Friday, August 18, 2017

Review: The Daughters of Ireland

The Daughters of Ireland 
(orig. The Daughters of Castle Deverill)
By Santa Montefiore
Published: August 15, 2017

Ireland. 1925.
The war is over. But life will never be the same...
In the green hills of West Cork, Ireland, Castle Deverill has burned to the ground. But young Celia Deverill is determined to see her ruined ancestral home restored to its former glory — to the years when Celia ran through its vast halls with her cousin Kitty and their childhood friend Bridie Doyle.
Kitty herself is raising a young family, but she longs for Jack O’Leary — the long-ago sweetheart she cannot have. And soon Kitty must make a heartbreaking decision, one that could destroy everything she holds dear.
Bridie, once a cook's daugher in Castle Deverill, is now a well-heeled New York City socialite. Yet her celebrity can't erase a past act that haunts her still. Nor can it keep her from seeking revenge upon the woman who wronged her all those years ago.
As these three daughters of Ireland seek to make their way in a world once again beset by dark forces, Santa Montefiore shows us once more why she is one of the best-loved storytellers at work today.

My review:

In the first book in the Deverill Chronicles, the story focuses on Kitty Deverill but here we get to see what is going on with Celia, Bridie and several other characters. The legacy of the castle ties them all together. It is more than just a place. It represents family and heritage and home. When Kitty's father Bertie had to put the castle up for sale, the family had no idea that Celia would be the one to buy it. She pours money and effort into rebuilding it and making it better than it was before. For Kitty, it is bittersweet. While Castle Deverill stays in the family, it is still hard to see it in someone else's hands and it isn't the same. The castle is also home to the ghosts of the Lords Deverill because of the curse Maggie O'Leary placed on Barton Deverill centuries ago. This time we get to find out what happened in the past as well.

In addition to the Deverill family in Ireland we also see what happens in the lives of the London Deverills and a long lost Deverill in America. As the years pass, there is tragedy and family secrets are unearthed. Meanwhile Bridie Doyle is nursing an undeserved grudge against Kitty Deverill. Even though she has riches (far more than Kitty who is living at the mercy of her cousin) Bridie is bitter and wants more. She blames Kitty for her unhappiness instead of rightly looking in the mirror (though Kitty's father holds some blame as well). Bridie is not my least favorite character in the book but she certainly comes close. I'm really hoping she will finally grow up in the next book. Celia on the other hand starts out as flighty and by the end has matured quite a bit. I really liked her character progression. Kitty grew up some more as well. It is hard for her to decide if she should let go of Jack and put her family first though I don't think Jack is good enough for her. He is a bit of a mess but both Kitty and Bridie still love him.

The Daughters of Ireland is the story of the Deverill family in the 1920s but it is also about the idea of home and what that means to the various characters. The setting of Ireland as well as the castle is important although at times the story goes to New York and even South Africa. The family curse ties into it as well. So does the concept of revenge and forgiveness. The novel covers several years and a lot happens but the story moves at a good pace and there is some character development though there is a large cast to keep track of. 

Overall I really enjoyed this book. It has historical details, interesting settings, characters that I cared about and some soapy drama and scandal as well. Now I am waiting for my copy of book three to arrive from Book Depository because I don't want to wait till next year to find out what happens. I'd suggest this series to readers who are interested in historical fiction set in Ireland or family sagas. 

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Review: The Paris Spy

The Paris Spy
By Susan Elia MacNeal
Published: August 8, 2017

Maggie Hope has come a long way since serving as a typist for Winston Churchill. Now she’s working undercover for the Special Operations Executive in the elegant but eerily silent city of Paris, where SS officers prowl the streets in their Mercedes and the Ritz is draped with swastika banners. Walking among the enemy is tense and terrifying, and even though she’s disguised in chic Chanel, Maggie can’t help longing for home.

But her missions come first. Maggie’s half sister, Elise, has disappeared after being saved from a concentration camp, and Maggie is desperate to find her—that is, if Elise even wants to be found. Equally urgent, Churchill is planning the Allied invasion of France, and SOE agent Erica Calvert has been captured, the whereabouts of her vital research regarding Normandy unknown. Maggie must risk her life to penetrate powerful circles and employ all her talents for deception and spycraft to root out a traitor, find her sister, and locate the reports crucial to planning D-Day in a deadly game of wits with the Nazi intelligence elite.

My review:

At the end of the last book, Maggie used her connections to find a way onto a plane to France. Maggie wants to find her sister Elise and rescue Agent Calvert and retrieve the information she had collected. Also newly arrived in France are her friends (and fellow spies) Sarah and Hugh who have their own mission to accomplish. Unfortunately there is a mole in their midst which makes the situation even more dangerous.

The Paris Spy is a fast paced mystery with some unexpected twists and edge of your seat moments. I did figure out early on who the traitor was but that didn't lessen my reading experience. Like in the other books in the series there are real historical figures like Winston Churchill and Coco Chanel. I really didn't like her at all. She may have been stylish but she was also a Nazi collaborator. It was fascinating to get more insight into all the preparations that went into planning the invasion of Normandy. There is also an interesting discussion about espionage and the expending of lives for the greater good.

One thing I noticed with this book is that with the growing cast of characters, the individual stories weren't as impactful at times. I was riveted by what was going on with Hugh and Sarah though. Elise's story also ties in with Maggie as we find out where she is hiding now and what she has been up to. I still cared about all the returning characters but there were some things that I felt detracted from the main action happening in Paris. The ending is something of a cliffhanger however so I'm curious to see what is going to happen to Maggie next. It is going to be a long wait till the next novel! Overall I liked this newest installment in the Maggie Hope mystery series. 

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sunday Post (96) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

I can't believe it's August already. I've had a busy couple of weeks so I haven't participated in awhile. Last weekend I worked and the weekend before that I visited my parents. My dad is doing really well. He is officially off restrictions now and can drive again and leave his heart pillow behind. He still has to go to therapy but he may get to graduate from it sooner than anticipated. I will be visiting them again next weekend and visiting my sister the weekend after that for my birthday. 

At the library I have been busy getting ready for the fair (it starts tomorrow). I am working two shifts at the fair. During my shifts we are offering rock painting. I ended up having to buy rocks from Amazon and hopefully they'll arrive in time. We will also have some games at our booth and button making which is always a big draw. We are offering several designs including Harry Potter houses, Star Wars and Game of Thrones inspired buttons. This past Friday we went to take a look around the new building where we will have our booth. It is air conditioned (a huge bonus) but we will also be sharing space with an animal arena so we'll get to see some of the judging up close and personal. I am glad I won't be there when the pig judging is going on. I did enjoy visiting the llamas and goats last year but I won't be at the fair during their judging.

Last three weeks on my blog:

Cafe By the Sea by Jenny Colgan (review)

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (review)
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn (review)
A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain (review)
Changes in Latitudes by Jen Malone (review)

Books read:

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

This is an interesting fantasy inspired by Pride and Prejudice set in a world with dragons, wyverns and other mythical creatures. Aliza Bentaine doesn't quite live up to Elizabeth Bennet (she's a bit of a mouse) but I still liked the novel.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

I read this for my evening book group. I thought it was pretty good and we had a great discussion.

Changes in Latitudes by Jen Malone

I already posted my review of this. While there were times I got annoyed with the MC, I mostly liked this book.

The Paris Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

Maggie is an undercover British spy in France during WWII and there is a traitor in their midst. Definitely some edge of your seat moments and the book ends with something of a cliffhanger. I was disappointed that I figured out who the traitor was pretty quickly but it was still a suspenseful read.

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

I thought this was an enjoyable quick read. I loved that the main character's name is Leia and that she is a comic book writer. I enjoyed the descriptions of her comic book. There is a mystery and some romance and quirky characters as well.

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

I love cupcakes and the idea of this novel really appealed to me. Issy loses her job and uses her severance pay to start a cupcake bakery. Her grandfather taught her to bake when she was little and she seems to have inherited his talent for it. Sadly he now has dementia so he is writing down his recipes for her so they won't be forgotten. 

Books listened to:

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

This audio book was pretty good. The story is engrossing and suspenseful at times, especially Eve's story of her experiences as a spy in WWI France. Inspired by a true story.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This is a powerful story that made me angry and sad and made me think. The narration is excellent too. One of the best books of 2017. I hope to have my review written soon.

Currently reading:

Karma Khullar's Mustache by Kristi Wientge

Poor Karma. I can totally commiserate. On top of getting unwanted facial hair she is also dealing with some difficulty with her best friend. Middle school can be such a tough time.

On my TBR pile:

I love this series and cannot wait to read this. I am sure it will be fun even if I figure out the mystery early on.

The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel

This is a retelling of Persuasion, one of my favorite Jane Austen novels. 

The Daughters of Ireland by Santa Montefiore

I loved The Girl in the Castle so I am eagerly looking forward to this sequel. It is something of a family saga so I don't know if I will get through it this week.

New books received:

The Essence of Malice by Ashley Weaver (for review)

Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford (for review)

The Two of Us by Victoria Bylin (for review)

Karma Khullar's Mustache by Kristi Wientge (for review)

In Some Other Life by Jessica Brody (for review)

The Daughters of Ireland by Santa Montefiore (for review)

The Lake Effect by Erin McCahan (library book)

Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani (library book)

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan (library book)

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson (library book)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Review: Changes in Latitudes

Changes in Latitudes
By Jen Malone
Published: July 25, 2017

A "road" trip romance that takes place at sea!

All Cassie wants is to get some solid ground under her feet following the shock of her parents' divorce. So when she learns of her mom's plans to take Cassie and her brother, Drew, on a four-month sailing trip from Oregon to Mexico, she's stunned. There is absolutely nothing solid about the Pacific Ocean. 

Cassie is furious. And nervous. It's been hard enough keeping Drew sheltered from what Cassie knows about her mother's role in breaking their family apart, but living in such close quarters threatens to push her anger past its tipping point. Enter Jonah, a whip-smart deckhand who's as gorgeous as he is flirtatious. Cassie tries to keep him at a distance, but the more time they spend together--wandering San Francisco, riding beachside roller coasters, and exploring the California coastline--the harder it is to fight the attraction. 

​Cassie wants to let herself go, but her parents' split has left her feeling adrift in a sea of questions she can't even begin to answer. Can she forgive her mom? Will home ever feel the same? Should she take a chance on Jonah? With life's unpredictable tides working against her, Cassie must decide whether to swim against them... or dive right in.

My review:

I felt bad for Cassie because of the divorce and she is in some deep pain over it and the secret she overheard regarding her mom. Now she has to be stuck on a boat with her mom for four months. While I could understand her hurt, her bratty behavior got old after awhile. To be fair, I know I acted like that at times when I was younger. Cassie's brother Drew is much more sunny even though he is also affected by the divorce. He is eager to learn everything he can about sailing and embraces the trip with good humor. Drew is pretty sweet and I kept thinking he was younger and not a teen yet since he isn't moody like his sister!

Thankfully Cassie's attitude does improve as the book goes on and she is changed by the experience of the trip. The divorce is a really sad thing that happened but it didn't just happen to her. She realizes that her anger and petty behavior was keeping her from making the most of a really cool experience. I think bonding with her brother helped and it doesn't hurt that she meets Jonah who becomes a friend and love interest. I think Cassie grows up a lot during the trip and she learns more about her mom too. 

Overall I liked this book. I appreciated the focus on family relationships and I liked the character development as well. The romance was sweet and I liked how Jonah also befriended Drew and seemed to be a genuinely nice guy. I enjoyed the setting and learning a little bit about sailing though I would never in a million years want to do that. I seriously suffer from motion sickness so I could feel Cassie's pain at the beginning of the trip! I think fans of Morgan Matson, Sarah Dessen and Jessi Kirby would like this.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Review: A Twist in Time

A Twist in Time
By Julie McElwain
Published: April 4, 2017

When Kendra Donovan’s plan to return to the 21st century fails, leaving her stranded in 1815, the Duke of Aldridge believes he knows the reason―she must save his nephew, who has been accused of brutally murdering his ex-mistress.
Former FBI agent Kendra Donovan’s attempts to return to the twenty-first century have failed, leaving her stuck at Aldridge Castle in 1815. And her problems have just begun: in London, the Duke of Aldridge’s nephew Alec―Kendra’s confidante and lover―has come under suspicion for murdering his former mistress, Lady Dover, who was found viciously stabbed with a stiletto, her face carved up in a bizarre and brutal way.

Lady Dover had plenty of secrets, and her past wasn’t quite what she’d made it out to be. Nor is it entirely in the past―which becomes frighteningly clear when a crime lord emerges from London’s seamy underbelly to threaten Alec. Joining forces with Bow Street Runner Sam Kelly, Kendra must navigate the treacherous nineteenth century while she picks through the strands of Lady Dover’s life.

As the noose tightens around Alec’s neck, Kendra will do anything to save him, including following every twist and turn through London’s glittering ballrooms, where deception is the norm―and any attempt to uncover the truth will get someone killed.

My review:

In this sequel to A Murder in Time, Kendra heads to London to investigate the murder of Lady Dover, a house guest in the first book and also the ex of Kendra's love interest, Alec. Kendra is also dealing with frustration over her situation as well as some changes in her life as she is now the ward of the Duke, meaning a higher social status and more rules to follow. Kendra comes to realize that investigating a murder in London is very different from investigating one on the Duke's own lands and the stakes are much higher.

A Twist in Time is an enjoyable mystery though perhaps not as thrilling as the first book which involved a serial killer on the loose. On the plus side there isn't as much build up to the story because the setting is already established. Favorite characters from the first book are back including the Duke, Sam Kelly and Kendra's new best friend Lady Rebecca who is a feminist ahead of her time. I liked the growth and further development of these relationships as well as the details of life in Regency London and how crimes were solved back then. I'd suggest this series to fans of historical mystery and suspense as well as readers who like time travel fiction.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Review: The Alice Network

The Alice Network
By Kate Quinn
Published: June 6, 2017

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.
1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.
1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.
Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the matter where it leads.

My review:

The story starts with Charlotte "Charlie" St. Clair who is traveling abroad with her mother and briefly stopping over in England before finishing their trip to Switzerland. Charlie is pregnant and their destination is a clinic where the "little problem" can be taken care of. But Charlie also hopes to discover what happened to her cousin Rose who disappeared during WWII and the key to her quest is Eve Gardiner. She escapes her mother's clutches and finds Eve with the hope that she will lead Charlie to Rose. 
Eve is a fascinating character. During WWI, she became a spy in France and the parts of the story that share her experience during that time are the most compelling. She worked undercover at a restaurant where prominent Nazis dined and her employer was a dangerous collaborator. Eve went through some horrible experiences and the war definitely changed her. In 1947 when Charlie finds her, she is now a drunk suffering from PTSD and guilt. 
Charlie is a privileged young woman but she has her own share of grief both from her missing cousin and her brother who died tragically during the war.  I found it difficult to like Charlie at times though especially with her hallucinations of Rose (and imaginary conversations with her) as well as imaginary conversations with the "Little Problem". I did feel sorry for her because of what happened with her brother and the way her family is treating her though. I just liked Eve a lot more. 
The Alice Network was a real spy ring of women during WWI. I found that part to be really interesting. While Eve is a fictional character, "Lili" was a real historical figure and war hero, Louise de Bettignies. I liked how the author brought this little known aspect of WWI history to life. The novel becomes a page turner, especially the 1915 sections and even the 1947 part has some suspense as the past and "present" collide. Overall I really enjoyed this historical novel. I initially listened to the audio book and I thought the narration was pretty good but I had to switch to the print version because it was too suspenseful to listen to in the car on the way to work and I couldn't wait to find out what happened! I suggest this book to fans of historical fiction like The Nightingale, The Girl You Left Behind, The Orphan's Tale and the Maggie Hope mysteries by Susan Elia MacNeal. Although not quite as good as The Nightingale, it is definitely well worth reading.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
By Taylor Jenkins Reid
Published: June 13, 2017

In this entrancing novel “that speaks to the Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor in us all” (Kirkus Reviews), a legendary film actress reflects on her relentless rise to the top and the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

“Heartbreaking, yet beautiful” (Jamie Blynn, Us Weekly), The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is “Tinseltown drama at its finest” (Redbook): a mesmerizing journey through the splendor of old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it costs—to face the truth.

My review:

I love Hollywood's Golden Age and classic movies so the subject of this book really appealed to me. Evelyn is a strong character and very fascinating though not exactly easy to relate to. In a way she reminded me of Scarlett O'Hara in her drive and determination to get what she wants. Evelyn loves fame and she wants to be at the top of the game but to get there she has to sacrifice a lot and at times she makes some bad decisions. She may have been married seven times but not one of her husbands was the love of her life.  Now that she is in the twilight years of her life, Evelyn is finally ready to "tell all" . Her story is sad at times because even with wealth and fame there was loneliness and all that she had to give up or keep secret for her career's sake.

The parts of the book that detail Evelyn's history and career are the most interesting to read about. While all the actors mentioned are fictional, their stories remind me of real Hollywood stars. Monique's storyline is not as interesting though everything ties together neatly in the end.  Readers who are fans of Old Hollywood will be caught up in this juicy story of Hollywood history, secrets and scandals. I found it to be a page-turning story, perfect for summer reading. 

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss