In the Shadow of the Empress by Nancy Goldstone

In the Shadow of the Empress: The Defiant Lives of Maria Theresa, Mother of Marie Antoinette, and Her Daughters

The vibrant, sprawling saga of Empress Maria Theresa—one of the most renowned women rulers in history—and three of her extraordinary daughters, including Marie Antoinette, the doomed queen of France.

That is the blurb on this very interesting look at this Empress and her daughters. And with Nancy Goldstone as the author I knew this would be good. She has such a way of making Non-Fiction read like the best story you can imagine. Never dull or dry. I adored this book.

This is the story of eighteenth century Maria Theresa, a strong woman who ruled the entire Habsburg Empire. We also learn about her daughters, who were also strong rulers in their own right. The Governor-General of the Austrian Netherlands, Maria Christina. Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples and of course, Marie Antoinette, Queen of France and the one you have probably heard the most about.

But all of them were extraordinary. The imagery of the royal courts is well done. The research put into this book is astounding. Reading this was a history lesson inside a story. A story of hope, desire, betrayal and every hardship one could imagine.

This is one I shall keep and share for a long time.

NetGalley/ September 21st, 2021 by Little, Brown and Company

When SPARKS Fly by Helena Hunting

We all know I am not a romance fan. But a Rom-Com? Yes, I’m in. And this author does a great job with balancing.

Avery Spark and her sisters run Spark House, an event hotel. It keeps them all super busy and Avery is the most passionate about the business and sports. She still lives with her best friend, Declan, who is a great friend and a player with the ladies.

Nobody has time for relationships and nobody is looking for one. For some reason Declan will never settle down. But their little group of three guy friends and Avery enjoy playing soccer and hanging out. Just one of the boys.

And things are going great until Declan lets her down and she ends up in a bad car accident. Since Declan can work from and needs to assuage his guilt over not being there for her, he decides to take care of her every need. Medical and emotional.

The more time they spend together the more the relationship evolves into something that may end their friendship or turn them into a couple. But it’s all so new and they are both so scared of loss, we just don’t know how it will end!

This was funny and sad and sexy and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

NetGalley/ St.Martin’s Griffin September 21,2021

IRON WIDOW by KIRAN JAY ZHAO

While this draws on a few real characters in history, make no mistake, it is a Sci-Fy, Fantasy, Futuristic tale that touches on the place women still have in society. Second. Disposable.

And then it just dives right in to giant fighting machines called Chrysalises, transforming robots that battle with mecha aliens that have almost destroyed everything. The pilots are boys. The girls or concubine pilots give of their life force and no one seems to care that they lose their lives.

Except 18 -year-old Zetian. She has plans of revenge after her sister died during one of these fights. She doesn’t use normal weapons. She takes on her pilot with her mind and is the only one returning. With a nickname. Iron Widow.

She has turned the tables on the boys and will now use them as ‘fuel’. They are afraid of her and what she can do. They try pairing her with the strongest male pilot in Huaxia. But Zetian has tasted the power and she likes it. Now her mission is to find out why only girls are being used and disposed of.

She is one of the strongest characters I have seen. She has had enough and is not taking it anymore. This is not my usual genre but I am very glad I read it. I felt empowered and ready to fight.

Well Done.

NetGalley/September 21st, 2021 by Penguin Teen

HARLEM Shuffle by COLSON WHITEHEAD

Harlem Shuffle

Harlem Between 1959 and 1961.

“Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked…”

Carney sells furniture at a good price at his store on 125th Street. He’s married to Elizabeth and they are having their second baby. Times are tight but they are happy.

People like him. They have no idea that he comes from a line of crooks. He may act normal and talk normal, but that seedy side is still inside of him. He isn’t making big bucks so when his cousin sometimes drops off an item, he doesn’t ask where he got it.

When said cousin falls in with a really bad crowd. They are making plans to rob the Hotel Theresa. Fancy for Harlem. A lot of the book is about them planning crimes that go badly.

Unfortunately for Carney, his cousin has volunteered him for the job. His associates believe he is a fence. These are guys you don’t say no to. And things go bad. So badly that Carney has a lot of new associates. And none of them is the good kind.

Now he has to decide. The businessman or the crook. Can he avoid getting killed? Will he finally have some money? Will he still be able to sell his furniture?

This was less violent than the other books. But the racism and crookedness are all there. It’s painful to read but Ray Carney is a character who has a story worth telling.

NetGalley/September 14th, 2021 by Doubleday

No New Frontier stretched before him, endless and bountiful—that was for white folks—but this new land was a few blocks at least and in Harlem a few blocks was everything. A few blocks was the difference between strivers and crooks, between opportunity and the hard scrabble.’

HER PERFECT LIFE by HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN

Her Perfect Life

Meet Lily Atwood. Famous television reporter with everything going for her. Money, awards, a producer who does her every bidding and a seven-year-old daughter who is adorable! Her life is perfect. Maybe. But secrets have a way of coming out at the most inconvenient of times. And Lily is keeping some big ones.

Lily now has an anonymous source feeding her stories. The stories pan out but the source becomes questionable when he begins feeding Lily information about herself. Who is this person and what do they know about her?

It becomes clear that someone is playing with her life. Does it have anything to do with the disappearance of her sister years ago? Or maybe her child’s father come to haunt her? With literally no one to trust she will have to trust her gut and maybe one other person. Maybe.

This was a twisty one. A total mind screw. With Ryan, it’s always a thrill ride as you try and untangle the knots of intrigue!

