Thursday, August 30, 2018

Book Review: The Little Shop of Found Things, by Paula Brackston

The Little Shop of Found Things
(The Little Shop of Found Things, Book 1)
Paula Brackston
Hardcover, 320 pages
St. Martin's Press
October 2, 2018
Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction

Synopsis: A new series about a young woman whose connection to antiques takes her on a magical adventure; reminiscent of Outlander.

New York Times bestselling author of The Witch's Daughter Paula Brackston returns to her trademark blend of magic and romance to launch a new series guaranteed to enchant her audience even more.

Xanthe and her mother Flora leave London behind for a fresh start, taking over an antique shop in the historic town of Marlborough. Xanthe has always had an affinity with some of the antiques she finds. When she touches them, she can sense something of the past they come from and the stories they hold. So when she has an intense connection to a beautiful silver chatelaine, she has to know more.

It’s while she’s examining the chatelaine that she’s transported back to the seventeenth century. And shortly after, she's confronted by a ghost who reveals that this is where the antique has its origins. The ghost tasks Xanthe with putting right the injustice in its story to save an innocent girl’s life, or else it’ll cost her Flora’s.

While Xanthe fights to save this girl amid the turbulent days of 1605, she meets architect Samuel Appleby. He may be the person who can help her succeed. He may also be the reason she can’t bring herself to leave.

With its rich historical detail, strong mother-daughter relationship, and picturesque English village, The Little Shop of Found Things is poised to be a strong start to this new series.

I received a paperback ARC from the author, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are 
my own.

Time travel has long been a fascination of mine, so this novel got my interest right away, especially when I read the plot synopsis on Goodreads. The reference to the Outlander series was a huge plus! Brackston's novel is unique in its own right, however, and bears no similarity to the books written by Diana Gabaldon.

There are so many things to rave about regarding The Little Shop of Found Things! First off, the writing. It's luscious. It's elegant. It carries the reader along, until reality drops away, and one is totally immersed in the story's highly fascinating events.

This is how Brackston skillfully captured this reader's interest:

"It is a commonly held belief that the most likely place to find a ghost is beneath a shadowy moon, among the ruins of a castle, or perhaps in an abandoned house where the living have fled, leaving only spirits to drift from room to room. To believe so is to acknowledge but half a truth, for there is a connection with those passed over to be found much nearer home."

By the time I had finished reading the paragraph quoted above, I was in love with the book! This one paragraph has all the elements to entice the reader of paranormal fiction -- the deft touches of visual description to set the scene, the incipient hint of mystery, the writer's uncanny ability to make everything seem so very real, right from the start.

I happily dove in, and was rewarded by a sweeping tale that not only included a ghost, but time travel, as well as an urgent errand to save an innocent young woman's life. Oh, and did I mention romance? Because this, too, is included -- a romance that is sweet, enchanting, and yet, includes a very unusual meeting of minds.

The characters are undoubtedly memorable. Xanthe, the female protagonist, is courageous, noble, and resourceful, as she strives to find a way to restore justice. Her love for her mother is another admirable trait. In fact, her overriding concern throughout the novel is that her mother's life hangs in the balance if she does not succeed in her mission.

Flora, Xanthe's mother, is no less admirable. Afflicted with a debilitating form of arthritis, she nevertheless strikes out on a new life along with her daughter. She is fiercely independent, and determined to succeed in the antique business she and Xanthe decide to set up, in the town of Marlborough. 

Then there's Samuel. An interesting and very endearing man indeed! He's immediately drawn to Xanthe, sensing something different about her. Far from being put off by her obviously independent spirit, so at odds with the times, he admires and reveres her. This is probably because he's not quite a man of the times himself. His sensitive, artistic nature makes him more likely to appreciate Xanthe's unconventional personality.

As for the "villain" of the tale, Margaret Merton was a very believable menace that Xanthe unfortunately had to deal with. I must say, however, that this character perhaps had no real  wish to do any harm. It was desperation that drove her to act in the manner that she did. Still, it was her actions that drove the plot, giving it an added element of suspense that grew with each page turned. 

I think of Mistress Lovewell (what an ironic name, that) as the real villain of this story. It was her actions that cast the innocent young woman into a dismal prison, there to await a possible death by hanging. However, Mistress Lovewell, too, had her reasons for proceeding in what a modern person would consider a cruel, unjust manner. Still, this character was indeed totally without compassion. Her disdain for her servants was disgusting, while her obstinate, rigid mentality made me detest her on every page I encountered her. Furthermore, I was very surprised to see that her husband was the exact opposite of her. How, I frequently asked myself as I read, could the man have possibly married such a woman? And stayed married to her?

The story switches back and forth between the 17th and 21st centuries, and the reader really feels Xanthe's bewilderment and disorientation whenever this happens. 

The contrast between the two centuries, even though the locale was the same, is also very well described. The reader feels the clash between modern life and the life of that long ago time. Roads that, in the current century, are paved and well maintained, were no more than dirt tracks in the 17th century. The English criminal justice system back then was quite different from the way it is now. Indeed, it was rather primitive, as well as totally without compassion. The classes were very well described, with those in the higher echelons oblivious to the suffering of the poorer classes. Religion was also a matter of life and death; no one could openly admit to being a Catholic without suffering reprisal. Brackston throws in an interesting analysis of 17th-century English politics, especially in regards to the persecution of Catholics, as England had already embraced Protestantism. 

Also important are the psychological aspects of the characters. Xanthe undergoes a tremendous amount of stress throughout the story. Margaret Merton is constantly in her thoughts. Merton herself also undergoes stress, as she pressures Xanthe to successfully complete her mission. Samuel, too, is under some stress, as he falls in love with a woman whom he suspects could very well be burned at the stake as a witch, due to her sudden, inexplicable disappearances.

The drama, the intrigue, the romance, everything is masterfully tied together and resolved by this highly original author, whose other works I now want to read! And, of course, I want to see how this series (I was so happy find out that there will be more books) is going to pan out! 

There's a mild cliffhanger at the end of the book, but I know it will be satisfactorily dealt with in the sequel, as well as in later novels in the series. All I can say is that Brackston obviously believes, as any romantic does, that true love will win out in the end. 

I recommend this wonderfully written novel to all those who, like me, relish a well-told tale, especially one with fantastical elements, as well as the sheer delight of staying up into the wee hours in order to find out how it all ends up! This novel has it all -- it is mesmerizing, addictive, and totally fascinating! Also, it will make romance novel fans yearn for true love in the shifting sands of time. Kudos to Paula Brackston!   


Paula Brackston lives in a wild, mountainous part of Wales. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, and is a Visiting Lecturer for the University of Wales, Newport. Before becoming a writer, Paula tried her hand at various career paths, with mixed success. These included working as a groom on a racing yard, as a travel agent, a secretary, an English teacher, and a goat herd. Everyone involved (particularly the goats) is very relieved that she has now found a job she is actually able to do properly.

When not hunched over her keyboard in her tiny office under the stairs, Paula is dragged outside by her children to play Swedish tennis on the vertiginous slopes which surround them. She also enjoys being walked by the dog, hacking through weeds in the vegetable patch, or sitting by the pond with a glass of wine. Most of the inspiration for her writing comes from stomping about on the mountains being serenaded by skylarks and buzzards.

In 2007 Paula was short listed in the Creme de la Crime search for new writers. In 2010 her book Nutters (writing as PJ Davy) was short listed for the Mind Book Award, and she was selected by the BBC under their New Welsh Writers scheme.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday No. 75: Rebels of Eden, by Joey Graceffa

Welcome to "Can't Wait Wednesday"!

This is a weekly event hosted by
Tressa @ Wishful Endings!
This is also where we excited book bloggers showcase future releases we're eagerly anticipating! 
For more information, 
please click HERE.

There's also a Linky widget, so participating blogs can link up!

Here's my choice for this week!

 Rebels of Eden
(Children of Eden, Book 3)
Joey Graceffa
Hardcover, 384 pages
Atria/Keywords Press
    October 2, 2018
Dystopian Fiction, Fantasy, 
Science Fiction,
Young Adult Fiction

The electrifying conclusion to the New York Times bestselling series Children of Eden that follows Rowan as she leaves behind the paradise she’s always dreamed of to save Eden—and the world—from a terrible fate.Rowan is finally in Harmonia, an Earth-friendly, sustainable commune in the wilderness she always thought was dead. Even in this idyllic world, she finds no peace. Harmonia has strict rules—and dire consequences. Thinking about Eden is forbidden, but she’s determined to rescue the loved ones she left behind. Though they are in terrible danger, her pleas for help are ignored.

After months of living as one with nature, a shocking reminder of her past pushes Rowan to act. With the help of new friends, she infiltrates Eden. What she discovers is even worse than the situation she left behind. In the chaos of civil war, Rowan and her friends join forces with the second children and other rebels trapped inside. They fight for their lives, and for the future of humanity in this broken Earth.

 Why I can't wait for this one!

It SURE looks like I'm going to keep right on finding new series to get excited about, right when they're either on the third or last book! So here's another one that sounds absolutely TERRIFIC!! The first book, Children of Eden, has a four-star rating on Goodreads, with a total of 799 reviews and 5,251 ratings!! Can you believe it?! So yeah, I want to start this one, too!! Lol.

The previous books in this series! 
Click on the covers 
for the Goodreads pages.

 Joey Graceffa is a leading digital creator, actor, and producer, best known for his scripted and vlog work with YouTube. He is the author of the instant New York Times bestselling memoir In Real Life: My Journey to a Pixelated World and the bestselling novels Children of Eden and its sequel Elites of Eden. In 2013, he produced and starred in his own Kickstarter–funded supernatural series, Storytellers, for which he won a Streamy Award. In 2016, he debuted Escape the Night, a “surreality” competition series for YouTube Red that will return for a third season in the summer of 2018. Joey’s other interests include a proprietary accessories/home décor line called "Crystal Wolf", and supporting various nonprofit organizations for literacy, children’s health and wellness, and animal welfare.

YouTube Channel
What do you think of my
choice this week? 
Please leave a comment and
let me know!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Shelf Candy Saturday No. 259: A Wind in the Door, by Madeleine L'Engle

Welcome to Shelf Candy Saturday!

***Late Edition***
This is my weekly feature
showcasing beautiful covers!
It also provides information, 
if available, on their 
very talented creators!

Here's my choice for this week!

A Wind in the Door
Madeleine L'Engle
Hardcover, 211  pages
Farrar, Straus, Giroux
January 1,1973
Fantasy, Science Fiction,
Young Adult Fiction

My Thoughts About This Cover

It's been a while since I've featured  a book cover by my favorite cover artists of all time -- the husband and wife team of Leo and Diane Dillon. And this one exemplifies the exotic beauty of their very unique style!

I found this STUNNING cover on one of my favorite blogs, Brainfluff, whose creator, S.J. Higbee, is also a science fiction writer! How very appropriate! You can find the cover on her own cover meme post, HERE.

This cover displays a perfect union of geometric with stylized human and animal shapes. While there's a definite Art Deco influence here, which is evident in the framing of the whole design, as well as the elegant font used for the title and author's name, there's also the vibrant, sinuous, somewhat whimsical illustration and design -- the signature Dillon style. 

Fantastical, otherworldly, totally fascinating, this is a cover that mystifies, at the same time that it pulls the viewer in. The eye roams all over, while one wonders what it all means. Who is that enigmatic hooded figure in the background? Is that a winged lizard? At the bottom left of the cover, is that a fish or a dragon, or some weird combination of the two, looking upon the sleeping child, at the bottom right  of the cover?  This striking image invites the viewer to move past its intriguing spell, and find out by diving into the story!

Another element of this design I love is the repetition of the circle motif. A circle encloses the hooded figure, which is echoed in the big blue-gray marble -- obviously a planet, and yet, somehow, also a marble -- to the right of the strange, winged creature.

These master artists have pulled all of these disparate elements together into one harmonious design, and the muted colors definitely add to its appeal. Everything is just perfect!

Last but definitely not least, I find that there's a timeless quality to the Dillons' art that makes all of it look fresh and new, as if the books had been published recently. I really need to post more of their masterpieces of cover illustration and design!

Leo and Diane Dillon
(photo by Beth Gwinn, Locus Online Magazine)

From the Locus Magazine Article

Leo Dillon (Lionel John Dillon, Jr.) and Diane Dillon (née Diane Claire Sorber) were born 11 days apart in March 1933, on opposite coasts. He grew up in Brooklyn, she was born and raised in California, and they met in 1953 while attending Parsons School of Design in New York City. They married in 1957. Son Lee (Lionel John Dillon III), born in 1965, also became an artist; in the '90s, he collaborated with them on several projects, including the illustrations for Pish, Posh, Said Hieronymus Bosch by Nancy Willard (1991).
They met Harlan Ellison in 1959, after doing illustrations for Rogue, the men's magazine he was then editing in Chicago. That meeting would eventually have major consequences for the field of SF and fantasy art, thanks to their illustrations for Dangerous Visions (1967), and a subsequent meeting
with Terry Carr, who recruited them as cover artists for the Ace Specials in the '60s and '70's.It was mainly that work for Ace which earned them their
1971 Hugo for SF art.

You can access the entire
Locus article, which includes a
fascinating interview 
with Karen Haber, HERE.

For further information

The Art of Leo and Diane Dillon
Wikipedia article on the Dillons
JVJ Publishing: Leo and Diane Dillon page
NCCIL: Leo and Diane Dillon

What do you think of 
this week's cover?
Please leave a comment
and let me know!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Book Blogger Hop No. 140: Book Review Posting Sites

Welcome to the Book Blogger Hop,
hosted by Billy @

This Week's Question

Where do you post your reviews
besides your blog? Please
list them all so perhaps we can
find some new sites.

(Submitted  by Elizabeth @

My Answer

It looks like this week, I won't be able to delight myself in writing a thoroughly detailed post....I'll have to go with the short and sweet! What a bummer.....Lol. Who would have thought, right? :) 

So here it is: other than this blog, I only post my book reviews on two sites -- Goodreads and Amazon. That's it, folks!

If you'd like to check out my Goodreads profile, as well as my Amazon profile, I'm leaving the links below. On Goodreads, I go by the name of "Mari Behar", while on Amazon, I am "Maria Behar". (Unofficially, I'm "Twilightdreamlover." This has been my own chosen nickname ever since I first opened that iconic cover with the pale hands holding that bright red apple.)

I'm also including the pics I use on these profiles.

♥♥Mari♥♥ Behar: Goodreads


 Maria Behar: Amazon


What are your thoughts on
this topic?
If you're participating in this hop,
I'll go comment on your 
own BBH post.
If not, I will then comment on one 
of your blog posts!
Thanks for visiting!!!