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?

Simon the Fiddler [Book Review]

June 26, 2020

Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles

Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles (cover) Image: a gold toned western landscape including a river

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Post-Civil War Southwest, Western

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

A diverse, scrappy, hard-working, risk-taking, and loyal group of four forms a band…and Simon pursues love.

Simon is the fiddler and leader, and other members include Doroteo (guitar player), Damon (whistle player), and Patrick (bodhran and bone player). On the eve of the Confederate surrender, Simon notices a lovely Irish girl, Doris, who is an indentured servant and governess for a colonel’s daughter. Simon can’t forget Doris as his ragtag group travels Texas striving to put their lives back together at the end of the Civil War and build their reputation. He vows to find her again, rescue her from her dire situation, and propose.

an old fiddle

My Thoughts:

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The Other Alcott [Book Review] #throwbackthursday

June 18, 2020

The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper
#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 Other Alcott by Elise Hooper….the imagined story of May Alcott (Amy).

Are you a fan of Little Women?

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper (cover) Image: a young woman dressed in an old fashioned blue dress stands with back to the camera looking out over a city and holding a valise

Genre/Categories: historical fiction, women’s fiction, biographical, sisters

My Summary:

“If you’ve read Little Women, you are familiar with the author, Louisa May Alcott. It’s also well known that Miss Alcott’s family provided inspiration for the book and its colorful cast of characters. While many readers love spirited Jo March (the character based on the author Louisa May Alcott), Jo’s younger sister Amy March is not quite as popular with readers. In Elise Hooper’s new release and debut novel, The Other Alcott, the author reimagines the world of the Alcotts from the perspective of Louisa’s real-life younger sister, May (Amy in Little Women). Hooper’s story explores the relationship between Louisa and May which might have been fraught with jealousy, competition, and sibling rivalry.  Through Hooper’s storytelling, we follow May as she studies and travels abroad to carve out her own career as an artist in a man’s world at a time when women who wanted a career often had to forgo dreams of a family. Although the publication of Little Women substantially helps the struggling Alcott family financially, May experiences conflicting feelings about the way she was portrayed in the book through the character of Amy. Eventually, this causes May to want to distinguish her own life from the selfish, spirited, and spoiled character of Amy. So in real life, the optimistic, stylish, outgoing, and creative May pursues art in Boston and in Europe. At first, she is convicted about not working too hard (as she’s seen her sister do) because she also values happiness and enjoyment of life. This is a story of art, ambition, and of a brave, determined young woman finding her voice and establishing her identity.”

Continue here for my full review of The Other Alcott …

QOTD: Have you read The Other Alcott or is it on your TBR?

The Last Train to Key West [Book Review]

June 12, 2020

The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton

The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton (cover) Image: a young woman in a blouse and skirt stands on a Florida beach looking into the distance

Genre/Categories: Romantic Historical Fiction, Florida

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

one holiday weekend + three women in danger + a hurricane

Thanks, #netgalley #berkleypub for a complimentary e ARC of #thelasttraintokeywest for review. All opinions in this review are my own. Pub Date: June 16, 2020.

Key West is a popular destination for tourists. In the 1930s, it is also an opportunity to forget the economic depression. The three women in The Last Train to Key West have very different reasons for finding themselves in Key West on Labor Day Weekend, 1935: Elizabeth travels to Key West from New York City and is desperately searching for a WW1 veteran who is rumored to have been sent to work on the railroad; Key West native, Helen, wants to escape an abusive marriage; Mirta comes to Key West from Cuba for her honeymoon. Rounding out the weekend is an FBI agent, a kind friend, an abusive husband, a secretive groom, and the destructive 1935 Labor Day Weekend hurricane.

Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad

 

Key West, Florida

location of Key West, Florida

My Thoughts:

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Red Sky Over Hawaii [Book Review] #BookTour

June 9, 2020

Red Sky Over Hawaii by Sara Ackerman

Red Sky Over Hawaii by Sara Ackerman (cover) Image: a young woman in a blue dress stands with her back to the camera overlooking a Volcano landscape....four planes in the sky

Genre/Categories: Romance Historical Fiction, WW11, Hawaii, Women’s Fiction

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Welcome to my stop on the Blog Tour for Red Sky Over Hawaii by Sara Ackerman. Thanks for the invitation!

Thanks, #netgalley #harlequin for a complimentary e ARC of #redskyoverhawaii by Sara Ackerman. All opinions in this review are entirely my own.

Summary:

WW11 + Hawaii + Saving Neighbors + a Side of Cowboy Romance

The attack on Pearl Harbor during WW11 sets the events in motion. Lana has recently learned of the passing of her father. Even though they were estranged at the time of his death, Lana is saddened by his death and left with unanswered questions. As the government begins to arrest her German and Japanese neighbors as suspected sympathizers, she takes two young German girls and a Japanese fisherman and his son to a secret property hidden away in the remote rain forest of Kilauea volcano. Lana struggles to keep her secrets and those in her care safe. Would you save your neighbors in a time of crisis?

My Thoughts:

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The Jane Austen Society [Book Review] #BlogTour

June 5, 2020

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner #BlogTour

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Janner (cover) Image: a grooup of five people (backs to camera) walk arm in arm; flowers edge the border

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Book About Books, England, Post WW11

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Welcome to my stop on The Jane Austin Society Blog Tour. Thanks for the invitation!

Thank you #netgalley #Austenprose #StMartinsPress for a complimentary e ARC of #thejaneaustinsociety for review. All opinions are completely my own.

Summary:

A love of writing and timeless stories draws people together….

Jane Austen’s final home was located in Chawton, England. In this imagined story that takes place shortly after WW11, a number of devoted Austen fans band together to preserve the home and her legacy. A local doctor, a young widow, a young farmer, a descendant of Austen’s, a young maid, and a movie star are among the group, and the story is told through their unique perspectives. Although they are very different from each other, they each share a deep connection with and a great love for the works of Austen.

My Thoughts:

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And They Called It Camelot: [Book Review]

May 15, 2020

And They Called It Camelot by Stephanie Marie Thornton

And They Called It Camelot by Stephanie Marie Thornton (cover) Image: Jack and Jackie Kennedy sit in a sailboat on a calm ocean

Genre/Categories: Biographical Historical Fiction, First Lady, U.S. History

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

And They Called it Camelot is an imagined and candid portrait of the life of first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis) from the time of her engagement to (President) John F. Kennedy to after the death of Aristotle Onassis. In particular, it’s the story of a determined and dignified “Jackie O” picking up the pieces of her life and finding her voice over and over again.

My Thoughts:

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Code Name Helene [Review]

April 24, 2020

Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon

Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhom (coveer)

Genre/Categories: Biographical Historical Fiction, World War 11, French Resistance Movement

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Real-life socialite spy, Nancy Wake….

Told in multiple timelines, Code Name Hélène is the thrilling and intense story of real-life socialite spy, Nancy Wake. Helene is only one of her four code names. When Nancy Wake first meets the love of her life, wealthy Henri Fiocca, in 1936, she is a freelance reporter and an Australian ex-pat living in Paris. As the Germans invade France, she begins her spy career by using her socialite status to smuggle documents and people across borders. Eventually, she is forced to escape France and leave Henri behind. At this time she is trained for Special Operations by the British and returns to France to work in the French Resistance Movement. Known for her innovative thinking and leadership, profanity, and red lipstick, she secures weapons from the allied forces for the French Resistance fighters. This is complicated because she is also a hunted woman with a bounty on her head.

My Thoughts:

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#throwbackthursday Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

April 23, 2020

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
#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 Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys as well as linking to two more reviews of her books.

Do you have a favorite auto-buy author? Ruta Sepetys is one of mine!
Have you read other books by Ruta Sepetys?
Salt to the Sea
Between Shades of Gray
The Fountains of Silence

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (cover) Image: a yellow camisole hangs on a padded hanger above an old brown suitcase

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

My Summary:

It’s 1950 in the French Quarter of New Orleans when we meet seventeen-year-old Josie. A high achiever with a great deal of grit and savvy, she is the daughter of an unreliable mother who is a prostitute, benefits from an unlikely mentoring relationship with a tough madam, and is trying to survive in The Big Easy. Although Josie has a plan to get out, she becomes tangled in an investigation that could change her dream of an elite eastern college and her future. Throughout the story, she is tried, tempted, and tested. How will her decisions shape her future?

Click here to continue reading my review of Out of the Easy (plus links to two more reviews of her other books)….

QOTD: Have you read a book by Ruta Sepetys? Have you read Out of the Easy or is it on your TBR?

As Bright As Heaven [Review] #flashbackfriday

April 17, 2020

Under lockdown orders due to COVID-19, I’ve thought many times of Susan Meissner’s book As Bright As Heaven which is about the 1918 Flu Pandemic. It’s amazing that what I read two years ago about a pandemic that happened one hundred years ago is relevant today!  I’ve also enjoyed The Secret Library’s Book Review Blog posts for #flashbackfriday. So even though it’s not the first Friday of the month, I’m joining Kerry @ Chat About Books to share my review of As Bright As Heaven that was first published in February of 2018. I hope I’ll be forgiven for joining the meme mid-month….I couldn’t wait until the first Friday of another month to bring your attention to this relevant read! Also….the Kindle version is $3.99 today!

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner (cover)

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary:

Three events coincide in this story: the Bright family moves to Philadelphia in 1918 for a fresh start, many men go off to fight in the Great War, and the Flu spreads in America. As Pauline Bright and her husband pursue their dream of giving their three daughters a chance at a better life in the big city of Philadelphia, the Flu Pandemic and the Great War greatly impact their lives and rearrange their priorities. Told from four perspectives (mother and the three daughters), it’s a story of survival, making difficult choices, facing challenges, and finding hope. Amazon Rating (early reviews): 4.7 Stars

Meet Two Sisters, Evelyn and Maggie Bright

Historical fiction is my favorite genre because in the stories we find ordinary people doing extraordinary things under difficult circumstances. Not too different from the inspiring stories we hear today on the news involving COVID-19 heroes. We are living the historical fiction stories of the future.

Timely…memorable…uputdownable…

In As Bright As Heaven, Evelyn (Evie) and Maggie Bright are the two older sisters and they become memorable characters with unique personalities and different strengths and weaknesses. Fifteen and twelve when the story opens, Evie is the oldest sister, smart, inquisitive, and a reader, while Maggie is feisty, opinionated, good-hearted, fearless, and determined. As their father leaves to fulfill his war-time responsibilities and the Flu begins to ravage Philadelphia and affect their family, the girls are forced to take on adult-sized responsibilities and concerns. As Evie and Maggie experience love and loss, they are also resilient, courageous in the face of challenges, and make many difficult decisions and choices. Despite dire circumstances, the sisters value family and never lose their ability to love and care for each other. While Evie embraces her role as the eldest and assumes responsibility and leadership, Maggie is a wild card who stubbornly insists on accompanying her mother on errands of mercy to the poorest and most needy population of Philadelphia to deliver food and medicine, bravely seeks to work in the family mortuary business, and one day impulsively makes a heart-wrenching discovery that leads her to make a life-changing decision that will impact all their lives. Her actions will promote great book club discussions about taking risks to do the right thing and facing the consequences.

Readers will laugh and cry with these unforgettable characters as well as learn facts about the Spanish Flu and its impact on Philadelphia.

Recommended. As Bright As Heaven is wholeheartedly recommended for readers who love reading about strong independent women, for those who love historical fiction and against-the-odds stories, for those who are looking for a value-centered and inspiring read, and for book clubs. It’s a simply written and straight-forward story despite alternating between four perspectives. Its memorable characters and tragic circumstances make this a solid and unforgettable read. As Bright As Heaven and A Fall of Marigolds are my two favorite Meissner titles!

Trigger Warnings: death from flu, dire circumstances
Content Warning: the setting is a funeral home

My Rating: 4+ Stars.

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

As Bright as Heaven

As Bright As Heaven Information Here

Meet the Author, Susan Meissner

Author, Susan Meissner (head shot, wearing a coral cardigan leaning against a wood slat wall)I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t driven to write. I attribute this passion to a creative God and to parents who love books and more particularly to a dad who majored in English and passed on a passion for writing.

I was born in 1961 in San Diego, California, and am the second of three daughters. I spent my very average childhood in just two houses. I attended Point Loma College in San Diego, majoring in education, but I would have been smarter to major in English with a concentration in writing. The advice I give now to anyone wondering what to major in is to follow your heart and choose a vocation you are already in love with.

I’m happy and humbled to say that I’ve had 17 books published in the last dozen years, including The Shape of Mercy, which was named one of the 100 Best Books in 2008 by Publishers Weekly, and the ECPA’s Fiction Book of the Year, a Carol Award winner, and a RITA finalist. I teach at writers’ conferences from time to time and I have a background in community journalism.

I’m also a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When I’m not at work on a new novel, I write small group curriculum for my San Diego church. Visit me at my website: http//:susanmeissner.com on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at http://www.facebook.com/susan.meissner



QOTD:

Have you read As Bright As Heaven? Have you read another book about a pandemic? (I know it was briefly mentioned in Last Christmas in Paris.) Do you think ABAH would be too difficult to read right now in light of COVID-19 or do you think it would be interesting?



ICYMI

National Poetry Month

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Lighter Reads During Stressful Times

Ten Signs That I’m a Book Lover

Ten  Favorite Books About Books

The Last Ten Books That Gave Me a Book Hangover



Happy Reading Bookworms!

“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

 



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