Book Review: Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

MigrationsMy thoughts:

Franny Stone makes her appearance in Greenland to acquire work on the Saghani. Her motivations are to convince the ship’s captain to track the last of the terns and journey with them on their last Migration. More ways then one, these birds are a symbol of her life in many ways. At least that is what I came away with the story.

As the story unfolds, you begin to realize that Franny’s life is displaced, haunted and she must find the answers of her torment and come to grips with secrets bottled up so tightly, even she has forgotten them.

This story has ceased hold of my heart and it is one I think I will always come back to. While there is great sadness in this story, it is extraordinary and evoking with lyrically told sea life, characterization and captures your attention to wildlife that is threated to extinction.

I can’t remember the last time I have been transported and completely immersed in the characters’ lives. It’s as if the character’s hopes, dreams, longing, plight is your own.

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained an ARC of Migrations from the Publishers through NetGalley for my honest opinion of the story.

Book Description:

Expected publication: August 4th 2020 by Flatiron Books

Franny Stone has always been a wanderer. By following the ocean’s tides and the birds that soar above, she can forget the losses that have haunted her life. But when the wild she so loves begins to disappear; Franny can no longer wander without a destination. She arrives in remote Greenland with one purpose: to find the world’s last flock of Arctic terns and follow them on their final migration. She convinces Ennis Malone, captain of the Saghani, to take her onboard, winning over his salty, eccentric crew with promises that the birds she is tracking will lead them to fish.

As the Saghani fights its way south, Franny’s new shipmates begin to realize that the beguiling scientist in their midst is not who she seems. Battered by night terrors, accumulating a pile of letters to her husband, and dead set on following the terns at any cost, Franny is full of dark secrets. When the story of her past begins to unspool, Ennis and his crew must ask themselves what Franny is really running toward—and running from.

Propelled by a narrator as fierce and fragile as the terns she is following, Migrations is a shatteringly beautiful ode to the wild places and creatures now threatened. But at its heart, it is about the lengths we will go, to the very edges of the world, for the people we love.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

The Jane Austen SocietyFrom a young age, I have always been fascinated with Jane Austen and her stories. Not knowing the full history of the period in which she lived in at the time, I was at first, drawn to the characters relationships with their families, friends and town  people. Then as I got older, I became more aware of the romantic interests, social aspect and the education and roles of women of that time. That is when I realized how important stories like Austen’s are to society.

Like Austen, my Father was a minister, He’s retired now but the connection on that score and her satirical writing reminds me so much of my own experiences in witnessing all sorts of interesting people growing up in churches and our local communities.

I’ve read all Austen’s published stories multiple times and read many re-telling’s of her books, and have seen all sorts of different types of film adaptations. Not one of those has captured my attention like The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner. The author touches on an interesting area about Austen’s life and in such a way, I felt as if the author had read my mind on a few things I thought about growing up. Especially about Austen’s relationship with her sister Cassandra and why maybe she burned many of Jane’s letters…

Jenner’s story brings together people who are different in occupation, and life circumstances but they share a common love of Jane Austen herself and her work. Their passion and goal are to preserve both Jane Austen’s final home and her legacy. What they find in their search touches on a little what I mentioned above- though that is all I will say about that.

Much like you will find in Austen’s stories, The Jane Austen Society explores human conditions of the heart, love interests, community and enduring friendships.  I felt such an intense connection with the many of the characters in the story, as if they were close friends and family. This story is heartfelt and deeply enduring so much so that I came away with not wanting the story to end and a longing to sit around a fire and have a long conversation with these noble people and the author who told their story.

When you finish reading The Jane Austen Society, be sure to read the Author notes at the end!

I’ve rated this book five stars!

Stephanie Hopkins

Layered Pages

I was given a galley copy through NetGalley by the publishers for an honest review.

Another relevant post I write about The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner HERE

More About The Book: 

The Jane Austen Society
by Natalie Jenner
St. Martin’s Press
General Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction
Pub Date 26 May 2020

Description

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

A powerful and moving novel that explores the tragedies and triumphs of life, both large and small, and the universal humanity in us all, The Jane Austen Society is destined to resonate with readers for years to come.

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(All book reviews, interviews, guest posts, art work and promotions are originals. In order to use any text or pictures from Layered Pages, please ask for permission from Stephanie.)

Book Review: Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters by Emily Carpenter

Reviving he hawthorne sistersAbout the Book:

Expected publication: October 20th 2020 by Lake Union Publishing

Dove Jarrod was a renowned evangelist and faith healer. Only her granddaughter, Eve Candler, knows that Dove was a con artist. In the eight years since Dove’s death, Eve has maintained Dove’s charitable foundation—and her lies. But just as a documentary team wraps up a shoot about the miracle worker, Eve is assaulted by a vengeful stranger intent on exposing what could be Dove’s darkest secret: murder…

Tuscaloosa, 1934: a wily young orphan escapes the psychiatric hospital where she was born. When she joins the itinerant inspirational duo the Hawthorn Sisters, the road ahead is one of stirring new possibilities. And with an obsessive predator on her trail, one of untold dangers. For a young girl to survive, desperate choices must be made.

Now, to protect her family, Eve will join forces with the investigative filmmaker and one of Dove’s friends, risking everything to unravel the truth behind the accusations against her grandmother. But will the truth set her free or set her world on fire?

My Thoughts:

With a dual time line, one of the main themes to the story is about finding out Dove’s life back in the 1930’s and Eve must uncover a mystery in Dove’s past to protect her family. Not everything is what it seems and the more she uncovers, the more the story unfolds and Eve questions if she can trust the people around her.

There is a good flow to the story and the dual time-line worked for me. I was also interested in the theme of uncovering your family’s past. Throughout history and to this day people in all cultures have been interested in where they came from and so forth.

For me, the mystery would have had more depth to it if the Dove’s and Steadfast Coe scenes were fleshed out a bit more than they were. I feel like there was more focus on the revivals more than anything.

I think that Althea, Griff and Eve make a great team and would love to read more stories based around them.

I have to say when reading a story, I want to make a connection to the characters or at least one of them and that didn’t happen for me in this story. Overall it is a good story but I really wasn’t invested in the characters.

I thought it was really neat how the author added the old hymns throughout the book. That was a nice touch and has brought back a lot of fond memories for me.

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

Stephanie Hopkins

 

Saturday Sunday: Layered Pages Book Review

The Ghost of Madison Avenue by Nancy Bilyeau

My thoughts of the story:

The Gilded Age has always been a fascination for me and I consider New York City the center stage of the era for the most part. The era brings us impressive architecture and bigger than life people who inspired greatness. Morgan Library and the man who brought us its glory plays part in this glamorous and magical story.

Bilyeau brings us a new tale of not only J.P. Morgan and is magnificent library and museum but what seems an other-worldly Irish-American lady, Helen O’ Neil.  Helen is hired by stunning Belle da Costa Greene to conserve Morgan’s artifacts.  Soon after Helen begins her work, strange things begin to happen and her life takes a turn that finds herself in a most unusual event-if you will.

Bilyeau is one of my favorite writers and she has the talent to bring readers new content to the table. This story alone has deepened my fascination with the Gilded Age and wanting to know more about J.P. Morgan. My only problem with this story is that it ended and I wanted to read more about the characters lives. Bilyeau in my opinion is artistic with her writing. Having said I had a problem with the story ending, she ended the story with a feeling of rightness and the closeness of family.

The Ghost of Madison Avenue is beautifully told, atmosphereic and rich with unique people and history.

Stephanie Hopkins

The Ghost of Madison Avenue 4 F3More About The Story:

Kindle Edition, 108 pages
Published December 11th 2019 by Amazon

Helen O’Neill, part of a tight-knit Irish-American family in the Bronx, is only too happy to report to work at the spectacular private library built on Madison Avenue by millionaire financier J. P. Morgan. The head librarian, the brilliant and beautiful Belle da Costa Greene, had hired Helen away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art after she witnessed Helen’s unusual talent with handling artifacts.

Helen soon discovers the Morgan Library is a place like no other, with its secret staircases, magical manuscripts, and mysterious murals. But that’s nothing compared to a person Helen alone sees: a young woman standing on Madison Avenue, looking as if she were keeping watch. In learning the woman’s true link to the Morgan, Helen must face the pain of her own past. She finds herself with a second chance at happiness that could only happen on Christmas Eve—if she has the courage

Relevant Links: 

Read about The Secrets of J.P. Morgan’s Private Library

The Morgan Library & Museum 

Nancy Bilyeau’s Amazon Page 

 

Book Wish Granted

Oh my goodness! I haven’t been on NetGalley for a while and I got on there Wednesday to see which book I need to review next and I saw I had this book wanting for me to download! I had wished for it but didn’t think I’d get it. Hooray! Can’t wait to start reading it. Nancy Bilyeau is among my favorite authors!

DreamlandPaperback
Expected publication: January 16th 2020 by Endeavour Quill

The year is 1911 when twenty-year-old heiress Peggy Batternberg is invited to spend the summer in America’s Playground.

The invitation to the luxurious Oriental Hotel a mile from Coney Island is unwelcome. Despite hailing from one of America’s richest families, Peggy would much rather spend the summer working at the Moonrise Bookstore than keeping up appearances with New York City socialites and her snobbish, controlling family.

But soon it transpires that the hedonism of nearby Coney Island affords Peggy the freedom she has been yearning for, and it’s not long before she finds herself in love with a troubled pier-side artist of humble means, whom the Batternberg patriarchs would surely disapprove of.

Disapprove they may, but hidden behind their pomposity lurks a web of deceit, betrayal and deadly secrets. And as bodies begin to mount up amidst the sweltering clamour of Coney Island, it seems the powerful Batternbergs can get away with anything…even murder.

Extravagant, intoxicating and thumping with suspense, bestselling Nancy Bilyeau’s magnificent Dreamland is a story of corruption, class and dangerous obsession.

Code Name Hélèn by Ariel Lawhon

Code Name Hélèn by Ariel LawhonOh, my word!! I got an ARC of Code Name Hélèn by Ariel Lawhon!!!!!!!! *DOING THE HAPPY DANCE*

I am so thankful to Doubleday Publishing!

Pub Date 07 Apr 2020

Description

BASED ON THE THRILLING REAL-LIFE STORY OF SOCIALITE SPY NANCY WAKE, comes the newest feat of historical fiction from the New York Times bestselling author of I Was Anastasia, featuring the astonishing woman who killed a Nazi with her bare hands and went on to become one of the most decorated women in WWII.

Told in interweaving timelines organized around the four code names Nancy used during the war, Code Name Hélène is a spellbinding and moving story of enduring love, remarkable sacrifice and unfaltering resolve that chronicles the true exploits of a woman who deserves to be a household name.

It is 1936 and Nancy Wake is an intrepid Australian expat living in Paris who has bluffed her way into a reporting job for Hearst newspaper. She is fighting to cover the disturbing reports of violence coming out of Vienna and Berlin when she meets the wealthy French industrialist Henri Fiocca. No sooner does Henri sweep Nancy off her feet and convince her to become Mrs. Fiocca than the Germans invade France and she takes yet another name: a code name.

 

Book Review: Camino Island by John Grisham

Camino IslandA gang of thieves stage a daring heist from a secure vault deep below Princeton University’s Firestone Library. Their loot is priceless, but Princeton has insured it for twenty-five million dollars.

Bruce Cable owns a popular bookstore in the sleepy resort town of Santa Rosa on Camino Island in Florida. He makes his real money, though, as a prominent dealer in rare books. Very few people know that he occasionally dabbles in the black market of stolen books and manuscripts.

Mercer Mann is a young novelist with a severe case of writer’s block who has recently been laid off from her teaching position. She is approached by an elegant, mysterious woman working for an even more mysterious company. A generous offer of money convinces Mercer to go undercover and infiltrate Bruce Cable’s circle of literary friends, ideally getting close enough to him to learn his secrets.

But eventually Mercer learns far too much, and there’s trouble in paradise as only John Grisham can deliver it.

My thoughts:

I had great hopes for this book but the further I got into it, I became disappointed somewhat. Not to say I didn’t enjoy it at all but there are some things I need to point out.

Problems with the story:

  1. The character development needed to be much stronger. There was not one character I could connect too or particularly liked.
  2. Too much telling and not enough showing
  3. The premise is great but the overall story-telling is weak.
  4. The plot was too weak.
  5. This is not Grisham’s best story and I question the writing style-too breezy- and if someone else actually wrote it.

I would have liked to have read about Mercer sitting down trying to write a scene out and showing her frustrations of writer’s block. I think that would have been more realistic and would have made her character stronger and given that story-line a more polished feel. Not to give spoiler, in that regard the ending fell flat to me for reasons of her writer’s block. You’ll just have to read the story to understand what I’m saying. I would like to discuss it with someone when they read the book.

Things I liked about the story:

  1. I like the premise of valuable manuscripts being stolen and racing to finding out who done it and its recovery.
  2. Going undercover is a big risk. Especially for a civilian. That was interesting to read about.
  3. The setting of the story-an Island off of Florida. Nice touch.
  4. The bookstore-Love it when books and book people revolve around stories.
  5. The local literary circle-When writers get together to talk shop or take shots at each other. That was fun to read about.

Overall, this book could have potentially been a fantastic story. Too bad it fell short for me.

I recommend this book for a light read and I will be interested in seeing what a few of my friends come away with this story.

I have rated this story a generous three stars.

Four stars for the book cover.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

 

Book Review: Golden Hill by Francis Spufford

Golden HillGolden Hill

A Novel of Old New York

by Francis Spufford

Scribner

General Fiction (Adult)

New York, a small town on the tip of Manhattan island, 1746. One rainy evening in November, a handsome young stranger fresh off the boat arrives at a counting house door on Golden Hill Street: this is Mr. Smith, amiable, charming, yet strangely determined to keep suspicion shimmering. For in his pocket, he has what seems to be an order for a thousand pounds, a huge sum, and he won’t explain why, or where he comes from, or what he is planning to do in the colonies that requires so much money. Should the New York merchants trust him? Should they risk their credit and refuse to pay? Should they befriend him, seduce him, arrest him; maybe even kill him?

My thoughts:

I was thrilled when I picked up this book to read and review. It seemed to have everything I have been looking for in a story. Male protagonist, an early New York setting, intrigue, and a mystery of a man no one knows and everyone is talking about him. When people meet him he is intelligent and speaks eloquently but gives very little of himself away. Meanwhile, as he waits for his “thousand pounds” to be legitimized-if you will-he meets many interesting people and gets himself into some trouble.

The major points in the story for me was the beautiful prose, brilliantly drawn characters and time and place of the story. However, I will have to say as I got further into the book the prose was getting to be too much and it seemed to take away from the plot and my eyes started to gaze over somewhat.  To me there are too many unnecessary prose in the book that did not enhance the story-line however “literary” people might find Golden Hill.

Overall the plot needed to have more substance and to be fleshed out more. Having said all this, I am rating this book three stars and five stars for the cover.

I obtained a review copy of Golden Hill through NetGalley from the publishers for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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