2018 Book #59 – The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman

51Xyv20J3RLTitle: The Home for Unwanted Girls
Author: Joanna Goodman
Date finished: 7/13/18
Genre: Fiction, historical fiction
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Publication Date: April 17, 2018
Pages in book: 362
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Library Thing NOTE: I received this book for free from  Library Thing in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Philomena meets Orphan Train in this suspenseful, provocative novel filled with love, secrets, and deceit—the story of a young unwed mother who is forcibly separated from her daughter at birth and the lengths to which they go to find each other.

In 1950s Quebec, French and English tolerate each other with precarious civility—much like Maggie Hughes’ parents. Maggie’s English-speaking father has ambitions for his daughter that don’t include marriage to the poor French boy on the next farm over. But Maggie’s heart is captured by Gabriel Phénix. When she becomes pregnant at fifteen, her parents force her to give baby Elodie up for adoption and get her life ‘back on track’.

Elodie is raised in Quebec’s impoverished orphanage system. It’s a precarious enough existence that takes a tragic turn when Elodie, along with thousands of other orphans in Quebec, is declared mentally ill as the result of a new law that provides more funding to psychiatric hospitals than to orphanages. Bright and determined, Elodie withstands abysmal treatment at the nuns’ hands, finally earning her freedom at seventeen, when she is thrust into an alien, often unnerving world.

Maggie, married to a businessman eager to start a family, cannot forget the daughter she was forced to abandon, and a chance reconnection with Gabriel spurs a wrenching choice. As time passes, the stories of Maggie and Elodie intertwine but never touch, until Maggie realizes she must take what she wants from life and go in search of her long-lost daughter, finally reclaiming the truth that has been denied them both.

My rating:  4.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I requested to review this book because of the description. I hadn’t heard anything about this particular historical event before but as horrifying as it is there is some truth to it. The children that lived through this horrendous event are sometimes known as the Duplessis Orphans, as Duplessis was the premier of Quebec at the time these events occurred. Maggie and Elodie’s stories are heart-breaking but more than that, there is a string of hope that can be felt and seen throughout the book that uplifts the story. Elodie suffered tremendously but she still hopes for a better future. I loved that the book was told from both Maggie’s and Elodie’s points of view, this added a lot of important details that the reader would’ve missed otherwise but also allows us to grow attached to both characters. Both their journeys were amazing and inspiring, and although the story is fictional (but based on true events) I found many of the ideas in the book to be thought-provoking. To imagine these things would have happened to real people is baffling to me, that humanity could be that cruel to children for money incomprehensible. Underneath all the tragedy I found that this was also an important story of love, specifically Maggie’s love for Gabriel and also for Elodie. I really very much enjoyed this book and I would highly recommend reading it. It was an engaging and interesting read, and I hope to have a chance to read more by this author in the future.

Link to author website

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2018 Book #44 – Rainwater by Sandra Brown

51e7-ojnKiL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Rainwater
Author: Sandra Brown
Date finished: 6/2/18
Genre: Historical fiction, romance, suspense
Publisher: Gallery/Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: November 3, 2009
Pages in book: 245
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Purchased from Book Outlet!

Blurb from the cover:

Ella Baron runs her Texas boarding house with the efficiency of a ship’s captain and the grace of a gentlewoman. She cooks, cleans, launders, and cares for her ten-year-old son, Solly, a sweet but challenging child whose busy behavior and failure to speak elicits undesired advice from others in town. Ella’s plate is full from sunup to sundown. When a room in her boarding house opens up, the respected town doctor brings Ella a new boarder―the handsome and gallant Mr. David Rainwater—but Ella is immediately resistant to opening up her home to this mysterious stranger.

Even with assurances that Mr. Rainwater is a man of impeccable character, a former cotton broker and a victim of the Great Depression, Ella stiffens at the thought of taking him in. Dr. Kincaid tells Ella in confidence that Mr. Rainwater won’t require the room for long: he is dying. Begrudgingly, Ella accepts Mr. Rainwater’s application to board, but she knows that something is happening; she is being swept along by an unusual series of events. Soon, this strong-minded, independent woman will realize that the living that she has eked out for herself in the small bubble of her town is about to change, whether she likes it or not…

Racial tensions, the financial strain of livelihoods in cotton drying up into dust, and the threat of political instability swirl together into a tornado on the horizon. One thing is certain: the winds of change are blowing all over Texas—and through the cracks in the life that Ella Barron has painstakingly built. This is the story of a woman who takes her life’s circumstances in both hands, but who will be forced to reckon with the chaos of her circumstances…

My rating:  3.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review:

I am a huge fan of Sandra Brown so I thought it would be fun while on my Retreat this weekend to fit in a book by her. I am way behind on my schedule but this one was a quick read and I hadn’t read anything historical from Brown in a long time so it seemed like a perfect pick. This one turned out ok, it was interesting and honestly it had such a great plot twist at the end. The writing overall was just a little rough and it was hard to connect with the characters a little. And it was just so freaking sad. Plus there was some weird stuff in there, with the heroine wishing she had milk in her breasts so she could nurture the guy she’s having sex with, just weird stuff. Other than that though, the plot was very good and interesting, there were many different issues included that could appeal to different readers. There was bullying, racism, cancer, autism, action, romance, etc. Something for everyone! And it was a quick read. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a quick read with something more than the usual fluff. Good read!

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2018 Book #41 – The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

518+gcmw1JLTitle: The Summer Wives
Author: Beatriz Williams
Date finished: 5/22/18
Genre: Fiction, historical fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Pages in book: 367
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowseEdelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from BookBrowse & Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams brings us the blockbuster novel of the season—an electrifying postwar fable of love, class, power, and redemption set among the inhabitants of an island off the New England coast . . .

In the summer of 1951, Miranda Schuyler arrives on elite, secretive Winthrop Island as a schoolgirl from the margins of high society, still reeling from the loss of her father in the Second World War. When her beautiful mother marries Hugh Fisher, whose summer house on Winthrop overlooks the famous lighthouse, Miranda’s catapulted into a heady new world of pedigrees and cocktails, status and swimming pools. Isobel Fisher, Miranda’s new stepsister—all long legs and world-weary bravado, engaged to a wealthy Island scion—is eager to draw Miranda into the arcane customs of Winthrop society.

But beneath the island’s patrician surface, there are really two clans: the summer families with their steadfast ways and quiet obsessions, and the working class of Portuguese fishermen and domestic workers who earn their living on the water and in the laundries of the summer houses. Uneasy among Isobel’s privileged friends, Miranda finds herself drawn to Joseph Vargas, whose father keeps the lighthouse with his mysterious wife. In summer, Joseph helps his father in the lobster boats, but in the autumn he returns to Brown University, where he’s determined to make something of himself. Since childhood, Joseph’s enjoyed an intense, complex friendship with Isobel Fisher, and as the summer winds to its end, Miranda’s caught in a catastrophe that will shatter Winthrop’s hard-won tranquility and banish Miranda from the island for nearly two decades.

Now, in the landmark summer of 1969, Miranda returns at last, as a renowned Shakespearean actress hiding a terrible heartbreak. On its surface, the Island remains the same—determined to keep the outside world from its shores, fiercely loyal to those who belong. But the formerly powerful Fisher family is a shadow of itself, and Joseph Vargas has recently escaped the prison where he was incarcerated for the murder of Miranda’s stepfather eighteen years earlier. What’s more, Miranda herself is no longer a naïve teenager, and she begins a fierce, inexorable quest for justice for the man she once loved . . . even if it means uncovering every last one of the secrets that bind together the families of Winthrop Island.

