Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Review: As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

Pub. Date: February 6th, 2018
Publisher: Berkley Books
Pages: 387

Genre: Historical Fiction


From the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life and A Bridge Across the Ocean comes a new novel set in Philadelphia during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which tells the story of a family reborn through loss and love.

In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters--Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa--a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without--and what they are willing to do about it.

As Bright as Heaven is the compelling story of a mother and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world, not of their making, which will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it.

What Did I Think About the Story?

I have to admit right up front that I am a forever fan of Susan Meissner's novels. I've read nearly all of her historical fiction and have purchased the few I haven't yet read to read as soon as I can. I feel so lucky that I've gotten to be a part of her street teams in the past and that she was kind enough to offer me a copy of her newest novel, As Bright as Heaven, to read. My answer...YES PLEASE!! This newest venture moves away from her typical format in that it keeps the reader solely in the past (many of her other novels have both historical and contemporary timelines) and I, for one, loved being transported to Philadelphia in 1918 and shortly thereafter and being completely immersed in the heartache and hope of the Bright family and the country at large.

The story opens up with the Bright family moving to Philadelphia after a devastating tragedy. Pauline's husband has been given the opportunity to apprentice in and someday take over his uncle's funeral parlor. It's a wonderful opportunity for the whole family, not only because of it's greater opportunities financially but for Pauline to explore the new companion - death - that seems to be shadowing her since the tragedy. However, as the family begins settling in to this new life, two overwhelming world events barge in to turn everything on its head - WWI and the Spanish Flu epidemic.

As Pauline's husband goes off to do his part for the war, along with a neighbor who has become a big part of their life, Pauline and the girls are forced to take over a larger part in the funeral home and within the city dying before their eyes. It is during this time that choices are made that will have devastating and lasting effects on all of their lives and that will shape the course of their lives forever.

I was amazed at how well Meissner brought the devastation of the Spanish Flu to life within these pages and just have heartbreaking and widespread it was! Having the Bright family run a funeral home was the best possible way to show this as they would (and did) have bodies literally stacking up at their door. It's terrifying and claustrophobia-inducing as the various characters don't want to step outside without a mask for fear they will be struck ill. Meissner further drove the point home by developing these characters - both primary and secondary - so well and then having them swept away by the flu right before our eyes. It broke my heart to come to care for some of these characters and then to see them gone in an instant without any rhyme or reason. It truly was heartbreaking but also made the aftermath and growth of the remaining characters so much more compelling.

While definitely taking a backseat to the Spanish Flu the time and detail given to the men who went off to WWI and the PTSD issues many had when they returned was also well done, mainly shown through the neighbor. I can't say too much about this as it leads to other developments later in the story, but I will say that it not only scared these men - both physically and mentally - but took them away from their loved ones, robbing them of being able to say goodbye to those killed during the flu epidemic. I would never have thought of this aspect of what the war robbed these men of and really appreciated getting to see it from this angle.

I am being purposely vague about the rest of the story because I don't want to spoil anything. However, I will say that I appreciated seeing how the Bright daughters were effected by their experiences during this time and how it shaped them into the young women they became. I came to really care for two of them (one ended up somewhat self-centered and unfortunately got on my nerves a little) and admired the choices they made, even if some of them were somewhat questionable choices. These are strong female characters who stood by their actions and I, for one, love that.

As Bright as Heaven is top shelf historical fiction. It's detailed and tragic and hopeful and so many other things. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or really just a wonderful read.      

What Did I Think About the Cover?

It's so pretty, even more so in person!! I love the soft, sort of distressed colors and the backdrop of what I imagine is Philadelphia. The solitary woman could be any of our women, really, and I love the overall composition. Beautiful cover!

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

I received an ARC (advanced reader copy) of As Bright as Heaven from author Susan Meissner. All opinions are mine alone. To find more information about the book, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase a copy, see Goodreads HERE.

Reviews of Susan Meissner's Other Novels



Monday, March 19, 2018

Audiobook Review: Origin by Dan Brown

Publisher: Random House Audio

Release Date: October 3rd, 2017

Length: 18 hours , 9 minutes

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Fiction / Thriller / Technothriller / Suspense

Book Series: Robert Langdon, Book #5


Where do we come from?

Where are we going?

The stunningly inventive new novel from the world's most popular thriller writer.

Bilbao, Spain

Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to attend a major announcement - the unveiling of a discovery that "will change the face of science forever." The evening's host is Edmond Kirsch, a 40-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon's first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough...one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.

As the event begins, Langdon and several hundred guests find themselves captivated by an utterly original presentation, which Langdon realizes will be far more controversial than he ever imagined. But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch's precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Reeling and facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape Bilbao. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch's secret.

Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon and Vidal must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain's Royal Palace itself...and who will stop at nothing to silence Edmond Kirsch. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon and Vidal uncover clues that ultimately bring them face to face with Kirsch's shocking discovery...and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.

Origin is Dan Brown's most brilliant and entertaining novel to date.

What Did I Think About the Story?

Readers seem to either love or hate Dan Brown's books and I fall heavily into the former category. All of his novels have been fast-paced, action-packed explorations into countries, cultures, and hidden aspects of history that I would probably never get to experience otherwise. He brings the reader along as he explores the world and teaches us fascinating little factoids about the locations or object being discussed, making you feel like you are getting a deeper picture of what is happening within the story. In this way Origin is a typical Dan Brown, going even farther than normal to ask and answer questions that are at the heart of humanity: where do we come from? Where are we going?

Origin tackles some of the biggest and most controversial warring aspects of modern life: religion vs. science, classical vs. modern, new vs. old, fact vs. belief. While Brown veers heavily towards the belief in science and technology he also shows an appreciation and love for the classical and the artistic, showing links between the measured science of and the beauty and chaos of nature and life as we know it. I can't tell you too much more about the overall plot of the story without giving something away, but I will say that Brown offers up some compelling answers to the questions he presents, ones that make me both excited for and terrified for humanity's future.

My favorite aspect of the story, and one that sort of drives home the point of the ceaseless advancement of technology, is the fact that one of Robert Langdon's companions on this madcap journey is a virtual docent at the museum, one created by Edmond Kirsch himself. "Winston" is a key player in helping Langdon discover what Kirsch was going to reveal to the world and making sure that his revelations are released. While he doesn't physically travel with the human characters he's able to interact with them virtually and search through copious amounts of information to assist in a fraction of the time it would have taken Langdon. To be honest I'm not sure how they would have proceeded without him! That isn't to say that Winston is perfect, but you'll have to read/listen to the story to discover his downfalls.

I listened to this story as an audiobook and I think it was the perfect way to experience it. The narrator (Paul Michael) was excellent, keeping the tension tight and the action flowing while also never glossing over those delightful little facts Brown throws in to educate and entertain his readers. Michael also did a wonderful job of changing the accents between characters, given their various countries of origin, something I imagine can't be easy to do. The sound of his voice perfectly matched the Robert Langdon in my head so it was an all around enjoyable experience!

If you already enjoy Dan Brown books you are sure to enjoy Origin as well. If you've never read a book by Brown before this might be a great place to start as you don't have to have read the previous Langdon books to jump into this story. It's a thought-provoking yet quick read that keeps you entertained from cover to cover.      

What Did I Think About the Cover?

It's okay. I like the sort of circling around, closed environment effect of the shell that hints at the cyclical qualities of nature discussed in the story. Other than that it's pretty plain, which is a shame given how vivid and colorful the story is.

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

I borrowed a copy of Origin from my library's
Overdrive account. All opinions are mine alone. To find out more about the book, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase a copy, see Goodreads HERE.  

Friday, March 16, 2018

Novel Expressions Blog Tours: Excerpt of Daughters of the Night Sky by Aimie K. Runyan

Chapter I

1931, Miass, Chelyabinsk Oblast, the Gateway to Siberia

I stared as the rainbow-hued blooms danced in the breeze, imagining them ballerinas on the Moscow stage. The expansive steel-blue mountains, always capped with a hood of ice, were so different from the narrow streets and towering buildings of the city where I had spent my earliest years. My memories of the capital were garish with color. On bleak days, I could see in my mind Saint Basil’s with its earthy, sienna-colored body and onion-shaped spires swathed in rich tones of emerald, ruby, sapphire, and topaz, always set against a flurry of snow. The white swirl of frost made the colors reverberate even more, the memory refusing to be erased from the brilliant palette of my youth. The people—happy or cross, handsome or plain—were more colorful, too. Miass was gray, and the people with it. They mined in the hills, tended their shops, managed their farms. Mama worked in the laundry, day after day in a fog of gray.

But for two weeks in July, the muddy hills along the riverbank outside Miass were a riot of color. The summer of my tenth year was a particularly magnificent display. The splashes of lavender, crimson, and indigo against the sea of grass were the closest thing I could imagine to heaven. It was as though the Ural Mountains had been given an annual allotment of color by the new regime and they had chosen to use it up during those two glorious weeks.

I should have been at home in the cabin, doing the mending or preparing supper for Mama. She would be too tired to attend to these things when she came home, but to waste any of that color seemed inexcusable. So I left the chores undone, reveling in the light of summer.

When the hulking, olive-green airplane scarred the sky with its white trail, I thought perhaps my mother’s worst fears had been realized, that my imagination had run wild and I had finally gone mad. She would be so disappointed, but there was always a satisfaction in being proved right, I supposed.

But then I saw the neighbor, a squat old farmer with a face like a weathered beet, emerge from his cabin and follow the winding white exhaust from the sputtering engines with his dull, black eyes until the green speck was low on the horizon. It was real, and it was landing in the field outside the town square.

I knew I was running the risk of making Mama angry. I had no school that day, or marketing, or any other errand that would call me into town. She didn’t want me there more than I had to be, but she could hardly blame me for my curiosity. Papa used to talk about the airplanes he had flown in the European War—the war that had made him a hero—and Mama had to know the lure of seeing an aircraft for myself would be too great to resist.

I ran the two kilometers into Miass, and by the time I reached it, the townspeople had abandoned their work and gathered in the field to the east of town to see the remarkable machine and its pilot. He was a tall man with dark hair and a bristling black mustache that gleamed in the afternoon sun. He spoke to the crowd with a strong voice, and they stood captivated, as though Stalin himself had come to speak. I had seen Stalin once when he addressed the people of Moscow, and was far more impressed with this new visitor with the leather helmet and goggles atop his head.

Mama, who had been straining to take a peek, spotted me as I approached the crowd, and wove her way through the throng to my side, clasping my hand when I was within reach. Her power for worry was a formidable monster, and I had learned it was easier to placate it than to fight it.

“I thought this would bring you in, Katya. I wish you’d stayed home.” Annoyance or sheer exhaustion lined her face. “I can’t afford to leave early to see you home.”

“I made it here, Mama. I can make it home,” I answered, careful to keep any hint of cheek from my tone.

“Very well,” she said. “But I won’t tolerate this again.”

I laced my fingers in hers and kissed the back of her hand, hoping to soften her mood. I wouldn’t enjoy this if she were angry with me. “What has he told everyone, Mama?”

“He’s flying across the whole country,” she said, absently stroking my hair with her free hand. “He says there is a problem with his engine and he had to land for repairs.”

She strained her neck and stood on the tips of her toes to get a better view of the aircraft, but it was useless for me. I was a tall girl but still could not hope to see over the heads of the swarm that encircled the astounding contraption. I broke free from Mama’s grip and squeezed myself through the cracks until I was standing only a few centimeterss from the metal casing. It was not smooth, as it appeared from a distance, but dimpled by the rivets that attached the sheets of metal to the frame beneath.

The pilot answered the townspeople’s questions with patience.

“How does it stay up?” one of the town’s mechanics called out.

“Aren’t you afraid to crash?” a young woman with a squawking toddler asked.

They didn’t seem like interesting questions to me, but all the same he didn’t answer the mechanic with a sarcastic “Fairy dust” or the young mother with a “No, I wouldn’t feel a thing if I did,” as others might have done. He gave a very simple explanation and spoke as if each question was the most important matter in his world. No one chattered when he offered his explanations; no one muttered about men forgetting that their place was on the ground.

Emboldened, I placed my hand on the metal of the plane’s body, warmed by the summer sun, but not too hot to touch for a few seconds. I removed my hand before the pilot could chastise me. Though I longed to run my hands along the wings that spread outward forever, I wouldn’t have the stolen caress ruined by a reprimand. Papa’s descriptions had not come close to doing the machine justice. My mind could only begin to understand the freedom this aircraft gave its pilot. He could go anywhere he pleased: If he could fly from the western border of Russia to the farthest reaches of Siberia, there was nothing stopping him from continuing on to see the wonders of China. Better still, he could go back west to see Geneva, Madrid, Florence, and all the cities Mama had dreamed of seeing but no longer spoke of.

I knew that if I had one of these machines for myself, I would never settle in one place for the rest of my days. I would hop from the pyramids of Egypt to the Amazon to the streets of New York and wherever else my fancy flew me. I looked at the pilot and tried not to let my jealousy consume me. He had earned his wings, his freedom. Someday I could earn mine, too. I would take Mama on my adventures, and she could leave the laundry behind her. She’d never do so much as rinse a blouse out in a sink ever again. She would smile again. Sing again. We would eat like queens and hire people to see to the less pleasant tasks of daily life. I would never speak that aloud in front of my teacher, Comrade Dokorov. He’d chastise me for setting a bad example of capitalist greed.

In an unprecedented gesture of generosity, Mama’s boss allowed her to come home early that day without docking her pay, owing to my presence in town. The plane must have bewitched him as it had me. The entire way home and all throughout preparations of dinner, I spoke of nothing but the pilot and his airplane. Mama listened patiently, but her cornflower eyes began to grow hazy.

“I’m sorry, Mama. I’m boring you,” I said, adding the potatoes to the stewpot.

“No, darling. I’m simply tired, as usual.” She wiped her brow with the back of her hand as she stirred.

“I’m going to learn how to fly a plane of my own someday, Mama. I’m going to get us out of here.”


Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Pub. Date: January 1st, 2018
Pages: 316

Genre: Historical Fiction

A novel—inspired by the most celebrated regiment in the Red Army—about a woman’s sacrifice, courage, and love in a time of war.

Russia, 1941. Katya Ivanova is a young pilot in a far-flung military academy in the Ural Mountains. From childhood, she’s dreamed of taking to the skies to escape her bleak mountain life. With the Nazis on the march across Europe, she is called on to use her wings to serve her country in its darkest hour. Not even the entreaties of her new husband—a sensitive artist who fears for her safety—can dissuade her from doing her part as a proud daughter of Russia.

After years of arduous training, Katya is assigned to the 588th Night Bomber Regiment—one of the only Soviet air units comprised entirely of women. The Germans quickly learn to fear nocturnal raids by the daring fliers they call “Night Witches.” But the brutal campaign will exact a bitter toll on Katya and her sisters-in-arms. When the smoke of war clears, nothing will ever be the same—and one of Russia’s most decorated military heroines will face the most agonizing choice of all.

About the Author

Aimie K. Runyan writes to celebrate history’s unsung heroines. She is the author of two previous historical novels: Promised to the Crown and Duty to the Crown, and hard at work on novel #4. She is active as an educator and a speaker in the writing community and beyond. She lives in Colorado with her wonderful husband and two (usually) adorable children.
To learn more about Aimie and her work, please visit her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Novel Expressions Blog Tour Schedule

March 12th

Book Review – 2 Kids and Tired Books

March 13th

Guest Post – Let Them Read Books
Book Review – Locks, Hooks and Books

March 14th

Book Spotlight – The Writing Desk
Book Review – The Maiden’s Court

March 15th

Book Excerpt – A Bookaholic Swede

March 16th

Interview – Just One More Chapter
Book Excerpt – A Literary Vacation
Book Review – before the second sleep

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Cover Crush: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Hello, my name is Colleen and I am a cover slut. I know, I know....you aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover. I just can't help myself! A beautiful cover draws my eye every single time and I can't help but pick up the book it's dressing and see if the inside seems as intriguing as the outside. Sometimes it does, and sometimes a pretty cover is just a pretty cover. Either way, I love getting an eyeful!

One of my favorite bloggers, Erin at
Flashlight Commentary, created a weekly blog post called Cover Crush and she and some other blogger friends are sharing their favorite covers each Thursday. You'll find my Cover Crush selection below and I'll link to everyone else's at the end of the post.

