The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

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Bring on the Summer! Elin Hilderbrand, the queen of Summer beach reads, has created yet another fast-paced, intriguing, and highly addictive Nantucket-based beach novel full of secrets and romance. The Perfect Couple will be released on June 19th, and I highly suggest it!

Some popular characters from some of Elin’s previous novels make an appearance, including police chief Ed Kapenash.  The Chief and Nick, a state policeman known as “the Greek” and known by his movie-star good looks, are tasked with investigating the death of 29 year old Merritt Monaco, who was found floating on the each in the wee hours of the morning by Celeste Otis, the bride-to-be, on the day of the wedding. Merritt was Celeste’s best friend and maid of honor. As Ed and Nick begin to question those who were with Merritt up until her very last hour, more and more secrets will be exposed. The story flashes back to when Celeste, an assistant zoo director, first met her husband-to-be, Benji Winbury. The Winbury’s are extremely wealthy and have more money than they even know what to do with, a lifestyle which causes Celeste to feel uncomfortable and question her own upbringing at times. Benji’s mother, Greer, a mystery novelist, has made it her mission to hold the most lavish, memorable wedding Nantucket has seen in a while. Celeste is preoccupied by her mother’s declining health, as she is in the final battle with stage 4 cancer. Celeste wants to make her parents proud, and Benji is a perfect gentleman who will be able to provide for her every need and whim.  But is that more important than love? On the outside, Benji and Celeste appear to be the perfect couple. So, why did Celeste have a bag packed ready to leave the island hours before the wedding, when she was interrupted by the tragic discovery of her best friend’s body on the beach. Why would a happy bride-to-be be planning to leave her groom at the altar? And, perhaps the more intriguing question, with whom was she planning to leave the island with? Readers won’t find out the truth about Merritt’s untimely death until the final chapter.

This is one of my favorites from Hilderband, and I’ve read them all.  There is quite a bit more mystery involved in this novel than in her previous books. As with all of Elin’s stories, the paradise-like setting of Nantucket in all its island splendor is reverently portrayed, causing readers to be transported into the story and really get to know the characters. The beaches, night life, farmer’s markets, seafood, lavish homes, and the ferry rides all combine for a sensory overload. I’ve got to travel to Nantucket some day so that I can see it all with my own eyes. I can’t say enough good things about this book. I promise you’ll love it!

 

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The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

978-1-4964-0790-0The Masterpiece is contemporary Christian fiction at its best. Having read and loved Redeeming Love, one of Rivers’s previous novels, I had an inkling that I would enjoy her newest work, fittingly titled The Masterpiece.

Many times Christian fiction can become a little too squeaky clean, which distracts from an exciting or enticing story line and pace. Being a Christian myself, I know that no one is perfect and Christians have just as many faults as everyone else. Therefore, Christian fiction should be real and not put on an act, pretending to be completely wholesome and pure. This is one of the reasons that I love Francine Rivers’s novels. Her characters all have major flaws and pasts that haunt them. Many times they feel like or even try giving up, but God is not done with them yet. Rivers has a knack for writing long books with unique plot lines and memorable characters, and The Masterpiece is no exception.

The Masterpiece is a story of survival, grief, forgiveness, family, and love. Famous LA artist, Roman Velasco has a very checkered past, even though his future looks bright to those who don’t really know him. The only person he lets get a little closer to him turns out to be a young, single mother named Grace, who becomes his personal assistant. Grace has been through many a tragedy and trial in her young life, but she knows and loves the Lord and leans on him in everything. Her parents died when she was a little girl, and God has become her one true father. Because of all the pain and bad relationships in her past, Grace keeps her distance and doesn’t have any interest in becoming romantically involved with anyone. Her only goal is to be able to support herself and her infant, Samuel, so that they can be together full time and she can be a devoted mother to him. She is determined not to let her past dictate her future. Roman, on the other hand, is distrusting and unstable. He doesn’t know the Lord. He lets his past mistakes and pain eat at him daily, unable to forgive or forget the horrible things he has done and seen in his young life. In and out of foster care during his childhood, running from the authorities, and tagging with graffiti in a gang, he is no stranger to the streets. No one knows his real name or the circumstances of his upbringing.

As Roman gets to know Grace, he starts to open up and question her about her devotion to God. When a new tragedy strikes, will Roman be strong enough to survive it?

Though this is a very long book, do not be intimidated. It only took me two days to read it, and I loved it. The story takes place in California and many of the landscapes and settings that are described are beautiful and breathtaking. The plot reads quickly, because it switches back and forth from present day back to the time when both Roman and Grace were children and teenagers. It is through the flashbacks that readers are able to get a better picture of the horrible things that Roman and Grace have both endured in their lives. I would highly recommend this novel for fans of Christian fiction, contemporary fiction, women’s fiction, romance, and even mainstream fiction. It has a little bit of everything between its covers. The ending was a tad bit predictable, but that was to be expected with the kind of story it is. Even so, it was rather enjoyable all the way to the last page.

Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for the complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

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Kristin Hannah has done it again! Her newest novel, The Great Alone, which releases in February 2018, is absolutely stunning.

The story begins in 1974 when Lenora Allbright (Leni) is 13 years old and once again the new kid at school, having changed schools multiple times mainly because of her father’s wrath and inability to keep a job. Leni’s father, Ernt, was captured and tortured during the Vietnam War, and since he has been back, his own family household has become the front line of battle with his white hot anger and temper. Leni’s mother, Cora, tries to tiptoe around Ernt in order to keep their glass house from shattering, but she rarely escapes the wrath of Ernt, which Leni witnesses it all the time. Just when Leni hopes they might finally settle down in one place so her father can be happy, Ernt loses yet another job, and the family is uprooted again. This time, however, her parents pack up the VW van and the family of three heads to a remote island in the Alaskan wilderness. One of Ernt’s war comrades who passed away in Vietnam, Bo Harlan, left Ernt his ramshackle homestead in Kaneq, on the Kenai Peninsula. Ernt feels this is a sign, and a big break for the family that they must not pass up. What they don’t realize then is that Alaska will change the course of Leni’s future forever. All of their futures, actually.

Other than a few neighbors down the road a ways, the Allbright’s rustic cabin is in an untamed area of Alaska, where the winters are unforgiving and severe and the wildlife extremely dangerous. Leni and her mother get to know some strong Alaskan women, learning all they can from them regarding planting, fishing, and preparing food and adequate shelter for winter. Large Marge, a former lawyer who runs the small general store in town, takes them under her wing and provides Leni a security she has never felt before. Ernt gets close to Bo’s father, Mad Earl Harlan and his clan, and together Ernt and Earl, both paranoid quick to rage, arrange all-out crazy plans for surviving when “TSHTF” with the government.

Meanwhile, Leni starts school with the very few other school-age inhabitants of Kaneq, including the only other student her age, Matthew Walker. Matthew’s family has been very successful in Alaska for many generations, starting with his grandparents who started the town of Kaneq. Matthew’s father, Tom, plans to use some of his wealth to modernize and improve Kaneq, opening up the island for tourism. This, and the fact that Tom seems to have a keen eye for his wife, Cora, only enrages Ernt Allbright more. Ernt directs his hatred and anger toward the Walkers and anything to do with their family, including Matthew, of course. Though her father forbids Leni from seeing Matthew, Leni grows closer and closer with him, finding in him a first best friend and first love all at the same time.

For Leni, the dangers outside of the cabin and in the wilderness are much less than those she faces in her own home. As the years pass and Leni grows up, she and her mother are both terrified to stay, and terrified to leave, knowing that Ernt will track them down no matter what. Now, at the age of 18 and graduating from high school, Leni dreams of going to college with Matthew and studying photography. However, her father forbids her from leaving Kaneq, in his mad fury to control each and every move she and her mother make. He even goes as far as to build a wall, locking the family on their property and locking everyone else out. A horrific tragedy strikes as Leni is finally able to make an escape, and what happens after will keep readers on the edge of their seats through a roller-coaster of fear, guilt, regret, love, and longing.

Hannah’s description of the land and stark beauty of Alaska are breathtaking. The author’s notes explain that Hannah’s own father ended up in Alaska in search of great adventure, and they have all “fallen in love with the Last Frontier.” Her experience with Alaska is evident in the atmospheric scenes throughout the novel. The writing is raw and real. Readers will feel the naked fear and loneliness of Leni and Cora as they struggle to survive in the great alone of Alaska, trapped in a family crisis with no easy way out. I couldn’t put this book down, much like my experience with all of Hannah’s novels. The fact that the setting for this novel was very personal for Hannah made it even more enjoyable for me as the reader. I would highly recommend The Great Alone to anyone who enjoys adventure, suspense, romance, and coming-of-age novels, because this one has it all.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for the review copy of this title.

 

The Keeping of Secrets by Alice Graysharp

About The Keeping of Secrets

The Keeping of Secrets CoverThe keeper of family secrets, Patricia Roberts grows up isolated and lonely. Trust no one and you won’t be disappointed is her motto. Three men fall in love with her and she learns to trust, only to find that their agendas are not her own. With secrets concealed from her by the ultimate love of her life, and with her own secret to keep, duplicity and deceit threaten their relationship. In a coming of age story set against the sweeping backdrop of the Second World War – evacuation, the Battle of Britain, the Blitz, buzz bombs and secret war work – Patricia ultimately has to decide whether to reveal her deepest held secret for the sake of her future happiness.

Purchase from Amazon UK – Amazon UK
Purchase from Barnes & Noble – Barnes & Noble

About Author Alice Graysharp

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Born and raised in the Home Counties, Alice Graysharp has enjoyed a varied working life from hospitality to office work and retail. She currently lives in Surrey. This is her first novel, and the first title in a two book series, she is also already working on a seventeenth century trilogy. Published in the anniversary month of the outbreak of the Second World War and the Battle of Britain
Website: https://www.alicegraysharp.com/

Q&A with Author, Alice Graysharp

1. How did you get started as a writer?

When I was six my parents and grandparents were subjected to recitals of my childish scribbling and I wrote an adventure story when I was ten. About two and a half years ago, I realized that time was passing and if I ever wanted to get a book published I’d better get on with it! I spoke with a publisher about a trilogy I had in mind and they suggested I start with a one-off story as a first time novel, so I wrote The Keeping of Secrets – although ironically it’s turned out to be the first of a two parter. I’d love to be in a financial position to write full time, so I need lots of people to buy my book (unsubtle hint!).

3. What is your favourite under-appreciated novel?

The Fisherman’s Daughter by Molly Jackson.

4. What is your favourite childhood book?

That’s a difficult one as I had different favourites at different stages of childhood. As a very young child I loved my Dad reading Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott to me. Then when I could first read, it was Enid Blyton’s The Adventurous Four, a story of spies, danger and derring-do in wartime Britain. At ten it was The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. All about keeping a secret, a familiar theme! If I had to pick one of them I suppose it would be The Scarlet Pimpernel.

5. Do you have a special room or place that you prefer to write?

At home it’s the end of the dining room table as that’s the only space available, but quite a lot of The Keeping of Secrets was actually written in cheap hotel rooms. Over the course of about a year I took myself off once every few weeks on a bargain deal, booking a room from 2pm till 12 noon the next day, stocking up at the supermarket on my way, then researching and writing for the next 22 hours, less about 4 hours sleep!

6. Tell us about your typical process for starting a new book.

I already have the rough storyline playing out in my head. I write episodically, so I’ll initially write a few scenes from different parts of the book to get a feel for the characters and events.

7. How do you select the names of your characters?

Chosing names can be tricky – you have to check there isn’t someone else with the same unusual name who might sue you for defamation! On the other hand, a very common name is safe. For my main character I balanced her name with an old fashioned middle name, Adela, and also gave that to her mother as that is quite traditional in some families. My main character’s first name, Patricia, is part of James’ chat up line, and the reason she was so named is echoed later. Most names flow from the characters or the era in which they live. Some surnames are an invented variation of a recognized surname.

8. What is the most difficult part of being a writer?

Finding time to do the actual writing! There’s the research before and during the writing, and then, after a book is published, there’s a lot of publicity work involved. I enjoy all these aspects of being an author. I’m often composing scenes in my head when I’m out and about, or revisit scenes I’ve thought about before, which makes the physical creation of the words when I have the time to do the writing a bit easier and quicker than if I tried to invent scenes from cold.

9. Are you working on any new novels at this time? If so, can you share a little about them?

I’m writing what I call an interquel – a story that slots in between the last chapter and the epilogue of The Keeping of Secrets. We meet a number of the characters again at different stages of their lives and find how a secret stumbled upon by a new character has repercussions over the years.

I’ve also started the seventeenth century trilogy that’s been in my head since I was sixteen about a new strong, passionate and resilient character, Free, and her experience of the Civil War, Commonwealth and the Restoration periods.

10. What is your favourite/most valued work that you have written?

Other than The Keeping of Secrets, that would be a poem about going to a derby football match. I’ve experienced the extra buzz in anticipating a derby fixture, the agony of losing and the ecstasy of winning.

Special thanks to Clink Street Publishing and to Author, Alice Graysharp for being a special guest at librarianlaura.com today. I hope you enjoy Alice’s novel as much as I have!

