Last Christmas in Paris [Book Review] #throwbackthursday

July 2, 2020

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
#throwbackthursday

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m sharing my review of Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb….an endearing love story with a WW1 backdrop. I must note before starting that these Throw Back Thursday posts are like visiting old, dear friends and today’s story is on my lifetime favorites list…so, it’s a special joy to introduce you to this lovely story!

War changes everything…

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb cover (image: a packet of old letters tied with a red ribbon in the foreground and a partical view of the Eifel Tower in the background)

Genre/Categories: historical fiction (WW 1), epistolary, war, romantic

My Summary:

At the beginning of WW 1 as Evie watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas, leave for the front, she (and nearly everyone) naively believes the war will be over by Christmas. To keep their spirits up, the three make plans for celebrating Christmas in Paris. The Great War, as we know from history, turned out much differently. While Thomas and Will struggle with the horrific realities of war, Evie does her part by writing to each of them. Through letters, Evie and Thomas grow fond of each other and find it easy to share their deepest hopes and fears through letters. Evie is a high-spirited, determined, and independent young woman who wants to more fully participate in the war effort. Through her interests in writing, she writes columns for a newspaper on the topic of war from a woman’s point of view. These columns become more controversial as she finds it difficult to write anything but the truth. Eventually, she travels to France to be closer to the front as she wants to contribute to the war effort in a more significant way. Will Evie and Thomas and their love survive the war? Will they ever make it to Paris to celebrate Christmas?”

Continue here for my full review of Last Christmas in Paris

QOTD: Have you read Last Christmas in Paris or is it on your TBR?

#throwbackthursday Wonder by R.J. Palacio [Book Review]

May 14, 2020

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
#throwbackthursday

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m sharing my review of a favorite MG/YA read, Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It’s on my lifetime favorites list and I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s a “must-read.”

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio (cover) Image: graphic of a mostly blank boy's head (one eye and a head of hair and ears are the only features) against a blue background

Genre/Categories: Middle grade through adult contemporary fiction,  growing up, difficult discussions, family life, friendship, compassion, character traits

My Summary:

“On the inside, ten-year-old August Pullman feels very ordinary. But as he says, ordinary kids don’t make other kids run away screaming and they don’t get stared at wherever they go. Auggie was born with a rare genetic abnormality that affected the formation of his face. Because of extensive surgeries and an attempt to protect him from cruelties of the outside world, Auggie’s parents have homeschooled him. The reader meets 5th grade Auggie as he’s being enrolled in a traditional school for the first time. Will he be accepted? Will he find friends? Will he find a hostile or friendly environment? How will adults in his life support him? The story is told from six perspectives (August, Via–his older sister, Summer–a friendly caring peer, Jack–a student leader who struggles in his role as a friend, Miranda–his sister’s best friend and a close family friend, and Justin–Miranda’s boyfriend) plus a bonus chapter from Julian’s point of view (Auggie’s nemesis).”

“Heart…Heroes…and Humor”

Continue reading my review of Wonder to see what I loved….

QOTD: Have you read Wonder or is it on your TBR?

#throwbackthursday Refugee by Alan Gratz [Book Review]

May 7, 2020

Refugee by Alan Gratz
#throwbackthursday

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m sharing my review of a favorite MG/YA read, Refugee by Alan Gratz.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Refugee by Alan Gratz (cover) Image: a small child with back to camera in a small red rowboat on a stormy ocean

Genre/Categories: Middle Grade through Adult, Historical Fiction, Global Issues, Refugees

My Summary:

“Refugee is the relevant story of the refugee experience from three unique perspectives:

  • 12/13-year-old Josef and family are Jewish and attempt to escape Nazi Germany in 1938 aboard a ship bound for a country(Cuba) that will accept them.
  • 12-year-old Isabel and family are Cuban and flee riots and unrest in Cuba in 1994 on a homemade raft pointed toward safety in Miami, Florida.
  • 12-year-old Mahmoud and family are Syrian and seek to escape war-torn Aleppo in 2015 and relocate to Germany.

Even though these families are separated by continents and decades, their stories share certain similarities. Each journey is fraught with harrowing adventures, frustration, courage, resiliency, heartache, injustice, persecution, dangers, children assuming adult roles and responsibility, loss of childhood innocence and joy, and loss of family members. However, the families have hope that drives them forward. Amazon Rating (May): 4.8 Stars (This is a very high rating in which 85% of the stars are in the 5 star category.)”

“See us, he thought. Hear us. Help us.”

Continue reading my review of Refugee to see what I loved….

QOTD: Have you read Refugee or is it on your TBR?

#throwbackthursday Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng [Book Review]

April 30, 2020

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
#throwbackthursday

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m sharing my review of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.

Little Fires Everywhere is now a movie adaptation on Hulu. Have you seen it?

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (cover) I/mage: birdseye view of a pristine upper class neighborhood

Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction

My Summary:

Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio (yes, it’s a real place), strives to be a perfect planned community. In the words of the author there is a “propensity to over achieve and a deep intolerance for flaws…a utopia.” Every winding road is thoughtfully laid out, the list of house colors is a strict, guideline, trash pickup is conducted in the alleys and all trash cans are out of sight, and tradition is revered and informs the future. Generations of Elena Richardson’s family have lived in Shaker Heights, and she ensures that her family follows the rules and lives up to expectations. All through her life she has followed the rules and this is wholeheartedly embraced as her highest value. Part of her personal code of following the rules is giving back to those that are less fortunate whenever she can, and she’s the type who keeps a mental list of her good deeds. Elena especially wants to use her inherited rental property near her home to benefit others. She earnestly seeks out renters that could gain from the advantage of living in her perfect neighborhood in Shaker Heights. Mia Warren, a free-spirited artistic non-rule follower, and her teenage daughter, Pearl, are the most recent beneficiaries of Mrs. Richardson’s benevolence. Although when Mia is less than grateful for Mrs. Richardson’s offer to buy one of Mia’s photographs, Elena Richardson makes a mental note and this slight continues to bother her and becomes motivation for her future relationship with Mia:

“That’s very generous of you,” Mia’s eyes slid toward the window briefly and Mrs. Richardson felt a twinge of irritation at this lukewarm response to her philanthropy.

As the story unfolds, the two families become more involved with each other rather than simply remaining tenant and landlord. Soon the children become friends, Pearl spends her afternoons at the Richardson home, and Mia accepts a part-time position as a light house keeper and cook for the Richardson family.  Izzy Richardson, a teenage child who shares Mia’s artistic interests and temperament, and Mia develop a close relationship while Izzy learns photography skills in Mia’s darkroom. When one of Mrs. Richardson’s best friends is in the process of adopting a Chinese-American child,  the community is divided on the ethical issues and Elena Richardson and Mia Warren find themselves on opposite sides of the custody battle between the birth mother and adoptive mother. This conflict triggers Mrs. Richardson to find out about Mia’s motivations, her secrets, and her mysterious past. All of this has devastating consequences for the two families.

Are you a rule follower or a free spirit? Do you believe that following all the rules will lead to a happy and successful life?

Continue reading my review of Little Fires Everywhere….

QOTD: Have you read Little Fires Everywhere or is it on your TBR?

#throwbackthursday The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

April 16, 2020

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
#throwbackthursday

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m sharing my review of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas as well as sharing several of my favorite diverse reads. Have you read THUG or seen the movie?

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (cover) Image: an African American girl holdinga large white poster with the book title

Genre/Categories: YA Contemporary Fiction, African-American

My Summary:

“Our sixteen-year-old main character, Starr, lives in a poor inner-city neighborhood and her mother drives her to an upper-middle-class private school miles across town for her education. Starr’s parents can afford to move out of the poorer neighborhood, but her dad, a former gang member and convict, believes it’s important to stay in the neighborhood to help solve the problems there and to be a role model and support for the young African-American males who desire to leave the gang life and pursue better options. Starr’s mother would like to move across town to the middle class more diverse neighborhood where Starr and her siblings attend a (predominately white) private school and where the family attends a “diverse” church “(she nicknames it “the diverse church). Starr manages to live between her two worlds of the Williamson private school crowd and her neighborhood friends. This causes her some stress because she feels she can’t totally be herself in either place. One night Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her unarmed childhood best friend by a police officer. The officer-involved shooting and her friend’s death make national headlines. Starr is faced with opinions and actions from both sides. Some reporters and private school friends say that the victim was a thug and perhaps a gang member and drug dealer and deserved to die. Friends in the neighborhood, including Starr who really knew the victim, defend him. As Starr faces her role as a witness, interrogation by the DA, involvement in protests, and publicity, she and her family also endure intimidation by the local drug lord (because if she testifies, she might incriminate him). Starr summons up all her courage so that her testimony and answers are honest and truthful to the best of her ability. What she says could endanger her life and cause further protests in the community. How will she use her voice?”

Click here to continue reading my review of The Hate U Give (plus more recommendations for diverse reads)….

QOTD: Have you read The Hate U Give or is it on your TBR?

The Last Train to London: A Review

March 13, 2020

The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton

The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton (cover)

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, WW11, Jewish, Nazi-Occupied Europe

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Rescuing children, her life’s work…

The Last Train to London shares the story of real-life hero Truus Wijsmuller, a member of the Dutch resistance who risked her life smuggling Jewish children out of Nazi Germany. (She was honored as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. )

The mission known as Kindertransport carried thousands of children out of Nazi-occupied Europe. In addition to hearing about Tante Truus as she was known, the author imagines the lives of children such as Stephan (budding playwright), his younger brother. and Zofie-Helene (mathematics protegee).

Auntie Truus (headshot)

Tante Truus: Image Source: Wikipedia

 

Auntie Truus statue in Amsterdam

Tante Truus statue in Amsterdam: Image Source: Wikipedia

My Thoughts:

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The Girl With the Louding Voice: A Review

February 14, 2020

On Valentine’s Day (U.S.), a love letter of hope and encouragement to girls worldwide who are dreaming and striving to use their own Louding Voices!

 The Girl With the Louding Voice: by Abi Daré

The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare (cover)

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Women’s Fiction, Nigeria, Oppression, Women’s Rights

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

“Tomorrow will be better than today. I have value and I’m important.”

Life for a woman is not easy in Nigeria. Adunni’s mom plants the thought of having a “voice” in her spirit. Fourteen-year-old Adunni is determined to fight for her voice to be heard and for her future despite being sold as a third wife. Even when she runs away, she finds herself in another powerless position of servitude. Adunni is introduced to a more modern woman who befriends her and encourages her to keep hope alive and to think of herself as important and having value.

My Thoughts:

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The Printed Letter Bookshop: A Review

February 6, 2020

 The Printed Letter Bookshop: by Katherine Reay

The Printed Letter Bookshop (cover) by Katherine Reay

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Books About Books, Women’s Fiction

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

friendship…forgiveness…second chances…new beginnings

Madeleine’s happiest childhood memory is spending time at her Aunt Maddie’s house and her beloved bookshop. Suddenly, the families become estranged and Madeleine hasn’t seen her aunt in twenty years. After her aunt dies, Madeleine discovers she has inherited everything: the bookshop, the house, the car, and all the debt. At the same time, Madeleine’s career plans are in jeopardy and she begins to seriously investigate what saving the bookshop, moving, and a new plan for her life might involve.

My Thoughts:

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Bookish Themed Hanukkah: Eighth Candle: Complete Miracle #eightcandlebooktag

December 27, 2019

 Celebrating a Bookish Hanukkah With Our Jewish Friends: Eighth Candle–Complete Miracle

#eightcandlebooktag

8 candles of hanukkah

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

I’m linking up today with Davida at The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog (information on the meme link up here) to celebrate a bookish Hanukkah with our Jewish friends. This is the final post for #eightcandlebooktag  I hope you’ve enjoyed my posts as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them!

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(find my first candle here, find my second candle here, third candle here, fourth here, fifth here, sixth candle here, seventh candle here)

Happy Hanukkah to my friends, followers, and book buddies who are celebrating!

8th-candle

 

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Eighth Candle: Complete Miracle

A book that made you say “WOW” when you’d finished reading it.

Well, today’s prompt is easy! The last book that made me say “WOW” and gave me a book hangover is The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. See my full review below.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

For today’s post, I’m choosing to highlight the memorable and unputdownable The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

My Summary:

In the 1930s, nineteen-year-old Cussy Carter and her father live in the isolated woods of Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. They are the last of the “blue people” of Kentucky and endure racism and prejudice because of the blue hue of their skin. They are considered “colored.” Dad risks his life and health working long hours in the coal mines and Cussy takes a government job with the historical Pack Horse Library Project. As a “librarian,” she travels across treacherous mountains and dangerous creeks on her mule, Junia, to deliver books and other reading materials to the mountain folk who have few resources. She does what she can to meet their most dire needs. Incidentally, she doesn’t cuss! (She’s named after a town in France.)

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Bookish Themed Hanukkah: Seventh Candle: All Colors of the Rainbow #eightcandlebooktag

December 27, 2019

 Celebrating a Bookish Hanukkah With Our Jewish Friends: Seventh Candle–All Colors of the Rainbow

#eightcandlebooktag

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

I’m linking up today with Davida at The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog (information on the meme link up here) to celebrate a bookish Hanukkah with our Jewish friends.  #eightcandlebooktag  Join us! (find my first candle here, find my second candle here, third candle here, fourth here, fifth here, sixth candle here)

Happy Hanukkah to my friends, followers, and book buddies who are celebrating!

8th-candle

 

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Seventh Candle: All the Colors of the Rainbow

A book that just thinking about it makes you feel hopeful and happy, like seeing a rainbow after the rain.

Davida’s prompt today is difficult because I just realized that I read a great deal of sad and difficult books! (the hazards of historical fiction!) One reason I like to mix up my histic read with an occasional Middle-Grade read is that MG always has hopeful endings! The Vanderbeekers is probably the happiest Middle-Grade book I’ve read!

In adult fiction, though, it’s difficult for me to identify an overall happy book because my preferences lean toward histfic, complicated family drama, and memoirs. As I perused my Goodreads shelves, one book kept begging for my attention: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Simply seeing the title makes me feel like I’m greating an old friend and elicits a smile!

Guernsey

For today’s post, I’m choosing to highlight the delightful The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Amazon Summary:

“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb. . . .

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Author Annie Barrows in her own words.

My Thoughts:

I haven’t written a full review of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society so I’ll list some bullet points to share the reasons why I love this book:

  • Epistolary format: I love books written in this format because it helps me appreciate the beautiful and gentle art of old fashioned letter writing! Other books I love in epistolary format include The Last Christmas in Paris, 84 Charing Cross Road, Meet Me at the Museum, and The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir.
  • Book Club and Books About Books: A heartwarming aspect of the story is the inadvertent formation of a book club and the resulting book talk! When caught out after curfew by the Germans, Elizabeth claims to have been at a book club meeting. So a book club was hastily organized to authenticate her cover story! The members are not typical book club members, and it’s quite charming how it all comes together.
  • Potato Peel Pie: Of course, an important consideration of a book club meeting is the snacks! Thus Potato Peel Pie was invented from their meager resources.
  • Characters: In this story, you will find unique, quirky, and lovable characters! Part of the charm is the close and loyal community they create.
  • Found Family: This story includes one of my favorite themes which is found family.
  • Multiple Perspectives: I love stories with multiple perspectives and this includes several! You might need to take notes at first to keep everyone straight. I did love hearing first hand from the cast of unique characters..
  • Dual Timelines: I enjoy a dual timeline if they are well written and they intersect smoothly.
  • Gentle and Charming: If you don’t read histfic, this might be an excellent book to nudge you into that genre!
  • Themes of Love: This does include a traditional love story thread (friends to lovers), but it’s also a story of a child loved by the community, and a story of how community members form a close bond.
  • Hopeful: One reason this story has stayed with me through the years is the good feelings that it provoked during and after reading. I love that in dire circumstances, people can still come together to form something lovely, meaningful, and life-sustaining. The members of the book club respect each other’s differences and support each other in every way.

Favorite Quote:

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”

Recommended!

With enthusiasm, I highly recommend Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society for fans of epistolary novels, for readers who are looking for a light histic read, and for all those who appreciate charming and heartwarming stories. It’s on my lifetime favorites list, and it would make a terrific selection for a book club discussion. Plus, you can watch the excellent Netflix film adaptation together! Watch the trailer here.

My Rating: 5 stars

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Guernsey

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Information

Meet the Authors, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Mary Ann Shaffer (seated in foreground) passed away before she finished this novel, and her niece, Annie Barrows stepped in to finish the work and take it to publication.

mary-ann-shaffer-and-annie-barrows.jpg

Mary Ann Shaffer (seated in foreground) who passed away in February 2008, worked as an editor, librarian, and in bookshops. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was her first novel.

Annie Barrows is the co-author, with her aunt Mary Ann Shaffer, of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, published by the Dial Press in 2008. An international best-seller, translated into 38 languages, the novel was adapted into a feature film in 2018. Her best-selling second novel, The Truth According to Us, was published in 2015. Annie lives in Berkeley, California, with her family.

Author Annie Barrows in her own words.



QOTD!

Have you read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society or is it on your TBR?



ICYMI

I have finished my Fall TBR!
(just in time to begin my Winter TBR!)

Winter 2019 TBR

My Nonfiction November Posts:
2019 Nonfiction Reads
Nonfiction and Racial Injustice
Nonfiction/Fiction Pairings
Favorite Nonfiction Books
2020 Nonfiction TBR
Finding Chika by Mitch Albom



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



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***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.