The Lost Carousel of Provence by Juliet Blackwell

So good ❤️📚

An artist lost to history, a family abandoned to its secrets, and the woman whose search for meaning unearths it all in a sweeping and expressive story from the New York Times bestselling author of Letters from Paris . 

Cady Drake had a rough start in life. Orphaned and shuffled through the foster system she lucked out the day Maxine, owner of an antique and junk shop, takes her in for good. From Maxine, Cady learns about life and restoring to life beautiful pieces of the past that have been abandoned or neglected.

When Maxine dies, Cady is adrift. Terrified to be alone and her good friend Olivia thinks she has the answer to Cady’s problems. A book. Not just any book, but a book about the carousels of Paris. Cady has her own carousel rabbit. Gus, who in a fit of frustration Cady gives a good kick, unlocking a hidden compartment containing a box and a photo with a full carousel in the background. As a photographer, Cady is intrigued by the photo and how old it is. And in that moment she takes the commission and heads to Paris.

She loves taking pictures of the beautiful carousels in Paris but she really wants to find this Chateau Clement in Provence and find out if her Gus is part of their carousel.
What she finds is a long neglected château, and an angry old man who wants nothing to do with her or anyone else. But Cady isn’t one to take no for an answer and soon she has everyone involved trying to put the carousel back and find out who this mystery woman is.

Told in the past and the present, this was such a beautiful story. No, the characters weren’t perfect. And the past isn’t always pretty. But it’s only when secrets and misunderstandings come out in the light, that healing will begin.

I’m quite sure I will never miss a novel by Ms. Blackwell!

*****

BOOM TOWN by SAM ANDERSON

Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis

Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis

A lively and introspective look into Oklahoma City, where colorful city officials business leaders, artists, and sports fans have turned an unassuming Southwestern city into a thriving metropolis with a dazzling basketball team.

Sam Anderson–award-winning critic and journalist–makes his long-awaited debut with a stunning, insightful, and raucous portrait of Oklahoma City, an iconoclastic outpost in America’s heartland.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. I’ve lived in Nichols Hills since Hurricane Katrina spit us out of Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. The entire state has been a mystery to me.

I had never heard of Sam Anderson, sorry Sam, but I won’t forget him! This was the best unvarnished look at who makes the rules here and what the powers that be have envisioned for the city.  Oklahoma City is a huge sprawling area of tiny pockets of old-established neighborhoods. While there have been huge improvements to downtown OKC, beyond the city center the homeless linger under bridges and overpasses and oil and gas rules. Unemployment is rampant unless you are an oil field worker and even then you may only have a job until it’s bonus time.

From the Land Run to Aubrey Mclendon’s spectacular exit from his oil and gas woes to the Flaming Lips front man Wayne Coyne, whose house I have been in and it is just as weird and wacko as Sam will tell you about.

I laughed so hard all the way through this book. Sam has captured the city perfectly as well as all of its most colorful residents.

Very Well Done and I look forward to more from this author!

Netgalley/August 21st 2018 by Crown

 

Chariot on the Mountain by Jack Ford

Chariot on the Mountain

Once old Mastuh be dead, you be workin’ in the fields just like the rest of ’em. That day comin’ soon.” 

Based on little-known true events and brought vividly to life by Emmy and Peabody award-winning journalist Jack Ford, here is an astonishing account of a time when the traditions of the Old South still thrived, a treacherous journey toward freedom–and a testament to determination, friendship, and courage. 

Kitty’s story takes place a about 20 years before the war between the states. Kitty was a real person and this story is full of historical information with some fictional conversations that may have taken place. The facts are documented very well and Mr. Ford has done a masterful job of weaving them into a believable story.

Set in Virginia, Kitty is the daughter of her master and a slave woman. She has been raised in the house, educated and allowed to have a relationship and children.

But what is going to happen when her master dies? Will his widow sell them just to not have to face her husband’s proof of infidelity?

Mary Maddox was a wonderful lady. She decides to honor her husband’s last wish which was to free Kitty and her children.
To do so she must work with the underground railroad and take Kitty and her children to freedom in Pennsylvania. Along the way the two women develop a relationship based on trust, kindness and love.

But we have to have a bad guy and that guy was the master’s own evil nephew who has no plans to let Kitty remain a free woman when she would fetch a nice price to help clear his many debts.

No sooner is Kitty a free woman than another man of color sells her out and she is beaten and tossed in a wagon and taken back home. But dear nephew has no idea what a few women on a mission can accomplish.

This book was hard to read in some parts, but true. Miraculous things happen when women get together and refuse to back down. The fact that this is some well documented history makes the story even better.  I won’t spoil any of it for you though. It is a wonderful story and I am richer for having read it!

