November Road Review & Giveaway

11/22/63 by Stephen King is one of my all-time favorite reads, and what I immediately think of when I hear “the Kennedy assassination.” King’s endorsement of this novel, now in paperback, sealed the deal, especially because I was such a big fan of Berney’s earlier novel, The Long and Faraway Gone.

This crime story features Frank Guidry, lieutenant to a mob boss who may know too much about Kennedy’s death in Dallas. Then we have Charlotte, eager to escape her marriage and make a better life for her and her children.

What’s most surprising about this story is the tenderness used as a backdrop to the gritty mob world because of the love story — two people struggling in their current situations who find each other at just the right time.

The characters shine through the pages in their words, but even more so in their actions and expressions, as Berne’s described them.

I felt an immediate connection to Charlotte, who constantly wondered if she was doing right by her children, a question most mothers face, no matter the time period.

This book should be a hit for everyone, whether you enjoy historical fiction, crime, romance, or learning more about the early ‘60s and the Civil Rights movement.

I can easily see this taking shape on screen, so I was thrilled to read the film rights have already been secured. I’m eager to read whatever Berney cooks up next.

My thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review. You can follow the tour here. Order your own copy via HarperCollins.

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Mistress of the Ritz Review


Mistress of the Ritz: A Novel (Hardcover)


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Having been a huge Melanie Benjamin fan, especially of The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb and The Girls in the Picture (loved the surprise tidbit thrown in about the Pickfords), I was very much looking forward to her latest. There were parts I liked and parts that didn’t work for me, but I mainly felt a lack of focus.

Benjamin takes two historical figures we know very little about, as shared in her Author Note, and populates their story amidst World War II.

Claude Auzello is the director of the Ritz in Paris, and he and his American wife, Blanche, are living large and spending time with many famous faces. The story alternates narration between them. This was a slow buildup of their relationship, often volatile. I did enjoy reading about their marriage struggles, but that took up a lot of space in the front half of this novel.

As the Germans begin their occupation of France, the Auzellos realize that their lives and lifestyles are in danger and begin working with the Resistance. This is where the plot picked up for me. I didn’t quite know where the story was headed in the beginning, which lost a lot of my attention. It seemed a bit scattered, so I had a hard time staying the path Benjamin intended.

I was also looking forward to more after the ultimate conclusion. I know history didn’t share what happened to this couple, but the story could have benefited from the aftermath of the war. In my perfect world, this book would have started at the middle and concluded much later. This might just be me, so if you do enjoy World War II reads, especially those which don’t take place in Germany or are set at the camps, you might want to give this a go.

It’s obvious Benjamin did her research. I trust her writing and can vividly picture whatever scene she sets.

My thanks to the publisher and Wunderkind PR for the review copy.

Park Avenue Summer Review & Giveaway


Park Avenue Summer (Paperback)


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I’ve long been a fan of Renee Rosen and how she transports the reader to a small section of history and ignites her story from there. Park Avenue Summer is her newest standout and what I consider her best novel to date.

In this novel, Rosen brings longtime editor and author Helen Gurley Brown to live, as told through her fictional secretary, Alice Weiss. Alice heads to New York City to chase her mother’s dream and longs for a career in photography. Granted, this is 1965 and the men are still running the show, including Cosmopolitan, which they consider to be for housewives and stay-at-home mothers. Until Brown is handed the reins and wants to do things her way.

I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough, which generally happens for me only while reading thrillers and suspense. It’s compulsively readable and each night I couldn’t wait to dig in to see how everything would end up.

Kudos to both Alice and Helen for being strong-minded women who didn’t think twice about standing up for themselves and what they believed in, especially considering the time period. That’s so refreshing to see these days in literature.

If you enjoy history, magazines, pop culture, strong women, or are just looking for an incredible read, this one is highly recommended. A true 5 stars.

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader. U.S. only, please. Enter on the Rafflecopter.

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In Another Time Review & Giveaway


In Another Time: A Novel (Paperback)


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I am someone who has the hardest time suspending disbelief, especially when reading or watching something contemporary. Then I got my hands on 11/22/63 by Stephen King and sped through all 849 pages at a pace I couldn’t believe. Last year I read The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain and thought it was her best book to date.

Cantor, like King, manages to create not only a love story involving time travel, but kept historically accurate by writing about real events, just using fictional characters. Readers, suspend your disbelief, because this is a book you too will end up loving.

Yes, it’s a love story between Max and Hanna. But it’s also a love story between Hanna and her violin. I can’t say classical music generally gets me giddy and excited but I felt the love for this instrument. It brought the characters peace and in one case, was the difference between life and death.

When I first read Margot by Cantor, I knew I’d be a huge fan of hers moving forward. She is able to be inventive while holding true to history, all of which can be said with her newest story.

If you like historical fiction, characters that come alive off the page, and books where the pages keep turning, you’ll want to make this your next read.

My thanks to Get Red PR for the review copy.

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The Beantown Girls Review


The Beantown Girls (Paperback)


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Usually with historical fiction, you have your story set in another place and time, and follow the events that happened. The story can be outstanding, as you are transported.

Jane Healey truly blew me away with this novel. Not only was it a new story attached to World War II, which is so hard to do these days, but it was filled with romance, adventure, laughter, and most importantly, a story of friendship.

She tells the history of the Clubmobile Girls, women who joined the Red Cross towards the end of the war, who showed up making doughnuts and coffee and provided a morale boost to those fighting on the front lines. Sometimes they were there to dance with them, and other times they brought them mail.

I’m not sure how close these girls got to the front lines necessarily, but in this fictionalized version, they sure did. I loved the connection between Fiona, Dottie, and Viv. I wanted to join their trio because they seemed like such a fun bunch. Fiona, the leader and level-headed one, whose intention to travel to Europe during the war really served a different purpose. Dottie, whose shyness worked well as a schoolteacher back home, but needs to find out how to fit in now. And Viv, ready to offer a dance or a smile to anyone who might need it. This courageous group’s strength and stamina were tested during the war.

You’d be surprised, but I often found myself smiling through this book. At times it was a difficult subject matter but Healey managed to make it a heartwarming read and teach me about these girls, a part of history I knew nothing about. I cannot wait to pick up her debut now.

My thanks to Get Red PR for the review copy.

Best Books of 2018

It seems as though every year the caliber of writing only gets better.  The storylines, more gripping.  I am separating my favorites into categories.  This way, if you’re looking for a specific type of book or want to give a gift, it’s easier to sort through the choices.  I wish I had time to read everything, but these are my favorites from what I did read.

You can click directly on the book images to get to their Amazon page.

Literature & Fiction

    

    

    

    

   

 

Mystery & thriller

    

    

 

Historical fiction

   

 

Nonfiction

   

   

Which of these have you read this year and loved?  What are your favorites not on this list?  Please leave me a comment.  Happy 2019!

 

Sold on a Monday Review & Giveaway

Sold on a Monday: A Novel (Paperback)


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What an intriguing premise.  A photo found in a newspaper in the 1940s sparked an idea in author Kristina McMorris who asked herself, “What would compel a mother to sell her children?”  That’s the basis for this novel, about a reporter who sees a sign and takes a picture, one that leads to heartbreaking consequences.

As a college journalism major, reading about the newsrooms during the Great Depression was fascinating.  It reminded me of Renee Rosen’s White Collar Girl, where, again, we quickly see how women were not considered for reporter positions, but rather secretaries to the chief or for a “society” column.  This newsroom is where we meet Lillian Palmer and Ellis Reed, whose photograph of a sign he passes sets off a string of heartbreak.

What I was hoping for in this book was a story of the children for sale.  And, yes, that’s covered.  But it’s really the story of Lillian and Ellis and is seen entirely through their eyes.  We learn their back stories and get bits of a romance.  I will say the last third was a race to finish, as the plot reached a tense conclusion.

Fans of historical fiction will find much to love in this book.  And every parent will be left with that same question, “What would compel a mother to sell her children?”  I just finished reading Rea Frey’s Not Her Daughter and found similarities in how a child could be considered as currency or a bargaining chip rather than a person.  The author for sure did her research.  The dialogue and situations were on point for this time period.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

About the author: Kristina McMorris is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Her background includes ten years of directing public relations for an international conglomerate as well as extensive television experience. Inspired by true personal and historical accounts, her novels have garnered twenty national literary awards, and include Letters from Home, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, The Pieces We Keep, and The Edge of Lost, in addition to novellas in the anthologies A Winter Wonderland and Grand Central. Her forthcoming novel, Sold on a Monday, will be released September 2018. A frequent guest speaker and workshop presenter, she holds a BS in international marketing from Pepperdine. She lives with her husband and two sons in Oregon.

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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The Romanov Empress Review & Giveaway

The Romanov Empress
by C.W. Gortner

Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Ballantine Books
Hardcover; 448 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

 

 

Even from behind the throne, a woman can rule.

Narrated by the mother of Russia’s last tsar, this vivid, historically authentic novel brings to life the courageous story of Maria Feodorovna, one of Imperial Russia’s most compelling women, who witnessed the splendor and tragic downfall of the Romanovs as she fought to save her dynasty in the final years of its long reign.

Barely nineteen, Minnie knows that her station in life as a Danish princess is to leave her family and enter into a royal marriage—as her older sister Alix has done, moving to England to wed Queen Victoria’s eldest son. The winds of fortune bring Minnie to Russia, where she marries the Romanov heir and becomes empress once he ascends the throne. When resistance to her husband’s reign strikes at the heart of her family and the tsar sets out to crush all who oppose him, Minnie—now called Maria—must tread a perilous path of compromise in a country she has come to love.

Her husband’s death leaves their son Nicholas II as the inexperienced ruler of a deeply divided and crumbling empire. Determined to guide him to reforms that will bring Russia into the modern age, Maria faces implacable opposition from Nicholas’s strong-willed wife, Alexandra, whose fervor has lead her into a disturbing relationship with a mystic named Rasputin. As the unstoppable wave of revolution rises anew to engulf Russia, Maria will face her most dangerous challenge and her greatest heartache.

From the opulent palaces of St. Petersburg and the intrigue-laced salons of the aristocracy to the World War I battlefields and the bloodied countryside occupied by the Bolsheviks, C. W. Gortner sweeps us into the anarchic fall of an empire and the complex, bold heart of the woman who tried to save it.

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My review:

When I was in high school, the animated movie Anastasia released.  This was the first I knew of the Romanov story, even though it was fictionalized.  I fell in love with the music and bought my own copy to watch again and again.

When presented with the opportunity to read about this dynasty from the beginning, I was intrigued.  It’s the story of Anastasia’s grandmother, Minnie, known to the Russians as Maria Feodorovna.  We are treated to her story beginning in her teenage years as her sister plans to wed Queen Victoria’s son.

This was a fascinating story about her rise to power and the family she bears along with the future of Russia.  As a mother, I felt for her during the births of her children and how that affected the line ahead of the revolution.  Given America’s current political climate, I can see similarities to how those in power will never be able to please everyone.  Poor Nicholas whose only character flaw was being the firstborn son, got stuck assuming a power role he had no desire to fill.

The descriptions of the jewels and balls and galas was sublime and just made the downfall even harder to read.  I can’t imagine the trial of marrying someone who lives in another country speaking a new language, yet coming to consider that a new home.  Maria makes the rest of us look bad, as she did it with ease.  She was a woman many would hope of emulating today.  Fans of Philippa Gregory novels will really want to pick this one up.

It broke my heart to learn the movie Anastasia is not true, but alas, I’m no longer in high school and appreciated the real story.  I can still recite many of the lyrics.

Thanks to Historival Fiction Virtual Book Tours and the publisher for my review copy.

Praise for The Romanov Empress

“Gortner’s mesmerizing historical novel (following The Vatican Princess) depicts the remarkable life of the mother of the last Russian tsar. This insightful first-person account of the downfall of the Romanov rule will appeal to history buffs; at its core, it’s the powerful story of a mother trying to save her family and an aristocrat fighting to maintain rule in a country of rebellion, giving it an even broader appeal.” —Publishers Weekly

“A sweeping saga that takes us from the opulence and glamor of Tsarist Russia to the violent, tragic last days of the Romanovs. C. W. Gortner breaks new ground here, skillfully painting an intimate, compelling portrait of this fascinating empress and her family.” —Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of America’s First Daughter

“The Romanov Empress has all the glitter and mystery of a Faberge egg, the outer decadence and beauty of Imperial Russia unfolding to reveal the mysteries and horrors within. The waning days of a doomed dynasty are recounted by the vivacious but tough Danish princess who would become one of Russia’s most revered tsarinas, only to see her line end in war and revolution. Gortner pens a beautiful tribute to a lost world, weaving a tale sumptuous as a Russian sable.” —Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network

“A vivid, engaging tale of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, the mother of Russia’s last Tsar, her loves and her heartbreaks, bringing the troubled final decades of the Russian Empire to life.” —Eva Stachniak, author of The Winter Palace

About the Author

C. W. Gortner holds an MFA in writing, with an emphasis on historical studies, from the New College of California. He is the internationally acclaimed and bestselling author of Mademoiselle Chanel, The Queen’s Vow, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, The Last Queen, The Vatican Princess, and Marlene, among other books. He divides his time between Northern California and Antigua, Guatemala.

To learn more about his work and to schedule a book group chat with him, please visit his website. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a copy of The Romanov Empress to one lucky reader! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on August 10th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
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– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway: Romanov Empress

The Lost Family Review

The Lost Family: A Novel (Hardcover)


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What a treasure this was.

Peter Rashkin survived Auschwitz but lost his wife and twin daughters.  Now he runs a successful restaurant dedicated to his wife’s memory.  When he meets the young and glamorous June, he quickly realizes she may be the woman he wants to start his life anew with.

I have a special place in my heart for a family saga, and this story definitely fit the bill.  I love how each section was told from a different character’s point of view.  But being told chronologically, the switch still propelled the story forward and gave us insight to each member of the Rashkin family.  They all struggled, yet for different reasons, and you’ll quickly learn not one was a good communicator.

I thought Blum did a tremendous job of writing these characters as three-dimensional.  The descriptions of people and places were top notch that is was so easy to picture them.  When this translates to film, the casting and costume department will have no trouble setting it up because of how well they were written.

‘This book is a page turner in the sense you want to see how everything plays out and what happens in the Rashkins’ lives, but it was so beautifully written that you want to savor every sentence.

I truly enjoyed The Stormchasers by this author and now need to go back and read Those Who Save Us since so many people said that was her best read.

My thanks to Wunderkind PR for the review copy.

About the author: JENNA BLUM is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of novels THOSE WHO SAVE US and THE STORMCHASERS and the novella “The Lucky One” in the postwar collection GRAND CENTRAL. Jenna is also one of Oprah’s Top 30 Women Writers.

Jenna’s debut novel THOSE WHO SAVE US was a New York Times bestseller; a Boston Globe bestseller; the winner of the 2005 Ribalow Prize, adjudged by Elie Wiesel; a BORDERS book club pick, a perennial book club favorite, and the # 1 bestselling novel in Holland. Jenna’s second novel, THE STORMCHASERS, is a Boston Globe bestseller, a Target Emerging Authors pick, and a bestseller in Holland and France. Jenna’s newest work, her novella “The Lucky One,” was published in anthology GRAND CENTRAL, published by Penguin in July 2014.

Jenna has been writing since she was 4 and professionally since she was 16, when she won Seventeen Magazine’s National Fiction Contest with her short story “The Legacy of Frank Finklestein.” Jenna is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A., English) and Boston University (M.A., Creative Writing); she taught creative writing and journalism for Boston University for five years, was editor of AGNI literary magazine, and has taught fiction for 20 years for Boston’s Grub Street Writers, where she currently teaches master novel workshops. Dividing her time between Boston and the Midwest, Jenna has written the screenplay for THOSE WHO SAVE US and is writing her fourth novel. Jenna loves to visit book clubs in person, by phone, and via Skype. Please contact her on Facebook (Jenna Blum), on Twitter (@jenna_blum) and on her website, www.jennablum.com.

Boardwalk Summer Review & Giveaway

Boardwalk Summer: A Novel (Paperback)


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Having read and reviewed Meredith’s debut, The Dressmaker’s Dowry, I was eager to get my hands on her newest.  Might I say I enjoyed this one even more?  You guys, this is the perfect beach read.

Alternating between Santa Cruz in 2007 and 1940, we are first introduced to Violet Harcourt, a beauty queen with a troubling secret.  In 2007, Marisol Cruz, a single mother and waitress, is doing everything in her power to preserve the town’s history when she first notices a photograph of Violet.  Her research leads to some startling discoveries.

I was completely swept up in both stories and couldn’t wait to find out more background.  It was obvious that a lot of historical research was done and the author had me hooked from the first chapter.  I felt all the characters were fully formed and made the right choices given their backgrounds.

For me, and what kept me from a full 5 stars, was just the coincidence of how a few storylines played out.  Instead of it being a surprise, I just felt it was too convenient and unrealistic.  I don’t want to share more as to avoid spoilers.  That being said, I will be thrilled to continue reading Meredith’s work.

If you are a fan of historical fiction, this is such a light read and would be perfect for a beach bag or plane ride.  In fact, I started it on the plane and would have finished if not for my lack of sleep the 3 days prior.

My thanks to the publisher for a review copy.

About the author: USA Today bestselling author Meredith Jaeger was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, the daughter of a Swiss father and an American mother. While working for a San Francisco start-up, Meredith fulfilled her dream of writing a novel, the result of which was The Dressmaker,s Dowry. Meredith lives in Alameda with her husband, their infant daughter, and their bulldog.

 

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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