YOU BELONG HERE NOW by Dianna Rostad

Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: April 6, 2021
Source: Review copy from the Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars


Synopsis from the Publisher:

Montana, 1925 — Three brave kids from New York board the orphan train headed west. An Irish boy who lost his whole family to Spanish flu, a tiny girl who won’t talk, and a volatile young man who desperately needs to escape Hell’s Kitchen. They are paraded on platforms across the Midwest to work-worn folks and journey countless miles, racing the sun westward. Before they reach the last rejection and stop, the kids come up with a daring plan, and they set off toward the Yellowstone River and grassy mountains where the wild horses roam.

Fate guides them toward the ranch of a family stricken by loss. Broken and unable to outrun their pasts in New York, the family must do the unthinkable in order to save them.

Nara, the daughter of a successful cattleman, has grown into a brusque spinster who refuses the kids on sight. She’s worked hard to gain her father’s respect and hopes to run their operation, but if the kids stay, she’ll be stuck in the kitchen.

Nara works them without mercy, hoping they’ll run off, but they buck up and show spirit, and though Nara will never be motherly, she begins to take to them. So, when Charles is jailed for freeing wild horses that were rounded up for slaughter, and an abusive mother from New York shows up to take the youngest, Nara does the unthinkable, risking everything she holds dear to change their lives forever.


My Thoughts:

YOU BELONG HERE NOW is a touching historical drama about survival, acceptance, and creating a family beyond blood. Set in Montana in the 1920s, the story follows the last three children from an orphan train who jump off to find work and possibly a new home on a cattle ranch. The family that they find are struggling with their own grief and loss.

I enjoyed this absorbing tale that brings to light the perilous lives of orphans at the time, as well as the bigotry faced by Irish immigrants and indigenous people. What a terrifying prospect it must have been to be sent west into the unknown, as you could only hope that you’re taken in by decent people. The writing was a bit melodramatic at times, but overall this coming of age novel is enjoyable and uplifting.

Disclosure: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program in exchange for my honest review.

Thoughts on Books (#27): THE FAMILY GAME • THE LAST PARTY • AT SUMMER’S END

The Family GameTHE FAMILY GAME by Catherine Steadman
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

BOTM pick from December (’22)

THE FAMILY GAME was wildly entertaining! Harriet (who goes by Harry) was orphaned at age 11. Today, she’s a successful, newly published author who’s engaged to the man of her dreams. The one wrinkle is that Edward is estranged from his uber-wealthy, mysterious, old money family, and Harry hasn’t met them. Yet. When they do meet, it’s clear that the Holbecks want Harry to help bring Edward back into their fold. Edward’s intimidating father slips Harry a tape containing what sounds like a shocking confession, which gets her wrapped up in a deadly family game.

The first half of this book was a slow burn, but I was riveted. I loved watching Harry’s dive into this bizarre family’s world. The last part was crazy fast-paced and heart-pounding as Harry uncovers the disturbing secrets revealed on the tape. Yes, it was over the top, but so fun to read! I was left with a few unanswered questions, but overall it wrapped up with a satisfying conclusion. Highly recommended!


The Last Party (DC Morgan, #1)THE LAST PARTY by Clare Mackintosh
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a BOTM club pick for November (’22), and unfortunately it was a struggle for me to get through. It’s about two detectives investigating the murder of a has-been singer in Wales.

What I liked:
• The Welsh setting. I love reading about Wales, and I don’t come across many books set there (maybe I’m not looking hard enough!).
• The relationship between the two main characters, Ffion and Leo. They were two flawed and compelling characters, and I enjoyed their exchanges.

What I didn’t like:
• The story was very slow-paced with too much filler and too many time jumps.
• The victim was repugnant and I didn’t care why he was killed.
• There was a huge (HUGE!) cast of characters to keep straight, and most were unlikable or dull.

I’ve read and loved previous books by this author (I LET YOU GO is one of my all-time favorites), but THE LAST PARTY wasn’t for me.


At Summer's EndAT SUMMER’S END by Courtney Ellis
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Being a woman artist in the 1920s was far from easy. Bertie Preston is thrilled when an invitation arrives from the Earl of Wakeford, asking her to spend the summer painting at his estate, Castle Braemore. She’s surprised to find a family still suffering in the aftermath of WWI, especially the earl who fought in the war, and now remains isolated in his chambers. The family is also hiding painful secrets that Bertie will soon uncover.

I was drawn to this book by the nod to the Beauty and the Beast fairytale. Bertie is a unique and compelling character for the time, a woman wanting to live independently as an artist. AT SUMMER’S END is a beautifully written historical romance that brings post-WWI England to life.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books of 2022

Hello and Happy New Year! I’m linking up with Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl for Top Ten Tuesday, a bookish meme for all who love lists and reading. There’s a new prompt each week, so check out her blog for details! Today’s topic is:

Favorite Books of 2022

Here’s a look at my top 10 12 books read in 2022. I did a lot of reading the first half of the year, really up through August. Then work started back and it killed my reading mojo, unfortunately. I finished the year strong though, completing a total of 90 books (about a third of those were children’s books). In no particular order, here are my favorites:

THE OVERNIGHT GUEST by Heather Gudenkauf
(★★★★★)

THE IT GIRL by Ruth Ware
(★★★★)

THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR by Rose Carlyle
(★★★★½)

THE NIGHT SHIFT by Alex Finlay
(★★★★★)

BENEATH THE STAIRS by Jennifer Fawcett
(★★★★½)

SUN DAMAGE by Sabine Durrant
(★★★★¼)

FAMILY OF LIARS by E. Lockhart
(★★★★★)

THE RESTING PLACE by Camilla Sten
(★★★★)

THE FAVOR by Nora Murphy
(★★★★½)

WOULD I LIE TO YOU? by Aliya Ali-Afzal
(★★★★½)

142 OSTRICHES by April Davila
(★★★★½)

TAKE YOUR BREATH AWAY by Linwood Barclay
(★★★★★)

Were any of these a top pick of yours last year? Or maybe on your worst list? Please let me know in the comments. Happy reading in 2023! — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

Thoughts on Christmas Cozies: FRUIT BASKETS AND HOLIDAY CASKETS • AN EGGNOG TO DIE FOR • TWELVE SLAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Fruit Baskets and Holiday Caskets (Down South Café Mystery, #5)FRUIT BASKETS AND HOLIDAY CASKETS by Gayle Leeson
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

It was fun to revisit the Down South Café at Christmastime. I’d read the first couple of books in the series a few years ago, and it’s good to see the gang still as charming and quirky as ever.

This time around, café owner Amy Flowers is trying to clear a friend’s name who’s suspected of murdering an employee. She’s also busy creating an enormous cake float and hundreds of cookies for the town’s Christmas parade.

While I thought Amy was clever with her investigation, I thought the mystery itself was just ok. I think it’s because a lot of it was telling and not showing, and the ending felt abrupt. However, the whole scene at the end of catching the killer was pretty cute!


An Eggnog to Die for (Cape Cod Foodie Mystery #2)AN EGGNOG TO DIE FOR by Amy Pershing
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

AN EGGNOG TO DIE FOR is a smart and funny cozy mystery set in the small town of Fair Harbor on Cape Cod. Food writer Samantha Barnes finds the body of the man playing Santa for the town’s Christmas celebration while scoping out a new trendy local restaurant. But who would murder Saint Nick? Turns out the guy in the red suit may have been on the naughty list. With the help of her Harbormaster boyfriend Jason, Sam is determined to catch a killer.

Sam is a delightful character, clever in her investigations and so funny with her snarky comments. The mystery was puzzling with plenty of red herrings to keep me guessing. Each time I decided on a culprit, something changed my mind, and in the end I was completely wrong!

I loved meeting Sam’s parents (the ‘rents) and hearing about the family Christmas traditions. I’m not a big seafood fan, but Sam’s Feast of the Five Fishes sounded delicious!

This is the second book in the Cape Cod Foodie Mystery series, but it can easily be read standalone.


Twelve Slays of Christmas (Christmas Tree Farm Mystery, #1)TWELVE SLAYS OF CHRISTMAS by Jacqueline Frost
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

TWELVE SLAYS OF CHRISTMAS is a wonderful start to Jacqueline Frost’s Christmas Tree Farm Mystery series. When Holly White gets dumped by her fiancé two weeks before their wedding, she packs up her meager belongings and heads home to Mistletoe, Maine. With the holiday season in full swing, Holly offers to help out at her family’s tree farm.

Tragedy strikes when the president of the Mistletoe Historical Society is murdered on their property. Margaret Fenwick was a grump known for pressuring businesses to stick to stringent historical guidelines for the town or else, but did it make someone mad enough to kill?

This was a fast-paced and well written mystery with plenty of holiday cheer and a bit of romance. I loved the cold, snowy, cozy atmosphere of the book. Mistletoe felt like a real place. I enjoyed trying to fit all the pieces of the mystery into place. I was very shocked to discover the culprit, but it made total sense. Looking forward to continuing this series…next Christmas!

Blog Update: Happy Solstice and Merry Christmas!

This week I’m linking up with Sunday Post, Sunday Salon, and It’s Monday! What are you reading? Thank you for hosting, Kimberly, Deb, and Kathryn!

Happiest of holidays to all who are celebrating this time of year! It’s a tradition that the elves magically move to the kids’ stockings on Christmas Eve, because Santa takes them back to the North Pole after he visits. I know my kids are nearly adults, but they don’t seem to mind.

Like a lot of the US, we’ve been through a major cold snap here in Kansas with highs below zero. Even with a new coat, Ginger said “nope” to going outside. Smart girl.

I’ve read several books over the past few weeks, but haven’t had a chance to write many reviews. December is so busy! I’m hoping to get some reviews posted the week after Christmas and catch up on blog hopping.

Books I’ve Recently Read:

  • THE GHOST OF DROWNED MEADOW by Kelley Skovron
  • THE GUEST HOUSE by Robin Morgan-Bentley
  • HORRID by Katrina Leno
  • FRUIT BASKETS AND HOLIDAY CASKETS by Gayle Leeson
  • TWELVE SLAYS OF CHRISTMAS by Jacqueline Frost
  • THE HOUSE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET by Jennifer Sklias-Gahan
  • AN EGGNOG TO DIE FOR by Amy Pershing

I’ll leave you with a clip from my favorite new-to-me artist, Lindsey Stirling, an amazing violinist and songwriter. She has two Christmas/Winter albums that I’ve been listening to on repeat. I really love the video for Snow Waltz because it speaks to my gothic heart…

Thanks for stopping by & have a wonderful holiday! — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