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review 2017-10-18 17:54
Before We Were Yours
Before We Were Yours - Lisa Wingate

By: Lisa Wingate

ISBN: 9780425284681

Publisher: Random House

Publication Date: 6/6/2017 

Format: Hardcover

My Rating:  5 Stars +++

 

Master storyteller, Lisa Wingate returns following her heartwarming Carolina Series The Sea Keeper's Daughters with her best yet, BEFORE WE WERE YOURS Top Books of 2017— A powerful story within a story inspired by one of American’s most horrific real-life adoption scandals. (stunning front cover)!

A haunting, beautifully written and emotional story of family, sisters, human connections and the strong bonds of love. From good versus evil, deeply-buried secrets, and injustice, to triumph in the face of adversity.

With two storylines, two families generations apart— the bridge between past and present. Before We Were Yoursalternates between the historical story of the Foss Children and the modern-day story of Avery Stafford.

Present day: We meet Avery Stafford. 30 years-old, graduated top of her class from Columbia Law and works for US attorney’s office. A successful career as a federal prosecutor, a fiance’ and an upcoming wedding. 

She returns home to South Carolina to help her father, a high-profile politician. He is up for re-election and has some health problems (cancer) and undergoing chemo. Of course, he wants Avery to step into his shoes with a political career.

Avery’s grandmother, Judy is a ghost of her former self. They are keeping it from the media due to the fact they have moved her to an upscale luxury facility. They are currently dealing with a scandal of wrongful death and abuse cases involving eldercare, so they do not want people pointing fingers. Of course, the decision to move to her this facility was not political—her doctor recommended. 

They are heartsick about her cruel descent into dementia. Before they moved her to the nursing home, she escaped her caretaker and staff and was found wandering at a business complex near a mall where she formerly shopped. Ironically, since she cannot even remember their names. 

While touring on the nursing homes (not as luxurious as Judy's), Avery encounters a woman. She calls Avery, Fern. The nurse called the woman, May Crandall. 

 




Through the mind and voice of May, she has triggers from the past. She thinks of Queenie her mother and Camellia. Thinking back to the Mississippi riverbank to Memphis. The night there was no returning. 

Past: Memphis 1939. A twelve-year-old girl Rill. She lives on a riverboat and helps take care of her four young siblings. Life is difficult. However, there are complications during the birth at the hospital and the children are snatched, while Rill was in charge. 

They are thrown into an orphanage. They are told they will be returned to their parents. Rill must keep her siblings together. However, they find evil and something more sinister than they could ever imagine. 

“I want a pain that has a beginning and an end, not one that goes on forever and cuts all the way to the bone.” 

From past to present, Avery is haunted by this woman in the nursing home. Is there a connection? She had on her grandmother’s bracelet. Her curiosity has been piqued by her sad story. Does this woman May, know her grandmother Judy? 

There is no way Avery can let this drop. Secrets from the past. She goes back to her grandmother’s letters and notes. 

Who is Trent Turner in Edisto? He does not seem helpful. What is he hiding? 

Amidst the suspense and intensity while Avery tries desperately to piece together the mystery of her family’s past, we hear the heartbreaking story of sisters and children taken against their will. Ripped from their biological parents. 

A true to life story of Georgia Tann, the director of a Memphis-based adoption organization which basically kidnapped and sold children to wealthy families for many years. Thousands of birth families would never know what became of their children.

“But the love of sisters needs no words. It does not depend on memories, or mementos, or proof. It runs as deep as a heartbeat. It is as ever-present as a pulse.” 

If you have read any of Lisa Wingate’s stories, you know she writes of family, love, and deep connections. A master storyteller, her books are thought-provoking, inspiring, emotional, and deeply moving. Her passion shines through as she shares her stories from the heart to her readers.

Normally when reading a dual time timeline story, I find the historical one the most intriguing. However, in this case, both stories are equally as compelling, since the present-day story still revolves around its own past family history. 

As in sex and child trafficking today, the abuse and devastation continue to destroy lives and futures of innocent children. The monsters target the poor, single mothers, or those on welfare. In this haunting yet true story of babies and children being kidnapped and abused, molested, and mistreated while waiting for the big payday. Some were stolen from birth and siblings and parent’s lives forever to be ripped apart. 

Well-researched, the author offers details as to the number of children who vanished under Georgia Tann’s management range as high as five hundred. Thousands more disappeared into adoptions for profit in which names, birth dates, and birth records were altered to prevent biological families from finding their children. This went on from the 1920s-1950s and was not fully brought to justice until 1996.

From the author: “If there is one overarching lesson to be learned from the Foss children and from the true-life story of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, it is that babies and children, no matter what corner of the world they hail from, are not commodities, or objects, or blank slates, as Georgia Tann so often represented her wards; they are human beings with histories and needs, and hopes, and dreams of their own.”

Lisa Wingate is at the top of her game. Having read all 8 total works in the Carolina Heirlooms’ series, have been an avid fan of the author’s writing. 

However, BEFORE WE WERE YOURS, really showcases her strength to blend both historical with modern-day stories in a powerful way to capture the heart and most intimate feelings of her characters and the dual timelines. Resilience and the power of love. 

“The heart never forgets where we belong.”

I had the opportunity of reading this book well before its publication date in June; however, I was dealing with my dad’s illness in North Carolina, his death, funeral, and executor of his estate. Playing catch up with reviews/postings I missed this summer. A special thank you to Random House and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy.

I enjoyed this book so much, purchased the audiobook for my personal library and listened again this past week. Emily Rankin and Catherine Taber are ideal narrators and in sync with Lisa Wingate’s poignant story. 

“Do we carry the guilt from the sins of past generations? If so, can we bear the weight of that burden? Trent” ― Lisa Wingate, Before We Were Yours

Highly recommend! If you can only read one book this year, this would be the one. Wingate fully understands the power of story. If this does not win Historic Fiction of the Year, I will be shocked. Ideal for book clubs and further discussions. 

If you have not viewed the The Book Club Kit, by Random House— highly recommend, to enhance your reading experience. Well done!

For fans of Charles Martin, Susan Meissner, Kristin Hannah, Sally Hepworth, Nicholas Sparks and Diane Chamberlain. 

As the author mentions in an interview, “In the end, both the modern-day and historical characters in Before We Were Yours are willing to risk everything else for one all-important thing—a place to be authentic and people to be authentic with. That’s what I love most about the book.”

Your fans agree. Cannot wait to see what’s next from this talented author. No wonder it still ranks today as #7 Most Read book on Amazon. Totally captivating!

“No matter how much we may love the melody of a bygone day or imagine the song of a future one, we must dance within the music of today, or we will always be out of step, stumbling around in something that doesn’t suit the moment.” ― Lisa Wingate, Before We Were Yours

JDCMustReadBooks

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/12/01/Before-We-Were-Yours
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review 2017-10-18 16:23
The Murderer's Maid
The Murderer's Maid: A Lizzie Borden Novel - Erika Mailman

Serial/Spree Killer for Halloween Bingo!

 

Bridget Sullivan was the Borden’s maid during the time of the murders, she was even home when it happened; however, when was outside washing the windows, a fact that might  have saved her life.  As the maid, Bridget was privy to much of the Borden’s private quarrels and any inside information of how the strange family lived and gotten along.  Bridget’s testimony during Lizzie’s trial had the potential to sway guilt or innocence upon Lizzie.  Bridget’s side of the story during the Borden murders is one that is still left to be told.  In the present, Brooke , the daughter of a Mexican-American maid shares a distant connection with Lizzie and Bridget.  While celebrating the 4th of July with her mothers employer and family, the Carr’s, Mrs. Carr drowns.  Years later, Brookes mother is murdered and Brooke receives evidence that she is next, Brooke goes off the grid and moves frequently believing it is the only way to stay alive.  It isn’t until Brooke digs into her absent fathers past that she unravels the mystery of the deaths and feels confident to once again live her life.

I have always been in I have always been intrigued by the Lizzie Borden murders and Lizzie Borden herself. I truly do believe that she was a woman out of her time wondered how her life would have been different if she were born a century later. While I cannot say whether not Lizzie was guilty or innocent, I do enjoy reading stories that dare to guess  about the true circumstances that happened that day. Replete with historical detail and intense emotion, Bridget's side of the story gave a point of view that I have never heard before. Bridget's place within the family gave her a front row seat to the drama of the Borden's life. Along with her place on that fateful day, Bridget maybe one of the only other people who truly did know what happened to Mr. and Mrs. Borden.   Paired with Brooke's story in the modern-day The Murderer's Maid lends an interesting twist. Brooke seems to have much in common with Bridget as the daughter  of a maid to a family with many issues themselves. As Brooke finds her life unraveling, she comes across Lizzie’s story and an unlikely connection which helps her bring everything together.  I was entranced by the voices of these two women, one of whom history might have swept under the rug due to her position within life and another which modern society might dismiss due to her lot in life.  I will continue to be haunted by the Borden murders, and The Murderers Maid has shown me even more nuances to this complicated case.  
  
This book has been received for free in return for an honest review. 

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review 2017-10-18 05:55
Review: Wed to a Spy (All the Queen's Spies #1) by Sharon Cullen
Wed to a Spy: An All the Queen's Spies Novel - Sharon Cullen

Simon and Aimee are pretty much set to spy on each other and before they knew it, they are married. I am a super fan of the marriage of convenience and forced marriage genre so I was happy that I had the chance to read this story. Sadly it was not what I expected, not in the romance sense anyway. 

The romance between Aimee and Simon was too forced. I get that they had to marry because it was an order by the queen but their relationship was only beginning to simmer when the story was over. Clearly, there was a mutual attraction at the start of their marriage and what supposedly was a fondness for each other but where was that fondness even coming from as they were strangers? Simon sounded like a real character with personal commitments and frustrations. Aimee in comparison sounded like a lost puppy looking for a new owner. 

There are lost of intrigue since the story takes place at court so there is suspense and drama. If anything that intrigue was the most engrossing aspect of the story. When one of the characters at court is murdered, Simon and Aimee had to learn to trust each other in order to survive the rebellion that takes place at the castle. All of this happens in a relative short period of time and while interesting it still lacked that WOW effect that I would have loved to find in a novel about spies. It wasn’t a terrible read but it definitely needed more, specially in the romantic department.

** I received this book at no cost to me and I volunteered to read it; this is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.***
 

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review 2017-10-18 04:58
Review: With This Christmas Ring by Manda Collins
With This Christmas Ring - Manda Collins

Sweet yet emotional and passionate story. Tie-in for both of the author’s Studies in Scandal and Lords of Anarchy however it can definitely be read as a stand alone. 

The last person Merry wanted to see was her former fiancé however she was willing to do everything within her power to give her dead friend’s child the family she deserved. Alex never understood the reason Merry jilted him and when she appeared at his door seeking his cousin, he knew that was the perfect opportunity to find answers and perhaps ask for a second chance at love. 

I very much liked that the story started with Merry as a take-charge, brave, and intelligent woman however as the story progressed her attitude sort of changed and she started to sound meek, or perhaps insecure, and that gave me a"what-happened-to-her?" kind of sense. It wasn’t too bad but it still took away from the overall enjoyment of the story. 
Her chemistry with Alex was nonetheless well-balanced. He was sweet, honorable, and passionate. He was a man of his word who respected family and friends immensely, particularly his grandmother given that she was the one who had taken care of him since he was a child. He never pushed Merry to do anything she didn’t want and allowed her time to think and answer all of his questions. I think both their characters were well rounded in the sense that we get to understand what got them to be where they are and how much they deserved their HEA. 
I’m not so sure what to think about the villains, though. One of the arcs sounded inconclusive and even implausible and the other one, well, I’m still wondering about that one. Still, the main romantic arc was what made this story worth my time and I do recommend it to anyone looking for a Christmas romantic story. 

** I received this book from the author at no cost to me and I volunteered to read it; this is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.***

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review 2017-10-18 02:02
The Last Ballad
The Last Ballad: A Novel - Wiley Cash

Ella May Wiggins is a 28 year-old woman with five kids, one who has already died.  Six days a week she walks two mile to work the night shift at American Mill No.2, a textile mill in 1929, for $9.00 a week.  With no husband, this is barely enough to keep her family afloat.  Luckily, Ella may has the help of her colored neighbors in Stumptown when she is at work.  Fed up with the long hours, dangerous conditions and paltry pay, Ella May joins the labor union movement.  She is quickly elevated as a poster child for the movement, especially because of her unique voice and songwriting skills that weave her experience in the mill into a ballad that all workers can relate to. 

Told through alternating viewpoints of Ella May and people who came in and out of her life, we learn about Ella May's involvement in the  labor union movement and how it ultimately led to her demise. This is not a spoiler as this is revealed quite early on in the story.  However, this was quite a shock to me and for the rest of the story I was wondering how all of these other viewpoints would lead up to that moment.  I did enjoy learning about this time in history and the labor union movement, especially the role that women played.  I was definitely inspired by Ella May's song and was glad to learn that it had such an impact on those around her. Through the different voices, I was lead through a dark part of US history, the fight for and against worker's rights.  I do wish that there was more of a centralized voice, with so many narrators I did have a little trouble focusing on Ella May and seeing how everything fit together in some cases. 

This story was received for free in return for an honest review. 

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