The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana Johns

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Oceans and decades apart, two women are inextricably bound by the secrets between them.

Japan, 1957. Seventeen-year-old Naoko Nakamura’s prearranged marriage to the son of her father’s business associate would secure her family’s status in their traditional Japanese community, but Naoko has fallen for another man—an American sailor, a gaijin—and to marry him would bring great shame upon her entire family. When it’s learned Naoko carries the sailor’s child, she’s cast out in disgrace and forced to make unimaginable choices with consequences that will ripple across generations.

America, present day. Tori Kovac, caring for her dying father, finds a letter containing a shocking revelation—one that calls into question everything she understood about him, her family and herself. Setting out to learn the truth behind the letter, Tori’s journey leads her halfway around the world to a remote seaside village in Japan, where she must confront the demons of the past to pave a way for redemption.

In breathtaking prose and inspired by true stories from a devastating and little-known era in Japanese and American history, The Woman in the White Kimono illuminates a searing portrait of one woman torn between her culture and her heart, and another woman on a journey to discover the true meaning of home.

Oh – I loved this beautifully written book about a young woman tracing the secret past of her family. I particularly liked the story of the past, with young, headstrong Naoko who is in love with an American. As always, redemption is a favorite theme of mine and this story was compelling, memorable, and touching.

Recommended to those who enjoy historical fiction!

Thank you for my review e-copy!

Alan Bradley’s The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place (a Flavia de Luce novel)

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If you know me, you know I adore the Flavia de Luce series, centering on a precocious 12 year old genius in 1950’s England. Somehow, while I was distracted elsewhere (probably work), a new installment in the series came out. This one has Flavia and her sisters travelling with Dogger for a short vacation while they regroup from the untimely death of their father. The “rest” has barely begun when Flavia discovers a dead body in the village’s river, and things go from there.

(from Amazon):

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “The world’s greatest adolescent British chemist/busybody/sleuth” (The Seattle Times), Flavia de Luce, returns in a twisty mystery novel from award-winning author Alan Bradley.

In the wake of an unthinkable family tragedy, twelve-year-old Flavia de Luce is struggling to fill her empty days. For a needed escape, Dogger, the loyal family servant, suggests a boating trip for Flavia and her two older sisters. As their punt drifts past the church where a notorious vicar had recently dispatched three of his female parishioners by spiking their communion wine with cyanide, Flavia, an expert chemist with a passion for poisons, is ecstatic. Suddenly something grazes her fingers as she dangles them in the water. She clamps down on the object, imagining herself Ernest Hemingway battling a marlin, and pulls up what she expects will be a giant fish. But in Flavia’s grip is something far better: a human head, attached to a human body. If anything could take Flavia’s mind off sorrow, it is solving a murder—although one that may lead the young sleuth to an early grave.

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As always, Flavia does not disappoint! I love how these mysteries always keep me guessing. I look forward to seeing what this super sleuth tackles next!

This is Book 9 in the series, and while I loved reading them in order, it can stand alone as well.

I purchased my book at a local bookstore while on a “date night” with the hubs. You can find it at your local bookstore or online or at the library!

The Hollywood Daughter by Kate Alcott

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I love books by Kate Alcott, so I was thrilled to see that she wrote one about the heyday of Hollywood. The Hollywood Daughter is told from the point of view of the daughter of a publicist who represents, among others, Ingrid Bergman. Jesse idolizes Ingrid Bergman and when Bergman comes to her school to film The Bells of St. Mary, Jesse’s strict Catholic upbringing and her Hollywood family life collide.

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For my Ears: THE LOST WIFE by Alyson Richman

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I was currently reading an ARC of THE VELVET HOURS and enjoying it, so I got THE LOST WIFE, also by Alyson Richman, to listen to in the car.

Here’s an overview via GoodReads:

A rapturous novel of first love in a time of war-from the celebrated author of The Rhythm of Memory and The Last Van Gogh. In pre-war Prague, the dreams of two young lovers are shattered when they are separated by the Nazi invasion. Then, decades later, thousands of miles away in New York, there’s an inescapable glance of recognition between two strangers…

Providence is giving Lenka and Josef one more chance. From the glamorous ease of life in Prague before the Occupation, to the horrors of Nazi Europe, The Lost Wife explores the power of first love, the resilience of the human spirit- and the strength of memory.

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I loved this story, which moved back and forth through time — from the present, to pre-WWII, to post-WWII, to the present. Josef and Lenka are separated by circumstances in the war, and both think the other is dead. Yet throughout their lives they never forget each other.

A lovely and touching story, it is read in two voices (George Guidall for Josef and Suzanne Toren for Lenka), and made me wonder: “Could something like this really happen?” Apparently yes, as in the afterword Ms. Richman states that reading about a reunited couple who thought the other was dead in WWII gave her the idea for this story.

Recommended for those who like the WWII genre – in audio or paper!

I got mine via Audible with my monthly credit.

HFVBTour for EMBER DAYS by Mary F. Burns

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Today I’m part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for Mary F. Burns’ EMBER DAYS. I am still in the middle of reading this book (to be honest!) but it is a glimpse into life in California in the late 1950’s.

Here’s the overview from HFVBTours with a You Tube video:

Ember Days
by Mary F. Burns

Publication Date: April 1, 2016
Word by Word Press
eBook & Paperback; 352 Pages

Genre: Literary Fiction

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On the edge of the cultural earthquake that would be the 1960s, the tiny coastal village of Mendocino can feel it coming. Beat poetry, jazz, rebellion and art are spilling out of San Francisco onto the the northern coasts of California. World War II is laid to rest, but people feel restless. When a village son, now a priest, comes home to bury his mother, he finds his younger brother gone and a town full of secrets—some of them his own. Ember Days—the ancient prayers that mark the changing of the seasons—reveal the heart’s deep longings and fears in the face of truth and change, life and death.

 

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So – this overview above sounds a little serious, but the book moves quickly and is almost a bit of a mystery. How did the fires start and why? Where did the brother go? How are these characters going to change and develop and how will their trajectories impact the others?

Of course I love anything taking place in northern California since that’s where I grew up, but even more I love a good character story, and that’s what EMBER DAYS is.

About the Author

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Mary F. Burns is the author of ISAAC AND ISHMAEL, published by Sand Hill Review Press in November 2014. Other historical fiction includes THE SPOILS OF AVALON and PORTRAITS OF AN ARTIST (Sand Hill Review Press, February 2014, 2013), both books featuring the celebrated portrait painter, John Singer Sargent and his best friend, writer Violet Paget (aka Vernon Lee). Mary is a member of and book reviewer for the Historical Novel Society and a former member of the HNS Conference board of directors. Her debut historical novel J-THE WOMAN WHO WROTE THE BIBLE was published in July 2010 by O-Books (John Hunt Publishers, UK). She has been a regular panelist and speaker at the North American Historical Novel Society Conference.

Ms. Burns was born in Chicago, Illinois, grew up in the western suburb of LaGrange, and attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, where she earned both Bachelors and Masters degrees in English; she also holds a law degree from Golden Gate University in San Francisco.

 

Thank you for my review copy and for making me part of the tour!

Review of THE WINEMAKERS by Jan Moran

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So I somehow missed that this book was coming out. It takes place, in part, in my hometown of Napa so I knew I HAD to read it! Ms. Moran and her publicist kindly sent me a copy via Net Galley.

Here’s the overview from NG:

1956: When Caterina Rosetta inherits a cottage in the countryside of Italy from a grandmother she’s never known, she discovers a long-buried family secret — a secret so devastating, it threatens the future of everything her mother has worked for. Many years before, her mother’s hard-won dreams of staking her family’s claim in the vineyards of California came to fruition; but as an old murder comes to light, and Caterina uncovers a tragic secret that may destroy the man she loves, she realizes her happiness will depend on revealing the truth of her mother’s buried past.

From author Jan Moran comes The Winemakers, a sweeping, romantic novel that will hold you in its grasp until the last delicious sip.

Me again! I really enjoyed this novel, which was a quick read for me. From Italy to Napa, with hidden secrets, strong women, murder, and romance, it captured my attention and kept me reading. My favorite parts were descriptions of the Valley and of winemaking. I liked the main character, Caterina, but liked her mother even more. I really enjoy a non-perfect but strong main female character! The only character who didn’t really work for me was Luca, as I found him one dimensional. Why was he so very evil? Someone read it and tell me!

Rest assured there was a happy ending (I had my doubts for a bit!) which is always a plus for me!

If you enjoy wine, romance, and the Napa Valley, then pick up a copy of THE WINEMAKERS.

A big thank you to the very gracious Ms. Moran and her publicist for my e-copy!

 

 

Review of THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE by Melanie Benjamin

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Last year, I got a galley of this novel signed at BEA. I also received it through Net Galley. I’m a HUGE Melanie Benjamin fan ever since I read THE AVIATOR’S WIFE (reviewed on here) and I follow her on Facebook (where she seems to be incredibly normal, cheerful, and funny).

Here’s the description of SWANS:

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