Book Review: The Vintner’s Daughter by Kristen Harnisch

The Vintners Daughter by Kristen Harnisch II

Paperback, 368 pages
Published June 17th 2014 by HarperCollins Canada

A captivating historical-fiction debut: ambition, betrayal and love take a spirited young woman from the verdant Loire Valley to turn-of-the-century Manhattan to the wide open spaces of California wine country

Loire Valley, 1895. When seventeen-year-old Sara Thibault’s father is killed in a mudslide, her mother sells their vineyard to a rival family, whose eldest son marries Sara’s sister, Lydia. But a violent tragedy compels Sara and her sister to flee to New York, forcing Sara to put aside her dream to follow in her father’s footsteps as a master winemaker.

Meanwhile, Philippe Lemieux has arrived in California with the ambition of owning the largest vineyard in Napa by 1900. When he receives word of his brother’s death in France, he resolves to bring the killer to justice. Sara has traveled to California in hopes of making her own way in the winemaking world. When she encounters Philippe in a Napa vineyard, they are instantly drawn to one another, but Sara knows he is the one man who could return her family’s vineyard to her, or send her straight to the guillotine.

A riveting, romantic tale of betrayal, retribution, love and redemption, Kristen Harnisch’s debut novel immerses readers in the rich vineyard culture of both the Old and New Worlds, the burgeoning cities of turn-of-the-century America and a spirited heroine’s fight to determine her destiny.

My thoughts:

I used to refuse to read Historical Romance for a long time. For many reasons I won’t go into here today but let me tell you, lately, I have been picking up some great ones. Vintner’s Daughter was the perfect choice for me. Though there are a few minor problems I had with the story that needs to be mentioned.

I found the story to be a bit overly predictable at times and I wanted some twist and turns to surprise me. In addition, I felt a couple of scenarios to the plot could have been a bit stronger and fleshed out more.

Though I love a strong female heroine’s in a story. They need to be flawed as well to make them believable. There were at times I felt Sara was too perfect to be true. Though I liked her a great deal and admired her courage and steadfastness.

One of the themes in the story was about the Suffragette movement and although-in my opinion-it played a back seat in the story, I found it an interesting addition and I would have liked it to play a stronger role. I am hoping it will in the sequel. We will see I guess.

Another theme weaved into the story was about the looming prohibition to come and how Sara and Philippe explores way around the survival of the wine industry is quite fascinating and intelligent. I am looking forward to the outcome of that-if it will be explored in the sequel. I hope.

I could feel the attraction between Sara and Philippe coming from the pages as their relationship grew. I liked how this was told and glad the author did not push their relationship too hard and too fast. Harnisch’s gives the right momentum and gives the reader time to enjoy the interaction between them.

I enjoyed the story and I felt there was some really strong character development. I thought the supporting characters were marvelous. Not only that, the story flowed well and I found myself thinking about the characters long after I put the book down. There is also the fact that the main story takes place in Napa Valley and I always find that reading about Vintners and the life they lead are highly interesting.

Harnisch gives the reader a grasp of what the 1800’s was like for women and provides the reader with insight of the grape-cultivation of wine. This is a great debut and I am anxious to read, The California Wife.

I have rated this book three stars and received a copy from NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins


The Love of a Good Thrill

A few fellow book bloggers and myself have started a new post series of books on our wish-list. This month I decided to list thrillers that I want to read. Who doesn’t love a good thrill? A few of these titles below I have recently acquired from NetGalley and I really look forward to reading them in the near future. What first attracted me to them was the book covers and the titles. Goes to show the importance of the over all layout of a book! Which thrillers books do you want to read?

No one knows II

In an obsessive mystery as thrilling as The Girl on the Train and The Husband’s SecretNew York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison will make you question every twist in her page-turning novel—and wonder which of her vividly drawn characters you should trust.

The day Aubrey Hamilton’s husband is declared dead by the state of Tennessee should bring closure so she can move on with her life. But Aubrey doesn’t want to move on; she wants Josh back. It’s been five years since he disappeared, since their blissfully happy marriage—they were happy, weren’t they?—screeched to a halt and Aubrey became the prime suspect in his disappearance. Five years of emptiness, solitude, loneliness, questions. Why didn’t Josh show up at his friend’s bachelor party? Was he murdered? Did he run away? And now, all this time later, who is the mysterious yet strangely familiar figure suddenly haunting her new life?

In No One Knows, the New York Times bestselling coauthor of the Nicholas Drummond series expertly peels back the layers of a complex woman who is hiding dark secrets beneath her unassuming exterior. This masterful thriller for fans of Gillian Flynn, Liane Moriarty, and Paula Hawkins will pull readers into a you’ll-never-guess merry-go-round of danger and deception. Round and round and round it goes, where it stops…no one knows.

The Passenger

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Spellman Files series, Lisa Lutz’s latest blistering thriller is about a woman who creates and sheds new identities as she crisscrosses the country to escape her past: you’ll want to buckle up for the ride!

In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it…

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time.

She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born.

It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret…can she outrun her past?

With heart-stopping escapes and devious deceptions, The Passenger is an amazing psychological thriller about defining yourself while you pursue your path to survival. One thing is certain: the ride will leave you breathless

The Forgotten Girls

In a forest in Denmark, a ranger discovers the fresh corpse of an unidentified woman. A large scar on one side of her face should make the identification easy, but nobody has reported her missing. After four days, Louise Rick—the new commander of the Missing Persons Department—is still without answers. But when she releases a photo to the media, an older woman phones to say that she recognizes the woman as Lisemette, a child she once cared for in the state mental institution many years ago. Lisemette, like the other children in the institution, was abandoned by her family and branded a “forgotten girl.” But Louise soon discovers something more disturbing: Lisemette had a twin, and both girls were issued death certificates over 30 years ago. As the investigation brings Louise closer to her childhood home, she uncovers more crimes that were committed—and hidden—in the forest, and finds a terrible link to her own past that has been carefully concealed.

Hidden Bodies

In the compulsively readable follow-up to her widely acclaimed debut novel, You, Caroline Kepnes weaves a tale that Booklist calls “the love child of Holden Caulfield and Patrick Bateman.”

Hidden Bodies marks the return of a voice that Stephen King described as original and hypnotic, and through the divisive and charmingly sociopathic character of Joe Goldberg, Kepnes satirizes and dissects our culture, blending suspense with scathing wit.

Joe Goldberg is no stranger to hiding bodies. In the past ten years, this thirty-something has buried four of them, collateral damage in his quest for love. Now he’s heading west to Los Angeles, the city of second chances, determined to put his past behind him.

In Hollywood, Joe blends in effortlessly with the other young upstarts. He eats guac, works in a bookstore, and flirts with a journalist neighbor. But while others seem fixated on their own reflections, Joe can’t stop looking over his shoulder. The problem with hidden bodies is that they don’t always stay that way. They re-emerge, like dark thoughts, multiplying and threatening to destroy what Joe wants most: truelove. And when he finds it in a darkened room in Soho House, he’s more desperate than ever to keep his secrets buried. He doesn’t want to hurt his new girlfriend—he wants to be with her forever. But if she ever finds out what he’s done, he may not have a choice…

the girl in the ice

Her eyes are wide open. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her dead body frozen in the ice…She is not the only one.

When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation.

The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound and dumped in water around London.

What dark secrets is the girl in the ice hiding?

As Erika inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika.

The last investigation Erika led went badly wrong… resulting in the death of her husband. With her career hanging by a thread, Erika must now battle her own personal demons as well as a killer deadlier than any she’s faced before. But will she get to him before he strikes again?

A page-turning thriller packed with suspense. If you like Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott and Karin Slaughter, discover Rob Bryndza’s new series today – at a special launch price.

Watch out for more from DCI Erika Foster

She’s fearless. Respected. Unstoppable. Detective Erika Foster will catch a killer, whatever it takes.

Check out these wish lists!

A Bookaholic Swede’s wish-list!

Flashlight Commentary’s wish-list

A Literary Vacation’s wish-list

2 Kids and Tired Books wish-list


Confessions of a Book Blogger with Colleen Turner!

Colleen Turner

Today on Confessions of a Book Blogger, I interview fellow book blogger and friend, Colleen Turner! To find out more about her, please be sure to visit her amazing website!

 Hi, Colleen! What is your blog’s name and address?

Hi Stephanie!

A Literary Vacation

When did you start a book blog and why?

I started A Literary Vacation on January 1st, 2015. I had been contributing reviews to a few different blogs for a number of years before then and thought “hey, why don’t I try creating my own blog?” It seemed the next logical step, and here I am!

What kind of posts do you feature?

I like to do as many reviews as possible but I’m not as fast a reader as I would like. So I also love to do guest posts and interviews with authors as well as spotlights on their books. This year I’ve started interacting more with some fabulous fellow bloggers (hi ladies!) and have gotten some great ideas for posts I’d like to do in the future, such as a monthly wish list post and cover crush posts on covers I can’t get enough of.

How often do you blog?

It varies month to month. I try to have a post go live everyday Monday-Friday but that doesn’t always happen. If I can’t make that I really shoot for three posts a week.

What are some of the positive feedback you have received?

I have been very lucky that I’ve had nothing but positive feedback and experiences so far as a blogger. I’ve had people compliment me on my reviews or the interviews I do, and have had a lot of wonderful authors, PR people and tour organizers be very gracious and thank me for working with them.  It has been a total win-win for me!

On average, how many books do you review a year?


What is your favorite genre?

Historical Fiction

What is your least favorite?

Westerns or pure Romances

How do you feel about negative reviews?

I think if the reviewer is being honest and respectful then I think they are important. Not everyone is going to love every book, and as a reader I want to know the good AND the bad that other readers found when reading a book I’m considering picking up. This is not an excuse to be intentionally rude or hurtful to an author and I will completely disregard a negative review that doesn’t explain what they disliked or just says “I hate this book” as quickly as a review that just says “great book”, but if it is well thought out and balanced it will hold more weight in my opinion.

When considering a book to review what do you look for?

I look for a catching synopsis, whether or not I’ve read and enjoyed a book by the author before, who they have endorsing it, and whether or not readers I know and respect have read and enjoyed it. And I can’t lie, I love an eye-catching cover!

What are three book covers you love?

Oh great question! Also a hard one as I’ve enjoyed so many. Recently I’ve loved the covers of…

Flight of Dreams

The Conqueror’s Wife II

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

I adore these cover!

How do you feel about authors using social media to speak out badly of reviewers who did not give the author’s book a glowing review?

I think that is just as bad as a reviewer leaving a rude or unhelpful negative review. For me, any author openly bashing a reviewer simply because they didn’t like their book is classless and a turnoff for me. I will typically make a point of not reading their books in the future as I don’t want to support that sort of behavior.

Have you had any negative experience with blogging?

Believe it or not no (at least not yet J ). I’ve had an author or two email me asking for a review and then not respond when I’ve offered to do a guest post or spotlight on their book instead, but nothing beyond that.

Do you read more than one book at a time?

I try not to. I like to give my full attention to whatever book I’m reading at any given time. However, sometimes I’m not really enjoying a book, so I’ll set it aside for a while and read bits and pieces between other books just to see if it will improve.

Do you read self-published books?

If so which ones have you read this year so far? I do sometimes, but not too often. I don’t believe I’ve read any yet this year. There isn’t any real reason for this, other than the covers and synopsis for the books I gravitate towards seem to be from traditional publishers.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering starting a blog?

Make sure you have the time and love to devote to it. It takes time to not only set up – and change up – the design of your blog but it takes a good amount of time to write posts, format them, and get them just right (at least for me…I tend to want to keep playing with it till it’s “perfect”!). You’re going to need time to share your posts around social media, respond to comments and author enquires and to of course read. So, long story short, you’ll need time. And if you are anything like me that is in short supply, so you want to make sure you’re spending it doing something you enjoy.

Thanks Stephanie!!

You’re welcome, Colleen! A pleasure! 

Good Reads by Ruta Sepety

Okay, so I will admit, sometimes I read young adult books when it has something of value to offer. Before you gasp in disgust over that statement, I do believe there is a variety of quality in young adult books out there. I am just particular in what I read in that age group. Here is two that really stands out to me and is sitting on my shelf at home patiently waiting to be read. I am really looking forward to getting to these two. My daughter has read, Between Shades of Gray and highly recommends it.

Between the shades of Gray

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.


