#AtoZChallenge L is for The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

Grace is trying to rebuild her life, after losing her husband during the war. One day, as she was on her way to work, and passing Central Station, she finds an abandoned suitcase  under a bench seat. On opening it, she finds photographs of a dozen different women. For some reason that she can’t explain she quickly closes the suitcases and hurries off with the photographs.

After spending time researching the photos, she discovers that the owner of the suitcase was Eleanor Trigg, the leader of a group of female secret agents who were sent to Europe during the war to help with the war effort.

Grace finds herself drawn to these photos. She can’t leave them alone and feels she must find out more, if only to find the families so she can pass on the photos.

This story is inspired by true events during world war two and shines a light on the incredible bravery of these otherwise ordinary women.

My Thoughts

I found this story to be inspiring, troubling and unforgettable. One of my favourite genres is world war one and two historical fiction and this book didn’t disappoint.  I was so caught up in the story of these girls, that I didn’t want to be finished reading the book. I even read the last couple of chapters, very slowly, a couple of pages at a time, to delay the ending. I really didn’t want it to end.

I found The Lost Girls Of Paris to be a page turner which didn’t disappoint. This is the first book that I’ve read by this author but I now plan to read her previous book,  The Orphan’s Tale.

Recommendation

“Fraught with danger, and filled with mystery, and meticulously researched, The Lost Girls Of Paris is a fascinating tale of the hidden women who helped win the war” – Lisa Wingate, New York Times best selling author of Before We Were Yours

“Pam Jenoff’s meticulous research and gorgeous historical word building lift her books to must-buy status. An intriguing mystery and a captivating heroine make The Lost Girls Of Paris a read to savour” – Kate Quinn, New York Times best selling author of The Alice Network

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the author
Pam Jenoff

Pam is the author of several novels, including her most recent The Lost Girls of Paris and The Orphan’s Tale, both instant New York Times bestsellers. Pam was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge University in England. Upon receiving her masters in history from Cambridge, she accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The position provided a unique opportunity to witness and participate in operations at the most senior levels of government, including helping the families of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims secure their memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, observing recovery efforts at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and attending ceremonies to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of World War II at sites such as Bastogne and Corregidor.

Following her work at the Pentagon, Jenoff moved to the State Department. In 1996 she was assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Krakow, Poland. It was during this period that Pam developed her expertise in Polish-Jewish relations and the Holocaust. Working on matters such as preservation of Auschwitz and the restitution of Jewish property in Poland, Jenoff developed close relations with the surviving Jewish community.

Having left the Foreign Service in 1998 to attend law school at the University of Pennsylvania, Jenoff practiced law at a large firm and in-house for several years. She now teaches law school at Rutgers – Goodreads.com.au

Published in 2019 by Park Row. Paperback 34 pages

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#AtoZChallenge I -I Was Here by Gayle Forman

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

This story, set in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington USA, follows eighteen year old Cody in the months following the suicide of her best friend Meg.  Cody is feeling numb and can’t believe that her friend didn’t confide in her that all wasn’t well with her. As she searches for answers as to why she has lost her best friend, she goes on a journey of self discovery. Cody starts to question her relationship with Meg, and what death, love and forgiveness mean to her.

My Thoughts

This traumatic subject matter is handled very realistically and delicately by the author, but at the same time is very emotional to read. As well as suicide, there is a romantic story line which I didn’t enjoy at all. I found most of the writing about the romance and the relationship to be quite predictable and not essential to the story.

I Am Here is classified as Young Adult fiction. I’m in two minds about this. I’m not really sure if the story line is suitable for early teens. But then again, this is a topic which affects so many teenagers in modern times, so perhaps it should be brought more into the open.

Recommendation

“I Was Here was a pitch perfect blend of mystery, tragedy and romance. Gayle Forman has given us an unflinchingly honest portrait of the bravery it takes to live after devastating loss” – Stephen Chbosky, author

“Partly tautly paced mystery, part psychological study of suicide and it’s after effects….An engrossing and provocative look at the devastating finality of suicide, survivors guilt, the complicated nature of responsiblity, and even the role of the internet in life and death decisions” – Kirkus Reviews.

Goodreads Choice Award nominee for Young Adult Fiction

My Star Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

About The Author

Gayle Forman

 

Award winning author and journalist, Gayle Forman has written several best selling novels for young adults.  She has had written essays and non-fiction work which has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Elle and Time. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughters.

 

 

Published in 2015 by Viking Juvenile. Hardcover – 270 pages

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Images: Goodreads

#AtoZChallenge H is for Heartbreak Hotel by Deborah Moggach

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

Heartbreak Hotel is a romantic comedy set in Wales. Buffy, a retired actor, needs a change and decides to make the move from London to a rural area of Wales. He has taken possession of a very run down B&B in a very isolated area. Very quickly he realises he needs to something to encourage guests to stay at his establishment.

Eventually, the guests start to arrive and we meet a very diverse group of people, who  arrive to stay in this very quaint establishment. At first glance they appear to have nothing at all in common, but they come to realise that perhaps they have more commonalities between them, than at first thought. 

My Thoughts

Hotel Heartbreak is a comedy, with a huge cast of characters. Some of them, I found to be quite charming. However, I did struggle to keep up with who they all were, and where they fitted in to the story. I found the structure and story line to be very stilted and all over the place.

I listened to this book as an audio book, and was quite annoyed by it. I would probably have enjoyed it more, if I had read the paper copy, as I felt I needed to keep flicking back the pages, to check up on who particular characters were. This wasn’t possible on the audio book, so I did become quite confused.

Heartbreak Hotel is the second book in the Buffy series. As I haven’t read the first book, it is probably not fair of me to rate this book harshly. I kept wondering if I would have enjoyed the book more, had I read the first book that introduced Buffy. 

My Rating

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

About The Author

Deborah Moggach

Deborah Moggach is British born and the author of many novels including The Ex Wives, Tulip Fever and These Foolish Things. She has adapted many of her novels as TV dramas and has also written film scripts including the screenplay for Pride and Prejudice. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a huge bestselling and the movie adaptation was an award winning hit.

 

Published in 2013 by Chatto and Windus, an imprint of Penguin,
Random House London

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Images: Goodreads

 

#AtoZChallenge G is forThe Good People by Hannah Kent

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

The Good People

Summary

In the year 1825, in a remote valley lying between the mountains of south west Ireland, near the Flesk river of Killarney, three women are brought together by strange and troubling events.

Norah Leahy has lost her daughter and her husband in the same year, and is now burdened with the care of her four year old grandson, Micheal. The boy cannot walk, or speak, and Nora, mistrustful of the tongues of gossips, has kept the child hidden from those who might see in his deformity, evidence of otherworldly interference – from the back cover

My Thoughts

I don’t usually use the wording from the blurb for the summary. But felt in this case that I had no choice. I loved this book so much that I was concerned that I would give away too much of the storyline if I used my own words to summarise this amazing story.

I heard Hannah Kent discussing this book on a Podcast on ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) She spent time living in Ireland while she researched and wrote The Good People. Her indepth research is obvious as she bases her story on Irish folklore that has been around for centuries. It is difficult to imagine, in these modern, sophisticated times, that people actually believed these ales. But, not only did they believe them, they actually lived their lives around them. Some of their beliefs explored in this novel, made me laugh and others I found horrifying.

I would rate this book as one of my favourite books of all time. I love it so much that I have read it twice and listened to it twice as an audio book.  I’d recommend the audio book as a way to absorb this story. The Irish lilt of the narrator brought this story to life for me.

The characters were very well developed and both lovable and very easy to dislike. Sometimes, the one character would be easy to like and at the same time , very easy to dislike.

There are two pages at the back of the book, written by the author about her research and Irish folk lore which are a wonderful addition to the book.

I’m waiting very impatiently to see what is next from this young and very talented author.

Recommendation

“The Good People, takes us straight to a place utterly unexpected and believable, where amidst the earnest mayhem people impose on each other, there is no patronising quaintness, but a compelling sense of the inevitablity of solemn horrors” -Tom Keneally

Awards

Winner of the Booker Prize and Miles Franklin Literary Award.

About the Author

Hannah Kent

 

Hannah Kent is the co-founder of Australian Literary Journal, Kill Your Darlings. In 2011, she won the inaugural Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award for her debut novel, Burial Rites. Since it’s publication in 2013, Burial Rites has been translated into nearly thirty languages, and has received numerous awards and nominations.

My rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Published in 2016, in Picador by Pan McMillan Australia Pty Ltd. Paperback, 3 pages.

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#A-ZChallenge F – Fragments by Toni Jordan

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

In 1939 a beautiful, successful, but reclusive novelist Inga Karlson dies in a fire in New York. She leaves behind the manuscript of her second book and an unsolved mystery that has captivated her fans for decades. Almost half a century later, a Brisbane bookseller, while waiting in line to see an exhibition of the famous Karlson Fragments, starts to talk to another patron who is also waiting.  This conversation changes her life and sends her into a frenzy of having to find out more about the Karlson mystery.

My Thoughts

This literary mystery is set in both New York and Brisbane and told in two timelines. I really enjoyed this format and the mystery that was unfolding, which moved along at quite a fast pace. I didn’t see the ending coming at all. I have been a fan of Jordan’s previous novels and this book is no exception. Jordan is a great storyteller.

Recommendation

“Brilliantly conceived and tightly written…a sensitive and beautiful novel, a slice of Australia’s working class history, that is a joy to read” – NZ Herald on Sunday

“A wonderful, witty, treat of a novel”- Liane Moriarty, author

My Rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About The Author

Toni Jordan

 

Toni Jordan lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and has written five novels which have been hugely successful and published internationally.

 

 

 

Published by Text Publishing Melbourne in 2018

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#AprilA-Z Challenge E – Elevation by Stephen King

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted. My theme for 2019 is Book Reviews.

Elevation

Summary

Scott is losing weight. Every day, the numbers on the scales decrease, even though he his not getting any thinner. The number on the scales is the same, whether he is wearing clothes or not. This is a riveting and very moving story about how one man’s problem can bring a small town together and bring about change to long held prejudices against others. A story about finding common ground within our differences.

My Thoughts

The above summary is very short. That is because, I really don’t want to spoil this book in any way for the reader. It’s a short read and could be described as a novella. I think it’s best to read it, knowing very little of the storyline.  This is a great story about tragedy, friendship and community, regardless of the underlying horror that is occurring.

I’ve been a huge Stephen King fan for years. But over recent years, I haven’t enjoyed his books as much as I did his earlier novels. Unlike some of King’s story lines, this one is very believable – even though it is totally unbelievable. King has that way of making the unbelievable seem believable.

This is an unusually small book for King.  It’s my opinion that the characters could have been developed more in a larger book. I do wonder if this book is trying to tempt readers who don’t want to invest large chunks of time into reading. I have friends who don’t read anything by King because of the length of his books. I would love to have seen this story be longer. But I’m happy, if the shorter length means more people are attracted to reading one of the most popular authors the world  has seen.

About The Author

King at the 2007 Comic Con

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. Many of his books have been adapted into major films and TV series. King received the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.  In 2007, he won the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America and in 2015 he received America’s National Medal of Arts.

He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist, Tabitha King.

My Rating:   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Published in 2018 by Hodder & Stoughton. Hardcover with dust jacket – 132 pages

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#AprilAtoZ Challenge D: The Dirty Book Club by Lisi Harrison

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been published. My theme for 2019 is book reviews

The Dirty Book Club

Summary

M.J. Stark has the perfect life. On the surface that is. When you dig a little deeper, it is obvious that she is very lonely and unhappy. When offered the opportunity to start a new life in California, she can’t resist.

Shortly after her arrival in the small beach town, she befriends her elderly neighbour who moves to Paris shortly after their meeting.

However she has left M.J. with an invitation to a secret book club. The people she meets in that book club, along with the letters they read, written by the original members, create an unexpected bond between them and cause them to share the stories of their own lives. What is said in the book club stays in the book club, so they feel free and safe to be open and honest about their lives.

My Thoughts

Having been a member of a book club for many years, I was drawn by the title, as I do enjoy a story about a book club. I like to make comparisons between the book clubs in novels and my book club. Of course, there is rarely any comparison. In my opinion my book club is the very best of all.

Don’t be fooled by the title. This book is not an erotic novel. It’s a story about relationships, and the friendships that develop between members of a book club who joined together without previously knowing each other.

The writing is humorous and a little racy at times. It took me a while to become interested in the characters, but when I did the story took on a new life for me and I didn’t want to put it down.

There definitely were commonalities between this book club and my own. We are a group of members who came together, mainly through a love of books without having a history with each other. We talk freely and our book club meetings are a safe place to speak our mind. This connection really increased my enjoyment of the story.

Recommendation

Even though I struggled with the first few chapters, once I felt I knew the characters I found myself very involved with the story. I would recommend The Dirty Book Club to anyone interested in reading about friendship and relationships.

About The Author

Lisi Harrison

Lisi Harrison left her position at MTV Networks in 2003, to write The Clique Series. That series has sold more than eight million copies and has been on the New York Times bestseller list for more than two hundred weeks, with ten titles hitting Number 1. The Alphas was a Number 1 New York Times bestseller, and Monster High was an instant bestseller. Her latest YA series is the Pretenders. Lisi lives in Laguna Beach, California, and has been a proud member of her own dirty book club since 2007 – from the backcover

My Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Published by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster in 2017.
Paperback, 313 pages

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#AprilAtoZ Challenge A – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The blogging from A to Z April Challenge is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

This book has had a huge impact on my life, but I find it really difficult to write a review without spoiling it for future readers. Because of this, the following is from the blurb. Rarely do I simply copy the blurb for a summary but nothing I could write about this book  could describe it any better.

Paulo Coelho’s enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world.  This story, dazzling in it’s powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago, who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. 

Along the way, he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself King, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest.  No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way.  But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods, turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. 

Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts. 

My Thoughts

“Every few decades a book comes along that changes the lives of it’s readers forever”.

The above quote was written at the top of the back cover and it really does ring true for me. After I read  the book, I couldn’t help but read that sentence over and over. At the risk of sounding ‘hippy dippy’, I knew that this book would have a huge impact on my life.

Three of my favourite quotes from The Alchemist

  • “When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to realise his dream”
  • “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve – the fear of failure
  • “The secret of life though, is to fall seven times, and to get up eight times”.

The edition of The Alchemist that I have contains an Introduction from Paulo Coelho. At the end of the book there is a readers guide and an interview with the author which I found really interesting.

Recommendation

Since that first reading, about eight years ago, I have read the Alchemist every year, in early January.  This is when I set my goals for the coming year, and particularly for the first three months of the year. 

As with the first time I read it, with every subsequent reading, I feel very inspired.  The Alchemist empowers me to be able to set goals that are outside my comfort zone, and to quiet those voices in my head that tell me that there is no way I could reach those goals.  With every reading I get something new out of it. Whether it’s a quote that I hadn’t noticed in previous readings or a thought that comes to me while reading.

There are many readers and reviewers who really dislike The Alchemist and I can understand why that could be. Some see it as a self-help book, but I see it as much more than that. For me The Alchemist is  the book that I hold dearest.

My Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About The Author

Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho was born in 1947 in Rio de Janeiro. Before dedicating his life completely to literature, he worked as theatre director and actor, lyricist and journalist. In 1986, Coelho did the pilgrimage to Saint James of Compostella, an experience later to be documented in his book The Pilgrimage.

In the following year, The Alchemist was released. Slow initial sales convinced his first publisher to drop the novel, but it went on to become one of the best selling Brazilian books of all time.

 
Published by Harper Collins in 1993. Softcover 167 pages. Mystical fiction.
Originally published in Brazil in 1988 in Portugese.
Later translated into English and many other languages.

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#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary badge

My Top 5 Stephen King books

I first discovered Stephen King when The Shining was published in 1977. I can remember clearly, being home alone with it late at night and being too scared to move off the chair. I was hooked on King from then on.

I would wait impatiently for each book to be published. Fortunately Stephen King is a very prolific author and the wait was usually not too long.

I really loved the books published up until about the year 2000. After that I found for some reason that I wasn’t enjoying his books as much as in the past.

I put that down more to me, and what was going on in my own life, rather than to the author.

Recently, I have read King’s two latest releases and found that I was taken back to those early days of really loving his books and writing. I have rediscovered one of my favourite authors, and what joy that is.

I have now decided to re-read those books that I didn’t enjoy. Perhaps time will have changed my outlook.

The reason I mention this is to explain my top five books from King, which are all from the early years. They are listed below in no particular order. These books, I have read multiple times. They have stayed with me for decades.

Are you a Stephen King fan? If so what is your favourite book? I love it when you comment and promise to reply to all.

 

 

 

 

Review: The Widow of Ballarat by Darry Fraser

Summary

This is the story of Nell, who becomes a widow in the early pages.  The setting is Ballarat, at the time of the 19th century goldrush and the Eureka Rebellion. In a time where women were not treated as equals, Nell’s courage and strength take us on a journey back in time to a harsh male dominated environment.

This is the story of Nell’s struggle for survival, and the obstacles she comes up against in her fight to move forward from the abusive life she lived with her husband.  All Nell wanted was the opportunity to earn her own living and live a happy and peaceful life with her new chosen partner.

As the author shows, it is a harsh life on the gold fields, and harsher for women struggling to earn a living and ensure their own safety. The challenges are great and at times seem insurmountable.

From the back cover: ‘Passion, adventure and a woman’s quest for independence, set against a dramatic 19th century backdrop….’

My Thoughts

The author weaves events from history into the novel, which is what I love about reading historical fiction. I felt as though I was there on the goldfields, living the life of a down trodden female. I could really feel the dreadfulness of a life lived that way. Most books written about this era of Victorian history, show the male viewpoint. How lovely it was, to read of the events of the day, and every day life from the perspective of a female.

Recommendation

The Widow of Ballarat had me hooked almost immediately. By chapter 2, I knew this book would be unputdownable. As a genealogist and family historian with ancestors who lived and worked on the goldfields at Ballarat and surrounding areas, I was immediately taken back to that time and place.

If you have an interest in Victorian history, you will love this great story of the time interwoven with a lovely romantic story line.

I would recommend first reading the Free prequel – Hill Of Gold

This is the first book written by Darry Fraser that I have read, but I will be seeking out her other books in future.

www.darryfraser.com


About The Author

Darry Fraser is an author of Australian historical and contemporary fiction who lives and works on Kangaroo Island.
Other books: Daughter of the Murray and Where the Murray River Runs.

My Rating:  ⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Published by Mira, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises, in 2018. Historical novel. Paperback 354 pages

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