 

The Watcher by Monika Jephcott-Thomas

 

About The Watcher

The Watcher Cover.jpgIt’s 1949 when Netta’s father Max is released from a Siberian POW camp and returns to his home in occupied Germany. But he is not the man the little girl is expecting – the brave, handsome doctor her mother Erika told her stories of. Erika too struggles to reconcile this withdrawn, volatile figure with the husband she knew and loved before, and, as she strives to break through the wall Max has built around himself, Netta is both frightened and jealous of this interloper in the previously cozy household she shared with her mother and doting grandparents. Now, if family life isn’t tough enough, it is about to get even tougher, when a murder sparks a police investigation, which begins to unearth dark secrets they all hoped had been forgotten.
Amazon UK – http://amzn.to/2jpKeBs

About the Author

Monkika Jephcott Thomas.jpgMonika Jephcott Thomas grew up in Dortmund Mengede, north-west Germany. She moved to the UK in 1966, enjoying a thirty year career in education before retraining as a therapist. Along with her partner Jeff she established the Academy of Play & Child Psychotherapy in order to support the twenty per cent of children who have emotional, behavioural, social and mental health problems by using play and the creative Arts. A founder member of Play Therapy UK, Jephcott Thomas was elected President of Play Therapy International in 2002. In 2016 her first book Fifteen Words was published. Website – http://monika-jephcott-thomas.com/

Q&A with Author, Monika Jephcott-Thomas

1. How did you get started as a writer?

After my parents death I looked through all their papers, letters , photos and documents they left behind and decided they would be a good foundation for a novel.

2. How many hours a day do you write?

I don’t write daily, as writing is my hobby and not my main job, which is training adults who work with children in play therapy to alleviate their emotional, behavioural and mental health problems and enable their potential. See www playtherapy.org.uk

3. What is your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Goethe’s Werther

4. What is your favorite childhood book?

Gulliver’s Travels

5. Do you have a special room or place that you prefer to write?

Yes, in our house in France looking out into nature.

6. How do you select the names of your characters?

In my novels they came from German characters that I thought would fit.

7. What is the most difficult part of being a writer?

Having the inspiration at the time when I need it.

8. What is your favorite/most valued work that you have written?

My autobiography, Under the Pear Tree.

 

Special thanks to Clink Street Publishing and to Author, Monika Jephcott-Thomas for being a special guest at librarianlaura.com today. I hope you enjoy Monika’s novels as much as I have!

 

Fifteen Words by Monika Jephcott-Thomas

 

Fifteen Words Cover

Librarian Laura’s Review

Fifteen Words is set in 1930’s Nazi Germany. Recently married to his fellow physician and sweetheart, Erika, German soldier and doctor, Max Portner, is ripped from his happy days as a newlywed and sent off to the front lines to serve as a doctor for the German army during WWII.  About the only bright point of being involved in such an ugly war is the fact that two of his best friends and fellow physicians are by his side, Horst and Edgar. Then Max and his comrades are rounded up by the Russian enemy and made prisoners of war in a frozen work camp in Siberia called Gegesha, with little to no comfort, decency, or sustenance. Max is allowed to leave the camp for short periods of time, walking a long trek to a nearby village to serve as doctor to other Russian commanders and their wives. After returning from a rather eventful trip where he had to deliver a baby to a Russian officer’s wife, Max is accused wrongly by Volkov, the camp commanding officer. He is thrown into solitary confinement in a cage for six weeks for no apparent reason other than the brutality and hatred of Volkov for the German army.

Meanwhile, while Max is spending long, painful days as a POW, his young wife Erika travels with her father-in-law Karl to safety in another village after being thrown out of their household. Little known to Max, Erika is pregnant. Once her daughter, Netta, is born, Erika decides to start practicing medicine, as she has no clue when or if she will ever see her husband again. With the help of her father-in-law, Karl, and the handsome handyman Rodrick, Erika sets up a surgery unit in their home and begins seeing patients. Erika struggles to raise their daughter without Max present and while her home is destroyed by war.

The only communication between Max and Erika during the four years he is a POW in Gegesha is through brief, mundane messages, as the Russians only allow prisoners to send fifteen word messages to loved ones. As Max and Erika are kept apart, they each grow closer to and are tempted by others, threatening their own marriage.

Told in alternating points-of-view, Max and Erika’s daily lives unfold for readers. Though the couple is kept apart for over four years, while they each flashback to times they shared together. This is a love story, but also a story of survival during times of great trial and turmoil. Fans of both romance and historical fiction will enjoy this novel. The ending begs for a sequel, which Jephcott Thomas has written, called The Watcher.

About Author Monika Jephcott ThomasMonkika Jephcott Thomas

Monika Jephcott Thomas grew up in Dortmund Mengede, north-west Germany. She moved to the UK in 1966, enjoying a thirty year career in education before retraining as a therapist. Along with her partner Jeff she established the Academy of Play & Child Psychotherapy in order to support the twenty per cent of children who have emotional, behavioural, social and mental health problems by using play and the creative Arts. A founder member of Play Therapy UK, Jephcott Thomas was elected President of Play Therapy International in 2002. In 2016 her first book Fifteen Words was published.

Website – http://monika-jephcott-thomas.com/

Q&A With Monika Jephcott-Thomas

1. How did you get started as a writer?

After my parents death I looked through all their papers, letters , photos and documents they left behind and decided they would be a good foundation for a novel.

2. How many hours a day do you write?

I don’t write daily, as writing is my hobby and not my main job, which is training adults who work with children in play therapy to alleviate their emotional, behavioural and mental health problems and enable their potential. See www playtherapy.org.uk

3. What is your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Goethe’s Werther

4. What is your favorite childhood book?

Gulliver’s Travels

5. Do you have a special room or place that you prefer to write?

Yes, in our house in France looking out into nature.

6. How do you select the names of your characters?

In my novels they came from German characters that I thought would fit.

7. What is the most difficult part of being a writer?

Having the inspiration at the time when I need it.

8. What is your favorite/most valued work that you have written?

My autobiography, Under the Pear Tree.

Special thanks to Clink Street Publishing and to Author, Monika Jephcott-Thomas for being a special guest at librarianlaura.com today. I hope you enjoy Monika’s novels as much as I have!

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

After waiting 5medium years for John Green to publish another young adult book, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the long wait was totally worth it!

Turtles All the Way Down is the story of Aza Holmes, a 16 year old high school student, and her daily struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder. The author also struggles daily with obsessive compulsive disorder, and in a sense Aza’s story has been and continues to be his story. Though the story is fictional, he also writes from a very personal perspective, as he has struggled with the same mental illness since his childhood. At first, I wondered and pondered where in the world the title and the fabulous stack of orange turtle shapes on the cover came from. But then I read a great interview/article about Green and the meaning of the book and it all made sense. About three-quarters of the way through the novel, Green reveals (through Aza) why turtles are used as a symbol for Aza’s OCD thought spirals. You can read the article here.

As with most John Green novels, there is a little bit of mystery and a little bit of romance to keep the story unique and oh so fun to read. Additionally, the novel takes place in Green’s hometown of Indianapolis, which I love. Born and raised a Hoosier, and having lived in Indianapolis for a number of years, I find it so cool to read about places I’ve been and roads that I’ve traveled on in a fictional story. Total fan girl moment!

Aza spends her days in class and many evenings hanging out at Applebees with her best friend Daisy. Daisy is a fun-loving character who writes Star Wars fan fiction, and certainly a friend I would like to have. Aza’s mom is a high school teacher, and her father passed away suddenly when Aza was younger. Aza dreads her required visits with her therapist, Dr. Singh, and doesn’t always take the prescribed medication, as she feels that a tiny white pill shouldn’t be in control of her decisions or her self. The story takes an interesting twist when Aza crosses paths with an old friend from “sad camp,” Davis Pickett.  Davis lost his mother at a young age, so he and Aza share a common loss – that of a parent. Davis’s father, Russell,  has mysteriously disappeared, and there is a $100,000 reward at stake for anyone who helps authorities locate him. Russell Pickett is extremely rich, but also a fugitive, who is wanted for a fraud and bribery. He disappears in order to avoid being arrested, a move which leaves Davis and his younger brother Noah to fend for themselves. Aza decides to investigate and drags Daisy into her plans. What else has she got to do? And it will give her a chance to get to know Davis a little better, now that he’s all grown up and stirs in Aza new feelings that she hasn’t felt before.

As Aza digs into Russell’s disappearance and tries to sort out what little clues there are, she also grows closer and closer to Davis. However, she is having more difficulty maintaining control of her thought spirals and OCD-induced behaviors. The story peaks and then ends on a bittersweet note, but not in an expected or predictable way, which is much appreciated.

Turtles All the Way Down is now my favorite John Green novel. Green’s personal experience with mental illness shines through in Aza’s character, causing the story to take a life of its own in such a beautiful direction. I would highly recommend this novel to teens and adults. The language is more of the adult nature, but there aren’t any explicit scenes as in some young adult books. As with all John Green novels, there are some memorable passages and quotes that will always stick with me.

Here are a few of my favorites:

When Aza sees Davis in the restaurant on date night, she notices his sleeves are exposing his forearms and notes, “I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been pretty keen on the male forearm.” I think this is perfectly quirky and lovable, just like Aza.

And my ultimate favorite is on the final page during a good-bye moment, “no one ever says good-bye unless they want to see you again.” Ending the book in that way leaves a hopeful outlook for Aza.

Read this book. You will love every page. Trust me. I read and I know things! (That’s on a t-shirt I saw, and I think I must have it.)