The King’s Justice by Susan Elia MacNeal

Maggie Hope is back! And I couldn’t be more thrilled! I love this series and I give kudos to Ms. MacNeal as she can make each installment in this series different and interesting and compelling.

If you like WWII stories with strong, smart women, then the Maggie Hope series is for you!

Description

Can a stolen violin lead secret agent and spy Maggie Hope to a new serial killer terrorizing London? Find out as the acclaimed World War II mystery series from New York Times bestselling author Susan Elia MacNeal continues.

Maggie Hope started out as Winston Churchill’s secretary, but now she’s a secret agent—and the only one who can figure out how the missing instrument ties into the murders.

London, December 1942. As the Russian army repels German forces from Stalingrad, Maggie Hope takes a much-needed break from spying to defuse bombs in London. But Maggie herself is an explosion waiting to happen. Traumatized by her past, she finds herself living dangerously—taking huge risks, smoking, drinking, and speeding through the city streets on a motorbike. The last thing she wants is to get entangled in another crime.

But when she’s called upon to look into the theft of a Stradivarius, one of the finest violins ever made, Maggie can’t resist. Meanwhile, there’s a serial killer on the loose in London, targeting conscientious objectors. Little does she know that investigating this dangerous predator will pit her against a new evil—and old enemies. Only Maggie can uncover the connection between the robbery, the murders, and a link to her past.

Thank you for my ARC!

The Forgotten Girls by Lizzie Page

Description

Elaine was typing out letters from POWs and reminding herself that she would not cry. Poor Sam in Burma doubted whether he would ever see his children again. ‘Tell them they mean the world to me.’ Come on, Sam. Elaine wanted to reach out into the letter, hold his hand. Hang in there. If only he knew that she was half a world away, reading, listening…

London, 1943. German bombs rain down on London, but Elaine Parker knows her job transcribing letters from far-away prisoners of war is more important than her own safety. As she pores over each tearful letter from a soldier to his family far away, she’s not only making sure the notes reach their destinations, but also looking for secret messages hidden between the lines to help the allies win the war.

At home, Elaine’s life isn’t so simple. What the other clerical girls don’t know is that Elaine’s family isn’t respectable, and with her parents long dead, it’s up to Elaine to make ends meet. But with one brother increasingly in trouble with the law, and the other suffering a violent breakdown, it doesn’t leave Elaine much time to consider her own future hopes and dreams. 

And then Elaine meets dark-haired and passionate Bobby – a wartime photographer on the dangerous front line – and her world shifts. The uncertainties of war feel more personal than ever. Will Elaine be forced to choose between her difficult family and her growing passion for Bobby? And how do you let yourself love someone with your whole heart when each moment could be their last? 

A heartbreaking World War Two novel – emotional and unforgettable. Perfect for fans of Orphan TrainSold on a Monday and Before We Were Yours.

I enjoyed this story of WWII, though it wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought that since the description highlighted the codes in POW letters that that would be a major point in the plot, but this was really a love story. Elaine is a working class young woman who falls in love with a famous war photographer, Robert Capa. This is the story of their relationship. It was an interesting read, but it was even more interesting after I finished it and discovered that these were all real people. I went online and found pictures of Robert and Elaine and some of the photos that are written about in the story. Their story is heart-breaking and memorable, and I highly recommend it if you like this genre.

Thank you for my ARC!

Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen

If you read me, you know I love Rhys Bowen and her mystery series, especially the Royal Spyness books. Every now and then Ms. Bowen writes a stand along historical fiction novel and Above the Bay of Angels was one. This was a compelling story, following the journey of a young woman who is cook to the Royal Family during Queen Victoria’s time. It was just the book for me to read when I came home from work tired and cranky and just wanted to escape into another time and place. Ms. Bowen never seems to run out of wonderful ideas for novels and her writing is always even-paced and well-edited. The description paints it like a Sherlock Holmes but it didn’t feel that way to me. I found it an interesting glimpse into life in the 1800’s of someone who was “in service”, even if she faked her way into the job!

Thank you for my ARC through Net Galley! This book publishes 2/11/20.

Description

A single twist of fate puts a servant girl to work in Queen Victoria’s royal kitchen, setting off a suspenseful, historical mystery by the New York Times bestselling author of The Tuscan Child and The Victory Garden.

A single twist of fate puts a servant girl to work in Queen Victoria’s royal kitchen, setting off a suspenseful, historical mystery by the New York Times bestselling author of The Tuscan Child and The Victory Garden.

Arriving as Helen Barton from Yorkshire, she pursues her passion for creating culinary delights, served to the delighted Queen Victoria herself. Best of all, she’s been chosen to accompany the queen to Nice. What fortune! Until the threat of blackmail shadows Bella to the Riviera, and a member of the queen’s retinue falls ill and dies.

Having prepared the royal guest’s last meal, Bella is suspected of the poisonous crime. An investigation is sure to follow. Her charade will be over. And her new life will come crashing down—if it doesn’t send her to the gallows.

For My Ears: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett and read by Tom Hanks

From the New York Times best-selling author of Commonwealth and State of Wonder comes Ann Patchett’s most powerful novel to date: a richly moving story that explores the indelible bond between two siblings, the house of their childhood, and a past that will not let them go. The Dutch House is the story of a paradise lost, a tour de force that digs deeply into questions of inheritance, love, and forgiveness, of how we want to see ourselves, and of who we really are.

At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.

The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.

Oh my goodness – I LOVED this story! And having Tom Hanks in the car with me every day only made it EVEN BETTER!

Now, full disclosure, so many people were reading this novel and raving about it last year that I made a mental note to stay far away. I rarely like what everyone else likes, so I figured I’d be wasting my money. However, when I read the synopsis, it sounded intriguing, so I spent an Audible credit on it in advance of our holiday traveling.

I just loved this story and the relationship between Maeve and Danny, who love each other as only two siblings can. I loved the humorous “voice” of the narrative, which was superbly captured by Tom Hanks (award-worthy in my opinion). I loved the themes of coming of age and also of forgiveness and redemption.

This was my first Ann Patchett but it won’t be my last!

Highly recommended!

Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West

Description

Perfect for fans of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and Small Admissions, a wry and cleverly observed debut novel about the privileged bubble that is Liston Heights High—the micro-managing parents, the overworked teachers, and the students caught in the middle—and the fallout for each of them when the bubble finally bursts.

When a devoted teacher comes under pressure for her progressive curriculum and a helicopter mom goes viral on social media, two women at odds with each other find themselves in similar predicaments, having to battle back from certain social ruin.

Isobel Johnson has spent her career in Liston Heights sidestepping the community’s high-powered families. But when she receives a threatening voicemail accusing her of Anti-Americanism and a liberal agenda, she’s in the spotlight. Meanwhile, Julia Abbott, obsessed with the casting of the school’s winter musical, makes an error in judgment that has far-reaching consequences for her entire family.

Brought together by the sting of public humiliation, Isobel and Julia learn firsthand how entitlement and competition can go too far, thanks to a secret Facebook page created as an outlet for parent grievances. The Liston Heights High student body will need more than a strong sense of school spirit to move past these campus dramas in an engrossing debut novel that addresses parents behaving badly and teenagers speaking up, even against their own families.

So – I read this book MONTHS ago, and I’m thrilled that it is finally celebrating its Pub Day this week!

As an educator, I love reading books that take place in schools, especially private schools. This was an easy to read story, very believable and realistic, that would have you laughing at times and cringing at others as the characters go about their very self-centered lives. You can see the trajectory of where things are headed! I really liked the ending, as I’m a true fan of the theme of redemption.

Recommended to those who like this genre. It reminded me a bit of Big Little Lies, but not quite so “gaspy” if you know what I mean. No big reveals, etc.

Thank you for my ARC to review!

My Top Ten Favorite Reads of 2019!

Once again I’m very late to post my favorite books on the year, primarily because we were travelling over the holidays.

So, while I read many good books, here – in no particular order – are the books I enjoyed most and are most likely to recommend (all were reviewed this year):

The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

Educated by Tara Westover (non-fiction)

Becoming by Michelle Obama (non-fiction)

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

Description

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!

“If you liked Where the Crawdads Sing, you’ll love This Tender Land…This story is as big-hearted as they come.” —Parade

A magnificent novel about four orphans on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression, from the bestselling author of Ordinary Grace.

1932, Minnesota—the Lincoln School is a pitiless place where hundreds of Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to an orphan named Odie O’Banion, a lively boy whose exploits earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee, he and his brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own.

Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will journey into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an en­thralling, big-hearted epic that shows how the magnificent American landscape connects us all, haunts our dreams, and makes us whole.

I absolutely loved this tale of Odie and his friends as they tried to make a new life away from the orphanage that had mistreated them. It reminded me so much of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn! However, there is a lot of mistreatment in this story, and part of Odie’s journey is coming to terms with the cruelty and unfairness that they have been dealt in life. The ending came with a sense of redemption, and I once again was enthralled with William Kent Krueger’s beautiful writing. Highly recommended!

I would also recommend this novel for high school English classes – so much to talk about and think about in it!

Thank you for my ARC via Net Galley!