Showing posts with label Adult Historical Fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adult Historical Fiction. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Book Review: Hotel Laguna by Nicola Harrison


 
Pages: 288
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: June 20, 2023
Publisher: St. Martin's
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Montauk
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 



Goodreads says, "In 1942, Hazel Francis left Wichita, Kansas for California, determined to do her part for the war effort. At Douglas Aircraft, she became one of many “Rosie the Riveters,” helping construct bombers for the U. S. military. But now the war is over, men have returned to their factory jobs, and women like Hazel have been dismissed, expected to return home to become wives and mothers. Unwilling to be forced into a traditional woman’s role in the Midwest, Hazel remains on the west coast, and finds herself in the bohemian town of Laguna Beach. Desperate for work, she accepts a job as an assistant to famous artist Hanson Radcliff. Beloved by the locals for his contributions to the art scene and respected by the critics, Radcliff lives under the shadow of a decades old scandal that haunts him. Working hard to stay on her cantankerous employer’s good side, Hazel becomes a valued member of the community. She never expected to fall in love with the rhythms of life in Laguna, nor did she expect to find a kindred spirit in Jimmy, the hotel bartender whose friendship promises something more. But Hazel still wants to work with airplanes—maybe even learn to fly one someday. Torn between pursuing her dream and the dream life she has been granted, she is unsure if giving herself over to Laguna is what her heart truly wants."

 

Hazel Francis left her small town behind for California during WWII. She worked at Douglas Aircraft building aircraft for the military, but now that the war is over, so is her job. She is expected to return home. But what about all the women that did not want to return home to the status quo and wanted more for themselves? Well, Hazel is faced with that very problem as she doesn't want to return home, and happens upon Laguna Beach when looking for a new job. Laguna seems so promising with its artistic and boho vibe. Eventually, she does land a job as an assistant to Laguna's most successful artist, Hanson Radcliff. Hanson is mysterious and moody, but locally adored, so naturally Hazel finds him intriguing. As more time passes, Hazel becomes a member of Laguna's community, she finds a possible romance in Jimmy, a bartender, and perhaps her place in a post-WWII war. Nicola Harrison's Hotel Laguna is a solid historical read that highlights the struggles women experienced during this transitional time in America's history.

Hazel is a character you have to respect in
Hotel Laguna. She stepped up to the plate during the war and built aircraft for the military and contributed to such an important cause. However, once the war was over, Hazel, like many American women, was dropped and just expected to return home to their former lives. While I am sure many women did happily, others wanted something else for themselves. Hotel Laguna highlights this struggle through Hazel's experiences post-war. I can't say I've read a book that details how difficult it was for women during the time, so this was a new concept for me and one that I appreciated wholeheartedly. I enjoyed her journey to finding something more for herself, a place in a new community, a possible love, and an unlikely friendship with her boss, Hanson. 

The real star of the show in
Hotel Laguna is Laguna Beach itself. Harrison did a wonderful job bringing it to life. The art show, the artistic community, the bohemian vibe, and the beautiful landscapes were done so well; it made me want to visit one day. If you love a memorable setting in your historical beach reads, look no further.

While
Hotel Laguna wasn't a stand-out historical beach read, I still enjoyed Hazel's story and how it highlighted postwar America. It was a quick read (less than 300 pages), so it would be perfect for a long weekend at the beach.

Are you a fan of Nicola Harrison? Is
Hotel Laguna on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Blog Tour: The Last Lifeboat


 

I have been a fan of Hazel Gaynor for years, ever since I read The Last Christmas in Paris, so I am excited to be a part of Berkley's blog tour for her latest novel, The Last Lifeboat. I love curling up with a good historical novel in the summer, so I definitely have this book on my summer TBR list. It's based on real WWII event and is perfect for fans of Kristin Hannah and Martha Hall Kelly. I am a sucker when it comes to novels based on real-life events, so I can't wait to read this one. The Last Lifeboat comes out today, so keep your eye out for it!



Learn More About the Book:

 

Goodreads says, "In 1940, England is under siege by the Nazis. With men gone off to war, women, children, and the elderly are plagued by daily bombings and constant fear for their lives. Lily Nichols, a single mother living in London, believes that anywhere must be safer than here for her two young children. She applies for a risky evacuation program that would send her son and daughter overseas to Canada, following a long journey at sea. 
Alice King, a shy and quiet librarian, can’t stand sitting still amidst the wartime suffering that surrounds her. To play her part in the war effort, Alice volunteers to serve as a chaperone who will sail overseas, accompanying children to safety abroad. 
When a Nazi U-boat torpedoes the ship with Lily’s children on board, a single lifeboat is left adrift in the storm-tossed Atlantic… and Alice becomes one mother’s only hope for her children’s survival. The story follows Alice’s harrowing eight days at sea, and Lily’s fight at home for her children to make it back to England alive."

 

You can purchase your own copy of The Last Lifeboat at Bookshop, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and Amazon. You can learn more about Hazel Gaynor by visiting her website and connecting with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

So, are you a fan of Hazel Gaynor? Is The Last Lifeboat on your summer TBR list? Let me know in the comments below.  

 

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Book Review: The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry


 
Pages: 368
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: May 2, 2023
Publisher: Atria
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Surviving Savannah
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
 
 
Goodreads says, "When a woman discovers a rare book that has connections to her past, long-held secrets about her missing sister and their childhood spent in the English countryside during World War II are revealed. In the war-torn London of 1939, fourteen-year-old Hazel and five-year-old Flora are evacuated to a rural village to escape the horrors of the Second World War. Living with the kind Bridie Aberdeen and her teenage son, Harry, in a charming stone cottage along the River Thames, Hazel fills their days with walks and games to distract her young sister, including one that she creates for her sister and her sister alone—a fairy tale about a magical land, a secret place they can escape to that is all their own. But the unthinkable happens when young Flora suddenly vanishes while playing near the banks of the river. Shattered, Hazel blames herself for her sister’s disappearance, and she carries that guilt into adulthood as a private burden she feels she deserves. Twenty years later, Hazel is in London, ready to move on from her job at a cozy rare bookstore to a career at Sotheby’s. With a charming boyfriend and her elegantly timeworn Bloomsbury flat, Hazel’s future seems determined. But her tidy life is turned upside down when she unwraps a package containing an illustrated book called Whisperwood and the River of Stars . Hazel never told a soul about the imaginary world she created just for Flora. Could this book hold the secrets to Flora’s disappearance? Could it be a sign that her beloved sister is still alive after all these years? As Hazel embarks on a feverish quest, revisiting long-dormant relationships and bravely opening wounds from her past, her career and future hang in the balance. An astonishing twist ultimately reveals the truth in this transporting and refreshingly original novel about the bond between sisters, the complications of conflicted love, and the enduring magic of storytelling."

 

It's 1960 and Hazel Linden is working at a bookstore when she comes across a novel entitled Whisperwood. It's the exact story she created and told her younger sister twenty years ago. This is more than a case of who stole Hazel's story, as this is a red flag and a major clue. Hazel's sister, Flora, disappeared twenty years ago; could she be the author of this story? Is she still alive? Hazel and Flora left war torn London for the British countryside during the Blitz and while there, Flora disappeared. All that remained was her teddy bear. Hazel should have been watching her as Flora was only five years old, but she snuck off for a few minutes with Harry, the boy whose house she is staying at in Oxford, and lost track of Flora. The police assumed she fell into the River Thames. Twenty years later, Hazel can't help but wonder if this book is a sign that she lived as no one else knew this story. Whisperwood was created as a way to comfort her sister, much like a well loved blanket. Hazel takes it upon herself to come up with a plan to figure out if Flora is still alive after all these years. Patti Callahan Henry's The Secret Book of Flora Lea is a magical historical novel filled with beautiful prose, a tale of sisterhood, and the power of stories.

Hazel is such an interesting character in
The Secret Book of Flora Lea. My heart broke for her and Flora when they had to leave their mother behind for an unknown house in the countryside. I was aware of Operation Pied Piper during WWII, but Henry brought it to life in this story in a way that I hadn't really thought about it before. It seemed so heart wrenching and to send your child away to an unknown location seems unfathomable. Once Hazel and Flora reach Birdie's house in Oxford, it seems idyllic, but so much goes wrong. Hazel, being a teenager, has feelings for Birdie's son, Harry, and this distracts her from watching Flora on that fateful day she disappears. While living in an unknown house, they share the made-up tales of Whisperwood and that is why it's such a red flag when she comes across the book twenty years later. Hazel has never really forgiven herself for losing sight of Flora and her subsequent disappearance. I can only imagine how this haunts their mother as she sent them away with the best intentions.

The narrative jumps back to the 1960s with Hazel on the hunt for Flora years later due to the discovery of the Whisperwood novel. She goes on a bit of an adventure looking for Flora and in turn, is reunited with Birdie and Harry, whom she hasn't seen since Flora's disappearance. She unearths some other unsettling truths as well. 

Henry's prose is beautiful throughout
The Secret Book of Flora Lea. I loved all the magical/fairy tale undertones in the story and the power of storytelling in general. It felt like there was a magical undercurrent running throughout the tale and I really liked that aspect. Fans of historical fiction, as well as stories of sisterhood will enjoy this moving novel. 

Is
The Secret Book of Flora Lea on your summer TBR list? Are you a fan of Patti Callahan Henry? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Mini Reviews: WWII Edition


 

If you love historical fiction, you won't be let down by these two historical novels that take place during WWII, which is one of my favorite time periods to read about. Both novels involve female spies and/or codebreakers, so it's always interesting when authors highlight strong women from the time period.

 

The Golden Doves by Martha Hall Kelly
Pages: 528
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 18, 2023
Publisher: Ballantine
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Lilac Girls
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
 
 
Goodreads says, "Two former female spies, bound together by their past, risk everything to hunt down an infamous Nazi doctor in the aftermath of World War II—an extraordinary novel inspired by true events from the New York Times bestselling author of Lilac Girls. American Josie Anderson and Parisian Arlette LaRue are thrilled to be working in the French resistance, stealing so many Nazi secrets that they become known as the Golden Doves, renowned across France and hunted by the Gestapo. Their courage will cost them everything. When they are finally arrested and taken to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, along with their loved ones, a reclusive Nazi doctor does unspeakable things to Josie’s mother, a celebrated Jewish singer who joined her daughter in Paris when the world seemed bright. And Arlette’s son is stolen from her, never to be seen again. A decade later the Doves fall headlong into a dangerous dual mission: Josie is working for U.S. Army intelligence and accepts an assignment to hunt down the infamous doctor, while a mysterious man tells Arlette he may have found her son. The Golden Doves embark on a quest across Europe and ultimately to French Guiana, discovering a web of terrible secrets, and must put themselves in grave danger to finally secure justice and protect the ones they love. Martha Hall Kelly has garnered acclaim for her stunning combination of empathy and research into the stories of women throughout history and for exploring the terrors of Ravensbrück. With The Golden Doves, she has crafted an unforgettable story about the fates of Nazi fugitives in the wake of World War II—and the unsung females spies who risked it all to bring them to justice."

 

Former resistance fighter, Josie Anderson, should be starting her life over now that WWII is over, but she finds herself working undercover at Fort Bliss, Texas. She has been offered the job of tracking down Nazi physician, Dr. Snow, who experimented on people at Ravensbruck concentration camp. This is very personal for Josie as Dr. Snow "worked" on Josie's mother. Then there's Arlette, a former resistance fighter who partnered with Josie, who had her son taken from her during the war. She hopes to be reunited and heard that there is an orphanage in French Guiana for children that were separated from their parents during the war. After so many years apart, she gets a tip that her son might be there, but once she arrives at the orphanage, things aren't as they seem and something sinister lurks in the shadows. Martha Hall Kelly's The Golden Doves is another historical home run, but it is very heavy at times, so readers should be in the right frame of mind before they pick it up.

One thing I can count on Kelly for is a well-researched historical novel. I always learn something when I read her novels and they always really move me. Whether I am experiencing anger at the atrocities committed during WWII, extreme sadness for the victims, or both, Kelly always packs an emotional punch. Readers that enjoy stories based on real-life events, as well as female spies, will especially enjoy this one. I know I was personally blown away by learning the details surrounding Operation Paperclip as well as the Catholic involvement in transporting Nazis to South America. My mind was blown! And even though it was tough to read at times, isn't that the point of a good historical novel? I am glad that Kelly took the time to shed light on some details of the war that often get forgotten.



The Codebreaker's Secret by Sara Ackerman
Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: August 2, 2022
Publisher: MIRA
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers,
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 
 
 
 
Goodreads says, "A brilliant female codebreaker. An “unbreakable” Japanese naval code. A pilot on a top-secret mission that could change the course of WWII. The Codebreaker's Secret is a dazzling story of love and intrigue set during America’s darkest hour. 1943. As war in the Pacific rages on, Isabel Cooper and her codebreaker colleagues huddle in “the dungeon” at Station HYPO in Pearl Harbor, deciphering secrets plucked from the airwaves in a race to bring down the enemy. Isabel has only one wish: to avenge her brother’s death. But she soon finds life has other plans when she meets his best friend, a hotshot pilot with secrets of his own. 1965. Fledgling journalist Lu Freitas comes home to Hawai'i to cover the grand opening of the glamorous Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Rockefeller's newest and grandest project. When a high-profile guest goes missing, Lu forms an unlikely alliance with an intimidating veteran photographer to unravel the mystery. The two make a shocking discovery that stirs up memories and uncovers an explosive secret from the war days. A secret that only a codebreaker can crack."

 

 

It's 1943 and Isabel Cooper has enlisted in the Navy as a codebreaker. She initially enlisted, because her brother died at Pearl Harbor, and since then has been so good at breaking the Japanese naval codes, she is sent to the Big Island to work at the Dungeon, an underground facility, and she is the only woman. While there, she spends her time off learning more about her brother through his best friend, Matteo, hiking the island, exploring the lush landscape, surfing, and attending some parties with friends. The more time she spends with Matteo, a pilot, the more she can't deny her strong feelings for him, even though he has plans of his own. Told in an alternating storyline in 1965, journalist Lu, attends the opening of Mauna Kea Beach Resort to write an article for Sunset magazine. The two storylines slowly connect surrounding the disappearance of two women twenty-two years apart. Sara Ackerman's The Codebreaker's Secret is a wonderful historical novel that brought Hawaii to life and gave readers an inside glimpse into codebreaking during the war in the Pacific.


I really enjoyed the character of Isabel right from the start. I found her storyline to be a little bit more intriguing than Lu's, but once the stories started to intersect more, mainly with the disappearance of two women, I was intrigued. One thing Ackerman does so very well is bring Hawaii to life. I felt like I was there - the atmosphere and imagery were breathtaking at times despite the war raging in the background and the sinister undertones in 1965. It's another hit from Ackerman and I am not sure I'll ever tire of her WWII stories set in Hawaii.


So, are you a fan of WWII novels? Have you read Kelly or Ackerman's novels? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Friday, May 19, 2023

Book Review: The Audrey Hepburn Estate by Brenda Janowitz


 
Pages: 368
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 18, 2023
Publisher: Graydon House
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
 
 

 

Goodreads says, "When Emma Jansen discovers that the grand Long Island estate where she grew up is set to be demolished, she can't help but return for one last visit. After all, it was a place filled with firsts: learning to ride a bike, sneaking a glass of champagne, falling in love. But once Emma arrives at the storied mansion, she can't ignore the more complicated memories. Because that's not exactly where Emma grew up. Her mother and father worked for the family that owned the estate, and they lived over the garage like Audrey Hepburn's character in the film Sabrina. Emma never felt fully accepted, except by the family's grandson, Henry—a former love—and by the driver’s son, Leo—her best friend. As plans for the property are put into motion and the three are together for the first time in over a decade, Emma finds herself caught between two worlds and two loves. And when the house reveals a shattering secret about her own family, she’ll have to decide what kind of life she really wants for herself now and who she wants to be in it."

 

 

 



Emma Jansen has grown up on a beautiful Long Island estate, Rolling Hill, not because her parents own it, but because they work there. Her mother is a maid and her father is the butler. So, she has grown up adjacent to a wealthy lifestyle but is by no means wealthy. As the years go on, she befriends the owner of the estate's grandson, Henry, and the driver's son, Leo. She has such great childhood memories of running around the estate, exploring the rooms, swimming at the pool, barbecues for the 4th of July, and more. Except one memory haunts her of the cook, Fleur, who gets into a fight with the owner of the estate, Felix Van Der Wraak, and ends up falling to her death. Just she and Leo witnessed it and are still pretty unsure about what exactly happened. Many years later, she comes to find that Rolling Hill is dilapidated, and instead of being preserved, a developer, who happens to be Leo, wants to tear it down to build a development. This greatly upsets Emma as she has such wonderful memories there (or so she thinks!) and feels the estate should be restored. Throwing herself back into this world has her encountering Henry, who was her first love, and Leo, her former best friend; she is caught in the middle. Brenda Janowitz's The Audrey Hepburn Estate is a wonderful historical read that is a fresh take on Sabrina.

 

I really enjoyed Emma from the start of The Audrey Hepburn Estate. Janowitz really developed her character as readers get to know her from childhood at Rolling Hill up to the present day. Learning more about Emma's childhood at the estate filled in a lot of questions that I had about her and her experiences with Henry and Leo. She has a complicated relationship with her mother and slowly that is fleshed out and secrets are revealed. But The Audrey Hepburn Estate is about more than just family drama and an updated version of Sabrina, there's a lot of intrigue in it surrounding World War II and Nazis. Leo and Emma slowly learn what went on at Rolling Hill and they think there is more to it than they thought; perhaps Felix Van Der Wraak isn't just an art collector. As Emma discovers more about the estate's history, she, in turn, learns more about her family and herself.

 

Janowitz also gives readers some historical details about Audrey Hepburn's life which was very interesting; there's so much more to her than I initially thought. Also, I am a huge fan of Sabrina, so I really enjoyed this modern take on the tale. Readers who enjoy light historical reads will definitely want to throw The Audrey Hepburn Estate in their beach bag this summer.

 

Are you a fan of Brenda Janowitz? Is The Audrey Hepburn Estate on your TBR list? Have you read it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Friday, May 12, 2023

Mini Reviews: Historical Fiction - New Releases

 

For me, there's nothing better than a historical beach read. Whether it's a coastal setting or really compelling characters from long ago, historical fiction can be the best companion for a lazy pool day or a summer vacation. Here's my thoughts on two new historical fiction releases that would be great to throw in your beach bag this summer.
 
 
Fifth Avenue Glamour Girl by Renee Rosen
Pages: 432
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 25, 2023
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: The Social Graces
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
 
 
Goodreads says, "It’s 1938, and a young woman selling face cream out of a New York City beauty parlor is determined to prove she can have it all. Her name is Estée Lauder, and she’s about to take the world by storm, in this dazzling new novel from the USA Today bestselling author of The Social Graces and Park Avenue Summer. In New York City, you can disappear into the crowd. At least that’s what Gloria Downing desperately hopes as she tries to reinvent herself after a devastating family scandal. She’s ready for a total life makeover and a friend she can lean on—and into her path walks a young, idealistic woman named Estée. Their chance encounter will change Gloria’s life forever. Estée dreams of success and becoming a household name like Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein, and Revlon. Before Gloria knows it, she is swept up in her new friend’s mission and while Estée rolls up her sleeves, Gloria begins to discover her own talents. After landing a job at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York’s finest luxury department store, Gloria finds her voice, which proves instrumental in opening doors for Estée’s insatiable ambitions. But in a world unaccustomed to women with power, they’ll each have to pay the price that comes with daring to live life on their own terms and refusing to back down."

 

It's the 1930s in New York City and Gloria is escaping her family's scandal and starting over. A former socialite, she really has no work experience, so takes a job as a shampoo girl at a local salon. While there, she meets Estee Lauder, a young woman selling her own beauty products out of local salons, but hopes to make a name for herself. Estee is constantly handing out samples, giving beauty advice, and hawking her products with the hopes they will end up in stores like Saks. Both women form an unlikely friendship and throughout the years keep many secrets about each other and from each other. After a lot of struggles, things start to go their way with Gloria as a shop girl at Saks and Estee is starting to revolutionize the beauty world. Renee Rosen's Fifth Avenue Glamour Girl is an interesting glimpse into Estee's beginnings and how both Gloria and Estee, two very different women, have a lot in common when it comes to reinventing themselves.

I really enjoyed both the characters of Gloria and Estee even though they did not always make the best decisions in Fifth Avenue Glamour Girl. It was also interesting to get the backstory on Estee's beginnings and how she climbed and clawed her way to the top. It most definitely wasn't instant success and there were a lot of obstacles in her way. I appreciated her determination and grit. Also, I liked her friendship with Gloria, even if it was tumultuous at times, and the secrets they both harbored I knew would eventually come out! If you enjoy smart historical fiction about real-life women, give Fifth Avenue Glamour Girl a try this summer.  



The Cuban Heiress by Chanel Cleeton
Pages: 336
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 11, 2023
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: The Last Train to Key West,
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
 
 
Goodreads says,  "In 1934, a luxury cruise becomes a fight for survival as two women’s pasts collide on a round-trip voyage from New York to Havana in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton's page-turning new novel inspired by the true story of the SS Morro Castle. New York heiress Catherine Dohan seemingly has it all. There’s only one problem. It’s a lie. As soon as the Morro Castle leaves port, Catherine’s past returns with a vengeance and threatens her life. Joining forces with a charismatic jewel thief, Catherine must discover who wants her dead—and why. Elena Palacio is a dead woman. Or so everyone thinks. After a devastating betrayal left her penniless and on the run, Elena’s journey on the Morro Castle is her last hope. Steeped in secrecy and a burning desire for revenge, her return to Havana is a chance to right the wrong that has been done to her—and her prey is on the ship. As danger swirls aboard the Morro Castle and their fates intertwine, Elena and Catherine must risk everything to see justice served once and for all."

 

 

 

It's the 1930s and Catherine Dohan, an heiress, is aboard the SS Morro Castle en route to Havana with her fiancé, Raymond. The luxury ship is beautiful, but things start to go south. Someone aboard the ship tries to kill Catherine and thankfully, she turns the gun on her killer. Meanwhile, another passenger, Harry, is watching this unfold and then helps her deal with the man. Catherine is hiding many secrets, so now she is worried who is out to get her? Is she being targeted and why? To complicate matters further, the more time she spends with Harry, the more she can't deny the mutual attraction; plus, Harry warns Catherine of Raymond. He isn't who he says he is! Also, on board is Elena, who hopes to be reunited with family in Havana. She has plans when the ship returns to New York City as many are wanting to escape Batista's government in Cuba. Chanel Cleeton's The Cuban Heiress has it all for a historical beach read. The setting of a cruise ship is perfect for summertime reading and the suspense had me flipping the pages.

I thought Cleeton did a great job bringing the SS Morro Castle to life. Upon its arrival in Havana, I wanted a mojito stat! Cleeton not only brought Cuba to life well, she also gave readers an interesting lesson in Cuban history. I did not know anything about the SS Morro Castle tragedy going into The Cuban Heiress, so I was really blown away by it. I always appreciate a story based on real-life events that often are forgotten. Lastly, I really enjoyed the secrets aboard the ship, the mystery surrounding Catherine, and the dangers that lurked around every corner. It was all very atmospheric! Fans of Cleeton won't be disappointed by this one.


So, are you a fan of Renee Rosen and/or Chanel Cleeton? Have you read these books? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Friday, April 21, 2023

Book Review: Homecoming by Kate Morton

Pages: 560
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 4, 2023
Publisher: Mariner
Source: Personal Copy
Other Books By Author: The Distant Hours,
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
 
 
Goodreads says, "Adelaide Hills, Christmas Eve, 1959: At the end of a scorching hot day, beside a creek on the grounds of the grand and mysterious mansion, a local delivery man makes a terrible discovery. A police investigation is called and the small town of Tambilla becomes embroiled in one of the most shocking and perplexing murder cases in the history of South Australia. Sixty years later, Jess is a journalist in search of a story. Having lived and worked in London for almost twenty years, she now finds herself laid off from her full-time job and struggling to make ends meet. A phone call out of nowhere summons her back to Sydney, where her beloved grandmother, Nora, who raised Jess when her mother could not, has suffered a fall and been raced to the hospital. Nora has always been a vibrant and strong presence: decisive, encouraging, young despite her years. When Jess visits her in the hospital, she is alarmed to find her grandmother frail and confused. It’s even more alarming to hear from Nora's housekeeper that Nora had been distracted in the weeks before her accident and had fallen on the steps to the attic—the one place Jess was forbidden from playing in when she was small. At loose ends in Nora's house, Jess does some digging of her own. In Nora's bedroom, she discovers a true crime book, chronicling the police investigation into a long-buried tragedy: the Turner Family Tragedy of Christmas Eve, 1959. It is only when Jess skims through the book that she finds a shocking connection between her own family and this once-infamous crime—a crime that has never been resolved satisfactorily. And for a journalist without a story, a cold case might be the best distraction she can find…An epic novel that spans generations, Homecoming asks what we would do for those we love, and how we protect the lies we tell. It explores the power of motherhood, the corrosive effects of tightly held secrets, and the healing nature of truth. Above all, it is a beguiling and immensely satisfying novel from one of the finest writers working today." 
 
 
Jess Turner-Bridges lives in England, far from Australia where she grew up. One day she receives an upsetting phone call to return home as her grandmother, Nora, who has fallen and is now in the hospital. Nora's next in kin is Jess, as she has raised her, so Jess has to return home immediately. She finds out her ninety year old grandmother was trying to get to the attic when she fell. Jess can't help but wonder what could she need up there? Once she sees Nora in the hospital she isn't herself and is mumbling about various things including "the pages." Jess is really curious about what is going on here as her grandmother has always been very lucid and coherent. Nora is clearly distressed, so Jess wants to get to the bottom of it. Things really change for Jess once she stumbles upon a book in Nora's library entitled As If They Were Asleep by Daniel Miller. It details the deaths of a family living in her neighborhood back in the 50s. Upon further examination, she realizes these deaths are tied to her own family! Jess knew nothing about this scandal and is determined to know more about her family's history. Kate Morton's Homecoming is an eerie tale filled with murder, mystery, family drama, and it oozes with atmosphere.

Jess is a character that I immediately cared about in Homecoming. I loved her quest to learn more about her family whether it was through stories, excerpts from the book she found, or talking to her estranged mother, Polly. There's a big mystery at play here and Morton double downs by incorporating flashbacks to 1950s Australia and to the scene of the "crime." Slowly we realize that Jess's family has some skeletons in the closet and the details come to the surface as Jess digs deeper and deeper.

Morton is a masterful storyteller and her dual timeline narratives were outstanding in Homecoming. Her writing was also on point; there were so many lines that really struck me as quite beautiful. My only issue was the pacing. At times it felt a tad bit slow compared to her other novels. However, I knew that I had to stick with it, because Morton always delivers.
 
If you are looking for a mystery with some Gothic vibes to curl up with this spring, Homecoming is it. Morton can do no wrong and always entertains. So, is Homecoming is on your spring TBR list or if you have read it already? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Blog Tour: Only the Beautiful


 

I read Susan Meissner's As Bright as Heaven a few years ago and absolutely adored it. I thought the novel was so powerful and moving as it focused on the 1918 flu pandemic in Philadelphia. Her latest novel, Only the Beautiful, I hear is just powerful and will tug on your heartstrings. It's a novel about WWII, a family saga, and a story of survival. 

I am part of the Berkley's blog tour today showcasing Only the Beautiful, which comes out today! Let me know if you add it to your spring TBR list. 



Learn More About the Novel:

 
Only the Beautiful by Susan Meissner
Pub. Date: April 18, 2023
 


Goodreads says, "California, 1938: Sixteen-year-old Rosanne is not like other girlsshe has synesthesia, which means that she can see colors when she hears sound. Rosanne has experienced this gift for as long as she can remember, and it makes her daily life more interesting. But she’s promised her mother that she will tell no one, for fear that others won’t understand. When Rosanne’s parents are killed in a car accident, she is sent to live with their employers, the owners of a vineyard. Her sadness becomes too much to bear, and Rosanne confides in the man who took her in, and they become closeto devastating consequence. It’s not long before Rosanne ends up pregnantand she is sent to a place where unspeakable things happen to her…Austria, 1947: The second world war has ended, but Helen Calvert’s grief has yet to abate. As a nanny to a special needs child, she has witnessed firsthand the horrors wrought by Adolf Hitlerand she is ready to return home to the United States, where she can leave the memories of war behind her. But when Helen arrives back in California, she is shocked to learn about what happened to Rosanne, the vinedresser’s young daughter who she knew before the warand how the tragedies she faced in Europe have reverberated back home…."

 

You can purchase your own copy of Only the Beautiful at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and Bookshop. You can learn more about Susan Meissner by visiting her website and connecting with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

So, are you a fan of Susan Meissner? Is Only the Beautiful on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Blog Tour: The Cuban Heiress


 

It should come as no surprise that I am excited to read Chanel Cleeton's latest novel, The Cuban Heiress, which just came out this week. I can always count on Cleeton to teach me something new about Cuba's history. Her books are filled with such interesting historical details and I have really come to enjoy them each spring.

 

Learn More About the Book Here:

 
The Cuban Heiress by Chanel Cleeton
Pub. Date: April 11, 2023



"In 1934, the ultimate vacation becomes a fight for survival as the secrets of two women’s pasts collide aboard a luxury cruise liner on a round-trip voyage from New York to Havana in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton's page-turning new novel inspired by the true story of the tragedy of the SS Morro Castle.New York heiress Catherine Dohan seemingly has it all. There’s only one problem. It’s a lie. As soon as the Morro Castle leaves port, Catherine’s past returns with a vengeance and threatens her life. Joining forces with a charismatic jewel thief, Catherine must discover who wants her dead—and why. Elena Palacio is a dead woman. Or so everyone thinks. After a devastating betrayal left her penniless and on the run, Elena’s journey on the Morro Castle is her last hope. Steeped in secrecy and a burning desire for revenge, her return to Havana is a chance to right the wrong that has been done to her—and her prey is on the ship. As danger swirls aboard the Morro Castle and their fates intertwine, Elena and Catherine must risk everything to see justice served once and for all."

 

You can purchase your own copy of The Cuban Heiress at Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, and Amazon. You can learn more about Chanel Cleeton by visiting her website and connecting with her on Facebook and Instagram

 

 

So, let me know what you think and if The Cuban Heiress is on your spring TBR list in the comments below.  

 

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Blog Tour: Her Lost Words


 

I absolutely love reading about literary legends like Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, and Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Did you know that Mary Shelley is the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft? It's always so interesting when I think about this connection. Today Her Lost Words by Stephanie Marie Thornton comes out and her novel focuses on these two amazing women and their bond. I look forward to reading it!


Learn More About the Book:

 


 

From A Vindication of the Rights of Woman to Frankenstein, a tale of two literary legends—a mother and daughter—discovering each other and finding themselves along the way, from USA Today bestselling author Stephanie Marie Thornton.1792. As a child, Mary Wollstonecraft longed to disappear during her father’s violent rages. Instead, she transforms herself into the radical author of the landmark volume A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, in which she dares to propose that women are equal to men. From conservative England to the blood-drenched streets of revolutionary France, Mary refuses to bow to society’s conventions and instead supports herself with her pen until an illicit love affair challenges her every belief about romance and marriage. When she gives birth to a daughter and is stricken with childbed fever, Mary fears it will be her many critics who recount her life’s extraordinary odyssey…1815. The daughter of infamous political philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft, passionate Mary Shelley learned to read by tracing the letters of her mother’s tombstone. As a young woman, she desperately misses her mother’s guidance, especially following her scandalous elopement with dashing poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Mary struggles to balance an ever-complicated marriage with motherhood while nursing twin hopes that she might write something of her own one day and also discover the truth of her mother’s unconventional life. Mary’s journey will unlock her mother’s secrets, all while leading to her own destiny as the groundbreaking author of Frankenstein. A riveting and inspiring novel about a firebrand feminist, her visionary daughter, and the many ways their words transformed our world."

 

You can purchase your own copy of Her Lost Words at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Bookshop, and Books-A Million.  You can learn more about Stephanie Marie Thornton by visiting her website and connecting with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter


So, what do you all think? Is Her Lost Words on your TBR list? Are you a fan of Stephanie Marie Thornton? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


Thursday, March 23, 2023

Book Review: Loyalty by Lisa Scottoline

Pages: 480
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: March 28, 2023
Publisher: G.P. Putnam
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Eternal
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 
 
 

Goodreads says, "Franco Fiorvante is a handsome lemon-grower who has toiled for years on the estate of boss Baron Zito. Franco dreams of owning his own lemon grove, but the rigid class system of Sicily thwarts his ambitions. Determined to secure a prosperous future, Franco will do anything to prove his loyalty to the Baron. But when Baron Zito asks him to arrange the kidnapping of a little boy, Franco crosses the point of no return, setting in motion the making of the world’s first Mafia family. Gaetano Catalano is an idealistic young lawyer, whose devotion for justice is a calling. Gaetano is a member of the Beati Paoli, a real-life secret society of aristocrats who investigate crime, since corruption riddles Palermo. Gaetano and the Beati Paoli set out to find the boy and bring him home, but for Gaetano, the mission turns to obsession. He risks everything to right the wrong and bring justice to his beloved city. The kidnapped boy, Dante, grows up in a madhouse without even knowing his last name. He doubts his own sanity until he meets Lucia, a girl with a tragic past of her own. They fall in love, then set out to find Dante’s kidnapper and learn his true identity."

 

 

 

Scottoline has put together quite the cast of characters in her latest historical novel. There's Dante, a young boy, who gets abducted during a festival. He is thrown into the Ospizio di Santa Teresa, a horrible asylum.  Local lawyer, Gaetano, employs a group of people to search for this poor boy; he wants justice. Meanwhile, there's a lemon farmer, Franco, who has many plans for himself. Currently, he works for Baron Zito, but wants a plot of his own land one day. He feels the only want to get ahead is to play the Baron's games and he is behind the kidnapping of Dante. He will do whatever it takes to get ahead and even organizes a crime group, which is, essentially, the origin of the mafia. Then there's Alfredo, a cheese maker, who is hiding a secret. There's Mafalda, who gives birth to an albino baby, and then is consequently shunned by her family and community. In order to save her daughter, Lucia, she must leave her family behind. Clearly, there are many subplots in Loyalty by Lisa Scottoline, but slowly she weaves the story together and brings all these unlikely characters together for quite the climax. Loyalty is perfect for fans of historical fiction who enjoy a dash of crime fiction in their historical tales.

To be honest with you, there were so many characters, I had a hard time keeping them straight in Loyalty. I really needed to write down their names and a small description, because I found myself going back to get reacquainted and getting confused as to who was the lawyer, which one was the cheese maker, etc. Once I got myself sorted, I was able to enjoy the plot a bit more. So be forewarned! I trusted Scottoline's process in that I knew she would tie these character's stories together and she definitely did by the climax.

Loyalty examines the birth of the mafia, so there's a lot of violence, crimes, and people seeking justice. There's also nice moments of community and friendship. The story was a bit sadder than I expected, but I found the Sicilian culture so interesting. Which leads me to the setting, which is my favorite aspect of the story. Scottoline spent some time on Sicily before writing the novel and it shows. She brought the food, the culture, the land, and the people to life so well. 

If you love a good sweeping saga with a beautiful setting mixed in with some crime fiction, you will loved to be lost in Scottoline's world. While I enjoyed Scottoline's Eternal a bit more, I was still entirely captivated by this tale. So, are you a fan of Scottoline? Do you plan on reading Loyalty? Let me know in the comments below. 


 

 

 
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