Sunday, April 22, 2018

September Releases

The Dutch Wife by Ellen Keith


Release Date: September 4, 2018



AMSTERDAM, MAY 1943. As the tulips bloom and the Nazis tighten their grip across the city, the last signs of Dutch resistance are being swept away. Marijke de Graaf and her husband are arrested and deported to different concentration camps in Germany. Marijke is given a terrible choice: to suffer a slow death in the labor camp or—for a chance at survival—to join the camp brothel.

On the other side of the barbed wire, SS officer Karl MŸller arrives at the camp hoping to live up to his father’s expectations of wartime glory. But faced with a brutal routine of overseeing executions and punishments, he longs for an escape. When he encounters the newly arrived Marijke, this meeting changes their lives forever.



The Silence of the Girls: A Novel by Pat Barker


Release Date: September 11, 2018



The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, who continue to wage bloody war over a stolen woman--Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman watches and waits for the war's outcome: Briseis. She was queen of one of Troy's neighboring kingdoms, until Achilles, Greece's greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers. Briseis becomes Achilles's concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army.

(Full description at Goodreads)



The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester


Release Date: September 18, 2018



1940: As the Germans advance upon Paris, young seamstress Estella Bissette is forced to flee everything she's ever known. She's bound for New York City with her signature gold dress, a few francs, and a dream: to make her mark on the world of fashion.

Present day: Fabienne Bissette journeys to the Met's annual gala for an exhibit featuring the work of her ailing grandmother - a legend of women's fashion design. But as Fabienne begins to learn more about her beloved grandmother's past, she uncovers a story of tragedy, heartbreak and family secrets that will dramatically change her own life.



The Drowned Village by Kathleen McGurl


Release Date: September 20, 2018



It’s the summer of 1935 and eleven-year-old Stella Walker is preparing to leave her home forever. Forced to evacuate to make way for a new reservoir, the village of Brackendale Green will soon be lost. But before the water has even reached them, a dreadful event threatens to tear Stella’s family apart.

Present day, and a fierce summer has dried up the lake and revealed the remnants of the deserted village. Now an old woman, Stella begs her granddaughter Laura to make the journey she can’t. She’s sure the village still holds answers for her but, with only days until the floodwaters start to rise again, Laura is in a race against time to solve the mysteries of Stella’s almost forgotten past.



Transcription: A Novel by Kate Atkinson


Release Date: September 25, 2018



In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past forever.

Ten years later, now a radio producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Review: The Abbot's Tale by Conn Iggulden

US Release Date: May 1, 2018

Sadly, I am going to have to not finish this autobiographical novel of the historical Dunstan, a 10th century Abbot of Glastonbury who was canonized as a saint. I hate doing that with an ARC because I feel like by receiving a free ARC, I'm obligated to finish it, but I know that's not actually a part of NetGalley's rules or expectations so I'm doing it.

The beginning of The Abbot's Tale just did not grab me. The prologue was sort of rambling, and the first few chapters, the main character, Dunstan, just seemed to be a bully, a narcissist, and a sociopath. I was hoping it would get better, but then Dunstan did something I just couldn't get past (see spoiler below, if you want to). His only redeeming quality is that he cares about and tries to protect his little brother, even though he is simultaneously cruel to him. But is that really a redeeming feature? Because abusers do the same thing: "I can be mean to you, but no one else can because you're mine." So I'm not even sure Dunstan even has one good quality. Most frustrating of all is the fact that he doesn't even realize how horrible he is, he genuinely doesn't understand why most people don't treat him like a god, blaming and resenting them when they don't. Only the people he is able to hoodwink into thinking he's "touched by angels" treat him the way he thinks he deserves to be treated.

Look, I know anti-heroes are popular right now and I'm all for it, if it works. But this one doesn't, and I frankly don't understand how this book has gotten such a high average rating with such an unlikable protagonist. Even "Dexter," from the likewise titled TV show, which also features a psychopathic, murdering protagonist, has some kind of moral code, but Dunstan does not. I tried to hang in there, and I think I gave it a fair chance, but I just can't take any more of Dunstan.



I'm giving it a half star just because the writing quality was good, and it might have been a great story if the characterization hadn't been so bad.

Advanced review copy from publisher via NetGalley. My opinions are my own.





Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Review: Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

Release Date: May 1, 2018

An autobiographical novel of author and journalist Martha Gellhorn, the third wife of Ernest Hemingway. A little slow paced, but well worth the read. Although the majority of the book is about Martha's relationship with Ernest, I would not call it a "romance". It's actually more about a woman finding and proving herself then anything else.

In the beginning, I thought Martha was a little foolish for falling for Ernest, not because I knew that they eventually divorced, but because Ernest didn't seem hugely likable, even in the beginning, he seemed self absorbed and fickle. I was worried the book would be too romancy, and not do justice to an amazing woman in her own right, but that was not the case. It's really about how Martha slowly came to the realization that she had to stand on her own to get the respect and recognition as a writer that she deserved, and how needy Ernest just couldn't deal with that. I loved the second half of the book, watching Martha truly become the strong and independent woman she always was deep down and go onto have an incredible career, rather than be held back by a selfish man.

Advanced review copy from publisher via NetGalley. My opinions are my own.



Sunday, April 15, 2018

Upcoming Historical Fiction Releases

The Summer Wives: A Novel by Beatriz Williams


Release Date: July 10, 2018



In the summer of 1951, Miranda Schuyler arrives on elite, secretive Winthrop Island as a schoolgirl from the margins of high society, still reeling from the loss of her father in the Second World War. When her beautiful mother marries Hugh Fisher, whose summer house on Winthrop overlooks the famous lighthouse, Miranda’s catapulted into a heady new world of pedigrees and cocktails, status and swimming pools. Isobel Fisher, Miranda’s new stepsister—all long legs and world-weary bravado, engaged to a wealthy Island scion—is eager to draw Miranda into the arcane customs of Winthrop society.

(Full description at Goodreads)



The Locksmith's Daughter: A Novel by Karen Brooks


Release Date: July 31, 2018



Mallory Bright is the only daughter of London's most ingenious locksmith. She has apprenticed with her father since childhood, and there is no lock too elaborate for her to crack. After scandal destroys her reputation, Mallory has returned to her father's home and lives almost as a recluse, ignoring the whispers and gossip of their neighbors. But Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth's spymaster and a frequent client of Mallory's father, draws her into his world of danger and deception. For the locksmith's daughter is not only good at cracking locks, she also has a talent for codes, spycraft, and intrigue. With Mallory by Sir Francis’s side, no scheme in England or abroad is safe from discovery.

(Full description at Goodreads)



Chariot on the Mountain by Jack Ford


Release Date: July 31, 2018



Based on little-known true events, this astonishing account from Emmy and Peabody Award-winning journalist Jack Ford vividly recreates a treacherous journey toward freedom, a time when the traditions of the Old South still thrived—and is a testament to determination, friendship, and courage . . .

Two decades before the Civil War, a middle-class farmer named Samuel Maddox lies on his deathbed. Elsewhere in his Virginia home, a young woman named Kitty knows her life is about to change. She is one of the Maddox family’s slaves—and Samuel’s biological daughter. When Samuel’s wife, Mary, inherits her husband’s property, she will own Kitty, too, along with Kitty’s three small children.

(Full description at Goodreads)



Becoming Belle by Nuala O'Connor


Release Date: August 7, 2018



A witty and inherently feminist novel about passion and marriage, based on a true story of an unstoppable woman ahead of her time in Victorian London.

In 1887, Isabel Bilton is the eldest of three daughters of a middle-class military family, growing up in a small garrison town. By 1891 she is the Countess of Clancarty, dubbed "the peasant countess" by the press, and a member of the Irish aristocracy. Becoming Belle is the story of the four years in between, of Belle's rapid ascent and the people that tried to tear her down.

(Full description at Goodreads)



The Secret of the Irish Castle (Deverill Chronicles) by Santa Montefiore


Release Date: August 14, 2018



1939: Peace has flourished since the Great War ended, but much has changed for the Deverill family as now a new generation is waiting in the wings to make their mark.

When Martha Wallace leaves her home in America to search for her birth mother in Dublin, she never imagines that she will completely lose her heart to the impossibly charming JP Deverill. But more surprises are in store for her after she discovers that her mother comes from the same place as JP, sealing her fate.

(Full description at Goodreads)



Another Woman's Husband: A Novel by Gill Paul


Release Date: August 21, 2018



1911: When fifteen-year-old Mary Kirk meets Wallis Warfield at summer camp, she’s immediately captivated by her fearless, brazen, and self-assured personality. And Wallis has a way with the boys who are drawn to her like moths to a flame. Though Mary’s family isn’t crazy about her new best friend, she steadfastly stands by her side—even years later when they’re adults and rumors swirl about Wallis and her reckless behavior with none other than the Prince of Wales. But when Mary’s loyalty to Wallis comes into question, their friendship will be put to the ultimate test.

1997: After a romantic proposal in Paris, Rachel and her fiancé Alex are in a cab when suddenly the car ahead crashes. They’re stunned to learn Princess Diana is in the car. By the wreckage, Alex finds a heart pendant with an engraved letter “J” and Roman numerals XVII and gives it to Rachel to hold. Haunted by the crash and Diana’s subsequent death, Rachel is intrigued when she discovers that Di had visited the last home of Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor, only hours before the accident. Eventually, the revelation of a long-forgotten link to Wallis Simpson leads Rachel to the truth behind a scandal that shook the world...

Saturday, April 7, 2018

June Historical Fiction Releases

The Verdun Affair: A Novel by Nick Dybek


Release Date: June 12, 2018



A sweeping, romantic, and profoundly moving novel, set in Europe in the aftermath of World War I and Los Angeles in the 1950s, about a lonely young man, a beautiful widow, and the amnesiac soldier whose puzzling case binds them together even as it tears them apart.

From the bone-strewn fields of Verdun to the bombed-out cafés of Paris, from the riot-torn streets of Bologna to the riotous parties of 1950s Hollywood, The Verdun Affair is a riveting tale of romance, grief, and the far-reaching consequences of a single lie.

(Full description at Goodreads)



The Madonna of the Mountains: A Novel by Elise Valmorbida


Release Date: June 12, 2018



An epic, inspiring novel about one woman’s survival in the hardscrabble Italian countryside and her determination to protect her family throughout the Second World War—by any means possible

A sweeping saga about womanhood, loyalty, war, religion, family, food, motherhood, and marriage, The Madonna of the Mountains is a poignant look at the span of one woman’s life as the rules change and her world becomes unrecognizable. In depicting the great cost of war and the ineluctable power of time on a life, Elise Valmorbida has created an unforgettable portrait of a woman navigating both the unforeseen and the inevitable.

(Full description at Goodreads)



Boardwalk Summer: A Novel by Meredith Jaeger 


Release Date: June 19, 2018



Santa Cruz, Summer 1940: When auburn-haired Violet Harcourt is crowned Miss California on the boardwalk of her hometown, she knows she is one step closer to her cherished dream: a Hollywood screen test. But Violet’s victory comes with a price—discord in her seemingly perfect marriage—and she grapples with how much more she is willing to pay.

Summer 2007: Single mother Marisol Cruz lives with her parents in the charming beach cottage that belonged to her grandfather, Ricardo, once a famed performer on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Drawn to the town’s local history and the quaint gazebo where her grandparents danced beneath the stars, Mari sells raffle tickets at the Beach Boardwalk Centennial Celebration, and meets Jason, a California transplant from Chicago.

When Mari discovers the obituary of Violet Harcourt, a beauty queen who died too young, she and Jason are sent on a journey together that will uncover her grandfather’s lifelong secret—his connection to Violet—a story of tragedy and courage that will forever transform them.



Lady Be Good: A Novel by Amber Brock


Release Date: June 26, 2018



Kitty Tessler is the winsome and clever only child of self-made hotel and nightclub tycoon Nicolas Tessler. Kitty may not have the same pedigree as the tennis club set she admires, but she still sees herself as every inch the socialite--spending her days perfecting her "look" and her nights charming all the blue-blooded boys who frequent her father's clubs. It seems like the fun will never end until Kitty's father issues a terrible ultimatum: she may no longer date the idle rich. Instead, Kitty must marry Andre, her father's second-in-command, and take her place as the First Lady of his hotel empire. Kitty is forced to come up with a wily and elaborate plan to protect her own lofty ideas for the future, as well as to save her best friend, Henrietta Bancroft, from a doomed engagement; Kitty will steal Henrietta's fiancé, a fabulously wealthy but terribly unkind man from a powerful family--thereby delivering the one-two punch of securing her now-fragile place on the social ladder and keeping her friend from a miserable marriage.

(Full description at Goodreads)

Thursday, April 5, 2018

May Historical Fiction Releases

Sorry, I know I've fallen behind on these. But life, and all that...

Love and Ruin: A Novel by Paula McLain 


Release Date: May 1, 2018



In 1937, twenty-eight-year-old Martha Gellhorn travels alone to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War and becomes drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in the devastating conflict. It’s the adventure she’s been looking for and her chance to prove herself a worthy journalist in a field dominated by men. But she also finds herself unexpectedly—and uncontrollably—falling in love with Hemingway, a man on his way to becoming a legend.

(Full description at Goodreads)



Another Side of Paradise: A Novel by Sally Koslow


Release Date: May 29, 2018



In 1937 Hollywood, gossip columnist Sheilah Graham’s star is on the rise, while literary wonder boy F. Scott Fitzgerald’s career is slowly drowning in booze. But the once-famous author, desperate to make money penning scripts for the silver screen, is charismatic enough to attract the gorgeous Miss Graham, a woman who exposes the secrets of others while carefully guarding her own. Like Fitzgerald’s hero Jay Gatsby, Graham has meticulously constructed a life far removed from the poverty of her childhood in London’s slums. And like Gatsby, the onetime guttersnipe learned early how to use her charms to become a hardworking success; she is feted and feared by both the movie studios and their luminaries.

(Full description at Goodreads)



The Summer I Met Jack: A Novel by Michelle Gable


Release Date: May 29, 2018



New York Times bestselling author imagines the affair between John F. Kennedy and Alicia Corning Clark - and the child they may have had.

Based on a real story - in 1950, a young, beautiful Polish refugee arrives in Hyannisport, Massachusetts to work as a maid for one of the wealthiest families in America. Alicia is at once dazzled by the large and charismatic family, in particular the oldest son, a rising politician named Jack.

(Full description at Goodreads)



Ike and Kay: A Novel by James MacManus


Release Date: May 29, 2018



The sweeping love story at the heart of the Second World War, vividly reimagining General Eisenhower and Kate Summersby’s infamous, star-crossed affair

In his latest historical novel Ike and Kay, acclaimed author James MacManus brings to life an unbelievably true and controversial romance and the poignant characters and personalities that shaped the course of world history.

Based on the scandalous true story of General Eisenhower’s secret World War II love affair, Ike and Kay is a compelling story of love, duty, sacrifice, and heartbreak, set against the backdrop of the most tumultuous period of the twentieth century.

(Full description at Goodreads)



The Tudor Crown by Joanna Hickson


Release Date: May 31, 2018



When Edward of York takes back the English crown, the Wars of the Roses scatter the Lancastrian nobility and young Henry Tudor, with a strong claim to the throne, is forced into exile.

Recently widowed and vulnerable, his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, forges an uncomfortable alliance with Edward’s queen, Elizabeth Woodville. Swearing an oath of allegiance to York, Margaret agrees to marry the king’s shrewdest courtier, Lord Stanley. But can she tread the precarious line between duty to her husband, loyalty to her son, and her obligation to God and the king?

(Full description at Goodreads)

Friday, March 2, 2018

Review: Between Earth and Sky by Amanda Skenandore

Release Date: April 24, 2018

A slow paced but poignant exploration of the treatment of Native Americans in history from the point of view of a young, coming of age girl. Alma, the main character, is a young white girl in a unique position of growing up among Native American children at her father's boarding school for "civilizing" them. Naturally, she befriends them, and like them, she is caught between two worlds, but does she truly understand them and their situation? As an adult, she has to the face the ghosts of this past.

I really enjoyed the way this story was told, set in two time periods but told in parallel to each other. I know lots of book have used this method before, but few do it quite so well as this one. It's slow paced, but never boring. The chapters set in 1906 hint and foreshadow at something significant that happened in the past, while the chapters set in the past slowly evolve to show you what happened. Eventually, the past catches up and it all comes to a head.

Beautifully written with realistic, three dimensional, sympathetic characters, and complex relationships, this is easily the best novel on this subject matter I've read so far. I definitely look forward to what this debut author has to offer in the future.

Advanced review copy from publisher via NetGalley. My opinions are my own.





Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Review: The Bookworm by Mitch Silver

Release Date: February 6, 2018

There are two different plots in this book: one about a Russian historian who is given crucial new information about WWII, and another about a political oil scheme in Alaska. I thought for sure eventually, they'd somehow come together but by the end, I still felt like they really didn't have anything to do with one another. It just didn't make much sense and too much of the plot(s) and premise felt contrived.

The writing was okay, and the characters started off well, but wound up doing things which also didn't make much sense. Characters who don't even know what's going on somehow wind up involved but don't even question it, they just jump right in.



Needless to say, the premise felt flimsy, the plots disjointed, and the characters artificial.

Advanced review copy from publisher via Net Galley. My opinions are my own.




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