Book Review – The Glittering Hour

The Glittering Hour is the story of high-society’s flapper-girl Selina Lennox getting involved with penniless artist Lawrence Weston despite her better judgement. With the financial stability and social status secured in Rupert Carew – who was all but handed to Selina on a silver platter – Selina had to choose what mattered most to her in life and where she could carve out her best future. It’s a story of love, choice, tragedy and riches. A story of secrets and mystery. A story of truth.

My last Book of the Month book of 2019, and my last historical fiction read for hopefully a while, because wow, there’s been a lot of those this year.

Book 53:
The Glittering Hour
by Iona Grey

Genre:
Historical Fiction

Published:
December 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Glittering Hour is the story of high-society’s flapper-girl Selina Lennox getting involved with penniless artist Lawrence Weston despite her better judgement. With the financial stability and social status secured in Rupert Carew – who was all but handed to Selina on a silver platter – Selina had to choose what mattered most to her in life and where she could carve out her best future. It’s a story of love, choice, tragedy and riches. A story of secrets and mystery. A story of truth.

Favorite Quote(s):

“We’re all going to die sometime – that’s a fact. And the only thing we can do to cheat death is to live properly. Bravely. Love wholly. Living, instead of just existing.

– Iona Grey, The Glittering Hour

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
480

My Overall Rating:
4 – The slow start on this one had me thinking it was a secure 3, but the further I got, the more invested in the story I became. Rich people are always kind of fun to read about, and especially rich people from the 20s/30s (1900s that is…), so it had that going for it the whole time.

However, once the story really picked up, I was genuinely trying to guess what the outcome was going to be and I think that’s always a good sign. While I was able to figure out maybe a third of it, the other two thirds took me by surprised and got me emotionally involved. I was seriously rooting for certain characters and was pleasantly content with the conclusion of their story.

Book Review – The Beantown Girls

The Beantown Girls is about the Red Cross Clubmobile girls who served coffee and donuts overseas to soldiers in the second World War. For women wanting to do their part in the war, heading across the ocean just to be seen by and talk to soldiers was a simple yet obviously dangerous task. Beyond coffee and donuts, they brought the soldiers a level of familiarity and comfort they were missing being so far away from home, risking their lives for their country and living on next to nothing.

The Christmas season has me raking in all sorts of Amazon Prime no-rush digital rewards, and I am just on the prowl for good books like it’s my job. Number 52 did not disappoint. Not one bit. And also, I would have never thought that I’d be someone who would read 52 books in one year, but here we are.

Book 52:
The Beantown Girls
by Jane Healey

Genre:
Historical Fiction

Published:
February 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Beantown Girls is about the Red Cross Clubmobile girls who served coffee and donuts overseas to soldiers in the second World War. For women wanting to do their part in the war, heading across the ocean just to be seen by and talk to soldiers was a simple yet obviously dangerous task. Beyond coffee and donuts, they brought the soldiers a level of familiarity and comfort they were missing being so far away from home, risking their lives for their country and living on next to nothing.

Favorite Quote(s):

“How best to honor those we’ve lost? By not being afraid to live life and take risks, by daring to open your heart to possibility. By taking a chance to begin. Again.”

– Jane Healey, The Beantown Girls

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
361

My Overall Rating:
5 – Ok, so it has it’s sad parts – it’s a WWII book – BUT… this was a largely happy WWII book, and I really loved that. Previous to this book, I didn’t know the Clubmobilers even existed. They played such an interesting and necessary role in the war, and I’m really glad to know our country thought of such a thing in that time.

I also found the blend of historical accuracy and fiction to be just perfect. The characters’ stories were so heartfelt and the overall narrative shed a different light on life overseas, teaching me new things and showing the positive sides of serving your country amidst the many dark sides.

Book Review – The Giver of Stars

The Giver of Stars is the fictional story of one group of women who road into the Appalachian Mountains between 1935 and 1943 as a part of the Pack Horse Library Project, Eleanor Roosevelt’s traveling library. Delivering books to those in remote regions of Kentucky, these women saw all kinds of characters and watched stories unfold as they passed out stories to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them. In their quest, they’re toughened up, bonded together and the center of the town’s controversies.

To be honest with you, I wasn’t thrilled with the November selections for Book of the Month, but I chose this next read because I know it was highly anticipated. I loved Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You series, but this was my first go with her down the historical fiction road.

Book 50:
The Giver of Stars
by Jojo Moyes

Genre:
Historical Fiction

Published:
October 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Giver of Stars is the fictional story of one group of women who road into the Appalachian Mountains between 1935 and 1943 as a part of the Pack Horse Library Project, Eleanor Roosevelt’s traveling library. Delivering books to those in remote regions of Kentucky, these women saw all kinds of characters and watched stories unfold as they passed out stories to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them. In their quest, they’re toughened up, bonded together and the center of the town’s controversies.

Favorite Quote(s):

“Look outwards, Alice […] Not much point worrying what the town thinks about you – nothing you can do about that anyway. But when you look outwards, why, there’s a whole world of beautiful things.”

– Jojo Moyes, The Giver of Stars

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
400

My Overall Rating:
3.5 – I was super intrigued by the concept of the pack horse library – I love that that was a thing back in the days, and I like to think that if I lived during that time, I would have signed up to ride the minute the opportunity became available. That being said, from the historical side, I would say it was very lightly historical. There weren’t really any major historical events recounted in the book other than the library.

From the story side, it was just cute. It was a nice, easy read, but it wasn’t ripping me apart or making me cancel my plans to stay home and finish my book. I got more into the story in the last quarter of the book when the plot picks up, but until that point it wasn’t anything I was going to push on my friends.

Book Review – The Water Dancer

The Water Dancer tells the story of the underground amidst America’s days of souther slavery. Hiram Walker, a slave with a mysterious power, loses his mother to the coffin of the deep south. As a family of sorts forms around him, he manages to escape to the north, becomes entangled in the underground, and must choose how to use the power he’s been gifted.

I swear five years ago I would have gagged at the idea of historical fiction with a fantasy twist. But… ever since I started reading so much, and since Book of the Month, I’ve become a changed reader. I’ve branched out, and I’ve learned to love doing so!

Book 45:
The Water Dancer
by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Genre:
Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Published:
September 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Water Dancer tells the story of the underground amidst America’s days of souther slavery. Hiram Walker, a slave with a mysterious power, loses his mother to the coffin of the deep south. As a family of sorts forms around him, he manages to escape to the north, becomes entangled in the underground, and must choose how to use the power he’s been gifted.

Favorite Quote(s):

“There was no peace in slavery, for every day under the rule of another is a day of war.”

– Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Water Dancer

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
406

My Overall Rating:
4 – Confession – for the first 100 pages, I wondered if this was going to be a book that went right over my head. Coates was using figurative and colloquial language without giving explanations, and I thought for sure I was going to give this book a whopping one star.

And then things started to make sense.

And then things started to get good.

And then I could not put the book down.

When someone can take an outlandish concept and weave it into an already solid story and still keep me entrapped, I think that’s pretty impressive. Hiram’s power is crazy. It could not happen (though it arguably mirrors, and is meant to represent, the power of a greater One), yet it made this story better. Tales of slavery are already so heart-wrenching. I would have rooted for the characters without the fantasy element, but the fantasy element made me need to know what was going to happen.

Pages 101-400 were so redemptive of the first 100. Things came together so well and I began to appreciate the beauty of how it was written once I got over that hump.

Book Review – The Rabbit Girls

The Rabbit Girls takes place in the days revolving around the fall of the Berlin Wall as Miriam Winter discovers an Auschwitz tattoo on her dying father’s wrist. History is being written as Miriam must dive back into a different history and uncover the clues to her father’s past found in a uniform stashed in his apartment believed to have belonged to a “Frieda”. What happened to Henryk? Who is Frieda? And what does this mean for Miriam?

So if you have a Kindle and an Amazon Prime membership, you would be crazy to not sign up for Amazon First Reads. I don’t even know how I found out about it, but once I got my Kindle, I started stocking up on all the free books for my breast feeding days that have now begun. This next one, a solid pick from Amazon First Reads.

Book 44:
The Rabbit Girls
by Anna Ellory

Genre:
Historical Fiction

Published:
September 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Rabbit Girls takes place in the days revolving around the fall of the Berlin Wall as Miriam Winter discovers an Auschwitz tattoo on her dying father’s wrist. History is being written as Miriam must dive back into a different history and uncover the clues to her father’s past found in a uniform stashed in his apartment believed to have belonged to a “Frieda”. What happened to Henryk? Who is Frieda? And what does this mean for Miriam?

Favorite Quote(s):

“Time fills in the blanks as we know them to be, rather than as they were.”

– Anna Ellory, The Rabbit Girls

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
396

My Overall Rating:
5 – There are so many WWII novels out there, but I’ve learned that what makes one good, in my opinion, is a deeper element than simply the WWII story. Similar to All the Light We Cannot See or The Alice Network, this book has that element. The three main plot lines span WWII to the days the Berlin Wall fell. They cover characters in their youth and characters in their adulthood. They include politics, love, family matters, death and more. There was just so much in this book to take in, and it was so eloquently wrapped together and so well written.

I started this as my night-time-reading-while-breastfeeding book and finished it as an I-can’t-put-this-down-my-print-books-can-wait book. I can’t say I learned a ton on the history side of things, but the story offers a very unique perspective on concentration camps while only occasionally being too emotional to read in the middle of the night.

As I moved into my next two books, I find myself still thinking about this one and struggling to dive into 45 and 46 because 44 was so good.

Book Review – At the Water’s Edge

At the Water’s Edge is the story of three high-society Americans in 1942 who bypass involvement in the war, and set out, instead, in search of the Loch Ness Monster. Ellis, Maddie (a husband and wife) and their friend Hank live a frivolous life of fancy clothes, parties, and alcohol. However, when the country faces one of its darkest times and they can’t seem to turn away from their frivolity, Ellis’s free-flow of money stops and he has to prove himself worthy despite his inability to serve his country due to color-blindness.

Tied by marriage, Maddie follows her husband and hank across the ocean to a foreign country where they search, with a child-like vigor, to prove the monster’s existence, hoping this will restore their appearance in their wealthy circle back at home. Meanwhile, Maddie is left each day in their hotel, searching for things of her own – truth, friendship and love amidst the craziness that’s become her life.

Got a rogue post in here, because I think there will be another on Monday as usual – no promises.

Our August Book Club pick did not excite me at all, but I try to be a team player and still read the books when this is the case. I requested it at my library, forgot to pick it up in time, and seriously considered not trying to get it again. But then I snatched it from another local library, and dove in with just enough time before book club rolled around again, but boy, was I surprised by this one…

Book 32:
At the Water’s Edge
by Sara Gruen

Genre:
Historical Fiction

Published:
March 2015

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, At the Water’s Edge is the story of three high-society Americans in 1942 who bypass involvement in the war, and set out, instead, in search of the Loch Ness Monster. Ellis, Maddie (a husband and wife) and their friend Hank live a frivolous life of fancy clothes, parties, and alcohol. However, when the country faces one of its darkest times and they can’t seem to turn away from their frivolity, Ellis’s free-flow of money stops and he has to prove himself worthy despite his inability to serve his country due to color-blindness.

Tied by marriage, Maddie follows her husband and hank across the ocean to a foreign country where they search, with a child-like vigor, to prove the monster’s existence, hoping this will restore their appearance in their wealthy circle back at home. Meanwhile, Maddie is left each day in their hotel, searching for things of her own – truth, friendship and love amidst the craziness that’s become her life.

Favorite Quote(s):

“It seems there’s nothing so good or pure it can’t be taken without a moment’s notice. And then in the end, it all gets taken anyway.”

– Sara Gruen, At the Water’s Edge

Awards (based upon my brief research):
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction (2015)

Pages:
348

My Overall Rating:
4 – I can’t deny it’s slow start. Based on the synopsis and the first 50 pages or so, I really thought this book was going to be a maximum of 2 stars. However, the farther I got, the more I enjoyed it. Beyond the mythology of sea monsters and the whimsical title, this book spoke to the heart of finding oneself. Ellis and Hank thought they were finding themselves as they set out on their adventure, but Maddie was doing the cold, hard work of seeing her mistakes, learning her truths, and changing herself for the better.

I absolutely loved Maddie’s character. She was vulnerable, yet strong. She made mistakes, yet sought good. She was willing to be lowly, yet previously accustomed to high society. I wanted all fo the best things for her and was happy to see where she ended up.

Genre-wise, the book vaguely reminded me of All the Light We Cannot See, another book I would highly recommend.

Book Review – Beyond the Point

Beyond the Point is the stories of three women who begin their journeys at West Point in the year 2000. When the terrorist attacks of September 11 take place in their sophomore year, their fates are sealed; they know they’ll be serving overseas, but life takes all three in different directions. What does the future hold? Will they stay in touch? Was West Point the right choice for each of them?

I’m not a huge military-related book fan, but Book of the Month has always been about stretching me since I started my subscription, and I love that about it. What intrigued me about this particular novel was that it’s about women in the military. I feel like most military-related books are very male-centric, being both written by men and containing male lead characters. For the first time, I found myself very excited to dive into a military-related read.

Book 17:
Beyond the Point
by Claire Gibson

Genre:
Historical Fiction

Published:
April 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Beyond the Point is the stories of three women who begin their journeys at West Point in the year 2000. When the terrorist attacks of September 11 take place in their sophomore year, their fates are sealed; they know they’ll be serving overseas, but life takes all three in different directions. What does the future hold? Will they stay in touch? Was West Point the right choice for each of them?

Favorite Quote(s):

“Vulnerability can bring two people closer together, or it can expose a distance that an’t be overcome.”

“When you allowed yourself to enter someone else’s trauma, there were so many benefits: a righted perspective, a deeper sense of friendship, a holy devotion to the sacredness of now.”

“I wanted perfection. But it turns out, here on earth, we don’t get perfection; we get people.”

– Claire Gibson, Beyond the Point

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
490

My Overall Rating:
3 – This book was not what I expected. When I read West Point and September 11 in the synopsis, I assumed it was going to be more of a military-focused story. However, the story was softer. It focused on each of the three main characters lives – professionally and personally, and arguably more on the personal than professional side.

I did love the three main characters. I rooted for them and was curious about how things would turn out. I just expected a stronger story, and therefore struggled with so much backstory to get to the heart of the story. The second half was great. The first half just felt like too much chick lit.

Book Review – Daisy Jones & The Six

Daisy Jones & The Six is an oral history of 70’s rock stars Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne and his band, The Six. When the two pair up, their music is instantaneously the stuff of legends, the rock and roll American’s craved in the 1970s. But their worlds didn’t merge with ease. With rock and roll came sex and drugs. And with sex and drugs came trials and tribulations. Like any band, they navigate relational strain, differing dreams and the lengths they’ll go to to stay together… or be apart.

The stars aligned for book 13. I brought my March Book of the Month selection to book club and book club voted it our April read! That is a serious case of killing two birds with one stone in my world.

Book 13:
Daisy Jones & The Six
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre:
Historical Fiction

Published:
March 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Daisy Jones & The Six is an oral history of 70’s rock stars Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne and his band, The Six. When the two pair up, their music is instantaneously the stuff of legends, the rock and roll American’s craved in the 1970s. But their worlds didn’t merge with ease. With rock and roll came sex and drugs. And with sex and drugs came trials and tribulations. Like any band, they navigate relational strain, differing dreams and the lengths they’ll go to to stay together… or be apart.

Favorite Quote(s):

“Don’t count yourself out this early, Daisy. You’re all sorts of things you don’t even know yet.”

– Taylor Jenkins Reid, Daisy Jones & The Six

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
368

My Overall Rating:
5 – You know those times when you ask a question about some old movie star or some old band and then three hours later, you’re still scrolling your phone and you know way too much about that person or band, but you’re so fascinated that you don’t even care? That was me with this book. In fact, I think this book is written to capture precisely people who fall prey to that phenomenon. I can’t quite explain how much I wish this book was true… or how much I believed it was true while reading it. I was absolutely captivated by this story. I wanted to know their story. I wanted to hear their music. I wanted to see their performances.

Plus, I love, love, loved the writing style. Written as an oral history, it’s the first book I’ve read that felt like watching a movie rather than reading. I could hear them talking. I could see them sitting with their interviewer, pausing in answers, laughing at questions, tearing up at memories. Taylor Jenkins Reid hit the writing style out of the ballpark. This was so fun.

Book Review – The Heart’s Invisible Furies

The Heart’s Invisible Furies follows Cyril Avery through life as he seeks to establish who he is, what his place is in the world and what love means to him. Given away at birth, Cyril’s never had a normal family. He’s never known a normal love. He’s never felt at home. As he battles the life he was given and the culture he was born into, he learns to find peace after decades of searching for what that means.

When book club did a book exchange for Christmas, I ended up with this gem… this heavy, heavy gem. Coming in at 582 pages, I found it intimidating until I saw the reviews. Then I knew I had to read it. And what do you know? I brought it back to book club in February and we chose it as our March book!

Book 11:
The Heart’s Invisible Furies
by John Boyne

Genre:
Historical Fiction

Published:
August 2017

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Heart’s Invisible Furies follows Cyril Avery through life as he seeks to establish who he is, what his place is in the world and what love means to him. Given away at birth, Cyril’s never had a normal family. He’s never known a normal love. He’s never felt at home. As he battles the life he was given and the culture he was born into, he learns to find peace after decades of searching for what that means.

Favorite Quote(s):

“Maybe there were no villains in my mother’s story at all. Just men and women, trying to do their best by each other. And failing.”

– John Boyne, The Heart’s Invisible Furies

Awards (based upon my brief research):
Lambda Literary Award Nominee for Gay Fiction (2018)
Andrew Carnegie Medal Nominee for Fiction (2018)
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction (2017)
Book of the Month Book of the Year Award (2017)

Pages:
582

My Overall Rating:
5 – The whole way through, I was riding at a 4, but by the end I was so invested that I just bumped that right up to a 5. Here’s the thing: This is not a book I would have chosen had I not known how much other people have loved it. It started slow. It was not what I expected. But, eventually, I was emotionally in ears deep.

I cannot believe the oppression homosexual people have faced in the past and continue to face even today. In the course of 582 pages, I felt sad for Cyril, mad, happy and hopeful. It pains me to know that people have lived lives even remotely similar to his. Why do we oppress other people? Who are we to judge?

Now I’ll cool off and say that I also love, LOVE John Boyne’s writing style. I loved it in A Ladder to the Sky, and I loved it in this one as well. He’s incredibly talented and takes such a unique approach to story-telling. I am mesmerized by how he’s able to do what he does so well.

Book Review – A Woman is No Man

A Woman is No Man is comprised of the stories of three generations of Palestinian women and their roles in their families. Spanning the 1970s to the early 2000s, ocean crossings from the Middle East to the U.S., and cultural shifts that come with time, with each new generation, each woman faces new challenges, but each is also still a woman in Palestinian culture.

In the past year, I’ve really loved learning about other cultures through stories. Before I began reading so much, every book I read was set in the U.S. and contained 100% American characters. It has been such a journey, branching out and reading about other cultures and getting to know characters of other ethnicities. My February Book of the Month choice was another excellent example of that.

Book 10:
A Woman is No Man
by Etaf Rum

Genre:
Historical Fiction

Published:
March 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, A Woman is No Man is comprised of the stories of three generations of Palestinian women and their roles in their families. Spanning the 1970s to the early 2000s, ocean crossings from the Middle East to the U.S., and cultural shifts that come with time, with each new generation, each woman faces new challenges, but each is also still a woman in Palestinian culture.

Favorite Quote(s):

“Isra resented her books in these moments when she thought about the limits of her life and how easy courage seemed when you boiled it down to a few words on paper.”

– Etaf Rum, A Woman is No Man

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
336

My Overall Rating:
4 – There was so much more to this book than I anticipated. While I loved learning about Palestinian culture (and let me tell you, I want to eat their food and drink their drinks, because even just the descriptions of their meals alone was exciting enough to me), I also loved this story. My heart broke for the three main women. When they wanted change, I wanted change. When they wanted answers, I wanted answers. When they wanted freedom, I wanted freedom for them. This was such a solid and beautiful read.