Salt to the sea

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming

Confessions of a Book Blogger

Keep calm and blog on II

On February 2nd I blogged about how Authors should support Book Bloggers and gave some tips of the trade. Blogging isn’t always easy and takes a lot of time and effort. I am a firm believer it takes both the author and the blogger to work together for support of each other’s medium on social media.

Today, I am going to talk about how book bloggers should support authors in their endeavors. Bloggers and Authors lead such busy lives and it’s not always easy to be in contact with each other. We are always pulled in so many different directions. In many ways, I like to think that bloggers and authors have like minds in creativity and structure. We are in constant need of nurturing that creativity. But before I get carried away on that thought, let’s get back to bloggers supporting authors.

Check list for supporting authors:

  1. This is the most important so I’m adding this first. DO NOT troll an author. Do NOT. I’ve seen bloggers use their platform to bash and harasses authors-for whatever reason-and I have zero respect for that. Like I said on my other post to the authors, if you have a disagreement, do not further engage. And that means, do not smear their name on a public platform. Now, I don’t need to go into the reasons why you should not harass authors. You should be smart enough to figure out why. I hope.
  2. When an author sends you books or bookmarks, be sure to give them your thanks. I even blog about it at times or share on Facebook what I received. Not only do authors like that but so do readers!
  3. I get flooded with so many request from authors to be featured on Layered Pages. Sometimes, emails get lost or there are just too many to get to. This year I made a promise to myself that I would do my best to respond to everyone. Now, I know there are authors who send out spam emails and we have learned to ignore those. But really try to be gracious in answering emails.
  4. Reviews: It’s a bloggers job to give an honest analysis of books we review. It does not mean that you down right insult the author. Give constructive reasons why you did not care for the book. Don’t just say, “I did not like this book, I don’t recommend it.” If you are going to write a review stating you did not care for the book, state why but be respectful.
  5. I like to come up with creative ways in supporting authors on Layered Pages. Every year you blog, try to come up with some new ways to feature the authors you love. This year, I have come up with a few new series. Stay tuned for those. Authors are jumping on them! Its going to be exciting!
  6. Follow and interact with your favorite authors on social media. This helps attract more attention to their books and what can be more exciting than getting to know the writer of your favorite stories?!
  7. We are not the author’s every day readers. We are a book reviewers and professional readers. Most of us are anyways… Let’s behave accordingly.
  8. Authors put their heart and soul into their stories, lets show them our gratitude and keep encouraging them to bring us more wonderful stories. Without them, we would be lost.

Check out my good friend and fellow book blogger’s post on The Author/Blogger Relationship!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Hello New Books

Hot Milk

Pub Date Jul 12, 2016

I have been sleuthing my mother’s symptoms for as long as I can remember. If I see myself as an unwilling detective with a desire for justice, is her illness an unsolved crime? If so, who is the villain and who is the victim?

Sofia, a young anthropologist, has spent much of her life trying to solve the mystery of her mother’s unexplainable illness. She is frustrated with Rose and her constant complaints, but utterly relieved to be called to abandon her own disappointing fledgling adult life. She and her mother travel to the searing, arid coast of southern Spain to see a famous consultant–their very last chance–in the hope that he might cure her unpredictable limb paralysis.

But Dr. Gomez has strange methods that seem to have little to do with physical medicine, and as the treatment progresses, Sofia’s mother’s illness becomes increasingly baffling. Sophia’s role as detective–tracking her mother’s symptoms in an attempt to find the secret motivation for her pain–deepens as she discovers her own desires in this transient desert community.

Hot Milk is a profound exploration of the sting of sexuality, of unspoken female rage, of myth and modernity, the lure of hypochondria and big pharma, and, above all, the value of experimenting with life; of being curious, bewildered, and vitally alive to the world.

Deborah Levy writes fiction, plays, and poetry. Her work has been staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company, widely broadcast on the BBC, and translated into fourteen languages. The author of highly praised novels including Swimming Home (shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2012), The Unloved, and Billy and Girl, the story collection Black Vodka, and the essay Things I Don’t Want to Know, she lives in London.

Mrs. Lee & Mrs. Gray

Pub Date Jun 14, 2016

Mary Anna Custis Lee is a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, wife of Confederate General Robert E Lee, and heiress to Virginia’s storied Arlington house and General Washington’s personal belongings.

Born in bondage at Arlington, Selina Norris Gray learns to read and write in the schoolroom Mary and her mother keep for the slave children, and eventually becomes Mary’s housekeeper and confidante. As Mary’s health declines, Selina becomes her personal maid, strengthening a bond that lasts until death parts them.

Forced to flee Arlington at the start of the Civil War, Mary entrusts the keys to her beloved home to no one but Selina. When Union troops begin looting the house, it is Selina who confronts their commander and saves many of its historic treasures.

In a story spanning crude slave quarters, sunny schoolrooms, stately wedding parlors, and cramped birthing rooms, novelist Dorothy Love amplifies the astonishing true-life account of an extraordinary alliance and casts fresh light on the tumultuous years leading up to and through the wrenching battle for a nation’s soul.

A classic American tale, Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray is the first novel to chronicle this beautiful fifty-year friendship forged at the crossroads of America’s journey from enslavement to emancipation.

The Midnight Assassins

Pub Date Apr 5, 2016

A sweeping narrative history of a terrifying serial killer–America’s first–who stalked Austin, Texas in 1885

In the late 1800s, the city of Austin, Texas was on the cusp of emerging from an isolated western outpost into a truly cosmopolitan metropolis. But beginning in December 1884, Austin was terrorized by someone equally as vicious and, in some ways, far more diabolical than London’s infamous Jack the Ripper. For almost exactly one year, the Midnight Assassin crisscrossed the entire city, striking on moonlit nights, using axes, knives, and long steel rods to rip apart women from every race and class. At the time the concept of a serial killer was unthinkable, but the murders continued, the killer became more brazen, and the citizens’ panic reached a fever pitch.

Before it was all over, at least a dozen men would be arrested in connection with the murders, and the crimes would expose what a newspaper described as “the most extensive and profound scandal ever known in Austin.” And yes, when Jack the Ripper began his attacks in 1888, London police investigators did wonder if the killer from Austin had crossed the ocean to terrorize their own city.

With vivid historical detail and novelistic flair, Texas Monthly journalist Skip Hollandsworth brings this terrifying saga to life.



Book Review: Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase

black rabbit hall

Afterwards, Black Rabbit Hall, their home, with its endless corridors and ancient creaking clocks, is a twisted and changed place, set to steal the last vestiges of their childhood and innocence. A home that not all of the Altons will be strong enough to survive.

Now, thirty years later, a message from one of the Alton children is discovered carved into an old oak tree. Could the tangled truth of that terrible summer finally creep into the light? Or should some secrets be left in the past for good?

My thoughts:

I’m just going to get right to the point. When I read a book that reveals secrets from the past, how those secrets are unfolded is important to the premise indicated in the book description. Though the secrets intrigued me, I’m not convinced it was executed as it could have been. Black Rabbit Hall is certainly not Manderley. I wanted to be haunted, to experience more of the endless corridors and ancient creaking clocks. To be swept away in the houses secrets and tragedy.

Though tragic strikes early on in the story, it wasn’t flushed out enough and it would just go on and on about the children’s life after the tragedy in the first half of the book. Which much of it was tedious reading. The elements to the tragic circumstance fell flat to me and was not suspenseful. I could not sympathize with the character’s loss.

It wasn’t almost half way in when it really became intriguing for me-when Lucian and Caroline made their entrance. The first half of the book and the second half is like night and day at that point. The authors narrative becomes stronger and begins to have a lyrical feel to it-if you will-and gives a better sense of the house and the characters emotional and actions.

In one scene, Lorna begins to explore the house. She walks through the ball room and chambers and she sees the remanence of the past. That was an exceptional scene. The first time I got a real feel of the true atmosphere of the house.

I respect the author’s efforts and there is a quality to the story that I liked for the most part. It just wasn’t enough to pull me in from the beginning. As I indicted above, it felt like the story really began almost half way through it before it took hold for me.

I do look forward to seeing what more the author has to give us in future stories and I do believe she is a good writer. I recommend my audience to read this book. I want to know your perspective to give it more balance and I would like to add that these are my experiences with the story. I am almost certain that many others will come away with a different experience entirely.