So, without further ado, my Cover Crush this week is.....
Who doesn't love a creepy cover with a spooky house at the center?! I love how desolate and foggy it seems, with our one solitary figure walking towards what you just know is going to be danger (don't you want to yell at her to run away....or is that just me?) I really enjoyed Ruth Ware's In A Dark, Dark Wood so I would have picked this one up either way, but the cover makes me want to read it RIGHT NOW!
Let's see what we can expect to find behind this eerie cover....

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, and The Lying Game comes Ruth Ware’s highly anticipated fourth novel.

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.
Don't forget to check out what covers my blogger buddies are drooling over this week (updated as they become available):

Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Erin at Flashlight Commentary
Heather at The Maiden's Court
Stephanie at Layered Pages
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired

 Created by Magdalena of
A Bookaholic Swede

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Light of the Northern Dancers by Robin F. Gainey + Tour-Wide Giveaway!!

Publisher: Untreed Reads Publishing
Pub. Date: November 7, 2017
Pages: 396

Genre: Historical Fiction

Fiery aristocrat, Eden Rose, uprooted from her native Scotland, has tended a foundering marriage and failing ranch at the corner of Crazy Woman Creek and the Powder River for a decade. Best friend, backwoods spitfire Maddie True, has her own woes a few miles away: widowed with a passel of young children, and caretaker to her addled father. Abandoned by her husband during the height of Wyoming Territory’s worst drought in history, Eden depends on her inept brother, Aiden, to see her through the coming winter. But when he disappears into the wild Bighorn mountains, she shuns Maddie’s fearful cautions, teaming with enigmatic Lakota holy man, Intah, to find her brother before the wicked snow holds them all hostage.

Light of the Northern Dancers is optioned and currently in development for a limited television series.

Praise for Light of the Northern Dancers

“Light of the Northern Dancers is a powerful novel of a woman’s journey, thought-provoking and unsettling in its authenticity and unflinching honesty. Its exploration of the depths of heartbreak is unblinking, yet ultimately, this is a celebration of joy, possibility, and transformation. Robin Gainey’s writing illuminates the past in all its brutality and beauty, and the humanity that binds us all together. This story underscores the power of endurance to heal and inspire hope. An unforgettable read that will live in your heart long after the final page is turned.” —Susan Wiggs, NYT Bestselling Author

“Half of what happens to us may have reason, the rest is chaos. Somewhere down the line, chaos itself may find reason, as Nietzsche said, That which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Robin F. Gainey’s second novel, LIGHT OF THE NORTHERN DANCERS, has this brand of existentialism. It’s real and it doesn’t let go!” — Tom Skerritt, Award Winning Actor, Writer, Director

“Brutal and beautiful, unflinching and hopeful, Robin Gainey’s LIGHT OF THE NORTHERN DANCERS reveals the triumphs and hardships of pioneer life in the Wyoming Territory in a powerful story of two women surviving against all odds. Gainey’s prose is as lush as her story is gripping—a literary page turner!”— Lisa Alber, award-winning author of Whispers in the Mist and Path Into Darkness

Buy the Book


About the Author

Robin F. Gainey partnered in creating California’s Gainey Vineyard; presided over their culinary programs; and, with Julia Child, founded Santa Barbara’s American Institute of Wine and Food. She also oversaw the breeding and showing of champion Arabian Horses begun by the Gainey Family in 1939. She’s lived in California, Colorado, Washington, and Rome, Italy. She returned to her hometown, Seattle, to find her heart in writing. Active trustee of the acclaimed, Pacific Northwest Ballet, she enjoys reading, cooking, horseback riding, skiing any mountain, and spending three months every year cruising the wild Canadian Inside Passage aboard her boat—mostly alone. Light of the Northern Dancers, her second novel, is optioned and in development for a limited TV series.

For more information, please visit Robin F. Gainey’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

It's Giveaway Time!!

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away two eBooks of Light of the Northern Dancers by Robin F. Gainey! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form HERE.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on April 20th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
Good Luck!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Release Day Review: Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Pub. Date: March 13th, 2018
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages: 258

Genre: Thriller / Contemporary Fiction / Mystery


My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:

1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it's the truth?

What Did I Think About the Story?

I'm on a real mystery/thriller kick right now and, I am delighted to say, there are a surprising number of highly anticipated books like this coming out this year. It's only March and this is my fourth such book so far...and I've got a toppling stack more to read. And so far they've all had that delicious "unreliable narrator' that is so popular right now and I, for one, cannot get enough! Sometimes I Lie is a great example of this suspenseful and page-turning sort of novel, while also turning the genre on its head and making it wholly original and all its own.

The story is told in three alternating timelines: "Now": Amber in a coma in the hospital but not remembering what brought her there; "Then": Amber talking about issues at her job and in her personal life, starting about a week before her coma and leading up to what happened; and "Then": diary entries from the 1990s that bring interesting insight into the terror and confusion unfolding in the present time. Through much of the beginning of the story the author keeps everything somewhat vague, with Amber talking about being an outsider at work, not having a lot of friends, and being somewhat invisible to everyone, including her family. Being that the synopsis plainly states that Amber lies I tried to take everything I read with a grain of salt while trying to figure out exactly where this story was headed. Being someone who is usually pretty good at figuring twists out I am so happy to state that I was completely thrown by the many (and I mean many!) twists this story took as the myriad of tangled truths and lies finally started to fall into place. At every turn I thought I was on to something and then was completely thrown off course by the truth. And the final pages...I had read in other reviews that they hold a shocking twist and that statement is completely true. I am still trying to wrap my head around it all!

I can't really say too much more about the plot without giving something away, but I will say that the vast majority of the main characters introduced are hiding things from the reader and that all the various connections, half-truths and straight lies do come out into the light by the last page, which I appreciate as I hate when the dots aren't connected by the end. I will also say that my favorite parts of the story took place within Amber's mind while she was in a coma as these parts were so very creepy for a few different reasons. I have a tendency to get claustrophobic, so reading things about small spaces or someone being trapped tend to make me feel anxious, which makes even more of an impression for this sort of story. The sections of the story where Amber was able to hear and feel things happening around and to her made me so tense, especially when she's let us know some of her secrets but she can't communicate with the other characters to let them know. Add on to this some horrific nightmares she has that involve a little girl with no face who creepy-sings nursery rhymes to her and I was both completely horrified and completely hooked.

Sometimes I Lie is a wonderful example of the current trend in psychological thrillers where you can't trust anyone or even your own interpretation of what you're reading. Every twist has a turn and every character has a lie on their lips. If you, like me, are eating up this sort of story than you want to pick up Sometimes I Lie!  

What Did I Think About the Cover?

I love it! So much of Amber's time is spent in her coma, looking internally and "falling" into these strange sleep/wake cycles and nightmares and this cover makes me think of that. It's quite striking in person and gives me this sense of unsettledness and off-puttedness that mirrors the story. Really simple but really effective!

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

I received an ARC (advanced reader copy) of Sometimes I Lie from Flatiron Books. All opinions are mine alone. To find more information about the book, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase a copy, see Goodreads HERE.

HFVBT Feature: The Italian Chronicles by MaryAnn Diorio + Tour-Wide Giveaway!


Pub. Date: December 15, 2015
Publisher: TopNotch Press
Pages: 310

Series: The Italian Chronicles, Book One
Genre: Historical Fiction / Religious

A young woman, a priest, and a secret that keeps them bitterly bound to each other…

A horrifying encounter drags soon-to-be-married Maria Landro into the shocking world of religious corruption and an unrelenting village code of honor that threatens to rob her of everything she holds dear. Shunned by the very people who should have embraced her, she withdraws into the confines of Bella Terra, her family’s farm, and remains there for several years…until she is forced to leave to ensure the formal education of her son. In a desperate attempt to protect her child from vicious tongues and malicious hate-mongers and her family farm from bankruptcy, she determines to seek vengeance against the one who ruined her life. But when Luca Tonetta enters her life, she learns a powerful lesson about forgiveness and grace.

“Beautifully written historical novel. Excellent characters, dramatic plot. Beautifully written, giving wonderful feeling for the setting in place and time. Emotionally intense situations, satisfying resolution. Among the two or three best novels I have read this year. Highly recommended.” – Dr. Donn Taylor, Author & Former University Professor of Literature

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Pub. Date: December 14, 2016
Publisher: TopNotch Press

Pages: 258

Series: The Italian Chronicles, Book Two
Genre: Historical Fiction / Religious

A young man, a new land, and a dream that threatens to destroy him and his family . . .

