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Book Review: Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

Thank you Netgalley and Random House/Ballantine Books for an advanced digital copy of this book for review.

Lost Roses releases April 9, 2019.

I predict that this book is going to be very popular this spring. As the follow up to Martha Hall Kelly's incredibly popular historical fiction novel, Lilac Girls, it's sure to be a hit with historical fiction lovers. And overall, I really enjoyed this book too. I am a lover of historical fiction and this book while not without its shortcomings (more on that in a minute) is a beautifully written and researched account of human resilience and love. For the most part it's well paced, the writing is digestible and overall the book is one that I'll remember. It would have been nearly perfect five star read if not for one little thing.

I'm sure that I'm being a little nitpicky with this, but there's one thing about this book that's been nagging me since finishing it. At 448 pages, I can't help but think this was a little too long. It's a tri-narrative that could have easily been a dual narrative and I know this is going to be a very unpopular opinion, but this story could have been a dual narrative focusing only on Sofya and Varinka that would have been incredible. I read the author's note, I get that her intent was to feature Eliza Farriday - but in my opinion, Eliza was boring. Her chapters felt forced and while I understand that she has a pretty big role to play, everything she does could have been just as effective in the background of the story. I found myself skimming her chapters so much that I think they could have been cut out completely. I know it's pretty bold of me to suggest that the entire POV of a character be wiped out from a book, but her activities felt completely detached from the heart of the story, which was Sofya and Varinka's experience with the fall of Imperial Russia and the rise of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Where I found Eliza's storyline lagging and dull, Sofya's and Varinka's were fascinating. I was invested in both of them. One a socialite with royal bloodlines and the other a peasant girl who finds herself attached to the bloody Bolshevik revolution, their intersecting stories were captivating. I only wish that we would have had a little more detail on their respective journeys to Paris because I think it would have added some more tension to the storyline.

This book is definitely one that I would recommend to my friends who enjoy historical fiction. This book is well researched and written - and the parts set in Russia completely engrossing. And while I think it could easily have been a dual narrative, it's still a fantastic story. I think fans of Martha Hall Kelly will appreciate this as much as Lilac Girls.

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Book Review: The Beantown Girls by Jane Healey

Thank you Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for the digital ebook for review. 

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres - and throughout the years I've spent a fair amount of time reading books set during or in World War II. Jane Healey's novel, The Beantown Girls, is a new favorite for me. I absolutely loved this book and its incredible cast of brave women and their experience in the European Theatre during the war and it's one that I know I'll read again.

In all my reading, I had never come across the Red Cross Clubmobile trucks or the women who ran them. Often the Red Cross conjures images of nurses or other civilians assisting with the war effort - for some reason I always think in terms of the medical field - so I was absolutely enthralled by these women whose job it was to drive outfitted trucks to military camps bringing little comforts in the way of hot doughnuts, coffee, cigarettes and candy to the men stationed there.

Jane Healey's fictional account of three women who join the Red Cross to serve in the Clubmobile in Europe is a wonderfully written account of friendship, love and bravery. I loved following Fiona, Dottie and Viv as they travelled throughout Europe boosting morale of the soldiers fighting there, finding love and experiencing loss. Together they experience the tragedies and triumphs of the war - I so loved their friendship, the hopefulness they exuded and their hard work in a very bleak time and place. This book was well researched and expertly paced, I couldn't put it down.
It's a beautiful portrayal of the brave ladies who wanted to make a difference in war that brought so much loss and heartache. I loved it.

To all you kindle/kindle app users out there this one is free with Kindle Unlimited or Prime Reading! 
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The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker

Thank you Netgalley and Atria Books for an advanced galley of this book!

Sometimes you just need a book that allows you to escape from the daily life things and enjoy a story about family, falling in love and growing up. That's exactly what The Simple Wild was for me - and I loved it so much. K.A. Tucker's latest contemporary romance novel is exactly the kind of book that I want to read - and then reread as soon as I've finished it because I can't imagine leaving these characters behind. Suffice it to say, I really enjoyed this book.

Some of that may be personal for me because I live in the Pacific Northwest (not Alaska though), and spent a pretty good amount of time with my dad in the copilot's seat of his Piper Turbo Arrow growing up. I am all too familiar with the way pilots obsess over weather patterns and the small planes that they meticulously care for and fly. So it's not a stretch for me to relate to the people who run and fly the planes of Alaska Wild, the business run by Calla's father in the book.

I loved these characters and how K.A. Tucker wasn't afraid to shy away from some difficult emotional subjects - loss, estrangement, guilt, love, personal growth - all find a way to be relevant and important to the storyline. I find that with a lot of contemporary romance - we typically get the tropey romantic aspect but loose out on the bigger story at play or we have to sacrifice a well written book for cliched, and again tropey, romance that has me eyerolling so much I need my head set straight. While Tucker does employ the hate to love trope (my favorite of them all) she does it well and with very minimal eyerolling on my part and a believable love story that I totally could get behind.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Simple Wild and will happily recommend it to my friends who enjoy contemporary romance. K.A. Tucker's books will be auto buys for me from now on - and of all the contemporary romance I've read lately this is one of my favorites.

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The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

My favorite genres to read tend to lean toward Women's, Literary and Historical Fiction - with the majority of my time spend nose deep in a historical fiction novel. Both World War I and II are standard reading fare for me - I'm not sure what it is about that time period, but I cannot get enough. So of course, The Alice Network by Kate Quinn was perfect for me.

I loved this book so much. It was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick last year and I would highly recommend this to anyone who loved The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah or has enjoyed Beatriz Williams' work (one of my all time favorite authors).

The Alice Network is everything I want in a historical fiction novel. It's told in alternating voices from two very different women. Eve Gardiner in 1915 and Charlie St. Clair in 1947. Eve's chapters chronicle her time spent in the infamous "Alice Network" - based on an actual network of female spies in WWI. Her chapters were crackling, tense and full of anticipation for the next page. I couldn't tear myself away from them. Fast forward 30 years to socialite, Charlie St. Clair, who is unmarried and pregnant. Accompanied by her mother, she's en route to Switzerland with the plan of taking care of  "the little problem." Little does her mother know, but Charlie has other plans and embarks on a journey to find her cousin Rose who was living in France during WWII. She's convinced that Rose must be alive and is determined to find her. When a common name and place draws Eve and Charlie together - they take off to France (along with Eve's driver, a wily Scotsman with his own secrets) to find out what happened to Rose.

This book is a triumph, it's fast paced, emotional and wonderfully written. I loved Eve and Charlie's stories so much. Both women show courage despite heartbreak and I couldn't get enough of their moxie. For those of you who like a little romance thrown in - that's there too and I couldn't get enough of it. This book is plotted beautifully - I highly recommend.

The Book Gawker's buy it or borrow it recommendation: Buy It

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