Netgalley/Kensington July 31, 2018

The Slave-Trader’s Letter-Book by Jim Jordan ( University of Georgia Press)

n 1858 Savannah businessman Charles Lamar, in violation of U.S. law, organized the shipment of hundreds of Africans on the luxury yacht Wanderer to Jekyll Island, Georgia. The four hundred survivors of the Middle Passage were sold into bondage. This was the first successful documented slave landing in the United States in about four decades and shocked a nation already on the path to civil war.

In 1886 the North American Review published excerpts from thirty of Lamar’s letters from the 1850s, reportedly taken from his letter book, which describe his criminal activities. However, the authenticity of the letters was in doubt until very recently. In 2009, researcher Jim Jordan found a cache of private papers belonging to Charles Lamar’s father, stored for decades in an attic in New Jersey. Among the documents was Charles Lamar’s letter book, confirming him as the author.

This book has two parts. The first recounts the flamboyant and reckless life of Lamar himself, including Lamar’s involvement in southern secession, the slave trade, and a plot to overthrow the government of Cuba. A portrait emerges at odds with Lamar’s previous image as a savvy entrepreneur and principled rebel. Instead, we see a man who was often broke and whose volatility sabotaged him at every turn. His involvement in the slave trade was driven more by financial desperation than southern defiance. The second part presents the “Slave-Trader’s Letter-Book.” Together with annotations, these seventy long-lost letters shed light on the lead-up to the Civil War from the remarkable perspective of a troubled, and troubling, figure.

As a history buff and researcher, this title appealed to me right away. I am from the Brunswick/Jekyll Island area and my family has been there since before we were a country.

Lamar is a reckless and troubled man. Having his livelihood pretty much handed to him by his father, he proceeds to run every business he touches into the ground.

The book give the reader quite a bit of information that even I haven’t seen before. These letters are a valuable piece of history not only for Georgia but for the entire country. I would hope that this information would be widely spread in our schools.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone searching for answers about our beginnings and what almost tore our country apart.

Netgalley/University of Georgia Press  January Release.

White Trash. The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by [Isenberg, Nancy]

In her groundbreaking  bestselling history of the class system in America, Nancy Isenberg upends history as we know it by taking on our comforting myths about equality and uncovering the crucial legacy of the ever-present, always embarrassing—if occasionally entertaining—poor white trash.

“When you turn an election into a three-ring circus, there’s always a chance that the dancing bear will win,” says Isenberg of the political climate surrounding Sarah Palin. And we recognize how right she is today. Yet the voters who boosted Trump all the way to the White House have been a permanent part of our American fabric, argues Isenberg.

The wretched and landless poor have existed from the time of the earliest British colonial settlement to today’s hillbillies. They were alternately known as “waste people,” “offals,” “rubbish,” “lazy lubbers,” and “crackers.” By the 1850s, the downtrodden included so-called “clay eaters” and “sandhillers,” known for prematurely aged children distinguished by their yellowish skin, ragged clothing, and listless minds.

Surveying political rhetoric and policy, popular literature and scientific theories over four hundred years, Isenberg upends assumptions about America’s supposedly class-free society––where liberty and hard work were meant to ensure real social mobility. Poor whites were central to the rise of the Republican Party in the early nineteenth century, and the Civil War itself was fought over class issues nearly as much as it was fought over slavery. Reconstruction pitted poor white trash against newly freed slaves, which factored in the rise of eugenics–-a widely popular movement embraced by Theodore Roosevelt that targeted poor whites for sterilization. These poor were at the heart of New Deal reforms and LBJ’s Great Society; they haunt us in reality TV shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty. Marginalized as a class, white trash have always been at or near the center of major political debates over the character of the American identity.
 
We acknowledge racial injustice as an ugly stain on our nation’s history. With Isenberg’s landmark book, we will have to face the truth about the enduring, malevolent nature of class as well.

This was a really good and a really hard book. Ms. Isenberg  does a great job of going through the different evolutions of the idea of “white trash”.

It’s an always evolving term as explained by Ms. Isenberg. She takes the reader through the present day, and links it back to the civil war and to the revolutionary war.

All the talk of that one percent has brought a lot of discussion on who they are and the dynamics behind them. We overlook the fact that privilege is deeply embedded in our culture. Racial injustice is a nasty blot on our history and maybe now we’ll take a hard look at class in America. We pride ourselves on being progressive and tolerant when in fact we are neither.

Please do not mistake this as a political book. This is a historical narrative at it’s best.

Highly recommend this book!

xxPP

Woman of God by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Woman of God by [Patterson, James]

The world is watching as massive crowds gather in Rome, waiting for news of a new pope, one who promises to be unlike any other in history. It’s a turning point that may change the Church forever. Some followers are ecstatic that the movement reinvigorating the Church is about to reach the Vatican, but the leading candidate has made a legion of powerful enemies who aren’t afraid to kill for their cause.

Faith has never come easy for Brigid Fitzgerald. From her difficult childhood with drug-addled parents to her career as a doctor healing the wounded in Sudan to a series of trials that test her beliefs at every turn, Brigid’s convictions and callings have made her the target of all those who fear that the Church has lost its way–dangerous adversaries who abhor challenges to tradition. Locked in a deadly, high-stakes battle with forces determined to undermine everything she believes in, Brigid must convert her enemies to her cause before she loses her faith…and her life.

Spanning the globe–from the drug dens, high-powered law firms, and churches of Boston to the horrific brutality of a civil war in the Sudanese desert to the beauty, violence, and spiritual enlightenment of the Holy Land–Woman of God is an epic, thrilling tale of perseverance, love, trust and nothing less than what it means to live in a fallen world.

Maxine Paetro is one of my favorite co-authors for James Patterson.

Our story begins twenty years prior to the story, a short beginning with everyone waiting in the square to see the smoke when a new Pope is announced.

We follow Brigid from the dangerous Sudan, where she and her fellow doctors do their best to patch up the wounded flocking to their compound, to Rome, and all over the globe. Surrounded by factions that are killing any and everyone. When Brigid is injured and sent home to heal, she has no idea what to do. Her faith is questioned at every turn and at one point she turns away from the church.

A story of faith, struggles, and how the Catholic Church is moving forward into unfamiliar territory. As usual, there are the those on the fringes who are going to advocate violence rather than change the church and Brigid must let her faith in God be her guiding light into the future of the church and in her own tortured life.

How does one keep the faith when all the things you hold dearest are continually being taken away? How much loss is one woman capable of enduring? Will Brigid find her purpose and is that purpose being the next Pope?

You will have to read it and see! I was very happy to see this at my local library when it came in.  My favorite JP books are the ones with Ms. Paetro. The writing flows nicely and there is a female presence that is obvious in the book.

Lovely Book!

House of Silence by Sarah Barthel

House of Silence

Oak Park, Illinois, 1875. Isabelle Larkin s future like that of every young woman hinges upon her choice of husband. She delights her mother by becoming engaged to Gregory Gallagher, who is charismatic, politically ambitious, and publicly devoted. But Isabelle s visions of a happy, profitable match come to a halt when she witnesses her fiance commit a horrific crime and no one believes her. 

Gregory denies all, and Isabelle s mother insists she marry as planned rather than drag them into scandal. Fearing for her life, Isabelle can think of only one escape: she feigns a mental breakdown that renders her mute, and is brought to Bellevue sanitarium. There she finds a friend in fellow patient Mary Todd Lincoln, committed after her husband s assassination.
In this unlikely refuge, the women become allies, even as Isabelle maintains a veneer of madness for her own protection. But sooner or later, she must reclaim her voice. And if she uses it to expose the truth, Isabelle risks far more than she could ever imagine.
Weaving together a thread of finely tuned suspense with a fascinating setting and real-life figures, Sarah Barthel’s debut is historical fiction at its most evocative and compelling.”

A wonderful look inside Bellevue Sanitarium in the year 1875. Isabelle is marrying Gregory and love has nothing to do with it. She has been raised as most of the women of the era, to either let her family pick a husband for her, or choose someone who could advance both of your stations in life. Her best friend Lucy, is working on running away and marrying the man she truly loves and while she is happy for Lucy and aids her in her attempt, Isabelle isn’t one to rock the boat.

She is however a smart young lady, and when she sees her supposedly loving fiance’ commit an unspeakable act, she does not stay silent. Unfortunately appearances are everything to Isabelle’s mother and neither she or the authorities believe Isabelle.

So she just shuts up. Not a word. Nothing. And that is how she ends up at Bellevue. A game of who can hold out the longest. Isabelle or her mother. As Isabelle meets more women at Bellevue, she sees how easy it is to just lock up a woman on pretty much any trumped up reason. She fears she may never be released and is alone and scared. Until she gets a neighbor. Mary Lincoln, whose son Robert is trying to have her declared insane.

Together she and Isabelle will come up with a plan to rescue them both.

Mary Todd Lincoln was a resident of Bellevue in that year, so there is some fact mixed in with the fiction.  This was a very nice historical fiction read, and I thank the Publisher and Netgalley.

This book will be released December 27, 2016. You can preorder here

The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias

The Devil's Prayer

Explicit Content Warning: “The Devil’s Prayer” is a historical horror thriller that contains brutality, rape, sex, drug abuse and murder. Readers may find its content offensive.

A nun commits suicide in front of thousands in Spain. In Australia, Siobhan Russo recognises that nun as her mother, Denise Russo, who disappeared six years ago. 
In search of answers, Siobhan travels to the isolated convent where her mother once lived. Here she discovers Denise’s final confession, a book that details a heinous betrayal that left her crippled and mute, and Denise’s subsequent deal with the Devil to take revenge. In the desperate bargain Denise made with the Prince of Darkness, she wagered Siobhan’s soul.

As Siobhan discovers the fate of her soul, she learns that hidden within the pages of her mother’s confession is part of The Devil’s Prayer, an ancient text with the power to unleash apocalyptic horrors.

And now her mother’s enemies know Siobhan has it.

Can Siobhan escape an order of extremist monks determined to get the Prayer back? Can she save the world from its own destruction?
REVIEW:

This is a genre I am very familiar with. I can’t tell you how many books I have read this year about the Illuminate, the other secret societies and the Catholic Church. While some have been quite good, this book is beyond that. It is exceptionally well written, blending fact with fiction and with enough twists and turns to make it whiplash worthy!
When a nun commits suicide in front of thousands of people, Siobhan Russo recognizes the woman as her mother, who disappeared six years ago. At a memorial service for her mother, Siobhan is approached by an elderly priest. Father Jakub has something for Siobhan, her mother’s Bible. And then he is gone. As Siobhan begins to read, she finds the book is more of a confession, written for her and also a request to finish what her mother started.

As we bounce back and forth between centuries, we along with Siobhan hear fantastical stories of the Devil and of God. You can’t have one without the other. Did her mother kill herself? What happened in the past that drove her to make a deal with the Devil for Siobhan’s own soul?

This is a brutally raw and ugly look at history and what people have done in the name of religion and what continues to go on. How far would you go to exact revenge for unspeakable acts done to you or your loved ones? For Denise,she made a pact with the Devil. Wagering her own daughter’s soul. And with the Devil is anything really as it seems? What will this deal cost her in the end?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and actually spent 8 straight hours reading it and then looking up all of the historical places and people and events mentioned in it. Fascinating look at history and religion through the ages.

Thank you Netgalley and the Publisher for the opportunity to read this. I’ll be keeping it.

Crown of Blood:The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey by Nicola Tallis

Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey

“Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same.” These were the heartbreaking words of a seventeen-year-old girl, Lady Jane Grey, as she stood on the scaffold awaiting death on a cold February morning in 1554. Minutes later her head was struck from her body with a single stroke of a heavy axe. Her death for high treason sent shockwaves through the Tudor world, and served as a gruesome reminder to all who aspired to a crown that the axe could fall at any time.

The world of the Tudors is complicated to say the least. And yet Tallis breaks it down to an easily read and very well documented and researched read.

Lady Jane, known as the 9 day Queen, was by all accounts an intelligent and strong willed girl. Educated and piously Protestant, she seems to have been a pawn in the way that so many women of that age were.

We follow her from early childhood to her death at the Tower. I was surprised at the amount of information on her. Tallis gives us a brilliant look at this time in history and brings Lady Jane to life for us.

There was also a lot of information on Princess Mary and her vast following, not only of Catholics but Protestants as well.

Thank you to Netgalley for this book!  Publication is set for December 6, 2016.

About the Author

Nicola Tallis achieved a first-class bachelor’s degree with honors in history from Bath Spa University. She also has an MA in Public History from Royal Holloway College, University of London. Nicola has been passionate about English history all of her life, and has worked as a curator, lecturer, and historical researcher. She is currently the resident historian for Alison Weir Tours. Crown of Blood, her first book, is the result of five years of research on the Grey family.

The Illuminati by Robert Howells

The Illuminati: The Counterculture Revolution From Secret Societies to Wikileaks and Anonymous  by Robert Howells

The Illuminati: The Counter Culture Revoultion from Secret Societies to Wikileaks and Anonymous by [Howells, Robert]

Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies have been around as long as man. Mr. Howells takes us on a history lesson through the ages and shows us how The Illuminati helped to shape the course of said history. And how the same techniques they used then are today the Wikileaks and Anonymous in our time.

There is a lot of information on how these secret societies have affected change from behind a curtain of secrecy. What is the most effective way to bring about change? What has worked in the past and what seems to be working now?

This is a NF book, so it could have been very dry and boring. It was not. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It is one of those books that you came away with more knowledge on a subject than when you went in.

Thanks to Netgalley and Watkins Publishing for this one!