A Respectable Actress by Dorothy Love(review by Cathy)

A Respectable Actress

From Goodreads:

When the illustrious India Hartley is accused of murder, she has to uncover the deceptions of others to save herself.

India Hartley, the famous and beautiful actress, is now alone in the world after her father’s death and embarks upon a tour of theaters across the South. Her first stop is Savannah’s Southern Palace. On the eve of the second night’s performance, something goes horribly wrong. Her co-star, Arthur Sterling, is shot dead on stage in front of a packed house, and India is arrested and accused of the crime.

A benefactor hires Philip Sinclair, the best—and handsomest—lawyer in Savannah to defend India. A widower, Philip is struggling to reinvent his worn-out plantation on St. Simons Island. He needs to increase his income from his law practice in order to restore Indigo Point, and hardly anything will bring him more new clients than successfully defending a famous actress on a murder charge.

Because India can’t go anywhere in town without being mobbed, Philip persuades the judge handling her case to let him take her to Indigo Point until her trial date. India is charmed by the beauty of the Georgia low country and is increasingly drawn to Philip. But a locked room that appears to be a shrine to Philip’s dead wife and the unsolved disappearance of a former slave girl raise troubling questions. Piecing together clues in an abandoned boat and a burned-out chapel, India discovers a trail of dark secrets that lead back to Philip, secrets that ultimately may hold the key to her freedom. If only he will believe her.

My review:

If you’re looking for a book that has romance, mystery, historical fiction and is very well written, then this is the perfect book for you.

India Hartley and Philip Sinclair are brought together because she needs an attorney and he needs income to restore his plantation on St. Simon Island.

I genuinely liked India and even though she’s going through so much, she continues to be strong. The relationship between India and Philip is very tender. I loved how protective he is of her.

I loved the detail Ms. Love put in her description of her characters and their surroundings. The secondary characters are as important to the storyline and not just tossed in as filler.

A Respected Actress has twists and turns until the end of the book.
I found this book very hard to put down as its such a compelling story.

I was given a copy of this book from the publisher and the fiction guild in exchange for an honest review.
 

The Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert (review by Kristi)

the girl from the train

From Goodreads: Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Auschwitz. Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks.

As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They mean to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.

Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her home. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.

But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families—so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.

Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.

My review: The Girl from the Train is an emotional rollercoaster ride of a read. It is the story of Gretl, the girl from the train, and Jakob, the young man who finds her. It is a tale of loss and love during and after World War II.

Even though this isn’t the type of story I usually read I enjoyed it. The author has a way with words making you forget your surrounding and become totally immersed in the story. There were many sentences and phrases that I paused to go back and read again. She did a wonderful job with the war scenes and again made me feel as if I was there.

Gretl and Jakob are easy enough to like. They are complex people living in an even more complex world. There were times though I thought the author had Gretl a bit too advanced for her age. Her words and actions were those of someone years older than her six years of age.

This book was originally published years ago in another language and recently translated to English. The translation seemed to be well done even though at times the characters conversations seemed just a tad off.

If you like romance stories that are steeped in historical context then you will enjoy this book. It is a book of tragedy, loss, growth and love.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher and the Fiction Guild in exchange for my honest opinion which I have given.

A Reluctant Bride by Kathleen Fuller (review by Kristi)

 

A Reluctant Bride

From Goodreads: She never wanted to marry. He hopes to make amends for past wrongs. Can love find a way to heal both of their hearts?

Sadie Schrock swore she would never marry. All of her other Amish friends could court and marry she was content to manage the family business and eventually take it over when her parents are ready to retire. But all of that changes when a reckless driver kills both of her parents and seriously injures her younger sister. With mounting hospital bills adding to the pile of debt her parents left behind, Sadie is left with no choice: she must marry. And not just any man the man who saw her at her weakest and walked away.

Aden knows what his brother did to Sadie years ago was inexcusable. And every day since that incident, Aden has lived with the guilt for not intervening sooner. When he is faced with the chance to protect Sadie once again, he can t let her down even if it means living with the scorn of the woman he loves for the rest of his life.

Working alongside Aden at the store, Sadie realizes he isn t the same boy who once betrayed her. Just when Sadie starts to let her guard down and perhaps develop feelings for her new husband, dangerous secrets are revealed. Now everything Sadie has worked so hard to protect is threatened, and she must find a way to save her family and herself.”

My review: I was instantly drawn to this book from the moment I read the back cover. I was hoping the inside of the book was just as good as the description on the back. Did the book live up to my expectations? Yes!! In fact, it surpassed them!

The characters in this book were well developed. There are ones you will immediately like and ones you will hate. The author did a wonderful job of creating these characters and making them feel so real that I forgot they were fictional.

The story is told at just the right pace. The story has a very real and natural progression that lent to the believability of the story. I didn’t feel like anything was rushed and the Sadie and Aden’s story was told to perfection.

One of my favorite things about this book is that it isn’t your typical Amish fiction story.  The characters are flawed and face the same situations as “Englishers”.  The difference is in how they handle the problems they face.  There are some serious subjects in the book such as abuse and the author tackles them in a tasteful manner.

A Reluctant Bride is a wonderfully told story of love, loss, and second chances. It is definitely one for the keeper shelf. A second or third reading of this book will be just as good as the first. A must read for fans of love stories, Amish or not.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion, which I have given.

An Interview with Amanda Flower

Meet Amanda Flower.  She’s an academic librarian, mom of two cats (sshhh…they may not know they’re cats), aunt extraordinaire, and author of Amish mysteries and non-Amish kids books.  Her latest Amish mystery, Murder, Plainly Read, written under the name Isabella Alan and her latest kids book, Andi Unstoppable, both released this month (after reading the interview go grab these books, they are great!)  Two Girls and a Book was lucky enough to get an interview with this quirky and fun author.  We would like to thank Amanda for answering all of our questions and hope you enjoy the interview as much as we did!
Two Girls: We know you write cozy mysteries with both Amish and Englishers. Do you have any Amish contacts you get information from  on their culture?  Or, do you research online?  Or, both?
Amanda Flower: I know a family in Amish country who helps teens and young adults who leave the Amish acclimate to the English world. A lot of my information when I first started writing Amish was from interviewing that family and some of the teens they helped. I also have done a lot of research online and visit Holmes County as often as I can. I only live an hour from there.

Two Girls:  Did you decide to write books geared towards younger readers with your niece and nephew in mind?
Amanda Flower: I originally wrote Andi Unexpected before my niece and nephew were born. I wrote it just because the character Andi would not get out of my head, but now it’s fun to know that my niece, who is six, is only a couple of years away from reading those books herself. That makes me so happy to think of her and her brother reading my stories!

Two Girls:  Who/what was the inspiration for the Andi Boggs character?
Amanda Flower: I guess my 12-year-old-self was the original inspiration. When I was a kid I wasn’t into math and science like Andi is, but I was super curious and got into a bunch of trouble having adventures, especially in the summer. If I had discovered a mystery like Andi did, I would have been poking my nose in where it doesn’t belong too. Also, my best friend at that age was a boy and he was my neighbor just like Colin is to Andi.

Two Girls:   On the back of Andi Unstoppable,  Andi was referred to as a modern day Nancy Drew.  How was it to see that comparison? 
Amanda Flower: It was the best comparison ever! I was so thrilled by it!

Two Girls: Do you have a favorite character you’ve created?*human or animal*
Amanda Flower: That is so hard. I really love my characters even the not so nice ones because they amuse me. Probably my favorite human character is India Hayes because she was my first protagonist and led to all these wonderful books. My favorite animal character is Oliver from the Amish Quilt Shop Mysteries. I wish he were my real dog.

Two Girls:  Dead Fred.  Explain, please!         

dead fred, off on an adventure
Dead Fred, off on one of his many adventures! photo courtesy of Amanda Flower
Amanda Flower: LOL! Dead Fred is little red guy that I take with me when I travel. I love to travel, but I think it’s more fun to take pictures of Dead Fred than of myself in all the places I go. When I first got published, a mystery writer group gave him to me as a thank you gift for speaking at one of their meetings and I was about to leave for the United Kingdom. I took Fred along and that’s how it all started. I was surprised how much readers enjoyed his travels! That was almost five years ago. Fred has gotten a lot of miles since then!
 
Two Girls:  You revealed on your Facebook book release party that you are a “seat of your pants” writer.  Have your characters ever gotten out of control and how do you rein them in?  Have there ever been times when you’ve thought “I can’t believe they did/said that”!?
Amanda Flower: Oh, my characters get out of control all the time. I don’t try to rein them in at least not at first. A lot of time, I like to see where they are going. Sometimes it’s a dead end and other times it’s an amazing new plot. It’s really the best part of writing to me when the characters take over. My fingers fly across the keyboard then. However, it usually makes a very, very messy rough draft. Revision is where I start to take over and control the story. It’s not uncommon for me to delete and rewrite multiple scenes during revision.
 
Two Girls:  How did your family and friends react when they found out you wanted to be a writer?
Amanda Flower: I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a child, so in a way, it’s always been a part of me. It’s something that I have always seriously talked about. My family and friends have always been super supportive and cheered for me through all the ups and comforted me through all the downs of trying to get published.
 
Two Girls:  What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?
Amanda Flower: Keep at it. A lot of a writer’s success is dependent on determination. You have to really want it because rejection will happen. You need to be able to pick yourself up and keep trying.
 
Two Girls: You seem to have a quirky sense of humor (we love it!) and it comes through in your characters.  Have you always had that kind of quirky humor?  And are you always like that?  You seem like a fun person to be around.
Amanda Flower: Thank you! I do love to laugh and joke. I always have. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be told by my teacher to move my desk into the hallway during middle school because I was talking or giggling too much, and most of the time when I was talking, I was telling a funny story to a friend. Even though the friend would be giggling too, I was the one put in the hallway. The teacher knew who was behind the disruption. ; )
And now for the important questions…
For those of you unfamiliar with Amanda Flower, she has two very  paws-on editors.  Cheeps and Tummy are their names and they keep Amanda on track with all of her writing.  Two Girls and a Book aren’t just book lovers, but cat lovers too.  That said, we just couldn’t resist asking a couple questions about “the editors”. 🙂
Two Girls:  How did Cheeps and Tummy get their names and are they brothers?  How old are they?
Amanda Flower: They are adopted brothers from two different litters. Cheeps is six and Tummy is three. I had a beloved Maine Coon named Puds for 17 years, and he and Cheeps were the best of friends too. Since he was so much older than Cheeps, he was more like a grandfather than a brother. After Puds passed away Cheeps was extremely depressed and I knew I had to find him a new brother. That’s when I adopted Tummy. Cheeps and Tummy are nicknames for their real names  Reepicheep and Mr. Tumnus. Their names come from the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, which are my favorite books. Puds full name was Puddleglum, also from the series, so you can see I have a long history Narnia-inspired pet names.
Editor Cheeps, heard at work
  Editor Cheeps, hard at work (photo courtesy of Amanda Flower)
Tummy, editor and... head of marketing??
Tummy, editor and… head of marketing?? (photo courtesy of Amanda Flower)
Two Girls: Is there any jealousy between editors Cheeps and Tummy when it comes to you?
Some cats don’t like to share their humans
.
Amanda Flower: That’s true, but my boys are good and the best of friends. Cheeps usually likes to be on my lap and Tummy likes to sit beside me, so it works out well.
For a complete listing of Amanda’s books, check out her author page on Amazon by clicking here.
For a complete listing of Amanda’s books written under the name Isabella Alan, check out her author page on Amazon by clicking here.
Visit Amanda on online at her website www.amandaflower.com
Like Isabella Alan on Facebook by clicking here
Like Amanda Flower on Facebook by clicking here
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The Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert (review by Cathy)

The Girl from the Train

The author took me on a wonderful and unexpected journey in this beautiful and heart wrenching story.
It’s a coming of age story unlike any I’ve ever read.

The relationship between Gretel and Jakob is captivating. From the time they meet and throughout their story, I really wanted to get to know them. That’s how well written they were. I’m in awe of Irma Joubert, her character’s and her writing.
Spanning both time and continents yet focusing on Gretel and Jakob the author remains consistant on the love they have for each other.

This is a book that I’ll never forget and will eagerly recommend to anyone looking for the next great read.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher and the Fiction Guild in exchange for an honest review.
 

 

Whistling Women by Kelly Romo (review by Kristi)

whistling women

From Goodreads: Life went terribly wrong for Addie Bates in San Diego, and she’s been running from dark memories ever since. For fifteen years, the Sleepy Valley Nudist Colony has provided a safe haven for Addie to hide from the crime she committed. But when the residents pack up to go on exhibit at the 1935 world’s fair in San Diego, Addie returns and must face the thrilling yet terrifying prospect of reuniting with her estranged sister, Wavey.

Addie isn’t the only one interested in a reunion. When her niece, Rumor, discovers she has an aunt, Rumor is determined to bring her family together. But it’s not so easy when the women are forced to confront family secrets, past and present.

Set against the backdrop of the 1935 world’s fair, Whistling Women explores the complex relationships between sisters, the sacrifices required to protect family, and the devastating consequences of a single impulsive act.

My review: Have you ever started reading a book and knew within a few paragraphs that the book was amazing and you were going to have a tough time putting it down until you had read the very last word? This is the kind of book that Whistling Women is. It is a well-written and moving book about sisters, family, mistakes, secrets, and forgiveness.

I found the storyline in this book absolutely gripping. The story is told in both present day 1935 and in 1918. The story also goes back and forth between Rumor and Addie. I thought the story flowed well from chapter to chapter and also from one time period to another.

I liked the two main characters. I thought Addie and Rumor were complex and strong characters. Wavey and Mary weren’t as complex, but they weren’t as shallow as I first believed them to be. I also liked the character, Sal. I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more of a conclusion to his and Rumor’s relationship. Maybe a sequel will be written? Or maybe a book about these two? I would really enjoy reading more about them.

This book will take you on an emotional rollercoaster ride. You will laugh, cry, be angry, and be sad as you read about the lives of these four women. It is a well-written book that will keep you up reading well past your bedtime. A must-read for anyone who likes complex stories and characters.

**note** This book does contain sexual subject matter which the author handled tactfully and isn’t too graphic in the description. While important to the plot of the story, some readers may be offended.

I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

A Reluctant Bride by Kathleen Fuller(Review by Cathy)

A Reluctant Bride

This moved a bit too slowly for me at first, but as I read more I could understand Sadie a bit more and why she felt the way she did.

Aden and Sol were characters that I felt sympathy for as they had a very difficult upbringing.

Ms Fuller does not sugar coat the Amish life style and focuses more on the hardships and abuse that’s prevalent in society no matter what beliefs you may have or the culture you were raised in.

The characters were well written and as I became more engaged in the story, I enjoyed it.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

Anna’s Healing by Vanetta Chapman(Review by Cathy)

Anna's Healing
I absolutely could not put this book down until I finished it.

There were times when I was reading this that I had chills! That’s how well written and in depth the story is.

I loved Anna from the very beginning. She was a character that I connected with. The closeness she has with her Mammi was so powerful.

The relationship between Anna and Jacob was incredible. I also enjoyed the friendship that she had with her Englisher friend, Chloe Roberts.

This is one of my favorite books written by Vanetta Chapman.
This book focuses on family, love and faith.

I cannot wait to read more of this series.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.