#Book Review: Project Hail Mary

Ryland Grace wakes up to find himself hurtling through space, his crewmates dead. He is the only one left who can save humanity from extinction. But right now he cannot remember his name or his mission. Will he be able to save Earth alone? Will he have to?

This is a very well written, riveting story by Andy Weir. I was captivated immediately, even during complicated scientific explanations that somehow became an intriguing part of the story. The gravity of the situation doesn’t hit you at first, but slowly Weir draws you in as Ryland gains more and more awareness. The addition of another character leaves you on the edge of your seat as the fate of Earth hangs in the balance. The conclusion is satisfying in itself, but makes you wonder if there is more to come. 

I truly feel that Andy Weir is becoming an absolute Science Fiction genius for the 21st Century, much like Heinlein and Asimov were for the 20th Century. With successes like The Martian, Artemis, and now Project Hail Mary, he is well on his way.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Weir built a two-decade career as a software engineer until the success of his first published novel, The Martian, allowed him to live out his dream of writing full-time. He is a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of such subjects as relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. He also mixes a mean cocktail. He lives in California.

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Book Review: The Devil Whispered

In the near future United States, Retired Special Forces Commander Jacobi Slate is investigating a brutal murder committed by his former boss, Admiral Ben Oaksley, who has admittedly killed his beloved wife, Mary. As Slate’s investigation continues and more strange murders occur, he begins to suspect that this is tied to his past and that someone in the background is pulling the strings.

This is a thrilling cyberpunk detective noir story with well developed characters and an intriguing premise. It shows a future America even more enmeshed in technology and describes what could be the results of that. I liked the first-person detective noir approach as told through the eyes of a veteran of many wars. This is not your traditional detective noir, as there is a strong female main character, Risa, who definitely proved herself tougher than any of the others, even our protagonist. As indicative of the noir genre, the lines between right and wrong are blurred and the protagonist is well meaning but flawed. The cyberpunk element is crucial as we see technology becoming more and more enmeshed into human life. This is an action-packed novel with revelations that are eye-opening and thought provoking.

I would recommend this to any fans of the the cyberpunk and detective noir genres.

This was another great book on Kindle Unlimited, where subscribers can borrow it for free. It is also available to purchase outright for only 99 cents at the link below.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shawn Starkweather

Shawn lives in Massachusetts with his wife and the handful of childhood stuffed animals that they’ve been unable to part ways with, even despite the awkward situation in which it occasionally puts their house guests. He wields a coveted Associates of Liberal Arts degree from Greenfield Community College in an overly enthusiastic, flailing manner, and puts it to work writing both fantasy and science fiction stories. Using subliminal codes and hidden messaging carefully placed throughout his books, he plans to captivate the minds of his readers and insidiously manipulate them into purchasing subsequent releases. 

As a novelist, musician, graphic designer, and a purveyor of fine games, Shawn is often confused about exactly who he is when he wakes up in the morning. It’s been said (by him) that perhaps he embodies all of these things so equally that a singular definition could not comprehensively impart a satisfactory description. With your support, and a sufficient demand for more novels, he secretly hopes that he’ll have no choice but to formally acknowledge the prevailing label of ‘author’ and spend the rest of his days providing a sense of wonder and adventure to everyone who helped him solidify his nebulous identity.

Shawn’s Website

The Choice I Made

REVIEW–BONNIE READS AND WRITES

Julie’s mother has had a stroke, and for weeks her father has said she is doing fine, but when Julie arrives for a weekend at their family’s Wisconsin resort, Wood Violet, she finds that her mother is not doing well and is not mobile. Despite the objections of her husband Tristan, Julie decides to stay and help out with her mother and the business for the summer. When she meets teenage Margaret, who is staying in an abandoned cabin and searching for her biological mother, Julie develops a connection with her. She also reconnects with her old friends, including her ex-boyfriend Chase. But secrets and lies come to the surface. Will it break them all apart?

This is was nice family story about supporting each other in the hard times and what happens when you don’t. Margaret’s search for her mother with Julie’s help is interesting. Julie’s connection to the woods, the cabins, and the area are heartfelt and believable, as is her strong desire to protect her family. However, the character Tristan is quite over the top. There were surprises that were not all that hard to figure out, but all in all this was an enjoyable family story with a touch of mystery and romance. Three and a half stars, rounded up to four.

