Tag: history

Book Review and Blog Tour:   The Girl from Guernica, by Karen Robards

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

TitleThe Girl from Guernica     
Author:   Karen Robards
Genre:  Historical fiction  
Rating:  5 out of 5

On an April day in 1937, the sky opens and fire rains down upon the small Spanish town of Guernica. Seventeen-year-old Sibi and her family are caught up in the horror. Griff, an American military attaché, pulls Sibi from the wreckage, and it’s only the first time he saves her life in a span of hours. When Germany claims no involvement in the attack, insisting the Spanish Republic was responsible, Griff guides Sibi to lie to Nazi officials. If she or her sisters reveal that they saw planes bearing swastikas, the gestapo will silence them—by any means necessary.

As war begins to rage across Europe, Sibi joins the underground resistance, secretly exchanging information with Griff. But as the scope of Germany’s ambitions becomes clear, maintaining the facade of a Nazi-sympathizer becomes ever more difficult. And as Sibi is drawn deeper into a web of secrets, she must find a way to outwit an enemy that threatens to decimate her family once and for all.  

I was hooked on this from the very first page! All the characters were so vivid and so believable, and the author did such a great job with them that I felt like I was right there with Sibi through everything, grieving and struggling and determined to do what was right—no matter what. I cannot recommend this highly enough!

Karen Robards is a bestselling author. The Girl from Guernica is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:   The Thread Collectors, by Shaunna J. Edwards; Alyson Richman

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

TitleThe Thread Collectors     
Author:   Shaunna J. Edwards; Alyson Richman
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

1863: In a small Creole cottage in New Orleans, an ingenious young Black woman named Stella embroiders intricate maps on repurposed cloth to help enslaved men flee and join the Union Army. Bound to a man who would kill her if he knew of her clandestine activities, Stella has to hide not only her efforts but her love for William, a Black soldier and a brilliant musician.

Meanwhile, in New York City, a Jewish woman stitches a quilt for her husband, who is stationed in Louisiana with the Union Army. Between abolitionist meetings, Lily rolls bandages and crafts quilts with her sewing circle for other soldiers, too, hoping for their safe return home. But when months go by without word from her husband, Lily resolves to make the perilous journey South to search for him.

As these two women risk everything for love and freedom during the brutal Civil War, their paths converge in New Orleans, where an unexpected encounter leads them to discover that even the most delicate threads have the capacity to save us.

I really enjoyed this read! New Orleans is one of my favorite cities, but I don’t think I’ve ever read anything with quite this setting—it was both heartbreaking and inspirational. I liked all four main characters and was invested in their journeys, and it was lovely to see such hope in the midst of such a dark struggle. I love that this is inspired by both the authors’ family histories, and I truly enjoyed this tale.

Shauna Edwards lives in Harlem and Alyson Richman lives in Long Island. The Thread Collectors is their newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Hello, Goodbye, by Kate Stollenwerck

Image belongs to SparkPress.

TitleHello, Goodbye    
Author: Kate Stollenwerck
Genre:   YA
Rating:  5.0 out of 5

Fifteen-year-old Hailey Rogers is sure her summer is ruined when her parents force her to spend a few days a week helping her grandmother, Gigi. Although she only lives across town, she never sees her grandmother and knows little about her. But Gigi is full of surprises–and family secrets. Throw in the gorgeous boy down the street, and Hailey’s ruined summer might just be the best of her life.

Then tragedy strikes, lies are uncovered, and Hailey’s life suddenly falls apart. After unearthing clues in an old letter written by her great-grandfather, she takes off on a road trip to solve the family mystery with the only person she can trust. In a forgotten Texas town, the past and the present collide–and Hailey is forced to choose what she truly values in life.

I loved this! I think Hailey is a great character, and I loved seeing how her mind works and how she changed through the course of this book. The family dynamics were intriguing, and I really wanted to know what was going on with Gigi. I enjoyed the Beatles obsession—and the car. I just thoroughly enjoyed this from the very first page.

Kate Stollenwerck lives in Florida. Hello, Goodbye is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of SparkPress in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Don’t Go to Sleep, by Bryce Moore

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:    Don’t Go to Sleep  
Author:   Bryce Moore
Genre:   Thriller, YA
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Gianna is the average seventeen-year-old girl living in 1918 New Orleans. She worries about her family’s store, the great war, and a mysterious illness that’s about to take hold of the city she loves.

It doesn’t help that there also appears to be a mad man on the loose in her neighborhood. The attacks started as burglaries but soon escalate to cold blooded murder. There’s a killer out there, and the police can’t seem to figure out how to stop him.

Gianna enlists the help of her friend Enzo to investigate. And as they study the crimes, they see a common link between the victims, and Gianna can’t help but wonder if it’s the same man who attacked her family years before.

As Gianna gets closer to the killer, she discovers a connection between them that she never would have suspected.

I love historical fiction and New Orleans, so this should have been a winner. Instead, I found it slightly above average. I was fascinated by the descriptions of New Orleans a century ago, but Gianna’s habit of rushing headlong into danger without regard for the consequences was a bit too much for me. Not just chasing a literal axe murderer but running around the city in the midst of a deadly influenza pandemic. Her POV felt a little disjointed and distant, and there was never any explanation offered for her connection to the killer.

Bryce Moore lives in western Maine and is a Librarian. Don’t Go to Sleep is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  The Librarian Spy, by Madeline Martin

Image belongs to harlequin/Hanover Square Press.

TitleThe Librarian Spy    
Author:  Madeline Martin
Genre:   Historical Fiction
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

Ava thought her job as a librarian at the Library of Congress would mean a quiet, routine existence. But an unexpected offer from the US military has brought her to Lisbon with a new mission: posing as a librarian while working undercover as a spy gathering intelligence.

Meanwhile, in occupied France, Elaine has begun an apprenticeship at a printing press run by members of the Resistance. It’s a job usually reserved for men, but in the war, those rules have been forgotten. Yet she knows that the Nazis are searching for the press and its printer in order to silence them.

As the battle in Europe rages, Ava and Elaine find themselves connecting through coded messages and discovering hope in the face of war.

I enjoyed this read! I do love a good WWII historical fiction, and this was definitely well-worth reading. I enjoyed Ava’s story just a tiny bit more than Elaine’s, but I loved how both stories came together. Elaine must have been terrified most of the time, surrounded by horrors and grief as she was, while risking her life to get the truth out there. Do yourself a favor and pick up this read!

Madeline Martin is a bestselling author. The Librarian Spy is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Hanover Square Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:    Potiphar’s Wife, by Mesu Andrews

Image belongs to WaterBrook & Multnomah.

Title:    Potiphar’s Wife
Author:    Mesu Andrews
Genre:    Christian fiction
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

Before she is Potiphar’s wife, Zuleika is a king’s daughter on the isle of Crete, where the sisterhood of women rules in the absence of their seafaring husbands. Now that she’s come of age, Zuleika knows she will soon be betrothed. Her father believes his robust trade with Egypt will ensure Pharaoh’s obligation to marry his daughter.

But Pharaoh refuses and gives her instead to Potiphar, the captain of his bodyguards–a crusty bachelor twice her age, who would rather have a new horse than a Minoan wife.

Abandoned by her father, rejected by Pharaoh, and humiliated by Potiphar’s indifference, Zuleika years for affection. But when her obsession with Joseph, the Hebrew chamberlain with the face and body of the gods, goes terribly wrong, she discovers the truth: Only the God of Joseph can heal her wounded heart.

I’ve been looking forward to reading this for so long, and I finally had the time! I’ve loved all of Mesu Andrews’ books I’ve read, and I really enjoyed this one, too, although not quite as much as some of the others. I found Zully really difficult to like, frankly. She was so selfish and self-absorbed and couldn’t see past her own short-sighted ambitions to anyone else. I enjoyed the secondary characters like Joseph quite a bit, and I would have liked to see more from Potiphar’s point-of-view, but Zully annoyed me quite a bit. Still, a solid read that I enjoyed.

Mesu Andrews is an award-winning author. Potiphar’s Wife is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of WaterBrook & Multnomah in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:   Bloomsbury Girls, by Natalie Jenner

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Bloomsbury Girls
AuthorNatalie Jenner
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare book store that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiance was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances – most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time – Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others – these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

I think this got off to a little bit of a slow start, but it ended up being very good. I loved The Jane Austen Society, and it was so much fun seeing some of those characters again. I loved all three of the main female characters, and I was fully invested in their stories. It was lovely to see famous literary characters come to life, as well as the secondary characters in the bookstore itself.

Natalie Jenner is a bestselling author. The Bloomsbury Girls is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:   The Kew Gardens Girls at War, by Posy Lovell

Image belongs to Penguin Group Putnam.

Title:    The Kew Gardens Girls at War
Author:    Posy Lovell
Genre:    Historical fiction
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

When Daisy Turner’s new husband joins the RAF to fight the Battle of Britain, she’s terrified she’s going to lose him. So when her mother Ivy suggests she joins the gardeners at Kew to keep busy, Daisy’s intrigued. After all, Ivy worked at Kew during the last war and made lifelong friends along the way.

Ivy’s friend, Louisa Armitage, is feeling old and useless at her Kent home, wishing she could return to Kew and do her bit for the war effort. Tensions are rising between Louisa and her pacifist husband, as they argue over their nephew Christopher, who’s enlisted. But Louisa’s not ready to hang up her gardening gloves yet, and she’s soon on her way to Kew with an idea that could really make a difference.

Meanwhile Beth Sanderson is furious after her father stops her applying to medical school. Angry and frustrated, she applies to a new wartime role at Kew Gardens, alongside her doctor friend Gus Campbell. But the committee is run by men and Beth is asked to take a job a gardener instead, running a demonstration allotment with new friend Daisy. As the bombs fall on a Blitz-stricken London she finds herself torn between Gus, and her boyfriend Paul. Can Gus and Beth overcome the racism of wartime Britain to be together?

When tragedy hits, the women are forced to come together to support each other through their darkest hours. But can the Kew Gardens Girls survive the horrors of war-torn London this time?

This is a wonderful novel! The first I’d read from this author, but hopefully not the last. I think Beth was my favorite character, but I truly liked all of them. Poor Daisy thought Beth was so much better than her because of her looks, but Daisy lent her own strength to the story. This was a lovely read.

Posy Lovell lives in London. The Kew Gardens Girls at War is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Penguin Group Putnam in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  The Sultan’s Court, by R.A. Denny

Image belongs to the author.

TitleThe Sultan’s Court
Author:   R.A. Denny
Genre:   YA, fantasy, historical
Rating:  4.0  

Left behind as a slave in Morocco while Daniel journeys to the New World with the fearsome corsair Ayoub, Peri gives birth to a daughter. The drive to protect the imperiled lives of those she loves leads Peri to the court of the ruthless sultan, Moulay Ismail. In a city built on the backs of slaves, Peri’s rescue plot hangs by a thread, dependent on a dubious disguise and the man she despises. It will take all of her wit and perseverance to survive.

 This spellbinding 2nd novel in the Pirates and Puritans Series takes the reader on a journey from Algonquin villages to Moroccan palaces, during the time when Morocco’s most feared leader rose to power and the American colonies sank into a bloody war named after Metacom.

 I really like the premise of this series:  time travel to the time of the early Puritan settlements in America. In the first book, I enjoyed getting to know Peri and Daniel. This takes their story further…but not their story together, as they are separated for almost two decades in this novel. I didn’t enjoy that aspect as much as I enjoyed the first book.

There’s a lot going on here:  Peri’s story, Daniel’s story (in several different locations and cultures), things set in the future (where Peri’s from), and even scenes from their enemy’s point-of-view. The author weaves these threads together to make a coherent whole, but don’t let the POV switches make you miss out on the nuances of this well-rounded adventure.

R.A Denny has a law degree from Duke University but chooses to do just what she loves:  write. The Sultan’s Court is her newest novel, the second in the Pirates and Puritans series.

(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Beyond the Lavender Fields, by Arlem Hawks

Shadow Mountain Publishing.

Title:   Beyond the Lavender Fields
Author:   Arlem Hawks
Genre:   Historical fiction
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

1792, France 

Rumors of revolution in Paris swirl in Marseille, a bustling port city in southern France. Gilles Étienne, a clerk at the local soap factory, thrives on the news. Committed to the cause of equality, liberty, and brotherhood, he and his friends plan to march to Paris to dethrone the monarchy. His plans are halted when he meets Marie-Caroline Daubin, the beautiful daughter of the owner of the factory.

 A bourgeoise and royalist, Marie-Caroline has been called home to Marseille to escape the unrest in Paris. She rebuffs Gilles’s efforts to charm her and boldly expresses her view that violently imposed freedom is not really freedom for all. As Marie-Caroline takes risks to follow her beliefs, Gilles catches her in a dangerous secret that could cost her and her family their lives. As Gilles and Marie-Caroline spend more time together, she questions her initial assumptions about Gilles and realizes that perhaps they have more in common than she thought.

 As the spirit of revolution descends on Marseille, people are killed and buildings are ransacked and burned to the ground. Gilles must choose between supporting the political change he believes in and protecting those he loves. And Marie-Caroline must battle between standing up for what she feels is right and risking her family’s safety. With their lives and their nation in turmoil, both Gilles and Marie-Caroline wonder if a révolutionnaire and a royaliste can really be together in a world that forces people to choose sides.

The setting of this novel was a new one for me, and I really enjoyed it! I really like how both characters—but especially Gilles—grew during the course of the novel. He started off as a self-absorbed, oblivious jerk who hated his father, but he changed so much through. Their separate journeys to understanding and growth were even more enjoyable to me than their romance. This is a sweet read set against the French revolution.

Arlem Hawks graduated from Brigham Young University. Beyond the Lavender Fields is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Shadow Mountain Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)