Book Review: The Swan Keeper by Milana Marsenich

The Swan Keeper by Milana Marsenich

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BOOK INFO
Title: The Swan Keeper
Author: Milana Marsenich
Publisher: Open Books
Publish Date: May 18, 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction
Goodreads Ratings: Me 4.0 / Community 4.59

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
From USA Today featured novelist and Western Writers of America Spur award finalist Milana Marsenich, The Swan Keeper is an historical, coming-of-age novel set in 1920s Montana.

On her eleventh birthday, Lilly’s family visits the Cattail Marsh to see the newly hatched cygnets. The family outing turns tragic when Dean Drake shows up with his shotgun. Lilly sees him kill her father, injure her mother, and slaughter the bevy of trumpeter swans. The sheriff, her mother, sister, and best friend all think Lilly is trying to make sense of a senseless accident by blaming Drake. But Lilly knows the truth. Left alone she must bring him to justice.

“Author Milana Marsenich has penned a dramatic page-turner brimming with authentic detail. She knows this Montana countryside inside and out, her vivid descriptions capturing the spirit of the craggy Mission Mountains.”—Maggie Plummer, author of Spirited Away – A Novel of the Stolen Irish and Daring Passage: Book Two of the Spirited Away Saga


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MY REVIEW
Lilly has learned about the trumpeter swans from her father. Together they visit the local wetlands to watch and learn about the swans. Lilly is wanting big things for her eleventh birthday, and is especially excited about visiting the swans with her father, mother, and sister. Unfortunately, the day ends in tragedy when a man shows up to shoot the swans.

Set in 1920s Montana, this novel is about a young girl coming of age while dealing with loss, love, and revenge. When Lilly’s mother and father are shot, Lilly see the shooter. Sadly, nobody believes her. They say she is trying to make sense of a tragic accident, but she know the truth. Lilly takes it upon herself to prove who the guilty man is and bring him to justice.

A wonderfully written story about family, relationships, and the beauty of nature. This novel does an excellent job of balancing reality with fantasy. Historical fiction with a touch of magical realism. Tragic, heartfelt, and magical.

I received a free digital version of this book from Book Glow in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Tangerine by Christine Mangan

Tangerine by Christine Mangan

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BOOK INFO
Title: Tangerine
Author: Christine Mangan
Publisher: Ecco
Publish Date: March 27, 2018

BOOK BLURB
The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country.

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.


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MY REVIEW
Alice and Lucy were roommates in college. Following a tragic accident, the two friends haven’t spoken in years. Alice is now married and living with her husband in Tangier, when Lucy makes a surprise visit.

Told with alternating viewpoints, both Alice and Lucy relate their perspectives. Alice is weak and anxious. Lucy is outspoken and manipulative. A clever and mysterious story unfolds, that, admittedly, did not go in a way I was imagining. Loved the setting of 1950s Morocco though.

A slow burning historical suspense. Haunting, twisted, and dramatic.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Book Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

BOOK INFO
Title: Water for Elephants
Author: Sara Gruen
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publish Date: May 26, 2006

BOOK BLURB
Jacob Janowski’s luck had run out–orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was the Great Depression and for Jacob the circus was both his salvation and a living hell. There he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but brutal animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this group of misfits was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.


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MY REVIEW
Jacob’s life gets turned upside down after the death of his parents. He is a young man in his early twenties, who, on a whim, hops on a passing train during his time of loss and confusion. The train turns out to belong to a struggling circus, and Jacob lands himself a job with them. Jacob is a veterinarian, or, rather, an almost veterinarian. He knows animals though, and they need someone to care for the circus menagerie. While working with the circus, Jacob meets Marlena, the star performer of the circus equestrian act.

Told from Jacob’s point of view. He is an old man, remembering his days with the circus. At first he is lost and meandering, but he finds his place among a group that he never would have imagined himself living and working with. He works with the animals, and is especially attached to an elephant. He has friends he cares about, and they care about him. He even finds love under the big top.

Beautifully written. Entertaining characters. The setting of a traveling circus during the Great Depression is captivating. Tragic, atmospheric, and romantic.

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

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BOOK INFO
Title: Where the Crawdads Sing
Author: Delia Owens
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publish Date: August 14, 2018

BOOK BLURB
For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.


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MY REVIEW ★★★★★
Kya ia a little girl when family members start to leave her. As a result, she ends up growing up alone in the family’s shack in the marsh. The local townspeople think her to be wild and dangerous, but a few see the shy, lonely girl she is. As she gets older, boys start to take notice. One boy in particular captures her heart, but soon another young man enters the picture. When the young man is found dead, the townspeople suspect Kya is guilty of murder.

An amazing story about a girl growing up in the marsh. Kya has a difficult childhood, and doesn’t have the same opportunities as many children her age. She is smart and resilient though, and she manages to create a quiet life close to nature.

This book has multiple aspects that make it a compelling read. Historical fiction. Coming of age. Romance. Mystery. The setting is North Carolina in the 1950s to early 1970s. Kya is a child in the 1950s, but a good portion of the novel takes place during Kya’s teens and early twenties. Kya is alone in the world, but she does get a couple of suitors in her life. The mystery that takes place is well developed, especially in the questioning of the death as a murder or an accident. Unfortunately for Kya, her reputation as a wild child from the marsh has the townspeople convinced she is guilty, whether or not there was a crime.

Where the Crawdads Sing is beautifully written. I especially enjoyed the parts dealing with nature. Growing up in the marsh, and not having anyone in her life, Kya has an extraordinary relationship with the natural world. As Kya matures, she becomes a strong and intelligent woman.

An emotional story that follows the life of an interesting character. Intriguing, captivating, and heartbreaking.

I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Lords of St. Thomas by Jackson Ellis

Lords of St. Thomas
by Jackson Ellis

Henry Lord was born and raised in St. Thomas, Nevada. He has spent his entire young life in the small town, as have his parents and grandparents. Henry lives with his parents and his grandfather, after whom he was named. It’s the 1930s and Hoover Dam is being built. The construction of the dam will cause the town to be submerged, so the residents are all moving away. Henry’s father and grandfather disagree about what they should do. The father believes they should leave and find a home and work in a nearby town. However, the grandfather refuses to sell his home and business to the government, and doesn’t believe the waters will reach the town.

The story is told is told from the viewpoint of the grandson, “Little” Henry. He is just a young boy when the town is being abandoned by the townsfolk, and doesn’t fully understand what is happening. The family experiences a lot of tragedy, but young Henry handles everything with respect and dignity.

A historical fiction account of St. Thomas, Nevada. St. Thomas was a small town abandoned by the residents in the 1930s after the Hoover Dam was built and the waters of Lake Mead submerged it. The last remaining resident of the town was Hugh Lord, who was the inspiration for the character of Henry Lord.

A heartwarming story about family and home. Beautifully written. This short book manages to evoke a number of emotions, including happiness, sadness, anger, and hope.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This book is expected to be published in April 2018.

Book Review: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network
by Kate Quinn

The story of two women – one a spy during World War I and the other an American socialite. Their lives are intertwined in 1947 while Charlie, the American socialite, looks for her cousin who hasn’t been heard from since World War II. In Charlie’s search for her cousin, she encounters Eve, a woman haunted by her past. The two women go on a mission to find Charlie’s cousin and confront an evil from Eve’s past.

This story is told from two viewpoints and two timelines. The 1915 timeline is about Eve and her days as a spy during World War I. The 1947 timeline is about Charlie and Eve. In 1947, Charlie is nineteen, pregnant, unwed, and unsure about her future, while Eve is a bitter, drunk, and slightly violent woman in her fifties.

Eve’s story was very interesting. She was a spy for The Alice Network in 1915, and was haunted by that past in her later life. Eve was a complex character that never was truly what she appeared to be. A most intriguing character.

Charlie wasn’t as interesting as Eve, but I still enjoyed her story. At first, she appeared timid and insecure, but she grew as her story progressed.

Eve and Charlie both felt real. They had weaknesses and insecurities, but they also had amazing strength and determination.

I loved that Kate Quinn mixed some historical truths in her fictional novel. There really were spies that were part of the Alice network in 1915. Some of the characters were based on real people, but the story and most of the characters were largely created with Quinn’s imagination.

An enjoyable read. Recommended for fans of historical fiction.

Book Review: The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn

The Jane Austen Project
by Kathleen A. Flynn

Two time travelers, Rachel and Liam, travel to 1815 London to steal an unpublished manuscript written by Jane Austen. Their mission is planned to last one year and involves them befriending the Austen family.

Not long after arriving in 1815, they make contact with Henry Austen, who they hope will like them enough that they will be able to gain access to the rest of the Austen family. Liam is posing as a doctor and Rachel as his sister. In reality, Rachel is the doctor. Rachel’s role is to flirt with Henry and get him to fall for her. She’s also supposed to use her medical expertise to help with Henry’s upcoming illness and help diagnose what Jane’s health problems were. Liam’s role is to gain access since he’s supposed to be a doctor, plus he is the more charming and charismatic of the two.

Their mission is complicated by two main things: the difficulty involved with not altering anything in the past and Rachel and Liam’s growing attraction to one another.

Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors, and I enjoy reading novels that have a different take on her life or her novels. The Jane Austen Project was creative, and I liked the combination of time travel and historical fiction. While I enjoyed the idea of the book, there were a few things that I didn’t like. For one, I liked Liam and his role, but I never cared for Rachel, or understood why she would have been chosen for the mission. Also, I wasn’t a fan of the ending. It seemed too abrupt, and while I liked some parts of the ending, I didn’t like other parts.