Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for THE OTHER SIDE OF LIFE by Andy Kutler

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Today I’m one of the stops on HFVBTour’s THE OTHER SIDE OF LIFE tour. This was a clever and interesting war story that included past, present, and time travel.

Here’s what HFVBT has to say:

The Other Side of Life
by Andy Kutler

Publication Date: August 11, 2015
Neverland Publishing Company LLC
Formats: Trade Paperback and Kindle
Pages: 360

Genre: Historical Fiction

READ AN EXCERPT.

December 1941, Pearl Harbor. A peaceful Sunday morning turns into a devastating attack on American soil. Naval officer Malcolm “Mac” Kelsey is severely wounded while defending his ship. A flawed man abandoned long ago by his alcoholic wife, Kelsey has been mired in despair and hopelessness following the accidental death of Lucy, the young daughter he considers the only redemptive aspect of his life. Near the point of death, Kelsey is brought to what he believes to be an afterlife where he is offered an opportunity to shed his past memories and embark upon an alternate path in another place and time. Eager to escape his torment and begin a more tranquil existence, Kelsey accepts, only to feel quickly betrayed as he soon finds himself back in the midst of battle, this time as a Union soldier at the dawn of the Civil War.

Through Antietam, Gettysburg and four years of relentless fighting, Kelsey attempts to cast aside his painful past while trying to survive the horrors of combat. He crosses paths with compelling figures on both sides of the conflict determined to persevere and return to those they left behind. Idealistic Ethan Royston, promoted from the enlisted ranks, believes in preserving the Union but is plagued by insecurity and self-doubt. His closest friend, West Point-trained Cal Garrity, remains loyal to his home state of Virginia despite his misgivings about the virtue of the Southern cause. The war will divide these friends, just as it will divide Garrity from his adoring wife, Emily, the charismatic and headstrong daughter of a prominent Norfolk shipbuilder, forced to face the onset of war alone.

Each will endure unimaginable hardship and brutality that will forever reshape their core beliefs and values. Each will find their strength and resolve tested as they search for self-purpose, humanity, and reconciliation. Most of all, Mac Kelsey will discover the very essence of life and death, and whether the new beginning he has long coveted will bring him the inner peace he has so desperately sought.

PRAISE

“Employing some new twists on the novelist’s technique of time travel, Andy Kutler sends a naval officer bombed at Pearl Harbor back to the Civil War. Among his comrades in a Union cavalry regiment he absorbs the enduring values of trust, loyalty, love, and selflessness during the chaos and tragedy of a war that took place a half century before he was born. Readers will find themselves immersed in this story and captivated by its principal characters.” — James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winner author of Battle Cry of Freedom and The War That Forged a Nation

“Profound, smart, and entertaining – the path through The Other Side of Life is an amazing journey through history.” — Joe Weisberg, Creator and Executive Producer of FX’s The Americans and author of An Ordinary Spy

“Andy Kutler’s war scenes are gripping, his characters vulnerable and honest, and his story ultimately triumphant — an exciting journey back into two levels of the past.” — David Hardin, author of Emblems of Woe: How the South Reacted to Lincoln’s Murder

“The Other Side of Life imaginatively mingles brutal scenes of Civil War battlefields with thought-provoking moral issues. It describes the conflicted loyalties and sufferings of that tragic era and the spiritual growth of the book’s hero—a naval officer wounded in the Pearl Harbor attack—and those he becomes close to when he is transported to the past. The swiftmoving, compelling narrative grips the reader from first page to last.” — Bernard Weisberger, historian and author of America Afire: Adams, Jefferson, and the Revolutionary Election of 1800

“Andy Kutler has written a thoughtfully imaginative adventure across time, approaching the Civil War from a fresh perspective while creating memorable, compelling characters. The story flows beautifully and is consistently challenging.” — Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, Now and Then Reader (nowandthenreader.com)

AMAZON

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Andy Kutler is a writer living in Arlington, Virginia. A native of Madison, Wisconsin and a graduate of Michigan State University (B.A.) and Georgetown University (M.A.), he has previously worked on the senior legislative staff of two United States Senators before serving as a senior policy officer with the U.S. Secret Service. He is working today as a consultant to the national security community.

While Andy’s writings have appeared in The Huffington Post and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Other Side of Life is his first novel. Andy’s interests include travel, military history, his Wisconsin sports teams, and most importantly, spending time with his wife and two children.

For more information and news please visit Andy Kutler’s Facebook page.

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

Monday, September 8
Spotlight & Giveaway at Unshelfish

Sunday, September 14
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection

Monday, September 15
Review at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog

Friday, September 19
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Friday, September 26
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Monday, October 6
Review at A Book Geek

Monday, October 13
Review at Book Nerd

Monday, October 20
Review at Just One More Chapter

Saturday, November 1
Review at Genre Queen

Monday, November 10
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Wednesday, November 12
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, November 13
Blog Tour Wrap-Up at Passages to the Past

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Me again!

I really enjoyed this novel and found Kutler’s depictions of battles – both at Pearl Harbor and in the Civil War – accurate and descriptive. I really liked and connected with the character of Kelsey, too. And – no spoilers! – I loved the ending!

My only challenge was following some of the changes in point of view in the narration. There are several main characters.

This is Mr. Kutler’s first novel (though he is a very experienced writer) and I look forward to more by him.

If you enjoy reading about the Civil Way and like the idea of time travel (just to mash up the genre a bit!), then you should pick up THE OTHER SIDE OF LIFE.

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

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HFVB Tour: TO CATCH A FALLING STAR by Anna Belfrage

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I am thrilled today to be part of the TO CATCH A FALLING STAR blog tour for the final Graham saga novel. I love this series, and this book was no exception! Ms. Belfrage is a wonderful writer and I love following the adventures of the Graham family. Reminds me of my beloved Outlander books, but definitely unique in its own right (and not as long!). I love the relationship between Alex and Matthew and I was so sad to see that this was the final book in the series. However, after I gasped in dismay, I saw that some more shorter works will be coming about them and a new series will be starting — what a relief for this fan!

Here’s what HFVBT has to say:

Publication Date: March 1, 2015
SilverWood Books
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Series: Book Eight, The Graham Saga
Genre: Historical Fiction/Time-Slip

To Catch a Falling Star is the eighth book in Anna Belfrage’s series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

Some gifts are double-edged swords …

For Matthew Graham, being given the gift of his former Scottish manor is a dream come true. For his wife, Alex, this gift will force her to undertake a perilous sea journey, leaving most of their extensive family in the Colony of Maryland. Alex is torn apart by this, but staying behind while her husband travels to Scotland is no option.
Scotland in 1688 is a divided country, torn between the papist Stuart king and the foreign but Protestant William of Orange. In the Lowlands, popular opinion is with Dutch William, and Matthew’s reluctance to openly support him does not endear him to his former friends and neighbours.

While Matthew struggles to come to terms with the fact that Scotland of 1688 bears little resemblance to his lovingly conserved memories, Alex is forced to confront unresolved issues from her past, including her overly curious brother-in-law, Luke Graham. And then there’s the further complication of the dashing, flamboyant Viscount Dundee, a man who knocks Alex completely off her feet.

All the turmoil that accompanies their return to Scotland pales into insignificance when a letter arrives, detailing the calamities threatening their youngest daughter in Maryland – at the hand of that most obnoxious minister, Richard Campbell. Matthew and Alex have no choice but to hasten back, no matter the heartache this causes.

Will they make it back in time? And what will Richard Campbell do?

Buy To Catch a Falling Star

Amazon
Barnes & Noble

Graham Saga Titles

Book One: A Rip in the Veil
Book Two: Like Chaff in the Wind
Book Three: The Prodigal Son
Book Four: A Newfound Land
Book Five: Serpents in the Garden
Book Six: Revenge & Retribution
Book Seven: Whither Thou Goest
Book Eight: To Catch a Falling Star

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About the Author

I was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.

I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive … Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

For more information, please visit Anna Belfrage’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

If you like historical fiction, romance, time travel, the 1600’s, adventure, or even just a well-told story, then get this series today!

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HF Virtual Tour: WHITHER THOU GOEST by Anna Belfrage

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Today I am taking part in the Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tour for Anna Belfrage’s WHITHER THOU GOEST, the seventh book in the Graham Saga. This series focuses on time traveller, Alex Graham, as she goes back to the 1600’s to be with her soulmate, husband Matthew, and their trials, tribulations, and adventures.

In this installment, there is no lack of excitement! Alex and Matthew start off with the issue of their pregnant daughter, Sarah, the victim of an earlier gang rape by the deplorable Burley men. Trying to help Sarah cope with her feelings and emotional scars, along with what to do with a new baby, are all-consuming tasks, second only to tracking down what remains of those Burleys, previously thought dead but maybe not…

Then Matthew receives a letter from brother-in-bad-blood Luke, begging him to help with his son who has been taken as a slave to the West Indies. Matthew decides blood is thicker than water and, along with Alex, they head out to the Caribbean to try to locate and help their nephew.

This book is a steady stream of events and excitement, along with a big dose of romance, similar to the Outlander series (which I love) but not as lengthy. I really connected to the character of Alex, who is smart and plucky but not perfect. She loves her husband but also gets jealous. She is attractive but not ridiculously so – in fact I think her confidence and integrity are her most appealing characteristics. I have not read the earlier books and while this one can certainly stand on its own, having the earlier books would have made my understanding of characters a tad easier as I would have the backstory as it happened. I enjoyed Belfrage’s writing which has an easy flow to it. I think I will go back and read A RIP IN THE VEIL which is the first novel in this series.

Thank you for letting me take part in this tour and for my review copy!

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YA Review: ENLIGHTENED by A.L. Waddington (The E.V.E. Series – Book 2)

I’m happy today to be part of the blog tour through Booktrope for ENLIGHTENED, Book 2 of the E.V.E. series, written by A.L. Waddington.

Enlightened

The E.V.E. series is a YA series about a teenager who exists in parallel dimensions. Jocelyn Timmons is a fairly typical senior in high school when she meets new neighbor and fellow senior Jackson. His presence throws her into a sense of vertigo and illness. Soon she realizes that she and Jackson knew each other in the 1800’s as well as now.  See my review of the first book, ESSENCE, here:

https://drbethnolan.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/quick-ya-review-essence-by-a-l-waddington-book-one-of-the-e-v-e-series/

In Book 2, Jocelyn is still struggling with completely understanding her life in the past (or parallel, if you will). She and Jackson express their love for each other and decide to marry after her high school graduation. Not surprisingly, this is met with a lot of consternation and concern from her parents, especially her mom and brother, and her friends. Jocelyn insists that she will continue on to college and just do it as a married woman. Much of the book is focused on the upset and angst she feels over this decision, her battle with her family, and then her upset with Jackson. A photo album from the past, found in her uncle’s things, also adds to her knowledge of the past.

I enjoy reading this series and I know I would have liked it when I was in high school. That said, this book moved a bit slowly for me. Poor Jocelyn pretty much was miserable in both her lives. In her current 2009 life she was a lot more aware of her life in the past, which helped her to understand and not be quite so upset. I have to say, too, that I can understand her family’s distress over her announcing her marriage to a boy she’s hardly known for long. It wasn’t all that long ago that getting married at 18 or 19 was commonplace; however, by today’s standards, it much more rare. In any case, Jocelyn struggles with her desires and her knowledge of her time travel (which her family doesn’t know about). I am reading the next installment now so that I can find out how Jocelyn ends up (and where!).

You can see this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

Enlightened (EVE Series Book 2)

Thanks, Booktrope, for making me a stop on your blog tour and for my copy!

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YA Review: SIX STRINGS by Jen Sanya Williamson

I was recently approached to see if I would like to review SIX STRINGS by Jen Sanya Williamson. I thought the premise sounded great: a teenager is dealing with her beloved grandmother’s Alzheimer’s, when she discovers that she comes from a long line of time travelers, and that her grandmother has passed this gift along to her.

This was a book I would have loved when I was a teen! Riley, the protagonist, is a typical teenager: loves music, is thinking about college, has her special group of friends. From her grandmother she learns that her father is not her father, but that her biological father is actually a famous rock star from that her mother knew when she was young. His guitar is her item that helps her time travel and she has six chances to go back and explore the past in order to better understand the present. Riley is frightened, and only half-believing, but gives it a try. She goes back to the early 80’s and finds her grandparents (so poignant) and also her teen mother (yikes!) and her uncle. Along the way, she is also drawn to a boy she meets there, but needs to keep her true self a secret.

I just loved this book, which read quickly and was appropriate for a wide range of ages. My only disappointment is that the next book in the series is not available yet! 🙂 I have to add that Ms. Williamson’s portrayal of dementia is so spot on, it brought tears to my eyes.

Thank you for my review copy, and I will look forward to reading more from Ms. Williamson.

You can see this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

 

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Quick YA Review: WHISPER FALLS by Elizabeth Langston

Through Net Galley I found this YA title about a teenager who meets up with a mysterious young woman through the curtain of a waterfall one day when he’s out riding his mountain bike.

Mark Lewis is a typical high schooler who is training for a mountain bike competition. One day he comes across an oddly dressed young woman, Susannah, and they become friends. However, Susannah is from 1796 and Mark lives in the present day. The two teens are drawn to each other, and danger mounts for Susannah from her employer. Can Mark cross the barrier of time to save Susannah from her fate?

I really enjoyed this story, and the ending suggests that there will be a sequel. I look forward to more from Ms. Langston!

You can see this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

Thanks, Net Galley and Spencer Hill Press, for my copy!

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KIDS’ REVIEW: Emerson’s Attic – The Blue Velvet by Kathleen Andrews Davis

I selected EMERSON’S ATTIC from Net Galley as it looked like something that would be good for our school library (K-8). This is the first in what will be a series. Emerson is a teen who is pretty typical. One day while having to clean out the attic of their older home, she finds a blue velvet hat, puts it on, and is transported back in time to the 1800’s to England. Poor Emerson has no idea what she is doing there (except working as a housemaid), and she keeps having dreams of her grandfather, who seems to be guiding her on her journey. Why is she there? And what must she do in the past to preserve the future?

I just loved this sweet book. It reminded me of the type of book I would have read as a child. I always loved time travel books! This is a real winner for our school library as it’s appropriate for younger readers, as well as middle schoolers. A study guide is also available (though I did not receive it). I look forward to reading more from Ms. Davis.

Thank you, Net Galley, for my copy. You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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Quick YA Review: RIPPED by Shelly Dickson Carr

I downloaded the YA novel RIPPED from Net Galley before our recent trip to Hawaii.  In this fast-paced and riveting story, teenager Katie Lennox discovers she can travel through time from present day London to the time of Jack the Ripper using the “London Stone”. Katie takes on the task of thwarting Jack the Ripper before he can do his evil deeds. She also holds in her heart the secret desire to see her deceased parents again. What Katie discovers is that changing history is no easy feat, and small events can have big consequences. The theme of “be careful what you wish for” is oft-repeated in this story.

I really enjoyed reading this novel!  I see that it has won several awards, which is not surprising as it is well-written and well researched. I love historical fiction and mixing it up with time travel just makes me love it more! It is a bit lengthy (over 500 pages in print), but eager readers should have no problem plowing through it.

I look forward to more novels from Ms. Carr, and I see she lives locally, so perhaps our paths will cross.

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate. Thanks, Net Galley and New Book Partners Publishing, for my copy!

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Quick Review: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

I grabbed this last week from the new release shelf at the library. I found the length – over 800 pages – completely daunting, but figured my love of King’s writing would see me through.

This tome follows the adventure of Jake Epping- single, high school English teacher- as he warps through time in an attempt to save the life of John F. Kennedy on that fateful day in Dallas.

Oh, how I love the concept of time travel! Ever since I was a little girl I have been fascinated with the construct of parallel worlds and moving between them through time and space. I always thought it seemed logical that if you could just go fast enough – and backwards – you could revisit something that had already taken place. Anyhow, when Jake’s dying friend Al shares his secret with him (there’s a “rabbit-hole time warp” in the basement of his diner), he entrusts Jake with the task of going back and changing history, presumably for the better.

This story brings up the question of the butterfly effect again and again, and the most basic questions: if you change one thing in the past, how does it affect the future and how can you know it will affect it for the better?

Loved, loved, loved this book!

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

 

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