The dream of a better life for himself and his family drives Luca Tonetta to the American Promised Land with his wife of five years, Maria Landro Tonetto, and their three children. But the new Promised Land is nothing like what Luca had imagined. Forced to live in a roach-infested tenement house in the seedy section of Brooklyn, he faces the hardships, prejudice, and slanderous assaults of an Italian immigrant torn between two worlds. When Luca is accused of a crime he did not commit, he learns that a dream must first die before it can live.

“Such lovely writing–and an even lovelier story! Author MaryAnn Diorio takes her readers on a courageous journey, from the ancient romance of the Old Country to the perils and possibilities of the New Country. Well developed characters and a story that will stay with you long after you’ve finished this enjoyable read.” – Kathi Macias, Award-Winning Author

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Pub. Date: October 26, 2017
Publisher: TopNotch Press
Pages: 242

Series: The Italian Chronicles, Book Three
Genre: Historical Fiction / Religious

A mother, her son, and the man who threatens to come between them . . .

When Maria Landro Tonetta receives word that Mama is terminally ill, Maria travels to her Sicilian homeland with her son Nico. She finds herself yearning for the life she once knew as a child on Bella Terra, the family farm, now on the verge of bankruptcy. Caught between two worlds, Maria dreams of moving back to Sicily with her husband and children to save the farm. When Nico’s biological father unexpectedly appears at Mama’s funeral, Maria faces a new enemy to her dream. But is there an even greater enemy within her own soul?

“Each book in the Italian Chronicles series made me want to read the next one. Now I would like to see another spin-off series dealing with the next generation. The characters in MaryAnn Diorio’s book feel so real. They have flaws. They seek better relationships. They suffer and they rejoice. Just like us. There are people in their lives who help strengthen their faith, and there are those who undermine their faith. In this third book, Maria has to face letting go of many things, and only through seeking God first can she do that. Along with messages of faith and family, Return to Bella Terra takes you to Italy, and the vicarious experience is wonderful. Diorio sprinkles just enough Italian words (in italic) throughout the text to give you the sense of being there. You can smell the food, hear the music, and see the beautiful countryside. I highly recommend this series and any other books written by MaryAnn Diorio.” – Claudia Cuddy, Former Professor of Communications

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About the Author


Dr. MaryAnn Diorio is a widely published, award-winning author of compelling fiction that deals
with the deepest issues of the human heart. Her books for both adults and children consistently receive excellent reviews for their content and their style. MaryAnn holds the PhD in French with a concentration in Comparative Literature from the University of Kansas. She resides in New Jersey with her husband Dominic, a retired physician. They are the blessed parents of two awesome daughters, a wonderful son-in-law, and five rambunctious grandchildren. When not writing, MaryAnn loves to read, to paint, and to make up silly songs for her grandchildren.

For more information, please visit MaryAnn Diorio’s website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

It's Giveaway Time!!!


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away two eBooks of each title in the Italian Chronicles trilogy! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form HERE.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on April 4th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
Good Luck!!

HFVBT Schedule

Monday, March 5

Feature at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, March 6

Review at Cup of Sensibility (The Madonna of Pisano)

Wednesday, March 7

Review at Library of Clean Reads (The Madonna of Pisano)

Thursday, March 8

Feature at Broken Teepee

Friday, March 9

Excerpt at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Saturday, March 10

Interview & Excerpt at T’s Stuff

Monday, March 12

Excerpt at Donna’s Book Blog

Tuesday, March 13

Feature at A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, March 14

Review at Library of Clean Reads (A Sicilian Farewell)

Thursday, March 15

Review at Back Porchervations (The Madonna of Pisano)

Friday, March 16

Review at Cup of Sensibility (The Madonna of Pisano)

Monday, March 19

Interview at Creating Herstory

Wednesday, March 21

Review at Library of Clean Reads (Return to Bella Terra)

Thursday, March 22

Review at Creating Herstory (The Madonna of Pisano)

Monday, March 26

Review at Creating Herstory (A Sicilian Farewell)

Tuesday, March 27

Review at Back Porchervations (A Sicilian Farewell)

Wednesday, March 28

Review at Cup of Sensibility (The Madonna of Pisano)

Friday, March 30

Review at Creating Herstory (Return to Bella Terra)

Wednesday, April 4

Review at Back Porchervations (Return to Bella Terra)