Dead Wake – The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

22551730I read Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City and really enjoyed it so when I saw this was available in audio from my local library, I thought I’d give it a try.

Stats: Audio book is 13′ 4″ long narrated by Scott Brick. Print is 430 pages. Both published in 2015.

Blurb: On May 1, 1915, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months, its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds” and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. He knew, moreover, that his ship–the fastest then in service–could outrun any threat.

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small–hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more–all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

What I liked: As Larson’s White City book, you can tell he has done his research. This “story” doesn’t have the real-life oddities that the White City story has but if you like history (and you have to like history to read this book), it gives you details and insights that you might not get in a history book. It has many first person accounts, but since I was listening to this, I don’t know if they were direct quotes. They sounded like it. Larson weaves a lot of different aspects of the ship’s journey and sinking with cold facts, but in a way that is generally entertaining. He also must have had access to the log of the submarine that sunk the ship because there is much information about what occured on that vessel as well. All the different things that had to be in place for this very large and famous ship to sink makes one wonder. Not to mention that the British really should have been escorting the ship when it got close to Ireland. Seems like that was quite on purpose – to pull the US into the war. Hard to really believe otherwise, though Larson doesn’t come right out and say this. Scott Brick’s narration helps move the story along.

What I didn’t like: It is a bit long. I’m glad I was listening to it vs reading it. As I mentioned, you have to be a history buff to want to read this book.

Rating: 4/5

The Orphan Mother by Robert Hicks

This was a new historical fiction audio book in my local library, so I snatched it up.

29214753Stats: Published September, 2016, print 320 pages, audio books: 9 discs read by Adenrele Ojo.

Blurb: In the years following the Civil War, Mariah Reddick, former slave to Carrie McGavock–the “Widow of the South”–has quietly built a new life for herself as a midwife to the women of Franklin, Tennessee. But when her ambitious, politically minded grown son, Theopolis, is murdered, Mariah–no stranger to loss–finds her world once more breaking apart. How could this happen? Who wanted him dead?
Mariah’s journey to uncover the truth leads her to unexpected people–including George Tole, a recent arrival to town, fleeing a difficult past of his own–and forces her to confront the truths of her own past. Brimming with the vivid prose and historical research that has won Robert Hicks recognition as a “master storyteller.”

What I liked: I liked the idea of the book. I was looking forward to leaning about how Mariah Reddick acquired her fortune – the setup in the first chapter of the book. For a woman born into slavery, it is an intriguing question.

What I didn’t like: Sorry to say, Mr. Hicks but most of what came after that first chapter. I don’t know if this fictional story is based off a true story or a fictional story set in a historic post-civil war background. I think Hicks portrays the times and the people (white and black) well, but not so that I care much about any of them. I try to want to find out about Mariah and Mr. Tole’s story, but it is so slow and so poorly edited, that I can’t get past disc 4. I tried, I really did. It just seems like Hicks tried to weave a much smaller story, much larger and the suit doesn’t fit. Adenrele Ojo’s voice as narrator works well, but it’s a bit sing-songie too much of the time for my taste.

Rating: 2/5, though I do like the cover!

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

I had wanted to read this, so when I saw the audio book at the library, I grabbed it!Orphan Train

Stats: The audio book is 7 discs or 8′ and 35″ worth. Narrated by Jessica Almasy and Suzanne Toren. Print book is 278 pages and published in 2013

Blurb: (Goodreads) Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from “aging out” of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse.

Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life. A Penobscot Indian, she, too, is an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. As her emotional barriers begin to crumble, Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life – answers that will ultimately free them both.

What I liked: The story goes back and forth between Vivian early years and present day when Vivian come in contact with Molly. Kline connects the two characters in present day and in life situations in such a way that is seems very believable and not just to fit the story. She has obviously done her homework, so to speak, in that there is a lot of detail related to the various time periods – dress, food, lifestyle, situations… – that makes the story that much more real. It is heartbreaking to think that some of these “train kids” were treated as small slaves or at minimal very poorly, but I’m sure it occurred more times than we would like to think since child labor laws weren’t enacted until 1938 and these trains were to have run between 1854 and 1929.  Jessica Almasy and Suzanne Toren do a fine job with the narration. I don’t know who did what voices, but I enjoyed listen throughout.

What I didn’t like: The only thing I can say on this count is that Molly foster mother was overly sensitive – throwing Molly out for really no good reason. Having Molly do or say something a bit more deserving of getting the boot would have made it more believable. Though I suppose this could have happened if her idea of foster care was more for the money vs helping a child. I would guess this happens in real life as well.

Rating: 4/5

Books and Co. Nancy Drew Book Event

Calling all Nancy Drew Fans!


I’m having my first book reading, costume contest and trivia contest at  Books and Co. Bookstore tonight.

It is at 7 p.m. 
1039 Summit Ave
Oconomowoc, WI (say that three times fast!)

Prizes are a signed copy of “Will the Real Carolyn Keene Please Stand Up” and a store coupon.Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 10.59.41 PM

If you are in the neighborhood, come by and join us! Who knows


New Site – FREE ebooks – Sale on Print Books (again)


 Lesson learned: Never set up a link without checking that it works.

So – now with a link that actually works (below) you can see my new site. Sorry for those who actually wanted to see it but couldn’t. I’ll get the other link fixed but as I said, computer lingo is not my thing so I will be recruiting help from the helpful booklaunch folks. I’m sure it was my error not theirs.


I’m excited to share my new book site.

I’ve used a very helpful service called download (1)to set up a site to put all my books and all my book links in one place.

The people who have developed the site were very helpful for a person like me who is not that computer savvy. I know what I know, but there is a lot that I don’t know. That’s why I have a teenage daughter!

Anyway – here is it: 

Take a look and let me know what you think.

To celebrate, I am giving away a Free ebook to anyone who signs up for my (very infrequent) e-newsletter. If you don’t have an e-reader, I’ll give away a print book for 50% off the retail price. The sign up is on the site.

My e-newsletter is also new. I wanted a way to get a hold of people who wanted to know about my book sales or other special events. But don’t worry – I won’t send out emails very often.

99 cent Nancy Drew Historical

To further celebrate my latest book being a Midwest Book Award Finalist, it is currently on sale for 99 cents!

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 Get it on Amazon –  Smashwordsibookstore – Kobo storeScribd – Barnes & Noble
And stop by Smashwords while you’re at it and get Rosebloom for FREE!

Old Tune Tuesday Celebrates!

I’ve picked this tune because I need to celebrate.

I am a finalist for the Midwest Book Awards!

The 25th Anniversary Midwest Book Awards has recognized “Will the Real Carolyn Keene Please Stand Up” as a finalist in the category of Historical Fiction.

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Winners will be announced at the Midwest Book Awards Gala to be held on May 13, 2015, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Olson Campus Center at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The competition, sponsored by the Midwest Independent Publishing Association, is judged by experts from all aspects of the book world, including publishers, writers, editors, librarians, teachers and book designers. They select award winners and finalists based on overall excellence.

Now dance with me! 🙂

Christmas/New Years Book Special

I wanted to give a small gift to you – the followers and visitors to my blog.


(Sorry – it’s not a cute puppy in a box.)

From now until the end of the year, my latest book “Will the Real Carolyn Keene Please Stand Up” will be on sale as an ebook for 99 cents from Amazon and Smashwords (which includes the ibookstore for you iusers!)

AND THAT’S NOT ALL! (the announcer yelled)

You can get my first ebook – “Rosebloom” for free!  Yes, Free!

(To get the free version, you have to go to Smashwords. They have versions for both kindle and all other readers (including ibookstore users). Amazon would only let me decrease the price to 99 cents – the stinkers.)

And because I like you so much, feel free to share this sale with your friends and family!

Ho, Ho, Ho – Merry Christmas!

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Never Turn Back by Lorna Lee

never turn backI read Lorna’s first book – How Was I Supposed to Know – and really loved it, so I thought I’d give this one a go.

Genre: Historical Fiction, published October 2014, 214 pages

Blurb: Meri Vaarsara had a dream and something to prove. She also had incredibly bad fortune and even worse timing.

Her dream was to become a famous fashion designer in Paris, a dream born from a need to prove herself worthy of love and a happy life, something her stern Finnish mother never fostered but her seafaring father always knew was hers for the taking. So at the tender age of sixteen, Meri left the security of her family and her home for a country where she didn’t speak the language and she didn’t know a soul.

Paris in the late 1920s was not friendly to immigrants, even those with extraordinary talents. Forced to find work as a domestic, Meri forged ahead through turns of fate and misfortune as Paris braced for Hitler’s invasion. By choice, Meri becomes a single mother caring for her half-Jewish daughter throughout the occupation of France. Once the war was over, she used her feminine wiles to find her way to America, the land of milk and honey, with the hope of finally being able to work as a designer in a New York fashion house. But that too was not to be, until fate and a kind stranger stepped in to help.

What I liked: I like stories about women in WWII. It’s a different, fresh perspective on the whole thing. But this story goes beyond WWII and follows the adult life of a Finnish woman who eventually comes to the US, like many of our relatives did. I like that this follows a real person and the things that happened to her in her attempt to make a better life for herself and her family. The book is well written, with very real characters with real flaws and real struggles. And I don’t want to give too much away, but I like that things work out in the end. There were so many thing that Meri endured for her not to get something to work out for her!

What I didn’t like: I can’t think of much here, really. Maybe it’s a little slow when she’s struggling through the war years, but my guess is, that’s how it really was.

Rating: 4/5

Wordsmith– I also review books

A nice review from Kathleen Rowland of “Rose From the Ashes.” Thanks Kathleen!

Chatting with Kathleen Rowland

ROSE FROM THE ASHES by Christine Keleny is an example of premiere World War II fiction. This is the third novel of Keleny’s amazing Rose Series.  Having finished the book, I wish there were more! 


Pregnant and newly widowed, army nurse Rose Krantz returns to her family’s Wisconsin farm. For Rose it’s a place of sanctity where her late husband Malcolm’s funeral takes place but also discrimination. Accompanied home by her best friend, Lilly Mae, who is black, Rose resents a racially charged comment against her. Having been through thick and thin with Lilly Mae (in prior books of the series) Rose struggles with prevailing attitudes of the 1940s.  

The public supports men who suffer battle fatigue while ignoring women who endured hardship under fire, caught diseases, and risked their lives to care for the wounded. Rose’s nightmares and flashbacks have equal impact, but the public’s reaction is shallow. Rose…

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