Flora Banks’ motto is Be Brave in the new Emily Barr book

33287077The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr tells the story of Flora, a seventeen year old who suffers with anterograde amnesia. Flora has memories of her childhood but now her brain resets every few hours and she forgets everything after the age of 10. Flora has a book with notes to remind herself who she is and what has happened over the years. It reminds her of who is in her life and what they mean to her.

One night Flora kisses her best friend Paige’s boyfriend, Drake, and the next day she remembers the kiss. This is the first memory her brain has kept since the amnesia took hold.  Drake heads off to Norway to study and Flora is certain the key to “fixing” her is tied to seeing and kissing Drake again. She also thinks she loves him. Flora secretly follows Drake to the very small town in Norway and meets many different characters who help her along the way and shows how a community comes together to help a stranger.

While Flora is traveling to Norway, she has enough notes to remind herself to lie to her parents about where she is as they have gone to Paris to take care of her very ill brother Jacob.  Jacob is a very supportive brother who is very patient and protective of her.  A lot happens to her brother that I will not mention but his story is an interesting addition to Flora’s.  We also find out why Flora has a tattoo on her arm that says “Be brave,” which is her personal motto and keeps her going through the dangerous travel to Norway.

I have read mixed reviews on this book. It seemed like either you liked it or you hated it.  I think the narrative through Flora can put some people off as she repeats herself a lot but that is what her amnesia is all about. As a mother, this book made me think of my daughter. How would I feel if she couldn’t keep a memory for very long? Would she try to go somewhere on her own? Would she be able to cope? What would I do to keep her safe? How far would I go?

I found Flora brave and adventurous. I can understand why she would follow Drake.  Who doesn’t want to be normal and it’s probably frustrating forgetting things and people, even who you are. I didn’t care for Paige who was a selfish, spoiled little brat. Her reactions really showed their age and shows no matter how mature you think you are, there is always room to grow.

This book took me into the mind of someone with amnesia and to get a small glimpse of what that might be like. It made me appreciate my healthy life and my family. I really enjoyed this book and I’m glad I read it.

Book Description:
Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

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Geekerella is a fun modern-day twist on Cinderella

33224718Growing up, Cinderella was and still is one of my favorite Disney stories.  I love when an author takes an old story and puts a new twist to it.  Geekerella by Ashley Poston is a fantastic young adult story about Elle Wittimer who grew up watching an old popular sci-fi series with her father – Starfield.  She’s a huge fan and blogs about the show.  One morning her dreams come true when a new adaptation is announced.  But the excitement doesn’t last long when she finds out Prince Carmindor will be played by Hollywood’s up and coming ‘it’ boy Darien Freeman.  Elle quickly rants about casting on her blog (she doesn’t hold back how she feels) and overnight becomes an internet sensation.

Darien is also a huge Starfield fan but doesn’t want to let on that he was a big geek growing up.  In fact, when his casting is announced on a national morning show, he blows an answer to a trivia question even though it was a no brainer.

Elle’s father who has passed away, used to run a Comicon type convention called ExcelsiCon.  Darien has been committed to attend the convention but he hate them as he is supposed to meet fans and small when he really just wants to let his geekiness come out.  After texting the phone number he thinks is for the organizer of ExcelsiCon, he ends up texting Elle.  This soon turns into a constant text conversation between the two.

Staying true to the Cinderella classic, Elle lives with her terrible Stepmother and stepsisters.  Elle decides to enter the Cosplay contest at ExcelsiCon in hopes to win the prize money and move to California, away from her evil Stepmother.  Just like the original Cinderella story, there is a “fairy Godmother” who is actually Sage, her young supervisor in the Food truck painted like a huge pumpkin and called what else, The Magic Pumpkin.

I loved this story!  This is such a fun twist on the Cinderella story with very modern day characters and modern situations.  The characters are fun and a little nutty.  I enjoyed Elle with her hopes and dreams and fandom of a sci-fi TV show.  I enjoyed Sage who doesn’t really give a crap and I liked Darien who you kind of wonder if some child stars or any celebrities have issues like he does.

I thought this was a lot of fun to read and it definitely can be read over a weekend because you won’t want to put it down.

The one thing I had an issue with is Elle and Damian talking to a stranger through text messaging.  With online pedophiles, I found this a little creepy as you don’t know who is on the other side.  Other than that, I recommend this book.  If I read books more than once, this would be on my rotation.

Book Description:
Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom. Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

The Life of a Vaudeville Star

30320011I think Nicola Italia has become my new favorite romance writer.  This time in The Vaudeville Star, we are introduced to Ruby Mae Sutton, a southern belle from Mississippi who is sent off to finishing school in Connecticut when she is 15.

Ruby has been madly in love all her life with Ford Rutledge, who is engaged to her sister.  Ruby doesn’t want Ford to marry her sister.  She thinks her cold-hearted sister is very wrong for Ford.  So she decides to convince him, putting him in a compromising position, hence sending Ruby to finishing school.

While at the finishing school, Ruby discovers her singing voice and decides she wants to be a vaudeville singer.  Ruby builds fans including the King of New York who becomes obsessed with Ruby.  This is also where Ruby meets Ford again and finds her love for him still exists.

The characters are well developed and their personalities came through strong.  As I was reading, I felt invested in the characters’ lives and was cheering for them.  At almost 300 pages, I thought there was more to tell.  I wanted more of Ruby, Ford, Bessie and the other Vaudeville performers.  This book was well worth my time and it will be well worth your time.  Pick it up today.

Book Description:
On a Mississippi Plantation, Ruby Mae Sutton throws herself into the arms of the only man she has ever loved, Ford Rutledge.  At fifteen years old, she has given her heart away and is not ashamed to brazenly declare her love to the twenty-five-year-old man, who is also the fiancé of her sister.

But Ford has no intention of taking advantage of the blond beauty, even though her reckless behavior causes his engagement to be broken.  Ruby is sent off in disgrace to a boarding school in Connecticut, where she remains for the next three years.

Once in Connecticut, Ruby discovers her singing voice and decides to leave after graduation for the bright lights of New York and the vaudeville stage.  Ford also decides to make his home in New York and suddenly finds himself face-to-face with Ruby Sutton, the very grown and very beautiful rising star of the vaudeville stage.

As Ruby’s star ascends, she makes a huge conquest with the King of Manhattan: William Parker.  King Parker begins to take an interest in Ruby’s career, and more importantly Ruby herself, as Ford finally realizes he is in love with her.

King finances a tour to Europe as his interest in Ruby takes a turn toward the more obsessive.  Ruby finds herself torn between her true love for Ford and the obligation she owes King.  She must tread carefully between the two men, and the brutal murder of someone they all know causes everyone to wonder who had the motive.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Find out what happened to two abducted best friends

25226082In Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee by Mary G. Thompson, Amy and Dee are abducted when they were 10 – and 12-years-old by a man named Kyle, who had a thing for dolls.  Six years later, Amy returns home but where is Dee?  Amy won’t tell anyone what happened over the six years and why Dee isn’t with her.  But slowly the story comes out.  This book is told from the view of Amy, or Chelsea as Kyle calls her.

Mary Thompson does a great job of showing what can happen to the mind when someone is kept in captivity by an abductor who is slightly off mentally and can be violent.  I really felt for Amy and her family and several times I was brought to tears.

When you are on the outside, you always wonder what an abduction and being held in captivity for years does to a person, how they can survive to live a normal life and what happens to the families left behind who don’t know where their loved ones are.

This was such a good story and well written that kept my attention.  I didn’t want to put the book down.  I’m glad I got the chance to read it through the Penguin Random House First To Read Program.

Book Description:
A bittersweet homecoming holds dark secrets in this heart-wrenching story of loss, love, and survival for readers of Room.

When sixteen-year-old Amy returns home, she can’t tell her family what’s happened to her. She can’t tell them where she’s been since she and her best friend, her cousin Dee, were kidnapped six years ago—who stole them from their families or what’s become of Dee. She has to stay silent because she’s afraid of what might happen next, and she’s desperate to protect her secrets at any cost.

Amy tries to readjust to life at “home,” but nothing she does feels right. She’s a stranger in her own family, and the guilt that she’s the one who returned is insurmountable. Amy soon realizes that keeping secrets won’t change what’s happened, and they may end up hurting those she loves the most. She has to go back in order to move forward, risking everything along the way. Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee is a riveting, affecting story of loss and hope.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

New twist on Sherlock Holmes

28588390Charlotte Holmes of A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas brings a fresh new twist to the Sherlock Holmes franchise.

As a child, Charlotte Holmes, youngest of four sisters, has always been a little different.  She rarely speaks unless she has something to say, she likes to be alone and she is great at coming up with accurate conclusions after observing a situation.  Her father finds Charlotte entertaining, which made her his pet.

Charlotte’s domineering mother is determined to make Charlotte a proper young lady and get her married off.  But Charlotte doesn’t want to get married.  She would rather be the headmistress of an all girl’s school.  Sir Henry Holmes withdraws his promise to fun her training, which forces Charlotte to take drastic measure by ruining her reputation with a married man, ensuring she would not be married off to an eligible bachelor.  Not only did she ruin her reputation, she is publicly disgraced and is the center of a huge scandal.

After the scandal hits, Charlotte runs away to avoid spending her days out in the country alone, where her mother hopes the scandal will die down if Charlotte is out of sight.  Charlotte soon encounters an older, flamboyant lady who she feels an almost instant connection.  Of course this is Mrs. John Watson, a former actress and the widow of an army officer who perished in Afghanistan years earlier.

Soon the bodies start lining up including the mother of Charlotte’s lover.  The reclusive detective Sherlock Holmes is on the case but how effective will he be since he has taken to his bed with a serious illness and Inspector Treadles of Scotland Yard must consult with Holmes through his “sister” Charlotte.  Then there is Lord Ingram Ashburton who is in love with Charlotte but can’t act on his love for her because he is married, even if there is no love in the marriage.  He is an honorable man and will not act on his love.

If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, or even just a murder mystery fan, then you will want to pick up A Study in Scarlet Women.  This will be a great series to enjoy for years to come.

I was able to read an advanced copy through the First to Read Program from Penguin Random House.

Book Description:
USA Today bestselling author Sherry Thomas turns the story of the renowned Sherlock Holmes upside down…

 With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society.  But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.

When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name.  She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her. But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Murder at The Dollhouse

30039173The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis is such a fascinating story!  This is a story about Rose Lewin who in 2016 moved into the Barbizon Hotel in New York City with her newly divorced boyfriend and Darby McLaughlin who in 1952, moved from Ohio into the hotel to attend classes at the Katherine Gibbs secretarial school.

Barbizon Hotel had a long history as a safe and secure place for young women who came to New York City to study, look for a job or look for a husband.  Over the years it eventually was turned into condos.

Rose, a former network reporter takes a job that is a step down so she can be with her boyfriend.  As she is leaving the building, she meets an unfriendly elderly resident in the elevator.  She finds out that a few of the long-term tenants of the former hotel are living on the fourth floor.  She learns that the unfriendly woman was involved in an accidental death that took place back in the 50’s.

As Rose starts to investigate the accident from the 1950’s, we learn about Darby’s life at the Barbizon Hotel where she wasn’t treated nicely by the women on her floor and how she becomes friends with the hotel’s maid named Esme.  Esme introduces Darby to the darker side of New York City.

The story switches back and forth between Darby’s story from the 1950’s and Rose in 2016.  It shows how their lives progress and eventually intertwine.  I remember reading about rooming houses in New York where women lives with a housemother.  The Barbizon hosted famous women like Sylvia Plath, Liza Minelli, Candace Bergen and Joan Crawford.

I loved this book and found it so fascinating.  It was hard to put it down.  Fiona does a great job pulling the reader into the lives of the women at Barbizon Hotel.

I was able to read this book through the First to Read Program from Penguin Random House.

Book Description:
Fiona Davis’s stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City’s glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side-by-side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success in the 1950’s, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon’s glitzy past.

 When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren’t: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn’t belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she’s introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that’s used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.

Over half a century later, the Barbizon’s gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby’s involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman’s rent-controlled apartment. It’s a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby’s upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose’s obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Unsung heroes is what Broken Angels is about

28944464Broken Angels by Gemma Liviero is the story of three very different individuals.  Matilda is a little girl who is “sold” to the Nazis and sent from Romania to a special German school where she can learn to be the perfect Aryan child.  She will then be given to a German family.  But Matilda is a very strong-willed child and doesn’t want to conform.

Then there is Willem.  A high-ranking Nazi doctor who goes into the Jewish Lodz Ghetto daily and tries to help the Jews.  His father is a high ranking Nazi and Willem has his position because of his father who helps him get a posting at Auschwitz.  Elsi is part Jewish and lives in the ghetto where her family is trying to survive.  She meets Willem when she takes her Mother to see him.  Elsi soon joins the resistance to fight against the Nazis.

All three are living very different lives trying to survive the war and they do what they can to save others.  Matilda, Elsi and Willem are such well-developed characters that it makes the reader care for them.  I fell in love with these three individuals and I worried if they would survive.  I wondered if what they were doing was worth it and would they really be able to save all these people.

There were so many unsung heroes of the war who risked their lives for perfect strangers because they believed what the Nazis were doing was wrong and they weren’t going to sit around and watch it happen.  As I was reading this, I kept thinking – would I risk my life for a perfect stranger?  I would hope if I was ever in a situation where I could help someone, I would.  This was such a riveting story that was so beautifully written.

Book Description:
Nazi doctor. A Jewish rebel. A little girl. Each one will fight for freedom—or die trying.

Imprisoned in the Lodz Ghetto, Elsi discovers her mother’s desperate attempt to end her pregnancy and comes face-to-face with the impossibility of their situation. Risking her own life, Elsi joins a resistance group to sabotage the regime.

Blonde, blue-eyed Matilda is wrenched from her family in Romania and taken to Germany, where her captors attempt to mold her into the perfect Aryan child. Spirited and brave, she must inspire hope in the other stolen children to make her dreams of escape a reality.

Willem, a high-ranking Nazi doctor, plans to save lives when he takes posts in both the ghetto and Auschwitz. After witnessing unimaginable cruelties, he begins to question his role and the future of those he is ordered to destroy.

While Hitler ransacks Europe in pursuit of a pure German race, the lives of three broken souls—thrown together by chance—intertwine. Only love and sacrifice might make them whole again.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat