May 28, 2015

The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey

The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey 
ISBN: 9780143124733
Trade Paperback

 For fans of Downton Abbey: the enthralling true story of family secrets and aristocratic intrigue in the days before WWI

After the Ninth Duke of Rutland, one of the wealthiest men in Britain, died alone in a cramped room in the servants’ quarters of Belvoir Castle on April 21, 1940, his son and heir ordered the room, which contained the Rutland family archives, sealed. Sixty years later, Catherine Bailey became the first historian given access. What she discovered was a mystery: The Duke had painstakingly erased three periods of his life from all family records—but why? As Bailey uncovers the answers, she also provides an intimate portrait of the very top of British society in the turbulent days leading up to World War I.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. I enjoyed the first third of this book and the last few chapters. Where this book fell down for me was in the middle. Once it started talking about the war and how John's mother and uncle were trying to keep his out of it that is where I got lost. It was just very dry for me and I wanted it to be a little more juicy as to why there were parts of this man's life missing. I think I was hoping for more of a mystery as to why he had rooms shut off and why he lived in just one room at the end of his life. I am still not quite sure why the rooms were kept shut up for so long. I know John ordered them that way but why did his descendants never open them to see what was in there. It does go to show if you know the right people and have enough money you can escape things like war. There is one mystery that is still a mystery and that is the death of John's brother. 

The Proposal at Siesta Key by Shelley Shepard Gray

I received this book from Litfuse Group in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Proposal at Siesta Key by Shelley Shepard Gray
Amish Brides of Pinecraft Series #2
ISBN: 9780062337726
Trade Paperback - 288 pages

A young Amish woman, yearning for freedom, crosses paths with a handsome Mennonite celebrity in a deeply moving tale of friendship and self-discovery—the second installment in the unforgettable New York Times bestselling author’s new Amish Brides of Pinecraft series.

Penny Troyer rarely disobeys her parents. In the years since her sister’s tragic death, they’ve wanted nothing more than to keep her safe…even if it means never leaving the house.

But tonight, she’s bending the rules because Michael Knoxx, the most famous member of The Knoxx Family Singers, a traveling Mennonite Evangelical family —is scheduled to speak. Penny has heard of Michael—how he lost part of his leg in a terrible accident and uses the experience to inspire others—and knows she must meet him. So, for the first time ever, Penny stands up to her parents and goes out on her own.

Though he speaks about living life to the fullest, Michael knows he needs to take his own advice. Life on the road is grueling and Michael wants to slow down, to rest…to perhaps meet someone who sees him as a man, not just a celebrity. So when a twist of fate allows him the chance to stay a little longer in Pinecraft, Michael knows God is showing him a new path, especially when he discovers how much he and Penny Troyer have in common.

But new friendships can’t stop time. Soon, Michael’s time in Pinecraft will be over and he’ll be back on the road. Her time with Michael has brought her happiness, but will she be able to follow her heart? Or will she be faced with the one thing she’s sure she’ll never have the courage to do?

I enjoyed this next installment in the Amish Brides of Pinecraft series. It is fun getting to know the characters and watching them find their match. This book mixes both Amish and Mennonite cultures as Penny, who is Amish, goes against her parent’s wishes to get to know Michael, who is a Mennonite. Her parents just want to keep her safe and mean well.  As always the author does a great job of describing the town of Pinecraft and all the scenes so you feel as if you are right in Florida with the characters. I like how Shelley’s writing just seems to flow making the book read quickly. She grabs you on page one and before you know you are so engrossed you lose a day and the book is over. If you are a fan of Amish fiction then this is a book for you. I am looking forward to the next book in this series. 
Proposal Siesta Key Shelley Shepard Gray
Click here to enter giveaway

May 27, 2015

Books That Caught Our Eye - May 27th

This is a meme by Mailbox Monday that talks about books that caught their eye on the Mailbox Monday threads. I am going to do a little twist on mine and tell you about books that I have found I would like to read. 

That Summer by Lauren Willig

2009: When Julia Conley hears that she has inherited a house outside London from an unknown great-aunt, she assumes it's a joke. She hasn't been back to England since the car crash that killed her mother when she was six, an event she remembers only in her nightmares. But when she arrives at Herne Hill to sort through the house--with the help of her cousin Natasha and sexy antiques dealer Nicholas--bits of memory start coming back. And then she discovers a pre-Raphaelite painting, hidden behind the false back of an old wardrobe, and a window onto the house's shrouded history begins to open...
1849: Imogen Grantham has spent nearly a decade trapped in a loveless marriage to a much older man, Arthur. The one bright spot in her life is her step-daughter, Evie, a high-spirited sixteen year old who is the closest thing to a child Imogen hopes to have. But everything changes when three young painters come to see Arthur's collection of medieval artifacts, including Gavin Thorne, a quiet man with the unsettling ability to read Imogen better than anyone ever has. When Arthur hires Gavin to paint her portrait, none of them can guess what the hands of fate have set in motion.From modern-day England to the early days of the Preraphaelite movement, Lauren Willig's That Summer takes readers on an un-put-downable journey through a mysterious old house, a hidden love affair, and one woman's search for the truth about her past--and herself.

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

The amazing power and truth of the Rapunzel fairy tale comes alive for the first time in this breathtaking tale of desire, black magic and the redemptive power of love

French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. At the convent, she is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens...
After Margherita's father steals parsley from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off, unless he and his wife relinquish their precious little girl. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death. She is at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition.
Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does.
Award-winning author Kate Forsyth braids together the stories of Margherita, Selena, and Charlotte-Rose, the woman who penned Rapunzel as we now know it, to create what is a sumptuous historical novel, an enchanting fairy tale retelling, and a loving tribute to the imagination of one remarkable woman.

Snail Mail by Michelle Mackintosh

Snail Mail reintroduces the lost pleasure and art of personal correspondence, beautiful presentation, and manners to today’s world of instant communication. In a world of 140-character limits, Snapchats, text-speak, and internet trolls, are we losing the ability to really communicate with our loved ones Snail Mail aims to bring back handwritten communication—and more—in one beautifully illustrated and perfectly proper little package. Inspired by Japanese stationery and letter-writing culture, Michelle Mackintosh introduces the reader to the charm of the handwritten letter, personalized packages, and handcrafted stationery. Beautifully illustrated and complete with cutout postcard designs, papercraft, and rubber stamp templates, Snail Mail is full of equally useful and whimsical advice, like how to say thank you in a letter and other old-school etiquette; how to take time and reflect on your life through writing; how to improve and celebrate your own handwriting; how to make your own paper; how to romance someone the old-school way; how to make pen friends and DIY beautiful invitations for any occasion. It’s time to take back the written word!

500 Acres and No Place to Hide by Susan McCorkindale

The hilarious follow-up to the memoir, Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl
It's been four years since Susan's husband dragged her kicking and screaming from their comfortable, big city East Coast life to a farm in Virginia cattle country. Susan's adjusting as best she can, which isn't easy considering she's been known to wear Manolos in manure. She'll never be a real farm girl, but as readers will see from her side- splitting confessions, she's faking it just fine.

The Cornish House by Liz Fenwick

When artist Maddie inherits a house in Cornwall shortly after the death of her husband, she hopes it will be the fresh start she and her step-daughter desperately need. Trevenen is beautiful but neglected, and as Maddie discovers the stories of generations of women who've lived there before, she begins to feel her life is somehow intertwined within its walls. But Maddie's dream of a calm life in the countryside is far from the reality she faces - and as she pulls at the seams of Trevenen's past, the house reveals secrets that have lain hidden for generations.

Rurally Screwed by Jessie Knadler

A magazine editor in New York, Jessie Knadler had a habit of always looking over her shoulder for better options. She wasn’t quite sure moving to Montana and marrying a cowboy was a better option—but, head over heels in love, she did it anyway. 

At a loss in her new rural environment, she hoped that activities like chicken farming and fence building might provide her with a more profound, virtuous sense of self (and make her husband Jake love her even more). It all led her to some strange situations—and surprising realizations. Written with huge personality and searing wit, Rurally Screwed is an immensely entertaining and moving memoir about the things we do for love—and the lengths we’ll go to find our true identity.

Secrets of the Lighthouse by Santa Montefiore

Set in Ireland on the wild coast of Connemara, this hauntingly romantic novel tells the story of a young woman who goes in search of her family’s past and ends up discovering her future.

Ellen Trawton is running away from it all. She hates her job, she doesn’t love the aristocratic man to whom she is engaged, and her relationship with her controlling mother is becoming increasingly strained. So Ellen leaves London, fleeing to the one place she knows her mother won’t find her, her aunt’s cottage in Connemara. Cutting all her ties with chic London society, Ellen gives in to Ireland’s charm and warmth, thinking her future may lie where so much of her past has been hidden. Her imagination is soon captured by the compelling ruins of a lighthouse where, five years earlier, a young mother died in a fire.

The ghost of the young wife, Caitlin, haunts the nearby castle, mourning the future she can never have there. Unable to move on, she watches her husband and children, hoping they might see her and feel her love once more. But she doesn’t anticipate her husband falling in love again. Can she prevent it? Or can she let go and find a way to freedom and happiness?

The ruggedly beautiful Connemara coastline with its tightknit community of unforgettable characters provides the backdrop for this poignant story of two women seeking the peace and love they desperately need. For each, the key will be found in the secrets of the past, illuminated by the lighthouse.

Reading the World by Ann Morgan

In 2012, the world arrived in London for the Olympics...and Ann Morgan went out to meet it. She read her way around all the globe's 196 independent countries (plus one extra), sampling one book from every nation. It wasn't easy. Many languages have next to nothing translated into English; there are tiny, tucked-away places where very little is written down at all; some governments don't like to let works of art leak out to corrupt Westerners. Her literary adventures shed light on the issues that affect us all: personal, political, national and global. Using her quest as a starting point, this book explores questions such as: What is cultural heritage? How do we define national identity? Is it possible to overcome censorship and propaganda? And how can we celebrate, challenge and change our remarkable world?

May 26, 2015

The Quick and The Thread by Amanda Lee

The Quick and the Thread by Amanda Lee
An Embroidery Mystery #1
ISBN: 9780451230966
Mass Market Paperback - 313 pages

For the grand opening of her shop, the Seven Year Stitch, Marcy throws a soiree. Her friend Sadie, who owns the coffee shop down the street, provides the delicious refreshments, and the party goes swimmingly. Marcy's registration sheet for embroidery classes fills up, and everyone in town seems willing to raise a glass - or a needle - to support the shop. 

But the morning after the party, Marcy and Angus, her pooch, find a nasty surprise: The man who leased the shop before Marcy is lying dead in the storeroom, with a message scratched by a tapestry needle on the wall beside him. Now Marcy's shop has become a crime scene, and she's a suspect in the murder. But Marcy will be darned if she doesn't get to the bottom of this mystery, because it's starting to look as if someone's intent on putting the final stitch in her. 

This was a fun start to a new to me series. I have to say that the author did a good job of keeping me guessing up until the end of the book. I thought I had it figured out as a one or two of the people acted a little funny. That mixed with a few clues led me down the wrong path. It was a surprise to me who actually was the murderer. I liked Marcy and Angus from the first page and her mom sounds like a hoot, I hope we get to see more of her in future books. Sadie and her husband are very nice as well although she fights with Marcy like sisters do. I am anxious to see who Marcy ends up dating in the future books - Todd or Detective Nash. Another person that I hope to see more of is Amber. All the characters were good even if the were not good people. The author did a good job in her descriptions of the crafts and such as I could almost see the projects that Marcy was creating. This was a very quick read for me and I read the entire book in one day. I am looking forward in continuing on in this series. 

May 25, 2015

Mailbox Monday - May 25

Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share what came in their mailbox. This meme has a permanent home at Mailbox Monday and was created by Marcia at To Be Continued I am linking up to Mailbox Monday

To be reviewed

The Great Estate by Sherri Browning
To be released in August 2015

Pulled apart by past mistakes. Sophia Thorne was young and inexperienced when she arried the dashing Earl of Averford ... and through dark and troubled times, their relationship nearly came to an end. Now she's determined to transform herself into the fiery, ardent lover she always wanted to be, giving them a second chance at love ... before they're lost to each other forever. 

Driven by a passion neither could deny. It took nearly losing Sophia for Gabriel to realize he had allowed the love for his great estate to distract him from his beautiful wife. But that time is over. Despite all the obstacles standing in their way, Gabriel vows to teach Sophia what it is to truly love ... and to be loved by a husband devoted heart and soul to her every desire. 

Thornbrook Park Series
#1 Thornbrook Park
#2 An Affair Downstairs
#3 The Great Estate

Hutterite Diaries by Linda Maendel

Imagine life on a prairie. What would it be like to share your possessions and live in Christian Community? In Hutterite Diaries, Linda Maendel offers a rare glimpse into the daily routines and relational faith of her people, the Hutterian Brethren. With stories ranging from accounts of Hutterite weddings to a hilarious tale of an accidental baptism by salad dressing, Maendel invites readers into her colony. Here, nestled on the prairie of western Canada, children and adults work, play, eat, and worship together, crafting a community of goods and living out an alternative to the individualism and consumerism of mainstream society. 

Few outsiders know anything about the Hutterities, a plain Christian group related to the Amish and Mennonites. Maendel's story invites readers into deeper understanding of this community of faith, calling us to take seriously the example of Jesus and the early church in our daily living. 

Hear straight from plain Christians as they write about their daily lives and deeply rooted faith in the Plainspoken series from Herald Press. Each book in the series includes "A Day in the Life of the Author" and the author's answers to FAQs.

Plainspoken Series
#1 Chasing the Amish Dream by Loren Beachy
#2 Called to be Amish by Marlene C. Miller
#3 Hutterite Diaries by Linda Maendel

A Heart's Betrayal by Colleen Coble

Emmie finds shelter in the arms of a soldier, but her secret could drive them apart. 

When Emmie Croftner answered teh door to her late husband's home, she discovered an awful truth: her deceased husband was a bigamist. And what's more, the home she thought she inherited never belonged to her at all. 

Suddenly displaced, powerless and ashamed, Emmie can't stay in Wabash, Indiana. She makes a hopeful start for Fort Laramie, Wyoming, to find her friend Sarah Montgomery and a new beginning. But when she arrives, she discovers she's pregnant - and without a husband. The new start she'd hoped for slips from her fingers. 

But then she meets Isaac Liddle, a handsome soldier with a kind heart. When he begins to court her, Emmie wonders whether she could never really be his - and whether she dares to tell him she is carrying another man's baby. 

Journey of the Heart Series
#1 A Heart's Disguise
#2 A Heart's Obsession 
#3 A Heart's Danger
#4 A Heart's Betrayal


Crazy Rich by Jerry Oppenheimer
Power, Scandal and Tragedy Inside the Johnson & Johnson Dynasty

One of the most iconic American dynasties, the Johnsons have often mirrored the Kennedy clan's dark side. Their entrepreneurial prowess has brought them enormous power and success in business, but in private their lives have been haunted by misfortune. Now, in this scrupulously researched biography, New York Times bestselling author Jerry Oppenheimer places the Johnson & Johnson dynasty under a journalistic microscope, as he reveals the secrets behind their immense power, extraordinary wealth, and provocative dramas. 

There was "The General", the contemporary patriarch who humiliatingly fired his son as president of the family business, both dying of cancer soon after. Dynasty legal wars were rampant over wills, inheritances, paternity, and even the word "spouse". One Johnson scion went through a $100 million divorce before his second marriage gave him the namesake he so desperately wanted. 

From the founders in the late-nineteenth century who brought the world scores of health-care and first-aid products with the Red Cross as their logo, to the contemporary Johnsons, including the billionaire owner of the New York Jets, Robert Wood "Woody" Johnson IV, Oppenheimer explores how the family's riches have had a corrupting and toxic impact. 

Chocolate Wars by Deborah Cadbury
The 150-year Rivalry Between the World's Greatest Chocolate Makers

In the early nineteenth century the major English chocolate firms - Fry, Rowntree and Cadbury - were all Quaker family enterprises that aimed to do well by doing good. The English chocolatiers introduced the world's first chocolate bar and ever fancier chocolate temptations - while also writing groundbreaking papers on poverty, publishing authoritative studies of the Bible, and campaigning against human rights abuses. Chocolate was always a global business, and in the global competitors, especially the Swiss and teh Americans Hershey and Mars, the Quaker capitalists met their match.  The ensuing chocolate wars would culminate in a multi-billion-dollar showdown pitting Quaker tradition against the cutthroat tactics of a corporate behemoth. 

Featuring a cast of savvy entrepreneurs, brilliant eccentrics, and resourceful visionaries, Chocolate Wars is a delicious history of the fierce, 150-year business rivalry for one of the world's most coveted markets. 

Winds of Skilak by Bonnie Rose Ward
A Tale of True Grit, True Love and Survival in the Alaskan Wilderness

With that grim sign, Sam and Bonnie Ward arrive at their new home. Leaving behind friends, family and life as they know it, the Wards embark on a journey into the Alaskan wilderness that will change them forever. 

Winds of Skilak traces a young couple's adventurous move from the suburbs of Ohio to a remote island on ill-tempered Skilak Lake. As Sam and Bonnie adapt to a life without running water, electricity and telephones, the unforgiving, desolate environment tests their courage early on. Facing sub-freezing temperatures, unfriendly bears, and cabin fever, the Wards find strength in new friends, each other, and the awe-inspiring beauty of "the last frontier". Just when they finally settle in, a freak accident proves to be the ultimate test of their resolve. Will they be able to survive in this isolated wilderness filled with unseen dangers? 

Author Bonnie Ward chronicles an exciting and thought-provoking tale of one couple's faith in God and dedication to each other through all of Alaska's curveballs. Winds of Skilak is a true tale of absorbing force, sure to bring out your own sense of adventure. 

Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl by Susan McCorkingdale

The traffic in Jersey was bad. As her husband's prompting, suburban mom and career woman Susan McCorkindale agreed to give up her job and her friends in the big city and move south with their two sons to a five-hundred-acre beef-cattle farm. Her husband never looked back. Soon after playing "spot the religious billboard" on teh drive to rural Virginia, she did. And she has a lot of confessions to make about life on the farm...

But at least there weren't any large animals in it ... From adapting to a world without Starbucks to planning bright orange hunter-resistant wardrobes for the kids so they wouldn't get shot on their own property. Susan had to learn the hard way that Manolos and manure just don't mix. For a city slicker to love - or at least tolerate - country life, she had to make some radical adjustments and learn some surprising things about herself. 

Fresh out of the wilderness, Susan reveals life in the sticks in a sharp, smart and hilarious voice sure to delight readers as well as provide a cautionary tale if you're ready to leave the city behind. 

Mesabi Pioneers by Russell Hill and Jeffrey Smith

I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

Mesabi Pioneers by Russell Hill and Jeffrey Smith
ISBN: 9780990659105
Paperback - 252 pages

Here is the highly readable account of one of the remarkable achievements of the 19th century: how a remote tree-covered area of northern Minnesota became America's greatest source of iron ore. It is 1891. An improbable team of American businessmen and European immigrants hunt for iron ore in a formidable expanse of dense pine forest. Fighting isolation, harsh winters, and mosquito-infested summers, they find it. What follows is an extraordinary tale of both personal and technological achievement. Mesabi Pioneer s brings the pursuit of iron ore to vivid life, illuminating the men and women mostly forgotten by history, who built an industry, carved towns from trees, and created a rich culture that lasts to this day.

This was a very interesting story of the hunt for iron ore in Minnesota in the 1800s. I have not read anything about this before and me being from Nebraska which is not a far jaunt from Minnesota thought this would be an interesting book not to mention my love of books set in the 1800s. The characters of this book are very strong and interesting. I thought the authors did a good job in telling how the immigrants and the Native Americans interacted and the trials they faced with each other. Another thing the author did well was to describe all the scenes, landscapes, and weather conditions so you really felt a part of the story. If you are looking for a story that helps tell the story of what shaped a part of our country and as a history fan then you will enjoy this book. I am looking forward to more books by this author.  

About the author:
Jeffrey Smith began his love of letters at fourteen on a Smith-Corona electric typewriter borrowed from his father. He is a full-time writer, homemaker and stay-at-home parent in Berlin, Maryland. Also an accomplished distance runner, Jeffrey has completed 16 marathons, seven 24-hour relay races, and multiple ultra-runs, including several 100-mile races. He blogs about writing, running, and parenting at

For more information visit You can also follow Mesabi Pioneers on Facebook and Twitter.


Be sure to stop by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours to see all the stops on the tour

May 24, 2015

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
ISBN: 9780101873441
Trade Paperback

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone.

Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

I have to say I was a little disappointed in this book. I really wanted to like it more than I did. The idea of setting off on a trail by yourself and hearing the experiences of this trip is what drew me to pick up this book.  What I did not like about this book was that it felt kind of depressing and dark.  From reading this book I know the author had a rough like up until this point in her life and understand why she took this trip so I guess that is why she took the route she did in writing this. Cheryl was a very strong person as I know I myself could not have done this trip at all. I can not imagine all that she went through - pain, loneliness, anger, fear etc. I was happy to read that she made it all the way to the end like she wanted to and that she is living a happy life now.  I don't want to say it was a bad book but rather just not the book for me. I did push through and make it all the way to the end and am glad I did.