I received a free copy of this book from Bookouture via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cynthia Ellingsen

Cynthia Ellingsen is an Amazon Charts bestselling author of contemporary women’s fiction. Her books feature heartwarming characters and strong family connections, often with a touch of mystery. The Starlight Cove series, her best-known work, is available on audio and has been translated into several languages.

Cynthia began her writing career as a screenwriter in Los Angeles and now lives in Kentucky with her family.

https://www.cynthiaellingsen.com/

https://www.facebook.com/cynthiaellingsen

https://twitter.com/CynEllingsen

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The Kitchen Front

BOOK REVIEW

The Kitchen Front is a wonderful book which feels like a World War II based combination of Downton Abbey and the Great British Baking Show. In Fenley Village, England, 1942, Ambrose Hart is reluctantly looking for a radio cohost. His bosses have decided they want a local woman who can help listeners find the best uses for their food rations. A cooking contest begins, and the winner will be Ambrose’s co-host on The Kitchen Front radio show. The four contestants are Audrey, who is trying to raise three sons and wallowing in a mountain of debt, Nell, a kitchen maid who is tired of her poor treatment, Lady Gwendoline Strickland, the haughty grand lady of the manor, who is both Nell’s boss and Audrey’s sister, and Zelda Dupont, an English girl turned London-based French chef who has been forced to cook in a British factory and is not happy about it. As the show progresses, each woman’s life begins to change forever.

I immediately connected with the characters and the story. The “upstairs/downstairs,” “Downton Abbey” type relationship is demonstrated by Lady Gwendoline, Sir Strickland, and their cooks and other staff. The radio show cooking contest reminds me of a World War II radio version of the Great British Baking Show. For the contest, each contestant has to provide a starter, a main dish, and a dessert, all on different episodes of the show. All of the recipes for the contest, plus others mentioned in the story, are included in the book. We are given a window into each contestant’s life, both before and during the contest. Audrey is a grieving war widow. Gwendoline is a neglected wife of a strict and domineering nobleman. Zelda is pregnant and abandoned by the child’s father, and Nell is a young girl who wants to get out of the bonds of service. Interesting tidbits about food and history are included, such as why British sausages are called “bangers,” and how some villagers would run to “Anderson shelters,” to escape the bombings. We even get a little education on World War II era planes. I enjoyed every minute of this book, read it in one day, and will read it again. 

If you love cooking and cooking shows, World War II fiction, and strong female characters, you will enjoy this book.

The Kitchen Front will be released on February 23, 2021. I highly recommend it.

I received a free copy of this book from Random House Publishing Group via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jennifer Ryan

Jennifer Ryan is the author of National Bestseller THE CHILBURY LADIES’ CHOIR, THE SPIES OF SHILLING LANE, and THE KITCHEN FRONT. Her writing has featured in Literary Hub, Moms Don’t Have Time to Write, The Daily Mail, The Irish Times, The Express, BBC Online, YOU Magazine, The Simple Things Magazine, and Good Reading Magazine. Previously a book editor with The Economist, DK, and the BBC, she moved from London to Washington, DC after marrying, and she now lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two children. Her novels are inspired by her grandmother’s tales of the war in Britain.

JENNIFER RYAN’S WEBSITE

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Accusing Mr. Darcy

Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet both find themselves guests of the Kendall Family at a month-long house party in a grand estate in Derbyshire.  Elizabeth is implored to attend by her cousin Rose Kendall, and Darcy is a friend of Rose’s husband Nicholas.  Darcy is immediately captivated by Elizabeth, but knows he is expected to marry a woman of greater means.  When a murder occurs on a neighboring estate, and then one of the Kendall’s guests is attacked, the evidence appears stacked against Mr. Darcy.  Will Elizabeth listen to the murmurings against Mr. Darcy, or will she rally to his side?

This is a compelling take on Pride and Prejudice, combining the classic love story with a murder mystery in a new and different setting. Not all of the original characters make an appearance in this variation, but the characters presented are interesting and well developed. This is not a typical Pride and Prejudice variation, but the attraction between Elizabeth and Darcy is palpable, and the conflict between them is well done. The addition of the murder mystery takes this variation to a new level. Miller has an amazing ability to create a fascinating but horrifying villain and provides a back story for the murderer that is chilling and captivating.

Fans of both historical romance and mysteries will enjoy this new take on a time-honored love story.

I downloaded this book on Kindle Unlimited, where KU subscribers can borrow the book for free.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelly Miller

Kelly Miller is a native Californian and Anglophile, who made her first visit to England in 2019. When not pondering a plot point or a turn of phrase, she can be found playing the piano (although like Elizabeth Bennet, she is errant when it comes to practicing), singing, and walking her dogs. Kelly Miller resides in Silicon Valley with her husband, daughter, and their many pets. A Constant Love is her fourth book published by Meryton Press. The first three are novels: Death Takes a Holiday at Pemberley, a Pride and Prejudice Regency romantic sequel with a touch of fantasy; Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match, a Pride and Prejudice Regency romantic variation; and Accusing Mr. Darcy, a Pride and Prejudice Regency romantic mystery. Kelly’s blog page is found at http://kellymiller.merytonpress.com, her Twitter handle is @kellyrei007, Instagram: http://kelly.miller.author, and she is on Facebook: http://facebook.Author.Kelly.Miller

NEW RELEASE

Kelly has a new novella that has just been released. It is called A Consuming Love: A Pride and Prejudice Variation. The Amazon Description is below:

The methodical world of rich, proud Fitzwilliam Darcy is in chaos: a country lady of modest origins has utterly captivated him.

The knowledge that Elizabeth Bennet is an unsuitable match fails to diminish Darcy’s fascination for her, nor does his self-imposed distance from the lady hinder her ability to intrude upon his thoughts at all hours of the day. What can solve his dilemma?

When circumstances compel Darcy’s return to Hertfordshire in assistance of his friend Mr. Bingley, he must confront his unfathomable attraction to Miss Elizabeth.

In this “Pride & Prejudice” Regency novella, one afternoon spent in company with Miss Elizabeth Bennet is enough to make an indelible and life-altering impression upon Darcy, setting him on a rocky course towards the fulfillment of his desires. Will Darcy attain happiness, or will his ingrained pride be his downfall?

A Consuming Love is only $3.99 on Kindle, and Kindle Unlimited subscribers can borrow it for free. Link

Poppy Redfern and the Fatal Flyers

Poppy Redfern and the Fatal Flyers is the second  book  in  the  “A  Woman  of  World  War  II”  mystery series by Tessa Arlen. Although it is the second in a series, it can be read as a standalone. It is 1942 and Poppy, employed by the London Crown Film Unit as  a scriptwriter during the war, is sent to work on location at an airfield.   The film she is working on is about       the  Air   Transport Auxiliary   pilots,   or   “Attagirls.”   This   amazing   group   of   female   pilots    flew  many   different types   of   planes   and   transported   them    to    airfields    all over Britain during    World War II. Sometimes  these  transports  occurred  during  severe  weather  conditions.  Poppy begins to work on the film and starts to get to know this intriguing group of talented and professional female pilots. When two “Attagirls”  are  killed  in  accidents  during  seemingly  routine  flights,  Poppy  and  her boyfriend Griff begin to investigate.

This was such an interesting read, especially since I had never heard of the “Attagirls.” The history of these brave  women  is  fascinating, and the author provides more facts about them in a historical note at the  end of the book.  The  murder  mystery  is  well  done,  with  many  twists,  turns,  and  red herrings.  The  villain is not easy to figure out, so the reader is surprised at the end. The characters are compelling and well developed. Our heroine, Poppy, proves to be a witty and clever sleuth. Her relationship with her boyfriend Griff is complicated at times, but that just makes it more interesting. This is a great combination of World War II historical fiction and cozy mystery. I would recommend this book to fans of both genres.

The first book in the series is Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders.

I received a free copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via Netgalley for Historical Novels Review. My review is voluntary.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tessa Arlen is the author of the critically acclaimed Lady Montfort mystery series—Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman was a finalist for the 2016 Agatha Award Best First Novel. She is also the author of Poppy Redfern: A Woman of World War II mystery series. And the author of the historical fiction: In Royal Service to the Queen.

Tessa lives in the Southwest with her family and two corgis where she gardens in summer and writes in winter.

Comes The War

Comes The War by Ed Ruggero is Book 2 in the Eddie Harkins series. It is April 1944, and the allies are preparing to invade France. Lieutenant Eddie Harkins is in England  and  is  on  orders  to  join  the  Office  of  Strategic Services  (OSS)   when   an American   civilian   employee   is   murdered.   Eddie   finds   himself    in  charge  of  the investigation,   but   his superiors   settle on   a   suspect   very   quickly.  Ordered  to  close  the  case,  but doubting the guilt of the  accused,  Eddie  continues  his  investigation.  He  is  aided  by  his  driver,  Private Pamela Lowell, a smart and resourceful ally.

This was a fascinating look at the Allied forces in WWII England in 1944 prior to D-Day.  It combines a   fictional murder investigation with actual World  War  II  history  in  a  compelling  way.  The  political  fights  between    the    commanding   generals    and   the    “air”     vs.”ground”     war     philosophy are    intriguing. It contradicts  some  of   the   history books    on    the effectiveness  of  the  air  campaign  during  the  war.    It  speaks of Major  General  James  Doolittle, whose  bombing raids  may  have  caused thousands of unnecessary deaths with  no real strategic wins. I also learned that General Dwight D. Eisenhower was so upset by the  pushback  from  the Army Air Force and Royal Air Force generals against his plans that  he  threatened  to  quit  his  command and return  to the United States just a few months before D-Day. I have read many books set in World War II, but this one really made me want to read more about the strategic military history of the day.

The characters are well developed, and the  murder  mystery  and  investigation  are  interesting  and  engaging, with  many  twists  and  turns.  I  would recommend  this  book  both  to  fans  of  World  War  II  history  and fans of crime/thriller fiction.

I received a free copy of this book from MacMillan/Tor-Forge via Netgalley for Historical Novels Review Magazine. My review is voluntary.

Comes The War was released February 9th, 2021. The link to buy is below.

ED RUGGERO’S WEBSITE

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Death and the Singing Birds

This is Book 3 in the Nell Drury mystery series.   It can be read as a standalone. It is 1926 in Kent, which is still adjusting to post-war life. The book opens with Chef Nell Drury preparing for Lady Ansley’s luncheon to welcome their new neighbors, Sir Gilbert and Lady Lisette Saddler. As they attempt to entertain the eccentric pair,   they learn Sir Gilbert is organizing a Summer African Art Festival at his home, Spitalfrith    Manor.  The  festival would feature the “Artistes de Cler.”   The festival is the talk of the town and everyone is invited. When a murder occurs at the festival, Lord Ansley’s valet is arrested. Can Nell clear his name?

This is a nice historical cozy mystery. The characters are well developed. I loved the author’s description of Lady Saddler “…She smiled, but it wasn’t the kind of smile that warmed the cockles of one’s heart. It was more the smile of a crocodile….” The members of the “Artistes de Cler” are an interesting group of characters as well. The story is told from several points of view, but it works well and is not confusing. In fact, it gives us more knowledge of some of the characters. The author also provides a helpful cast of characters list at the beginning of the book. I was hoping to read more about food since Nell is a chef, but the story centered more along the lines of art and investigation with just passing references to food. The mystery is well done, with plenty of red herrings thrown in. Recommended for fans of historical mysteries.

AMY MYERS’ WEBSITE

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A Class Forsaken

This is Book 3 in the “A Matter of Class” series, set in 1800s Ireland. It would be beneficial to read the first two books in the series before reading Book 3, as there will be major spoilers for the first two books. This was also a book I reviewed for Historical Novels Review Magazine. They chose this book as another “Editor’s Choice.”

Escaping authorities in England, Bridget and Cormac flee home to Carlow, Ireland , with their daughter Emily. They return to Cormac’s former cottage, but his mother and siblings are gone, forced out years ago by Bridget’s embittered mother, who is lady of the manor. Many changes have occurred at Oakleigh manor and Bridget must face off with her mother in an attempt to save the tenants from her harsh management. At the same time, Cormac is determined to find his family. The saga follows Bridget, Cormac, and Emily to Dublin, where they encounter evil people of all classes as they attempt to find Cormac’s mother and sisters.

I found this to be a well-written and entertaining love story. While it is a love story, it is also a scathing look back at the treatment of the so-called lower classes by the rich and entitled of the era. At the same time, the author brings forth a thread of hope in the form of Bridget. Although Bridget was born in privilege, she can see the humanity of every person and has already cast her title aside for love. The characters are all well developed and the desperation of the time is well conveyed. The novel is fast paced and full of obstacles and adventure.

Highly recommended for fans of historical romance and Irish history.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Susie Murphy

Susie Murphy is an Irish historical fiction author. She loves historical fiction so much that she often wishes she had been born two hundred years ago. Still, she remains grateful for many aspects of the modern age, including women’s suffrage, electric showers and pizza. Susie’s published novels, A Class Apart, A Class Entwined and A Class Forsaken, are the first three instalments in her seven-part series A Matter of Class, a sweeping saga which begins in Ireland in 1828.

To find out more, visit http://www.susiemurphywrites.com, where you can join Susie’s Readers’ Club and receive a collection of five free short stories which are prequels to the whole series.

I received a free copy of this book via Historical Novels Review Magazine. My opinions are my own.

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The Children’s Blizzard

The Children’s Blizzard is the story of the devastating blizzard of 1888, which swept across the Great Plains with no warning and killed hundreds of people, many of them children on their way home from school. This is a fictionalized account of that devastating storm, but is based upon actual events and oral histories of the survivors.

This book is exquisitely written. Melanie Benjamin does an incredible job of connecting the reader with the characters. She shares the backstories and inner thoughts and feelings of pretty much every character in the book. Even the animals have something to say. And her stories delve deeply into the characters’ lives.

The main characters are two sisters who are both schoolteachers. Although they have so much in common, they experience very different outcomes during the storm simply based on last minute decisions. There is also an immigrant family led by a stressed out mother and a dallying, irresponsible father, and a young girl who has been sold to them by her mother for next to nothing. We meet an African American bar owner, who gives us the perspective of how people of color were treated in the late 1880’s. After the storm, a great newspaperman arrives. He comes to the area in search of the next big story, but instead experiences a life-changing connection with one of the victims.

Benjamin’s account of the harrowing experiences of the young people struggling though hazardous conditions, blinding snow, and freezing weather to try and find their way home, sometimes in vain, leaves us on the edge of our seat, feeling as if we are traveling with them.

Benjamin has written a book based on true events that cannot be missed, and I recommend everyone read this story, which is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley, and originally reviewed it for Historical Novels Review Magazine. My opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melanie Benjamin is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling historical novels The Swans of Fifth Avenue, about Truman Capote and his society swans, and The Aviator’s Wife, a novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Her novel, Mistress of the Ritz, is a taut tale of suspense wrapped up in a love story for the ages, the inspiring story of a woman and a man who discover the best in each other amid the turbulence of war.Melanie Benjamin
Photo by Deborah Feingold

Previous historical novels include the national bestseller Alice I Have Been, about Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland; The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, the story of 32-inch-tall Lavinia Warren Stratton, a star during the Gilded Age; and The Girls in the Picture, about the friendship and creative partnership between two of Hollywood’s earliest female legends—screenwriter Frances Marion and superstar Mary Pickford.

Her novels have been translated in over fifteen languages, featured in national magazines such as Good HousekeepingPeople, and Entertainment Weekly, and optioned for film. 

Melanie is a native of the Midwest, having grown up in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she pursued her first love, theater. After raising her two sons, Melanie, a life-long reader (including being the proud winner, two years in a row, of her hometown library’s summer reading program!), decided to pursue a writing career. After writing her own parenting column for a local magazine, and winning a short story contest, Melanie published two contemporary novels under her real name, Melanie Hauser, before turning to historical fiction. 

Melanie lives in Virginia with her husband. In addition to writing, she puts her theatrical training to good use by being a member of the Authors Unbound speakers bureau. When she isn’t writing or speaking, she’s reading. And always looking for new stories to tell.

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