plot took.

I would recommend The Hollywood Spy for anyone over the age of 21. There is violence and language. There are implied sexual situations.

A Letter From America by Geraldine O’Neill

A Letter From America by [Geraldine O'Neill]

Publisher: Poolbeg Press

Date of publication: August 11th, 2015

Genre: Historical Fiction

Purchase Links: Amazon

Format Read in: eBook

Goodreads synopsis:

It is the late 60’s in Tullamore, County Offaly, and life is full of exciting possibilities for Fiona Tracey, as she prepares to leave Ireland to work for a wealthy family in New York.

Fiona’s parents have the local shop and bar, and her younger sisters are already leading independent lives. Bridget is at a convent school preparing to be a nun and Angela has led a life of her own since she was hospitalised up in Dublin for years with childhood polio.

Then, sudden tragedy forces Fiona to postpone her departure for New York. As her mother sinks into illness and depression, her responsibilities mount. When help is offered by her aunt and cousin, Fiona is mystified by her mother’s animosity towards them.

As summer approaches, an American architect, Michael O’Sullivan, takes a room above the bar. Within a short time Fiona finds herself involved in an unexpected and passionate affair.

Then, as a surprising incident threatens Bridget’s vocation, Angela uncovers information which explodes old family secrets.

Before Fiona can embark on an independent life again, perhaps in New York, she must find a new understanding of her family – and of herself.

First Impressions:

My first impression of A Letter From America was that this book was going to be a long but easy read. The slow start was a massive hint to me. I am not a big fan of slow starts, but in this case, it worked.

I don’t know what I thought of Angela, Fiona, Bridget, Nance, Catherine, or Joseph. If I had to form an opinion, I thought they were all, except Catherine, somewhat self-involved. I was also a little irritated about this secret. The half-heard conversations and Nance’s animosity towards Catherine and Joseph had me guessing, early on, about what this secret was.

Going into the middle of the book, I felt terrible for Fiona. She was left to deal with her mother, the bar, and the shop. I admit that I got a little peeved that Bridget or Angela didn’t offer to stay and help.

Mid-Book Impressions

As I mentioned above, I felt terrible for Fiona; she had a lot on her plate. Like I said above, I couldn’t understand why the other two girls didn’t offer to stay and help. Well, the book explains that. See, Bridget is a nun in training, and she had to get back to classes (she is also 14). So asking her to stay home didn’t make sense. Angela did have a job and a social life, but she didn’t make an effort. I wasn’t thrilled with the explanation of why she couldn’t get down.

Michael O’Sullivan is introduced mid-book. An American architect who had bought the cottage his grandmother was born in. Fiona was instantly attracted to him, and he to her. Honestly, I didn’t see it. I felt that there was zero chemistry between them, and I couldn’t see them together in the long run.

Bridget, mid-book, had gotten herself into a pickle at the convent. I was interested in how this came about and how Bridget dealt with it. Out of the three sisters’, she seemed to have a grasp on things. Of course, she was also a teenager and made mistakes. Oh, and she knew about some of the secret that Fiona and Angela had an inkling about. Then she disappeared until the end of the book, which irked me.

Angela had some incredible good luck mid-book. Her good luck extended to home, where she was able to get Nance out of her funk and back to becoming a functioning human being. I was rooting for her, and I did predict what was going to happen.

Onto the secret. At this point, I guessed what it was. Between Fiona and Bridget, I gathered enough information to form my opinion. But, I was only partially right with what I imagined.

End of Book Impressions

I felt that Fiona and Michael’sromance” ended very predictably. I’m going to admit that I skimmed over her part of the story. It was predictable. Okay, but predictable.

I wasn’t expecting what happened with Bridget. Now talk about throwing me for a loop there. I was glad when everything was resolved, though it was still a pretty crappy thing to do to an entire class.

I did figure out what was going to happen with Angela. Not that it took away from how sweet it was. And I loved Edward. He was perfect for her (with his social awkwardness and all!!).

The secret finally came out. Like I mentioned above, I had only pieced a small part of it together. I wasn’t expecting who the secret was about. Talking to Catherine shedded some light on it. But, in the end, it was Nance who completed the picture.

The last scene of the book was terrific. I liked how everything turned out.

My Overall Thoughts on A Letter From America

This book took me about two days to read because the book is slow. The author did a great job of showing what life in the late 1960’s Ireland was like. She also did a great job of showing how a family comes together during times of crisis. I thought that the author did a fantastic job of creating likable (well for the most part likable) characters who suffered from real-world issues. My only complaint was that I thought the romance parts of the book were forced. I also would have liked to see more of Bridget’s time at the convent.

I would recommend that no one under the age of 16 read A Letter From America. It is a relatively clean book. There are some parts of the book where Fiona and Michael kiss and one scene where it is implied that they sleep together.

A Hundred Suns by Karin Tanabe

A Hundred Suns by [Tanabe, Karin]

4 Stars

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: April 7th, 2020

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction

Where you can find A Hundred Suns: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | BookBub

Book Synopsis:

An evocative historical novel set in 1930’s Indochine, about the American wife of a Michelin heir who journeys to the French colony in the name of family fortune, and the glamorous, tumultuous world she finds herself in—and the truth she may be running from.

On a humid afternoon in 1933, American Jessie Lesage steps off a boat from Paris and onto the shores of Vietnam. Accompanying her French husband Victor, an heir to the Michelin rubber fortune, she’s certain that their new life is full of promise, for while the rest of the world is sinking into economic depression, Indochine is gold for the Michelins. Jessie knows that their vast plantations near Saigon are the key to the family’s prosperity, and while they have been marred in scandal, she needs them to succeed for her husband’s sake—and to ensure that her trail of secrets stays hidden in the past.

Jessie dives into the glamorous colonial world, where money is king and morals are brushed aside, and meets Marcelle de Fabry, a spellbinding French woman with a moneyed Indochinese lover, the silk tycoon Khoi Nguyen. Descending on Jessie’s world like a hurricane, Marcelle proves to be an exuberant guide to ex-pat life. But hidden beneath her vivacious exterior is a fierce desire to put the colony back in the hands of its people, starting with the Michelin plantations, fueled by a terrible wrong committed against her and Khoi’s loved ones in Paris.

Yet it doesn’t take long for the sun-drenched days and champagne-soaked nights to catch up with Jessie. With an increasingly fractured mind, her affection for Indochine falters. And as a fiery political struggle builds around her, Jessie begins to wonder what’s real in a friendship that she suspects may be nothing but a house of cards.

Motivated by love, driven by ambition, and seeking self-preservation at all costs, Jessie and Marcelle each toe the line between friend and foe, ethics and excess. Cast against the stylish backdrop of 1930s Indochine, in a time and place defined by contrasts and convictions, A Hundred Suns is historical fiction at its lush, suspenseful best.

First Line:

The house of a hundred suns.

A Hundred Suns by Karin Tanabe

My Review:

When I saw that A Hundred Suns was based in 1930’s French-occupied Vietnam, I was intrigued. I haven’t read a book about that period that A Hundred Suns took place in. I have also been intrigued by Vietnam. To my recollection, I haven’t read any books that take place in Vietnam. That was a huge reason why I decided to read the book.

A Hundred Suns did start slowly and stayed slow for the first 60% of the book. I got that the author had to lay Marcelle and Jessie’s backstories, but it seemed a bit dragged out. Once the scene at the train station happened, though, the book sped up. The last 40% of the book flew by. I wish that the first part of it did.

There was a small amount of lag in the events before Jessie’s unfortunate incident at the train station. It only lasted about a chapter, and the author was able to get the book back on track. Other than that small lag, the writing flowed beautifully, even with two separate POVs (Jessie and Marcelle). The author was able to switch back and forth between their characters seamlessly. I loved it!!

I liked Jessie. She did come across as conniving at the beginning of the book. I mean, she convinced her husband to move to Vietnam. But, as I got to know her character, I could see how strong she was. Her strength was apparent in the last half of the book.

Marcelle was my favorite in the book. She was deliciously devious and pulled off her plan perfectly. Even when Khoi was having issues with what was going on, Marcelle didn’t. She was willing to do anything to get revenge. And oh boy, did she ever. I did feel bad for her, though. Blinded by her hatred, she let it overcome her. She also failed to see that Jessie had nothing to do with what was going on in the plantations. To her, Jessie was the more available of the two options.

I didn’t like Khoi or Victor. Khoi was an enabler. He talked a good game, but when push came to shove, he wasn’t behind Marcelle when she wanted to go to the next step. He kept switching back and forth, and it drove me batty. I didn’t like Victor because he knew what was going on at the plantations, and he contributed to it!!

I thought that the use of Vietnamese (or Indochinese) and French language added an extra oomph to the plotline. As much as I liked it, I do wish that there was a glossary to explain specific terms. I ended up having to use Google Translate a lot to understand so of the words.

I do want to give a small warning. There is drug use (opium smoking) detailed in the book. I did like that the author chose to show how casual people were about smoking opium back then. But there might be people who are triggered by it. There is also a scene from when Jessie visits one of the Michelin plantations, where she witnesses pretty gruesome torture. I like to think that I am immune to stuff like that, and that made me pause while reading.

The end of A Hundred Suns was terrific. As I said, the book took off in that last 40% of the book. I am not going to get into it, but I will say that Marcelle and Khoi got what they deserved.

I would give A Hundred Suns an Adult rating. There is sex. There is mild language. There is mild violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread A Hundred Suns. I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

Westering Women by Sandra Dallas

Westering Women: A Novel by [Dallas, Sandra]

3.5 Stars

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: January 7th, 2020

Genre: Historical Fiction

Where you can find Westering Women: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | BookBub

Book Synopsis:

From the bestselling author of Prayers for Sale, an inspiring celebration of sisterhood on the perilous wagon-trail west

“If you are an adventuresome young woman of high moral character and fine health, are you willing to travel to California in search of a good husband?”

It’s February 1852, and all around Chicago Maggie sees the postings soliciting “eligible women” to travel to the gold mines of Goosetown. A young seamstress with a small daughter and several painful secrets, she has nothing to lose.

So she joins forty-three other women and two pious reverends on the dangerous 2,000-mile journey west. None of them are prepared for the hardships they face on the trek through the high plains, mountains, and deserts. Or for the triumphs of finding strengths they did not know they possessed. And not all will make it.

As Maggie gets to know the other women, she soon discovers that she’s not the only one looking to leave dark secrets behind. And when her past catches up with her, it becomes clear a band of sisters will do whatever it takes to protect one of their own.

First Line:

Hidden beneath her black umbrella, Maggie stood in the shelter of the church and stared at the woman reading the broadsheet.

Westering Women by Sandra Dallas

My Review:

When I read the plotline for Westering Women, I realized that I had read a few books about settlers immigrating to the western half of the country. Just on that, I decided to read Westering Women. While I am glad that I read Westering Women, I felt slightly disappointed by it too.

The plotline for Westering Women was medium paced. I didn’t mind it being medium paced. It was well suited for the book. But, I didn’t like the flow of the book. There were points where it lagged. But the author did a great job of getting the book back on track.

The characters in Westering Women made this book. In an age where women were considered weak, they showed the men exactly what they were made of. I loved it. I also loved the variety of women showcased here. From the preacher’s wife to the former prostitute to the unwed teen mother to the upper-class woman with her servant to the abused wife, they were all showed here. I loved seeing this group of women coming together and supporting each other. Whenever something happened to one of the group, they stood together. It did result in some unusual situations.

I am not sure how realistic life on the trail was portrayed, but it made for an exciting read. The views the men had were correct for the time.

I do want to include a trigger warning with this book. Several scenes put me on edge while reading it. There was a scene where a major character relived abuse, the death of her son, and the rape of her four-year-old daughter. There were several scenes of racism (one of the secondary characters was black). There were two scenes of attempted rape. There was a scene of a brutal fight after one of the women was brutally beaten. There was a scene where a child dies from drowning, and one dies from premature birth. I will admit these did affect my rating for the book.

The end of Westering Women broke my heart. I wasn’t expecting the death of one of the women on the train. I sobbed because that woman was one of my favorites. The epilogue also made me cry. But, at the same time, I was left feeling a little unfulfilled. I know it was because of that death.

I would give Westering Women an Adult rating. There is no sex. There is mild language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread Westering Women. I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

Cilka’s Journey (The Tattooist of Auschwitz: Book 2) by Heather Morris

Cilka's Journey: A Novel (Tattooist of Auschwitz Book 2) by [Morris, Heather]

4 Stars

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: October 1st, 2019

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction

Series: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

The Tattooist of Auschwitz—Book 1

Cilka’s Journey—Book 2

Where you can find Cilka’s Journey: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | BookBub

Book Synopsis:

From the author of the multi-million copy bestseller, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, comes the new novel based on an incredible true story of love and resilience.

Her beauty saved her life – and condemned her.

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, in 1942. The Commandant at Birkenau, Schwarzhuber, notices her long beautiful hair, and forces her separation from the other women prisoners. Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly given, equals survival.

After liberation, Cilka is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to Siberia. But what choice did she have? And where did the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was sent to Auschwitz when still a child?

In a Siberian prison camp, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she makes an impression on a woman doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing. Cilka begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.

Cilka finds endless resources within herself as she daily confronts death and faces terror. And when she nurses a man called Ivan, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love. 

First Line:

Cilka stares at the soldier standing in front of her, part of the army that has entered the camp.

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

My Review:

I usually do not read books that are based on real events. I have found that my knowledge of the event overshadowed the book. I couldn’t help but compare what happened to what was going on in the book. I would almost always end up disappointed in the book. Then I read The Tattooist of Auschwitz, which is the first book in this series. I was taken away by Lale’s story. Cilka was introduced in this book. She was a mysterious and enigmatic character. I wondered what happened to her at the end of the book. What I read in Cilka’s Journey broke my heart.

Cilka was a child when she caught the attention of The Commandant. Which sickened me in the first book. In this book, I was still sickened. What he did to Cilka in those years was heartbreaking. But, it was what happened after Auschwitz was released that broke my heart.

Cilka was found to be a Nazi collaborator because the Russian Army found out that she was sleeping with The Commandant. Instead of earning her freedom, she was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in Siberia. I was outraged when I read that. She was traumatized at a young age, forced to watch friends and family die/killed, and then, instead of being able to heal, she was retraumatized on top of that.

I know that I am making a big deal about Cilka’s age in this book. She was 16 when she was sent to Auschwitz. She was around 20 when she was sent to Siberia. She suffered trauma after trauma in Auschwitz. So, yes, I was shocked when the Russian Army sent her to Siberia. She was forced to do what she had to survive, which mean becoming a camp wife of a soldier. I can’t tell you how that affected me. The abuse shook me. She suffered in both places. There were points where I wanted to hug her, take her away, and get her therapy.

The prison camp in Siberia was as bad as Auschwitz. But, and stress this, the prisoners could leave, if they survived to the end of the sentences. It was an awful place to live. Disease and violence were rampant. To my knowledge, I don’t think that I have read a book that takes place in one. I have heard of them and have seen them mentioned in books.

Cilka’s Journey was not an easy read. There were times I had to put the book down and walk away because I was that disturbed by it. The emotional impact that it had on me lasted days after I read it.

The end of Cilka’s Journey was informative. The author included a note about Cilka and her life after the prison camp. While the characters portrayed in the prison camp were fictional, the camp itself wasn’t. The author explained what happened to it and when it closed down.

I would give Cilka’s Journey an Adult rating. There is sex. There is mild language. There is graphic violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread Cilka’s Journey. I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

Bethlehem by Karen Kelly

Bethlehem: A Novel by [Kelly, Karen]

3 Stars

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of Publication: July 9th, 2019

Genre: Historical Fiction

Where you can find Bethlehem: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | BookBub


With the writing chops of Ian McEwan and the story-craft of Lisa Wingate, Karen Kelly weaves a shattering debut about two intertwined families and the secrets that they buried during the gilded, glory days of Bethlehem, PA.

A young woman arrives at the grand ancestral home of her husband’s family, hoping to fortify her cracking marriage. But what she finds is not what she expected: tragedy haunts the hallways, whispering of heartache and a past she never knew existed.

Inspired by the true titans of the steel-boom era, Bethlehem is a story of temptation and regret, a story of secrets and the cost of keeping them, a story of forgiveness. It is the story of two complex women—thrown together in the name of family—who, in coming to understand each other, come finally to understand themselves.

My review:

Joanna Collier has reluctantly moved to her husband’s childhood home in Bethlehem, PA. What Joanna doesn’t know is that there are secrets that have laid dormant. Secrets that could tear her family apart.

I almost didn’t accept the invite to review for Bethlehem. The blurb didn’t sell the book. I also decided to read some of the reviews on Goodreads before making my decision. What made my decision for me was the cover. I thought it was beautiful.

I thought that Bethlehem was well written. The author did a great job of bringing the characters to life. The writing was descriptive and drew me right in. I love it when a story does that.

My issue with the book fell with the characters. While they were well written, I couldn’t connect with them. I must connect with at least one character in the book.

I did like the plotlines. I thought that they were well written and flushed out. I was able to immerse myself in the plotline. I also liked the dual plotlines.

There were dropped storylines and characters that seemed to disappear. The storyline that I am referring to was the one with Daniel and Joanna. I did think that it was going in a specific direction. Then it was dropped, and Daniel was never heard from again. Drove me nuts. I needed to know what happened to Daniel!!

I didn’t like Joanna. She didn’t try to cultivate a relationship with Savannah or Hedy. She kept to herself. She pursued a relationship with Daniel instead of focusing on fixing the one with her husband. She flipped out when Gigi gave the kids their Christmas presents. Her attitude was horrible. She did start to change about halfway through the book, but I couldn’t change my view of her.

I did figure out what was going on with Susannah about halfway through the book. I did think that it was sucky what she did to Wyatt. But, at the same time, she did remain true to herself.

The end of Bethlehem didn’t sit well with me. It seemed rushed. Joanna’s change of heart was not believable. I did like how the author brought together the main storylines. That wasn’t rushed.

I would give Bethlehem an Adult rating. There is sex (mentions of it, nothing graphic). There is not language. There is mild violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I am on the fence if I would reread Bethlehem. I am also on the fence if I would recommend it to family and friends. I would read other books by the author.

I would like to thank the publisher, the author, and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review Bethlehem.

All opinions stated in this review of Bethlehem are mine.

Have you read Bethlehem?

What are your thoughts on it?

Would you be able to uproot your life for your SO?

Let me know!!

Realm by Alexandrea Weis

Realm by [Weis, Alexandrea]

3.5 Stars

Publisher: Vesuvian Books

Date of publication: May 14th, 2019

Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction

Where you can find Realm: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | BookBub

Book synopsis:

Based on a true story.

When her homeland is conquered by the mighty Alexander the Great, Roxana—the daughter of a mere chieftain—is torn from her simple life and thrown into a world of war and intrigue.

Terrified, the sixteen-year-old girl of renowned beauty is brought before the greatest ruler the world has ever known. Her life is in his hands; her future his to decide.

Without formal education or noble blood, Roxana is chosen by the Greek conqueror to be his bride. Soon she comes to know profound happiness and unyielding desire in her warrior’s arms.

However, being the king’s consort comes at a heavy price. To survive her husband’s treacherous kingdom, she must endure continuous warfare, deadly plots, jealous rivals, victory-hungry generals, and the stigma of being a barbarian. Persian blood will keep her from claiming the grandest title of all—queen—but her reign will seal the fate of an empire.

History tells his story. This is hers.

My Review:

When I read the blurb for Realm, I was intrigued. Like everyone else, I have heard of Alexander the Great. I have watched movies made about his life. I have read books about his exploits. But I had never heard of Roxana. There were mentions of a beautiful Persian princess, but no details were given. So, when I read that this book was about that mysterious Persian princess, I needed to read the book. I am glad that I read it because I got an insight into what being a woman was like back in those times. I also got a great insight into what being the wife and consort of Alexander the Great was like too.

Realm was hard to read at times. I am not a shrinking violet when it comes to violence, but I couldn’t get past certain scenes. An example would be Roxana witnessing the execution of some of Alexander’s troops. I was disgusted by the description. I will never be able to look at elephants feet the same way again.

I did like Roxana at first. I liked how she handled Alexander from the moment she met him. She wasn’t afraid to back down. But, after he died, her spirit dimmed. She wasn’t outspoken enough, in my eyes. I mean, she was being used as a political pawn. All because she was the mother of Alexander’s child. She did regain some of her fire in the middle of the book. Only to lose it at the end. I was disappointed by that. I would have loved to see her fire present the entire book.

I liked how Alexander and Roxana’s relationship was allowed to go at its own pace. There was no Instalove, well at least on Roxana’s part. It took her a long time to develop feelings for Alexander.

I know that many marriages were common back in those days. I loved how the author chose to portray Roxana’s reaction to it. Loved it!!

Once Alexander died, the book became confusing and boring for me to read. I know that the author was following timelines and real events but still. It became a dry read for me. There were only so many assassinations, murders, and generals out for themselves that I could take. But, it did illustrate how trapped Roxana was. I couldn’t even imagine living as she did. After her son was born, she was on the run for seven years. I can’t even imagine doing that.

The end of Realm broke my heart. I knew what was going to happen and was hoping so bad that the author would put her spin on things. Of course, it didn’t happen, and my heart broke into tiny little pieces.

I would give Realm an Adult rating. There is sex. There is violence. There is no language. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread Realm. I would also recommend this book to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

The Woman in the Lake by Nicola Cornick

The Woman in the Lake by [Cornick, Nicola]

4 Stars

Publisher: Harlequin – Graydon House (U.S. & Canada), Graydon House

Date of publication: February 26th, 2019

Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction, Thriller

Where you can find The Woman in the Lake: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Bookbub


From the bestselling author of House of Shadows and The Phantom Tree comes a spellbinding tale of jealousy, greed, plotting and revenge—part history, part mystery—for fans of Kate Morton, Susanna Kearsley, and Barbara Erskine

London, 1765

Lady Isabella Gerard, a respectable member of Georgian society, orders her maid to take her new golden gown and destroy it, its shimmering beauty tainted by the actions of her brutal husband the night before.

Three months later, Lord Gerard stands at the shoreline of the lake, looking down at a woman wearing the golden gown. As the body slowly rolls over to reveal her face, it’s clear this was not his intended victim…

250 Years Later…

When a gown she stole from a historic home as a child is mysteriously returned to Fenella Brightwell, it begins to possess her in exactly the same way that it did as a girl. Soon the fragile new life Fen has created for herself away from her abusive ex-husband is threatened at its foundations by the gown’s power over her until she can’t tell what is real and what is imaginary.

As Fen uncovers more about the gown and Isabella’s story, she begins to see the parallels with her own life. When each piece of history is revealed, the gown—and it’s past—seems to possess her more and more, culminating in a dramatic revelation set to destroy her sanity.

My review:

I have mentioned in past posts that I am a fan of historical fiction. I don’t read it often because I am afraid of getting burnt out. I am also a mystery/thriller fan. I like reading a mystery/thriller and trying to guess what is going on. So, when there are those two genres thrown together, I will pick it up. That’s what happened with The Woman in the Lake. I saw it, read the blurb and got it.

The Woman in the Lake was a bit different than some of the other mystery/thriller books that I have read in the past. Those differences actually made me like the book more.

The first difference is that the book went back and forth between 1st person and 3rd person. I usually dislike it when a book does that. The storyline gets lost between the constant back and forth. Not in this book. The author makes it clear when the POV changes. It made that part of reading the book pleasurable for me.

The second difference is that there are 3 separate storylines. Again, something that would drive me nuts. Like the POV changes, the author handled the 3 storylines wonderfully. Lady Gerard and Constance’s storyline was intertwined. The author was able to keep them separate until the pivotal scene towards the end of the book. It was wonderfully written.

I loved the characters. There were layers to them. I loved that when one layer was peeled back, another was revealed. This kept up until the end.

The historical fiction angle of the book was wonderfully written as well. It was set in Gregorian England. The author did a fantastic job of describing everyday life in that era. She also did a fantastic job of portraying how women were treated. Lady Gerard was beaten by Lord Gerard. Everyone turned a blind eye to it. Constance was sold to Lord Gerard and forced to be Lady Gerard’s maid. She was treated like she was invisible. Which was all part of being part of a servant and catering to the nobility.

The mystery/thriller angle had me guessing also. The author did a fantastic job of keeping me on my toes with Fenella’s storyline. Was she going insane? Was she suffering a psychotic breakdown? How come she kept seeing Jake? What was she going to find out about the gown? I couldn’t get enough.

The ending was fantastic. The author did a great job at bringing all 3 storylines together, merging them and ending the book. I was surprised at the twist that the author threw in at the end of the book. I didn’t see that coming!

I would give The Lady in the Lake an Adult rating. There are somewhat graphic sex scenes. There is language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread The Lady in the Lake. I would also recommend this book to family and friends.

I would like to thank the publisher, the author, and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review TheAll opinions stated in this review of The Lady in the Lake are mine.

Have you read The Lady in the Lake?

Did you like it?

Do you like it when there are 3 POVs/storylines?

Let me know!!

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The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman

The Wartime Sisters

4 Stars

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: January 22nd, 2019

Genre: Historical Fiction

 Where you can find The Wartime Sisters: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Goodreads Synopsis:

Two estranged sisters, raised in Brooklyn and each burdened with her own shocking secret, are reunited at the Springfield Armory in the early days of WWII. While one sister lives in relative ease on the bucolic Armory campus as an officer’s wife, the other arrives as a war widow and takes a position in the Armory factories as a “soldier of production.” Resentment festers between the two, and secrets are shattered when a mysterious figure from the past reemerges in their lives.

My review:

I wasn’t sure about reading The Wartime Sisters when I got approached to review it. I am not a fan of historical fiction. I have been burnt by too many books that were dry and uninteresting to read. I was afraid that this was going to be the case with The Wartime Sisters. And I almost turned it down. But something about the blurb caught my attention. With that, I decided to accept the request.

The Wartime Sisters is the story of Ruth and Millie. Ruth and Millie have been estranged since their parents were killed in an automobile accident. Before the accident, Ruth resented Millie. Ruth blamed Millie for stealing her boyfriends, for being popular and for being the apple of their parents eye. Millie, however, doesn’t understand why Ruth is so cold and distant to her. When Millie’s husband dies overseas, she writes to Ruth, asking for help. Ruth agrees to let Millie and her son live with them. When Millie arrives in Springfield, she finds that Ruth hasn’t changed. Ruth grows more bitter the longer Millie stays with them. But Ruth and Millie have secrets. Secrets that could destroy their relationship if they came to light. Can Ruth get over the past to help Millie in the present? Or will she allow past resentments color what she thinks of Millie? Can Millie trust Ruth enough to tell her about her secret?

I didn’t like Ruth one bit. I didn’t like how she treated Millie. I thought it was disgusting that she held on to old resentments. She was afraid that Millie was going to one-up her. I wanted to shake her and say “Get over it!!“. What she did the night of her parents funeral was awful. The author did try to change her character by having her confront Grace Peabody. It didn’t matter. I didn’t like her.

I liked Millie and I felt bad for her. I liked how the author wrote her side of the story. I understood why she left out parts of her story when she moved in with Ruth. I do think that she was unfairly judged by people. They saw how good-looking she was and thought she wasn’t that bright. Which was far from the truth. She was also stronger than most of the women in this book.

I liked Lillian. But I didn’t understand why she was getting her own chapters until later in the book. She was an amazing woman. She had been through so much in her life and she still looked on the brighter side of things. She didn’t dwell on things she couldn’t change. What she did for Millie was nothing short of amazing.

Aria was brought in later in the book. Again, I didn’t understand why she was getting her own chapters but I soon realized why about the same time I understood why Lillian did. She brought an outside perspective to Ruth and Millie’s relationship. She was the only person in the book who dared to call Ruth out on her treatment of Millie. She also was the only one who stood up to Grace and her husband when things were going down. Aria was a true friend to Millie.

I liked how the author wrote Millie’s secret into the book. I also liked what she did to get rid of it. That was also a turning point in Ruth and Millie’s relationship.

I loathed Grace Peabody. She was a nasty woman who got everything that she deserved. I do wish that her husband got the same treatment.

I did like that I got a better understanding of what a woman did to support her soldier/country during World War II. I thought it was fascinating what Millie did. I also liked the location. Having grown up in the NE part of MA, I love it when any part is represented in a book. Double kudos if it is in a positive light.

The end of the book was sweet. I liked that Millie and Ruth were moving towards a better relationship. The author did a great job at ending all the storylines. I had a question about the Aria/Fitz one. Other than that, perfect!!

What I liked about The Wartime Sisters:

  1. The storyline
  2. Mille
  3. How Millie’s secret was written in and out of the book

What I disliked about The Wartime Sisters:

  1. Ruth
  2. Grace Peabody
  3. Aria/Fitz relationship left up in the air

I gave The Wartime Sisters a 4-star rating. I liked the storyline and Mille. I also liked how Millie’s secret was written in and out of the story. It was Ruth who killed the book for me. She was miserable the entire book.

I would give The Wartime Sisters an Adult rating. There is no sex. There is no language. There is some mild violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread The Wartime Sisters. I would also recommend this book to family and friends.

I would like to thank St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review The Wartime Sisters.

All opinions expressed in this review of The Wartime Sisters are mine.

**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**