I’ve rated this book three stars.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Book Stores Are Dangerous

So early this week my daughter wanted to go out to eat. As we were sitting at the table enjoying our meal and chatting about this and that, she suddenly blurts out she wants to go to B&N. Oh, no, I thought. Why wouldn’t I want to go, you ask? Err…because I have a serious problem when entering book stores. I cannot leave without a few books in hand. This can be a serious problem for book lovers and this year I set a budget of zero dollars to spend on books. I really need to catch up on some reads on my shelf and Kindle that have been waiting patiently for my attention. Alas, a couple weeks or so ago, I broke the budget and bought some bargain books. Sigh. You may remember that post. If not, click here to see. I know, no will power what-so-ever. I wonder if I am cursed.

Anyhow, my daughter tells me to stay with her while she browses and NOT to look at books. How in the world can I do THAT? And can you imagine the looks I would get from people? Following my daughter around a bookstore like a puppy dog? No way. Not doing it. Yes, I ended up following her around the store. Well, I was almost successful in not picking up a book until the end. But then we walked by the bargain section and these three beauties called out to me.

My daughter and I made quit a picture, I’m sure. I was grabbing books with one hand and my daughter grabs my other hand to pull me away. She thinks I need help. She may be right but there are worse things in life to obsess over. So take a look at my new purchases. Enjoy!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

The Outcasts

It’s the 19th century on the Gulf Coast, a time of opportunity and lawlessness. After escaping the Texas brothel where she’d been a virtual prisoner, Lucinda Carter heads for Middle Bayou to meet her lover, who has a plan to make them both rich, chasing rumors of a pirate’s buried treasure.

Meanwhile Nate Cannon, a young Texas policeman with a pure heart and a strong sense of justice, is on the hunt for a ruthless killer named McGill who has claimed the lives of men, women, and even children across the frontier. Who–if anyone–will survive when their paths finally cross?

As Lucinda and Nate’s stories converge, guns are drawn, debts are paid, and Kathleen Kent delivers an unforgettable portrait of a woman who will stop at nothing to make a new life for herself.

The Fever Tree

Frances Irvine, left destitute in the wake of her father’s sudden death, has been forced to abandon her life of wealth and privilege in London and emigrate to the Southern Cape of Africa. 1880 South Africa is a country torn apart by greed. In this remote and inhospitable land she becomes entangled with two very different men—one driven by ambition, the other by his ideals. Only when the rumor of a smallpox epidemic takes her into the dark heart of the diamond mines does she see her path to happiness.

But this is a ruthless world of avarice and exploitation, where the spoils of the rich come at a terrible human cost and powerful men will go to any lengths to keep the mines in operation. Removed from civilization and disillusioned by her isolation, Frances must choose between passion and integrity, a decision that has devastating consequences.

The Fever Tree is a compelling portrait of colonial South Africa, its raw beauty and deprivation alive in equal measure. But above all it is a love story about how—just when we need it most—fear can blind us to the truth.


At Hourglass Vintage in Madison, Wisconsin, every item in the boutique has a story to tell . . . and so do the women who are drawn there.

Yellow Samsonite suitcase with ivory, quilted lining, 1950s…

Violet Turner had always dreamed of owning a shop like Hourglass Vintage. Though she knows the personal history behind each precious item she sells, Violet refuses to acknowledge her own past. When she is faced with the possibility of losing the store, she realizes that, as much as she wants to, she cannot save it alone.

Taffeta tea length wedding gown with scooped neckline and cap sleeves, 1952…

Eighteen-year-old April Morgan is nearly five months along in an unplanned pregnancy when her hasty engagement is broken. When she returns the perfect 1950s wedding dress, she discovers unexpected possibilities and friends who won’t let her give up on her dreams.

Orange sari made from silk dupioni with gold paisley design, 1968…

Betrayed by her husband, Amithi Singh begins selling off her old clothes, remnants of her past life. After decades of housekeeping and parenting a daughter who rejects her traditional ways, she fears she has nothing more ahead for her.

An engaging story that beautifully captures the essence of women’s friendship and love, Vintage is a charming tale of possibility, of finding renewal and hope when we least expect it.

Book Review: In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation by Jennifer Ellis

In the shadows

In a world torn apart by economic collapse, Natalie and her husband Richard establish an island of relative safety on a communal farm. Death—by starvation, raiders, and sickness—stalks them daily, and their survival hinges on working together for the common good. But in a lawless land with no shortage of suffering, good is a malleable concept.

As the constant grind of survival and the frictions of farm politics expose the rifts in Natalie and Richard’s marriage, Natalie finds herself seeking refuge in the company of Richard’s twin, Daniel, a solitary man with little interest in politics.

In the face of ongoing external threats and simmering internal divisions, Natalie, Richard, and Daniel must each map the boundaries of their own loyalties and morality. In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation is a story of adventure, politics, and love in a brave new world where the rules have both changed, and stayed the same.

My thoughts:

I generally do not read apocalyptic stories. In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation captured my attention immediately. I’m pretty sure it was the cover art and then as I read the book description, I was fascinated with the concept of establishing life on a communal farm.

What makes this book believable is the economic collapse that happens in this story. It is all to real that food, gas and water could be sparse and lawlessness of nations could take place.

The story starts a bit slow but you could feel the tension growing. The shifting conflicts between the scenes was overwhelming at times but gave a clear picture of the hardships the people endured and their struggle for survival. Their inner strengths and even the smallest choices they made could have the biggest impact on their lives and everyone around them.

Natalie and Richard’s relationship was interesting to read about. They are married and opened their farm to establish a safe haven-if you will.

Richard is a politician, a typical one at that. Before the doom he would scoff at Natalie’s predictions and felt she worries too much. Well, when her predictions become reality, he takes the opportunity to take advantage of the situation and for the most part, for his own power and gain. He drips in total narcissism.

Natalie is pragmatic and has an admirable inner strength and Richard knows this and needs these qualities for a partner. I really liked the characterization of these two the most. Though at times I wanted to throttle both of them. For different reasons-of course. I think you will be interested in how their relationship turns out.

The author did a splendid job on in the exploration of humanity under these dire and abnormal conflicts. She shows us consequences and reactions the characters make in an extreme environment. Nicely done and I look forward to more stories by this author.

I have rated this book four stars.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Book Review: The Secret Life of Winnie Cox: Slavery, Forbidden Love and Tragedy by Sharon Maas

The Secret Life of Winnie Cox

1910, South America. A time of racial tension and poverty. A time where forbidden love must remain a secret.

Winnie Cox lives a privileged life of dances and dresses on her father’s sugar cane plantation. Life is sweet in the kingdom of sugar and Winnie along with her sister Johanna, have neither worries nor responsibilities, they are birds of paradise, protected from the poverty in the world around them.

But everything can change in a heartbeat …

When Winnie falls in love with George Quint, the post-office boy, a ‘darkie’ from the other side, she soon finds herself slipping into a double life. And as she withdraws from her family, she discovers a shocking secret about those whom are closest to her. Now, more than ever, Winnie is determined to prove her love for George, whatever price she must pay and however tragic the consequences might be.

My thoughts:

The story has left such an impression on me. It has stirred up so many emotions of the brutality on humanity and how in our world often times more than not, shows merciless and evil acts. This story also portrays courageous hearts and a will to survive in the bravest of people.

When I first begun this story, I had my doubts at how this story would unfold. I was thoroughly annoyed with Winnie and her naïve attitudes towards life. She is like a princess that lives in a class castle but not seeing the world for what it is. Then one day she and her sister learns from venturing out of their castle-plantation house if you will-the realities of their Father’s treatment of the coolies who labor for him. Once that happen, their glass castle shatters around them.

For Winnie, this changes everything she thought she knew in her life and nothing would ever be the same anymore. She falls for a young man not of her culture and endures many struggles to be with him. Throughout the story she still continues to be disillusioned about many things and I wondered if she was ever going to realize that things do not always work out to our wants in life. I believe she had a romantic view of love without wanting to come to terms of the potential consequences for not only her but for the young man she loves so dearly.

I admire how the author portrays in this story of how slavery had been abolished and slaves were replaced with indentured servants but they were not treated much better. The author doesn’t beat around the bush and gives us a clear and tragic picture of this evil.

The weaving of a diverse culture and racial tensions is powerfully portrayed in this story. I’ve rated this story five stars.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins