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I’m delighted to share with you an excerpt from The Foyles Bookshop Girls by Elaine Roberts, courtesy of Aria. I am very much looking forward to reading this book, as it is set in a London bookshop during World War II. If you enjoy the excerpt, I encourage you to enter the giveaway below!

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Chapter 2

Alice sighed with relief. Foyles Bookstore frontage was unmissable. The message was clear. They were the largest booksellers in London, with six floors. If a novel was purchased and returned after it was read, there would be a refund of two thirds of the price for each book. They had created quite a name since William and Gilbert Foyle started selling their own unwanted books in 1903. Everyone who started working there was told about their vision of having a bookshop for the people.

She paused for a moment to take a couple of deep breaths, hoping to lessen the heat on her face, catching sight of her reflection in a shop window. Her slender figure was slightly distorted by the glass as she patted down the wide, black-edged lapels of her white blouse. Her hand automatically ran down the small black buttons, twisting each one in turn. She took a deep breath, patted her pinned up hair and stepped towards the open doorway of the shop.

The shutters were being lifted and bookstands were being placed by the entrance and to the side of the store. Customers of all ages were already gathering.

‘Morning, Miss Taylor.’ A slim man towered above her. ‘You only just made it on time.’ He frowned.

Her heart pummelled in her chest. She looked up at his stern expression. His grey hair was greased back. ‘Sorry, sir, I foolishly went to St Thomas’ before I came to work.’ Colour flushed her cheeks; Mr Leadbetter was a stickler for timekeeping.

‘Oh.’ His face softened. ‘Nothing wrong I trust?’

‘No, sir, I’ve so many books indoors, I wanted to give some to the hospital…’ Alice’s voice faded to a mumble. ‘For the patients.’

Mr Leadbetter raised his eyebrows. His hands linked behind his back, making his dark grey jacket gape revealing more of his blue tie and lily-white shirt. ‘Very commendable.’ He paused for a moment. ‘You do know we sell second-hand books as well as new ones, don’t you?’

The corners of Alice’s lips lifted slightly. ‘Of course, sir, I’ve worked here for a few years now. I just thought it would be a good thing to do, but I should have waited until my day off.’

Mr Leadbetter nodded and stepped aside for Alice to walk through the store to the staff room. Having removed her hat and left it with her shopping bag, she stood in front of a large white clock face with its wooden surround and pulled her clocking-in card from the individual slots next to it. She dropped it into a hole in front of the clock and pulled it out again. Alice looked down at the time stamp, realising she had only just made it on time. Quickly placing it back, she hurried into the shop.

Foyles had an air of a library about it as men, women and children lifted books from the shelves to look at the covers and read the first few pages. People whispered to each other, some louder than others, as their excitement grew. The bookshop had become a popular meeting place. There were shelves upon shelves of old and new books, priced from tuppence upwards. She took a deep breath, never tiring of the smell that came from them. She smiled, remembering how Mr Leadbetter had caught her with her nose in a book, her eyes shut, savouring the smell. He hadn’t questioned her; he understood and they spent ten minutes trying to work out how to describe it. Was it woody? But then there was a trace of something else; maybe it was the ink or dust. If the previous reader had been a smoker, then that also clung to the pages. No one in the store thought it was odd; they were book lovers, after all.

Alice stepped behind the counter and placed her pad of bill payments in front of her.

‘Morning, Alice, everything all right? I saw old Leadbetter talking to you.’

Alice looked up and smiled at Molly. ‘Shh, don’t call him that, he’s quite nice really.’

‘Huh, I am not so sure about that.’ Molly pulled back her shoulders and lifted her chin, showing she was a head taller than her friend. She pushed back her blonde fringe and patted the bun that was neatly formed at the nape of her neck. ‘I don’t think he likes me.’

Alice laughed. ‘He’s probably heard what you call him.’ She reached for a pen and placed it on top of her pad. ‘Right, I’m ready.’ Alice glanced over at the payment booth, expecting to see Victoria sitting there but it was empty. ‘Is Victoria in yet?’

Molly shrugged her shoulders. ‘Vic’s nearly always late. I don’t know how she gets away with it.’

Alice frowned. ‘Don’t call her that, she hates it.’ She took a deep breath; the waft of carbolic soap hit her. In an attempt to clear her throat, she gave a slight cough.

Molly’s bottom lip jutted out as she stared intently across at the payment booth. ‘Well, you can’t deny Miss Victoria Appleton seems to get away with things that no one else would.’

Alice sighed. ‘Stop being mean, she has a lot on her plate, and anyway she probably gets docked fifteen minutes pay every time she’s late.’

Molly’s eyes looked heavenward. ‘As always.’ She frowned. ‘If she’s so poor, you wouldn’t think she could afford to lose money like that.’

‘Stop it. You or I wouldn’t be able to cope with the things she does at twenty years old.’ Alice glared at her friend for a moment before allowing her features to soften. ‘Something’s clearly bothering you but we can’t talk about it now; maybe at lunch time.’

‘What makes you think something’s wrong?’

Alice laughed. ‘You’re obviously not in a good mood.’ Glancing over at the payment booth again she saw Victoria stepping inside and locking herself in. She looked pale and weighed down. Alice smiled and waved at her friend but she wasn’t looking her way.

‘I’m in a perfectly good mood for a Monday morning, thank you very much.’ Molly smiled through gritted teeth.

‘What’s happened?’ Alice turned to give Molly her full attention. ‘Didn’t you have a very good weekend?’

Molly stared down at the counter, her fingers tracing the wood grain. ‘It was fine.’

Alice shook her head. ‘We’ve been friends since we were children; you do know you can tell me anything, don’t you?’

Molly looked up and frowned. ‘We have, but we come from very different backgrounds.’

‘Not that different, and it’s never been an issue before, so what’s happened to make it one now?’ Alice squinted at her, trying to read what was going on.

‘Miss Cooper.’

Molly turned around to see Mr Leadbetter staring at her; she feigned a smile. ‘Yes, Mr Leadbetter.’

‘Is this your post for today?’

‘No, sir, I’m just going there now.’ Molly stepped past him without waiting for a response.

Alice watched him smile after Molly. The smile vanished as quickly as it arrived. He turned towards Alice. ‘We could be in for another busy day today, so please keep your eye on things. I don’t want half the stock going missing.’ He gave a curt nod and stepped aside, allowing a customer to be served.

Alice smiled at the lady standing in front of her. ‘Good morning, isn’t it a glorious day?’ She took the book the customer was holding out towards her.

‘It certainly is. Too nice to be shut inside.’

‘You’re right, but I do love being surrounded by all these wonderful books.’ Alice smiled. She looked down and completed the bill payment form before giving it to the customer. ‘If you would like to take this slip, together with tuppence, over to the payment booth.’ Alice indicated to her left. ‘Make your payment and then come back to me with your receipt.’

The lady gave a toothless smile. ‘I will.’ A gnarled hand reached out and took the slip of paper. ‘Thank you.’

Alice watched her hobble over to the payment booth; she hadn’t noticed her leaning heavily on a walking stick. She should have done and offered to take her payment over there for her. A low sigh escaped; it was too late now though, and she’d probably have been dismissed for trying to be helpful. Frowning, she recalled another assistant getting the sack for the same thing. They had all been reminded that it’s clearly stated they were not to handle any money outside of the payment booth. With her smile permanently fixed, Alice moved onto the next customer.

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About The Foyles Bookshop Girls

London, 1914: one ordinary day, three girls arrive for work at London’s renowned Foyles bookshop. But when war with Germany is declared their lives will never be the same again…

Alice has always been the ‘sensible’ one in her family – especially in comparison with her suffragesupporting sister! But decidedly against her father’s wishes, she accepts a job at Foyles Bookshop; and for bookworm Alice it’s a dream come true. But with the country at war, Alice’s happy world is shattered in an instant.

Determined to do what she can, Alice works in the bookshop by day, and risks her own life driving an ambulance around bomb-ravaged London by night. But however busy she keeps herself, she can’t help but think of the constant danger those she loves are facing on the frontline…

Alice, Victoria and Molly couldn’t be more different and yet they share a friendship that stems back to their childhood – a friendship that provides everyday solace from the tribulations and heartbreak of war.

Perfect for fans of Elaine Everest, Daisy Styles and Rosie Hendry.

Buy links: Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play

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About the Author

Elaine Roberts

Elaine Roberts had a dream to write for a living. She completed her first novel in her twenties and received her first very nice rejection. Life then got in the way until she picked up her dream again in 2010. She joined a creative writing class, The Write Place, in 2012 and shortly afterwards had her first short story published. Elaine and her patient husband, Dave, have five children who have flown the nest. Home is in Dartford, Kent and is always busy with their children, grandchildren, grand dogs and cats visiting.

Follow Elaine: Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway

Aria is offering 2 ebook copies of The Foyles Bookshop Girls to my readers. This giveaway is open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, June 24, 2018. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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donwell-abbey-cover

Source: Review copy from author

There seemed to be only one option. It would break her heart, but it would protect the man she loved. And wasn’t that the very definition of love? Doing what’s best for the other person, in spite of your own desires?

(from Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey)

Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey is the sequel to Darcy’s Hope: Beauty from Ashes, a novel inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and set during the Great War. While Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey can be read as a standalone book, I think it’s important to read them in order for a richer experience.

Picking up where the first novel ended, Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet have expressed their love for one another and are hopeful about being reunited in a matter of months. However, while waiting for Darcy at his home, Pemberley, Elizabeth receives some terrifying information that prompts her to flee without a trace. Meanwhile, Darcy and his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, are working to solve a mystery involving a conspiracy when he learns that Elizabeth has disappeared, dealing him a crushing blow that is only the beginning of his pain.

Ginger Monette does a fantastic job painting a picture of wartime, from the trenches to battle to the hospitals, and crafting characters traumatized by their experiences but still open to finding love and happiness. There is plenty of action to keep readers’ attention from the very first page, but Monette also provides plenty of food for thought about the physical, mental, and emotional impact of war. My heart ached for Darcy and Elizabeth, but it rejoiced with them as well. I loved how Monette worked in characters from Emma, with Darcy’s connection to the Knightley family, Hartfield, and Donwell Abbey, as well as Sense and Sensibility, and I especially appreciated how she stayed true to Austen’s beloved couple even while putting them in a different time and more difficult circumstances.

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About Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey

1917. Amidst the chaos of WW1, Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy has won the heart of Elizabeth Bennet. Finally.

Then she disappears.

Still reeling from the loss, Darcy is struck by a battlefield tragedy that leaves him in a dark and silent world.

Sent to Donwell Abbey to recover, he’s coaxed back to life by an extraordinary nurse. A woman whose uncanny similarities to Elizabeth invite his admiration and entice his affections.

His heart tells him to hold on to Elizabeth. His head tells him to take a chance with his nurse.

But Donwell Abbey holds a secret that just might change everything.

Check out Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey on Goodreads | Amazon | other retailers

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About the Author

Ginger Monette

Ginger Monette

The teacher always learns the most. And in homeschooling her children, Ginger Monette learned all the history she missed in school. Now she’s hooked—on writing and World War I.

When not writing, Ginger enjoys dancing on the treadmill, watching period dramas, public speaking, and reading—a full-length novel every Sunday afternoon.

Her WW1 flash fiction piece, Flanders Field of Grey, won Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s 2015 Picture This grand prize.

Ginger lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she happily resides with her husband, three teenagers, and two loyal dogs.

Connect with Ginger Monette via website | Facebook | Amazon author page

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Disclosure: I received Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey from the author for review.

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Source: Review copy from Aria
Rating: ★★★★☆

‘I’m afraid I was born stubborn, sir. It gets me into trouble and some would say I don’t know my place.’

‘Ah…’ A soft chuckle escaped him. ‘But what is your place, Miss Hale? I wonder if any of us know these days.’

(from Jessie’s Promise)

Rosie Clarke’s latest novel, Jessie’s Promise, is set in England after World War I and follows Jessie Hale, a 26-year-old nurse navigating the depths of grief, social upheaval, and her place in the world. Jessie was a VAD during the war, and when the novel opens she has lost her job at a London hospital for speaking out on behalf of a fellow nurse. Still grieving the loss of her fiancé during the war, she cannot marry the kind bookstore owner Archie and instead takes a position at Kendlebury Hall in Devon as a nurse to Lady Kendle and her grandchildren, precocious 5-year-old Jack and sweet 2-year-old Catherine.

Jessie immediately embraces her new role, taking care of the aging Nanny, forging a close bond with the children, and attempting to bring some order to the understaffed household despite the overbearing presence of her employer, Mary Kendle, who is cold to her daughter, barely tolerant of her son, and distant from her husband, Captain Harry Kendle. Jessie’s determination to do right by the children, especially Catherine, who needs special care and attention, frequently puts her at odds with Mrs. Kendle but earns her the admiration of Captain Kendle — a man haunted by a lifetime of tragedy, most recently the war, but whose warmth toward the children and kindness toward her begin to break down the wall Jessie had built around her heart after Robbie’s death. Just as she beings to feel at home at Kendlebury Hall and believe that happiness is possible after all, a series of tragedies befall the Kendles and Jessie is forced to contend with yet more loss and the consequences of her decisions.

Clarke has done a great job creating a strong heroine in Jessie. She stands up for what is right and goes out of her way to help those in need, but she is far from perfect. However, it is her strength amid devastating loss and broken dreams that makes Jessie a truly admirable character. She loves deeply, cares fiercely, and steps up and takes charge when she is needed, even when she is desperately hurting inside.

The pace of the novel starts slow, but that helps to develop all of the characters, highlight the weight of responsibility that Jessie assumes from her very first moment at Kendlebury Hall, and set the stage for all that follows. Jessie’s relationship with Harry feels real, and Clarke doesn’t sugarcoat any of the obstacles in their way. She has created a strong cast of supporting characters, namely Nanny, Lady Kendle, and the rest of the household staff, adding numerous layers to the story.

Jessie’s Promise is about finding love amidst grief and finding oneself after the chaos of war as society dramatically changes in terms of sex and class. Clarke puts readers directly into the setting, so they understand what Jessie is up against and that the times are changing. I loved that Jessie was a modern women, understanding society’s constraints but unwilling to simply accept the way things were. Even when there was little she could do to change the situation, she questioned things, fought back in little ways, and refused to just give up. I was caught up in Jessie’s story from the very beginning, and I loved all the little twists and turns along the way, so much so that I look forward to reading more by Clarke in the future.

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About Jessie’s Promise

DEVON 1918. When Jessie Hale loses her nursing job at the end of the First World War, she leaves London to become the nursemaid to the Kendle family in Devon.

On arrival she finds the family in disarray. Captain Kendle is a loving father but is traumatised by the war and kept at arm’s length by his frosty wife. When their elderly Nanny suffers a bad fall, Jessie has to try to bring the household together. Gradually Jessie finds her place in their lives, becoming devoted to Captain Kendle’s lively son Jack, his lovely, but quiet daughter Catherine, as well his invalid Mother.

Jessie soon starts to love her life at Kendlebury Hall, but problems arise when her feelings for her employer start to change…

Check out Jessie’s Promise on Goodreads | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play

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About the Author

Rosie Clarke

Rosie Clarke

Rosie Clarke was born in Swindon, but moved to Ely in Cambridgeshire at the age of nine. Married at eighteen, she ran her own hairdressing business for many years. Rosie started writing in 1976, combining this with helping her husband run his antique shop. She loves to write for her own enjoyment and to give pleasure to her millions of fans. Rosie was the well-deserved winner of the 2004 RNA Romance Award and the Betty Neels Trophy.

