Book Review: Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland

Lost For WordsLoveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look closely, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are things she’ll never show you.

Fifteen years ago Loveday lost all she knew and loved in one unspeakable night. Now, she finds refuge in the unique little York bookshop where she works.

Everything is about to change for Loveday. Someone knows about her past. Someone is trying to send her a message. And she can’t hide any longer.

My Thoughts:

I was thrilled to discover this book and couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. I enjoy reading books when they involve bookstores and bookish people. Alas, I must admit in first half of the book, I was frustrated and was ready to ditch the book. However, I rallied on and certain aspects of the story became a bit stronger about almost half way in.

The story is written in Loveday’s POV and she is an interesting character. I must admit at first I wasn’t sure she was going to grow on me but as I read on she came out of her shell-if you will- somewhat and I began to sympathize with her.

Loveday works in a second hand book shop and her boss Archie is quite the character! He seemed to know everyone and has been everywhere. I wanted that to be explored more. There can be a whole other book written about him in my opinion. I felt he was the life of the story.

The story has a subject matter about unhealthy and often times abusive and deadly relationships. There are some areas of this matter where I felt it was weakly portrayed and areas where it was strong. After thinking about it for a while, my only contingent would be that maybe the overall story would have been stronger if there was more background on the people’s life experience as to why their relationships were unhealthy. Another thing that bothered me was the tragedy that Loveday experienced as a child wasn’t satisfactory for the plot.

Having said that, I enjoyed reading this story. The premise is a good one, the ending was heartfelt and I loved the poetry included as part of what helps brings two people together in this story. I will be on the lookout for more stories by this author.

I rated this book three stars.

I obtained a copy of this book from Bonnier Zaffre through NetGalley.

An Oldie but Goodie

As a book reviewer, I always enjoy going back and checking out older reviews I have written. It’s funny because sometimes I think, “What in the world was I thinking when I wrote that?!” Not that I have a different mind about the story but the words I wrote to describe my feelings about the book or I had wish I had been further in-depth. It must be the mood I am at the moment, if I’m tired or whatever. This past weekend I was in the mood to look back at my review of The Sister Queens I wrote in 2013 and it’s not half bad. Check it out. – It’s an oldie but goodie. 

Book Review: The Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot

the-sister-queensThe Sister Queens is the second novel I have read about Marguerite and Eleanor, who both became Queens. The two sisters grew up together at their father’s-Count Raymond of Provence-court. They are separated at an early age to marry, they find their life as they know it completely changed and become two extraordinary women who face many challenges.

Marguerite married King Louis of France and is often neglected by him. She struggles to fulfill her role as Queen by his side. The reason for her struggles is due to her domineering and often time’s cruel mother-in-law, Blanche of Castile. Blanche’s influence over her son is strong as is her involvement in the governance of France.

Eleanor, whose husband is King Henry III of England, is not considered a strong leader to his kingdom but is a good husband and adores her. But as the years go by their marriage becomes strained and Eleanor struggles to bring back that spark in their relationship.

Although this story centers on Marguerite and Eleanor, they have two other sisters- Beatrice and Sanchia- who married the brothers of King Henry and King Louis. Their marriages help bond the relationship between the two countries. The marriages of all the sisters were obviously for political advantage and more power. Which is intriguing to read about and I find that I admire their courage, strength and their amazing resilience to adapt to any situation they encounter.

At the beginning of each chapter you read a letter from Marguerite to Eleanor and vice versa- as they corresponded through the years. As I read their letters, I found myself enthralled with their devotion to each other. For me, the letters were the highlight of the story told.

The alternating point of views told by the two sisters was well developed and easy to follow along. One can tell Perinot takes pride in her work and it shows through the pages and the character’s voices as their lives unfold. The compelling interpretation of Marguerite and Eleanor is believable and admirable. Stories such as this are timeless and Perinot brings the 13th century back to life through this captivating novel. That is one of the reasons why I’m so drawn to historical fiction. I hold this story in high affection and it is certainly praiseworthy!

I rated this story four and a half stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Review: A Death Along the River Fleet (Lucy Campion Mysteries #4) by Susanna Calkins

A Death Along the River FleetLucy Campion, a ladies’ maid turned printer’s apprentice in 17th-century London, is crossing Holborn Bridge over the vilest portion of the River Fleet one morning when she encounters a distraught young woman, barely able to speak and clad only in a blood-spattered nightdress. The woman has no memory of who she is or what’s happened to her, and the townspeople believe she’s posessed. But Lucy is concerned for the woman’s well-being and takes her to a physician. When, shockingly, the woman is identified as the daughter of a nobleman, Lucy is asked to temporarily give up her bookselling duties to discreetly serve as the woman’s companion while she remains under the physician’s care. As the woman slowly recovers, she begins-with Lucy’s help-to reconstruct the terrible events that led her to Holborn Bridge that morning. But when it becomes clear the woman’s safety might still be at risk, Lucy becomes unwillingly privy to a plot with far-reaching social implications, and she’ll have to decide how far she’s willing to go to protect the young woman in her care.

My thoughts:

A Death Along the River Fleet is the first book I have read by Susanna Calkins and probably the first historical fiction book I have read that takes place soon after the great London fire. The title of the book, the cover and the premise really drew me in. I was completely absorbed in the story from the very beginning.

I’d have to say that Lucy Campion is now one of my favorite female heroines. She is strong, intelligent, wise even. I love her process of thought and her desire to help people. The fact that she works as a printer’s apprentice helps a great deal too! Also, how the people around her respond to her is fascinating. Really strong character development here.

There are solid historical aspects to this story and I was thrilled with the intrigue! How the story unfolded and how the clues were stacking up was brilliant! This is about the best mystery story I have read in a long time. I really can’t say enough great things about this book. I highly recommend it. Now I will be sure to go back and read the other three books that came before this one!

Rated: Five Stars!

I obtained a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Review: Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James

Lost amog the living

England, 1921. Three years after her husband, Alex, disappeared, shot down over Germany, Jo Manders still mourns his loss. Working as a paid companion to Alex’s wealthy, condescending aunt, Dottie Forsyth, Jo travels to the family’s estate in the Sussex countryside. But there is much she never knew about her husband’s origins…and the revelation of a mysterious death in the Forsyths’ past is just the beginning…

All is not well at Wych Elm House. Dottie’s husband is distant, and her son was grievously injured in the war. Footsteps follow Jo down empty halls, and items in her bedroom are eerily rearranged. The locals say the family is cursed, and that a ghost in the woods has never rested. And when Jo discovers her husband’s darkest secrets, she wonders if she ever really knew him. Isolated in a place of deception and grief, she must find the truth or lose herself forever.

And then a familiar stranger arrives at Wych Elm House…

My thoughts:

I love reading about independent women in period pieces, old houses in countryside’s with secrets, family curses, a ghost and war world I stories. When these elements are blended together-well-you have me hooked! There was tension and action in all the right places.

I adore Jo! I could read about her all day. I have to say, I wanted her not to be so submissive to Dottie, her aunt. Though I get why she was. She needed to work after all and in those times, it was hard for women to find employment.

Dottie is a strange bird for sure. Tough, smart, secretive, and a go getter. On the down side, she is rude and uncaring at times but it works for this story.

Jo’s husband, Alex is one I really didn’t warm up too. Alas, I can’t tell you why because I don’t want to spoil the story.

Now for the other characters. Well done! They add so much to the story. Love it when that happens!

I found this story to be atmospheric and well written. The plot is excellent and I didn’t want to put the book down!

Something about the story bothered me though and for a while I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I think it must be the relationship between Jo and her mother.  I think the author intended it to be a back story but I wanted more out of it. There is a situation that seemed so abrupt and final. I wanted more answers. I wanted there to be more feelings toward that situation. But I’m okay with how the author told the story. Though I kept thinking there is a bigger story there. Anyhow, it doesn’t take away from how I feel about the book at all.

I am looking forward to reading more books by this author!

I have rated this book four and a half stars.

I have obtained a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

 

 

 

Review: No One Knows by J.T. Ellison

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?

My thoughts:

When I began reading this story the jumping back and forth to the present and past was getting on my last nerve. I think it was the way it was done starting in the beginning. At first I couldn’t see where it was going and I thought it might be too much back story on things that did not matter to the plot. Well, I was dead wrong. I started to see a pattern and when I thought I had the whole story figured out, BAM-there is a total plot twist that had me so shocked! I did not see it coming at all!

For the characters, Aubrey actually annoyed me. I disliked Daisy until I realized that she was right about a few things and I sort-of changed my opinion of her. Okay, I really didn’t but I sympathized with her a little. Though she was wrong about a lot of things. As for the other characters they are just as messed up.

This psychological thriller has all the right twisted, disturbing, dysfunctional characters and situations. I found myself about half way racing through the pages to see what happens next. Things get really intense and when you think you have it all figured out, everything you thought will turn out differently in the end.

I rated this book three stars.

I received a copy from NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Review: The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell

The madwoman upstairs

In Catherine Lowell’s smart and original debut novel, the only remaining descendant of the Brontë family embarks on a modern-day literary scavenger hunt to find the family’s long-rumored secret estate, using only the clues her eccentric father left behind, and the Brontës’ own novels.

Samantha Whipple is used to stirring up speculation wherever she goes. Since her father’s untimely death, she is the presumed heir to a long-rumored trove of diaries, paintings, letters, and early novel drafts passed down from the Brontë family—a hidden fortune never revealed to anyone outside of the family, but endlessly speculated about by Brontë scholars and fanatics. Samantha, however, has never seen this alleged estate and for all she knows, it’s just as fictional as Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights.

Yet everything changes when Samantha enrolls at Oxford University and long lost objects from the past begin rematerializing in her life. Her father’s distinctive copy of Jane Eyre, which should have perished in the fire that claimed his life, mysteriously appears on Samantha’s bed. Annotated in her father’s handwriting, the book is the first of many clues in an elaborate scavenger hunt derived from the world’s greatest literature. With the help of a handsome but inscrutable professor, Samantha must plunge into a vast literary mystery and an untold family legacy, one that can only be solved by decoding the clues hidden within the Brontës’ own writing.

For readers who devoured The Weird Sisters and Special Topics in Calamity Physics, The Madwoman Upstairs is a suspenseful, exhilarating debut by an exciting new talent who offers a moving exploration of what it means when the greatest truth is, in fact, fiction.

My thoughts:

When I was a teenager, I absorbed the stories written by the Brontës’. I would re-read them many times and would day dream about the characters and their plight. The prose and the character’s actions stayed with me for a long time. These stories to me were so atmospheric and wrought with overemotional heartache. I loved it!  Another aspect of the stories that fascinated me were the social norms of the period portrayed in the story. As a young person living in modern times I found that to be extraordinary and the injustice of it all would provoke so many feelings in me about it. I believe the story of Jane was the most meaningful for me. Her misfortunes and journey was powerful and I was moved by the narrator’s voice.

As I got older, I put these books aside. I think it’s because of my own situations in life hindered me from wanting to revisit them. I’ve really never explored my reasons why. Maybe I will one day. Anyhow, currently I have been rediscovering the sister’s stories again and now in a broader approach one might say.

The Madwoman Upstairs has stirred up so many of my old emotions about the Brontës’ and new emotions as well. Samantha Whipple became my new favorite heroine. Her qualities appealed to me and her search in finding the answers to her Father’s clues to the untold family legacy had me hanging on to every word she uttered. Her strange childhood with her Father has me even more intrigued.  The dynamics of the relationship building between Samantha and Orville are spellbinding to say the least. I think I feel a little in love with Orville. I found is him to be very Brontë-ish, if you know what I mean.

All the elements of the Brontës’ in the story was superbly written and alluring. We see many things come to light about the Brontës’ one might not have thought of. There is lots of enthralling material and insight to mull over. I will have to say that I was a little surprised and-maybe- disappointed in the way the story ended. I have two minds about how it could have ended but I will say that just gives me more to ponder on so I don’t mind at all!

I really cannot say enough about The Madwoman Upstairs. My review seriously cannot do this book justice. I highly recommend this story.

I obtained a copy of this book through NetGalley and the publishers for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Review: The Temple of Light by Daniela Piazza

The Temple light

It is the early fifteenth century, and the Italian peninsula is ravaged by war. While Milan fights for its political and economic life, Duke Filippo Maria Visconti lies on his deathbed with no heir to succeed him. But the old nobleman has a secret: He has a son.

Visconti hands over the one-year-old child to the archdeacon Onorio, who agrees to keep him safe. Little does young Niccolò know that when he comes of age, he will inherit the great Visconti fortune and become the city’s next duke.

Years later, in the shadows of a new cathedral, the members of a secret brotherhood practice alchemy and plot court intrigues, working to fulfill the ancient prophecy of the goddess Belisama. The brothers, sustained by blind faith, will do whatever it takes to achieve their Grande Opera, but first they need peace in the city, and Niccolò is the only one who can help. But when he starts to witness mysterious rites and killings, Niccolò will be forced to reconsider his destiny.

Review:

The story begins with a brutal rape scene and it turned my stomach. In my opinion this is not a way to start a story. I have to admit; I didn’t think I would finish this book. Though I am used to writers writing violence in stories-when needed-I felt this story focused on too much brutality and took much away from other themes of the story. Though I do realize this story takes place in a period of history ravaged by war. Still, too much brutality for my taste.

I was intrigued with certain aspects of this story. Milan captured my attention and the political and economic life during that time. However, I found it hard to follow due to the fact that some of the names were not known to me. Which I will be researching on my own time. Also, I would like to add that I felt like I was back in history class.

The premise of a Visconti dying and had no known surviving male heirs intrigued me at first but did not hold my attention.

None of the characters appealed to me. I am all about character development AND wanting to find a connection to the characters. That did not happen for me in this story.

I lost interest in this story quickly and as an avid reader of Historical Fiction I found that very disappointing. I do like the book cover and title. That is what first captured my attention and had high hopes going in. I am sad to say I have rated this book two and a half stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins