Genre: Historical Fiction

Sophia Rose Review: The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton

Posted July 25, 2020 by Lily B in Reviews / 5 Comments

Sophia Rose Review: The Last Train to Key West by Chanel CleetonThe Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton
Series: Standalone
Published by Berkley on June 16, 2020
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 320
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

In 1935 three women are forever changed when one of the most powerful hurricanes in history barrels toward the Florida Keys in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton's captivating new novel.
Everyone journeys to Key West searching for something. For the tourists traveling on Henry Flagler’s legendary Overseas Railroad, Labor Day weekend is an opportunity to forget the economic depression gripping the nation. But one person’s paradise can be another’s prison, and Key West-native Helen Berner yearns to escape.
The Cuban Revolution of 1933 left Mirta Perez’s family in a precarious position. After an arranged wedding in Havana, Mirta arrives in the Keys on her honeymoon. While she can’t deny the growing attraction to the stranger she’s married, her new husband’s illicit business interests may threaten not only her relationship, but her life.
Elizabeth Preston's trip from New York to Key West is a chance to save her once-wealthy family from their troubles as a result of the Wall Street crash. Her quest takes her to the camps occupied by veterans of the Great War and pairs her with an unlikely ally on a treacherous hunt of his own.
Over the course of the holiday weekend, the women’s paths cross unexpectedly, and the danger swirling around them is matched only by the terrifying force of the deadly storm threatening the Keys.

 

This latest release leaves the focus of Cuban American history for the most part and settles on a slice of Floridian history of the 1930’s. Three separate women’s lives intertwine over one fateful holiday weekend in the Florida Keys. It was an emotional and engaging story that I easily settled into and read swiftly.

The Last Train to Key West is a standalone. I think one of the heroines, Mirta Perez, might be aunt to the women of the previous books, but I’m not sure. Either way, it was a great story- or should I say stories – since there are three women with their own individual stories that cross paths during the Labor Day weekend.

The first woman introduced is Helen a native of Key West and stuck in a dreary abusive marriage to a local fisherman. She is very pregnant, but works long days at a local diner. A mysterious man from one of the camps comes to her rescue and shows her kindness. He is the spark that she needs to make her bid for freedom during the building storm.

Next, we meet Mirta who agrees to an arranged marriage to help her family back in Cuba. Her husband is a rich, powerful man who has lived a shady past. She is young and wonders how it will be with her husband with only her mother’s advice about duty, pleasing her husband so he will take care of her and remain faithful. Is that how she wants her own marriage to be?

Finally, there is feisty Elizabeth who hides her fears behind a mask. She was once a society girl whose family lost it all in the Crash and then the family crumbled. She is escaping a great deal and hopes to find the one man who might be able to save her. His last postmarked letter was from Key West and she knows he’s in one of the camps. A stranger who doesn’t let her get away with her flirting games to toy with him ends up offering her help in the search even as a hurricane barrels down on them.

All three were so very different and I found myself cheering for all of them especially when the secrets started coming out. This isn’t a mystery, but there are some great twists all the same. And, between the storm and a few suspense moments, it gets intense.

As to the historical background, it was fascinating. I had no idea about the plight of the soldiers who returned from WWI, about their march on Washington to get their promised bonus money or that they were shipped to camps that seemed an awful lot like labor camps down in the Keys. My heart just broke for the suffering even though it is past history. The hurricane was another part of the history that brought the past to life as did the pre-commercial Key West and the Keys.

There is romance though it looks different for each woman. They were strong in their own ways and discovered men who would treat them well after pasts that were full of pain.

So, another stellar book balancing emotion, suspense, history, complex characters, and a riveting plot from an author that is already hit the autobuy mark with me. Those who love colorful historical fiction with a romantic flavor and an authentic backdrop should give this a try.

I rec’d this book from Net Galley via Berkley to read in exchange for an honest review.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

 

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Review: The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant by Kayte Nunn

Posted April 18, 2020 by Lily B in Reviews / 17 Comments

Review: The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant by Kayte NunnThe Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant by Kayte Nunn
Series: Standalone
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on March 3, 2020
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:3.5 Stars
Heat:one-half-flames

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A cache of unsent love letters from the 1950s is found in a suitcase on a remote island in this mysterious love story in the tradition of the novels by Kate Morton and Elizabeth Gilbert
.

1951. Esther Durrant, a young mother, is committed to an isolated mental asylum by her husband. Run by a pioneering psychiatrist, the hospital is at first Esther’s prison but soon surprisingly becomes her refuge. 
2018. Free-spirited marine scientist Rachel Parker embarks on a research posting in the Isles of Scilly, off the Cornish coast. When a violent storm forces her to take shelter on a far-flung island, she discovers a collection of hidden love letters. Captivated by their passion and tenderness, Rachel determines to track down the intended recipient. But she has no idea of the far-reaching consequences her decision will bring.
Meanwhile, in London, Eve is helping her grandmother, a renowned mountaineer, write her memoirs. When she is contacted by Rachel, it sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to reveal secrets kept buried for more than sixty years.
With an arresting dual narrative that immediately captivates the reader, The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant is an inspirational story of the sacrifices made for love.

In 1951, a young mother by the name of Esther Durrant is committed to a mental hospital on an island by her husband, after suffering a tragic loss of her baby.

In 2018, a young, free-spirited marine scientist by the name of Rachel Parker get stranded on an island, after a violent storm that leaves her hurt and without a boat. There, Rachel gets a hold of old hidden love letters that leaves her determined to find the intended recipient of the letters, not realizing the consequences they might bring.

I thought the story was lovely, despite a bit slow-moving. I enjoyed following Rachel’s story and her time on the island, as well as the endearing cast of characters that she encounters during her time there.

I did feel a bit of a disconnect between Rachel and the love interest. Maybe from the lack of development. It all felt a bit rushed, and although I did buy Rachel’s eventual infatuation with the doctor that was helping, I still felt like the story seemed to lack something in context. I did enjoy reading about the time period and couldn’t help but feel a variety of emotions during the story, including anger for what Esther’s husband did to her and sadness over some of the other character outcomes.

The writing and the story weaving was quite lovely and I’m looking forward to more from this author.

This book deals with PTSD, Mental Illness, loss, suicide, self-harm and prejudice.

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Review Round Up #8

Posted June 20, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 8 Comments

Review Round Up #8Welcome to Last Chance by Hope Ramsay
Series: Last Chance #1
Published by Forever on April 30, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 423
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:3 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

WELCOME TO LAST CHANCE, SOUTH CAROLINA
Dear Reader,
Yes, our town is way off the beaten path, but strange, wonderful miracles happen a lot around here.
I've owned the Cut 'n' Curl beauty shop for years, and I've seen folks come for a visit, then stay for a lifetime. Take Jane-that pretty firecracker of a girl who just arrived in town. I would swear she's running from something. She came with only five dollars in her pocket but she's worked real hard to make a fresh start. She's turned my son Clay's life upside down without even realizing it.
And thank goodness for that! Ever since Clay left his country western band, he's played everything too safe. He needs to take a chance on Jane. Besides, the more he tries to keep his distance, the more he'll realize that he and Jane are singing the same tune.
But I should quit ramblin' and go check on Millie's permanent wave. Next time you're in Last Chance, be sure to swing by. We've got hot rollers, free coffee, and the best gossip in town.
See you real soon,Ruby Rhodes

I love small town books and Welcome to Last Chance gave me all the small town cozy feels that I’ve been looking for. Jane is a new girl in town that arrived on a bus with nothing but five dollars in her pocket, she definitely has secrets, but she is scared that someone might uncover them. Until she runs to the town local Clay and they spend the night together. Clay thinks Jane is wrong for him and a bit too young. He wants a wife, and while he does everything he can to keep Jane out of his heart, he can’t help but play with her hero and allow her in.

This was cute. I didn’t mind the small age gap in this it worked. Last Chance is riddled with local town characters that bring a lot of heart to the book and pack those small-town vibes.

It was a good read. The only thing that bothered me the ending got super dramatic and a bit over the top and maybe a little far fetched. But overall, I’d like to read more of this series.

Review Round Up #8The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston
Series: Found Things #1
Published by St. Martin's Press on October 16, 2018
Genres: Time-Travel, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 307
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:3.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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 her 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.

Xanthe and her mother Flora leave London behind when they buy a little shop in the town of Marlborough, ready for a fresh start. Xanthe and her mother collect antiques, and Xanthe has a special gift. Special finds ‘sing’ to her, and she finds herself, especially drawn to them in uncovering their story and secrets. When a singing silver chatelaine drops into her hands, the ghost that resides in her house urges Xanthe to unearth the secrets of the chatelaine and help her daughter that was wrongfully prosecuted in the past. Now Xanthe must travel back in time to help the daughter of the ghost, or her, own mother’s life might be in danger.

This was an interesting concept, I enjoyed the experience. It was a bit slow moving at times and the mystery a bit confusing. I don’t think I ever grasped fully why her daughter took the chatelaine from her mistress. Also, there was a bit of the past that Flora and Xanthe left behind that I thought could have used more background.

I liked the romance, it was cute, a bit heartbreaking.

I am curious what the second book has in store for us.

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Blog Tour: All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker

Posted May 30, 2019 by Lily B in Blog Tour, Reviews / 13 Comments

Blog Tour: All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura TuckerAll the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker
Illustrator: Kelly Murphy
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers on June 4, 2019
Genres: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:3.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

SoHo, 1981. Twelve-year-old Olympia is an artist—and in her neighborhood, that's normal. Her dad and his business partner Apollo bring antique paintings back to life, while her mother makes intricate sculptures in a corner of their loft, leaving Ollie to roam the streets of New York with her best friends Richard and Alex, drawing everything that catches her eye.
Then everything falls apart. Ollie's dad disappears in the middle of the night, leaving her only a cryptic note and instructions to destroy it. Her mom has gone to bed, and she's not getting up. Apollo is hiding something, Alex is acting strange, and Richard has questions about the mysterious stranger he saw outside. And someone keeps calling, looking for a missing piece of art. . . .
Olympia knows her dad is the key--but first, she has to find him, and time is running out.

12-year-old Olympia is an artist living in SoHo in 1981, which isn’t all that uncommon in her neighborhood. Her father and his friend Apollo bring antique paintings back to life, while her mother sees the beauty in everything and makes intricate sculptures out of everyday ordinary items. But one morning she wakes up and her father has left the country, leaving her and her mom alone and now her mom won’t get out of bed. The only thing he left behind was a cryptic note that he asked for it to be destroyed. Apollo is acting strange and someone keeps calling for missing artwork.

This was a quiet, well-written book that circles around family, friendship, art, and mystery. It touches on the subject of depression and what it means living with a parent who suffers from depression. It was easy to forget at times that Olympia was only 12-year-old girl that did not know how to deal with her mother unable to get out of bed and some of the scenes tugged on my heartstrings for the little girl that held out hope. But it was nice to see that when she finally let them, Olympia did have a great support network behind her back that ended up being there for when she needed them most. I liked that it revolved around art and there was even a bit of a mystery thrown into the mix.

Laura Tucker’s writing overall is quiet and beautiful. Tucker really knows how to flesh out her characters and make them appear human. I found myself sympathizing with her.

That being said, however, I struggled with the pacing of the book. I felt like the story started out and ended strong, but it meandered a bit in the middle. It could have been a bit shorter. The subject matter for middle grade was a little hard, but depression can hit an adult any point in child life, even if it is something hard to read. I also do wish the time period was used a bit more in the writing. The story is definitely very character and art driven, but it was set in 1981 in SoHo and I found the time and setting interesting choice.

Overall. I thought this was a lovely written debut that makes me extremely excited for future works from this author. It touched on tough subjects, but very important ones. I thought in general, the author handled it really well and I cannot wait to see what she does next.

AUTHOR BIO

Laura Tucker has coauthored more than twenty books, including two New York Times bestselling memoirs. She grew up in New York City around the same time as Olympia, and now lives in Brooklyn with her daughter and husband; on Sunday mornings, you can find her at the door of Buttermilk Channel, one of their two restaurants. She is a cat person who cheats with dogs. All the Greys on Greene Street is her first novel.

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Review: Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

Posted May 3, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 19 Comments

Review: Lost Roses by Martha Hall KellyLost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly
Series: Lilac Girls
Published by Ballantine Books on April 9, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:4.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The runaway bestseller Lilac Girls introduced the real-life heroine Caroline Ferriday. This sweeping new novel, set a generation earlier and also inspired by true events, features Caroline's mother, Eliza, and follows three equally indomitable women from St. Petersburg to Paris under the shadow of World War I.
It is 1914 and the world has been on the brink of war so many times, many New Yorker's treat the subject with only passing interest. Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanov's. The two met years ago one summer in Paris and became close confidantes. Now Eliza embarks on the trip of a lifetime, home with Sofya to see the splendors of Russia. But when Austria declares war on Serbia and Russia's Imperial dynasty begins to fall, Eliza escapes back to America, while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate. In need of domestic help, they hire the local fortuneteller's daughter, Varinka, unknowingly bringing intense danger into their household. On the other side of the Atlantic, Eliza is doing her part to help the White Russian families find safety as they escape the revolution. But when Sofya's letters suddenly stop coming she fears the worst for her best friend.
From the turbulent streets of St. Petersburg to the avenues of Paris and the society of fallen Russian emigre's who live there, the lives of Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka will intersect in profound ways, taking readers on a breathtaking ride through a momentous time in history.

The year is 1914 and the world has been on the brink of war so often, that most people have started to disregard it. Eliza Ferriday is happy to be traveling to St. Petersburg with her friend Sofya Streshnayva, who is the cousin of the Romanovs. As the Russian Whites and the Monarchy continue to enjoy their wealth and privilege with fancy balls, the turmoil on the streets continues to spin out of control as the red coats continue to gain power. Until the day that the Russian monarchy is overthrown finally comes, and Russia is left in peril.

The story follows three women. Eliza Ferriday, a socialite that lives in Manhattan, married to Henry Ferriday, mother of Caroline Ferriday. Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin to the Romanovs, the current reigning family of Russia and Varinka Kozlov a poor village girl that gets hired as a nanny to Max by Sofya. A decision that comes back to haunt Sofya when Varinka brings something dangerous back into her home that causes Sofya to part with Max and finds herself on the run for her life in hopes of getting her son back.

This story was, wow. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I adored Martha Hall Kelly’s writing. I have not read the Lilac Girls and I found that it was okay. This book actually happens before Lilac Girls and to me seemed like a good place to start not only with the story but also with Martha Hall Kelly’s writing. I wasn’t disappointed. The writing and the storytelling were woven so beautifully that I found myself savoring as much of the book as I could. I didn’t want to part with it, I didn’t want to say goodbye to these characters that Martha Hall Kelly has managed to capture. Both compelling, strong and realistic, the three women really drove the book and I was happy for the slow pace.

The ending had me on the edge of my seat biting my nails, waiting for resolution, wanting to see how the story wraps up for these women. The author left some threads loose, making it a possible consideration for future books. The writing was really lovely, I really enjoyed the authors writing style, I thought it was just so beautiful.

The story itself seems well researched and I have to admit I don’t recall reading many historical books set during WWI in Russia. I found the story itself, the fall of the Russian monarchy fascinating and heartbreaking. It was just such a dark time during the Russian revolution and I was glad to learn a bit more about it through the eyes of these characters.

There wasn’t much I didn’t enjoy. The ending felt super fast-paced as far as how it wrapped up and despite being slow-paced, to begin with, I found I wouldn’t have minded a bit of a slower ending, yet it worked. My general nit-pickiness comes to the Russian terminology in the book, but as someone who has a general understanding of the language, some sentences with Russian words thrown into them had me pack paddling a little bit. The Russian language uses congregations and every time they appeared wrong in the book my brain automatically found it a bit awkward to read. Like for instance, the word Zala appears throughout the book, which I assume refers to like the grand ballroom type room for gatherings and I’m pretty sure it should have been Zalo. But those are just minor details and don’t affect people that wouldn’t know otherwise.

I do love that the author has made a distinction between Ukrainian people and Russian when at one point the White Russian women were told they are going to be sent back to Ukraine and Eliza acknowledged that they are Russian.

Overall. I loved this book like I knew I would the moment I saw it. With that, I am really looking forward to getting my hands on the Lilac Girls because I absolutely am in love with this authors beautiful writing style, there is just something about the way she weaves her words that completely draw me in. I really enjoyed the characters and their flaws, I also enjoyed that time and place this book took place because to me it was a whole new experience that I would love to farther explore.

I will be looking forward to more works from this author in the future.

 

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Review: We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet

Posted April 12, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 7 Comments

Review: We Must Be Brave by Frances LiardetWe Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet
Series: Standalone
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on February 26, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 464
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER
Spanning the sweep of the twentieth century, We Must Be Brave explores the fierce love that we feel for our children and the power of that love to endure. Beyond distance, beyond time, beyond life itself.
"This stirring debut will work its way indelibly into your heart." --Georgia Hunter, author of We Were the Lucky Ones
One woman. One little girl. The war that changed everything.
December 1940. In the disorderly evacuation of Southampton, England, newly married Ellen Parr finds a small child asleep on the backseat of an empty bus. No one knows who little Pamela is.
Ellen professed not to want children with her older husband, and when she takes Pamela into her home and rapidly into her heart, she discovers that this is true: Ellen doesn't want children. She wants only Pamela. Three golden years pass as the Second World War rages on. Then one day Pamela is taken away, screaming. Ellen is no stranger to sorrow, but when she returns to the quiet village life she's long lived, she finds herself asking: In a world changed by war, is it fair to wish for an unchanged heart?
In the spirit of We Were the Lucky Ones and The Nightingale, here is a novel about courage and kindness, hardship and friendship, and the astonishing power of love.

December  1940 during a rushed evacuation of  Southampton, England, Ellen Parr finds a young child asleep on the back of the bus and no one knows who this child, Pamela is.

Ellen Parr has professed not to want any children with her older husband, Mr.Parr and she finds that she does not, the only one she wants is Pamela.  It’s a rocky start for the two of them, especially for a little girl who longs for her mother and does not know her father. But after three glorious years, Pamela is taken away, leaving behind a broken heart filled with sorrow.

This book. This book took me a while to get into, I will be honest here. It’s dense and long and had parts that I felt could have been edited, but once I started pushing myself through it I grew to enjoy it. Really enjoy it.

The writing was something to get used to, but as the story unfolded, we got to learn about Ellen through her timeline and her childhood and I think that made me appreciate her a little more and everything she went through to become a strong, resilient woman. This book had some really emotionally heartbreaking parts that brought me to near tears, especially centering around young Pamela and Ellen Parr. I loved how the author emphasized that love for a child can span countless decades, and that was evident with how Ellen felt for Pamela years after the two were forced apart.

I love the way the author crafted the characters and took time to allow us not only to enjoy them but also get to know them.

I didn’t particularly liked the way Ellen handled things when Pamela was leaving, it was a bit cruel given everything that they went through, but I grew to realize it was the only way at that time she thought was necessary.

I also felt that maybe their reunion at the end seemed like it could have come sooner than it did, but even so, no matter how long it took I felt like it was still emotional and tear-inducing.

I wish the author did not forget to mention all the letters that Ellen had written to Pamela over the years and maybe mentioned that they were given to Pamela?

Either way, this story was beautifully heartbreaking, and I really enjoyed the characters so much so that I grew attached to them to the point where the end was just absolutely sad. It was hard to let go and brought me to tears on more than one occasion.

Wonderful debut novel and I cannot wait to see what the author will have in store for us in the future.

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New Releases Round Up #1

Posted March 15, 2019 by Lily B in New Releases Round Up / 7 Comments

Hello everyone! Happy Friday! I hope everyone enjoys their weekend. The last two days here have been nice and warm and we finally got to spend some time outside and even cleaning up our garden. My health issues are still there, but I am not letting them get in the way of living my life. My son has been enjoying the trips to the park and this weekend we are heading out to the city for more birthdays.

New Releases Round Up will be something new to try on my blog to feature new releases coming up that I am currently really excited about and why I am excited about them. What are you patiently waiting to come out?

New Releases Round Up #1The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner
Series: Standalone
Published by Berkley on March 19, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Elise Sontag is a typical Iowa fourteen-year-old in 1943--aware of the war but distanced from its reach. Then her father, a legal U.S. resident for nearly two decades, is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to an internment camp in Texas, where, behind the armed guards and barbed wire, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar, including her own identity.
The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers. Together in the desert wilderness, Elise and Mariko hold tight the dream of being young American women with a future beyond the fences.

I love Susan Meissner and her writing. I have read and reviewed several of her novels before and I feel like they are just getting better and better. She is currently one of my favorite writers. Her novels just really have a way to draw me in. This one is set during WWII it sounds just as amazing and emotional and I cannot wait to read it.

 

New Releases Round Up #1The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
Series: Standalone
Published by Graydon House on March 19, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

In 1942, Europe remains in the relentless grip of war. Just beyond the tents of the Russian refugee camp she calls home, a young woman speaks her wedding vows. It’s a decision that will alter her destiny…and it’s a lie that will remain buried until the next century.
Since she was nine years old, Alina Dziak knew she would marry her best friend, Tomasz. Now fifteen and engaged, Alina is unconcerned by reports of Nazi soldiers at the Polish border, believing her neighbors that they pose no real threat, and dreams instead of the day Tomasz returns from college in Warsaw so they can be married. But little by little, injustice by brutal injustice, the Nazi occupation takes hold, and Alina’s tiny rural village, its families, are divided by fear and hate. Then, as the fabric of their lives is slowly picked apart, Tomasz disappears. Where Alina used to measure time between visits from her beloved, now she measures the spaces between hope and despair, waiting for word from Tomasz and avoiding the attentions of the soldiers who patrol her parents’ farm. But for now, even deafening silence is preferable to grief.
Slipping between Nazi-occupied Poland and the frenetic pace of modern life, Kelly Rimmer creates an emotional and finely wrought narrative that weaves together two women’s stories into a tapestry of perseverance, loyalty, love and honor. The Things We Cannot Say is an unshakable reminder of the devastation when truth is silenced…and how it can take a lifetime to find our voice before we learn to trust it.

I have actually not yet read anything by Kelly Rimmer, but do own some of her books and have heard some amazing things about her beautiful and emotional writing. Another novel set in WWII that looks promising weaving between two timelines. I love dual timelines and so looking forward to this.
New Releases Round Up #1Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young
Series: Girls with Sharp Sticks,
Published by Simon Pulse on March 19, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopia
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Girls of Innovations Academy are beautiful and well-behaved—it says so on their report cards. Under the watchful gaze of their Guardians, the all-girl boarding school offers an array of studies and activities, from “Growing a Beautiful and Prosperous Garden” to “Art Appreciation” and “Interior Design.” The girls learn to be the best society has to offer. Absent is the difficult math coursework, or the unnecessary sciences or current events. They are obedient young ladies, free from arrogance or defiance. Until Mena starts to realize that their carefully controlled existence may not be quite as it appears.
As Mena and her friends begin to uncover the dark secrets of what’s actually happening there—and who they really are—the girls of Innovations will find out what they are truly capable of. Because some of the prettiest flowers have the sharpest thorns.

All girls boarding school, dark secrets. Bring it on. I’ve not yet read a Young novel before. Eak I know, but this looks so good and I miss my Dystopia novels.
New Releases Round Up #1To Best the Boys by Mary Weber
Series: Standalone
Published by Thomas Nelson on March 19, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.
In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.
With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.

A maze competition? This looks like so much fun! I enjoy YA fantasy and I love the premise for this. Plus this cover, isn’t it gorgeous?
New Releases Round Up #1Desperate Paths by E.C. Diskin
Series: Standalone
Published by Thomas & Mercer on March 19, 2019
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

In Eden, the truth can have deadly consequences.
Brooklyn Anderson knows it looks bad. She was found wiping down a gun. Her father now dead. His blood on her hands. The incomprehensible nightmare has started.
Seven days earlier, Brooklyn had returned to Eden to care for her beloved father, who lay helpless in a hospital bed. Her estranged sister, Ginny, said he fell. But as Brooklyn soon realizes, Ginny is prone to lying.
Former Eden resident Darius Woods was in the hospital too. The famous actor had written a screenplay that would lay bare all the secrets of the town, but within hours of his return, someone shot him.
As the Woods investigation proceeds, and Brooklyn starts to question everything she believes about her family, her neighbors, and her home, secrets and lies begin to unravel. But nothing can prepare her for where those lies will finally lead.
And sharing the truth of what happened the night her father died might just make things worse.

The blurb has me hooked. I want to know how it happened. It sounds chilling. I love a good thriller and these cold nights is perfect for these type of reads.

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Guest Review: The Whale: A Love Story by Mark Beauregard

Posted September 8, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 6 Comments

Guest Review: The Whale: A Love Story by Mark BeauregardThe Whale: A Love Story by Mark Beauregard
Series: standalone
Published by Penguin Books on June 26, 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:3 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A rich and captivating novel set amid the witty, high-spirited literary society of 1850s New England, offering a new window on Herman Melville's emotionally charged relationship with Nathaniel Hawthorne and how it transformed his masterpiece, Moby-Dick
In the summer of 1850, Herman Melville finds himself hounded by creditors and afraid his writing career might be coming to an end--his last three novels have been commercial failures and the critics have turned against him. In despair, Melville takes his family for a vacation to his cousin's farm in the Berkshires, where he meets Nathaniel Hawthorne at a picnic--and his life turns upside down.
The Whale chronicles the fervent love affair that grows out of that serendipitous afternoon. Already in debt, Melville recklessly borrows money to purchase a local farm in order to remain near Hawthorne, his newfound muse. The two develop a deep connection marked by tensions and estrangements, and feelings both shared and suppressed.
Melville dedicated Moby-Dick to Hawthorne, and Mark Beauregard's novel fills in the story behind that dedication with historical accuracy and exquisite emotional precision, reflecting his nuanced reading of the real letters and journals of Melville, Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and others. An exuberant tale of longing and passion, The Whale captures not only a transformative relationship--long the subject of speculation--between two of our most enduring authors, but also their exhilarating moment in history, when a community of high-spirited and ambitious writers was creating truly American literature for the first time.

Earlier this year, I enjoyed an author taking two famous authors and writing their stories side by side. So, when I was introduced to this book not only telling of two famous American author stories, but showing their friendship, their work, and a little something more, I was all in. It read like a love story tucked inside a historical fiction.

The Whale: A Love Story didn’t exactly grab me like I was hoping it would. I’ve read books by both authors: Moby Dick by Herman Melville, House of Seven Gables and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. After being exposed to their writing and studying them a bit in college lit class, I was eager to learn more about the men behind the books. I was all kinds of curious about the suggestion that they were gay and had a love affair. I was open to not only buying in to even a whiff of it, but enjoying it even if it was just a very loose fictional story. Unfortunately, I got lost in the author’s writing style and couldn’t really like the Melville portrayed in this book (to be fair, he was something of a romanticist in real life) or get on board with the romance. He says and does idiotish things and being inside his head was torturous or mind-numbing in turn for me.

It wasn’t all a slog. I did enjoy the letters and I felt the author got the details of the time period down. Melville drove me nuts the way he got himself into trouble with his family, with entanglements, and all bumbling over his crush on Hawthorne, his muse. I liked the friendship between Hawthorne and Melville. I got a better feel for both men which is what I wanted.

I think I would recommend this for historical fiction fans who are open to broader interpretations of the characters and don’t mind an awkward romance at the heart of the story.

My thanks to Penguin-Random House for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: Al Capone Throws Me a Curve by Gennifer Choldenko, Narrated by Kirby Heyborne

Posted June 13, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 12 Comments

Guest Review: Al Capone Throws Me a Curve by Gennifer Choldenko, Narrated by Kirby HeyborneAl Capone Throws Me a Curve by Gennifer Choldenko, Kirby Heyborne
Narrator: Kirby Heyborne
Length: 6 hours and 4 minutes
Series: Al Capone at Alcatraz #4
Published by Listening Library on May 8, 2018
Genres: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

6 Hours and 4 Minutes
Newbery Honor-winning author Gennifer Choldenko returns to Al Capone's Alcatraz in this winning addition to the beloved series. Moose and his sister Natalie are growing up, and the stakes on the prison island are higher than ever.
Moose Flanagan lives on a famous island in California: Alcatraz, home to some of the most dangerous prisoners in the US in the 1930s. His dad works there. It's the summer before starting high school and Moose is going to play a lot of baseball, and win a spot on the high school team. But he still needs to watch his special older sister Natalie, and now, the warden asks Moose to look after his two-faced, danger-loving daughter, Piper. In the cell house there are rumors of a strike, and that Moose's father might step up to new job. Moose is worried: what will this mean for their family, especially for Natalie, who's had some scary run-ins with prisoners? Then the unthinkable happens: Natalie winds up someplace she should never, ever go. And Moose has to rescue her.

It was the title. I saw that title and just had to check this one out. The rest of the blurb had me even more eager to snatch up this middle grade historical fiction. A teen growing up in the mid-thirties… wait for it… on Alcatraz. Yeah, had to give this one a go.

Al Capone Throws Me a Curve is book four in the Al Capone at Alcatraz series. I had no trouble jumping in with this book though I wish I had discovered the series at the get go so I could get them in order. Definitely going back to the beginning for the other three.

I really enjoyed this story told from young thirteen or fourteen year old Moose’s perspective. He’s all boy, but has been forced to grow up fast and be responsible with an older autistic sibling and a delicate mother. He just wants to spend his summer playing baseball and being with his friends when first the Warden saddles him with keeping an eye on the Warden’s precocious daughter who’s around his age and he ends up keeping an eye on Natalie when his parents get preoccupied with a prisoner strike.

A strong element in this book is Natalie and how Moose interacts with her as a sibling. Moose is protective of his sister and struggles with embarrassment and frustration because she might have a disability, but she is also very much a young woman and not a child. He has to keep her out of trouble and it’s tough on him when he’s around his friends and has to bring Natalie along. I also loved how he took responsibility for things she did even if it meant feeling the crushing disapproval of the adults around him. He’s very conscious of how to help her with navigating her needs whether it is sticking to her routine, helping her with calm down methods, not putting her in situations where she’ll melt down, and also respecting that she is older and not stupid so her choices and happiness are important to him. He’s a good guy and works hard to help people and he strives to be a good man like his dad. I totally would have had a crush on Moose if I was a teen girl.

The historical backdrop of Alcatraz in itshey day was not skimped on. I thought the life of the families living there below the actual prison and of the inmates who had some contact with the families through those who worked service jobs was vividly sketched out and felt authentic. Moose has a dangerous situation that was not probable in some ways, but it took things to the heart of the prison and how dangerous it was inside. I thought the baseball, people with special needs, and family life in that era was also nice touches. Oh, and let’s not forget the presence of the celebrity prisoner himself. It was neat to see some interaction with Al Capone. Moose is wary and has a healthy fear of the prisoners, but can’t help being curious about some famous ones.

I experienced this book on audio and really enjoyed Kirby Heyborne’s rendition of Moose and the others. He handled Natalie’s awkward vocal parts in a respectful way just as he masterfully handled a cast that included kids to adults of both genders and had a nice way of capturing the era in his voice somehow (maybe I was imagining that). I had no trouble feeling I was right there and that a young teenager was telling the story without an annoying voice. I liked the way he handled the really tense moments so that I felt my heart race with anticipation or suspense. Definitely want to listen to more of his work.

All in all, this was a hit out of the park and I want more of Moose’s adventures and life on Alcatraz. This is a book for young teens, but I think adults who like historical fiction would enjoy this one, too.

My thanks to Penguin Random House Audio for the opportunity to listen to this book in exchange for an honest review.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman

Posted April 20, 2018 by Lily B in Reviews / 12 Comments

Review: The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna GoodmanThe Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman
Series: standalone
Published by Harper Paperbacks on April 17, 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating:3.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Philomena meets Orphan Train in this suspenseful, provocative novel filled with love, secrets, and deceit—the story of a young unwed mother who is forcibly separated from her daughter at birth and the lengths to which they go to find each other.
In 1950s Quebec, French and English tolerate each other with precarious civility—much like Maggie Hughes’ parents. Maggie’s English-speaking father has ambitions for his daughter that don’t include marriage to the poor French boy on the next farm over. But Maggie’s heart is captured by Gabriel Phénix. When she becomes pregnant at fifteen, her parents force her to give baby Elodie up for adoption and get her life ‘back on track’.
Elodie is raised in Quebec’s impoverished orphanage system. It’s a precarious enough existence that takes a tragic turn when Elodie, along with thousands of other orphans in Quebec, is declared mentally ill as the result of a new law that provides more funding to psychiatric hospitals than to orphanages. Bright and determined, Elodie withstands abysmal treatment at the nuns’ hands, finally earning her freedom at seventeen, when she is thrust into an alien, often unnerving world.
Maggie, married to a businessman eager to start a family, cannot forget the daughter she was forced to abandon, and a chance reconnection with Gabriel spurs a wrenching choice. As time passes, the stories of Maggie and Elodie intertwine but never touch, until Maggie realizes she must take what she wants from life and go in search of her long-lost daughter, finally reclaiming the truth that has been denied them both.

Trigger warning for rape

It’s 1950’s in Quebec and Maggie is the daughter of the local seed store owner. The French and the English just barely tolerate each other, the tensions are high. Maggie’s heart is captured by Gabriel Phenix, a poor french farmer from next door. When Maggie get’s pregnant at 15 years of age, her parents give up her baby Elodie for adoption so Maggie could get her life back on track.

Elodie is being raised in one of Quebec’s impoverished orphanage’s. When all the sudden the laws change, her orphanage is converted into a mental institution and hundred of orphans become trapped in that system, classified as mentally ill.

Years later, Maggie cannot stop thinking about Elodie, and hopes to find her daughter again.

This book follows both Maggie and Elodie and how they grow as people in the life they have been thrown in. This book also explores The Duplessis Orphans who were the children that were victimized and falsely certified as mentally ill by the government of Quebec, Canada mid 20th Century. It wasn’t easy to read at times, the beginning of the book especially was a bit rough for me, because it involves rape of Maggie as a teenager by an adult and it was very uncomfortable.

I thought the writing in this book was well done, the author did a fantastic telling both Maggie and Elodie’s stories, even if Elodie’s part was also difficult to read at times, you just cannot help but sympathize with the characters.

This topic was new to me, I did not know much about Canadian history prior to this book, nor about the animosity between the people. I found this whole topic fascinating and very heartbreaking, especially with what happened to these orphans.

There was a bit of a struggle with this book at times based on the misogyny of the male characters and how they kept assuming that children will make a bad marriage better. When Maggie first get’s married, I wanted to throttle her husband for disregarding Maggie’s dream and forcing her into producing babies. Thought given the time frame, it isn’t all that surprising, does not make it any less annoying.

The ending did feel like it wrapped up kind of weird and convenient, I didn’t expect it to be as neat but it was really touching.

Overall, the writing I found really good. The storytelling flowed. I did find myself invested in the characters and their storylines. I did enjoy it and looking forward to more from this author in the future.

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