Broken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee #Review @MJonathanLee @HideawayFall

Broken Branches cover

The Perkins family is cursed, and Ian Perkins—the current resident of the family’s ancestral home, Cobweb Cottage—is determined to prove it. But what, exactly, is this curse? Is it real? And if it is—how has it affected Ian, his wife, Rachel, and their son, Harry?

Broken Branches has the feel of a modern-day Gothic, but it’s the huge tree in front of the house—rather than the house itself—that is the menacing presence. All the creepiest and most disturbing things that happens in the book is tied to the tree. As I read, I was uncomfortably aware of this tree, whether it was directly mentioned or not, and it was deliciously unsettling.

A mysterious something has happened after Ian’s family moved into the cottage, driving Ian to research his family history. He’s determined to prove the curse is real, and to pinpoint its beginning. His need to know quickly becomes an obsession, and as it spirals out of control, all areas of his life—his job, his marriage, etc.—become adversely affected by it.

There are regular flashback chapters of Ian’s past, where we see him as a boy growing up in Cobweb Cottage. I found these glimpses of Ian’s childhood to be as fascinating as his present-day story. Learning what shaped him into the man he became, and what led him to make certain choices prior to his return to his childhood home, was quite a revelation that gave me a deeper understanding of his character.

The end of the book was incredible! There are two major reveals that take place—one that I suspected was coming, and one that I didn’t. It’s the one I didn’t see coming that took my breath away. I loved how well it fit with the creepy tone of the book, though if I’m being honest, I’d have loved a bit of explanation into how it came to be. On second thought, however, perhaps an explanation isn’t needed at all. By this point, readers have seen enough to fill in certain blanks, so the why behind the event actually is explained, I suppose. (Apologies for being vague, but… spoilers!)

As for the curse… well, it definitely existed. Whether or not it was supernatural in nature is something you’ll have to discover for yourself when you read the book. And I definitely recommend you read it, particularly if love reading creepy stories with a Gothic feel to them.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Hideaway Fall.

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Author: M. Jonathan Lee

Title: Broken Branches

Genre: Gothic, Psychological Suspense

Published: July 27th, 2017 by Hideaway Fall

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Purchase Link

Amazon


About the Book

‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.

If The Creek Don’t Rise by Leah Weiss #Review @Leahstoryteller @Sourcebooks

If The Creek Don't Rise cover

Life is hard in Baines Creek, an impoverished town in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. For Sadie Blue, it’s made even harder by an unplanned pregnancy that led to her marriage to Roy Tupkin—a mean-spirited moonshiner who began beating her days after their marriage. Her story of hardship is just one of many in the small town that lost hope long ago. The arrival of the new school teacher, Kate Shaw, is met with suspicion and gossip from some, but is a source of inspiration and hope for others in the town.

We see the town and its people through the eyes of several characters in the book. They each offer a unique perspective on a handful of key events that take place in the story, and they all have secrets others know nothing about. It felt a bit like a collection of short stories, in a way. Don’t let that put you off, because it works extremely well and gave the story a steady, irresistible flow that kept me reading until dawn.

Weiss has written an emotional tale that doesn’t shy away from the stark realities of abject poverty. These oft-times grim details illustrate the toils of a hard-lived life, while also taking care not to portray the characters as one-dimensional objects of pity throughout. Some characters have no redeeming qualities, and yet, when you learn why they became the way they are, you can’t help but feel just a bit of sympathy for them… and that, to me, is the epitome of excellence in writing.

Without giving anything away, I have to mention the final two lines in the novel are OUTSTANDING. If I weren’t afraid of waking everyone in the house, I would have let out a LOUD cheer. It was sheer perfection.

If you love reading southern fiction, put this one on your to-read list!

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark via Netgalley.

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Author: Leah Weiss

Title: If The Creek Don’t Rise

Genre: Southern Fiction

Publication Date: August 22nd, 2017 by Sourcebooks Landmark

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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About the Book

A strikingly sincere portrait of a town and its buried secrets from an outstanding new voice in southern fiction.

In a North Carolina mountain town filled with moonshine and rotten husbands, Sadie Blue is only the latest girl to face a dead-end future at the mercy of a dangerous drunk. She’s been married to Roy Tupkin for fifteen days, and she knows now that she should have listened to the folks who said he was trouble. But when a stranger sweeps in and knocks the world off-kilter for everyone in town, Sadie begins to think there might be more to life than being Roy’s wife.

