Tag: history

Book Review:  Small Things Like These, by Claire Keegan

Image belongs to Grove Atlantic.

Title:   Small Things Like These
Author:   Claire Keegan
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

It is 1985 in a small Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal merchant and family man faces into his busiest season. Early one morning, while delivering an order to the local convent, Bill makes a discovery which forces him to confront both his past and the complicit silences of a town controlled by the church.

This was a very short read–I think I finished it in about an hour. Stellar, evocative writing, but I found it very bleak and quite slow. Probably just not a good fit for me, despite how vivid and detailed it was.

Claire Keegan is an award-winning author. Small Things Like These is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  City of Time and Magic, by Paula Brackston

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  City of Time and Magic
Author:   Paula Brackston
Genre:   Historical fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

City of Time and Magic sees Xanthe face her greatest challenges yet. She must choose from three treasures that sing to her; a beautiful writing slope, a mourning brooch of heartbreaking detail, and a gorgeous gem-set hat pin. All call her, but the wrong one could take her on a mission other than that which she must address first, and the stakes could not be higher. While her earlier mission to Regency England had been a success, the journey home resulted in Liam being taken from her, spirited away to another time and place. Xanthe must follow the treasure that will take her to him if he is not to be lost forever.

 Xanthe is certain that Mistress Flyte has Liam and determined to find them both. But when she discovers Lydia Flyte has been tracking the actions of the Visionary Society, a group of ruthless and unscrupulous Spinners who have been selling their talents to a club of wealthy clients, Xanthe realizes her work as a Spinner must come before her personal wishes. The Visionary Society is highly dangerous and directly opposed to the creed of the Spinners. Their actions could have disastrous consequences as they alter the authentic order of things and change the future. Xanthe knows she must take on the Society. It will require the skills of all her friends, old and new, to attempt such a thing, and not all of them will survive the confrontation that follows.

I love this series! This is a time travel novel that doesn’t gloss over the likely challenges of everyday life in the past (At least, they’d definitely be challenges for someone from the present.). I wouldn’t even be able to dress myself!

I thoroughly enjoy the writing and worldbuilding, but the characters are my favorite part of this series. Xanthe herself is flawed yet determined, and the supporting characters are just as likable. The conflicts, challenges, and choices she faces had me completely enthralled.

Paula Brackston lives in Wales. City of Time and Magic is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  The Alchemy Thief, by R.A Denny

Image belongs to the author.

Title The Alchemy Thief
Author R.A Denny
Genre:   fantasy, history
Rating:  4 out of 5

When the secrets of the past threaten to destroy the future… 

A tale of hope, resilience, and the indomitable spirit of a woman, this sweeping epic spans the Atlantic from New England to Morocco during the Age of Exploration. 

2019: A young woman finds a relic engraved with a mysterious symbol off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Terrorists in Morocco steal a 17th-century book engraved with the same symbol. As the woman struggles to unravel the secrets behind the symbol, her life changes in ways she could never have imagined. 

1657: Transported back in time, she meets the alchemist, John Winthrop, Jr. who is plotting to lure the greatest scientific minds to the New World. But the more she learns, the more she fears for the lives of the loved ones she left behind. 

In a stunning twist of fate, a modern terrorist has traveled into the past, where he has become a Barbary Corsair. He has plans of his own. And he will stop at nothing to succeed.

This was quite an interesting read. I haven’t read any time travel novels set in Puritan New England (Well, before it was actually New England.), so that kept me interested. Peri was just an innocent in 2019, so she fit right in in the past—in a manner of speaking.

The writing here is solid, and the characters, even the Corsair from the future, were intriguing enough to keep me engrossed in the novel. There’s a lot going on, but it blends together to make for an entertaining read.

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

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

Book Review:  Three Sisters, by Heather Morris

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Three Sisters
Author:   Heather Morris
Genre:   Historical fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

When they are girls, Cibi, Magda and Livia make a promise to their father – that they will stay together, no matter what.

 Years later, at just 15 years old, Livia is ordered to Auschwitz by the Nazis. Cibi, only 19 herself, remembers their promise and follows Livia, determined to protect her sister, or die with her.

 In their hometown in Slovakia, 17-year-old Magda hides, desperate to evade the barbaric Nazi forces. But it is not long before she is captured and condemned to Auschwitz.

 In the horror of the death camp, these three beautiful sisters are reunited. Though traumatised by their experiences, they are together. 

They make another promise: that they will live. Their fight for survival takes them from the hell of Auschwitz, to a death march across war-torn Europe and eventually home to Slovakia, now under iron Communist rule. Determined to begin again, they embark on a voyage of renewal, to the new Jewish homeland, Israel.

This was an incredible read! I haven’t read any of the other books, but that isn’t necessary to enjoy this one. This story. It’s so unbelievable—and it’s true! The strength of these sisters is amazing and inspiring, and I was completely enthralled with what was happening to them. This is a powerful, moving story that showcases strength and determination, love and family.

Heather Morris is from New Zealand. Three Sisters is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Inheritance, by JoAnn Ross

Image belongs to Harlequin.

 

When conflict photographer Jackson Swann dies, he leaves behind a conflict of his own making when his three daughters, each born to a different mother, discover that they’re now responsible for the family’s Oregon vineyard—and for a family they didn’t ask for.

After a successful career as a child TV star, Tess is, for the first time in her life, suffering from a serious identity crisis, and renewed resentment around losing her father all over again.

Charlotte, brought up to be a proper Southern wife, gave up her own career to support her husband’s political ambitions. On the worst day of her life, she discovers her beloved father has died, she has two sisters she never knew about, and her husband has fallen in love with another woman.

Natalie, daughter of Jack’s longtime mistress, has always known about her half sisters. And she can’t help feeling that when Tess and Charlotte find out, they’ll resent her for being the daughter their father kept.

As the sisters reluctantly gather at the Maison de Madeleine to deal with their father’s final wishes, they become enchanted by the legacy they’ve inherited, and by their grandmother’s rich stories of life in WWII France and the wounded American soldier who would ultimately influence all their lives.

I actually really enjoyed this read! Tess was kind of unlikable at first, but she grew on me as she mellowed out a bit. As did Charlotte, who actually grew a pair and stood up for herself with her horrid, cheating husband. I would have enjoyed seeing more from Natalie’s viewpoint, as I liked her the best.

The stories of the three sisters, interspersed with tales from their grandmother’s time in the French Resistance, made for a compelling read, fraught with family tensions and truths waiting to be discovered.

JoAnn Ross is a bestselling author. The Inheritance is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Bookseller’s Secret, by Michelle Gable

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

In 1942, London, Nancy Mitford is worried about more than air raids and German spies. Still recovering from a devastating loss, the once sparkling Bright Young Thing is estranged from her husband, her allowance has been cut, and she’s given up her writing career. On top of this, her five beautiful but infamous sisters continue making headlines with their controversial politics.

Eager for distraction and desperate for income, Nancy jumps at the chance to manage the Heywood Hill bookshop while the owner is away at war. Between the shop’s brisk business and the literary salons she hosts for her eccentric friends, Nancy’s life seems on the upswing. But when a mysterious French officer insists that she has a story to tell, Nancy must decide if picking up the pen again and revealing all is worth the price she might be forced to pay.

Eighty years later, Heywood Hill is abuzz with the hunt for a lost wartime manuscript written by Nancy Mitford. For one woman desperately in need of a change, the search will reveal not only a new side to Nancy, but an even more surprising link between the past and present…

Nancy and her family were a bit of a dumpster fire. I really didn’t care for them. Nancy was very wishy-washy and I frankly just wanted her to grow a pair, make a decision, and follow through. I actually enjoyed Katie’s story in the present-day far, far more than Nancy’s, although she had her own set of issues (more of a campfire than a dumpster fire).

There were some parallels between the two women, with their writer’s block and indecisiveness, but it was fun to see Katie’s journey. The blurb makes this seem like everyone in London is talking about the possibility of a lost Mitford manuscript, but in reality it was basically three people, so there’s that.

Michelle Gable is a bestselling author. The Bookseller’s Secret is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Radar Girls, by Sara Ackerman

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Daisy Wilder prefers the company of horses to people, bare feet and salt water to high heels and society parties. Then, in the dizzying aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Daisy enlists in a top secret program, replacing male soldiers in a war zone for the first time. Under fear of imminent invasion, the WARDs guide pilots into blacked-out airstrips and track unidentified planes across Pacific skies. 

But not everyone thinks the women are up to the job, and the new recruits must rise above their differences and work side by side despite the resistance and heartache they meet along the way. With America’s future on the line, Daisy is determined to prove herself worthy. And with the man she’s falling for out on the front lines, she cannot fail. From radar towers on remote mountaintops to flooded bomb shelters, she’ll need her new team when the stakes are highest. Because the most important battles are fought—and won—together.

This was a pretty cool read! I loved the historical premise of the novel, of which I’d never heard the slightest bit about:  Hawaiian women being trained to use radar in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The writing is solid, and the characters are unique and believable individuals. I truly enjoyed finding out what happened to these women against the backdrop of war, with the setting of Hawaii as a vibrant character in its own right. A perfect weekend read!

Sara Ackerman lives in Hawaii. Radar Girls is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The War Nurse, by Tracey Enerson Wood

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

Superintendent of Nurses Julia Stimson must recruit sixty-five nurses to relieve the battle-worn British, months before American troops are ready to be deployed. She knows that the young nurses serving near the front lines of will face a challenging situation, but nothing could have prepared her for the chaos that awaits when they arrive at British Base Hospital 12 in Rouen, France. The primitive conditions, a convoluted, ineffective system, and horrific battle wounds are enough to discourage the most hardened nurses, and Julia can do nothing but lead by example―even as the military doctors undermine her authority and make her question her very place in the hospital tent.

When trainloads of soldiers stricken by a mysterious respiratory illness arrive one after the other, overwhelming the hospital’s limited resources, and threatening the health of her staff, Julia faces an unthinkable choice―to step outside the bounds of her profession and risk the career she has fought so hard for, or to watch the people she cares for most die in her arms.

I enjoyed this read. Julia was an interesting character:  she has a fairly distant personality—she keeps her emotions in a little box—but she wants to be close to people. She’s motivated by her desire to make things better for the people around her, whether the patients, her fellow nurses, or the doctors.

The blurb makes it sound like the respiratory illness is a HUGE part of the novel, but it really wasn’t. The bulk of this story is Julia’s internal conflict. Even the war itself isn’t an on-screen character, it’s more background and setting. This is a solid read about a fascinating woman.

Tracey Enerson Wood is from New Jersey. The War Nurse is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Forest of Vanishing Stars, by Kristin Harmel

Image belongs to Gallery Books.

After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies. Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror. Stunned to learn what’s happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest—and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.

This was a fantastic read! I had never heard of the historical facts behind the premise and found it both fascinating and heartbreaking. I read a solid amount of World War II-set historical fiction, but this was new territory for much. Surviving in the forest like this required so much strength and resiliency, and I am just in awe of these people.

I liked Yona a lot and seeing her grow from a child to a woman—and how her thoughts evolved—was engrossing to read. I loved how she left her comfort zone behind to help others—she knew it was the right thing to do, even though she’d never been taught that. Proof that people are inherently good (which I tend to forget). Loved this read!

Kristin Harmel is a bestselling author. The Forest of Vanishing Stars is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Widows of Champagne, by Renee Ryan

Image belongs to Harlequin/Love Inspired.

Champagne, 1939

Gabrielle Leblanc Dupree is taking her family’s future into her hands. While she should be preparing for a lavish party to celebrate two centuries of champagne making, she secretly hides Chateau Fouché-Leblanc’s most precious vintages behind a fake wall in the cellar in preparation for the looming war. But when she joins the resistance, the coveted champagne isn’t the most dangerous secret her cellar must conceal…

A former Parisian socialite, Gabrielle’s mother, Hélène, lost her husband to another war. Now her home has been requisitioned by the Germans, who pillage vineyards to satisfy the Third Reich’s thirst for the finest champagne. There’s even more at stake than Hélène dares admit. She has kept her heritage a secret…and no one is safe in Nazi-occupied France.

Josephine, the family matriarch, watches as her beloved vineyard faces its most difficult harvest yet. As her daughter-in-law and granddaughters contend with the enemies and unexpected allies in their midst, Josephine’s deep faith leads to her own path of resistance.

Across years and continents, the Leblanc women will draw on their courage and wits, determined against all odds to preserve their lives, their freedom and their legacy…

This was an incredible read! It wasn’t in the least what I expected, but it was so good. I will say that Hélène wasn’t my favorite character, but it was due more to her reserved and secretive personality than anything, as she was incredibly determined to protect her family. I didn’t care for the youngest daughter at all, but Gabrielle was a great character and I enjoyed her journey so, so much!

Renee Ryan grew up in Florida. The Widows of Champagne is her newest novel.

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