Hello Lovelies! Please excuse our dust while we do a bit of construction on the blog. We will still be posting exciting reviews, brilliant guest posts, and exciting giveaways but we are in the process of transforming the blog and adding new content and features for you to enjoy.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft

Title: Beneath a Burning Sky
Author: Jenny Ashcroft
Publisher: 29 June 2017 Little Brown Book Group UK Sphere
Pages: 416 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 5 crowns


When 22-year-old Olivia is coerced into marriage by the cruel Alistair Sheldon, she leaves England for Egypt, his home and the land of her own childhood. Reluctant as she is to go with Alistair, it's in her new home that she finds happiness in surprising places: she is reunited with her long-estranged sister, Clara, and falls - impossibly and illicitly - in love with her husband's boarder, Captain Edward Bertram.

Then Clara is abducted from one of the busiest streets in the city. Olivia is told it's thieves after ransom money, but she's convinced there's more to it. As she sets out to discover what's happened to the sister she's only just begun to know, she falls deeper into the shadowy underworld of Alexandria, putting her own life and her chance at a future with Edward, the only man she's ever loved, at risk. Because, determined as Olivia is to find Clara, there are others who will stop at nothing to conceal what's become of her....

My Thoughts

"Beneath a Burning Sky" is Jenny Ashcroft's debut novel, and what a debut it was! Initially I was interested in this book because it takes place in Egypt and I love to learn about this ancient place - fact or fiction. This story was set mostly in Alexandria during the end of the 19th century, when Egypt was still under British rule. Not really knowing what to expect from a debut, I was transported to another place and time in this beautifully written tale.

Jenny Ashcroft has written a wonderful story, a fabulous historical romance in colonial Egypt, one that is full of intrigue and mystery, love and hate. There is an interwoven plot that will keep you guessing right to the very end. There are wonderful descriptions of Egypt at the turn of the century, but this book is really all about the characters and their relationships. This is most definitely the driving force - the life of an expat during the 1890s.

There are many characters and each have their contributions to make. From the disappearance of the main character’s sister - who did it? How? Why? Where? - to the brutality of a violent marriage (you will really despise Alistair). But at the heart of this tale is a love story and what a classic it is. Edward is the personification of the dashing hero and his relationship with Olivia will most certainly pull at your heartstrings.

‘I’m trying to keep you safe.’ His soft voice was baffled. ‘You cannot know the dangers of this land, the things people do.’

The flip story of Nailah, whilst a little difficult to follow at times, helps provide the voice of the Egyptians, demonstrating the contrast between the ruling British and the downtrodden Egyptians. However, this is such a well crafted mystery that at the end, when all the puzzle pieces start to come together, you will understand more and more her role and those of her family and friends.

Jenny Ashcroft is to be congratulated on how easily, and seemingly effortlessly, she brings to life the tense atmosphere of colonial rule. She evokes such a range of emotions through her characters  that their stories will stay with you long after the final page is turned. It’s fast paced and addictive with characters that will grow on you - you will want to despise Alistair, slap Jeremy, swoon over Edward and rally behind Olivia - just to name a few.

'Life wasn’t long enough to waste with unhappy decisions.'

Am I gushing? Yes I am - it was absolutely brilliant. Whether or not historical fiction is your thing it doesn’t matter for this is so much more than that. The harsh brutality of life at times, the intriguing mystery and the quest for true love will sweep you away to a time and place long gone.

'For lies were all she had to give. The truth, always terrifying, had never felt more impossible than now.'

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Friday, July 14, 2017

Beneath the Apple Leaves by Harmony Verna

Title: Beneath the Apple Leaves
Author: Harmony Verna
Publisher: 27 June 2017 Kensington Books
Pages: 516 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 5 crowns


From the author of Daughter of Australia comes a sweeping, heartfelt historical novel that follows a family of German immigrants who trade city living for the harsh realities of Pennsylvania farm life.
In 1914, Andrew Houghton s family is one of hundreds eking out an existence in the coal mines of southwestern Pennsylvania. Though he longs to be a veterinarian, he s fated for a life underground, picking rock alongside his father.
That destiny changes when his aunt, Eveline Kiser, arranges for her husband to secure Andrew an apprenticeship on the railroad. Wilhelm Kiser, a German immigrant, has found his American dream in Pittsburgh, with a well-paying job as a brakeman, and a secure pension. But on Andrew s first week, an incident goes tragically wrong, leaving him severely injured, his dreams shattered. Wracked with guilt, Wilhelm finally agrees to his wife s pleas to leave Pittsburgh s smog behind. With Andrew in tow, they swap their three-story row house for a rough-and-tumble farm.
Life in rural Pennsylvania is not as idyllic as Eveline imagined. The soil is slow to yield and their farmhouse is in disrepair. But there is one piece of beauty in this rugged land. Lily Morton is quick-witted and tough on the outside, but bears her own secret scars inside. Andrew s bond with her will help steer them through all the challenges to come, even as anti-German sentiment spreads across America with the outbreak of World War I.
Beneath the Apple Leaves is a vivid, deeply moving portrait of family its hardships, triumphs, and passions and a powerfully authentic evocation of life on the land and the hearts that sustain it.

My Thoughts

Having read and LOVED Harmony’s debut novel, ‘Daughter of Australia’ I did not hesitate to embark on another journey with her. Would it, however, live up to her first inspiring saga? I can say without the shadow of a doubt, it was right up there beside her first amazing novel. As Harmony states in her acknowledgements,

‘The seeds of this book came from my mother ... who shared the stories - the sorrows and the joys - of growing up on a farm in rural Pennsylvania ... I am humbled and proud of the strength and sacrifices of my German ancestors’.

‘Beneath the Apple Leaves’ is another emotional roller coaster ride, that is the epitome of what good historical drama is all about. This will undoubtedly pull at your heartstrings as Harmony takes you on a journey to another place and time. Yet another powerful drama that incorporates not only the plight of German immigrants during World War I, but topics ranging from the hardships of life on the land, family love and loss, terrible tragedies and great moments of hope and joy.

“It’s too much for any of us. We’re all drowning. Like the whole world is drowning!”

This book is indeed most beautifully scripted from the enduring love story to the emotional heartbreak of unbearable losses. There will be times when you feel, surely fate will cut them some slack for these much deserving characters; but as the war ensues and deliberate harassment and persecution is rife, you begin to wonder if you will get a happy ending. If things could go wrong, invariably they seemed to.

“They’re good people. Love this country as much as the Simpsons. Except they don’t have to attack people to prove it.”

Yet despite, or in fact because of this, these characters will pull at your heartstrings. You just have to read through hoping against hope that life will be kinder to these deserving souls. Will love endure ‘beneath the apple leaves’?

‘With ax in hand, Andrew stared at the enormity of the ancient apple tree. The limbs, old, had witnessed too much suffering. And they seemed to ask to be relieved, to say good-bye. A wind blew and rustled the branches, the leaves waving in surrender.’

This is another amazing journey that Harmony takes you on and you will be swept away as becoming emotionally invested in these characters, especially the stoic Andrew. Such a finely crafted story I cannot recommend highly enough - historical drama of immigrants in early 1900s Pennsylvania.

‘For life began anew, grew again, beneath the apple leaves.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release