Sunday, April 16, 2023

Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash

Title: Beyond That, the Sea
Author: Laura Spence-Ash
Narrator: Ell Potter
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Release Date: March 21, 2023

A sweeping, tenderhearted love story, Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash tells the story of two families living through World War II on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and the shy, irresistible young woman who will call them both her own.

As German bombs fall over London in 1940, working-class parents Millie and Reginald Thompson make an impossible choice: they decide to send their eleven-year-old daughter, Beatrix, to America. There, she’ll live with another family for the duration of the war, where they hope she’ll stay safe.

Scared and angry, feeling lonely and displaced, Bea arrives in Boston to meet the Gregorys. Mr. and Mrs. G, and their sons William and Gerald, fold Bea seamlessly into their world. She becomes part of this lively family, learning their ways and their stories, adjusting to their affluent lifestyle. Bea grows close to both boys, one older and one younger, and fills in the gap between them. Before long, before she even realizes it, life with the Gregorys feels more natural to her than the quiet, spare life with her own parents back in England.

As Bea comes into herself and relaxes into her new life—summers on the coast in Maine, new friends clamoring to hear about life across the sea—the girl she had been begins to fade away, until, abruptly, she is called home to London when the war ends.

Desperate as she is not to leave this life behind, Bea dutifully retraces her trip across the Atlantic back to her new, old world. As she returns to post-war London, the memory of her American family stays with her, never fully letting her go, and always pulling on her heart as she tries to move on and pursue love and a life of her own.

As we follow Bea over time, navigating between her two worlds, Beyond That, the Sea emerges as a beautifully written, absorbing novel, full of grace and heartache, forgiveness and understanding, loss and love.

Beyond sad but uplifting at the end!

The novel tells the story of Beatrix "Bea" Thompson. Is 1940 and World War II is raging. London is getting bombed regularly and her parents, Millie and Reggie decided to send her to America to live with a family in Boston.

Millie doesn't want to send her but Reginald insists. He wants her daughter to be safe.

When Bea arrives in Boston, the Gregorys are there to pick her up. She meets Mr. and Mrs. G and their sons, William and Gerald.

William behaves like a regular teenager, angry at times, thinking about enlisting when he is of age, and desperate to leave the house and travel all over.

Gerald is the youngest son. He is big-hearted and sweet. Even though both sons are so different, they both clicked with Bea, becoming one of them pretty quickly.

Bea who starts as scared and angry towards her mother-teenager, blossoms into a wonderful young woman. She falls for William but when the war is over, she must return to London. Readjusting her life is not easy but she knows she has to continue her life although the Gregorys are never far from her mind.

Heartbreak, death, divorce, and sorrow plague these two families and when it felt that there was no hope, a sliver will show up.

Ell Potter, the narrator, helps bring Bea, Mrs. G and Millie alive. I thought she did a great job narrating them.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by Macmillan Audio via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth

Title: The Soulmate
Author: Sally Hepworth
Narrator: Barrie Kreinik, Jessica Douglas-Henry
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: April 4, 2023

Get ready for a thrilling, addictive novel about marriage, betrayal, and the secrets that push us to the edge in Sally Hepworth's The Soulmate.

There’s a cottage on a cliff. Gabe and Pippa’s dream home in a sleepy coastal town. But their perfect house hides something sinister. The tall cliffs have become a popular spot for people to end their lives. Night after night Gabe comes to their rescue, literally talking them off the ledge. Until he doesn’t.

When Pippa discovers Gabe knew the victim, the questions spiral...Did the victim jump? Was she pushed?

And would Gabe, the love of Pippa’s life, her soulmate...lie? As the perfect facade of their marriage begins to crack, the deepest and darkest secrets begin to unravel.

Sally Hepworth is one of my favorite authors. Her stories are always entertaining.

From the opening scene, The Soulmate had me.

Pippa and Gabe live in a coastal cottage with their two daughters. From the beginning, you know something is not right. Their home is on a cliff and sadly, this has become a great place for people to commit suicide. Thankfully, Gabe has been able to help several people from jumping just by talking to them. When the book begins, a woman is by the cliff. As always, Gabe grabs a jacket and goes out there to talk to her and hopefully help her not jump. However, this time things don't work out and she dies.

As traumatizing as this situation is for Pipa, it becomes worse when it's revealed that Gabe knew the victim and that Pipa knew her husband.

The book is narrated by Pippa and by Amanda, the dead woman. Both characters unraveled the past and make sense of the present.

I listened to the audio and it was fantastic thanks to Barrie Kreinik, and Jessica Douglas-Henry.

Engrossing and atmospheric with a side of ghostly made this book another winner by Sally Hepworth.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by St. Martin's Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Wilderwomen by Ruth Emmie Lang


Title: The Wilderwomen 
Author: Ruth Emmie Lang
Narrator: Anna Caputo
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: November 15, 2022

Ohioana Book Award finalist Ruth Emmie Lang returns with a new cast of ordinary characters with extraordinary abilities.

Five years ago, Nora Wilder disappeared. The older of her two daughters, Zadie, should have seen it coming, because she can literally see things coming. But not even her psychic abilities were able to prevent their mother from vanishing one morning.

Zadie’s estranged younger sister, Finn, can’t see into the future, but she has an uncannily good memory, so good that she remembers not only her own memories, but the echoes of memories other people have left behind. On the afternoon of her graduation party, Finn is seized by an “echo” more powerful than anything she’s experienced before: a woman singing a song she recognizes, a song about a bird…

When Finn wakes up alone in an aviary with no idea of how she got there, she realizes who the memory belongs to: Nora.

Now, it’s up to Finn to convince her sister that not only is their mom still out there, but that she wants to be found. Against Zadie’s better judgement, she and Finn hit the highway, using Finn’s echoes to retrace Nora’s footsteps and uncover the answer to the question that has been haunting them for years: Why did she leave?

But the more time Finn spends in their mother’s past, the harder it is for her to return to the present, to return to herself. As Zadie feels her sister start to slip away, she will have to decide what lengths she is willing to go to to find their mother, knowing that if she chooses wrong, she could lose them both for good.

The Wilderwoman was likable but not engrossing.

I listened to the audio and I think Anna Caputo's narration is the way to go with so many past and present chapters plus different POVs. She helped keep storylines straight for me.

The novel revolves around two sisters. Zadie and Finn.

Zadie Wilder is twenty-three and her sister Finn is seventeen. Five years ago, their mother, Nora walked out on them. The sisters get separated. Finn as an underage child is placed under foster care. Zadie is left to survive on her own. In the beginning, they tried to stay close but this doesn't last. Now that Finn is almost about to graduate, they have planned two weeks at the beach to bond again. Yet, Finn has an ulterior motive, she wants to search for her mother with Zadie. She believes her ability is going to help. Yes, you heard right, Finn has the ability to "feel" past memories which she calls "echoes". Zadie is a psychic but she doesn't like to have an ability so she doesn't use it. 

The story follows these two women in search of their mother, interacting with interesting characters along the way. 

Even though magical realism is a favorite, I found myself uninterested at times. I also didn't think the reason for Nora's leaving was enough. The resolution felt rushed too.

Cliffhanger: No

3.5/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by St. Martin's Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Weyward by Emilia Hart


Title: Weyward
Author: Emilia Hart
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: March 7, 2023

2019: Under cover of darkness, Kate flees London for ramshackle Weyward Cottage, inherited from a great aunt she barely remembers. With its tumbling ivy and overgrown garden, the cottage is worlds away from the abusive partner who tormented Kate. But she begins to suspect that her great aunt had a secret. One that lurks in the bones of the cottage, hidden ever since the witch-hunts of the 17th century.

1619: Altha is awaiting trial for the murder of a local farmer who was stampeded to death by his herd. As a girl, Altha’s mother taught her their magic, a kind not rooted in spell casting but in a deep knowledge of the natural world. But unusual women have always been deemed dangerous, and as the evidence for witchcraft is set out against Altha, she knows it will take all of her powers to maintain her freedom.

1942: As World War II rages, Violet is trapped in her family's grand, crumbling estate. Straitjacketed by societal convention, she longs for the robust education her brother receives––and for her mother, long deceased, who was rumored to have gone mad before her death. The only traces Violet has of her are a locket bearing the initial W and the word weyward scratched into the baseboard of her bedroom.

Weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries, Emilia Hart's Weyward is an enthralling novel of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world.

I'm so late in writing this review but finally, here it goes.

Three women. Three mistreated women are all linked by their resilience and ability to learn to survive in a world that is not friendly to them.

in 1619, Altha Weyward is a teenager. Her mother has passed, she doesn't know her father and she is fighting for her life. She has been accused of witchcraft and killing a neighbor with her powers. How is she able to endure it?

In 1942, Violet Ayres wanted more than what she was allowed. She craves knowledge. She wishes she could be like her brother and be able to learn what he is. Yet, she is told that marriage and having kids is her only purpose. Her father is unyielding and her mother has passed, rumored to have gone crazy. Then two things happen, one involving finding out about the Weywards' past, the other one, a traumatizing event that will change her future.

in 2019, Kate Ayres is running away from his abusive partner. She runs to Weyward Cottage, a place she inherited from her great-aunt Violet. Little by little, she wants to know more about her great-aunt and her ancestors. What she learns baffles her but at the same time, it empowers her.

Great writing combined with a realistic atmospheric setting made Weyward a winning novel for me. I liked all 3 women and was hoping for a good outcome for all of them. The narrators, Aysha Kala, Helen Keeley, and Nell Barlow only augmented the experience.

This was a buddy read with Melissa and Terrie.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by St. Martin's Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Do I Know You?
by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka


Title: Do I know You?
Author: Emily Wibberley Austin Siegemund-Broka
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Release Date: January 24, 2023

Eliza and Graham are anticipating an anything-but-sexy, weeklong getaway to celebrate their five-year anniversary. Nestled on the Northern California coastline, the resort prides itself on being a destination for those in love and those looking to find it. For Eliza and Graham, it might as well be a vacation with a roommate.

When a well-meaning guest mistakes Eliza and Graham for being single and introduces them at the hotel bar, they don't correct him. Suddenly, they're pretending to be perfect strangers and it's unexpectedly... fun? Eliza and Graham find themselves flirting like it's their first date, and waiting with butterflies in their stomach for the other to text back.

Everyone at the retreat can sense the electric chemistry between Eliza and Graham's alter egos. But when their scintillating game of roleplaying ends, will they still feel the heat?

When a couple starts to feel like they're married to a stranger, a flirtatious game of pretend becomes the spark they need to reignite their relationship.

This is a different type of romance. It's about a married couple trying to rekindle their love for each other.

Eliza and Graham are about to celebrate their 5th anniversary. Graham's mother has gifted them a week at a resort in northern California. However, if their ride over there is any indication, their marriage is doomed.

Graham is an attorney and Eliza is a voice-over actor. They are successful in their professional life but not in their personal. It seems that the couple doesn't know how to talk to each other any longer.

Due to a new acquaintance, an unexpected circumstance arises. David mistakes them as single and introduces Graham to Eliza. The couple takes this chance and begins the role-play of being strangers. For the next few days, they treat their relationship as new, including staying in separate rooms and only seeing each other by chance.

This definitely was not Two For the Road but the writing was witty. I did get invested in Eliza and Graham. I was rooting for them to be able to find each other again.

I enjoyed both narrators, Dan Bittner and Brittany Pressley. They grab the characters and made them their own.

Cliffhanger: No

3.5/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by Berkley Publishing Group via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

A Mother Would Know by Amber Garza


Title: A Mother Would Know
Author: Amber Garza
Narrator: Vivienne Leheny 
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: December 13, 2022

A mother questions everything she knows about her son when a local woman is found dead.

Valerie has been forgetting things. Her daughter worries about her being on her own in her big Victorian house—one rumored to be haunted after a tragedy decades earlier—and truth be told, she is a little lonely. With few options, she asks her adult son to move home, but it’s not quite the reunion she hoped for. Hudson is taciturn, moody and frequently gone.

The neighbors already hold a grudge against Hudson, and they aren’t happy about his return. When a young woman is found murdered a block away, suspicion falls on him immediately, without a shred of evidence. While Valerie fights to defend her son, she begins to wonder who she really invited into her home.

It’s a horrible thing for a mother to even think…but is it possible she’s enabled a monster? A monster she is living with, alone?

I liked A Mother Would Know.

Valerie is distressed about her memory. Her mother had Alzheimer's and she saw what the disease did to her. She'd rather not find out. Valerie's daughter, Kendra worries about her health and living alone but Valerie doesn't want to leave her home. So instead when her son needs a place to crash, she is more than happy for him to stay with her. Yet, the neighborhood disagrees. You see, years prior the next-door neighbor's daughter's death was associated with Hudson since he was her boyfriend.

Valerie worries about Hudson. She remembers some incidents when Hudson was growing up that perturbed her and of course, she knows about Helen, the girlfriend that died. Making matters worse, two new deaths occurred in the neighborhood and they have a connection to Hudson. What is she going to do?

I listened to the audio and Vivienne Leheny helped keep things straight between the past and the present. The majority of the book is narrated by Valerie. She is an unreliable narrator due to her memory loss. I felt bad for her. She was in an impossible position. Do you believe your son is a killer or are you a terrible mother for thinking it?

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by MIRA via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.