As stark and magnificent as Appalachia itself, If the Creek Don’t Rise is a bold and beautifully layered debut about a dusty, desperate town finding the inner strength it needs to outrun its demons. The folks of Baines Creek will take you deep into the mountains with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.

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About the Author

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Author Leah Weiss

Leah Weiss is a Southern writer born in North Carolina and raised in the foothills of Virginia. IF THE CREEK DON’T RISE is her debut novel. She retired in 2015 from a 24-year career as Executive Assistant to the Headmaster at Virginia Episcopal School. Leah enjoys speaking with book clubs. You may contact her at her website leahweiss.com.

Author photo and bio via Goodreads.

Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession by Alison Weir @alisonweirbooks @randomhouse

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I think it’s safe to say that if you have a love of history, as well as a keen interest in royalty, there is a strong probability you’re fascinated with King Henry VIII, and his many wives. It’s also likely you remember the order of his wives thanks to this mnemonic device: Divorced (Katherine of Aragon), beheaded (Anne Boleyn), died (Jane Seymour), divorced (Anne of Cleves), beheaded (Catherine Howard), survived (Catherine Parr). Such is the case with me… my fascination with Henry VIII and his wives took root as soon as I first learned about him.

Through the years, I’ve done a fair amount of reading on the subject—both fictional and factual—but I must confess that of all the wives, it’s the story of Anne Boleyn that most strongly captured my interest. Depending upon the writer of the book (or article), Anne Boleyn was either a conniving, manipulative woman who seduced the king and was guilty of adultery during their marriage, or a woman who genuinely loved her husband (and also enjoyed wielding the power that came with being Queen of England), who was wrongly accused and ultimately put to death so that the King might find a new Queen to provide him with the longed-for male heir to the throne. I, myself, am sympathetic towards Anne and like to think that her character lies somewhere in the middle—not completely good, but not completely bad, either. Sadly, much of the truth of her life has been lost over the centuries, so there’s no way to be completely sure of the type of woman she was; whether history has recorded her nature truly or falsely is something we can never know for certain. Perhaps it is for that reason Anne Boleyn is such an attractive subject to write about in novels, weaving known facts with speculations on what her life, and her motivations as Queen, were like.

Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession is historical fiction at its finest. Weir’s vision of Anne’s life may differ with those of Boleyn enthusiasts, but I didn’t let my own preconceived notions about Anne interfere with my enjoyment of the book… and I enjoyed it immensely. I found it to be a wonderfully written novel, and I was reluctant to set it aside, but even I have to sleep sometimes.

Weir does a fine job, in this reader’s opinion, of making Anne neither sinner nor saint in totality. There are times Anne strays closer to one side or the other for a while, but this served to bring her to life in my mind, showing her to be a complex person prone to conflict of thought and feeling, rather than the caricature she could easily have become in the writings of a less skilled author.

For me, the most intense part of the novel was Anne’s impending death. I could feel her shock at the accusations against her, her despair when she realized Henry would not intervene and prevent her death, and, finally, her acceptance of the inevitable. Weir’s Anne goes to her execution gracefully, with a quiet dignity that is unshakeable right up to her final moments.  The death scene itself was not at all what I expected, but something more… it was unique (compared to other scenes I’ve read about Anne’s beheading) and made a sad ending even more heartbreaking.

I highly recommend novel this to Tudor enthusiasts. I think this is a novel you will enjoy getting lost in for a while.

(NB: King Henry VIII’s marriages to Katherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves didn’t actually end by divorce, but rather by annulment.)

I received an advance review copy of this novel courtesy of Ballantine Books via Netgalley.

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Author: Alison Weir

Title: Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession

Series: Six Tudor Queens #2

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published: May 16th, 2017 by Ballantine Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Random House

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About the Book

A novel filled with new insights into the story of Henry VIII’s second—and most infamous—wife, Anne Boleyn. The second book in the epic Six Tudor Queens series, from the acclaimed historian and bestselling author of Katherine of Aragon.

It is the spring of 1527. Henry VIII has come to Hever Castle in Kent to pay court to Anne Boleyn. He is desperate to have her. For this mirror of female perfection he will set aside his Queen and all Cardinal Wolsey’s plans for a dynastic French marriage.

Anne Boleyn is not so sure. She loathes Wolsey for breaking her betrothal to the Earl of Northumberland’s son, Harry Percy, whom she had loved. She does not welcome the King’s advances; she knows that she can never give him her heart.

But hers is an opportunist family. And whether Anne is willing or not, they will risk it all to see their daughter on the throne…

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About the Author

Author Alison Weir
Author Alison Weir

Alison Weir is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Marriage Game, A Dangerous Inheritance, Captive Queen, The Lady Elizabeth, and Innocent Traitor and numerous historical biographies, including The Lost Tudor Princess, Elizabeth of York, Mary Boleyn, The Lady in the Tower, Mistress of the Monarchy, Henry VIII, Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Life of Elizabeth I, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII. She lives in Surrey, England, with her husband.

Author photo via Goodreads. Author bio via publisher.

Bookstagram (7-19-17)

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I’m constantly watching and (impatiently) waiting for the mailman to arrive when I’m expecting a book to arrive. I drive my family NUTS because I keep asking if the mail has come yet, and did anyone check it yet? I can’t stop myself from asking though, because it’s vitally important that my books are brought into the house swiftly and not allowed to sit in the mailbox for an eternity… all sad and alone…

What? Books have feelings, too. They’re full of feelings! They might get lonely out there, pining away to meet their new book friends that already live inside. To leave them stuck outside… in a dark, hot, metal box? Why, that would be book abuse! And cruelty to books is NOT allowed here.

Where was I? Ah, yes. Driving everybody nuts asking if the mail has come, and if there is a package for me. I’m expecting a few books at the moment, so I’ve been irritating my family for a couple of weeks now. You can imagine their (short-lived) relief when a package DID come for me on Monday from Skyhorse Publishing.

THE EDGE OF FOREVER (THE EDGE OF FOREVER #1) by Melissa E. Hurst

In 2013, sixteen-year-old Alora is having blackouts. Each time she wakes up in a different place with no idea how she got there. The one thing she is certain of? Someone is following her.

In 2146, seventeen-year-old Bridger is one of a small number of people born with the ability to travel to the past. While on a routine school time trip, he sees the last person he expected—his dead father. The strangest part is that, according to the Department of Temporal Affairs, his father was never assigned to be in that time. Bridger’s even more stunned when he learns that his by-the-book father was there to break the most important rule of time travel—to prevent someone’s murder.

And that someone is named Alora.

Determined to discover why his father wanted to help a “ghost,” Bridger illegally shifts to 2013 and, along with Alora, races to solve the mystery surrounding her past and her connection to his father before the DTA finds him. If he can stop Alora’s death without altering the timeline, maybe he can save his father too.

ON THROUGH THE NEVER (THE EDGE OF FOREVER #2) by Melissa E. Hurst

In 2013, Bridger and Alora found a way to prevent Alora’s murder and return her to the century she was born in, preserving the timeline and preventing a possibly disastrous future.

Back in the year 2147, Bridger is following in his father’s footsteps by wrapping up his military training at The Academy for Time Travel and Research. Alora is adjusting to life in the twenty-second century, and learning to master her powers; as a Dual Talent, she has the rare―and secret―ability to bend both space and time.

But unrest is growing in the North American Federation. As the government moves to limit the rights of Purists, people who refuse genetic modifications, violent protests break out. At the same time, paranoia and anger about the existence of Dual Talents seems to be growing―both among Purists and within the government itself.

Then a masked Time Bender arrives from the future. He insists that war is coming, and only Bridger and Alora can stop it.

There’s just one problem: they have no memory of each other.

What’s really cool about this, is that I only expected to receive ON THROUGH THE NEVER, which is the second book in THE EDGE OF FOREVER series. In my reply to an email their publicist sent me, I mentioned that I hadn’t read the first book yet, but the OTTN sounded so good, I couldn’t resist it. Now… if I’m being honest I was hoping they would sent the first book. But I didn’t see why they would bother, so I shrugged it off for what it was—wishful thinking—and promptly forgot about it. When I opened up the package and saw both books, I whooped and hollered so loud that I’m pretty sure they heard me in the next county. It felt sort of like an early birthday present (my birthday is this weekend) so I was especially happy.

I’m not sure when I’ll get to these little beauties, but I suspect it won’t be too long, as it’s been a while since I last read a time-travel story. I’m really looking forward to diving in and having a new adventure that REALLY appeals to the geek in me!