Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

HFVBTour for BEYOND DERRYNANE by Kevin O’Connell

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I’m so happy to be taking part in the Historical Fiction Blog Tour for DERRYNANE, a story of Ireland in the 1700’s and the start of a saga. It is a beautifully written and engaging story, and the start of a larger chronicle. Here’s the scoop:

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Beyond Derrynane by Kevin O’ Connell

Publication Date: July 7, 2016
Gortcullinane Press
eBook & Paperback; 348 Pages

Series: The Derrynane Saga, Volume 1
Genre: Historical Fiction

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Wed in an arranged marriage to a man nearly fifty years her senior, sixteen-year-old Eileen O’Connell goes from being one of five unmarried sisters to become the mistress of Ballyhar, the great estate of John O’Connor, one of the wealthiest and most influential men in Ireland.

When O’Connor dies suddenly seven months into their marriage, Eileen must decide whether she will fulfill her brother’s strategic goals for her family by marrying her late husband’s son.

Headstrong and outspoken, Eileen frustrates her brother’s wishes, as, through the auspices of her uncle, General Moritz O’Connell of the Imperial Austrian Army, she, along with her ebullient elder sister, Abigail, spend the ensuing richly-dramatic and eventful years at the court of the Empress Maria Theresa in Vienna.The sisters learn to navigate the complex and frequently contradictory ways of the court–making a place for themselves in a world far different from remote Derrynane. Together with the general, they experience a complex life at the pinnacle of the Hapsburg Empire.

Beyond Derrynane – and the three books to follow in The Derrynane Saga – will present a sweeping chronicle, set against the larger drama of Europe in the early stages of significant change, dramatising the roles, which have never before been treated in fiction, played by a small number of expatriate Irish Catholics of the fallen “Gaelic Aristocracy” (of which the O’Connells were counted as being amongst its few basically still-intact families) at the courts of Catholic Europe, as well as relating their complex, at times dangerous, lives at home in Protestant Ascendancy-ruled Ireland.

In addition to Eileen’s, the books trace the largely-fictional lives of several other O’Connells of Derrynane, it is the tantalisingly few facts that are historically documented about them which provide the basic threads around which the tale itself is woven, into which strategic additions of numerous historical and fictional personalities and events intertwine seamlessly.

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Me again — I loved the character of Eileen in this book. She was quite strong and independent. As someone who’s great grandparents came from Ireland, I thought I was fairly familiar with Irish history, but I really did not know about the expat Irish who went to court in Europe (full disclosure: I came from a fairly long line of farmers not aristocracy!). This book was so interesting and also well-written.

Thank you for making me part of the tour and for my review copy!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

About the Author

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Kevin O’Connell is a native of New York City and a descendant of a young officer of what had—from 1690 to 1792—been the Irish Brigade of the French army, believed to have arrived in French Canada following the execution of Queen Marie Antoinette in October of 1793. At least one grandson subsequently returned to Ireland and Mr. O’Connell’s own grandparents came to New York in the early twentieth century. He holds both Irish and American citizenship.

He is a graduate of Providence College and Georgetown University Law Centre.

For more than four decades, O’Connell has practiced international business transactional law, primarily involving direct-investment matters, throughout Asia (principally China), Europe, and the Middle East.

Mr. O’Connell has been a serious student of selected (especially the Eighteenth Century) periods of the history of Ireland for virtually all of his life; one significant aspect of this has been a continuing scholarly as well as personal interest in the extended O’Connell family at Derrynane, many even distant and long-ago members of which, especially the characters about whom he writes, he has “known” intimately since childhood.

The father of five children and grandfather of ten, he and his wife, Laurette, live with their golden retriever, Katie, near Annapolis, Maryland.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, January 16
Kick Off at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, January 17
Review at Broken Teepee

Wednesday, January 18
Review at Luxury Reading
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, January 19
Review at Books, Dreams, Life

Friday, January 20
Review at The Book Junkie Reads

Sunday, January 22
Review at Carole’s Ramblings

Monday, January 23
Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Tuesday, January 24
Review at Kinx’s Book Nook

Wednesday, January 25
Review at A Bookaholic Swede
Excerpt at A Literary Vacation

Friday, January 27
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Interview at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog

Monday, January 30
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Tuesday, January 31
Review at Book Nerd

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Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for THE IRISH INHERITANCE by M.J. Lee

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A few weeks ago I posted a HFVBT book blast about THE IRISH INHERITANCE by M.J. Lee. I also received a mobi copy of the ARC and read it as well.

I really enjoyed this fast-paced and interesting mystery, which ties into my own family history!

Here’s the overview:

The Irish Inheritance: A Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery
by M.J. Lee

Publication Date: June 15, 2016
eBook; 285 Pages
ASIN: B01FR5PP9S

Series: The Jayne Sinclair Series, Book One
Genre: Historical/Mystery

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June 8, 1921. Ireland.

A British Officer is shot dead on a remote hillside south of Dublin.

November 22, 2015. United Kingdom.

Former police detective, Jayne Sinclair, now working as a genealogical investigator, receives a phone call from an adopted American billionaire asking her to discover the identity of his real father.

How are the two events linked?

Jayne Sinclair has only three clues to help her: a photocopied birth certificate, a stolen book and an old photograph. And it soon becomes apparent somebody else is on the trail of the mystery. A killer who will stop at nothing to prevent Jayne discovering the secret hidden in the past.

The Irish Inheritance takes us through the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Irish War of Independence, combining a search for the truth of the past with all the tension of a modern-day thriller.

It is the first in a series of novels featuring Jayne Sinclair, genealogical detective.

Pre-Order Kindle eBook

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So — this is the start of a series with Jayne Sinclair as the protagonist. I liked her a lot — tough, former DI, marriage in trouble, multi-layered. What I loved best, though, was the timeline of the story from past to present, which explains who the father of Jayne’s client is, and why he was sent to America for adoption, etc. The Irish War of Independence and the Easter Rising were portrayed in depth, with some perspectives that were new to me, too.

I’d love to see this book as a movie! It kept me reading to the past page.

If I had one issue, it was that  – being a reviewer – my copy did not have final edits, so I struggled a bit when that pulled me out of the story. Alas, that is the challenge for us ARC readers! 🙂

Look for this novel at a bookstore near you – or online – or ask your library!

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

About the Author

03_MJ Lee

Martin has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, tv commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.

He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations.

When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, researching his family history, practicing downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney.

You can find more information on M.J. Lee and his novels on Goodreads, Amazon,Facebook, and Twitter.

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HFVBT Book Blast for THE IRISH INHERITANCE by MJ Lee

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Today I’m blasting it up for MJ Lee’s new book – the start of a series I believe – THE IRISH INHERITANCE. I also read this book last week and will be sharing my thought on it soon!

The Irish Inheritance: A Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery
by M.J. Lee

Publication Date: June 15, 2016
eBook; 285 Pages
ASIN: B01FR5PP9S

Series: The Jayne Sinclair Series, Book One
Genre: Historical/Mystery

Add to GR Button

02_The Irish Inheritance.jpg

June 8, 1921. Ireland.

A British Officer is shot dead on a remote hillside south of Dublin.

November 22, 2015. United Kingdom.

Former police detective, Jayne Sinclair, now working as a genealogical investigator, receives a phone call from an adopted American billionaire asking her to discover the identity of his real father.

How are the two events linked?

Jayne Sinclair has only three clues to help her: a photocopied birth certificate, a stolen book and an old photograph. And it soon becomes apparent somebody else is on the trail of the mystery. A killer who will stop at nothing to prevent Jayne discovering the secret hidden in the past.

The Irish Inheritance takes us through the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Irish War of Independence, combining a search for the truth of the past with all the tension of a modern-day thriller.

It is the first in a series of novels featuring Jayne Sinclair, genealogical detective.

Pre-Order Kindle eBook

About the Author

03_MJ Lee

Martin has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, tv commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.

He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations.

When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, researching his family history, practicing downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney.

You can find more information on M.J. Lee and his novels on Goodreads, Amazon,Facebook, and Twitter.

 

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Audiobook Review: THE EDGE OF LOST by Kristina McMorris

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If you follow me regularly, you might remember that back in December I was part of a Historical Fiction Book Blast for THE EDGE OF LOST by Kristina McMorris. The book sounded so good I put it on my TBR list!

Here’s the overview:

On a cold night in October 1937, searchlights cut through the darkness around Alcatraz. A prison guard’s only daughter—one of the youngest civilians who lives on the island—has gone missing. Tending the warden’s greenhouse, convicted bank robber Tommy Capello waits anxiously. Only he knows the truth about the little girl’s whereabouts, and that both of their lives depend on the search’s outcome.

Almost two decades earlier and thousands of miles away, a young boy named Shanley Keagan ekes out a living as an aspiring vaudevillian in Dublin pubs. Talented and shrewd, Shan dreams of shedding his dingy existence and finding his real father in America. The chance finally comes to cross the Atlantic, but when tragedy strikes, Shan must summon all his ingenuity to forge a new life in a volatile and foreign world.

Skillfully weaving these two stories, Kristina McMorris delivers a compelling novel that moves from Ireland to New York to San Francisco Bay. As her finely crafted characters discover the true nature of loyalty, sacrifice, and betrayal, they are forced to confront the lies we tell—and believe—in order to survive.

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There’s a lot going on in this novel — from Ireland to coming to America to NYC to Alcatraz. Shan/Tommy goes from being a poor child immigrant with no family, to being part of an Italian clan, to trying to make a solid adult existence for himself, to ending up in Alcatraz. I enjoyed reading his journey along the way. Ms. McMorris’s writing kept me engaged and I felt connected to Shan, especially when things were not going his way! While I would have loved even more scenes/details about his life in Alcatraz (Alcatraz was my 5th grade field trip!), the book is already over 300 pages, so I am guessing that she needed to keep it trim.

With themes of forgiveness, self-fulfillment, and the undying bonds of family, THE EDGE OF LOST is a great read and one that lovers of historical fiction will enjoy.

The Audiobook is just under 11 hours and is read by Charlie Thurston. He did an amazing job because this book has Irish accents, New York accents, “gangster accents” (if you know what I mean), Italian accents, and voices that are male, female, and child. It must have been a task to do it and do it well!

I purchased mine from Audible.

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HFVBook Tour for LETTERS FROM A PATCHWORK QUILT by Clare Flynn

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I am excited to be one of the kick off points today for the Historical Fiction blog tour of LETTERS FROM A PATCHWORK QUILT by Clare Flynn! This was a captivating story following two star-crossed lovers as they tried to overcome the forces that conspired against them in the late 1800’s.

Here’s the overview from HFVBT:

Letters From a Patchwork Quilt by Clare Flynn

Publication Date: Sept 2015 (eBook) | Oct 2015 (PB)
Cranbrook Press
Paperback & eBook; 350 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

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In 1875 England, a young man, Jack Brennan, from a large and impoverished Catholic family refuses to be pushed into the priesthood and runs away to fulfil his dream of becoming a teacher.

Jack falls in love with Eliza Hewlett, but his dreams and plans are thwarted when his landlord’s daughter, Mary Ellen MacBride, falsely accuses him of fathering the child she is expecting.

Rather than be forced to marry his accuser, Jack decides to run away to America with Eliza. Just as they are about to sail, Jack is arrested and dragged from the ship, leaving Eliza alone en route to New York with just a few shillings in her pocket.

AMAZON

Praise

“The story is different, original and touching. It’s interesting to read how the lives of Jack and Eliza unfold in different countries. The plot is powerful, the characters are well sketched, memorable, and their personalities will remain in the minds of readers even after they finish the story. It’s a story of love loss and tragedy; a heartbreaking and moving tale where readers will wish to see Jack and Eliza reunited and happy together. The narration is descriptive; it also speaks about the society that existed during that age and pulls readers into the story. It’s well written and the story is not predictable, making it a engaging read.” -Readers’ Favorite (5 Star Medal)

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I really enjoyed this story and had trouble putting it down! (Spoiler Alert!!) I have to admit, I was holding out for a happy ending; and while the ending was positive and uplifting, it was not simple or “neatly tied with a bow”. Poor Jack and Eliza suffered through so much. To be honest, though, isn’t that the way life is? A lot of young people suffered due to no fault of their own in the days when not everyone was free to make their own future (and it still happens). I thought it was so interesting to see how they each tried to make the best of a bad situation; and how they each ultimately had the result of their efforts: Jack with alcoholism and Eliza with a family. This was a well-written yet sometimes sad look at life at the turn of the century for two young people who were trying to make a new life together in America.

Thank you for my review copy!

About the Author

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Clare Flynn is also the author of A Greater World, set in Australia in 1920 and Kurinji Flowers, set in India in the 1930s and 40s. She is a graduate of Manchester University where she read English Language and Literature.

After a career in international marketing, working on brands from nappies to tinned tuna and living in Paris, Milan, Brussels and Sydney, she ran her own consulting business for 15 years and now lives in West London. Co-founder of the popular website, Make it and Mend it, and co-author of the 2012 book of the same name, Letters From a Patchwork Quilt is her third novel.

When not writing and reading, Clare loves to splash about with watercolours and grabs any available opportunity to travel – sometimes under the guise of research.

WEBSITE | BLOG | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | AMAZON |GOODREADS | PINTEREST | INSTAGRAM

Discover a new blog!

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 15
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Tuesday, February 16
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, February 17
Review at A Holland Reads
Review at With her Nose Stuck in a Book

Thursday, February 18
Interview at A Holland Reads

Friday, February 19
Excerpt at Layered Pages
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Monday, February 22
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, February 23
Review at Back Porchervations
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Wednesday, February 24
Review at Book Nerd
Excerpt & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, February 25
Review at A Silver Twig
Review at Author Dianne Ascroft’s Blog

Friday, February 26
Review at #redhead.with.book
Excerpt at Boom Baby Reviews

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Review: NORA WEBSTER by Colm Tóibín

I missed getting NORA WEBSTER on Net Galley, and heard a lot of great things about it, so I got it at the library. At the same time, some of my friends really disliked this book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. NORA WEBSTER is the story of Nora, a young woman with four children who is widowed and living in Ireland in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The story starts with the death of Nora’s beloved husband, Maurice, and follows her through her period of mourning and into the life that she eventually creates for herself.

This book moves at a rather slow pace, but I think that this is essential. Nora in the beginning is bogged down by grief, to the point where she can barely take care of her children. The pages felt so “grey” to me. I could feel her desolation. To be able to paint Nora’s inner self so perfectly through what surrounds her, to have the pages literally convey her mood, well – all I can say is that Tóibín is a gifted writer.

Nora gets a job and connects with some friends and her sisters. She also starts to sing. Eventually she slowly comes out of her shell – a shell which was created before Maurice died, as she had surrounded herself in her family and pretty much cut herself off to escape from her small town surroundings. She begins to realize that people actually respect her and are trying to help her.

I think one of my favorite parts of this story was when Nora auditioned for the Wexford choir. Her voice teacher had built her up so much and when she went, well, she pretty much was awful. Somehow, I loved the fact that she wasn’t amazing or wonderful. And I loved even more how she just carried on. She didn’t stop singing or blame them; she realized that her singing was for herself and it didn’t matter what others thought.

Nora reminds me of an Irish Olive Kitteridge. She’s not perfect or even terribly likable, but she is very human.

You can find this book at an Indie near you – I am an Indie Bound affiliate:


Find NORA WEBSTER at an Indie

You can also see it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

Nora Webster: A Novel

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Reviewing Three by Maeve Binchy: “A Week in Winter”, “A Week in Summer”, and “The Builders”

For my recent trip I purchased three Maeve Binchy stories for my kindle. I had wanted to read “A Week in Winter”, Ms. Binchy’s final book. “A Week in Summer” was a short story that was available. “The Builders” is more of a novella, written as part of an adult literacy campaign in Ireland. I enjoyed all three!

In the short story “A Week in Summer”, a married couple decide they will spend a week’s holiday one summer in order to recharge their middle-aged lives. They find themselves in the midst of a town-wide yearly festival where they meet new friends and discover new interests while rediscovering their relationship. This was a sweet story that was only 99 cents on Kindle! (See it on Amazon where I am an Associate) –

Next I read the short book, “The Builders”. This less-than-one-hundred-pages novella tells the story of Nan Ryan, a middle-aged widow who takes an interest in the builders working next door to her.Who exactly were the people who had lived there and died so tragically? Who is fixing up the house and for what reason? What will the builders find? Nan builds a friendship with one of the men working there and together they analyze and discuss the situation. Another typical Binchy story – this one was written as part of an adult literacy campaign contribution. I got mine for under $5 on kindle – see it here on Amazon where I am an Associate:

Finally I read Maeve Binchy’s final book: “A Week in Winter”. I was so sad as I read this novel, knowing it was her last. It was typical Binchy fare: a young woman who has been unlucky in love returns home to Ireland and opens what is essentially a B&B in order to give folks a relaxing ‘week in winter’. Chicky, the proprietress, is the common link running through this story as each chapter focuses on one of the members of the household or one of the guests for that first week in winter in which they open. There are two doctors who are escaping a tragedy, a crotchety older woman, a young man who loves music, a librarian who has second sight, and several more. We get to know each one as their stories intertwine.

I have always loved Binchy’s books. I can’t say which is my favorite: “Light a Penny Candle”? “The Glass Lake”? “Evening Class”? Her older works I enjoyed more than her more recent ones (“Quentin’s” and onward). This is classic Binchy however. There’s a warmth and a goodness to these stories that, while I am sure some folks might find it cloying, gives me comfort. As I read the last page of this novel (or the last screen I should say, as it was on kindle), I had an image of Chicky standing at the door of her inn and Maeve standing next to her – welcoming travellers to their little bit of Ireland.

RIP, dear Maeve, and know that your stories live on!

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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YA review: “Celtic Run” by Sean Vogel

I received “Celtic Run” as a Net Galley digital download. This YA book (geared towards grades 5-8 I would say) tells the story of Jake McGreevy, a teen on a school trip to Ireland. Along with him on his adventures are Julie (the friend he has a crush on), Zach (class bully and Julie’s boyfriend), and new Irish friend Maggie. Jake is a gadget expert and enjoys tinkering with things, which comes in handy throughout the novel. Early on in the story, Jake finds what turns out to be a clue in a treasure hunt. Enter the “bad guys”, and Jake and his friends need to work together to outwit the bad guys and find the treasure (which would not only be noble, but could come in handy to both Jake – whose father was recently severely injured – and Maggie – whose father has lost his job). There is one adventure after another with non-stop action and character development as Jake and hsi friend seek to solve the mysteries and find the treasure first!

I really enjoyed reading this book. I read a lot of YA and children’s and found it refreshing to deal with a story where the kids were typical but the problems were not overly disturbing and intense. In my opinion not too many people are writing books like this these days: contemporary kids whose problems are surmountable. I will be recommending this one for my children’s elementary school library! I could see this as a fun movie for kids – a bit like “Goonies” or the old “Apple Dumpling Gang”. Some of the action was a bit fantastic and the crooks were very “crookish” if you know what I mean, but I like it. It reads as if it may be the start of a series. Just a note – this author’s bio was one of the most interesting I’ve come across!

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

Thanks, MB Publishing and Net Galley, for my copy!

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REVIEW: The Whipping Club by Deborah Henry

I received this novel through Net Galley and was excited to read it. Taking place in the 1950’s and 60’s in Ireland, it tells the story of a young, Catholic woman, Marian, who finds herself in love with a Jewish colleague at the school where they teach. When she discovers she is pregnant, she goes away to a “home” to have the baby and then puts the baby up for adoption, thinking he will have a better life in America. Ten years later, and now married to her then boyfriend and with a young daughter, she discovers that their son has lived in a nearby orphanage all his years. Marian and her husband try to get custody of their son, Adrian, and work to fit him into their family, even as they continue to struggle as an inter-faith couple. But first they must convince the establishment that they are capable and worthy of raising their son.

While I really enjoyed this book, and particularly couldn’t put it down in the last few chapters, I was a bit disheartened at the portrayal of the religious people in this book as fanatical, sadistic, and depraved (full disclosure: I’m Catholic). I guess I’m just tired of reading books and seeing movies where 99% of the nuns/priest/brothers are portrayed as evil. That said, I know that deplorable conditions existed in some places (anyone see the movie “The Magdalenes”??).

Beyond that, I found the main character portrayals and the depth of emotions in the main characters the strengths in this novel. How would it feel to find your son after all those years? How do you unite a family that has never been a family yet? How much does our religion guide our lives and relationships?

A thought-provoking book! I’ll look forward to more from Ms. Henry.

Thanks for my copy, Net Galley and T.S. Poetry Press!!

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

 

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