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Giveaway

Aria is generously offering a giveaway of 3 ebook copies (epub or mobi) of Jessie’s Promise. To enter, simply leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will close Sunday, February 19, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Disclosure: I received Jessie’s Promise from Aria for review.

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darcys-hope

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★★

In fulfilling a promise to her father, he had laid his heart open, and she sliced it up and handed it right back to him. Then he had invested in his company of men–cared for them, thought only of their safety day and night–only to have them slaughtered, leaving him the heart-wrenching task of writing letter after letter to their families.

(from Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes)

Ginger Monette’s latest novel, Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes, is a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set during World War I. Elizabeth Bennet wants to be a doctor and does not want to depend on any man, especially not Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy, who requisitioned part of her family’s property for the war effort, insulted her upon their first meeting, and then expected her to accept his proposal of marriage. With her family torn apart and no home to return to, Elizabeth finds herself at a French chateaux turned field hospital serving as a nursemaid for an elderly man.

Darcy, meanwhile, has shut off his feelings following Elizabeth’s painful rejection and massive losses at the Somme. When he arrives at the field hospital as part of an investigation to weed out enemy operatives, he never expects to find Elizabeth there. As they each get to know the other’s true nature, uncertainties regarding their past history threaten to keep them from revealing their true feelings. The danger of Darcy’s mission looms large, threatening what little happiness they have managed to find amidst the carnage of war.

In Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes, Monette does a fantastic job weaving the history of the Great War, the horrors of the trenches, and the excitement of a covert operation into the basic plot of Austen’s novel. A lot is changed in Monette’s variation, and those changes kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Much of the attention is on Darcy and Elizabeth, of course, with small appearances made by Jane Bennet and Charles and Caroline Bingley. There is a darker mystery surrounding Lieutenant Wickham and Elizabeth’s sister, Lydia, and there are several intriguing original characters, from an American doctor to a Mr. Collins-esque French officer.

The evolution of Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship unfolds realistically, as does the portrayal of their scars inflicted by the war. Readers should be aware that the action of the novel builds up toward the end, and while some ends are tied up between the pair, they will have to wait for the upcoming sequel, Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey, to see how their tale concludes. Overall, I was satisfied with the ending of Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes, but I really wish I could have immediately delved into the next book!

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About Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes

World War 1 has turned French chateaus into bloody field hospitals, British gentlemen into lice-infested soldiers, and left Elizabeth Bennet’s life in tatters.

Her father is dead and her home destroyed. Never again will Elizabeth depend on a man to secure her future!

But when an opportunity arises to advance her dreams of becoming a doctor, she is elated—until HE arrives…

Heartbroken. Devastated. Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy is left rejected by the woman he loved and reeling from the slaughter of his men on the battlefield. “Enough!” Darcy vows. “No more sentimental attachments!”

But arriving at a field hospital to pursue a covert investigation, Darcy discovers his beloved Elizabeth training with a dashing American doctor and embroiled in an espionage conspiracy.

With only a few months to expose the plot, Darcy is forced to grapple with his feelings for Elizabeth while uncovering the truth. Is she indeed innocent? Darcy can only hope…

Check out Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes on Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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About the Author

Ginger Monette

Ginger Monette

The teacher always learns the most. And in homeschooling her children, Ginger Monette learned all the history she missed in school. Now she’s hooked—on writing and World War I.

When not writing, Ginger enjoys dancing on the treadmill, watching period dramas, public speaking, and reading—a full-length novel every Sunday afternoon.

Her WW1 flash fiction piece, Flanders Field of Grey, won Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s 2015 Picture This grand prize.

Ginger lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she happily resides with her husband, three teenagers, and two loyal dogs.

Connect with Ginger Monette via website | Facebook | Amazon author page

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Disclosure: I received Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes from the author for review.

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the-secret-language-of-stones

Source: Review copy from Atria
Rating: ★★★★★

In our war-torn world, no one believed in enchantments. They thought witches and spells and conjurers were the stuff of fairy tales. The only mystery anyone still believed in were ghosts.

(from The Secret Language of Stones)

Quick summary: M.J. Rose’s latest novel, The Secret Language of Stones, is set in Paris during World War I and is told through the point of view of Opaline Duplessi, a young jewelry maker who spends much of her time crafting talismans for women who lost loved ones in battle. Weighed down by guilt over the death of a friend, Opaline fled the life her parents planned for her in America to use her gifts to help these women in their grief. She can receive messages from beyond through the energy emanating from gemstones, which is haunting enough by itself, but then Jean Luc, a dead soldier whose mother has turned to Opaline’s magic for comfort, speaks to her directly. As she struggles to come to terms with her powers and her feelings for Jean Luc, her gift and her connection to the Orloffs, who own the shop where she works, take her to England — and to the exiled dowager empress anxious to learn the fate of the Romanovs.

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve been a huge fan of Rose’s for several years, and I certainly couldn’t pass up the chance to read a novel about World War I and the occult. How intriguing! Also, even though this is the second book in The Daughters of La Lune series, it’s a standalone novel; now I need to go back and read The Witch of Painted Sorrows, which is the story of Opaline’s mother.

What I liked: I was held captive by this novel from the very first sentence: “Every morning the pavement in front of our shop in the Palais Royal is washed clean by the tears of the mothers of dead soldiers, widowed wives, and heartsick lovers.” Right away it becomes obvious that Rose is truly a painter of words. Rose’s vivid descriptions bring Opaline, and Paris, to life. I was fascinated by the historical aspects of the novel, particularly how the massive losses during the war prompted grieving women to seek out people like Opaline and how an old ban on fortune telling was enforced because these women were being preyed upon by charlatans. Rose skillfully weaves together Opaline’s powers with the history of the war and the Bolshevik Revolution and even a ghostly love story.

What I disliked: Nothing! It was a beautifully written page-turner from start to finish, and one of my favorite books I’ve read this year.

Final thoughts: The Secret Language of Stones is M.J. Rose at her best. There are so many layers to this story, and the characters and descriptions are so well done that I wasn’t ready for it to end. The historical and supernatural elements are so well combined that I never once doubted them as I read. Rose is a fantastic storyteller, and The Secret Language of Stones is a definite on my Best of 2016 list.

Thanks to France Book Tours for having me on the tour for The Secret Language of Stones. To learn more about the book, follow the tour, and enter the giveaway, click the banner below.

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Disclosure: I received The Secret Language of Stones from Atria for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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lost among the living

Source: Review copy from NAL
Rating: ★★★★★

Someone should write a poem, I thought, about the women. Not just about the men marching bravely to war and dying, but about their wives, their girls, their mothers and sisters and daughters, sitting in silence and screaming into the darkness. … Someone should write a poem about the women. But I already knew that no one ever would.

(from Lost Among the Living)

Quick summary: Lost Among the Living, the latest novel by Simone St. James, is an atmospheric tale set in Sussex, England, in 1921. The novel is told from the point of view of Jo Manders, whose husband, Alex, went missing in The Great War when his plane went down. She is an unofficial war widow, and without a body to claim, and therefore no widow’s pension, she takes the role of paid companion to her husband’s aunt, Dottie Forsyth, who is focused on two things: selling the art she bought while touring the Continent and finding a wife for her wounded son, Martin, who is only now returning from the war. Not long after she arrives at Wych Elm House, Jo sees the ghost of Dottie’s daughter, Frances Forsyth, whose mental illness and mysterious death sparked numerous rumors about the family. Jo is determined to find out why Frances keeps appearing only to her — even if it means she must come to terms with the fact that she didn’t know her husband as well as she thought she did.

Why I wanted to read it: I love ghost stories, and I was intrigued by the connection to the Great War.

