Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers

March 9, 2018

Colorful Hawaii…friendship…loyalty…pies…romance…racism…brave marines…and a lion

Island Of Sweet Pies and Soldiers
by Sara Ackerman

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers 2

Genre/categories: historical fiction, WW11, family life, military

Thank you to The Loud Library Lady for a free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion. This review of Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers is part of a Reading Train and all opinions are my own.


Surrounded by the tropical beauty of Hawaii in 1944, Violet Iverson and her daughter Ella struggle to stabilize their lives after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the disappearance of Violet’s husband and Ella’s father whom some speculate might have been a spy. After Pearl Harbor, prejudice against the Japanese is common on the island, and the fear and mistrust is difficult for Violet to face as many of her close friends and community members are Japanese and suddenly become the feared “them.” Because Violet and her friends desire to make a little money and also wish to support the war effort, they devise a plan to make sweet pies for the soldiers, Meanwhile, Ella is miserable because she’s keeping a secret, is scared, and refuses to talk about it. More complications set in when Violet develops a close relationship with Sergeant Parker Stone. In spite of Violet’s attraction, she feels guilty because her husband’s disappearance has not been resolved. Readers will need to suspend their belief when they find out that a friendly pet lion is the marine mascot and among the cast of characters.  Goodreads Overall Rating: 4.14

My Thoughts:


Readers that are looking for a light historical fiction read with a bit of mystery and romance might enjoy Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers. It’s a quick and easy page turner with memorable characters (including a pet lion!). Readers who call or have called Hawaii home might find this an especially interesting read. The author is from Hawaii and her story is based on stories she heard from her grandmother.

What Worked

I enjoyed the Hawaiian perspective of the war, appreciated hearing about the training for the soldiers, and was conflicted about the treatment of the Japanese (the only other time I’ve read about the prejudice against the Japanese is in Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet). Also, I appreciated the realistic story line of a single mom trying to hold it together and the heartbreaking descriptions of ten-year-old Ella suffering from severe anxiety and fear.


Told from two perspectives (Violet’s and Ella’s), readers will enjoy the strong themes of friendship, hope, loyalty, mother/daughter relationship, secrets, heartbreak and tragedy of war, and the power of choosing love in difficult circumstances.

My Rating: 4 Stars


Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers

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Meet the Author, Sara Ackerman

Sara Ackerman

Born and raised in Hawaii, Sara studied journalism and earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine. When she’s not writing or practicing acupuncture, you’ll find her in the mountains or in the ocean.



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

“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

Looking Ahead

Next week, I’ll review How to Find Love in a Bookshop

How to find love in a bookstore

Amazon information here

What are you reading this week?

Links I Love

Novels and Nonfiction: Top Ten Favorite Classics With Quotes

Top Shelf Text: 50 Books By and About Women of Color
(in celebration of International Women’s Day)

A Wrinkle in Time coming to theaters TODAY March 9! 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society coming to theaters April 20! 

Sharing is Caring

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

 Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear all about what you are reading this week!


The Alice Network

August 4, 2017

The Alice Network
by Kate Quinn

Alice Network


Genre: Historical Fiction


In this page-turner, a courageous female spy (Eve), recruited to work in the real life Alice Network in France during World War l, and a young American college girl and socialite (Charlie), searching for her cousin after she disappeared in World War ll, join forces in 1947 to find revenge, redemption, truth, friendship, and a bit of romance. As present day Eve and Charlie search for truth, the story alternates between two time periods (1915 and present day 1947). In this complex and multi layered narrative, the reader learns about Eve’s backstory as a spy right under the enemies’ noses and Lili, the “Queen of Spies,” who manages the spy network. In the present day, Charlie deals with a grieving and angry Eve and an unplanned pregnancy as they search for the truth in Eve’s past and the whereabouts of Charlie’s cousin, Rose. Amazon rating (August): 4.7 stars

My Thoughts:

This week’s selection is a continued focus on female authors writing about strong female protagonists. The Alice Network is receiving a lot of buzz (as evidenced by Amazon ratings of 4.7) and it’s currently on the must read list of many readers who love a fast paced story filled with drama, intrigue, and suspense. I would categorize this story as moderate intensity as compared with other historical fiction selections (placed between intense reads such as Lilac Girls, The Nightingale, Salt to the Sea, Underground Railroad, and Between Shades of Gray and lighter reads such as The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society).  My reason for rating it moderate intensity is because there’s one section that’s difficult (emotionally) to read and I chose to skim over; whereas, in more intense reads there are multiple sections that are difficult (emotionally) to read. In my opinion, the weaknesses in this story include the too gimmicky or coincidental similarities between Eve and Charlie, some less than smooth transitions between the two story lines, and the focus on plot driven narrative writing rather than the beautiful writing of literary fiction (such as The Light Between Oceans). I loved the active role of Eve in both story lines and that it was a gripping and engaging page-turner featuring two courageous women. All the drinking and smoking while pregnant was disturbing….but perhaps this was accepted in 1947? As with all historical fiction, I enjoyed the knowledge gained…in this case about female spies in WW 1. Recommended to readers of historical fiction who are looking for a page-turning, gripping, engaging story about strong independent women. Rating: 4 Stars.

Alice Network

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Meet the Author: Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before moving to the 20th century with the “The Alice Network.” All her books have been translated into multiple languages. Find out more here.

Happy Reading Everyone!

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

Looking Forward:

Next week, I’ll be reviewing a favorite The Glass Castle (a memoir) by Jeannette Walls in anticipation of the movie release August 11th if you’d like to “buddy read.”

Glass Castle

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Please Share:

I’d be honored if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog.

Talking Books:

Please share your reflections on The Alice Network in the comments section. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are you currently reading?






The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir

July 28, 2017

Welcome back! Thank you for reading, sharing, and following along! I think you’ll find this week’s featured selection fascinating. I love historical fiction and supporting women authors who write about strong women. You can also find me on Goodreads.

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir
by Jennifer Ryan


Genre/category: historical fiction, contemporary women’s fiction


A notice pinned to the Chilbury Village Hall notice board, Sunday, 24th March, 1940 reads: “As all our male voices have gone to war, the village choir is to close.” (Signed The Vicar)

Facing an impending Nazi invasion, the ladies of Chilbury, England pull together under the strong leadership and persistent encouragement of new choirmaster, Prim, to resurrect the choir as a ladies choir. This heartfelt historical fiction story is told from multiple perspectives and voices in diary and journal form. As author Jennifer Ryan states: “At the beginning of the war, an organization known as Mass Observation began, encouraging ordinary individuals to keep diaries and journals and send them into headquarters, where some would be published in a newsletter.” The ladies were serious in supporting the war effort in every way and their earnest writings combine to tell an inspirational story of what it was like to be a woman in the wartime 1940s, working outside the home to support the war effort, finding their voice, and their exploration of independence without their men. Some readers might be concerned that this is simply a collection of these writings: however, I can assure readers that this reads as one complete work and the individual perspectives flow seamlessly from viewpoint to viewpoint and add to the complexity and richness of this heartfelt, charming, and inspirational story. Throughout the narrative, a cast of charismatic and memorable characters emerges as the women face the uncertainties and hardships of war, resolve village problems as they arise, and a few enjoy a bit of romance.    Amazon rating: (July) 4.4  Stars

My thoughts:

Church choirs. Even though the choir in this story has ties to the church, it functions more as a community choir. How many of you have participated in a traditional small church or a community choir? If you have, your experience will add to the enjoyment of the story as you read. I was reminded repeatedly of the dear choir director at my home church. Directing the choir was one small part of her ministry. She developed a supportive musical community and she actively recruited and sought out new members because she sensed that each could benefit from the other. This musical community was safe and members were unconditionally loved. Yes, the choir performed a musical function in the church but so much more was being accomplished in the members’ personal lives which in turn enriched the others in the wider community. The way the community choir functions in this story reminds me so much of my experience with our cherished choir director! When a reader can make a personal connection it adds to the richness of the reading experience! I wonder if this story will affect you in the same way. The choir represented themes of unconditional love, commitment to a group, the importance of belonging, and the healing power of acceptance. The music teaches us that beauty can be created in the worst of circumstances, and illustrates the power of music to unify, inspire, and uplift.

This is an uplifting story of strong independent women making a difference in their world. It’s humorous, romantic, and filled with interesting characters of all ages who show us a fighting spirit. It speaks to the power of love and song. Also appreciated is that this was not difficult, heavy, or intense historical fiction (as so many are). I’m hoping this story will be made into a movie as I could envision a movie in my mind as I read! Highly recommended for readers who love historical fiction (light) and a story about strong women. Appropriate for young adults.   My rating: 4 stars  


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Meet the Author: Jennifer Ryan

 Jennifer Ryan

“The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is my very first novel. Before becoming a writer, I was a nonfiction book editor, editing books about politics and economics, travel and health, and biography and memoir. I worked in London before moving to the Washington, DC, area ten years ago with my husband and two children.”

“I was born in a village in Kent, England, not too far away from the fictional village of Chilbury. The novel is based on the stories of my grandmother who was twenty when the Second World War began, mostly hilarious tales about bumping into people in the blackout, singing in the air raid shelters, and the freedoms women had during the war years–the excitement and romance. She also belonged to a choir, and her choir stories dramatized the camaraderie and support they all took away; the knowledge that they weren’t in this alone. The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir uses my dear grandmother’s stories as its backdrop.” More about Jennifer Ryan:  Twitter: jenryanbooks


Happy Reading!

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

Looking Forward:

Next week I’ll be reviewing “The Alice Network” by Kate Quinn (historical fiction) if you’d like to “buddy read.”

Buy Here

Please Share:

I’d be honored if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog.

Talking Books:

Please share your reflections on The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir in the comments section. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are you currently reading?