Review: BRINGING DOWN THE DUKE by Evie Dunmore

Review:  BRINGING DOWN THE DUKE by Evie DunmoreBringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore
four-stars
Series: A League of Extraordinary Women #1
Published by BERKLEY on September 3, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

 

BRINGING DOWN THE DUKE Review

 

Evie Dunmore’s debut novel Bringing Down the Duke is a wildly entertaining historical romance with a feminist twist.  Set in England during the late 19th century, it follows protagonist Annabelle Archer.  Annabelle is a brilliant young woman who has been accepted into the first class of female students to attend the prestigious University of Oxford.  Annabelle, the daughter of a country vicar, comes from a poor family, however, and can only afford to attend the university because she was awarded a scholarship.

To keep her scholarship, Annabelle must meet a few requirements, one of which being that she must play an active role in the up and coming women’s suffrage movement.  She begins attending meetings and learns that the primary strategy for the movement is to start recruiting men of influence who are willing to support their cause.  Annabelle is assigned perhaps the most challenging target of them all, Sebastian Devereux, the Duke of Montgomery. Sebastian is politically opposed to everything the suffragists are fighting for.  He also serves at the Queen’s command, and the Queen is also opposed to the suffrage movement.  Trying to change the Duke’s mind is a daunting task, but Annabelle thinks she is up for the challenge…as long as she can ignore the growing attraction she feels for him.

Annabelle is not the only one fighting this attraction, however.  As Annabelle spends more and more time with the Duke, he finds himself more and more interested in her as well.  The problem:  she is well below his social status and a relationship between them would be considered scandalous and could quite possibly cost him his legacy.

All’s fair in love and politics, but the question is which will win out in the end?  Can Annabelle get the Duke on her side?  Is the Duke willing to possibly give up everything to claim Annabelle as his love?

* * * *

I truly adored Bringing Down the Duke.  I loved the chemistry between the fiercely independent Annabelle and the stuffy Duke of Montgomery.  The evolution of their relationship not only felt authentic, it was also just flat out sexy!  It was fun watching the cold and calculating Duke thaw toward Annabelle as he got to know her better.

I also really liked that the story was presented from both of their perspectives.  I liked being in both of their heads as they’re trying to fight their mutual attraction. Seeing those internal struggles play out added so much depth to the story.

As much as I enjoyed the romantic angle of the story, I also very much enjoyed the exploration of 19th century England.  The author also does a brilliant job of capturing the social and political climate of that time as well as the opposition to suffrage movement.  The author does a very nice job of balancing the politics and the romance, which makes the story move along at a nice clip. I was able to finish it easily in two sittings because I was so invested in seeing what would happen between Annabelle and the Duke and if the suffragettes would get what they wanted.

All in all, I was completely delighted by Bringing Down the Duke and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about feminism and to fans of historical romances.  You won’t be disappointed!  For a little taste of what to expect, the publisher has very kindly provided an excerpt from Bringing Down the Duke, which I have posted below.

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

A stunning debut for author Evie Dunmore and her Oxford Rebels, in which a fiercely independent vicar’s daughter takes on a duke in a fiery love story that threatens to upend the British social order.

England, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women’s suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain’s politics at the Queen’s command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can’t deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for.

Sebastian is appalled to find a suffragist squad has infiltrated his ducal home, but the real threat is his impossible feelings for green-eyed beauty Annabelle. He is looking for a wife of equal standing to secure the legacy he has worked so hard to rebuild, not an outspoken commoner who could never be his duchess. But he wouldn’t be the greatest strategist of the Kingdom if he couldn’t claim this alluring bluestocking without the promise of a ring…or could he?

Locked in a battle with rising passion and a will matching her own, Annabelle will learn just what it takes to topple a duke….

 

EXCERPT:

 

It was a long walk past yards of empty table to reach her assigned chair. The footman pulled it back for her.

Montgomery was watching her with his neutral aristo expression. A diamond pin glinted equally impenetrable against the smooth black silk of his cravat.

“I trust it was not something in your room that had you rising this early?” he asked.

“The room is excellent, Your Grace. I simply don’t find it that early in the day.”

That sparked some interest in his eyes. “Indeed, it isn’t.”

Unlike her, he probably hadn’t had to be trained to rise before dawn. He probably enjoyed such a thing.

He hadn’t yet put his gloves on. His bare hands were resting idly on the polished table surface. Elegant hands, with long, elegant fingers. They could have belonged to a man who mastered a classical instrument. On his left pinky, the dark blue sapphire on the ducal signet ring swallowed the light like a tiny ocean

The footman leaned over her shoulder. “Would you like tea or coffee, miss?”

“Tea, please,” she said, mindful not to thank him, because one did not say thank you to staff in such a house. He proceeded to ask whether she wanted him to put a plate together for her, and because it would have been awkward to get up again right after sitting down, she said yes. In truth, she wasn’t hungry. The maid must have laced in her in more tightly than she was accustomed.

Montgomery appeared to have long finished eating. Next to his stack of newspapers was an empty cup. Just why had he ordered her to sit next to him? He had been immersed in his read. But she knew now that he was a dutiful man. Being polite was probably as much a duty to him as riding out into the cold to save a willful houseguest from herself. She would have to make a note on his profile sheet, very polite. As long as he didn’t mistake one for a social climbing tart, of course.

“You are one of Lady Tedbury’s political activists,” he said.

Her throat was instantly dry as dust.

“Yes, Your Grace.”

“Why?”

She could sense interest in him, genuine interest.

Cold sweat broke over her back. She had the ear of their greatest opponent, and the headache was jumbling her thoughts.

“I’m a woman,” she said. “It is only natural for me to believe in women’s rights.”

Montgomery gave a surprisingly Gallic, one-shouldered shrug. “Plenty of women don’t believe in this kind of women’s rights. And whether the 1870 Property Act is amended or not will not make a difference for you personally.”

There it was again, the arrogance. Of course he had guessed she didn’t have any property to lose to a husband, and thus no voting rights to forfeit. His arrogance was most annoying when it was right on the truth.

“I also believe in Aristotelian ethics,” she said, “and Aristotle says that there is greater value in striving for the common good than the individual good.”

“But women didn’t have the vote in the Greek democracies,” he said, a ghost of a smile hovering over his mouth. One could almost think he was enjoying this.

“They forgot to include women’s rights in the common good,” she muttered. “An easy mistake; it seems to be forgotten frequently.”

He nodded. “But then what do you make of the fact that men without property cannot vote, either?”

He was enjoying this. Like a tomcat enjoyed swatting at a mouse before he ate it.

Her temples were throbbing away in pain.

“Perhaps there should be more equality for the men as well, Your Grace.” That had been the wrong thing to say.

He slowly shook his head. “A socialist as well as a feminist. Do I need to worry about the corruption of my staff while you are here, Miss Archer? Will I have mutiny on my hands when I return from London tomorrow?”

“I wouldn’t dare,” she murmured. “There’s probably a dungeon under the house.”

He contemplated her with a hawklike gaze. “Oh, there is.”

four-stars

About Evie Dunmore

Debut author Evie Dunmore wrote BRINGING DOWN THE DUKE inspired by the magical scenery of Oxford and her passion for romance, women pioneers, and all things Victorian.

In her civilian life, she is a strategy consultant with a M.Sc. in Diplomacy from Oxford. Scotland and the great outdoors have a special place in her heart, so she can frequently be found climbing the Highlands and hunting for woolly tartan blanket bargains.

Evie lives in Europe and pours her fascination with 19th century Britain into her writing. She is a member of the British Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA).

Review: THE LADY ROGUE by Jenn Bennett

Review:  THE LADY ROGUE by Jenn BennettThe Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett
Also by this author: Starry Eyes
four-stars
Published by Simon Pulse on September 3, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE LADY ROGUE Review

 

I’ve been a fan of Jenn Bennett’s YA contemporary novels for a while now but had yet to try one of her fantasy series.  When I saw that her latest novel, The Lady Rogue, was a fantasy novel with a historical twist, set in Romania, I couldn’t resist requesting it.

Jenn Bennett is one of my favorite authors because she does such a great job of creating characters that I immediately fall in love with and she did not let me down when it came to the main characters of The Lady Rogue.  I adored teens Theodora (or Theo as she is called) and Huck from the moment I met them.  Theo is sassy, whip-smart, and is addicted to cryptology and crossword puzzles.  She is also incredibly annoyed with her father when we first meet her.  She’s angry because he has dumped her in Istanbul with a babysitter while he’s off on a treasure hunting expedition in the mountains of Turkey.  When the babysitter gets tired of Theo’s antic and bails, taking all of Theo’s traveler’s checks with her as severance pay, Theo changes her tune.  She is now stranded until her father finally returns from his expedition.

Where Theo is all sass and brains, Huck is more of a lovable goofball but with a heartbreaking past.  His parents died in a car accident when he was younger, and he ended up living with Theo and her dad.  He practically became part of their family, until something happened between him and Theo that made everything awkward and ended with Theo’s dad finally telling him to move out and to have no further contact with Theo.

When Huck shows up at Theo’s hotel to retrieve her instead of her father, and with her father’s journal in hand, Theo is shocked and just knows something terrible has happened. She hasn’t seen Huck in over a year and assumed her father hadn’t either based on how they parted ways.  Her father’s instruction to Huck were quite simple:  give the journal to Theo, keep her safe, and get her home.  Or else…

Chaos and adventure ensue when Theo wants no parts of going home and decides she needs to find her father no matter what.  Huck reluctantly agrees to disobey his orders and help Theo find him.  Their adventure takes them on the Orient Express to Romania because apparently Theo’s father’s misadventures involve a supposedly cursed ring that once belonged to the legendary Vlad the Impaler, or as we more famously know him, Dracula.  As Theo and Huck quickly learn, Theo’s dad is not the only one looking for the ring. Some unsavory characters are also in pursuit of it and seem to think Dad’s journal would be a valuable resource, so Theo and Huck find themselves in the middle of a dangerous game of cat and mouse.

The Lady Rogue is one of those books that has something for everyone.  If I was going to compare it to another novel, I’d say it has a Hunting Prince Dracula/Stalking Jack the Ripper vibe.  I loved the sense of adventure and suspense that Bennett builds as we follow Theo and Huck as they try to find Theo’s dad while evading their own pursuers.  I also thought Bennett did a beautiful job of capturing the Gothic feel of the Romanian villages and that creepy atmospheric vibe of knowing that’s Vlad the Impaler’s old stomping grounds.  In addition to the adventure and the mystery that surrounds the cursed ring and the disappearance of Theo’s father, I also really enjoyed the added tension from the personal storyline between Huck and Theo as they eventually have to talk about what happened the night when Huck was forced to move out.

Jenn Bennett continues to impress me with her writing and her storytelling abilities with The Lady Rogue.  If you enjoy reading fantasy and/or historical fiction that features lovable characters, magical or cursed objects, and an atmospheric Gothic-like setting, The Lady Rogue needs to go on your reading list.

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

The Last Magician meets A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue in this thrilling tale filled with magic and set in the mysterious Carpathian Mountains where a girl must hunt down Vlad the Impaler’s cursed ring in order to save her father.

Some legends never die…

Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it.

four-stars

About Jenn Bennett

Jenn Bennett is an award-winning author of young adult contemporary romance books, including: Alex, Approximately; The Anatomical Shape of a Heart; and Starry Eyes. She also writes romance and urban fantasy for adults (the Roaring Twenties and Arcadia Bell series). Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, won the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award, garnered two Reviewers’ Choice awards and a Seal of Excellence from RT Book Reviews, and been included on Publishers Weekly Best Books annual list. She lives near Atlanta with one husband and two dogs.

Review: ALL THE FLOWERS IN PARIS by Sarah Jio

Review:  ALL THE FLOWERS IN PARIS by Sarah JioAll The Flowers in Paris by Sarah Jio
four-stars
Published by Ballantine Books on August 13, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 240
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

 

ALL THE FLOWERS IN PARIS Review

 

Sarah Jio’s All the Flowers in Paris is a beautifully written and compelling story about family, love, survival, and the sacrifices people are willing to make for their loved ones.  Jio uses a dual timeline format to intertwine the lives of two women who each lived in the same apartment in Paris, albeit decades apart and under very different circumstances.

One timeline is set in 2009 and follows a woman named Caroline who has been in an accident and now has amnesia.  Once she is finally discharged, since no family have come to claim her, the hospital staff takes her to the apartment listed on her identification and there she slowly begins the process of piecing her life back together.  As she encounters people around the neighborhood who knew her and watches them gingerly skirt around her, Caroline realizes she must have been living a pretty sad and lonely existence.

To keep herself from dwelling on her amnesia, Caroline strikes up a friendship with the handsome chef at the restaurant she frequents.  But as their relationship blossoms, she starts to regain a few vague memories of a man and a young child but can’t figure out where they fit into her life.  Are they loved ones?  If so, where are they now?

The other timeline is set during 1943 at the height of WWII and follows a young widow named Celine who lives with her father and is raising her young daughter alone in Nazi-occupied Paris.  When a German officer takes an interest in Celine and she rebuffs him, he exposes her family’s Jewish heritage, forces their flower shop out of business, and then imprisons Celine’s father and tries to take her child from her as well.  He imprisons Celine in his apartment, but not before her daughter breaks free and sneaks in with her.  Celine now must not only fight for her own survival, but she must also hide her daughter right under the enemy’s nose in hopes that they’ll both be rescued.

One thing that really struck me while I was reading was that both Caroline’s and Celine’s storylines were compelling enough that they easily could have been standalone stories.  I enjoyed both characters immensely and was very invested in both Caroline’s plight to get her memory back and Celine’s plight to survive the Nazis and protect her family at all costs. My one complaint with the book was actually that I thought it took a little too long to actually have the storylines start moving toward one another.  They felt like standalones for a pretty big chunk of the book.  When the two timelines finally did fully intertwine, however, via a diary Caroline finds hidden in a closet in her apartment, the end result is so moving and so powerful that it had me shedding more than a few tears.

If you’re a fan of WWII historical fiction, stories set in Paris, and stories about family and the sacrifices people make for love, All the Flowers in Paris is the book for you!

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Two women are connected across time by the city of Paris, a mysterious journal, and shocking secrets, sweeping from World War II to the present–for readers of Sarah’s Key.

When Caroline wakes up in a Paris hospital with no memory of her past, she’s confused to learn that she’s lived a sad, reclusive life for years in a sprawling apartment on the Seine. Slowly regaining vague memories of a man and young child, she vows to piece her life back together–though she can’t help but feel she may be in danger. A budding friendship with the chef of a charming nearby restaurant takes her mind off of her foggy past, as does a startling mystery from decades prior…

In Nazi-occupied Paris, young widow Celine lives a quiet life with her father, the local florist, and her daughter, Cosi. When a ruthless German officer discovers the family’s Jewish ancestry, he blackmails Celine, forcing her to become his mistress in exchange for the others’ safety. The trio plans an escape, but their mission goes horribly awry and Celine’s beloved father and daughter are sent away to a cruel fate. Initially distraught, Celine fears the worst. Yet she soon discovers that Cosi has snuck away and followed her into captivity. More motivated than ever, Celine must now fight to hide and protect the person she loves most.

Parallel timelines intersect when Caroline discovers Celine’s diary tucked away in a closet, and it is revealed that the walls of her apartment harbor dark secrets. With the help of a local student from the Sorbonne, she realizes that she may have more in common with Celine than she could ever imagine.

four-stars

About Sarah Jio

Sarah Jio is the New York Times bestselling author of ALWAYS, published by Random House (Ballantine), as well as seven other novels from Penguin Books, including, THE VIOLETS OF MARCH, THE BUNGALOW, BLACKBERRY WINTER, THE LAST CAMELLIA, MORNING GLORY, GOODNIGHT JUNE, and THE LOOK OF LOVE. Sarah is also a journalist who has contributed to The New York Times, Glamour, O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, SELF, Real Simple, Fitness, Marie Claire, and many others. She has appeared as a commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition. Her novels are translated into more than 25 languages. Sarah lives in Seattle with her three young boys.

Review: THE LAST COLLECTION by Jeanne Mackin

Review:  THE LAST COLLECTION by Jeanne MackinThe Last Collection: A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel by Jeanne Mackin
four-stars
Published by Berkley Books on June 25, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

Today I am taking part in Berkley’s blog tour to promote Jeanne Mackin’s latest novel, The Last Collection.  I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share my thoughts on this wonderful book. Thanks so much to Lauren Horvath from Berkley for the invitation!

THE LAST COLLECTION Review

Jeanne Mackin’s The Last Collection is a fascinating historical fiction novel that explores the fierce rivalry between iconic fashion designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel.  Set in Paris in the years leading up to World War II, The Last Collection drew me in right away with its lush descriptions of Paris and of the glamorous haute couture designs that Paris’ most well known ladies were wearing.  I’m not even that big into fashion but the author so vividly describes the fashion scene in 1930s Paris that I felt like I had truly been transported there.

While the Paris setting is a huge draw, what really makes this such a captivating read is the rivalry between Schiaparelli and Chanel.  Mackin does a wonderful job of portraying just how fierce this legendary rivalry really was, especially their attitude that Paris wasn’t big enough for both of them.  Rather than be happy for each other’s success, Schiaparelli and Chanel truly hated one another and they each went out of their way to try to tear the other down.  Just reading about the little things they would do to get under each other’s skin made this such an engrossing and entertaining read.  Whether it was sending spies over to each other’s studios or throwing around downright catty insults about each other’s designs, both Schiaparelli and Chanel took great delight in keeping each other riled up.

In The Last Collection, this rivalry extends to Lily Sutter, a young American woman staying in Paris, who both designers end up befriending.  The story is actually told from Lily’s perspective and it’s so fascinating to watch this rivalry play out through her eyes as she basically becomes a pawn in their game.  Each designer wants to dress her in their garments but then send her over to the rival studio just to rub it in that she’s not wearing their clothing, etc.

Schiaparelli and Chanel were both strong, talented and successful business women, but that’s pretty much where the resemblance between them ended.  They were polar opposites in many ways.  When it came to fashion, Schiaparelli favors bright colors and whimsical designs, while Chanel favored classic and elegant designs.  And when it came to politics, Schiaparelli was known to sympathize with Communists, while Chanel was known to associate with Nazis.

The politics were also a huge area of interest for me while I was reading The Last Collection. Mackin does a beautiful job weaving the politics of the day, including the rise of Hitler and the start of WWII, into her story and showing how these things impacted Paris, the fashion industry, as well as Schiaparelli and Chanel personally.  I loved the added depth the politics lent to the story.

The Last Collection is an engaging read that I’d highly recommend to those who love couture and to readers who enjoy WWII historical fiction.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

An American woman becomes entangled in the intense rivalry between iconic fashion designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli in this captivating novel from the acclaimed author of The Beautiful American.

Paris, 1938. Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli are fighting for recognition as the most successful and influential fashion designer in France, and their rivalry is already legendary. They oppose each other at every turn, in both their politics and their designs: Chanel’s are classic, elegant, and practical; Schiaparelli’s bold, experimental, and surreal.

When Lily Sutter, a recently widowed young American teacher, visits her brother, Charlie, in Paris, he insists on buying her a couture dress–a Chanel. Lily, however, prefers a Schiaparelli. Charlie’s beautiful and socially prominent girlfriend soon begins wearing Schiaparelli’s designs as well, and much of Paris follows in her footsteps.

Schiaparelli offers budding artist Lily a job at her store, and Lily finds herself increasingly involved with Schiaparelli and Chanel’s personal war. Their fierce competition reaches new and dangerous heights as the Nazis and the looming threat of World War II bear down on Paris.

four-stars

About Jeanne Mackin

Jeanne Mackin is the author of The Beautiful American and A Lady of Good Family. In addition to several other novels as well as short fiction and creative nonfiction, she is the author of the Cornell Book of Herbs and Edible Flowers and co-editor of The Norton Book of Love. She lives with her husband in upstate New York.

Review: MRS. EVERYTHING by Jennifer Weiner

Review:  MRS. EVERYTHING by Jennifer WeinerMrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
Also by this author: Big Summer
four-half-stars
Published by Atria Books on June 11, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 480
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

MRS. EVERYTHING Review

I’ve always considered Jennifer Weiner to be the unofficial queen of “Chick Lit,” so when I requested her latest novel, Mrs. Everything, I was expecting a fun, sexy read. What I got, however, was so much more than I anticipated, and I mean that in the best possible way.  I honestly cannot remember the last time a book resonated with me as much as Mrs. Everything did.  It packs an emotional punch on many levels – it made me smile at times, but it also made me shed a few tears, and sometimes it even just made me angry and frustrated.  Why?  Because it accurately, vividly, and sometimes painfully explores how hard it can be to grow up as a woman, especially during the time period when the book is set.  The whole time you’re trying to figure out who you are and what your place in the world is, someone is looking over your shoulder trying to pigeon-hole you into some pre-determined notion of what makes an ideal woman, telling you your life will be best if you just do what you’re “supposed” to do.

Mrs. Everything captured my attention right away because it’s actually more of a historical fiction in that it follows two sisters, Jo and Bethie, from their childhood in the 1950’s through the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll era of the 60’s and 70’s, all the way up to their senior years, including Hillary Clinton’s historic run for the U.S. Presidency in 2016.  Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and Weiner does an incredible job of capturing each decade in terms of fashion, hair, pop culture references, etc. I truly felt transported back in time.

Weiner also captured my heart with Jo and Bethie.  When we first meet Jo as a child in the 1950’s, she’s a rebellious tomboy who would much rather wear jeans and read books than do anything her mother considers “ladylike.”  In contrast, Bethie is Mommy’s little princess, the epitome of beauty and femininity.  In their mom’s eyes, Bethie is doing everything just right in order to secure herself a husband who will take care of her when she’s an adult, while who knows what will happen to Jo since she’s clearly on the “wrong” path.  At first Jo had the bulk of my sympathy because her mother was so awful to her, always making her feel like she’s a disappointment, but later, when Bethie’s life doesn’t go as expected and her journey takes a darker turn, she earned my sympathy as well.

In following Jo and Bethie from childhood up into their senior years, Weiner fully explores what it was like to be a woman back in the latter 20th century all the way up to what it’s like now.  She takes us through the highs and lows, the successes and the failures, and most especially, how hard it can be to stand up and be brave when the easier path is often to let fear win out.  Even though the story takes a few dark turns through addiction and abuse, it’s ultimately a very uplifting story that shows how much has changed over time and proves women can be whoever they want to be: sisters, mothers, daughters, aunts, wives, friends, lovers, teachers, role models, and yes, even Presidential candidates (and hopefully Presidents someday!).

I feel like I just don’t have the words to convey just how powerful and moving a read this is, so I’m just going to close by saying this is one of my favorite reads of the year so far and that I highly recommend it to everyone!

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

From Jennifer Weiner, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Who Do You Love and In Her Shoes, comes a smart, thoughtful, and timely exploration of two sisters’ lives from the 1950s to the present as they struggle to find their places—and be true to themselves—in a rapidly evolving world. Mrs. Everything is an ambitious, richly textured journey through history—and herstory—as these two sisters navigate a changing America over the course of their lives.

Do we change or does the world change us?

Jo and Bethie Kaufman were born into a world full of promise.

Growing up in 1950s Detroit, they live in a perfect “Dick and Jane” house, where their roles in the family are clearly defined. Jo is the tomboy, the bookish rebel with a passion to make the world more fair; Bethie is the pretty, feminine good girl, a would-be star who enjoys the power her beauty confers and dreams of a traditional life.

But the truth ends up looking different from what the girls imagined. Jo and Bethie survive traumas and tragedies. As their lives unfold against the background of free love and Vietnam, Woodstock and women’s lib, Bethie becomes an adventure-loving wild child who dives headlong into the counterculture and is up for anything (except settling down). Meanwhile, Jo becomes a proper young mother in Connecticut, a witness to the changing world instead of a participant. Neither woman inhabits the world she dreams of, nor has a life that feels authentic or brings her joy. Is it too late for the women to finally stake a claim on happily ever after?

In her most ambitious novel yet, Jennifer Weiner tells a story of two sisters who, with their different dreams and different paths, offer answers to the question: How should a woman be in the world?

four-half-stars

About Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of seventeen books, including Good in Bed, In Her Shoes, and, most recently, Mrs. Everything. Her new novel, Big Summer, debuted May 5, 2020. A graduate of Princeton University and contributor to the New York Times Opinion section, she lives with her family in Philadelphia. Visit her online at JenniferWeiner.com.

Blog Tour Review: IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF TRUE by Susan Kaplan Carlton

Blog Tour Review:  IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF TRUE by Susan Kaplan CarltonIn the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton
four-stars
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on April 9, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

Thanks so much to Algonquin Young Readers for inviting me to take part in their blog tour to promote Susan Kaplan Carlton’s new book, In the Neighborhood of True.  This was a wonderful read for me, so I’m thrilled to share my thoughts on it with my fellow readers.  Thanks to Netgalley for providing an ARC for me to read and review.

 

 

IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF TRUE Review

 

Don’t let that lovely pastel pink cover fool you into thinking Susan Kaplan Carlton’s In the Neighborhood of True is a light and fluffy read.  It is easily one of the most powerful books I’ve read so far this year.

Set in the 1950’s in Atlanta, Georgia, In the Neighborhood of True is meant to be a work of  historical fiction that explores the racism and anti-Semitism that was rampant during that time period.  While the story itself is inspired by the Atlanta Temple bombing that took place in 1958, what makes the book such a hard hitting read, however, is that it’s not just historical fiction.  It really smacked me right in the face as I was reading this book that the hate and prejudice main character Ruth Robb was witnessing in the 50’s is still alive and well today, as people now have to contend with Islamophobia and homophobia in addition to the anti-Semitism and racism that we still haven’t managed to eradicate.

I always root for an underdog and it became apparent as soon as I started reading that Ruth Robb was my underdog.  Forced to relocate to Atlanta from Manhattan after her father passes away, Ruth, with her dark eyes and wild dark curls, sticks out like a sore thumb when she first enters the land of sweet tea, magnolia balls, and debutantes and meets the blonde, perfectly-coiffed “Pastel Posse” she will be attending school with.  She very quickly realizes that she has a hard choice to make:  either embrace her Jewish background and become a social outcast or try to pass as a Christian so that she can participate in the balls and other pre-debutante events and hang with the popular crowd at school.  Ruth is torn because she feels like she’s selling out her heritage, but there’s a part of her that wants to take the path of least resistance and do what she needs to do to just fit in.

Ruth’s inner conflict is the force that drives the plot of In the Neighborhood of True and I think the author does a fantastic job of making Ruth’s struggle feel authentic and relatable.  Don’t we all want to just fit in at times and not have everything be a struggle?  In Ruth’s case though, fitting in with the ‘It’ crowd at school means hiding who she is and what she believes, and it leads to her living a double life and hoping that neither side realizes the truth, a double life that is ultimately unsustainable long-term.

Even though the story is mostly about Ruth and the difficult journey she has to make in order to find and embrace her true self, In the Neighborhood of True is so much more than just a coming of age story.  It takes a hard look at anti-Semitism and at racism, shining a spotlight on the violent, horrific hate crimes committed by the Ku Klux Klan. These acts were gut wrenching to read about and made me all the more sad that it’s still happening today. For this reason, Ruth wasn’t the only underdog I was rooting for as I was reading.  There was an active Jewish resistance movement present in the book and I was cheering them on all the way, especially since they were working tirelessly to fight anti-Semitism and racism.  As a character in the book states, “When hatred shows its face, you need to make a little ruckus.”

In the Neighborhood of True is an important and timely read, but it’s also a beautifully written story.  The author perfectly captures the nostalgic atmosphere of the South in the 1950’s – the music, the dances, the fashion and hair, the Co-Colas, and more, while at the same time, exposing that dark underbelly.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, novels with an element of social justice, or even just a good coming of age story.

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

A powerful story of love, identity, and the price of fitting in or speaking out.

After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York City to Atlanta—the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.

Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple Ruth meets Max, who is serious and intense about the fight for social justice, and now she is caught between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes.

four-stars

About Susan Kaplan Carlton

SUSAN KAPLAN CARLTON currently teaches writing at Boston University. She is the author of the YA novels Love & Haight and Lobsterland. Her writing has also appeared in Self, Elle, Mademoiselle, and Seventeen. She lived for a time with her family in Atlanta, where her daughters learned the finer points of etiquette from a little pink book and the power of social justice from their synagogue.

Early Review: LOST ROSES by Martha Hall Kelly

Early Review:  LOST ROSES by Martha Hall KellyLost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly
Also by this author: Lilac Girls
five-stars
Published by Ballantine Books on April 9, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 448
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

LOST ROSES Review

I was a huge fan of Martha Hall Kelly’s debut novel Lilac Girls, so I was thrilled to hear she has a new book, Lost Roses, coming out this year and that it actually ties in with Lilac Girls.  Where Lilac Girls featured American socialite Caroline Ferriday and was set during WWII, Lost Roses takes us back a generation and features Caroline’s mother Eliza and is set during WWI and the Russian Revolution.  While Caroline does make an appearance as a little girl in this latest novel, it is definitely Eliza’s story and can be read as a standalone.

As she did in Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly chooses to focus the narrative of Lost Roses on three very different women and show not only how their lives are impacted by the harsh reality of war, but also how their lives become intertwined with one another. Eliza lives in America and is a socialite, while Sofya, who is Eliza’s best friend, is a Russian aristocrat who is related to the reigning Czar.  Varinka, the third character who is a central figure in the story, is also Russian, but she is lower class, living in poverty.

I loved the focus on these women and how the novel showcased how strong and resilient each of them could be in the face of adversity.  Eliza was especially easy to love because she’s such a loyal friend to Sofya and because she’s just so kind-hearted in general.  As she’s trying to get news about Sofya, whose letters from Russia have suddenly stopped coming, she also fully dedicates herself to helping all the Russian women who are arriving in New York.  These women have managed to escape war torn Russia, but they have nothing except the clothes on their backs.  She devotes herself to finding them shelter and employment.  I just adored her determination and her compassion.

Sofya is also easy to love because even though she’s an aristocrat, she’s clearly in an underdog role once the Revolution begins.  The aristocracy is under fire, and Sofya is just trying to survive and be the best mom she can to her young son, Max, something that’s hard to do when you fear for your life every moment of the day. I admired Sofya’s inner strength so much while reading her chapters.  As the Revolution presses on, she endures tragic losses that would have made many people give up, but instead of giving up, she manages to dig deep and find an inner strength that she didn’t think she had.  It was clear Sofya would do whatever she had to do to make sure Max was safe.

Varinka was the character I was probably the most conflicted about.  I sympathized with her so much in her earlier chapters because she is really living in dire straits.  Varinka’s life becomes entwined with Sofya and her family when they flee to their country estate, hoping they’ll be safer there, and decide they need a nanny for Max. Varinka manages to secure the job for herself, but in doing so, unknowingly brings danger right to Sofya’s doorstep.  My sympathy for Varinka wavered because she makes some very questionable decisions at times that bring harm to others, but ultimately, even though her actions frustrated me, I could understand why she made the choices she did, based on her circumstances, and because we get a very clear picture of what’s going through her head and the moral dilemmas she is facing.  Her struggles felt very authentic and human, so in the end, I still felt sympathy towards her.

In addition to these three characters and their moving stories, I was also impressed by how well-researched the story is.  It’s historical fiction based on the real-life Eliza Woolsey, and it’s clear that the author knows her subjects well. She brings Eliza to life beautifully, and she does a tremendous job of capturing the atmosphere of lawlessness and anarchy that came with the Russian Revolution. And finally, she does an equally brilliant job of showing how badly the aristocracy treated the poor, thus contributing to the onset of the Revolution in the first place.

None!

My love for Martha Hall Kelly’s style of storytelling has only grown with my reading of Lost Roses.  The writing is exquisite, and I’m just constantly fascinated by the way she shows war from the perspective of women, which in most cases, is very different from what we’re used to seeing.  In addition to being about war, Lost Roses is also a well-crafted, moving story of strength, determination, and friendship. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Lilac Girls, enjoys historical fiction in general, and especially to anyone who would like to know more about the Russian Revolution and the beginnings of WWI.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

The runaway bestseller Lilac Girls introduced the real-life heroine Caroline Ferriday. This sweeping new novel, set a generation earlier and also inspired by true events, features Caroline’s mother, Eliza, and follows three equally indomitable women from St. Petersburg to Paris under the shadow of World War I.

It is 1914 and the world has been on the brink of war so many times, many New Yorker’s treat the subject with only passing interest. Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanov’s. The two met years ago one summer in Paris and became close confidantes. Now Eliza embarks on the trip of a lifetime, home with Sofya to see the splendors of Russia. But when Austria declares war on Serbia and Russia’s Imperial dynasty begins to fall, Eliza escapes back to America, while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate. In need of domestic help, they hire the local fortuneteller’s daughter, Varinka, unknowingly bringing intense danger into their household. On the other side of the Atlantic, Eliza is doing her part to help the White Russian families find safety as they escape the revolution. But when Sofya’s letters suddenly stop coming she fears the worst for her best friend.

From the turbulent streets of St. Petersburg to the avenues of Paris and the society of fallen Russian emigre’s who live there, the lives of Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka will intersect in profound ways, taking readers on a breathtaking ride through a momentous time in history.

 

five-stars

About Martha Hall Kelly

Martha grew up in Massachusetts and now splits her time between Connecticut, New York City and Martha’s Vineyard. She worked as an advertising copywriter for many years and raised three splendid children, while researching and writing Lilac Girls, her first novel. She is excited to share the prequel, Lost Roses, coming this April and is thrilled she doesn’t have to say good-bye to Caroline and Eliza. You’ll find more info about the incredible, true stories behind both books at her website: http://www.marthahallkelly.com and clues about the prequel Lost Roses on her ever-changing Pinterest page.

Review: DAISY JONES & THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Review:  DAISY JONES & THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins ReidDaisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Also by this author: One True Loves
five-stars
Published by Ballantine Books on March 5, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

DAISY JONES & THE SIX Review

 

I just recently started reading Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novels.  After enjoying her popular book One True Loves and absolutely falling in love with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of her latest, Daisy Jones & the Six, especially after learning that it’s about the rise and fall of a rock band in the 1970s.  I’ve been a huge rock music fan all my life so I felt like this book really had my name written all over it.

The characters drew me in right away, every single one of them really, but especially Billy and Daisy, who are both just so incredibly compelling because of the inner demons they are both battling.  Daisy is an ‘It’ girl on the rise. She’s gorgeous, almost ethereal, and she has a penchant for living like a wild child, drinking and doing drugs whenever the mood hits.  She has adopted this party girl lifestyle after years of being neglected by her parents.  It’s her way of never having to be alone.  Deep down though, Daisy really just wants to focus on her music.  Daisy has a gift for singing and songwriting, and her dream is to write and perform her own songs.

Billy Dunne is the lead singer of the Six, a rock band whose star is rising just as fast as Daisy’s.  He is fighting similar demons, but is trying to get his act together because his girlfriend had just informed him she’s pregnant and he knows his baby deserves better than a drunken, drug-addicted father.  As Billy and Daisy battled their demons, they weren’t always the most likeable characters and sometimes they did awful things, but I still found myself wholeheartedly cheering them on and hoping they could conquer their demons.

The other members of the band and the friends and family members who were interviewed were also very well developed.  Daisy and Billy were the standouts for sure, but every single character in the book felt real as did all of the intricacies of their professional and personal relationships.  The love-hate relationships, the thrill of the band’s success, coupled with the jealousy of some of the band members who felt they were being shoved into the background by Billy and Daisy, the subsequent tension as those feelings continued to fester – all of it just felt so authentic and I found myself emotionally invested in all of the characters because they were like a family, albeit a sometimes dysfunctional one.

One of my favorite parts of the book is how much attention Taylor Jenkins Reid devotes to the actual making of the Daisy Jones & the Six album.  She leaves no detail unexplored and it felt like I truly was watching an album being crafted from start to finish. We get to see song writing sessions between Daisy and Billy, the rest of the band working on musical arrangements to fit Daisy and Billy’s lyrics, the actual mixing of the album, and even a photoshoot for the album cover.  As a music lover, I flew through these pages, completely infatuated by the whole process, especially those song writing sessions. Billy and Daisy are both so strong-willed that the sessions often started with a lot of head-butting before something would finally click with them.

Finally, I loved the way the band’s story is presented.  The premise is that they’re being interviewed years after the band has broken up, with each of them giving their perspective on what happened on their rise to the top and their subsequent break up.  The closest comparison I can make is that it reminded me of VH1’s Behind the Music, a television program that takes an intimate look into the personal lives of some of the most influential musicians of our time.  I loved the way the story unfolds because every band member tends to have their own version of what took place so the “truth” of what happened is definitely shaped by who happened to be telling the story at any given moment. I know I keep mentioning the word authentic, but it fits here as well. Taylor Jenkins Reid writes this format so well and infuses these characters with such life and such passion about what happens during their time in the band that I felt like I was reading an interview that had actually taken place. It didn’t feel like fiction at all. I even stopped reading at one point to Google the band and make sure they really were fictional because everything just felt that real.

My only issue is that I wish Daisy Jones & the Six was a real band because the whole time I was reading, I really wanted to hear their music.  The songs Billy and Daisy were writing just sounded that good!  Seriously though, no issues whatsoever.

I honestly didn’t think there was anyway Taylor Jenkins Reid could possibly top her phenomenal last novel, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, but she really outdoes herself with Daisy Jones & the Six.  The characters, the intimacy and complexity of the relationships, the story telling, the authenticity of this band’s journey, really just everything about this book is about as close to perfection as it gets for me.  It’s only March and I can already tell you this book is going on my Best of 2019 list at the end of the year. It’s just that good.  I think music fans in particular will love Daisy Jones & the Six, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to everyone else who just loves a well-crafted story.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

 

five-stars

About Taylor Jenkins Reid

TAYLOR JENKINS REID lives in Los Angeles and is the acclaimed author of One True Loves, Maybe in Another LifeAfter I Do, and Forever, Interrupted. Her most recent novel, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, came out June 13, 2017. Her novels have been named best books of summer by People, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, InStyle, PopSugar, BuzzFeed, Goodreads, and others.

In addition to her novels, Taylor’s essays have appeared in places such as the Los Angeles TimesThe Huffington Post, and Money Magazine.

Early Mini Reviews: SPECTACLE and THE SISTERHOOD

Early Mini Reviews: SPECTACLE and THE SISTERHOODSpectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok
Published by Tor Teen on February 12, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

A YA murder mystery in which a young reporter must use her supernatural visions to help track down a killer targeting the young women of Paris.

Paris, 1887.

Sixteen-year-old Nathalie Baudin writes the daily morgue column for Le Petit Journal. Her job is to summarize each day's new arrivals, a task she finds both fascinating and routine. That is, until the day she has a vision of the newest body, a young woman, being murdered--from the perspective of the murderer himself.

When the body of another woman is retrieved from the Seine days later, Paris begins to buzz with rumors that this victim may not be the last. Nathalie's search for answers sends her down a long, twisty road involving her mentally ill aunt, a brilliant but deluded scientist, and eventually into the Parisian Catacombs. As the killer continues to haunt the streets of Paris, it becomes clear that Nathalie's strange new ability may make her the only one who can discover the killer's identity--and she'll have to do it before she becomes a target herself.

Review:

Jodie Lynn Zdrok’s debut novel Spectacle is a book I really wanted to love.  It’s a YA murder mystery set in Paris during the 1880s, and it features a female protagonist, Nathalie, who is a newspaper reporter and who also happens to have supernatural visions that could come in handy when it becomes clear a killer is on the loose in her city, targeting young women.  It sounds great, doesn’t it?

And there are quite a few things I did enjoy about it.  I liked that the novel reads as part thriller, part historical fiction, and that it even has a little supernatural twist.  I thought the author did an especially nice job of capturing 1880s Paris and of filling her murder mystery with lots of creepy twists and turns, many of which kept me guessing until the very end, and I was also very intrigued with the idea of the main character being a teenage girl who writes the daily morgue report for the local newspaper.

My struggles with the book, unfortunately, were many as well.  The pacing felt very slow at times and Nathalie felt rather underdeveloped even though she had several subplots swirling around her. While I felt like some of the subplots helped show how Nathalie ended up working where she’s working, unfortunately, they didn’t offer me anything else to make me feel much of a connection to her.  I also found her incredibly frustrating in that she knew full well there was a murderer on the loose who was targeting young women but yet was constantly out walking about the city by herself and at one point even makes a trip down into the Catacombs.

The ending also felt rather awkward. I think it was meant to be open-ended, but the way it just trailed off, it just felt like pages were missing. Between that, the lack of connection I felt to the main character, the slow pacing, and the fact that I predicted who one of the murder victims would be as soon as the character was introduced, I ended up pretty disappointed.  Hopefully other readers will have a better experience with this since it does have such an interesting and unique premise.  2.5 STARS

 

 

Early Mini Reviews: SPECTACLE and THE SISTERHOODThe Sisterhood by A.J. Grainger
on February 12, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Seventeen-year-old Lil’s heart was broken when her sister Mella disappeared. There’s been no trace or sighting of her since she vanished, so when Lil sees a girl lying in the road near her house she thinks for a heart-stopping moment that it’s Mella.

The girl is injured and disorientated and Lil has no choice but to take her home, even though she knows something’s not right. The girl claims she’s from a peaceful community called The Sisterhood of the Light, but why then does she have strange marks down her arms, and what—or who—is she running from?

Review:

A.J. Grainger’s The Sisterhood is a dark and twisty tale that centers around two sisters, Lil and Mella, and the fallout that takes place when Mella runs away from home after a fight with Lil.  Lil feels responsible and is heartsick about it, especially after months and months go by without a single sighting of Mella anywhere.  When Lil stumbles across a girl lying unconscious and injured in the road not far from her house, she decides that she needs to do everything she can to help the girl.  When the girl, whose name is Alice, regains consciousness, she confides in Lil that she is from The Sisterhood of the Light, which she claims is a peaceful and nurturing community.  Lil is suspicious, especially considering Alice was clearly running away from this group when she was injured and because she has what appear to be burn marks all over her arm. Lil decides to dig deeper – who is this Sisterhood, where are they located considering she’s never heard of them until finding Alice, could any of this tie in to what happened to Mella?

I found this story to be absolutely riveting.  The mystery of where Mella was had already grabbed my attention, but then from the moment Lil stumbled across Alice unconscious and bleeding in the road, I couldn’t put the book down because I just had to know what happened to her.  Then when Alice wakes up and starts going on and on about what sounded like a cult, I was totally hooked and ended up devouring the book in a single afternoon.

The story is told primarily from Lil’s perspective, alternating occasionally with some wild and sometimes creepy chapters from inside The Sisterhood, which I thought was a very effective way to have the story unfold.  Lil is a very likeable and complex character and the author does a wonderful job of showing all the conflicting emotions going through her head as she is desperately missing her sister, while also trying to put on a brave face for her mom, who is also just falling apart because of Mella’s disappearance.  Lil feels like she failed Mella, and now she’s determined to help Alice as a way to do what she didn’t do for her own sister.  Some of Lil’s choices end up being a little questionable and not well thought out, but those flawed choices made her feel all the more real and relatable.

With its mysteries of what has happened to Mella and Alice, its creepy cult-like group, and its emotional impact as poor Lil puts herself through the wringer worrying about her sister, The Sisterhood is a captivating read from start to finish.  I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good mystery.  4 STARS

About A.J. Grainger

A. J. Grainger was born in Reading, where she went to the same school as Jane Austen but not at the same time. She now lives in London with her husband and works as a children’s books editor. She loves writing and editing because it means she gets to talk about books all day. She likes novels with plenty of twists and turns that keep you guessing right up until the end. She is also a total sucker for love stories.

A. J. keeps a blog at www.ajgrainger.com, where she talks about books, writing, editing, making things and procrastinating.

About Jodie Lynn Zdrok

Jodie Lynn Zdrok holds two MAs in European History and an MBA. In addition to being an author, she’s a marketing professional, a freelancer, and an unapologetic Boston sports fan. She enjoys traveling, being a foodie, doing sprint triathlons, and enabling cats. Spectacle is her debut.

Early Review: THE LOST GIRLS OF PARIS

Early Review:  THE LOST GIRLS OF PARISThe Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff
five-stars
Published by Park Row on January 29, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

THE LOST GIRLS OF PARIS REVIEW

Set during and immediately following WWII and inspired by real life people and historical events, Pam Jenoff’s The Lost Girls of Paris is centered around the stories of three women and a ring of British female spies.

The story begins in Manhattan in 1946.  It is here that we meet Grace Healey, who is trying to start over after losing her husband in an automobile accident.  One morning while cutting through Grand Central Station on her way to work, Grace happens across an abandoned suitcase tucked under a bench.  Only seeing the name Trigg on the case, she looks inside the case and finds a packet of twelve photographs, each photo a different woman.  Captivated by the photos, Grace impulsively takes the photos with her but leaves the suitcase behind.  When Grace thinks better of what she has done and returns to the station to put the photos back, the suitcase is gone.  When Grace hears a news report mention a woman named Eleanor Trigg, she realizes this is who the suitcase and the photos must belong to and becomes even more curious about the women in the photos and all the more determined to get the photos back to their rightful owner.  This is the start of quite an unexpected journey for Grace.

Eleanor Trigg is the second woman the story centers on. She worked for Britain’s Special Operations Executive during WWII. The SOE was a British spy ring that was operating in France to arm and help the French resistance against the Nazis. Since their male spies were being captured frequently, Eleanor proposes that they should start recruiting and training female spies to act as couriers and radio operators.  She is put in charge of the female spy ring and sets out to handpick her recruits.  Eleanor takes full responsibility for the girls she chooses and when twelve of the girls go missing, she makes it her personal mission to find out what has happened, no matter who tries to get in her way.

The third woman The Lost Girls of Paris centers on is Marie Roux, a young woman that Eleanor recruits to become a radio operator in her unit.  It is from Marie’s vantage point that we see the recruitment process, the extremely rigorous training that the girls are put through, as well as the dangers of being deployed into Nazi-occupied France.  We also get to see the spy operations up close and how adaptable agents have to be if they are going to survive.

Through the journeys of these three women, Jenoff paints an unforgettable story of courage, strength, resilience, friendship, and sisterhood.

My absolute favorite part about The Lost Girls of Paris are the well drawn characters, especially the girls who are recruited to work in the spy network.  I just found them all to be such inspiring women, and to know they’re loosely based on real people and a real ring of female spies, just blew me away.  These women are such brave warriors and I admired their determination to do their part to stop Hitler.  Marie, of course, was phenomenal, but I was also drawn to a young woman named Josie, who although she was only 17, was the fiercest among them as well as the one who was most supportive when other girls like Marie were struggling and questioning whether they were good enough to do the job required of them.  There just isn’t enough praise to do this group of women justice.

Eleanor was fantastic too.  She’s stern and rather standoffish and most of her recruits don’t especially like her, but they respect and admire her.  I liked her mother bear attitude when it came to both her girls and her mission.

A second element of the story that I enjoyed was the way the story was presented from multiple points of view.  The details of the story unfold through the eyes of Eleanor and Marie during WWII and then from Grace’s point of view after the war.  This three-pronged approach with its alternating chapters allows us to learn about all aspects of the spy ring, from recruitment and training up through deployment and the aftermath from Eleanor and Marie’s perspectives, while we backtrack from Grace’s point of view after the war to eventually learn what happened to the twelve women in those photographs.  Those different perspectives and the moving back and forth between the two timelines added so many layers to the overall story and to the journeys of all three women.

The writing style and the overall pacing of the story worked very well for me too.  Everything just flowed so smoothly and I loved the steady buildup to the girls’ deployment and then how the intensity picked up and the suspense built up once Marie and the other girls were on the ground in France.  It took me a day or so to read the first half of the book, but then I devoured the second half in just a few hours because I so desperately wanted to know how things would turn out for them all.

For me, this story was about as close to flawless as it gets. I did have a couple of minor quibbles, the first being that it didn’t make sense to me why Grace would take the photographs from the suitcase in the first place. The photos are clearly the catalyst that set the rest of the story into motion as far as figuring out who the girls are, but Grace taking the photos just seemed like such an odd thing to do.  It bothered me for a  few pages, but then I got so engrossed in the rest of the story that I let it go and as you can see by my rating, even with my questioning Grace’s action, I still thought this was a phenomenal read.

The Lost Girls of Paris is one of those books that is going to stay with me for a long time.  The writing is beautiful, the characters are unforgettable, and the fact that the story is inspired by real people and events just makes it resonate all the more.  I’d recommend The Lost Girls of Paris to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, but especially to those who are fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and/or Martha Hall Kelly’s The Lilac Girls.

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

From the author of the runaway bestseller The Orphan’s Tale comes a remarkable story of friendship and courage centered around three women and a ring of female spies during World War II.

1946, Manhattan

Grace Healey is rebuilding her life after losing her husband during the war. One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, she finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.

Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a ring of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

Vividly rendered and inspired by true events, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of the brave women of the war, and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood and the great strength of women to survive in the hardest of circumstances.

five-stars

About Pam Jenoff

Pam is the author of several novels, including her most recent The Orphan’s Tale, an instant New York Times bestseller. Pam was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge University in England. Upon receiving her master’s in history from Cambridge, she accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The position provided a unique opportunity to witness and participate in operations at the most senior levels of government, including helping the families of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims secure their memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, observing recovery efforts at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and attending ceremonies to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of World War II at sites such as Bastogne and Corregidor.

Following her work at the Pentagon, Jenoff moved to the State Department. In 1996 she was assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Krakow, Poland. It was during this period that Pam developed her expertise in Polish-Jewish relations and the Holocaust. Working on matters such as preservation of Auschwitz and the restitution of Jewish property in Poland, Jenoff developed close relations with the surviving Jewish community.

Having left the Foreign Service in 1998 to attend law school at the University of Pennsylvania, Jenoff is now employed as an attorney in Philadelphia.

Pam is the author of The Kommandant’s Girl, which was an international bestseller and nominated for a Quill award, as well as The Diplomat’s Wife and Almost Home.