What I liked: So many times I stumble upon a novel that is supposed to be creepy, atmospheric, and suspenseful only to be let down. But St. James exceeded my expectations with her vivid descriptions (I could easily picture the mist and the blowing leaves that characterized the dreary landscape), and there were even a few times that I contemplated putting the book down because I didn’t want to read it while alone in the house at night. I thought the plot and the characters were well developed, and the pacing was spot on in terms of building suspense. I liked that I was able to put together some but not all of the pieces of the mystery, and the way St. James weaves in the war and Alex’s secrets was clever. The use of the first person viewpoint created even more suspense in that readers only know what Jo knows.

What I disliked: Nothing! If I hadn’t been so busy, I probably would’ve read this book in one sitting.

Final thoughts: Simone St. James is a new-to-me writer, and as soon as I finished Lost Among the Living I determined that I must read her previous novels, which all seem to be equally suspenseful. I loved her writing here, particularly the passages that describe the intensity of Jo and Alex’s relationship, which enable readers to feel Jo’s grief and the frustration inherent in not knowing Alex’s fate. I also liked that while there was romance and passion, Lost Among the Living is at its core a ghost story, but it’s so much more than that. St. James shows the impact of the war on the returning soldiers and the women whose men never came home, as well as the blurring of the boundaries between social classes and how greed and selfishness can tear families apart. It was a deeper, richer novel than I expected and a strong contender for my Best of 2016 list.

Disclosure: I received Lost Among the Living from NAL for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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fall of poppies

Source: Review copy from William Morrow
Rating: ★★★★★

We were a wounded people — walking wounded — with some of us more scarred inside than our exteriors revealed. Who and what was going to glue us together again?

Love.

(from “After You’ve Gone” by Evangeline Holland in Fall of Poppies)

Quick Summary: Fall of Poppies is a collection of stories by nine contemporary best-selling authors all set on or near Armistice Day, November 11, 1918. Each of these stories beautifully tell a tale of love and hope, but also loss and pain. These stories detail the ways in which World War I, or the Great War, forever upended lives. From a young girl who finds love while helping create facial masks for wounded soldiers to an airman whose fear of loneliness prompts him to make a spontaneous offer right before going into combat, Fall of Poppies shows the impact of war, both the horrifying and the uplifting.

Why I wanted to read it: I’m drawn to stories set during the Great War, and I’ve enjoyed novels by several of these authors in the past.

The Stories: “The Daughter of Belgium” by Marci Jefferson * “The Record Set Right” by Lauren Willig * “All for the Love of You” by Jennifer Robson * “After You’ve Gone” by Evangeline Holland * “Something Worth Landing For” by Jessica Brockmole * “Hour of the Bells” by Heather Webb * “An American Airman in Paris” by Beatriz Williams * “The Photograph” by Kate Kerrigan * “Hush” by Hazel Gaynor

What I liked: I loved all of the stories in this collection, and it was hard to choose my favorites. The settings are varied, including an abandoned hospital in Belguim, an estate in England, the sky above the trenches, and various places in France, and the characters are all unique and memorable in their personalities and circumstances. This variety, coupled with the ability of each of these authors to quickly pull readers into their stories, made me want to read the entire book in one sitting but also made me glad that the chaos of daily life forced me to savor these stories over a longer period.

What I disliked: I only wish that I could’ve spent more time in each of these stories to see how the characters fared years after the war.

Final thoughts: People have a tendency to remember exactly where they were during important dates in history, and Fall of Poppies shows where the characters in each story were — both physically and emotionally — when the Great War ended. In the aftermath of the war, countless people wondered how to move forward and rebuild their lives after they lost so much, but these stories show that even in the midst of all the grief, there was a sense of relief and hope. At a time when I’m culling tons of books from my library and keeping very few new arrivals in the interests of space, Fall of Poppies has earned a permanent spot on the shelves and likely will be re-read at some point. Definitely a contender for my “Best of 2016” list!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for having me on the Fall of Poppies tour.  Click here to follow the tour.

Disclosure: I received Fall of Poppies from William Morrow for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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