Review: The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

The Last Year of the WarThe Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

If you are looking to have your soul crushed in a beautiful way anytime soon, pick this book up!

In 1943, when Elise Sontag is just 14-years old, her Father is arrested under suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer.

A neighborhood boy, in their small Iowa town, claimed that Mr. Sontag told him he was ‘making a bomb’. A completely baseless accusation.

Sadly, that was all it took for the FBI to show up on the Sontag doorstep. The lives of the family would never be the same.

Ultimately, they, along with numerous other Japanese, German and Italian families were sent to an internment camp in rural-Texas, only taking with them what they could easily carry.

Their lives before nothing but a distant memory.

As a teen, Elise didn’t fully understand what was happening to them. She tries to take it one day at a time and just make the best of it. That’s a hard task for anyone, let alone a kid.

Early on, she meets a fellow internee, Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American girl from L.A., and the two become fast friends, bonding over their shared experience.

This story follows them through their time at the camp and beyond into adulthood. Told by an elderly Elise, I found this story heartbreaking.

Although this is purely a work of fiction, this situation did in fact happen to many, many families. That is a humbling thing to think about.

The strength of spirit it would take to overcome what the families in this story went through. I can’t even imagine. I really enjoy when historical fiction is able to bring the past to life in such a palpable and touching way.

It was overwhelming for me at times. Particularly the moments told by present day Elise, as she struggles with her pending memory loss and slide into the grips of Alzheimer’s. That hit very close to home for me and was hard to read.

I thought, as always, Meissner tackled each of the topics explored in here with care and grace. She has a beautiful storytelling ability and I was definitely swept away in Elise’s tale.

There were a few minor details that I wasn’t crazy about, some descriptions that I thought were a little odd, but overall, this was a wonderful book and I know a lot of people will enjoy it!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I apologize for taking so long to get to it and am kicking myself for not picking it up earlier!

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Review: Keeping Lucy by T. Greenwood

Keeping LucyKeeping Lucy by T. Greenwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

When Ginny Richardson’s second child, a girl named Lucy, is born with Down Syndrome, the baby is quickly whisked away from her. Not just to be placed in the NICU or given special care, literally taken away from her.

Her husband, Ab’s, wealthy family decides immediately the child would be best dealt with by shipping it away to a ‘special school’ never to be thought of, or discussed, again.

Unfortunately, Ginny’s in such a drug-induced state at the hospital, she doesn’t even realize what is happening until it’s too late.

With her baby gone, Ginny is forced to try to go forth like nothing ever happened, like there never was a baby.

For the next two years she goes on this way. In a deep state of depression, she feels like she is in a fog, with no idea of what to do to make her situation better.

When her best friend brings some newspaper articles to her attention that feature the ‘school’ at which Lucy has been committed, she cannot believe what she is seeing.

According to the journalist responsible for the expose, Willowridge is not a good place. It is as bad as can be with serious issues of neglect and even abuse; basically a hell on Earth.

Along with her friend, Marcia, Ginny decides to go see Lucy, to take her out for a visit, to judge for herself.

Once she sees the conditions of the school first hand, she knows there is no way she can ever bring Lucy back there.

What happens next is a road trip adventure spanning from Western Massachusetts all the way to Florida, with her best friend, her young son and the daughter she doesn’t even know. At times touching, at times infuriating, this story dragged me in and wouldn’t let go.

Wonderfully told, this captivating historical fiction novel, will have you wanting justice for Baby Lucy. This was my first book by T. Greenwood and I was definitely impressed. I look forward to picking up more books from her.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I think this is an important story and I know a lot of readers will get so much from it. Well done.

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BLOG TOUR: New Release, The Widow of Pale Harbor by Hester Fox

The Widow of Pale HarborThe Widow of Pale Harbor by Hester Fox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**


A town gripped by fear.
A woman accused of witchcraft.
Who can save Pale Harbor from itself?


Welcome to Pale Harbor, Maine, 1846, where a young widow, Sophronia Carver, haunts the halls of her mansion by the sea. Her home, Castle Carver, goes unvisited by the locals as they believe Sophronia to be a witch suspected of killing her husband, magazine magnate, Nathaniel Carver.

Shunned and mistreated by those in town, Sophronia shuts herself off from the rest of society. Having inherited her husband’s magazine upon his death, she spends her days reading submissions, drinking tea and taking short walks on the cliffs of her property.

Sophronia’s only company, her loyal domestic staff made up of one lady’s maid, a serving girl and a groundskeeper. Her maid, Helen, is more than just a maid however, she is a trusted companion who takes her task of caring for Sophronia quite seriously.

When a new transcendentalist minister, Gabriel Stone, a widower himself, arrives in the sleepy town, he takes an interest in the case of the secluded woman. After visiting with her, he finds her to be quite charming and quickly becomes smitten.

Soon dark events push the two of them further together and things really begin to take off. Someone is out to get Sophronia, leaving cryptic messages and dead things for her to find.

The clues all relate to different poems and stories by Edgar Allen Poe. When the cryptic messages turn to murder and Sophronia is a suspect, she and Gabriel team up to investigate the crimes on their own.

With equal parts Mystery and Romance, this Historical Fiction novel is steeped in the gothic atmosphere that I love. Set on the rocky coast of Maine, this is a perfect book to pick up during this most wonderful season of the year, AUTUMN.

I really enjoyed Sophronia as a character. She was not dealt an easy hand but took all that was thrown at her with a grace that truly set her apart from those around her. She was sweet and caring and although misunderstood and mistreated by the townsfolk, she never became jaded or vengeful.

Gabriel, as well, was a great. Although a bit mysterious, and perhaps not exactly what he was purporting to be, he was strong and caring. I loved watching him and Sophronia learn to confide in each other and trust one another. They both really needed someone on their side and as a duo, they paired quite nicely.

As the pace is picking up, we also have an old friend of Gabriel’s arrive for a visit, Tom. He was fantastic. He brought a flirty good humor to the story that was much needed at that point as the action was getting dark. Gabriel and Tom had such a strong friendship, it was great to see that on page between two grown men. Very well done indeed.

I also appreciated the complex relationship between Sophronia and Helen. I don’t want to get into this too much as it could be a bit of a spoiler but let’s just say that, in truth, it was not the most healthy of relationship. Dedicated, to be sure, but also quite codependent. Helen was great to read. She is surrounded in mystery and quite creepy. She definitely adds a lot to the story!

Overall, I adored this book. While it did start out a little slow, once it picked up the pace was incredible. I always appreciate a slow burn and this one would certainly fall into that category. I would have enjoyed a bit more atmosphere, particularly surrounding Castle Carver itself, but that is definitely a personal taste issue and no reflection on the actual story.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Graydon House Books, for providing me with an early copy of this book to read and review. This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not disappoint.

In my opinion, Hester Fox is an absolute blessing and this book helped cement her status as an auto-buy author for me. I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next!!!

This lovely gothic tale releases tomorrow, Tuesday, September 17, 2019. Don’t miss out, be sure to pick up a copy to add to your Spooktober TBR. You won’t regret it!

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Review: Blood & Sand by C.V. Wyk

Blood and Sand (Blood and Sand, #1)Blood and Sand by C.V. Wyk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

HOLY UNDERRATED BOOK!!

This one took me by surprise.
Gender flipped Spartacus retelling?
I am so here for that!

When Attia, a warrior princess who has lost all of her people to slaughter by the Romans, finds herself handed over as a gift to a champion gladiator, all she can think of is escape. Escape and revenge.

Trained from a young age to fight in hand-to-hand combat, Attia is a force to be reckoned with from the very first pages.

This girl is badass and not afraid to show it. Navigating her captivity, Attia begins to feel out who she can consider an ally and who is an enemy.

Xanthus, the man to whom Attia is gifted, is a prized Gladiator. Known as the best of his kin, he ruthlessly slays down all who come before him. Things are often not as they appear however and overtime you learn Xanthus may not be as ruthless as they would have you believe.

As is often the case, it turns out the rock of a man has a heart of gold, and that’s just how I like them.

Attia and Xanthus become attached to one another in a deep and meaningful way over an admittedly short amount of time. Did I care? No.

If you loathe an instalove trope, you may have some issue with this. Honestly though, the way this is told, you may be too busy dodging the blood and guts to even care.

Ancient Rome was brutal, y’all, and I like that Wyk doesn’t shy away from that. Sure, this is a romance, but it is wrapped in a historical cloak that makes it so much more than that. I found the atmosphere of this vivid and visceral.

There were scenes set in Pompeii that made you feel like you were there. I mean, really the whole book made you feel that way, but I have always been intrigued by the volcano. Fascinating, right!?

Overall, I was really impressed with this. There is a bit of a cliffhanger ending that has left me chomping at the bit. Let’s hope the release happens in 2019!!!

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Review: Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Daughter of Moloka'i (Moloka'i, #2)Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One moment while I put the pieces of my heart back together…

Daughter of Moloka’i is a follow-up novel to Brennert’s 2004 Book Club sensation, Moloka’i. This is a sequel I never knew I needed, until I did.
After reading it, I cannot imagine not knowing the conclusion to Rachel’s story.

This book.
I have never cried so much while reading a book.
Ever.

It never let up. That may sound like a negative, but it was cathartic, man.

This story follows, Ruth, the girl that Rachel was forced to give up for adoption just hours after she was born. We start with Ruth’s life in a Home For Girls and follow her all the way through into her adulthood. Moving from Hawaii to California with her adoptive Japanese family, Ruth, lives through some challenging times, including her family’s incarceration in a Japanese Interment Camp following the events at Pearl Harbor.

As with other disgraceful pieces of history, this type of atrocious event is not one you find often in modern fiction. I knew these interment camps existed but reading about it from Ruth’s perspective was heart-wrenching. To consider the types of injustices that were suffered upon so many innocent people, it was hard. I applaud Brennert for his research efforts which were evident.

I was asked a while back if you had to read the first book in order to read this one. While I believe that you can read this as a stand-alone, your reading experience can only be enhanced by reading Moloka’i first. Add to this the fact that Moloka’i stands strong as one of the most beautiful books I have ever read, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

If you like sweeping historical fiction that explores what it means to live and the strength of family, both blood and found, this is a duology you do not want to miss. While it broke my heart a million times, I am grateful to have read it.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Also, thank you to Alan Brennert for writing such a remarkable story. I will be thinking about Rachel and Ruth for years to come.

Original:

I wanted this ARC sooooo much!

This is the companion novel to Alan Brennert’s 2004 novel, Moloka’i which follows Rachel Kalama, a young Hawaiian girl who is separated from her family and sent to live in a leprosy colony.

This novel follows Rachel’s daughter, Ruth, who as a baby was taken from her care.

Mokoka’i is one of the most beautiful and moving historical fiction novels I have EVER read and I am absolutely beside myself that we are getting a second book in this ‘world’. If it is anything like this first one, I am in for a very special treat! Yayeeeeeeee!!!!

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Review: The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

The Lost Girls of ParisThe Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Vivid.
Inspirational.
Poignant.

I had zero issues with this book.
I was sucked in from the very beginning and that feeling never let up.

Following three perspectives, this historical fiction novel weaves together a beautifully intricate story of women who worked in special ops for the UK during WWII.

Following the development of the SOE’s Women’s Unit, we follow the founder and head of that unit, Eleanor, along with one of the women recruited to go undercover in Paris, Marie Roux.

The third perspective, Grace, is a young woman living in NYC in 1946. After a night she would just as soon forget, Grace discovers an abandoned suitcase in Grand Central Station. Unable to quash her curiosity, she opens the case and discovers photographs of young women. Who are these women? Who does the case belong to? Why was it abandoned here?

Grace begins to investigate the mysterious photographs and discovers so much more than she bargained for.

Loosely based on true events, this story brings history to life. Although this is fiction, it made me think about and appreciate what these women, and others like them, went through and sacrificed (spoiler alert: EVERYTHING) for their country and what they believed was right. Despite the fact that this is a heartbreaking story, it is also an inspirational story and I hope other people draw from it what I did.

Jenoff did such a great job telling this story and I think, again, although the women in this story are fictional, she did a great service to the ACTUAL women of the SOE, and their memory, by bringing their existence into the light. I hope they turn this into a film. I think it could translate to that medium really well and it could help to bring this story to a wider population.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Park Row Books, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and am absolutely in love with this book. I can’t wait for more readers to get their hands on it so we can discuss!

Prediction: This will win Goodreads Choice Award 2019 for Best Historical Fiction. I know it’s early but it WILL get my vote!

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Review: The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox

The Witch of Willow HallThe Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Forced to flee Boston in the wake of scandalous rumors, the Montrose Family, moves into their summer estate, Willow Hall, in New Oldbury, Massachusetts. The three sisters – Catherine, Lydia & Emeline – take the move as well as can be expected and before too long are settling into their new life with only minor complaints.

The setting and language of this novel are absolutely beautiful. I was surprised to learn this is a debut as the writing seems so experienced. I loved the gothic vibes that extend throughout the story. There is always an underlining feeling of menace just under the surface. In regards to witchcraft, it is subtle in nature, and I felt very well portrayed. It is by no means the bulk of the story but hints of it are sprinkled throughout with it becoming a more prominent feature in the second half.

The interactions between the sisters, particularly Catherine and Lydia, reminded me so much of Downton Abbey with Mary and Edith. It is not a warm and fuzzy sisterly relationship by any means and in fact, their constant battling provides most of the drama in the book.

There is also quite a bit of romance. I am so exhausted by the courtship patterns of this time period. I just cannot even imagine dealing with all that formality. No one ever seems to say what they feel. GAHHHHHHH. Honestly, it’s a wonder anyone ended up with the person they wanted to be with!

Overall, I was very impressed with the book. It was a pleasure to read. All the drama, the overarching feeling of suspense, the subtle supernatural undertones, the hauntings, the domestic drama – soooo fun!

I did take off a half a star just because there were moments where I felt the drama was repetitive and could have been shortened up a bit but that is very slight and 100% my opinion. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction, especially if you enjoy things with a gothic atmosphere.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Graydon House Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I very much appreciate the opportunity and and am kicking myself for not having picked this up in October as I had originally planned. I cannot wait to see what Ms. Fox comes up with next!

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Review: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

The WonderThe Wonder by Emma Donoghue
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Last night I was discussing Emma Donoghue books with a friend. She had just finished Room and mentioned that although she liked the writing, she had to push herself to get through it. I mentioned that I had only read one of her books, The Wonder. I looked it up on Goodreads, as having finished it in March of this year, I couldn’t recall what I had given it for a star rating and discovered I had not written a review yet!

Since one of my 2018 book goals was to review every book I read, I am here to report a few of my thoughts on this one. The Wonder follows an English nurse, Lib, sent to a rural village in Ireland in the late 1850s to investigate a young girl reported to be living for months without intaking any food. Her family claims she is a living miracle, tourists are flocking to the village to witness this and journalists are covering the case. Lib, highly skeptical from the very beginning works closely with the girl, making sure she is never out from under supervision. What sort of fraud is this? Or is it indeed a miracle?

Some of the writing regarding the Irish people and village was a little off putting but I kept reminding myself this was from the perspective of this nurse, traveling to this location from London, in the 1850s and was probably an accurate portrayal of the ideas/prejudices that someone in her position may have had at this time. I don’t want to say too much more about this aspect of the story, it was just something that annoyed me a wee bit whilst reading.

Overall, I felt this was a compelling and enjoyable read. I would have preferred a bit more mystery and a little faster pace but I did definitely enjoy unraveling this tale.

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Review: As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

As Bright as Heaven truly impressed me as a work of historical fiction. I loved the format of the book, following three sisters and their mother in the early 1920s, the chapters cycle through each woman’s perspective. Due to this, the book also felt very pertinent as a piece of women’s literature. All of the ladies involved in this book were dealing with issues involving what society expected of them based on their gender – one very interesting aspect of this, is that they were all at different stages in their lives so you really got a feel for issues that arise during all points of a woman’s life.

I was moved by this book – I found it to be an excellent examination of not just women’s lives and issues but also mortality and choices. The book focuses a lot on the choices we make, how they influence the path, or stories, of our lives. Additionally, there was a strong focus on how our choices can also have great repercussions for the lives of those around us. There were some deep and moving passages in this book; passages that gave me pause to reflect on the words and how they hold true even in my life.

I loved the setting of the book and the time – the Spanish flu is not an event I have really heard much about and I love history and reading non-fiction books. This story really brings to light how devastating this flu was around the world and I am definitely interested in learning more history about this event.

I would recommend this book to any of the women in my life but I also think men could really enjoy this beautifully told story – I wouldn’t want to leave them out! Well done to Ms. Meissner! Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy to review. I appreciate the opportunity to experience this gorgeous story and share my thoughts on it.

Status Update: The Darkling Bride

Hello book friends!  I just wanted to give a quick status update on my progress through The Darkling Bride by Laura Andersen.  As I may have mentioned in a earlier post, I received an Advanced Readers Copy (ARC) of this book from the publisher, Ballantine Books, in exchange for an honest review which has an expected publication date of April 2018.

I am currently just over 60% through this book.  I am loving it!  Originally, I went into the book thinking, historical fiction, but I have discovered it is really so much more than that.  The book does weave a bit of historical fiction into what is actually more of a modern day murder mystery.  The main storyline takes place in a very old (and possibly haunted) castle in the County Wicklow.  Our protagonist, Carragh, is an archivist sent to the castle to archive their extensive historical library.  There she finds not just books but mystery, suspense, gothic settings, a potential love match, long guarded family secrets and an unsolved murder that sees its investigation rekindled.

There is so much to love about this book and I am hoping that many, many readers get to enjoy it as much as I am once it is published in the Spring!