NetGalley/September 14th, 2021 by Forge Books



SCANDAL IN BABYLON by BARBARA HAMBLY

Scandal in Babylon

The year is 1924. Emma Blackstone was barely married to her husband when he was shipped off to war and was killed. Followed by her brother and more tragedy with her parents deaths. So young for so much death.

Emma is a curious and scholarly sort. She cringes at the inaccuracies in the Roman piece they are filming.

While Emma is getting an education in America and Hollywood in particular, she has nothing to go back to in England. And things could be worse.

Such as Kitty’s first husband, Rex showing up unexpectedly in her dressing room with a bullet through the head. Kitty may be flighty and naughty but a killer she is not.

This being the twenties in Hollywood, there are gangsters, slick movie producers, shady cops and insane competition for the title of IT girl. Is that what this is about? A frame? Or has Kitty dallied with the wrong man?

I loved all of the old Hollywood gossip and petty jealousy. These women were so young and vulnerable. They worked hard hours and partied the rest of the time.

I enjoy Hollywood Historical Fiction. I liked Emma, although there was a bit too much quoting of Latin phrases. And I just didn’t feel we really knew her. I am sure she will grow and entertain us as the series goes on.

NetGalley/ September 7th, 2021 by Severn House Publishers

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THE CHILDREN’S SECRET by NINA MONROE

The Children's Secret

“Nothing ever happens in a sleepy town like Middlebrook. Until the residents are shaken to their core, when one hot Saturday afternoon, at a back-to-school party, nine children sneak into a barn…and only eight come out unharmed.

The press immediately starts asking questions. What type of parents let their children play unsupervised in a house with guns? What kind of child pulls the trigger on their friend? And most importantly: of the nine children who were present in that barn, which one actually pulled the trigger, and why are the others staying silen
t?”

Just reading the synopsis of this book had me hooked. In today’s polarizing views on gun control, this was one I wanted to read.

Six families living in a small neighborhood. Eva and her husband and daughter recently moved here from England. Eva is hoping with school almost ready to start up, that her daughter, Lily, will make friends.

She encourages one of the other families to host a party so the kids can get to know each other. Kaitlin Wright and her husband aren’t thrilled with the idea. Their son is introverted and prefers being alone. He had a good friend, but no more.

We have a family with twins, from Pakistan, whose father is building a mosque in town. We have the single mom and former attorney whose daughter is a mystery to everyone. We have the off the grid single father who is raising three kids alone and the Rev. Avery, who is fostering two kids.

Priscilla, the mother of Astrid has forbidden her daughter to go to the party, but we all know kids. Especially in a small town where they all know each other. She’s going to go.

While the parents socialize, the kids are in the barn with the dog and horses. Until there is a scream and a gunshot. And not everyone is coming out of there on their own two feet.

But where is the gun? And so begins the battle among the families and the press. There were a lot of extremes in this tale. NO GUNS EVER! GUNS ARE FINE. Everyone has an agenda and the children aren’t talking at all.

I enjoyed the story. Although all the parents pretty much seemed the same. The children were great little characters and acted more like adults than the adults did.

NetGalley/ September 7th, 2021 by Crooked Lane Books



Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang

Beautiful Country: A Memoir

Beautiful Country puts readers in the shoes of an undocumented child living in poverty in the richest country in the world.

I loved that description. It is perfect for this beautifully written memoir.

The Chinese word for America, Mei Guo, translates to “beautiful country”. And when seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York in 1994, coming with her mother to reunite with her father who has been here for 2 years already, she is almost paralyzed with fear.

In China her parents were Professors. In America, they are illegal and must work at menial labor jobs that barely pay the rent much less food or clothes. Her Ma Ma constantly reminds her to stay hidden.

Looked down on and shunned by the kids at school and the teachers, her only savior is the library. This is where she learns everything. Her treasures are found on the filthy streets, tossed out by other poor people. She is constantly afraid, hungry and dirty.

Her parents are always fighting. Ma Ma is tired of sweatshops and wants to go home but Ba Ba is determined to stay. When her mother enrolls in school to get a degree, her father is even angrier. And when a health emergency arrives, they are sure they will be deported.

I was amazed at how the author told her childhood story. It was raw and gritty and not at all nice. But through it all you can just see this little girl was not giving an inch! She belonged here and she made her own opportunities.

It broke my heart hearing the way they were treated. Highly educated people being looked down on and judged because they wanted a life without fear of reprisals from a corrupt government and yet when they got to this land of opportunity, the opportunity is available to those born here. It made me uncomfortable and embarrassed and I think we all need to read this and take a hard look at how we treat immigrants.

I hope we hear more of her story. Very Well Done!

NetGalley/September 7th, 2021 by Doubleday Books

Whisper Cottage by Anne Wyn Clark

Whisper Cottage

How well do you know the woman next door? 



-Stina and Jack are expecting a baby. So they move out of the city to Avoncote. In a rather shabby but cute semi-detached cottage. There is a lot of work to be done on the cottage beginning with the re-thatching of the roof. And since they are joined to their elderly neighbor, Mrs. Barley, hers will be done as well.

It’s while the men work on the roof that they find a bizarre find in the chimney next door. mummified cats. And then the odd noises in the night begin. And the questions. Why is everyone in town afraid of Mrs. Barley? Is she just a nice old lady or is she something much worse? Is that a man Stina sees in her window? Is it the same man she keeps seeing outside, but no one else does?

For one, this story made me look at my neighbor a bit closer. Stina was just not a character I clicked with. I’m not fond of weak women. This is a good look at what secrets and rumors can do to a life and a town. And that was powerful.

,NetGalley/ September 2nd 2021 by Avon