Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

Review: THE TRUTH ACCORDING TO US by Annie Barrows

I received this from Net Galley a while back – and took my time reading it (it’s a tad long). I loved Annie Barrows’ Guernsey LIterary and Potato Peel Pie novel, so I knew I’d like this one, too.

In this novel, a young woman and senator’s daughter (Layla Beck) is sent to be part of the Federal Writers’ Project and to record the history of the small town of Macedonia, West Virginia. She boards with the Romeyn family, and throughout that hot, sticky summer of 1938, she learns about the town, the family, and herself.

The Romeyn family has a somewhat checkered past. Felix is the head of the household, but he’s a distant and somewhat mysterious man, whose past is shrouded in secrecy. His sister Jottie shares the house with him and cares for his two young daughters, Willa and Bird. Their mother has left them years ago. Jottie has a past herself, marred by tragedy and star-crossed love. Layla finds herself drawn to the family and their other relatives, all the while she is deciding what she really wants to do with her life.

The character of 12-year-old Willa tells the story along with Layla and we sometimes get Jottie’s point of view, too; but the switch is never confusing. I loved the voice of Willa. I loved, too, how Ms. Barrows’s evocative writing moved in parts with the lazy heat of summer. This book oozed with secrets kept right under the surface, and people grown complacent in keeping those secrets. Layla’s feelings and actions moved toward their inevitable conclusion with a slow trickle. The last part of the book moved quickly, though, with the climax and subsequent actions/denouement.

Loved this book – lots to discuss, too!

Find it at an Indie near you – I am an Indie Bound Affiliate.

Thank you, Net Galley and The Dial Press, for my review e-copy!

Find it at an Indie near you! I am an Indie Bound Affiliate.

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Cookbook Review: The Sprouted Kitchen: BOWL AND SPOON by Sara and Hugh Forte

Through Blogging for Books I received another great cookbook to review: BOWL AND SPOON by Sara Forte – pictures by Hugh Forte. This is part of the “Sprouted Kitchen” series and is subtitled “simple and inspired whole foods recipes to savor and share”.

I was drawn to this book as I like to be able to make fresh, healthy meals for my family, with a minimum of clean-up. I love the bowls of food in this book! They are straightforward and pretty easy. My favorites were the breakfast bowls and the “big bowls” (dinner). A few recipes include: pumpkin-pie steel cut oats (you had me at “pumpkin”),winter fruit salad with ginger lime syrup (because it’s often winter here in New England), mixed greens with beet and walnut puree (we are in love with beets around here), and creamy mushroom pasta with frizzled leeks (what can I say? the name says it all).

This was my first “Sprouted Kitchen” experience, but I know many people love the first book. Apparently Sara is a food blogger (sorry if I’m late to the party here – I follow mostly book bloggers).

Love the recipes and ideas in here — recommended!

Thank you for my review copy!

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image compliments of Amazon.

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My thoughts on GO SET A WATCHMAN by Harper Lee

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Well, I managed to avoid all the hype surrounding the publication of Harper Lee’s GO SET A WATCHMAN. I didn’t want to know about it in advance. All I knew was that this manuscript had been kept by Alice (Lee’s sister) in a safety deposit box and was an early draft of writing that pre-dated TKAM. It had the same characters. Considering that I have read TKAM 20 times (seriously) and it is one of my favorite books ever, I pre-ordered it months ago and waited to read it.

(As I write about my reading experience, I will note where there are SPOILERS).

WATCHMAN starts with Jean Louise heading home to Maycomb to visit her family. She lives in NYC now and is in her early twenties. I have to say, that once I started reading, I just felt enveloped by Harper Lee’s writing. It was like a warm bath. Her voice and style is so distinctive (yes, I never believed Truman Capote wrote TKAM. Sacrilege!). I nestled in to the book with the thought, “Nelle Harper, you’ve come home to your readers.” The first 100 pages not too much happened beyond Jean Louise returning home. Familiar characters became familiar once again. (SPOILER ALERT) Most notably, though, Atticus is aging and infirm from arthritis; and dear Jem is dead (passed away before the start of the book from a congenital heart issue). I have to say I was a bit startled by these changes. A new character (or at least one I don’t remember from my many reads of TKAM) is Hank, a neighbor and friend of Jean Louise. He wants to marry her and the two of them seem set for each other. Hank is taking over Atticus’ law practice.

Then a pivotal event occurs (SPOILER!!!!). Jean Louise visits the courthouse to see what the Citizens’ Council is up to and finds a speaker there who is working hard to keep segregation in the South. He spews forth some evil, racist remarks. Jean Louise is shocked but most shocking of all is that her father sits on one side of him and her intended on the other. Atticus Finch is a racist?? Well, I was as shocked as Jean Louise. I was disgusted. I felt tricked. What happened to that pillar of righteous justice from TKAM?? Jean Louise felt that same way.

The next part of the book is her trying to come to grips with this. There are flashbacks. There is a passing mention to the Tom Robinson trial – which is different from the Tom Robinson trial of TKAM but definitely based on the same trial. Jean Louise struggles and fights and rails. Her uncle plays a big role in this part of the book – but to be honest, I found him confusing. His words to her were almost all allegory and “riddles”. I was confused – but maybe that was just me. All the time Jean Louise is seeing racism and prejudice everywhere she looks.

At the end (SPOILER!!) I thought there might be a different wrap-up. I don’t know what I expected – maybe Atticus to slap her on the back and say, “I’m only fooling with you, Scout! And with your readers!” However, I think the ending is important in that Atticus doesn’t change. Scout has seen him for what he is. She accepts him though she doesn’t agree with him. And this is the point where the story becomes a true coming of age story — Atticus is proud of her because she thinks differently from him and stands by her convictions. In her mind, she “welcomes him to the human race”. Atticus has been a demigod for Jean Louise (and for many of us readers). He’s not. He’s human – and imperfect.

So let’s think about the title here. Jean Louise hears them say it in church so I googled it and it’s a Biblical reference from Isaiah. Go set a watchman. Go set a person who will watch over us all. I am guessing Nelle Harper considered Atticus the watchman, as this was a book that pre-dated and was reworked into TKAM. To read this one, you could consider Jean Louise to be the watchman, as she has entered the fight against racism and injustice.

However, shouldn’t and couldn’t we all be the watchmen?

You can see this book on Amazon where I am an Associate. It’s where I preordered mine ages ago. It is less than 300 pages.
Go Set a Watchman: A Novel

Just a note. I did find the blatant racist language and diatribes in this book hard to read. You might, too.

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CIRCLING THE SUN by Paula McLain

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Publishing at the end of the month (July 28, 2015) is a really fantastic novel about female aviator Beryl Markham: Paula McLain’s CIRCLING THE SUN.

I first heard of Beryl Markham when I read her memoir, WEST WITH THE NIGHT. I was going through a “female aviator phase” and was reading about Anne Lindbergh (my personal hero – don’t get me started!), Amelia Earhart, and Beryl Markham. I had not heard of Beryl before, but found her absolutely fascinating! Beryl was English, but grew up in Kenya in the early years of the 1900’s. Her mother deserted her and her father and returned to England. Beryl was a wild child: precocious, tough, and in love with the land and culture of Africa. Nothing stopped her. Again and again she pushed against the restrictions against women. She became a noted horse trainer (first female). She became a bush pilot. She actually is the first female aviator to fly across the Atlantic east to west. A very personal side of Beryl is shown in this novel – her loves, her triumphs, her foibles. The love triangle with her, Karen von Blixen (Out of Africa author), and Denys Finch Hatten is portrayed in depth here. In all, you come to know Beryl Markham intimately.

I loved McLain’s earlier work, THE PARIS WIFE, and loved this novel, too. These characters came alive and are still with me, weeks after I finished the novel. They are so interesting – so real – so human. Don’t miss this one.

And if you like it, read Beryl’s own WEST WITH THE NIGHT.

Find them at an indie near you (I am an Indie Bound Affiliate):


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Thank you, Net Galley and Random House Ballantine, for my review copy!

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Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for MAUD’S LINE by Margaret Verble

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Today I am part of the virtual book tour for Margaret Verble’s new book: MAUD’S LINE, a story of a Native American teen and her family during the Depression. Here’s what HFVBT has to say:

Publication Date: July 14, 2015
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0544470192
Pages: 304

Genre: Historical Fiction

A debut novel chronicling the life and loves of a headstrong, earthy, and magnetic heroine

Eastern Oklahoma, 1928. Eighteen-year-old Maud Nail lives with her rogue father and sensitive brother on one of the allotments parceled out by the U.S. Government to the Cherokees when their land was confiscated for Oklahoma’s statehood. Maud’s days are filled with hard work and simple pleasures, but often marked by violence and tragedy, a fact that she accepts with determined practicality. Her prospects for a better life are slim, but when a newcomer with good looks and books rides down her section line, she takes notice. Soon she finds herself facing a series of high-stakes decisions that will determine her future and those of her loved ones.

Maud’s Line is accessible, sensuous, and vivid. It will sit on the bookshelf alongside novels by Jim Harrison, Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, and other beloved chroniclers of the American West and its people.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE (NOOK) | BOOK DEPOSITORY | INDIEBOUND

PRAISE FOR MAUD’S LINE

“Maud is refreshingly open and honest about her own sexuality though conscious of her place as a woman in a sexist society, always careful not to insult the intelligence or manhood of her male friends and relations. Verble writes in a simple style that matches the hardscrabble setting and plainspoken characters. Verble, herself a member of the Cherokee Nation, tells a compelling story peopled with flawed yet sympathetic characters, sharing insights into Cherokee society on the parcels of land allotted to them after the Trail of Tears.” —Kirkus

“Writing as though Daniel Woodrell nods over one shoulder and the spirit of Willa Cather over the other, Margaret Verble gives us Maud, a gun-toting, book-loving, dream-chasing young woman whose often agonizing dilemmas can only be countered by sheer strength of heart.” —Malcolm Brooks, author of Painted Horses

“I want to live with Maud in a little farm in a little valley under the shadow of a mountain wall. Maud’s Line is an absolutely wonderful novel and Margaret Verble can drop you from great heights and still easily pick you up. I will read anything she writes, with enthusiasm.” —Jim Harrison, author of Dalva, Legends of the Fall, and The Big Seven

“Margaret Verble gives us a gorgeous window onto the Cherokee world in Oklahoma, 1927. Verble’s voice is utterly authentic, tender and funny, vivid and smart, and she creates a living community – the Nail family, Maud herself, her father, Mustard, and brother, Lovely, and the brothers Blue and Early, the quiet, tender-mouthed mare Leaf, and the big landscape of the bottoms – the land given to the Cherokees after the Trail of Tears. Beyond the allotments, it opens up into the wild, which is more or less what Verble does with this narrative. A wonderful debut novel.” —Roxana Robinson, author of Sparta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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MARGARET VERBLE, an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, has set her novel on her family’s allotment land. She currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky, and Old Windsor, England.

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This book was so interesting to me. I haven’t read too many novels from the Native American perspective that take place in the 20th century beyond the work of Louise Erdrich (whom I love!). I loved the character of Maud. She was strong and smart and driven. She was very in touch with her sexuality and not embarrassed by it. She certainly faced a large amount of trials and never gave up. I found the information about living on allotted land at that time interesting. Clearly Maud was in a world that was male dominated and the laws favored men for land ownership. At the end, Maud must decide what path to take in life and what is important to her — how her family and community play a role in her identity and what she wants in life.

Great debut novel! Thank you for making me part of the tour and for my review e-copy!

You, too, can follow the tour:

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

Monday, July 13
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, July 14
Guest Post at Mina’s Bookshelf
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, July 15
Review at A Book Geek

Thursday, July 16
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Friday, July 17
Excerpt & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Review Plus More

Saturday, July 18
Review at Queen of All She Reads

Monday, July 20
Review at Book Nerd

Tuesday, July 21
Guest Post at Just One More Chapter

Wednesday, July 22
Interview & Excerpt at The Old Shelter
Excerpt & Giveaway at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, July 23
Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Spotlight at Layered Pages

Friday, July 24
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

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Coming in the fall — calling all Alcott fans!

I was taking part in the summer conversational series this week and had the pleasure of meeting Jeannine Atkins, author of the upcoming LITTLE WOMAN IN BLUE – A Novel of May Alcott. I am SO excited to read this, and Jeannine kindly gave me an ARC. I will be reading it and then posting my thoughts closer to its Pub Day in September.

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Long awaited…


So very excited to read this as TKAM is probably my favorite book ever!

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Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour – FLASK OF THE DRUNKEN MASTER by Susan Spann

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I’m happy today to take part in the historical fiction blog tour for Susan Spann’s FLASK OF THE DRUNKEN MASTER.

This is the first time that I’ve read a book in this cozy mystery series set in Japan in the 1500’s and I really enjoyed it!

Here’s what HFVBT has to say:

Publication Date: July 14, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
ISBN-13: 9781250027061
Pages: 304

Series: Shinobi Mysteries (Volume 3)
Genre: Historical Mystery

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August 1565: When a rival artisan turns up dead outside Ginjiro’s brewery, and all the evidence implicates the brewer, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo must find the killer before the magistrate executes Ginjiro and seizes the brewery, leaving his wife and daughter destitute. A missing merchant, a vicious debt collector, and a female moneylender join Ginjiro and the victim’s spendthrift son on the suspect list. But with Kyoto on alert in the wake of the shogun’s recent death, a rival shinobi on the prowl, and samurai threatening Hiro and Father Mateo at every turn, Ginjiro’s life is not the only one in danger.

Will Hiro and Father Mateo unravel the clues in time to save Ginjiro’s life, or will the shadows gathering over Kyoto consume the detectives as well as the brewer?

Flask of the Drunken Master is the latest entry in Susan Spann’s thrilling 16th century Japanese mystery series, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and Jesuit Father Mateo.

Praise for Claws of the Cat

“Spann matches period detail with a well-developed whodunit plot in her promising debut, the first in a new series set in 16th-century Japan.”

Shinobi Mystery Series Titles

Book One: Claws of the Cat (Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month)
Book Two: Blade of the Samurai
Book Three: Flask of the Drunken Master

Flask of the Drunken Master Available at

Amazon
Barnes & Noble

About the Author

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Susan Spann acquired her love of books and reading during her preschool days in Santa Monica, California. As a child she read everything from National Geographic to Agatha Christie. In high school, she once turned a short-story assignment into a full-length fantasy novel (which, fortunately, will never see the light of day).

A yearning to experience different cultures sent Susan to Tufts University in Boston, where she immersed herself in the history and culture of China and Japan. After earning an undergraduate degree in Asian Studies, Susan diverted to law school. She returned to California to practice law, where her continuing love of books has led her to specialize in intellectual property, business and publishing contracts.

Susan’s interest in Japanese history, martial arts, and mystery inspired her to write the Shinobi Mystery series featuring Hiro Hattori, a sixteenth-century ninja who brings murderers to justice with the help of Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest. When not writing or representing clients, Susan enjoys traditional archery, martial arts, horseback riding, online gaming, and raising seahorses and rare corals in her highly distracting marine aquarium. Susan lives in Sacramento with her husband, son, three cats, one bird, and a multitude of assorted aquatic creatures.

For more information please visit Susan Spann’s website and blog. You can also find her onFacebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Here I am again! This was a quick an engaging read for me. I loved learning about the shogun era and the life of a real ninja. It was so interesting to read about the culture of Japan at that time. I think the interaction and friendship between Father Mateo, a Jesuit, and Hiro, the ninja, was  really well-crafted and believable. The mystery was well-plotted, too, and I read through the story in just a few sittings. I would LOVE to see these books as a television series through the BBC!

I will look for more from this author and series. Thank you for my review e-copy and for making me part of the tour!

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Litfuse Blog Tour for BEYOND THE ASHES by Karen Barnett and Giveaway!

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I’m happy today to take part in the blog tour for Karen Barnett’s second story in her Golden Gate Chronicles series: BEYOND THE ASHES.

Here’s the synopsis from Litfuse:

About the book:
Beyond the Ashes (Abingdon Press, June 2015)Where better to rebuild and face one’s fears than in 1906 San Francisco, a city rising from the ashes?

Ruby Marshall, a young widow, is certain she’ll discover new purpose assisting her brother Robert with his cancer research, but she doesn’t anticipate finding new love.

Dr. Gerald Larkspur dreams of filling his empty home with family, but he’d always hoped it would be a wife and children. In the aftermath of the great earthquake, the rooms are overflowing with extended family and friends left homeless by the disaster. When Robert’s widowed sister arrives, the close quarters seem close indeed.

Ruby and Gerald’s fledgling romance is put at risk when Gerald develops symptoms of the very disease they’re striving to cure. Together they must ask—is it worth a second chance at love when time might be short?

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1IGu1bg

About the author:

Karen Barnett is the author of Beyond the Ashes, Out of the Ruins, and Mistaken. Named the 2013 Writer of Promise by Oregon Christian Writers, Karen lives in Albany, Oregon, with her husband and two kids. When she’s not writing novels, she loves speaking at women’s events, libraries, and book clubs.

Find Karen online: website, Twitter, Facebook

If you read me, you know I love historical fiction. Plus I grew up in the Bay Area, so stories taking place in San Francisco are always a draw for me! This story had a lot of background in it about conditions after the big quake and medical issues at the time. I found the whole subplot about cancer and cancer treatment – just a hundred years ago – quite fascinating, too.
There were a lot of characters in this book, with the main ones being Ruby, her brother Robert, and his friend and fellow doctor Gerald. I did find the first half of the book a tad slow. There was a lot of build up to Ruby and Gerald’s feelings for each other. Then it seemed like the second half of the book flew! There were a few other subplots (such as one about the abuse of young Asian girls), along with Ruby and Gerald’s relationship, the upcoming wedding of Robert, Gerald’s illness, and an ill-timed diphtheria outbreak! The Christian element in this book is what I call a “light touch”. Ruby and Gerald – and another key character who was a minster – are people of faith and they let that faith guide them.
Recommended to those who enjoy historical fiction!
Here’s a chance to win a copy of your own: Giveaway!
Thank you for making me part of the tour and for my review e-copy!
You, too, can follow the tour:

Blog Tour Schedule:

6/29/2015
Rebekah | Backing Books
Jendi | Jendi’s Journal
Tressa | Wishful Endings
Karen | LyonsLady
Charity | aTransParentMom
Marianne | reviewing Novels Online
Debra | 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too !
Charity | Giveaway Lady
Trish | View from the Birdhouse
Lisa | A Rup Life
Julia | Avid Reader Reviews

6/30/2015

Taylor | Taylor Reid Reads and Breathes
Vicky | deal sharing aunt
Dianna | Savings in Seconds
Cassandra | Cassandra M’s Place
Erin | For Him and My Family
Megan | when life gets you down…read a book

7/1/2015

Jami | Jami’s Words
Rayleigh | Accelerate The Jesus Movement
Joy | Splashes of Joy
Jalynn | A Simple Life, really?!
Kav | Best Reads

7/2/2015

Pamela | Daysong Reflections
Kathleen | Reviews From The Heart

7/3/2015

Angela | Griperang’s Bookmarks
Gayle | BOOKS REVIEWS ETC
Margaret | The World As I See It

7/4/2015

Amanda | Inklings and Notions

7/5/2015

Sandra | Simple Harvest Reads
Annie | Just Commonly

7/6/2015

Sally | Proverbial Reads
Nicki | Confessions of a Teenage Bookworm
Wendy | Life at Rossmont

7/7/2015

Sarah | Growing for Christ
Val | Beyond the ashes
Debra | Footprints in the Butter
Rachel | EmpowerMoms
Victor | Vic’s Media Room
Nancy | sunny island breezes
Laura | Harvest Lane Cottage
Becky | Christian Chick’s Thoughts
Heidi | Heidi Reads…

7/8/2015

Lena | A Christian Writers World
Katrina | Life With Katie
Lindsey | Books for Christian Girls

7/9/2015

Britney | Buzzing About Books
Kristie | Moments
Hallie | Book by Book

7/10/2015

Vera | Chat With Vera
Carole | The Power of Words
Margaret | Frugal-Shopping and More
Veronica | Veronica’s ‘Views
Sue | Thoughts from Mill Street

7/11/2015

Beth | Beth’s Book-Nook Blog

7/13/2015

Crystal | Reading Corner Book Reviews & More!
Carla | Working Mommy Journal

7/14/2015

Cheryl | cherylbbookblog
Kay | Kaisy Daisy’s Corner

7/15/2015

Paige | Electively Paige
Renee | Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot
Deb | Positive Grace

7/16/2015

Bethany | Perfect Beginnings
Abbi | Christian Novels
Kari | Slow It Down

7/17/2015

Barbara | i’m Hooked on Books
Marissa | The Review Stew

7/18/2015

Amy | A Nest in the Rocks
Mindy | A Room Without Books is Empty
Michelle | Out Little Corner of the World

7/19/2015

Stacey | WORD Up!
Tammy | Tammy is Blessed
Shirley | A Mom After God’s Own Heart
Amanda | The Talbert Report
Lisa | Seekingwithallyurheart
Rebekah | Caffeinated Christian Raves – N – Reviews

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Review: WEAVERS by Aric Davis

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I received WEAVERS several weeks ago from Thomas & Mercer and Net Galley. The concept sounded really interesting: a young girl has the ability to see strings or yarns coming from people’s heads. Their color portrays the person’s emotional state. With some energy expended, she learns she can “weave” the strings to control the person’s emotions and even their actions.

The novel starts with nine-year-old Cynthia, who one day starts seeing these strings coming from people’s heads. She also starts having premonitions and “knows” things. This is pretty scary for a little girl, but a kindly neighbor, who also has this ability, takes her under her wing to teach her and guide her in being a “weaver”. Meanwhile, not everyone who has this ability is using it for good. Some rather nefarious characters are using weaving for their own gain, and leaving a wake of violence and destruction. And the government decides that it will find and control all these “telekinetics” – using them for their own objectives.

This was a fast read for me. I really liked the concept behind the story — the “weavers”. It’s original! I also liked the character of Cynthia. The time frame does move around (WWII, present), as does the point of view (bad guys, Cynthia, government). This didn’t bother me, but I know some people don’t like novels that switch POV and time. The ending suggested that a sequel is in the works — ? We will have to see!

Thank you for my review copy. You can see this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:
Weavers

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