I reviewed this book for luxuryreading.com and it is another book I am so glad I got the chance to read! The Book of Lost Fragrances is dense, dramati...moreI reviewed this book for luxuryreading.com and it is another book I am so glad I got the chance to read! The Book of Lost Fragrances is dense, dramatic and full of excitement. So many themes are tackled that it is hard to discuss them all in one small review. It deals with reincarnation and the Chinese government’s attempt to regulate it, with the concept of fate vs. choice and belief vs. fact, and delves into the ideas of how far someone should go for what they believe in and when they should let go. My favorite aspect of the book dealt with the theme of soul mates and the idea that these joined souls would find each other in each lifetime. It highlights love’s many faces and showcases, although not as extensively as I might have liked in some instances, some truly remarkable pairings.
This is one of those books that you want to take your time and savor. With all of the heavy themes explored it is not something to be rushed and it will likely make you think about what you believe about the topics. This is my first time reading an M.J. Rose novel and I have to say that this magical, sensory experience will ensure this is not my last. (less)
1553: King Edward VI has died and the battle for the throne of England begins. Katharine Grey and her s...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
1553: King Edward VI has died and the battle for the throne of England begins. Katharine Grey and her sisters are thrust into the center of plotting as their royal blood makes them valuable pawns. When Katharine's cousin Queen Elizabeth comes to the throne the pressure continues to mount as Elizabeth sees her as a threat to her insecure claims. When Katharine marries for love without first seeking the Queen’s permission-something that poses a further threat to Elizabeth if the marriage produces a son – she quickly learns just how vicious a frightened Elizabeth can be.
1483: Kate Plantagenet enjoys a comfortable, privileged life in the country as the bastard daughter of Richard, Duke of Gloucester. This secluded life comes to an abrupt halt, however, when her father’s brother, King Edward IV, dies and the King’s underage son, Edward V, is to become King. Kate’s father rushes to serve as the young King’s Lord Protector but tongues start wagging when Richard continues to make dubious, sometimes violent choices to keep himself in power, including locking the young King and his brother and heir in the Tower of London. Kate cannot make sense of this loving father she has always known being the monster that so many believe he is and she determines to seek the truth to make sense of this life she has been born into. But how will she ever find the truth when the very base of court life is built on a fragile web of lies?
Weaving back and forth between the two story lines, the two women’s circumstances are eerily similar. Both find true love in men they cannot have and both will do anything to try and hold on to that love for as long as possible. Both find that having royal blood in your veins means a life on the knife’s edge of privilege and destruction. And both will ultimately find that, while they might not have control over the outcome of their lives, their actions and decisions are their own if they are willing to accept the consequences of those actions.
A hefty tome of over 500 pages, A Dangerous Inheritance is a must read for any lover of English historical fiction. It is hard not to become entirely engrossed in the lives of these two women and the great injustices done to them simply because they are women of noble blood. While it could be difficult to keep track of the vast number of people and the various ways they mixed together, the handy family trees at the beginning of the book did much to assist with this. The authors notes at the end were also very helpful as they explained where Ms. Weir stuck to history and were she ventured into fiction to advance the story line and to fill in the holes now lost to history (such as much of the Kate story line).
A Dangerous Inheritance is my favorite kind of historical fiction: knowledgeable writer, great plot lines and a little mystery thrown in to keep me turning the pages. I have long been a fan of Alison Weir and this book does much to solidify not only that admiration but my continued passion for history. (less)
A story of unlikely friendships and the imprints those can leave on people’s lives, The Baker’s Daughte...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
A story of unlikely friendships and the imprints those can leave on people’s lives, The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy is the harsh yet tender story of a German baker at the end of her life and a young journalist just coming into her own. Spanning from Nazi Germany in 1945 to the border town of El Paso, Texas in 2008, the book’s unforgettable characters go through so many hardships to come out the other side. They demonstrate the essential fact that to have a life worth having one must face the darkness of their past, seek forgiveness, forgive where necessary and move past that darkness into the light of the future.
Reba Adams is beginning to get that stifling, dissatisfied feeling again. Having left behind her family and unhappy childhood memories in Virginia for the sunny, unblemished world of Texas – creating an entirely new life for herself in the process – she has been quite content with her job as a journalist and her fiancé, U.S. Border Patrol agent Riki Chavez. But after Riki proposes and begins questioning his own actions deporting those seeking a better life in America, Reba begins to feel her unhappiness coming back and the impulse to run again growing stronger.
When Reba’s latest assignment to write a “Christmas around the world” article brings her to a German bakery, she comes into contact with the owner and head baker, Elsie Schmidt Meriwether, and both of their lives are irrevocably changed. Elsie and her daughter, Jane, become like family to Reba and teach her, through their example and their kindness, that running from her past and putting up walls in order to block out the fear of more pain will only keep her from experiencing the joy of the present. And with Reba’s ardent inquisitiveness and determination to get to the heart of her story, Elsie is forced to remember the events of the winter of 1945, events that she has not only kept hidden from those she loves but has attempted to keep hidden from herself as well.
Moving back and forth between Elsie’s backstory in Germany and Reba and Elsie in present-day Texas the reader gets to experience the various hidden secrets that every character is carrying and, in most cases, the release of these secrets and the great freedom that comes from facing what they most fear. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this story, especially learning more about Nazi Germany from the perspective of a German living on the periphery of the party. I found the writing to be very honest and sincere, which could be painful at times to read given the hard and emotional topics discussed. However, the love and humanity that was also shown really helped cut through the bitter and left a feeling of triumph with a few emotional tears mixed in. The idea that you cannot run away from your past is clearly evident throughout and I would definitely recommend this to anyone who loves stories that meld history and the present and for anyone who just enjoys an emotionally touching story.(less)
Rich in detail and texture, The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe is bursting with history, m...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
Rich in detail and texture, The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe is bursting with history, mysticism and adventure that transport the reader across the globe and through time, from 1860s Shanghai to early 1900s Boston, onto the opulent decks of the Titanic and to the deep trenches of WWI. While wrapping the reader in a story thick with wonder a solid theme shines through: regardless of what fate has waiting for us, the choices we make in our lives ultimately determines the person we become.
Sybil Allston’s life is far from the one she envisioned having. At twenty-seven she is unmarried and running her family’s home in Boston after her mother and younger sister died aboard the Titanic two years before. Her floundering brother Harlan has just moved back home with his lover, an actress named Dovie, after being expelled from Harvard and her father is distant and disapproving. As Sybil works to put her family back together the man she once hoped to marry, Benton Derby, reenters her life, set to assist her in helping Harlan get back on track.
When Dovie learns that Sybil has been attending seances in the hopes of reconnecting with her mother and sister she takes Sybil to an opium den. Under this drugs influence Sybil begins to see images in a scrying glass, images she believes to be of the Titanic. Hoping to learn more about what happened that fateful night she continues taking the drug, glimpsing a little bit more each time. When her visions begin to change she isn't sure what to believe anymore, especially when the visions begin to show horrifying images of Harlan. Should she believe Benton that the visions are just a side effect of this deadly new addiction, or should she trust that what she is seeing is real? And if the visions are real, what should she do with this information?
My limited abilities cannot possibly do justice to the wonderment that is The House of Velvet and Glass. This is by far my favorite read of the year to date. It has something for everyone: history, romance, mysticism, adventure, characters bursting to create their own lives as well as those finally laying old ghosts to rest. I thoroughly enjoyed how Katherine Howe not only gave us the central story of Sybil and her family but also Sybil’s father’s backstory in Shanghai as well as her mother and sister’s point of view aboard the Titanic. The story highlights how important it is to live in the present as opposed to being bogged down in the past or what might happen in the future. This is a thoroughly enjoyable read!(less)
A woman of many contradictions, Isabella of Castile is one of the most formidable and powerful queens i...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
A woman of many contradictions, Isabella of Castile is one of the most formidable and powerful queens in history. Under her rule Spain became a united country and learning and exploration flourished. Her pious reign also brought about the Spanish Inquisition, which saw the Jews of Spain exiled or killed. So was she a saint or a villain? The Queen’s Vow lets Isabella tell her own story and what we find is a woman of faith, love and an endless devotion who wanted to ensure that her beloved Castile thrived in the ever expanding world around them.
This book is what all historical fiction should aspire to. Vivid in period details and full of action, adventure and romance it can be hard to remember that you are not actually experiencing the goings on but simply reading it. The depiction of Isabella as such an incredibly complicated woman is easy to understand when you realize what she had to go through just to secure what was rightfully hers and to do what she thought was necessary for her God, her husband and her people.
Isabella is not only a queen but a dutiful wife, a caring mother, a warrior, a defender of her faith and an advocate for her subjects. It would take an incredibly strong, brave woman to be able to do all that she did in the time period she lived in and she is shown as doing so with grace, courage, fairness and tenacity unlike anyone else surrounding her. It is hard not to love her even when her ultimate choices lead to devastating consequences for others as she is depicted as a woman who does not take her choices lightly and truly searches her soul for the right answer for all.
If you enjoy historical fiction you would be remiss not to read this book. Even if you usually do not read this genre there really is something for just about anyone to enjoy. I, for one, will be running out to read more about Isabella, Fernando and their family as well as more by Mr. Gortner, who might just be my new favorite author. (less)
In The Roots of Betrayal, the sequel to James Forrester’s Sacred Treason, William Harley, Clarenceux King of Arms and known to most as Clarenceux, con...moreIn The Roots of Betrayal, the sequel to James Forrester’s Sacred Treason, William Harley, Clarenceux King of Arms and known to most as Clarenceux, continues his struggles to keep himself and his family safe against the schemes of government swirling around England and to stay true to his Catholic faith. But will his hope to live a happy, simple and free life ever become a reality? Not anytime soon it seems!
The Roots of Betrayal picks up six months after Sacred Treason and begins with Clarenceux reunited with his wife and daughters. While life seems to have settled down he still cannot feel completely safe with the knowledge that he is hiding a secret document for William Cecil, Queen Elizabeth’s Secretary and chief advisor, a document that calls into question the Queen’s legitimacy and that has caused many deaths in the attempt to secure it. Clarenceux is also disturbed by his continued feelings for Rebecca Machyn, the widow of Henry Machyn - the man who brought Clarenceux into the twisted web surrounding the document - and the woman who helped him secure and hide it. On top of this, the Knights of the Round Table – the Catholic men who know of this document and wish to use it to bring down the Protestant Queen – have been pressuring Clarenceux to take action with this “Catholic Treasure”. Wanting peace between other Catholics like himself and the Protestants, Clarenceux has withheld using the document knowing it will only bring a religious revolution that will see many more killed. But how long will he be able to hold it safe and hidden before someone on either side of the divide finds a way to get their hands on it?
Soon the worst has happened and the document is stolen, he believes by the woman he cares so much for, Rebecca. But as he begins his search to find her and the document he discovers that there are many more people involved in its theft and more betrayals than he could ever imagine. How will he ever find the document – and Rebecca – when every step he takes seems to lead him in so many different directions? And when so many people seem to think he is involved in the document’s disappearance (including a cutthroat pirate!) and continue to use interrogation, torture, imprisonment and even kidnapping in their attempts to use Clarenceux to find the very document he is also searching for, will he even be able to stay alive long enough to find out the truth of who took the document and where it is? When everyone seems to be turning against you, who can you trust?
As with Sacred Treason this novel starts with a bang! From the very beginning there is endless action, the plot twists and turns and twists again, until it is seemingly impossible to know where the story is leading. When the truth is finally revealed the reader is able to sit back, take a satisfying deep breath and look back over the adventure to realize the great lengths they have gone along with the incredibly brave and moral Clarenceux. Watching him struggle with his beliefs and his need to do the right thing, whatever that ends up being, is a great journey on its own. Add in the action packed and sometimes incredibly dangerous aspects of the adventure and it is hard to set the book aside to do anything else.
One of my favorite facets of this story was the inclusion of Raw Carew, the ruthless pirate that, at times, seemed to have a heart of gold. He lived by his own set of rules and he never wavered from that strict code of conduct he expected all men who followed him to live by. While he did much that was dastardly he also had many admirable, kind qualities that made Clarenceux, and the reader, question what makes a man good or bad. If they are godless, as Carew was, does that make them a bad person? What if that same person saves your life while putting their own in danger? These sorts of questions pop up throughout the story and really make the reader sit back and think before jumping back into the continuous danger and action.
The Roots of Betrayal has so much to offer a reader that I cannot think of someone who would not enjoy it. Whether you love history, adventure, action, conspiracy theories, complicated love stories or just stories that keep you guessing until the very end there really seems to be something for everyone. While you don’t have to read Sacred Treason to jump into this novel I would highly recommend it as that book is just as wonderful as this one. I am really looking forward to read the final book in the series, The Final Sacrament, as soon as I can get my hands on it! (less)
This book is absolutely breathtaking! It is composed of page after page of gorgeous pictures, advertisements and assorted other memorabilia that, alon...moreThis book is absolutely breathtaking! It is composed of page after page of gorgeous pictures, advertisements and assorted other memorabilia that, along with the typed scraps of paper, tell the story of Frankie Pratt, an ambitious girl from New Hampshire who sets her sights on becoming a writer. We follow Frankie to Vassar College, a scholarship girl amongst over-privileged girls who are looking for a husband, not a career. She travels to New York, Paris and back to New Hampshire, all the time learning about life, love and what it really means to live.
The appeal of the scrapbook makes you feel like you are sharing something personal and sacred with Frankie and that you really know what is going on in her heart and mind. You cheer for her, sympathize with her and ultimately feel you are leaving her content and happy at a new stage of life when you turn the last page. The inclusion of famous and infamous people, places and businesses bring you right into the mix of the roaring 20's. This is a book unlike anything I have seen before and I cannot WAIT to see if the author writes another one like it!(less)
This spinoff to the short story All Is Bright was just as enjoyable as its predecessor. In this story we hear from Ilsa, the woman who takes over the...moreThis spinoff to the short story All Is Bright was just as enjoyable as its predecessor. In this story we hear from Ilsa, the woman who takes over the space in Griffin's heart now that Elisa (the heroine in All Is Bright) has vacated. She instantly feels an electric chemistry with Griffin from the moment they meet. Their relationship is a whirlwind and it doesn't seem strange, at first, that Griffin proposes to her just six weeks after they started dating. That is until she starts wondering how much Griffin might still feel for Elise.
When Griffin and Ilsa go home to meet his parents a few weeks after becoming engaged, she realizes just how engrained in their family dynamic Griffin's ex girlfriend truly is. She is already a part of the family and the way they purposely try not to discuss her makes Ilsa feel like an outsider. She cannot help the jealousy that surfaces or her ultimate need to meet this woman and see for herself what Griffin had given up.
I think most people can relate to the feeling that they are treading on already covered ground when dating someone who has either recently broken up with someone else or has had a long term relationship before them. How Ilsa handles these feelings and her ultimate meeting with Elise show her as a vulnerable yet enigmatic character and one I hope Sarah Pekkanen writes more of in the future. (less)
I reviewed this book for luxuryreading.com and was so excited to get the chance to do so! I just love this author's writing style and try to pick up e...moreI reviewed this book for luxuryreading.com and was so excited to get the chance to do so! I just love this author's writing style and try to pick up everything I can from her.
In a place like New York City it's possible to create a new life, be whoever you want to be. The vibrant city allows you to show whatever face you want to the world and keep whatever secrets you have buried as deep down as you wish. This is the case for three roommates - Cate, Renee and Abby. Each is presenting only part of themselves to the world, at least at first. But as these girls begin to let a little of their guard down and trust in the others, they soon discover that their happiness will only be found when they become true to themselves.
As these three women get closer and begin to open up about their families, their lives and what they have really been through, the weight of their secrets begins to lift. Each will have to tackle their problems on their own, but having the others for support will make it that much easier to handle.
Sarah Pekkanen has quickly become one of my favorite authors to follow. Her characters are so real and raw that it's not hard to place yourself in their situations. I could especially relate to Renee who is vivacious, funny and friends with just about everyone. Even as she lifts everyone else up and tells them how beautiful and special they are she just cannot seem to see that same beauty in herself. All the women are funny, dynamic and perfectly flawed so you can find yourself laughing at them one minute and crying along with them the next.
As women's fiction goes she is top caliber, and These Girls does not disappoint. If you love authors like Jennifer Weiner and Sophie Kinsella, or just want a great read to keep you entertained, These Girls is for you.(less)
I won this book from the Goodreads First Reads program.
This book is a gothic suspense of the highest calibre, one that challenges the reader to deciph...moreI won this book from the Goodreads First Reads program.
This book is a gothic suspense of the highest calibre, one that challenges the reader to decipher between what your mind and eyes want you to see and what is actually happening. The reader has to wonder what connections the mind is joining and what connections are occuring in reality, and it isn't always easy to guess right.
When Eve meets Dom in a garden labrynth by Lake Geneva she cannot believe her good fortune. She has been feeling bored and unmoored from her current job and life and has been wondering what she was really supposed to be doing with her life. Dom is older, rich and at free to do as he wishes when he sold his business for a great profit. He is kind and seems to really enjoy spending his time with Eve. When he alerts her that he is moving to the French countryside in Province she feels it is the right thing to do to go with him. After all, it will be so exciting renovating and repairing the derelict hamlet called Les Genevriers Dom as purchased and it will give her the chance to work on her dream project: translating some little known French gem of a text into English.
One point seems to be quite a thorn in Dom and Eve's relationship, however: Dom's ex-wife Rachel. He refuses to speak about her beyond saying that thier relationship ended badly and demands that Eve drop her from all conversations. When Dom lets slip that Rachel had been to Les Genevriers a black shadow seems to slowly begin to fall over them. Why has Dom brought her to this isolated but lovely hamlet? Where is Rachel and what happened between her and Dom?
As Eve and Dom's story unfolds and as their fresh beginnings of the summer begin to chill into the wintery landscape, Even begins to feel that she doesn't really know Dom at all. A local Provencal business woman, Sabine, seems intent on leading Eve down a path towards what happened to Rachel. But who is Eve to trust, when she is stuck out in a lonely countryside and not sure that she truly knows the man lying next to her? And what of the strange occurences that seem to be happening just outside of Eve's understanding? Are they not alone at Les Genevriers?
Interspered with Eve's story is the story of Benedicte Lincel, former occupant of Les Genevriers. Her family had owned the house and land for many generations, but a dark cloud hung over them as well. With a psychotic brother and a loving but sometimes distrant blind sister, Benedicte is left to try to keep Les Genevriers and her family from destruction. But when her brother demands that the farm and land be sold after the death of their parents and neither sister wishes to do so, how far will he go to get what he wants? Will Benedicte ever be able to forgive herself for her believed part in the destruction of their family?
I cannot recommend this book enough for anyone who loves a good mystery into what goes bump in the night and what our mind deciphers of the darkness in each corner. The descriptions of the landscape and the history of the harsh hillside life of France was simply breathtaking. If you don't smell the lavendar and feel the sharp stones underfoot than you aren't reading the same book. I cannot wait to see what Deborah Lawrenson has next to offer! (less)
In MJ Rose's Reincarnationist series she introduces us to an unforgettable character named Jac L’Etoile...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
In MJ Rose's Reincarnationist series she introduces us to an unforgettable character named Jac L’Etoile, a woman from a long and illustrious line of French perfumers who has continually fought against her abilities to experience past life memories, her own as well as others, and who has spent her life trying to debunk the mysteries of the past in order to make sense of the mysteries surrounding her in the present. In The Collector of Dying Breaths, Jac will be forced to face her abilities head on and to trust in not only those abilities but in the people closest to her if she stands a change of finding some peace in a life that has been marred by tragedy.
When Jac’s life is turned upside down (once again) by the death of one of the people closest to her (no spoilers for those who know the series) she is thrust into contact with Melinoe Cypros, an eccentric and cunning heiress who wants Jac to decipher the work of the 16th century perfumer Rene le Florentin and use it to figure out the formula to reanimate a person’s dying breath. Taking on this project will also bring Jac’s one and only love, Griffin North, back into her life, a man she has loved not only in this life but in all others and whom she has caused the death of in each previous life. But agreeing to Melinoe’s terms brings Jac into the lair of a conniving, ruthless woman who will do anything to get what she wants. And what she wants might just cost Jac everything.
Weaved together with Jac’s story is that of Rene, the man who rose from nothing to become the perfumer to Catharine de Medici. This great honor comes with a heavy price, however, and Rene finds himself also creating poisons for his queen to use against her enemies and continuing his mentor’s work of discovering the secret to bringing back the dead. But their close and trusting bond is shattered when Rene falls in love with one of Catharine’s ladies in waiting and he discovers just how dangerous this Medici princess can be.
Reading a novel by MJ Rose is unlike anything else. The meticulous sensory descriptions work to transport the reader through time much as Jac experiences it and it is hard not to feel the joy, passion and pain of the characters. The depths of obsession experienced by both Catharine and Melinoe and the lengths they both will go to to get what they desire is quite frightening and adds a heavy dose of shock, terror and passion to the suspenseful plots. I have long hoped that Griffin and Jac would somehow come together and watching their connection unfold alongside Rene and his love pulls at the heartstrings. Combine all of this emotion with the detailed and immersive history and the reincarnation twist and what isn’t there to love?
My only complaint would be that the story ended too soon for me and, from the ending, I have a very sad feeling that this might conclude Jac’s story. I truly hope I am wrong because I, for one, want more. (less)
The Painted Girls is a phenomenal look at the truth hidden behind the supposed glitz and glamour of the...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
The Painted Girls is a phenomenal look at the truth hidden behind the supposed glitz and glamour of the Parisian Ballet. Just like Degas’ artwork, the story highlights the true struggle and ugliness of the poor of Paris during this time of great cultural change and serves to present the story of sisters born in the gutter but wanting nothing more than to rise above what they are told their life must be. It is entirely impossible not to feel for Marie and Antoinette and their deep need for something better. Also venturing into the realm of the belief that a person’s heredity and physical appearance determine what sort of person they will become – a poor, ugly person highlighting an ugly, vicious personality while a handsome or rich person more likely to be good natured – it was interesting to see the two sisters battle with their own personal demons to determine what sort of person they would become.
Beautifully written, The Painted Girls is a story of opposites: meek vs. strong, rich vs. poor, beautiful vs. ugly, good vs. bad. Anyone who is interested in learning more about the truth behind the glitzy veneer of the Parisian Ballet or anyone who just loves a complicated, endearing story of sisters would love this book. I now want to learn more about this time period and, for me, that is the true test of great historical fiction. (less)
The Secret Keeper, the second book in the Ladies in Waiting series by Sandra Byrd, brings to life the glittering beauty and heartpounding treachery of...moreThe Secret Keeper, the second book in the Ladies in Waiting series by Sandra Byrd, brings to life the glittering beauty and heartpounding treachery of the court surrounding Henry VIII's last wife, Kateryn Parr, through the eyes of a prophetic young woman, Juliana St. John. Risking everything for the love of her mistress, Juliana will not only work to keep the secrets of the Queen from those that wish to harm her, but will come across new secrets that shake the very core of her family.
Juliana grew up as the beloved, witty daughter of a prosperous knight in Marlborough. After her father dies she is left behind with an unloving mother and a future laid out for her that includes a boring marriage to the son of her late father's business partner, someone Juliana cannot imagine truly loving. What makes her life even more difficult is the fact that Juliana has prophetic dreams, dreams that have even her mother suspecting she is a witch. With this dreary life ahead of her a ray of promise shines through when Thomas Seymour comes to Marlborough to settle his dealings with her father's estate and decides that Juliana would make a good addition to the household of the woman he loves, Kateryn Parr. One thing tempers Juliana's excitement, however: she has had a vision of Thomas Seymour shredding the gown of a young woman while a third party holds the girl down. Why has this vision come to her, and what does God want her to do about it?
In Kateryn's kind person Juliana finds a true mother, something she has always longed for. She soon determines to serve her Queen and friend unwaveringly, doing all she can to keep her happy and safe, something not always easily done in the up and down world of the aging Henry VIII's court. This is especially difficult as Kateryn works to influence the king, and his children, in their beliefs and to support and spread the reformist viewpoint. Through it all Juliana stays true, even when Kateryn asks Juliana for a final favor, one that not only ties up Juliana's future but irrevocably changes all she has believed about her own past. With all the secrets Juliana has kept, will she be able to contain this final secret and fulfill the Queen's wish?
I absolutely love this series so far! While this is the second book in the Ladies in Waiting series, you do not have to read the first book - To Die For - before this one. Both books work as stand alone novels and while both are wonderful they do not have to be read in order. Juliana is a very sympathetic character as she searches for love - love of a mother and, eventually, love of a man - and it can be heartbreaking at times to see her struggle through the debauchery of court life all in the name of doing what she feels is right. I really enjoyed seeing Kateryn Parr and the events that surrounded her from this new perspective. For anyone who knows the history of Kateryn Parr, Henry VIII's sixth wife, her marriage to Thomas Seymour and the mystery of what happened to their daughter, Sandra Byrd works to fill in some of the blanks surrounding their lives by utilizing Juliana. What we end up with is an intriguing set of mysteries, exciting answers that are entirely plausible and a wonderful new heroine that I only can hope was as exciting in real life as she is in the pages of the book.
Being a firm lover of all things Tudor, The Secret Keeper was a wonderful addition that kept me turning the pages and wondering exactly how Sandra Byrd would weave the storyline through the known facts surrounding them. I cannot wait for the next book in the series and, as the series seems to get better and better, I anticipate another exciting romp through history.(less)
I first reviewed this book for the blog luxuryreading.com.
Vivienne de la Mare is doing as many housewives do on the Isle of Guernsey in 1940: she is t...moreI first reviewed this book for the blog luxuryreading.com.
Vivienne de la Mare is doing as many housewives do on the Isle of Guernsey in 1940: she is taking care of her family while her husband is away at war. She has her hands full: young Millie is full of life and curiosity and not adept at readily taking someone else’s words for fact; Blanche is trying to blossom into womanhood within the constraints and frustrations of wartime; Evelyn, Vivienne’s mother-in-law, is constantly longing for her son while her mind slowly begins to slip away.
Then Guernsey is attacked and becomes occupied by the German army. These stilted, foreign men begin to requisition anything they choose and a tenuous balance is established between the islanders and the Germans. Many think you are letting your side down if you so much as speak to these invaders, while others do what they need to for work or survival.
When an officer begins to show Vivienne kindness, she isn’t immediately sure what to do. How can she trust this person who is a part of something that has done so much harm? Her feelings for Captain Gunther Lehmann are soon too much to fight and she begins a love affair like nothing she had ever thought possible. Within her candlelit room at night, they try to shut out the war and suffering outside and just enjoy the precious times they have together.
With the repercussions that could follow the revelation of their relationship, they decide to keep it secret. This tender time with Gunther becomes harder and harder to enjoy as the conditions around them begin to get worse. With supplies so low everyone seems to be living a continuously hungry, exhaustive existence. The establishment of work camps on the island brings the cruelty and death right to her doorstep and she can no longer look away or shut the reality of life from their nighttime meetings. When Millie befriends a skeletal prisoner from the work camp Vivienne must decide how far she is willing to go to help those suffering around her. How far can she push the family’s safety, and how much can she really trust this enemy she has grown to love? In this madness of wartime, what is right is no longer easily seen.
I cannot begin to fully express how much I loved The Soldier’s Wife! The descriptions are eloquent and atmospheric and you cannot help but become immersed in the surroundings: lazy bumblebees float through the thick, heady scented air and the bright flowers often seem in huge contrast to the dark goings on. Only the harsh winters and tossing sea seems to mirror the general life on the island. The streams have voices and the wind whispers to Vivienne, and you are lost in the story. Vivienne’s biggest fear is for her children to be left motherless as she had been, and this showcases how strong her feelings are, for Gunther and for those suffering around her. As she fights to discover what is right, you will do the same. This book isn’t for history or historical fiction lovers alone. This is for anyone who likes a brilliant story that just won’t let go. (less)
Anyone who has been in a relationship long enough knows that things change. That person that once made...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
Anyone who has been in a relationship long enough knows that things change. That person that once made every nerve in your body pulse with excitement just by entering the room can now sit next to you on the couch without you even registering they walked in. All those annoying habits you found so adorable years ago are now just annoying. Every conversation, every argument, every everything…you’ve done it all before. So what happens if one day you look at that person and realize you cannot stand to look at them for one second longer? When you search for your love for them in your heart and…nothing?
This is the dilemma Lauren and Ryan Cooper find themselves in. They have been together since college and, after eleven years, they have reached the point where they make each other miserable. Knowing this can go on no longer they come up with a plan: they will separate for one year, each one using this space to figure out what they really want out of life and hopefully, during that time, a way to fall back in love with each other and save their marriage. The only rule is they cannot contact each other until the year is up. The rest is up to each of them to decide.
Please excuse me if a gush a little over Taylor Jenkins Reid because she has become one of my very favorite authors! When I read her first novel, Forever, Interrupted, I was so impressed with her ability to present the emotions of her characters so vividly that the reader feels everything – the anger, frustration, heartbreak – right along with them. Well, I am happy to say that Ms. Reid topped herself with After I Do, again presenting a story and situation that so thoroughly grabbed me that I literally had trouble putting the book down and doing anything else. Even when I did have to put the book down for mundane things like sleeping and working I was thinking about the characters and what they would do next.
I think part of what pulled me into this story is that I found so much of myself in Lauren. I have also been with my husband since college and could relate to that feeling of routineness and complacency that seems to come so naturally to a couple who have been together for a long period of time. While I am still very much in love with my husband I could understand what she was talking about and appreciate her and Ryan’s choice to spend the year apart to see if they could find a way back to each other. Every single character is so real and flawed that you love them and can relate to each one, feeling every pain and joy along with them. It’s quite remarkable to me when an author is able to create a world that has you not only entertained but really thinking about yourself in the same situations. I am going through a similar situation with my grandfather that Lauren and her family go through with her grandmother in After I Do and I found myself crying and thinking about how much of a steady rock my husband is in my life. I was staring at him with such pitiful appreciation at one point that it became clear I was making him slightly uncomfortable. That is how invested in the story I was!
Watching Lauren come into her own was amazing. She has such a wonderful, quirky family and seeing how much they supported her and how each opened her eyes to the various ways to love was touching to say the least. As the story was wrapping up I really had no idea whether Lauren and Ryan would end up together or not and that made it that much more realistic. Because in life who knows what will really happen?
I cannot recommend After I Do highly enough. If you have ever questioned the route your life had taken or wondered in the deepest part of your heart whether the person you were with was the right one for you pick it up now. Even if you just want a wonderful story that runs the gambit of emotions give it a go, it is well worth the read. (less)
When Marielle decided to marry Carson Bishop she knew there would be some challenges. She woul...moreI read and reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
When Marielle decided to marry Carson Bishop she knew there would be some challenges. She would be moving across country, leaving her family and friends behind in Arizona to become an instant mother to Carson’s two children in Fredericksburg, Virginia. As if this wasn’t enough, they would be living at Holly Oak, the childhood home of Carson’s first wife, Sarah, who died four years earlier. The home that Sarah’s grandmother, Adelaide, still lives in. Carson convinces Marielle that living at Holly Oak will be good for all of them: the kids wouldn’t have to face another huge change, Adelaide wouldn’t be left alone at such an old age and Marielle would have some company while trying to get acclimated to her new environment.
But as Marielle begins to spend more time at Holly Oak, trying to decide if she can survive in her new roles as wife and mother, she learns that something is different about this house. Some believe a curse lies over the women of Holly Oak. Others think it is haunted by Susannah Page, Adelaide’s great-grandmother who some suspect was a Union spy during the Civil War. Adelaide believes the house is seeking retribution for all the death and destruction that has happened there over the years, and that it has been her job to try and keep the house at peace. Marielle isn’t sure what to believe but she knows one thing for sure: if she is going to make a life there and forge a family within its walls, she is going to have to find the answers somehow.
When Adelaide lets it be known that she gave letters that Susannah wrote to her Northern cousin during the Civil War to her daughter, Caroline, Marielle realizes the key to what haunts her home might be hidden within those letters. The problem is Caroline abandoned her own daughter, Sarah, at Holly Oak as an infant and has been drifting in places unknown for years in a haze of drugs. When the mysterious Caroline eventually shows up at the house ready to settle her score with her family and their familial home, she gives Marielle the chance to read through Susannah’s letters and see for herself that what appears to be the history of Holly Oak is not what it seems at all.
A Sound Among the Trees is the second book by Susan Meissner I have had the pleasure of reading. Once again, I was blown away by her ability to seamlessly meld the past and present in a way that allows each timeline to stand alone as a compelling story line while also allowing them to twist together to bring the central story full circle.
Each woman at Holly Oak is brilliantly flawed and it is the way they influence each other that eventually allows them all to heal and grow. It is impossible to encompass all the details of this story into one small review, but suffice it to say it is a story of love, loss, and making amends for wrongs done, real or imagined. I recommend A Sound Among the Trees to anyone who loves a little history in their contemporary fiction or anyone who just want to sit back and enjoy a good read. (less)
In a land known as the Veiled Isles, the eternal energy called the Source is beginning to reverse. With...moreI reviewed the book for www.luxuryreading.com.
In a land known as the Veiled Isles, the eternal energy called the Source is beginning to reverse. With the last reversal mankind was able to inhabit the Veiled Isles and banish the previous Inhabitants, a race of sentient, bodiless creatures that operated as one Overmind to control all manner of living things in their path, to the area known as the Wraithlands.
Since then man has created its civilization and many have forgotten the power of the Source and what came before. But now the signs that the Source is once again reversing, allowing the very laws of nature and arcane magic to change and the great Overmind to once again assert its power, are beginning to show. The only way to halt this change is to cleanse the Source and keep it on its current path. This can only be done with the combined assistance of the arcane powers held within the six great houses: Belandor, Corvestri, Steffa, Orlazzo, Pridisso and Zovaccio. These houses have been at war or been slowly dissipating for years, but they will have to find a way to come together or they, and all of mankind, are doomed.
In the city of Vitrisi, the wealthy Magnifico Aureste Belandor is saddened but resigned to marry his beloved daughter, Jianna, to a prominent family far from the city of her birth and the hatred that he has kept her sheltered from. Jianna idolizes her father and has no idea he has long been considered a traitor to his Faerlonish brethren and has spent his life conniving and bribing his way into favor with the current administration.
On the ride to her wedding, Jianna’s carriage is attacked and all her attendants viciously murdered before her eyes. Her captors soon show themselves to be a branch of the Belandor family that Aureste brought to ruin, allowing himself to become the Magnifico of the family after his predecessor, Onarto Belandor, was killed in exile. Onarto’s widow, Yvenza Belandor, has hatched a plan to marry Jianna to her brutish son, Onartino, hoping to once again establish her lineage as the head of the house.
As Jianna waits for her father’s rescue she soon discovers she will need to use her own resources and intellect to try and save herself. At the edge of despair help comes from a Dr. Falaste Rione, a man who has lived his life loyal to Yvenza but cannot justify the pain she seems set to lavish on Jianna.
While Jianna lies in the clutches of Yvenza and her vicious clan, Aureste sets out to indeed try and rescue his daughter. As he uses his brother Innesq’s arcane powers to locate her, he also sets about to destroy one of his enemies, Magnifico Vinz Corvestri , the man who married the only other woman Aureste ever loved, Sonnetia Steffa. But before Vinz is arrested, he uses his own arcane magic to assist the Faerlonish resistance in an attempt to murder Aureste and burn down Belandor House, injuring Innesq in the process. By the time the smoke clears, Jianna and Dr. Rione are in hiding with the resistance, both Yvenza and Aureste’s homes are in ruin, Vinz has been arrested and Innesq lies on the brink of death. Will they all survive and, if so, how will they ever begin to work together to save the world as they know it?
The Traitor’s Daughter is the first in an epic trilogy that promises to be exciting. Not usually a fan of fantasy stories, I was thrown off at first by the talk of magic; as the story progressed I became enamored with Paula Brandon’s writing. It reads like a classic historical fiction novel that stretches its boundaries to include the mystical. The twists and turns keep you turning the pages and while there are a lot of plot points and characters to absorb, it isn’t hard to become thoroughly invested in the story. The ending is left at the tip of a cliff hanger and I cannot wait to read the second book in the series, The Ruined City, which comes out in February 2012.(less)
Princess Elizabeth’s Spy continues the story of spunky Maggie Hope, first introduced in Mr. Churchill’s...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
Princess Elizabeth’s Spy continues the story of spunky Maggie Hope, first introduced in Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. Having proven herself to be reliable, intelligent and intuitive while working for Mr. Churchill, Maggie has now completed her MI-5 spy training and is eager to put her new found skills to the test behind enemy lines. Unfortunately, Maggie’s physical abilities, or lack thereof, make any drop into WWII Germany too dangerous and she is instead relegated to an undercover job at Windsor Castle, posing as a math tutor and glorified governess to the Princess Elizabeth.
Maggie soon learns that the cold, cavernous castle holds many secrets and the people within it often aren’t who they initially appear to be. Following the various clues, Maggie soon learns that keeping emotion and personal preferences out of her professional job isn’t as easy as she thought and can lead her down the wrong paths of discovery. Spy work, it seems, is anything but boring.
Maggie Hope might be one of my new favorite characters. She is sassy, smart and incredibly brilliant at both math and spy work. While it might take her some time to get used to figuring out who to trust, she is undoubtedly dedicated and ready to serve. With a host of wonderful supporting characters – her hilarious friend and roommate, David Greene, her coworker and possible new love interest, Hugh Thompson, and an endless supply of intriguing servants and gentry living at Windsor – there is someone for everyone to enjoy.
Having not yet read Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, I did find myself wondering about some of the relationships that were obviously developed in the first book. While I didn’t feel lost by not reading Mr. Churchill’s Secretary first, I would definitely recommend doing so so the characters and connections are better fleshed out before beginning Princess Elizabeth’s Spy.
I think my favorite aspect of the book was how well the author dropped little hints and left you guessing, right along with Maggie, as to who was innocent and who was working with the Germans. While I had an idea as to which characters were bad I did not see how they were all connected and was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
There is at least one more book in the series to come and Susan Elia MacNeal does a wonderful job of hinting at certain themes and cliffhangers to be resolved. I am excited to read Mr. Churchill’s Secretary next and will definitely be picking up all upcoming Maggie Hope mysteries to see where this dynamic character finds herself.(less)
I am usually not a huge fan of short stories but when I recently got a Kindle Fire and saw how many great authors have short stories to inexpensively...moreI am usually not a huge fan of short stories but when I recently got a Kindle Fire and saw how many great authors have short stories to inexpensively download I thought I should give a few a try. When Sarah Pekkanen announced on Facebook that she would be giving away her new short story, Love, Accidentally, to her fans as a Thank You I was really excited. Since All Is Bright is a prequel of sorts to Love, Accidentally I thought I would go ahead and buy it and read it first. I am SO glad I did!
This short story is so touching. It is a twist on a typical love story, with our heroine, Elise, still in love after her long term relationship comes to an end. She isn't still in love with her ex boyfriend, Griffin. No, she is in love with his mother, Janice, who has always been a comforting influence and a surrogate mother to her since Elise's mother died when she was young. Now that Griffin and her or no longer together, and now that he is moving on without her, how will she still fit into Janice's life? How can she stand to see another woman someday become the "daughter" to Janice?
I am amazed at how much heart can be put in such a short amount of pages. We get the heartache of Elise, relatively alone and trying to find her new place in the shifting world around her. We get Elise's Nana and the other "Seven Widows of Windham" which give a wonderful humor to the goings on in Elisa's life. And we get a touching conclusion that lets us know that Janice will always be in Elise's life, no matter what.
I am excited to find out that Love, Accidentally continues the story from a new perspective. I will be reading that in the next few days since I am dying to read what happens next!(less)
If you are a parent you must read this book. It is hard, and you will cry, but it is a wonderful read. Even if you aren't a parent you will enjoy this...moreIf you are a parent you must read this book. It is hard, and you will cry, but it is a wonderful read. Even if you aren't a parent you will enjoy this book, but I have to say that reading it as a young mother really allowed me to relate to the plot of the story. Ms. Larson tore my heart open and then pieced it back together again with this story.(less)
I first reviewed this book for the blog luxuryreading.com!
When The First Husband opens we find Annie Adams completely content in her life: she gets to...moreI first reviewed this book for the blog luxuryreading.com!
When The First Husband opens we find Annie Adams completely content in her life: she gets to tour the world writing her rather successful travel column; her long term boyfriend, Nick, is beginning to taste success as a film director; her much-loved dog, Mila, is keeping her feet warm. What could go wrong? In the next breath her world begins to unravel: Nick announces he is leaving her for the possibility of a better life with a better woman, taking her beloved Mila with him; she learns her job is potentially in danger since the paper has been taken over by a new owner; the once comforting home she shared with Nick becomes filled with the memories of what they had and what will no longer be.
With the push of her best friend, Jordan (Nick’s sister), Annie decides to thrust herself back into life to see if it will stick. She finds herself in a beachside restaurant after hours, where she meets Griffin who is highlighting as Executive chef until the permanent chef returns and he goes home to small town Massachusetts to open his own restaurant. Annie instantly feels connected to Griffin and decides that he might be the new lease on life she was looking for, her way to be someone new and improved. As they get to know each other the time dwindles until Griffin must go back to the life he had only temporarily put on hold…with one new addition: Annie.
Annie takes a leap and accepts Griffin’s impromptu wedding proposal, traveling to Massachusetts, by way of Las Vegas and a little wedding chapel, ready to begin anew. What she doesn’t expect when they arrive is Griffin’s brother, Jesse, waiting at their home with his two rambunctious and sticky twin boys, declaring he and his wife are separated. She doesn’t expect the ex girlfriend who spent thirteen years with Griffin and doesn’t seem able to fully let go, or the icy mother in law that dotes on Griffin’s ex as the daughter in law she wished she had. She doesn’t expect to feel trapped by the small town life or the total immersion into a past she doesn’t share with Griffin. Most of all, she doesn’t expect the feelings that keep creeping into her thoughts: did I make a mistake rushing into this?
When Nick shows up at the opening of Griffin’s new restaurant and declares he is ready to give Annie everything she wanted from him she has to make a decision: does she go back and begin again the life she thought she always wanted, or does she live this new life she never knew was missing?
I loved this book! It isn’t often you find a book that can literally make you laugh out loud and then turn around and make you want to call your husband and tell him how much you love him, with tears in your voice. What makes the book perfect for me is that each of the characters are flawed in their own way and that much more realistic because of it. The First Husband will have you questioning the choices you have made in your own life and, hopefully, will reaffirm for you that real love is not worth compromising.
When I read Stephanie Thornton’s first novel, The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora, I knew I...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
When I read Stephanie Thornton’s first novel, The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora, I knew I had found one of those authors that would leave me always starving for their next book to come out. She created such a relatable, humanized figure in Theodora – a woman nearly lost to history who rose from the dregs of society to become one of the most powerful Empresses Rome would ever know – that I have been waiting with my fingers twitching to see what she would come up with next. Let me just say that I was not disappointed. In fact, the author’s second novel, Daughter of the Gods, is phenomenal!
Daughter of the Gods is the story of Hatshepsut, a princess of Ancient Egypt who rose from the wild, reckless second daughter of the Pharaoh Thutmose I to become Pharaoh in her own right. She ruled successfully for many years during the Golden Age of Egypt and gave everything for the country she loved. While many of the facts regarding her life and reign are lost to history, Ms. Thornton combines her obvious painstaking research with a fleshed out story that beings Hatshepsut to live as a feisty, often selfish yet brilliant and caring woman who refused to back down from what she believed was the Gods’ wish that she rule Egypt.
What impresses me so much about Ms. Thornton’s writing is the way she takes these historical figures and makes them seem so present and relatable. Hatshepsut is flawed, like any human, with a short temper and a selfish and haughty streak that would rival any diva. On the other hand, she is very aware of her duties to her family and to Egypt and does what she must. She is also remarkably compassionate and struggles with decisions when it places other people’s lives in danger. Even when it comes to the complicated yet sweet romance between Hatshepsut and Senenmut you have to watch her struggle with the limitations her duties demand. Without giving anything away, your heart can’t help but break along with Hatshepsut when an ultimate betrayal is revealed, something I did not see coming at all, and will be amazed at the bravery and strength she displays even when death seems easier. This is a woman to admire, even with her faults, and the reader cannot help but cheer for her throughout.
While there are some obvious, slightly squeamish, differences between the Ancient Egyptian culture described in the book and ours (most notably the fact that the royal Pharaohs often married their sisters and had many other wives and concubines on top of that) the detail and attention shown to this culture, their customs and superstitions fully envelops the reader and makes it easy to envision the settings as well as the characters. To be honest, I slowed my reading down by spending an inordinate amount of time looking up objects and pictures online to see how they compared to the story. This need to know more about what is going on in a book is a clear sign to me that it is a winner.
Regardless of what genres of books you enjoy, pick up Daughter of the Gods. It is just a stellar story and I would imagine any reader will find points of interest in it. Now that I am through, I am not so calmly waiting to reading Ms. Thornton’s next novel, The Tiger Queens, due out in November! (less)
When I read Deborah Lawrenson’s debut novel The Lantern a few years ago I was swept away with her abili...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
When I read Deborah Lawrenson’s debut novel The Lantern a few years ago I was swept away with her ability to transport the reader to the vibrant lavender fields of France and to spin a story that not only grabs the reader with its taut mystery and brilliant characters but with its sensory-drenched descriptions. Needless to say I have been excitedly waiting for Ms. Lawrenson to come out with her next book. I’m happy to say that The Sea Garden, a collection of three short stories that all twist around to relate to each other in a most surprising way, was just as memorable and exciting as its predecessor and just as impossible to forget once read.
Each story was unique and entertaining in its own ways and I was truly surprised to see how they all fit together. I kept guessing how they would all connect and, much to my everlasting delight, I was completely wrong. There is a very different feel to each story – “The Sea Garden” being thrilling and somewhat supernatural in feel, “The Lavender Garden” being taut with anxiety and beauty and “A Shadow Life” being an incredible insight into how much went into the various spy rings working together and separately to bring an end to Nazi domination – but each is similar in that they all deal with some aspect of war, love and loss. While “The Lavender Field” was my favorite each had its marvelous points and would find an audience with a wide variety of readers.
Anyone knew to Deborah Lawrence might enjoy starting with The Sea Garden as each story can be consumed in a day or two and gives a wonderful insight into the author’s talent for setting and story development. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next! (less)
When Emily Wilson's husband leaves her for another woman her best friend convinces her she needs to get away from her life in New York and grieve what...moreWhen Emily Wilson's husband leaves her for another woman her best friend convinces her she needs to get away from her life in New York and grieve what she has lost. Staying in New York will not only keep her within the walls of what she believed was her happily-ever-after but will do nothing to break the seemingly terminal case of writer's block that has kept her from following up on the best selling book that made her name as a writer. Not knowing what is best for herself at the moment she takes her best friend's suggestion and her Aunt Bee's offer and goes to stay with Bee in Bainbridge Island, Washington for the month of March. Hoping to relax and heal, she has no idea that going back to the scene of some of the most memorable summer days of her childhood will change everything she knows about her family, herself and love itself.
Staying in one of the many rooms of her aunt's large beach house, Emily finds a worn, red diary from 1943 that tells the story of Esther, a young woman who loved one man, married another and ended up breaking both men's heart in the process of having her own heart broken. As Emily continues to read Esther's story the locations, names and situations begin to eerily mimic her own life and casts shadows of people around her. As Bee, her best friend, Evelyn, the old neighbor, Henry, and many other islanders continue to stand in her path of discovering the truth of what happened there in 1943, Emily begins to see that love can come from anywhere and when you least expect it,even for her. But will she ever solve the mysteries that somehow tie her to the illusive Esther? And will this new knowledge help her finally move on with her life?
I have been wanting to read this book for quite a while and I am kicking myself that I waited this long to do so. Sarah Jio's writing is simply magical, and with lines like, "It's funny; when I think back to that morning, I can actually smell burned eggs and Tabasco. Had I known that this is what the end of my marriage would smell like, I would have made pancakes", I instantly connected to Emily. She is somehow incredibly strong and incredibly vulnerable at the same time. The journey that Esther takes us all on within the scope of her diary had me guessing, and then second guessing, how she was connected to Emily until the truths were finally revealed. I found myself getting agitated with the characters and the choices they had made leading up to the emotional wrecks so many of them ended up being, but I realize this is because I became so enamored with their lives and their outcomes that I treated them like actually friends of mine, friends I expected to make better choices. But alas, as in real life, the choices people make are not always the choices we would make for ourselves and everyone has to live with the outcomes. In the end the true mark of a well-adjusted person is that they make amends for what they can and let go of what they can't. In this vein the characters of The Violets of March are just perfect and I was very sad to see them go. I cannot wait to read what Sarah Jio has next to offer! (less)
Marissa Rogers and Julia Ferrar became the best of friends from the first day they met their freshman year in high school. Julia, the queen bee with a...moreMarissa Rogers and Julia Ferrar became the best of friends from the first day they met their freshman year in high school. Julia, the queen bee with a good heart, helped Marissa to acclimate to her new surroundings and made her school experience, which had to this point been riddled with teasing and embarrassment, a little more enjoyable. They quickly became inseparable and gave to each other what they couldn’t seem to get anywhere else. For Marissa, she now had someone to boost her self esteem instead of constantly putting her down like her own mother did. For Julia, she had someone who really listened to her and kept her sometimes selfish and pouty nature in check. This sweet but egocentric personality naturally placed Julia as the leader of the relationship, and Marissa was just fine with that. Their friendship was the most important thing in her life, and if sacrifice is what she needed to keep it running smoothly, then so be it. Even when Julia asked Marissa to sacrifice her first love, Nathan, during college, a request that almost had Marissa standing up to her best friend, she acquiesced. While she was heartbroken, she moved on with her and Julia’s plans to graduate, move to New York, and start their new lives as ballerina (Julia) and someday editor in chief of a big magazine (Marissa).
Julia and Marissa are living their dream when Julia is accidentally hit by a cab. While her body seems to sustain little harm the accident has caused a severe head trauma. Julia’s memory is now sporadic and as unpredictable as her temper, and even her voice is nothing like the old Julia. She has different tastes, from colors to clothes to even a new love for cats, and is prone to migraines and speaking with no social filter. Marissa is now thrust unwittingly into the driver’s seat of their relationship and soon learns she is going to have to expand and grow beyond Julia if she is going to get through this terrible ordeal and help either of them move on.
While Julia moves in with her parents in Ann Arbor, Michigan and works on her recovery, Marissa begins to develop some new friendships and improve some old ones she had often left neglected while concentrating on Julia and her needs. Her relationship with her boyfriend, Dave, continues to grow stronger and she even takes the big step of moving in with him. She agrees to coach a running program for girl and soon learns that these young girls are teaching her as much about self esteem and growth as she is supposed to be teaching them. While she begins to sort out the issues in her own life as well as keep her friendship open with Julia, Julia throws a curveball at her by bringing Nathan back into the picture and trying to convince Marissa that he was the one she was meant to be with. Marissa cannot help but wonder if Julia might be right about Nathan, even if her ways of going about it are wrong. Could he be the proverbial one that got away? If so, what does that mean for Dave, a man who gives her such stability and love that she cannot seem to imagine where this great man has come from?
With her best friend no longer able to help her through the tough times and who is actually making her life even more complicated, Marissa is on her own to figure out what is right for her. She must make her own decisions and decide what life she is meant to live. Finally forced to be the leader of her own destiny, she learns that she is much stronger than she ever imagined she could be.
The first thing you will notice when picking this book up is the absolutely gorgeous cover. It might be the most beautiful one I have ever seen. What might shock you is that the story inside is just as beautiful as its wrappings and one that will fight for precedence in your heart. This is an exquisitevly written book about what makes a relationship, what memory means and who and what controls our destiny. Marissa discovers that she herself cannot always trust her memories of her relationship with Nathan and, at times, with Julia, and that sometimes the rosy colored glasses she has placed over these memories don’t allow her to see clearly into what came before. The growth of Marissa from a slight pushover who would rather let her mother make her feel fat or her best friend tell her what to do to a brave, strong woman who takes the steps to make her own life on her own terms is heartening. She is a smart, witty, beautiful person and it is such a joy to see her discover this about herself along with the reader.
My only disappointment with this book is that it had to end and I know it will be some time before I will have another gem from Camille Noe Pagan in my hands to devour. In the meantime I will have to satisfy myself with rereading Julia and Marissa’s story and waiting patiently for what comes next. Go get this book. You won’t be disappointed. (less)
Getting the opportunity to review books for blogs has been wonderful. Some books fall short of my expectations but most are books that I really enjoy...moreGetting the opportunity to review books for blogs has been wonderful. Some books fall short of my expectations but most are books that I really enjoy and, a select few, becomes books I truly love. The Unseen is one of those books and I am so excited I got the chance to review it for www.luxuryreading.com.
The Unseen is told in two alternating storylines: one deals with Leah Hickson trying to discover the identity of a 100 year old soldier's body in 2011 and the other deals with the various people living at The Old Rectory in the village of Cold Ash Holt during 1911, concentrating on the Reverend Canning and his wife, their fiery maid, Cat, and their house guest the Theosophist Robin Durrant. As the alternating storylines continue to unravel Leah not only uncovers who her mystery soldier is but what connection he had to the rectory and what devastating tragedy occurred there. Befriending the living relative of the Cannings living at the rectory, she begins to feel a need to find out what really happened and let that truth be known. Through her discoveries Leah is able to not only put to rest the mysteries of the past but put her own present back into order.
The Unseen is a remarkable combination of historical and mystery that works to slowly untangle the various threads of the story and keep the reader guessing. Going back and forth between the timelines helped build the suspense, making me guess as to what would happen in 1911 and what that had to do with the dead soldier in the contemporary story line. While I was able to guess at some of the mystery the big discoveries came as a complete shock. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a story that mixes the past and present together or a good mystery slowly revealed. (less)
It feels right that I finished this book today, the 4th of July. This holiday always seemed to illicit strong feelings in Americans: it is because of...moreIt feels right that I finished this book today, the 4th of July. This holiday always seemed to illicit strong feelings in Americans: it is because of the brave men that have fought for this country that we are free and able to do what we please. But what of the aftermath of war for these men, and their families left at home?
Grace, Millie and Babe have been friends since grade school and all three are sending their loves off to "fight the good fight" in WWII. Grace marries her beloved Charlie and lives under the thumb of her rich and powerful father-in-law. Millie marries the firecracker of a young man, Pete, but Millie's sweet and charming nature seems to settle him. Babe follows Claude to a training camp when he sends her word that he cannot go off to war without marrying her, the love of his life. On the way to meet him a horrible incident occurs, but she does not tell Claude and they are happily married before he leaves for France.
The women are left behind to pine, worry and, as in the case of Babe, work the jobs the men are now not there to do. They receive and send off love letters and continue their married life via paper and pen. Babe is working in the Western Union office when the death announcements begin coming in. In the course of one afternoon two of these women will get the word that they are widows. The other, mournful but ecstatic, has no idea what is coming back to her when the war is over. The man she married does not come back, but an angry, frightened, deformed ghost takes his place.
This woman must learn to live with the shattered man the war has returned to her, and make the best of a life she no longer knows if she wants. One widow moves on too quickly to try to run from the grief. The other continues to mourn long after what is expected or safe for her sanity. None of them realise the damage they are doing to their children or others around them. No one is left untouched and everyone is forever changed when the men come home, whether that is of their own ability or in a coffin.
I loved this story! Ellen Feldman does a superb job of making you feel not only for the characters but with the characters. In a particular scene, one woman sees the bearer of bad news (the poor man who must give her the news that her husband is dead) and refuses to receive it. She grabs her daughter, swims across a pond and tries to outswim the knowledge that her life is irrevocably changed. I didn't realize that my heart was racing and my eyes were welling with tears until I turned the page and let myself breathe again.
This book is for anyone who has experienced war or what war leaves in its wake, or for anyone who just loves a great historical fiction story that leaves you changed when it is through, not unlike the new friends you have just discovered.(less)
It has been a while since I read a book that made me truly sad to see I was nearing its finish. Like some of the classics I read in school, the charac...moreIt has been a while since I read a book that made me truly sad to see I was nearing its finish. Like some of the classics I read in school, the characters of The Bird Sisters have become a part of the literary landscape of my heart and promise to stay in my thoughts for a long time to come. Their story is filled with hope and sorrow, but also with a resolution that, whatever choices we make in life, it is the choices we make for love that have the potential to make the most impact.
The people of Spring Green, Wisconsin, look at Milly and Twiss as the strange old maids that live out in the country and have a way with injured birds. They bring their broken finds to the sisters for help, and while Twiss attempts to save the birds, Milly tries to do the same for the people who come. They aren't always successful, but they do their best. On one such day the sisters are unsuccessful in both attempts and while trying to get back to the ordinariness of their typical day they both begin to reminisce on what lead them to who they have become. Both seem to realize that, while their family had been disintegrating for sometime, it isn't until their cousin, Bett, arrives on their doorstep from sad and destitute Deadwater, that all they held dear finally fell apart for good.
In the summer of 1947, sixteen year old Milly is beautiful, young and the perfect daughter any parent would be happy to have. Fourteen year old Twiss is wild and obstinate for the sake of being so. Their cousin, Bett, is being sent by her mother under the guise of being helpful to her sister (Milly and Twiss's mother) and in hopes that if she is, the two girls can go stay with Bett the following summer to do the same. Both Bett and Milly and Twiss's mothers married their husbands for love and both, it would come to be seen, where highly disappointed in the outcome. Milly and Twiss's father, a selfish and single-minded pro golfer, had recently had an accident and, when he realized that his swing was gone, abandoned his family for the barn and has become of little help to his family.
When Bett arrives their home begins to take on an interesting new dynamic. Bett and Twiss enjoy teasing Milly and exploring the outdoors and their mother begins to feel like she has a friend in this young and slightly odd new addition. Bett, for her part, seems to be hiding something and interested in little more than convincing others that she is sick, unloved and from a place no one would want to go back to.
As Milly begins to fall in love with a boy named Asa and Twiss works to hold on to her absentee father and Bett's affections everyone does their part to hold together a "happy medium" that threatens to burst apart. When a devastating betrayal involving two of these characters is revealed, everyone must sacrifice something they love in order to keep from destroying all of them.
The Bird Sisters seeks to remind us that what we do for love doesn't always illicit a happy ending. Loving someone else often means sacrificing who we are and the happiness we might deserve. One person will usually have to give more to the one they love then they will get in return. Every action has a consequence and it is how we handle these consequences that truly show the makeup of who we are.
Reading this book kept reminding me of the first time I read To Kill A Mockingbird and elicited the same sorts of emotions. I am on pins and needles to see what Rebecca Rasmussen has next to offer!(less)