book review, E-book, historical fiction, netgalley, romance, Teen Readers

Sixteen Scandals | ARC Review

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Title: Sixteen Scandals

Author: Sophie Jordan

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 256

Publication Date: 5/25/21

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Categories: Historical Romance, Young Adult

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

In this irreverent regency romp by New York Times best-selling author Sophie Jordan, newly minted sixteen-year-old Primrose Ainsworth finds herself on a wayward birthday adventure through London with a mysterious hero—perfect for fans of My Lady Jane.

  • I’ve read Sophie Jordan’s adult historical romances so I really wanted to see how a young adult romance would work out. I thought the Sixteen Candles twist to it was cute, since it’s one of my most favorite movies of the 80’s.
  • Prim definitely takes chances by sneaking out of the house and going to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. I think it’s important to remember in history and historical romances, girls got married at 16+. So Prim sneaking out, really had the risk of being caught in a scandal that could ruin her life.
  • Her family life is drama-filled with her sisters and a mom who is laser focused on getting each girl married, except Prim, of course, it’s like she’s too tired to care about Prim, poor girl. Glad Prim doesn’t let that hold her back though.
  • The romance is sweet and cute. Prim and Jacob get to know each other all in one night, but the sparks are definitely there by the end.
  • It’s a happy ending for Prim, thank goodness because her mom’s plan for her life was pretty harsh.
  • This was a quick read – and it’s meant for teens. As an adult reading it, it wasn’t for me. But this would be definitely perfect for teens – it has a little romance, adventure, and a girl trying to live her young life. I had a hard time trying to stop comparing adult historical romance and this one meant for a younger audience.
  • And being a Sixteen Candles fan, where was Farmer Ted?! Haha, I mean Jacob obviously is Jake (the duke). The story takes place all in one night, just like the movie, but I think because of the amazing supporting cast in the movie, Prim and Jacob’s one night escapade in this book fell so short. It had some action, the kind you would get in a pleasure garden haha.
  • Everything comes to such a predictable and anti-climatic ending.

I do wish there was a little more to the Sixteen Candles retelling like having more of a supporting cast like the movie did. Other than that, the story is quick and the romance is sweet. This one is perfect for teen readers who want to read a historical romance story.

💜 ~ Yolanda

adult fiction, Blog tour, Book Excerpt, book review, historical fiction

BLOG TOUR} The Woman with the Blue Star by. Pam Jenoff | ARC Review | Chapter Excerpt

Welcome to the blog tour for The Woman with the Blue Star by. Pam Jenoff!

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Title: The Woman with the Blue Star

Author: Pam Jenoff

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 336

Publication Date: 5/4/21

Publisher: Park Row

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | IndieBound | Libro.fm | Books-A-Million | Target | Walmart | Indigo | Kobo | AppleBooks | GooglePlay

Categories: WWII, Historical Fiction, Jewish

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris comes a riveting tale of courage and unlikely friendship during World War II.


1942. Sadie Gault is eighteen and living with her parents in the Kraków Ghetto during World War II. When the Nazis liquidate the ghetto, Sadie and her pregnant mother are forced to seek refuge in the perilous tunnels beneath the city. One day Sadie looks up through a grate and sees a girl about her own age buying flowers.


Ella Stepanek is an affluent Polish girl living a life of relative ease with her stepmother, who has developed close alliances with the occupying Germans. While on an errand in the market, she catches a glimpse of something moving beneath a grate in the street. Upon closer inspection, she realizes it’s a girl hiding.


Ella begins to aid Sadie and the two become close, but as the dangers of the war worsen, their lives are set on a collision course that will test them in the face of overwhelming odds. Inspired by incredible true stories, The Woman with the Blue Star is an unforgettable testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary strength of the human will to survive.

  • I thought the focus on Sadie Gault who hid in the sewers while German Nazis occupied Poland was a fascinating story. I find most WWII to be the same at times, mostly with them concentrating on the war front. I found this different and I learned something new. The harrowing events that take place from their escape to the sewer and life there is tightly woven. This was a quick read from the start.
  • The dual perspectives of Sadie and Ella, a Polish girl living relatively free in Krakow shows how much the Jewish people were subjected to many evils under the Nazis. Ella is trying to survive in her own way since food rations are low, she’s living with her stepmother, and her love life is in shambles. Her relationship problems are light compared to Sadie who is living in a sewer and hoping one day she will have a future. But their unlikely friendship grows steadily through a sewer grate for the most part, and they become a lifeline for one another.
  • Sadie’s life in the sewers is horrible and yet compared to being in a death camp, this was the safest and best place for them to be. They live in filth, barely have food and her mother is pregnant! Life and death is happening in Sadie’s life in the sewers and my heart ached for her situation many times over.
  • I was afraid for Sadie and Ella being caught by Nazis or Polish Police officers. Every time they had a chance to interact I prayed they would not be caught because I can only imagine worse horrors for Sadie and Ella if they were.
  • Really great twist in the end but I thought I had misread something and had to pause for a moment to realize what the author was doing.
  • Triggers: Death, claustrophobia
  • Abrupt ending but it is explained in the epilogue, for a moment I was confused.

I really enjoyed this historical fiction story about two girls, one Jewish and one Polish, who befriend each other in the most unexpected circumstances. I loved the focus on their friendship and their survival journey in Nazis occupied Poland. Sadie has lost her freedom and her family yet living in the sewers is the best thing to do. Ella has lost family too, her love, and yet she still has more freedom to go about life because she is Polish. I was engaged in this story. I learned something and I felt for Sadie. In the end I was grateful for the random strangers that helped her survive a horrible period in time and her strength to hold on to hope to live and keep going.

📚~ Yolanda

About the Author:

Pam Jenoff is the author of several books of historical fiction, including the NYT bestseller The Orphan’s Tale. She holds a degree in international affairs from George Washington University and a degree in history from Cambridge, and she received her JD from UPenn. Her novels are inspired by her experiences working at the Pentagon and as a diplomat for the State Department handling Holocaust issues in Poland. She lives with her husband and 3 children near Philadelphia, where she teaches law.

https://www.pamjenoff.com/ 

Links: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Mailing List

Chapter 1 Excerpt:

Sadie

Kraków, PolandMarch 1942

Everything changed the day they came for the children.

I was supposed to have been in the attic crawl space of the three-story building we shared with a dozen other families in the ghetto. Mama helped me hide there each morning before she set out to join the factory work detail, leaving me with a fresh bucket as a toilet and a stern admonishment not to leave. But I grew cold and restless alone in the tiny, frigid space where I couldn’t run or move or even stand straight. The minutes stretched silently, broken only by a scratching—unseen children, years younger than me, stowed on the other side of the wall. They were kept separate from one another without space to run and play. They sent each other messages by tapping and scratching, though, like a kind of improvised Morse code. Sometimes, in my boredom, I joined in, too.

“Freedom is where you find it,” my father often said when I complained. Papa had a way of seeing the world exactly as he wanted. “The greatest prison is in our mind.” It was easy for him to say. Though he manual ghetto labor was a far cry from his professional work as an accountant before the war, at least he was out and about each day, seeing other people. Not cooped up like me. I had scarcely left our apartment building since we were forced to move six months earlier from our apartment in the Jewish Quarter near the city center to the Podgórze neighborhood where the ghetto had been established on the southern bank of the river. I wanted a normal life, my life, free to run beyond the walls of the ghetto to all of the places I had once known and taken for granted. I imagined taking the tram to the shops on the Rynek or to the kino to see a film, exploring the ancient grassy mounds on the outskirts of the city. I wished that at least my best friend, Stefania, was one of the others hidden nearby. Instead, she lived in a separate apartment on the other side of the ghetto designated for the families of the Jewish police.

It wasn’t boredom or loneliness that had driven me from my hiding place this time, though, but hunger. I had always had a big appetite and this morning’s breakfast ration had been a half slice of bread, even less than usual. Mama had offered me her portion, but I knew she needed her strength for the long day ahead on the labor detail.

As the morning wore on in my hiding place, my empty belly had begun to ache. Visions pushed into my mind uninvited of the foods we ate before the war: rich mushroom soup and savory borscht, and pierogi, the plump, rich dumplings my grandmother used to make. By midmorning, I felt so weak from hunger that I had ventured out of my hiding place and down to the shared kitchen on the ground floor, which was really nothing more than a lone working stove burner and a sink that dripped tepid brown water. I didn’t go to take food—even if there had been any, I would never steal. Rather, I wanted to see if there were any crumbs left in the cupboard and to fill my stomach with a glass of water.

I stayed in the kitchen longer than I should, reading the dog-eared copy of the book I’d brought with me. The thing I detested most about my hiding place in the attic was the fact that it was too dark for reading. I had always loved to read and Papa had carried as many books as he could from our apartment to the ghetto, over the protests of my mother, who said we needed the space in our bags for clothes and food. It was my father who had nurtured my love of learning and encouraged my dream of studying medicine at Jagiellonian University before the German laws made that impossible, first by banning Jews and later by closing the university altogether. Even in the ghetto at the end of his long, hard days of labor, Papa loved to teach and discuss ideas with me. He had somehow found me a new book a few days earlier, too, The Count of Monte Cristo. But the hiding place in the attic was too dark for me to read and there was scarcely any time in the evening before curfew and lights-out. Just a bit longer, I told myself, turning the page in the kitchen. A few minutes wouldn’t matter at all.

I had just finished licking the dirty bread knife when I heard heavy tires screeching, followed by barking voices. I froze, nearly dropping my book. The SS and Gestapo were outside, flanked by the vile Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst, Jewish Ghetto Police, who did their bidding. It was an aktion, the sudden unannounced arrest of large groups of Jews to be taken from the ghetto to camps. The very reason I was meant to be hiding in the first place. I raced from the kitchen, across the hall and up the stairs. From below came a great crash as the front door to the apartment building splintered and the police burst through. There was no way I could make it back to the attic in time.

Instead, I raced to our third-floor apartment. My heart pounded as I looked around desperately, wishing for an armoire or other cabinet suitable for hiding in the tiny room, which was nearly bare except for a dresser and bed. There were other places, I knew, like the fake plaster wall one of the other families had constructed in the adjacent building not a week earlier. That was too far away now, impossible to reach. My eyes focused on the large steamer trunk stowed at the foot of my parents’ bed. Mama had shown me how to hide there once shortly after we first moved to the ghetto. We practiced it like a game, Mama opening the trunk so that I could climb in before she closed the lid.

The trunk was a terrible hiding place, exposed and in the middle of the room. But there was simply nowhere else. I had to try. I raced over to the bed and climbed into the trunk, then closed the lid with effort. I thanked heavens that I was tiny like Mama. I had always hated being so petite, which made me look a solid two years younger than I actually was. Now it seemed a blessing, as did the sad fact that the months of meager ghetto rations had made me thinner. I still fit in the trunk.

When we had rehearsed, we had envisioned Mama putting a blanket or some clothes over the top of the trunk. Of course, I couldn’t do that myself. So the trunk sat unmasked for anyone who walked into the room to see and open. I curled into a tiny ball and wrapped my arms around myself, feeling the white armband with the blue star on my sleeve that all Jews were required to wear.

There came a great crashing from the next building, the sound of plaster being hewn by a hammer or ax. The police had found the hiding place behind the wall, given away by the too-fresh paint. An unfamiliar cry rang out as a child was found and dragged from his hiding place. If I had gone there, I would have been caught as well.

Someone neared the door to the apartment and flung it open. My heart seized. I could hear breathing, feel eyes searching the room. I’m sorry, Mama, I thought, feeling her reproach for having left the attic. I braced myself for discovery. Would they go easier on me if I came out and gave myself up? The footsteps grew fainter as the German continued down the hall, stopping before each door, searching.

The war had come to Kraków one warm fall day two and a half years earlier when the air-raid sirens rang out for the first time and sent the playing children scurrying from the street. Life got hard before it got bad. Food disappeared and we waited in long lines for the most basic supplies. Once there was no bread for a whole week.

Then about a year ago, upon orders from the General Government, Jews teemed into Kraków by the thousands from the small towns and villages, dazed and carrying their belongings on their backs. At first I wondered how they would all find places to stay in Kazimierz, the already cramped Jewish Quarter of the city. But the new arrivals were forced to live by decree in a crowded section of the industrial Podgórze district on the far side of the river that had been cordoned off with a high wall. Mama worked with the Gmina, the local Jewish community organization, to help them resettle, and we often had friends of friends over for a meal when they first arrived, before they went to the ghetto for good. They told stories from their hometowns too awful to believe and Mama shooed me from the room so I would not hear.

Several months after the ghetto was created, we were ordered to move there as well. When Papa told me, I couldn’t believe it. We were not refugees, but residents of Kraków; we had lived in our apartment on Meiselsa Street my entire life. It was the perfect location: on the edge of the Jewish Quarter but easy walking distance to the sights and sounds of the city center and close enough to Papa’s office on Stradomska Street that he could come home for lunch. Our apartment was above an adjacent café where a pianist played every evening. Sometimes the music spilled over and Papa would whirl Mama around the kitchen to the faint strains. But according to the orders, Jews were Jews. One day. One suitcase each. And the world I had known my entire life disappeared forever.

I peered out of the thin slit opening of the trunk, trying to see across the tiny room I shared with my parents. We were lucky, I knew, to have a whole room to ourselves, a privilege we had been given because my father was a labor foreman. Others were forced to share an apartment, often two or three families together. Still, the space felt cramped compared to our real home. We were ever on top of one another, the sights and sounds and smells of daily living magnified.

“Kinder, raus!” the police called over and over again now as they patrolled the halls. Children, out. It was not the first time the Germans had come for children during the day, knowing that their parents would be at work.

But I was no longer a child. I was eighteen and might have joined the work details like others my age and some several years younger. I could see them lining up for roll call each morning before trudging to one of the factories. And I wanted to work, even though I could tell from the slow, painful way my father now walked, stooped like an old man, and how Mama’s hands were split and bleeding that it was hard and awful. Work meant a chance to get out and see and talk to people. My hiding was a subject of much debate between my parents. Papa thought I should work. Labor cards were highly prized in the ghetto. Workers were valued and less likely to be deported to one of the camps. But Mama, who seldom fought my father on anything, had forbidden it. “She doesn’t look her age. The work is too hard. She is safest out of sight.” I wondered as I hid now, about to be discovered at any second, if she would still think she was right.

The building finally went silent, the last of the awful footsteps receding. Still I didn’t move. That was one of the ways they trapped people who were hiding, by pretending to go away and lying in wait when they came out. I remained motionless, not daring to leave my hiding place. My limbs ached, then went numb. I had no idea how much time had passed. Through the slit, I could see that the room had grown dimmer, as if the sun had lowered a bit.

Sometime later, there were footsteps again, this time a shuffling sound as the laborers trudged back silent and exhausted from their day. I tried to uncurl myself from the trunk. But my muscles were stiff and sore and my movements slow. Before I could get out, the door to our apartment flung open and someone ran into the room with steps light and fluttering. “Sadie!” It was Mama, sounding hysterical.

“Jestem tutaj,” I called. I am here. Now that she was home, she could help me untangle myself and get out. But my voice was muffled by the trunk. When I tried to undo the latch, it stuck.

Mama raced from the room back into the corridor. I could hear her open the door to the attic, then run up the stairs, still searching for me. “Sadie!” she called. Then, “My child, my child,” over and over again as she searched but did not find me, her voice rising to a shriek. She thought I was gone.

“Mama!” I yelled. She was too far away to hear me, though, and her own cries were too loud. Desperately, I struggled once more to free myself from the trunk without success. Mama raced back into the room, still wailing. I heard the scraping sound of a window opening and felt a whoosh of cold air. At last I threw myself against the lid of the trunk, slamming my shoulder so hard it throbbed. The latch sprang open.

I broke free and stood up quickly. “Mama?” She was standing in the oddest position, with one foot on the window ledge, her willowy frame silhouetted against the frigid twilight sky. “What are you doing?” For a second, I thought she was looking for me outside. But her face was twisted with grief and pain. I knew then why Mama was on the window ledge. She assumed I had been taken along with the other children. And she didn’t want to live. If I hadn’t freed myself from the trunk in time, Mama would have jumped. I was her only child, her whole world. She was prepared to kill herself before she would go on without me.

A chill ran through me as I sprinted toward her. “I’m here, I’m here.” She wobbled unsteadily on the window ledge and I grabbed her arm to stop her from falling. Remorse ripped through me. I always wanted to please her, to bring that hard-won smile to her beautiful face. Now I had caused her so much pain she’d almost done the unthinkable.

“I was so worried,” she said after I’d helped her down and closed the window. As if that explained everything. “You weren’t in the attic.”

“But, Mama, I hid where you told me to.” I gestured to the trunk. “The other place, remember? Why didn’t you look for me there?”

Mama looked puzzled. “I didn’t think you would fit anymore.” There was a pause and then we both began laughing, the sound scratchy and out of place in the pitiful room. For a few seconds, it was like we were back in our old apartment on Meiselsa Street and none of this had happened at all. If we could still laugh, surely things would be all right. I clung to this last improbable thought like a life preserver at sea.

But a cry echoed through the building, then another, silencing our laughter. It was the mothers of the other children who had been taken by the police. There came a thud outside. I started for the window, but my mother blocked me. “Look away,” she ordered. It was too late. I glimpsed Helga Kolberg, who lived down the hall, lying motionless in the coal-tinged snow on the pavement below, her limbs cast at odd angles and skirt splayed around her like a fan. She had realized her children were gone and, like Mama, she didn’t want to live without them. I wondered whether jumping was a shared instinct, or if they had discussed it, a kind of suicide pact in case their worst nightmares came true.

My father raced into the room then. Neither Mama nor I said a word, but I could tell from his unusually grim expression that he already knew about the aktion and what had happened to the other families. He simply walked over and wrapped his enormous arms around both of us, hugging us tighter than usual.

As we sat, silent and still, I looked up at my parents. Mama was a striking beauty—thin and graceful, with white-blond hair the color of a Nordic princess’. She looked nothing like the other Jewish women and I had heard whispers more than once that she didn’t come from here. She might have walked away from the ghetto and lived as a non-Jew if it wasn’t for us. But I was built like Papa, with the dark, curly hair and olive skin that made the fact that we were Jews undeniable. My father looked like the laborer the Germans had made him in the ghetto, broad-shouldered and ready to lift great pipes or slabs of concrete. In fact, he was an accountant—or had been until it became illegal for his firm to employ him anymore. I always wanted to please Mama, but it was Papa who was my ally, keeper of secrets and weaver of dreams, who stayed up too late whispering secrets in the dark and had roamed the city with me, hunting for treasure. I moved closer now, trying to lose myself in the safety of his embrace.

Still, Papa’s arms could offer little shelter from the fact that everything was changing. The ghetto, despite its awful conditions, had once seemed relatively safe. We were living among Jews and the Germans had even appointed a Jewish council, the Judenrat, to run our daily affairs. Perhaps if we laid low and did as we were told, Papa said more than once, the Germans would leave us alone inside these walls until the war was over. That had been the hope. But after today, I wasn’t so sure. I looked around the apartment, seized with equal parts disgust and fear. In the beginning, I had not wanted to be here; now I was terrified we would be forced to leave.

“We have to do something,” Mama burst out, her voice a pitch higher than usual as it echoed my unspoken thoughts.

“I’ll take her tomorrow and register her for a work permit,” Papa said. This time Mama did not argue. Before the war, being a child had been a good thing. But now being useful and able to work was the only thing that might save us.

Mama was talking about more than a work visa, though. “They are going to come again and next time we won’t be so lucky.” She did not bother to hold back her words for my benefit now. I nodded in silent agreement. Things were changing, a voice inside me said. We could not stay here forever.

“It will be okay, kochana,” Papa soothed. How could he possibly say that? But Mama laid her head on his shoulder, seeming to trust him as she always had. I wanted to believe it, too. “I will think of something. At least,” Papa added as we huddled close, “we are all still together.” The words echoed through the room, equal parts promise and prayer.

Excerpted from The Woman With the Blue Star @ 2021 by Pam Jenoff, used with permission by Park Row Books.

adult fiction, book review, coming of age, historical fiction, paranormal, romance

The Beautiful Ones | ARC Review

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Title: The Beautiful Ones

Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 327

Publication Date: 4/27/21

Categories: Romance, Paranormal, Alternate Historical Fiction

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a sweeping romance with a dash of magic.

They are the Beautiful Ones, Loisail’s most notable socialites, and this spring is Nina’s chance to join their ranks, courtesy of her well-connected cousin and his calculating wife. But the Grand Season has just begun, and already Nina’s debut has gone disastrously awry. She has always struggled to control her telekinesis—neighbors call her the Witch of Oldhouse—and the haphazard manifestations of her powers make her the subject of malicious gossip.

When entertainer Hector Auvray arrives to town, Nina is dazzled. A telekinetic like her, he has traveled the world performing his talents for admiring audiences. He sees Nina not as a witch, but ripe with potential to master her power under his tutelage. With Hector’s help, Nina’s talent blossoms, as does her love for him.

But great romances are for fairytales, and Hector is hiding a truth from Nina — and
himself—that threatens to end their courtship before it truly begins. The Beautiful Ones is a charming tale of love and betrayal, and the struggle between conformity and passion, set in a world where scandal is a razor-sharp weapon.

  • This is the first novel I’ve read from this author, though I have Mexican Gothic on my TBR list and I fell in love with this story as it just pulled me in and didn’t let go. I don’t know what I really expected from it, but I found the writing so engaging, and beautiful.
  • I became a reader through romance novels so this was everything I want in a romance. I really was swept away and could not put the book down. There is passion, jealousy, betrayal, romance and love. I felt like my heart was being squeezed by the end of the story but in a good way.
  • I liked how this was an alternate historical fiction story, even though the places resembled high society in England some time in the early 1900’s perhaps, whatever time period where motorcars were being introduced. The characters attended balls, a season of parties, socializing and summer in the countryside. A fun twist is that Nina and Hector both could do telekinesis. In this world of The Beautiful Ones, it’s an extraordinary skill but looked down upon in high society. It makes Nina stand out in unpleasant ways, whereas Hector thrives with the skill being a performer. The two feel less alone when together.
  • Nina isn’t beautiful like her cousin’s wife Valerie, but she comes from a well known family. Unfortunately she’s too different, she talks when she’s not supposed to and it’s usually about inappropriate things like bugs, plus she can do telekinesis. She’s never made friends easily because she is different but I like how it didn’t stop her from being who she is and enjoying life. And thank goodness for her supportive family who loves her just as she is.
  • I love how Nina and Hector’s love grow. Their love is not quite a slow burn because Hector has been burning for Valerie, Nina’s cousin-in-law. I liked how the story explored burning passion and love versus something that forms into friendship and grows steadily into love.
  • Valerie ~ she is hateful but her character was done so well. So well that I hated her. Here was this woman who had the love she always wanted but he was poor. As a woman she had to marry well and she did, breaking the heart of her first love in the process. When he comes back to her, she revels in his obsession with her, they are both obsessed with one another, but whereas Hector believes it’s love, for Valerie, it’s possession. Nina is the innocent miss but Valerie is the hard, calculated woman and I was fascinated with her downward spiral.

The Beautiful Ones swept me off my romantic feet. I was hoping Nina would get some satisfaction over Hector and Valerie’s games and she does come out triumphant. This story is emotional, tragic, hopeful and everything I want in a romance. I am a new fan of this author and look forward to reading more books from her.

🦋 ~ Yolanda

adult fiction, Blog tour, book review, historical fiction, netgalley, romance

BLOG TOUR } The Last Bookshop in London by. Madeline Martin | ARC Review

Welcome to the blog tour for The Last Bookshop in London!

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Title: The Last Bookshop in London

Author: Madeline Martin

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 320

Publication Date: 4/6/21

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

Buy Here: Amazon | B & N | Bookshop | IndieBound | Libro.fm | Books-A-Million | Target | Kobo | AppleBooks | Google Play | Audible

Categories: Historical Fiction, WWII, London, Romance, Friendship, War, Bookshop

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Inspired by the true World War II history of the few bookshops to survive the Blitz, The Last Bookshop in London is a timeless story of wartime loss, love and the enduring power of literature.

August 1939: London prepares for war as Hitler’s forces sweep across Europe. Grace Bennett has always dreamed of moving to the city, but the bunkers and blackout curtains that she finds on her arrival were not what she expected. And she certainly never imagined she’d wind up working at Primrose Hill, a dusty old bookshop nestled in the heart of London.

Through blackouts and air raids as the Blitz intensifies, Grace discovers the power of storytelling to unite her community in ways she never dreamed—a force that triumphs over even the darkest nights of the war.

  • How can I not enjoy a story about a bookshop? This one is even more inspirational because it’s about a bookshop in London during the Blitz in World War II. London was being bombed and yet this bookshop was there to keep people’s spirits up, keep them hoping, or keep their mind off what was happening.
  • Almost all the characters are wholesome, especially Grace who is a nice girl just wanting to get some work experience in London. She helps turn a bookshop around but other than that she is a very caring person ~ you can see it with the way she is with her friends and the new people she meets in London.
  • There is a minor romance in this story and what is a war story without a love story? Thankfully this one isn’t tragic, but sweet and hopeful. It’s always nice to remember when once upon a time, people did fall for each other through letter writing! It was all about patience back in the day.
  • I learned a lot of historical information from the book. I got a glimpse of all the organization people could volunteer for to help in the war. I thought that moment Grace and Viv go out on the town while bombs were dropping was pretty surreal! Also I enjoyed all of the St. Paul’s Cathedral history because it was one of my favorite places to visit when I did go to London few years ago. London really did survive!

Triggers: war, death, bombing

  • This was a super fast read, almost like the story glossed over the many things about war. I expected depth but it felt like a light historical fiction story. There was death and such but the story never felt heavy, unless I just never connected to the characters to feel their grief. Despite lacking depth, I think it held on to the message of Grace and the bookshop being an inspiration, a candle in the dark to so many suffering in the city during that time.

If you want to read a World War II story about books and hope, you will enjoy this one. Although it lacked the heaviness and depth of typical stories set during war time, I think the message about friendship, and community is a beautiful thing.

📚 ~ Yolanda

About the Author:

Madeline Martin is a USA TODAY bestselling author of historical romance novels filled with twists and turns, adventure, steamy romance, empowered heroines and the men who are strong enough to love them.

Website: http://www.madelinemartin.com/ 

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book review, fantasy, historical fiction, romance, Young Adult

Storm from the East | Book Review

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Title: Storm from the East (Glass Alliance, #2)

Author: Joanna Hathaway

Format: Hardcover (own)

Pages: 496

Published Date: 2/11/20

Categories: Historical Fantasy, War, Family, Romance

Battles, revolution, and romance collide in Joanna Hathaway’s stunning, World Wars-inspired sequel to Dark of the West

Part war drama, part romance, Storm from the East is the second novel in Joanna Hathaway’s immersive, upmarket YA fantasy series that will appeal to readers of Sabaa Tahir, Marie Rutkoski, and Evelyn Skye.

War has begun, and the days of Athan’s and Aurelia’s secret, summer romance feel a world away. Led by Athan’s father, the revolutionary Safire have launched a secret assault upon the last royal kingdom in the South, hoping to depose the king and seize a powerful foothold on the continent. Athan proves a star pilot among their ranks, struggling to justify the violence his family has unleashed as he fights his way to the capital—where, unbeknownst to him, Aurelia has lived since the war’s onset. Determined to save the kingdom Athan has been ordered to destroy, she partners with a local journalist to inflame anti-Safire sentiment, all while learning this conflict might be far darker and more complex than she ever imagined.

When the two reunite at last, Athan longing to shake the nightmare of combat and Aurelia reeling from the discovery of a long-buried family truth come to light, they’ll find the shadow of war stretches well beyond the battlefield. Each of them longs to rekindle the love they once shared . . . but each has a secret they’re desperate to hide.

  • We return to this intriguing historical fantasy world, the second novel in the Glass Alliance series and the stakes are higher. The plane fights are more thrilling as Athan tries to advance in his career as a fighter pilot and impress his father (who is barely impressed by anything he does). Aurelia is trying to stop a war but making more of a mess of things. There are secrets, there are truth bombs, and real bombs, there is romance. There is so much I feel like this should be a movie.
  • The family dynamics of the Dakar’s is fascinating, toxic, riveting and I really need to know what Sinora has on the General! But the siblings in this family has been raised in an unconventional way, all they have known it seems is war – they grew up with a manipulative father and they are left hungry for his love and praise. I feel like we get snippets here and there about each boy, of course we know more about Athan, but Arrin and Kalt, are intriguing – mostly Arrin at this point. Their sister doesn’t get a lot of scenes but she seems interesting as well.
  • Aurelia travels to Resya and learns more about her mother’s background and some shocking truths are revealed. I kept feeling like she means well and thinks she’s a step ahead when really sometimes her involvement just messes things up more. She has a good heart and wants the war to be over because she knows how evil it is, all these lives dead for what? But she’s torn because of her family secrets as well. How does she stop a war and keep her family safe at the same time? It seems impossible.
  • I love how this series is written. Each chapter gets to the point quickly and it moves the story quickly. I really like how this story questions all sides fighting a war, is it ever worth it, who is the more evil one, who will benefit in the end, and will it ever end when vengeance is the motivation? And what is the true cause each side is fighting for?
  • PTSD gets a spotlight in this series and we see Athan really start to go through it. We already know Arrin’s affected by it, but Kalt not so much maybe because he’s on a ship? And then there are the people caught in the crossfire of war who suffer greatly as well.
  • The ending was a shocker and I am definitely going to be reading the arc to book three, ASAP.

Triggers: violence, war atrocities, suicide, PTSD

  • Athan and Aurelia have a few scenes together in this series but for the most part they are not together. There are letters written between them that aren’t sent but we feel the yearning between them.
  • Will war ever end? When will it be enough for General Dakar?

This sequel really keeps the story moving at a clipped pace, almost like we are the ones marching into battle along with everyone else. I felt the tension between the Dakar boys and Athan’s thrills in the plane and fears. I was shocked with Aurelia’s discoveries and Sinora’s actions, and Athan and Aurelia’s love is so bittersweet but will it stand a chance? Can peace be achieved between all sides? I’ll be reading the third book right away to find out!

📚 ~ Yolanda

book review, E-book, fantasy, historical fiction, magic, New adult, paranormal, romance

From Ash and Blood | Book Review

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Title: From Blood and Ash

Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

Format: ebook (owned)

Pages: 634

Publication Date: 3/30/20

Categories: Romance, Fantasy, New Adult, Paranormal

A Maiden…

Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.

A Duty…

The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.

A Kingdom…

Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.

I finally read this book that has been sitting on my ebook shelf since last year! Lately I’ve been seeing it everywhere on blogs and instagram so I finally read it and here are my thoughts:

  • I love me a good paranormal story with vampire/werewolf lore. It’s a classic tale, lots of forbidden love stories can come from it and it’s dark with all the danger and blood sucking. So this was an intriguing concept – a Maiden, that’s Poppy, is waiting to Ascend. To heaven? Nah, nope. For awhile it’s a mystery what these Ascended people are. We just know as a Maiden, Poppy is to be preserved, to be kept worthy of her role as a Maiden, but that life is like being a cloistered nun. So Poppy does what she can and escapes once in awhile to experience life outside the Duke’s home.
  • Poppy has a good crew around her, Tawny her maid/friend who I adore. Vikter her guard/who is like a father to her. And Rylan who dies protecting her. Then the hottest new guard steps in to be her royal guard and things get spicy.
  • The spice? The new guard Hawke is so confident, so charming, so handsome and attractive. He’s also a solid and talented protector who is dedicated to protecting Poppy. The attraction is there and things happen between them, sexy, naughty things. It’s clear they can’t resist each other.
  • I think my favorite part of the book was the fighting scenes! I like the action, it is thrilling. I love that Poppy can kick butt under that veil, thank goodness Vikter taught her well! And when she rages, watch out!
  • Triggers: abuse, kidnapping, violence
  • The author lays down ground work for the world building in the beginning of the story but it felt like a slow build. I remember picking this up in 2020 and putting it down after three chapter. It wasn’t catching my attention but with all the hype about it right now, I decided to give it another shot. There working for me for some reason, maybe due to the info dump?
  • There was a bunch of repetitive use of words…intriguing, inappropriate and Hawke being turned on by Poppy’s violence repeatedly.
  • Now here’s where most of my conflict with the book is ~ it’s with Hawke. And I usually love the alpha bad boys and Hawke in the second half of this book did not do it for me. He went from likable to me wishing Poppy would find a way to escape him 😏. But she is hooked on him and he knows it. It kind of grates on me how he likes to remind her of that fact even when he is the one who has been betraying her all this time. Poppy went from one prison, being the Maiden to falling for Hawke who is controlling her future as well? 🤦🏻‍♀️

I did enjoy Hawke and Poppy’s banter in the beginning, it was actually turning out to be a romance that had potential to be something great. I also found Poppy’s relationship with those she cares about very touching – and I really love that she can fight. I guess I like when she’s violent too, Hawke! Haha! I will be reading the sequel to see what happens and I hope Hawke redeems himself in my eyes. Overall, a fairly entertaining read even though I wasn’t into the male lead.

⚔️ ~ Yolanda

adult fiction, book review, contemporary, historical fiction, netgalley

BLOG TOUR } The Lost Apothecary by. Sarah Penner | ARC Review

Welcome to the blog tour for The Lost Apothecary by. Sarah Penner!

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Title: The Lost Apothecary

Author: Sarah Penner

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 320

Publication Date: 3/2/21

Buy Here: Bookshop.org | IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible | Apple Books | Kobo | Google Play | Books-A-Million | Target | Libro.fm

Categories: Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.

Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

  • The story is told through three perspectives, the past with Nella and Eliza and then present time with Caroline.
  • Caroline is going through some marriage trouble but I love how her curiosity to find out about an old apothecary bottle leads her to learning a lot of things about herself and the choices she made in life. I could relate to Caroline a lot.
  • Nella and Eliza’s story were fascinating ~ especially because that apothecary was one used by women to do harm. Was it okay for them to do that? In those times women had no resources to help them against men causing them harm so I can see why they resorted to poison. I felt for both Nella and Eliza and what happened to them.
  • The history about the apothecary is fascinating and I love how at the end of the book the author included recipes, non-harmful ones, of course!
  • There were moments I was more interested in Caroline’s life than Nella and Eliza’s but I think there was a good balance of both.
  • The twist in the end definitely tied in the women’s stories together.

I found the historical aspects of this story quite fascinating since I’ve always been drawn to stories about apothecaries and healing. It’s so interesting to learn about how people survived without modern medicine but in this case, how women survived some very bad situations they were trapped in. Caroline is the modern woman trying to get out of a situation she’s found herself in and researching Nella’s apothecary helps her find the strength to do the right thing.

📖 ~ Yolanda

About the Author:

Sarah Penner is the debut author of The Lost Apothecary, to be translated in eleven languages worldwide. She works full-time in finance and is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She and her husband live in St. Petersburg, Florida, with their miniature dachshund, Zoe. To learn more, visit slpenner.com.

https://www.sarahpenner.com/ | Facebook: @SarahPennerAuthor | Instagram: @sarah_penner_author | Twitter: @sl_penner

book review, fantasy, historical fiction, romance, Young Adult

Dark of the West | Book Review

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Title: Dark of the West

Author: Joanna Hathaway

Format: Hardcover (owned)

Pages: 480

Publication Date: 2/5/19

Categories: Young Adult, WWII Inspired World, Historical Fantasy, Romance, Family

He was raised in revolution. She was raised in a palace. Can their love stop a war? Code Name Verity meets The Winner’s Curse in Joanna Hathaway’s Dark of the West, a breathtaking YA fantasy debut.

Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.

Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe.

  • My favorite part of this book is the intensity in brings. Athan is the youngest son of a General who is ruthless and has a reputation for fighting and winning wars. The General is a hard man who is always scheming. Aurelia is a Princess raised with rules but her mother is a Southern with a past that threatens their monarchy rule. There is a lot of political intrigue in this story and it brings the tension between all sides involved.
  • I was very invested in Athan and his struggles with wanting his dad’s approval, competing with his older brothers and wanting to be with his mother. I felt awful for him and what he had to deal with just to survive his family. His brothers all want to be the apple of their father’s eye and will do anything for his praise. Athan wants to disappear but he can’t because of his loyalty to his family and his mom’s memory. So what will he do?
  • Aurelia’s mother, the Queen of Etania is an intriguing character. She’s from Resyna but we don’t know much about the country because the story doesn’t travel there yet. All we know is what the characters tell us, and Sinora, the Queen has past that is entangled with Athan’s father. What happened exactly? We don’t know, but I hope I find out more about it in the sequel.
  • Having grown up in the 80’s, I was a big fan of the movie Top Gun and watched it a lot. This story is inspired by World War II but the plane fights reminded me of Top Gun and Athan is definitely Maverick. And Cyar is Goose ~ except I hope Cyar has a better storyline than Goose did in the movie! I enjoyed the flying and stunts in this book a lot though.
  • The political intrigue and scheming is very good and just like chess. Everyone is making moves and we aren’t sure who is going to win at this stage of the series. It’s a back and forth match but winner will take all. Unfortunately Athan and Aurelia are caught in the cross-fire.
  • The romance between Athan and Aurelia is sweet and very slow. They are both young, both have secrets but enjoy each other’s company. Will their bond continue to stay strong when the truth lets out?
  • Triggers: murder, violence, war
  • Aurelia at times comes off as naive but there was a moment in the end where she shows that she really isn’t just a useless princess. I’m curious to see what happens to her in the sequel.
  • Athan is said to be brilliant and smart but his character doesn’t seem to show it at all. He’s a good pilot, maybe shows off and disregards the rules too much, but brilliant strategist or something? I don’t see that yet. Maybe in the sequel?

I am glad I finally picked up this book. I was thoroughly entertained and was invested in the story because the tension between the warring countries was really good. The General seems to be a step ahead of everyone, or is he? I’ll need to find out more in the sequel but so far I’m enjoying this WWII inspired fantasy world with intriguing characters and a lot of political intrigue.

✈︎ ~ Yolanda

adult fiction, book review, fantasy, historical fiction, magic, Mystery, netgalley

The Conductors | ARC Review

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Title: The Conductors

Author: Nicole Glover

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 384

Publication Date: 3/2/21

Publisher: John Joseph Adams/Mariner Books

Categories: Mystery, Historical Fantasy, Slavery, Underground Railroad, Magic, Adult Fiction

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

A compelling debut by a new voice in fantasy fiction, The Conductors features the magic and mystery of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files written with the sensibility and historical setting of Octavia Butler’s Kindred: Introducing Hetty Rhodes, a magic-user and former conductor on the Underground Railroad who now solves crimes in post–Civil War Philadelphia.

As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Hetty Rhodes helped usher dozens of people north with her wits and magic. Now that the Civil War is over, Hetty and her husband Benjy have settled in Philadelphia, solving murders and mysteries that the white authorities won’t touch. When they find one of their friends slain in an alley, Hetty and Benjy bury the body and set off to find answers. But the secrets and intricate lies of the elites of Black Philadelphia only serve to dredge up more questions. To solve this mystery, they will have to face ugly truths all around them, including the ones about each other.

  • I love how the underground railroad and slavery history are part of this story. Hetty helped many people escape the South after the Civil War by using her magic and bravery. Now that she is in Philadelphia she plays a role in figuring out murders taking place around them, some of the victims being her friends.
  • The celestial magic in the story was very interesting. I liked how it was based off of constellations and they used sigils to conjure up the magic.
  • Hetty is a strong character – she is smart, caring and so brave.
  • Hetty and Benjy’s relationship was a marriage of convenience but it grew into something more which was so nice to see. They really were partners in solving the mystery and taking care of the people around them.
  • Triggers: slavery, abuse, murder
  • This is definitely a mystery, not quite a cozy mystery, and mysteries and I have a strained relationship – meaning if it’s too slow, I will not be invested in the story. This was slow for me. If you like mysteries though, this might be up your alley.
  • It would have been nice to learn more about the magic system because it sounded so fascinating. I love the idea of using the constellation sigils as magic. I just needed a little more information about the magic.

The concept of blending magic, black history tied to slavery, post civil war and the underground railroad is fantastic. I just wished the story held my attention more and that we got to see more of the magic system. In the end, Hetty and Benjy make a good partnership as they figure out the mysteries and investigates murders happening around them. Even though this book wasn’t for me, I think mystery lovers will really enjoy this book because of it’s uniqueness.

📚 ~ Yolanda

adult fiction, historical fiction, netgalley

The Four Winds | ARC Review

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Title: The Four Winds

Author: Kristin Hannah

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 464

Publication Date: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: 2/2/21

Categories: Historical Fiction, Dust Bowl, Family

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone comes an epic novel of love and heroism and hope, set against the backdrop of one of America’s most defining eras—the Great Depression.

Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance. 

In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

  • Kristin Hannah is an auto-read author for me. She does it again with The Four Winds and wow, this is a heavy read. But like the amazing writer she is, she makes you feel despair, desperation, fear, loss and eventually hope. This story is a hard journey into a bleak time during American History, the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl era.
  • Not only does this book make you feel – it places you in the specific time and place so you can be there in person, struggling with Elsa and the Martinelli’s. I was praying for rain to help them! I was pleading for her daughter to give her mom a break. I was begging them to take the government help. I was enraged at the discrimination and poverty they experienced in California. Kristin Hannah always does research for her books and it shows! It’s why I love her books so much.
  • Elsa is our main character and she is a girl who just wants to be loved. She’s been ruled by fear and rules all her life only to be discarded by her family. But does she survive? Hell yes…she does everything for the love of her children. My god, her mother’s love is heartbreaking and enduring. Her daughter Loreda is a strong force in this story as well. She is carefree like her father and is at an age where she fights her mother on everything. It’s a long road for all of them, but mostly for these two and their relationship.
  • This story is so multi-layered. There are so many themes in this book: motherhood, pride, discrimination, poverty and survival.
  • Triggers: poverty, discrimination, depression
  • This story is pretty bleak and depressing. There isn’t much happy times at all in this book.

Kristin Hannah once again weaves an emotional tale of brutal struggle and hope. The mother-daughter relationship in this book hit me hard, especially at the end. Elsa Martinelli’s journey is one of courage and strength and I wished so much life was kinder to her. This is an inspiring story to remind us we can get through hard times and no matter what, love endures.

💛 ~ Yolanda