Thursday, August 4, 2022

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Our Little World, by Karen Winn {ends 8/11}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

The summer of 1986, the hot weather arrived – swimming weather – but Deer Chase Lake remained closed. “They found bacteria in the lake,” Mother told Audrina and me one June morning over breakfast, “so it’s not going to open for a while. They have to clean it.”

I nodded, feeling relieved, and swirled around the milk in my cereal bowl to douse the remaining Cheerios that were still partially dry.

Audrina snorted. “Who’d want to go there anyway?”

I glanced up from my bowl of cereal, surprised that we were in agreement on this, albeit silently, when we still felt so far apart.

This isn’t just a story of a four-year-old who goes missing from the beach. It’s her neighbor Bee’s insights surrounding the tumultuous summer and all the changes this initiated in her life and other lives in the community over the next year. It’s the story of how one thing happening can change everything, forever.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Our Little World, by Karen Winn {ends 8/11}
July 1985. It’s a normal, sweltering New Jersey summer for soon-to-be seventh grader Bee Kocsis. Her thoughts center only on sunny days spent at Deer Chase Lake, on evenings chasing fireflies around her cul-de-sac with the neighborhood kids, and on Max, the boy who just moved in across the street. There's also the burgeoning worry that she'll never be as special as her younger sister, Audrina, who seems to effortlessly dazzle wherever she goes. 

But when Max’s little sister, Sally, goes missing at the lake, Bee’s long-held illusion of stability is shattered in an instant. As the families in her close-knit community turn inward, suspicious and protective, things in Bee’s own home become increasingly strained, most of all with Audrina, when a shameful secret surfaces. With everything changed, Bee and Audrina’s already-fraught sisterhood is pushed to the limit as they grow up—and apart—in the wake of an innocence lost too soon. 

This moving story tells of young Bee’s observations about her neighborhood and her family when she’s around 12 years old, but adds a few comments about her adult reflections on these memories. It was definitely a sort of "before-and-after" summer for her. When young Sally goes missing, it not only changes the way her entire community operates, but also her personal relationships with her parents and her younger sister. Everyone is processing the grief of not having Sally around, and potentially addressing that their community may not be perfect and safe, with the hope they’re holding out that Sally has just wandered off and will return, miraculously, unscathed.

But Sally’s story isn’t always the most important one, even when Bee and her neighbors want it to be. Other people are still growing, changing, and making choices about their own lives. Adults are still good or bad parents and spouses, and everyone still has good and bad things happen, that usually have nothing to do with Sally being gone.

Bee’s viewpoint from both her young self and her comments about it all once she’s an adult were heartfelt and memorable. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars and loved it not just for the amazingly realistic character Bee was, but for the wholly memorable 1980s setting for it all. This book would be recommended for those who appreciate family dramas, sister stories, and re-living the 1980s.

{click here to purchase - Kindle edition is currently 46% off!}

Becki Bayley is a Gemini who enjoys relaxing with a good book, driving on a dry sunny day, or curling up with a watermelon wine to watch a thunderstorm out the window. Check out a few of her captured memories on Instagram where she posts as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

Two of my lucky readers will win a copy of Our Little World!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, August 11th, at 11:59pm ET, and winners will be notified the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Our Little World, by Karen Winn

Monday, August 1, 2022

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Hemlock Cure, by Joanne Burn {ends 8/8}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

From the pantry, Mae hears the knocking.

‘See who it is!’ shouts Father. He is explaining to Sam about the humoral system, and the two of them are sitting at the kitchen table looking at a diagram of the human body.

Mae goes through to the lobby, pulling the door closed behind her to keep the warmth of the kitchen in. The key hangs from its nail and, taking it, she slips it into the lock, turning it easily, the ironwork of the door handle cold in her palm.

Isabel is backlit by the sun, her eyes the bright blue of forget-me-nots.

‘Mae.’

‘I cannot ask you in.’

‘You explained last time.’

Mae knows her life would be much better if her mother and her sister hadn’t died. Life with her father is hard, but it may be even worse than she thinks.

Official summary:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Hemlock Cure, by Joanne Burn {ends 8/8}
A glitteringly dark historical novel of love, persecution, and survival set against the backdrop of one of history's most terrifying episodes: the Bubonic Plague.

It is 1665 and the women of Eyam village keep many secrets. Especially Isabel and Mae.

Isabel Frith, the village midwife, walks a dangerous line with her herbs and remedies. There are men in the village who speak of witchcraft, and Isabel has a past to hide. So she tells nobody her fears about the pious, reclusive apothecary, on whom she is keeping a watchful eye.

Mae, the apothecary's youngest daughter, dreads her father's rage if he discovers what she keeps from him: her feelings for Rafe, Isabel's ward, or the fact that she studies from her father's books at night.

But others have secrets too. Secrets darker than any of them could have imagined.

When Mae makes a horrifying discovery, Isabel is the only person she can turn to. But helping Mae will place them both in unimaginable peril. Meanwhile another danger is on its way from London. One that threatens to engulf them all. . . 

After Mae’s mother died, she started hanging out regularly with her mother’s friends, Isabel and Elizabeth. Her father especially did not approve of Isabel, the village’s midwife, who he held responsible for the death of any brothers Mae may have had. 

Soon, the plague hits their small village. Mae’s father encourages prayer and a few remedies he offers as the apothecary. When Isabel’s husband goes to London to help other family members, pregnant Isabel watches Mae’s home life get worse and worse. Should someone help Mae? And if so, how? Standing up to an apothecary with an upstanding reputation is risky for any woman, but especially one with a sketchy past for herself.

This was a great book about female empowerment when it seemed impossible. I loved Mae’s spirit and gave the book 4 out of 5 stars. This book could be recommended to any reader who wants to read more about a period of history about which not a lot of books are written. The author includes a note at the back that credits some characters based on real people from that period.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is always a wife and mom first. Check out her posts about what she’s reading and enjoying in her yard on Instagram, where she posts as PoshBecki.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Hemlock Cure!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, August 8th, at 11:59pm ET, and winner will be chosen the next day and notified via email. Winner will have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Hemlock Cure, by Joanne Burn

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