My rating:  2.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I’ve read some other novels by this author in the past few years and it can be hit or miss. I have found that I really like the plot lines, as there are always some great twists and turns, and this novel definitely had those. At the same time, there is a lot of information included in the novels and it can be easy to get lost in the weeds. I have found that many of the books share a common theme also, that life is hard and there are trials everyone must go through. Things don’t seem to go smoothly for anyone in the story and the main characters usually have to suffer through an unhappy marriage or relationship before they can find a semblance of happiness later on. Its kind of depressing. Also specifically with this novel, while I liked having the three timelines included in the story and I understood why it was presented the way that it was (for dramatic effect), at the same time I had trouble remembering where we were or who the narrator was or what time we were in. Part of my issue I think is that I had a lot going on at work this past week so I couldn’t sit and devote my concentration to the novel except for short spurts of time. I would definitely recommend this one to historical fiction fans, especially if you can carve out some time to just sit and read. If you’re able to find yourself lost in this novel I think the story would be much easier to read and a bit more enjoyable. I’d still recommend this one but it didn’t work out for me personally this week.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2018 Book #38 – The Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda Quick

51rU25aJ4XLTitle: The Other Lady Vanishes
Author: Amanda Quick
Date finished: 5/7/18
Genre: Romantic suspense
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: May 8, 2018
Pages in book: 352
Stand alone or series: Seems like its connected to another of her recent books, The Girl Who Knew Too Much
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Knew Too Much sweeps readers back to 1930s California–where the most dazzling of illusions can’t hide the darkest secrets…

After escaping from a private sanitarium, Adelaide Blake arrives in Burning Cove, California, desperate to start over.

Working at an herbal tea shop puts her on the radar of those who frequent the seaside resort town: Hollywood movers and shakers always in need of hangover cures and tonics. One such customer is Jake Truett, a recently widowed businessman in town for a therapeutic rest. But unbeknownst to Adelaide, his exhaustion is just a cover.

In Burning Cove, no one is who they seem. Behind facades of glamour and power hide drug dealers, gangsters, and grifters. Into this make-believe world comes psychic to the stars Madame Zolanda. Adelaide and Jake know better than to fall for her kind of con. But when the medium becomes a victim of her own dire prediction and is killed, they’ll be drawn into a murky world of duplicity and misdirection.

Neither Adelaide or Jake can predict that in the shadowy underground they’ll find connections to the woman Adelaide used to be–and uncover the specter of a killer who’s been real all along…

My rating:  2.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have always been a big fan of this author under all her pseudonyms, and I’ve read a lot of her books. I haven’t read in a couple years, so I was excited to read this one when I was approved for it. There were some things that I did enjoy about the book but unfortunately there was also a lot that I didn’t care for. The conversations between characters felt stilted and awkward, and there was a distinct lack of tension between the characters. I didn’t feel much emotion between the characters. And the plot was pretty convoluted and drawn out, every time I thought the ending was wrapped up there was another plot twist. And everyone kept dying. I thought the plot line had a lot of potential and the scenery and location that was built up was perfect. Overall this wasn’t my favorite of her books but there was a lot of potential to it so I’d still say give it a try!

Link to author website

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2017 Book #93 – The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

51tiXx5s2yLTitle: The Second Mrs. Hockaday
Author: Susan Rivers
Date finished: 11/10/17
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Pages in book: 254
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse NOTE:I received this book for free from BookBrowse in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

All I had known for certain when I came around the hen house that first evening in July and saw my husband trudging into the yard after lifetimes spent away from us, a borrowed bag in his hand and the shadow of grief on his face, was that he had to be protected at all costs from knowing what had happened in his absence. I did not believe he could survive it.”

When Major Gryffth Hockaday is called to the front lines of the Civil War, his new bride is left to care for her husband’s three-hundred-acre farm and infant son. Placidia, a mere teenager herself living far from her family and completely unprepared to run a farm or raise a child, must endure the darkest days of the war on her own. By the time Major Hockaday returns two years later, Placidia is bound for jail, accused of having borne a child in his absence and murdering it. What really transpired in the two years he was away?

Inspired by a true incident, this saga conjures the era with uncanny immediacy. Amid the desperation of wartime, Placidia sees the social order of her Southern homeland unravel as her views on race and family are transformed. A love story, a story of racial divide, and a story of the South as it fell in the war, The Second Mrs. Hockaday reveals how that generation–and the next–began to see their world anew.

My rating:  4.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I was provided with this copy from BookBrowse and will be participating in an online book discussion, feel free to join us and participate in the discussion! This book tells the story of a courageous woman named Placidia. Placidia was still so young when she married, and after 2 days of marriage her new husband (Gryffth) is called back to the front lines of the Civil War. Placidia is then left with a massive homestead and farm to oversee as well as a young stepson. Barely able to keep her head above water, the corruption inherent in human nature becomes evident in the pillaging and thefts that Placidia must endure. And then after two years apart, Gryffth returns home to rumors that his wife bore a child while he was away. Only the timing doesn’t add up, as the baby was born over a year and a half after he saw his wife last. And the baby is now buried, having died in an unexplained accident. Gryffth charges his wife and persecutes her to the full extent of the law, wanting to bring justice for her crimes both against him and the defenseless baby. But things aren’t always as simple as they appear.

Overall I loved this book. It was heart-wrenching and an engaging read. I loved the author’s language and writing style, it was beautifully written and very touching. This was a perfect example of a haunting love story, the ending really created a tumult of emotions within me that I find hard to describe. There are definitely some tough parts to the book, Placidia was one of the bravest character’s I’ve ever encountered and endured so much for the sake of her family and some pieces of the book were traumatic to get through. But it really was so touching to see such a deep love exist between her and her husband Gryffth. The book is set up as journal entries and letters, and as I’ve mentioned on this blog before the epistolary style really appeals to me as a reader. I didn’t want to put this one down and each time I picked it up I was sucked right back into the story. I would definitely recommend this one!

The bottom line: I loved this book, this book was haunting and touching and great and I loved it! Definitely a super engaging read, I would recommend!

Favorite Quotes from the book: 

“Our enemy is (a bad guy, don’t want to give it away) and all the people like him, who never question their motives or doubt their desires. They are put on this earth to cause misery, because what they take so freely for themselves comes always at great cost to others.”

“That was the first time I felt pity for Father. He showed me what a fine line divides love from misery. Sometimes, in fact, there’s no line at all.”

Link to author website

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2017 Book #79 – The Uncertain Season by Ann Howard Creel

51PXLpnvIJLTitle: The Uncertain Season
Author: Ann Howard Creel
Date finished: 9/9/17
Genre: Historical fiction, women’s fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: August 22, 2017
Pages in book: 320
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

The Hurricane of 1900 devastated Galveston Island, but a storm of betrayal is still brewing.

Nineteen-year-old Grace’s golden age is just beginning. She and her mother live a privileged life. Beautiful and talented, Grace is looking forward to a pleasant summer celebrating her engagement to a wealthy young gentleman.

But when her lovely, charming, and disgraced cousin Etta arrives, Grace finds her place in society—and in her mother’s heart—threatened. Etta enchants everyone as she maneuvers to secure a station in Galveston’s upper echelons. Grace, in a reckless moment, reveals Etta’s scandalous past, and as punishment, she’s sent to work in Galveston’s back alleys, helping the poor. There, a silent waif known only as Miss Girl opens Grace’s eyes to new love and purpose. She’s determined to save this girl who lost her entire family in the hurricane and now slips along the shadows of the unfinished seawall with a mysterious resolve.

Soon, the lives of the three young women will converge as betrayal, mistaken identity, and a family secret sweep them toward a future that defies all expectations.

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book centers around the stories of cousins Grace and Etta. Grace is a sheltered rich girl who grew up on the island of Galveston, which three years prior to this story was the site of a catastrophic hurricane that killed 6,000 people, including the family of a character we only know as “the girl.” Etta is Grace’s poor cousin who is sent to stay with Grace and her mother after she falls in love with a circus man and defies her mother. It is in Galveston that Etta learns about money and how it can improve your life, and realizes she should marry well and create an easier life for herself. Grace, through a mistake of her own, is sent to work with a local missionary in the alleys of Galveston, where she learns things about life that she never knew existed.

Overall I liked this book a lot. It was really interesting to see the character development in this book, as all the characters end up in a completely different place than where they started. I loved the setting and the history that was included, the hurricane and the devastation it caused were a true part of history and I always find that to be pretty fascinating. I found the book and the plot to be engaging and fairly fast paced, though there were a few dry parts. The ending was left a little more open than I usually like but it didn’t detract from the story for me. I liked this book a lot and I would recommend it.

The bottom line: I liked this book a good deal. I loved the development of the characters and the story line was very interesting. I would recommend it.

Link to author website

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2017 Book #47 – Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams

51ALEmLEhRLTitle: Cocoa Beach
Author: Beatriz Williams
Date finished: 5/27/17
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Pages in book: 374
Stand alone or series: Related to her other Prohibition novel, The Wicked City, but each can be read as a stand alone
Where I got the book from: Library Thing NOTE: I received this book for free from Library Thing in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

The New York Times bestselling author of A Certain Age transports readers to sunny Florida in this lush and enthralling historical novel—an enchanting blend of love, suspense, betrayal, and redemption set among the rumrunners and scoundrels of Prohibition-era Cocoa Beach.
Burdened by a dark family secret, Virginia Fortescue flees her oppressive home in New York City for the battlefields of World War I France. While an ambulance driver for the Red Cross, she meets a charismatic British army surgeon whose persistent charm opens her heart to the possibility of love. As the war rages, Virginia falls into a passionate affair with the dashing Captain Simon Fitzwilliam, only to discover that his past has its own dark secrets—secrets that will damage their eventual marriage and propel her back across the Atlantic to the sister and father she left behind.
Five years later, in the early days of Prohibition, the newly widowed Virginia Fitzwilliam arrives in the tropical boomtown of Cocoa Beach, Florida, to settle her husband’s estate. Despite the evidence, Virginia does not believe Simon perished in the fire that destroyed the seaside home he built for her and their young daughter. Separated from her husband since the early days of their marriage, the headstrong Virginia plans to uncover the truth, for the sake of the daughter Simon never met.
Simon’s brother and sister welcome her with open arms and introduce her to a dazzling new world of citrus groves, white beaches, bootleggers, and Prohibition agents. But Virginia senses a predatory presence lurking beneath the irresistible, hedonistic surface of this coastal oasis. The more she learns about Simon and his mysterious business interests, the more she fears that the dangers that surrounded Simon now threaten her and their daughter’s life as well.

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Virginia Fortescue, a young woman who decides to go to Europe during World War I to assist as an ambulance driver.While overseas she meets Simon Fitzwilliam, a young man who is seemingly infatuated with her but who also unfortunately has other responsibilities in life. Virginia can’t resist her infatuation with him though, and given her extremely sheltered upbringing she doesn’t know how to defend against his charm and endearing personality. However, its only after the wedding that Virginia finds out Simon may have had some ulterior motives. Alternating between explaining their past and how their relationship began and the present day, Virginia and Simon’s story unfolds in a way that you would never expect.
Overall I ended up liking this book a lot more than I expected to. The first half of the book really was hard for me to get into, the story line ended up being really interesting but at first did not reach out to me at all. I thin part of my problem was that I couldn’t figure out how the last book connected to this book. And really her book A Certain Age has more of a connection since Virginia is actually mentioned in that book (the book is about her sister, Sophie). Once we got about halfway through the book though, the pace of the story line really picked up and the two timelines kind of merged together enough that things started making a lot more sense. The first half of the book I didn’t really think I’d like the book but the plot twists in the second half of the book were great and really grabbed at the reader. I would recommend this one but be warned it might be hard to get through the first half.

The bottom line: This book was a little hard for me to get into but about halfway into the book I didn’t want to put it down. It was hard at first to see the connection to The Wicked City but I think I figured it out in the end. I would recommend it.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page