Book Love

Book Review: The Discovery

Last week I posted a photo of some books from my to-read stack. Today I’m going to share my review of one of those books, The Discovery by Dan Walsh.

The DiscoveryI’ve read two of Walsh’s previous novels, The Unfinished Gift and The Homecoming. They were both set in the World War II era, so The Discovery is a bit different from those because it’s set in modern times. But – Walsh still shares his love of WWII tales with us because The Discovery actually is a story within a story.

Here’s part of the back cover blurb:

When aspiring writer Michael Warner inherits his grandfather’s venerable Charleston estate, he settles in to write his first novel. But within the confines of the stately home, he discovers an unpublished manuscript that his grandfather, a literary giant whose novels sold in the millions, had kept hidden from everyone – but which he clearly intended Michael to find. As he delves deep into the exciting tale about spies and sabotage, Michael discovers something that has the power to change not only his future but his past as well.

So … an aspiring novelist, a story set in Charleston, and some spies and sabotage. The combination hooked me from the get-go.

DSC00893 (1)
The top of the St. Augustine, Fla., lighthouse. I learned a lot about World War II spies when we visited a few years ago. Some of those same things were in The Discovery.

You’re about 60 pages into the book before Michael comes across his grandfather’s hidden manuscript. From there, The Discovery alternates between Michael’s present-day life and the story within the old manuscript – which you read along with Michael in its entirety. I felt like the “hidden” story dragged a bit in a few places, but it wasn’t so bad that I wanted to stop reading. I think it was partly because I anticipated some things and was ready for them to happen. But at least I didn’t jump to the ending to make sure things worked out like I wanted.

Basic fiction tools like flashbacks and back story can be tricky to work into a story, and what Walsh attempted here was much bigger than that. But he managed to pull it off and reward his readers with not one enjoyable story, but two. If you’re looking for a novel about young love during World War II that stays more “light” than “grim,” The Discovery could be worth checking out.

Your turn: What good World War II novels have you read? Do you have a favorite author who writes about that time frame?

And … I had the chance to interview Dan Walsh on the Novel Pastimes blog when his debut novel, The Unfinished Gift, was released. You can read Day 1 of the interview here and Day 2 here.

Book Love

What’s On Your Reading Pile?

I’ve been a reader all my life, and always have a stack of books waiting to be my next literary get-away — plus plenty on my haven’t-bought-yet list. I’ll admit it makes me a little crazy and a little sad when I hear people say they don’t like to read. Don’t they know how much they’re missing?!

That’s why I love this quote from J.K. Rowling that I saw online this weekend:

JK Rowling quote
Source: BuzzFeed UK; http://bit.ly/1WZBESB

My sentiments exactly! Whether it’s suspense, romance, sci-fi, dystopian, Western, mystery, historical, or something completely different from the non-fiction part of the world — everyone can find something they enjoy reading if they take time to dig a bit. I’ve said it to plenty of my kids’ friends in the past few years.

TBR pile
What are you reading next?

Me, I’m always looking for another “right” book. Here’s what’s left of my to-read pile at the moment. Since there are only six (two of which I’m partway through), I obviously need to get moving on my haven’t-bought-yet list!

Your turn: I’d love to know what you’re reading or what you want to buy next. Share in the comments and we’ll all have some good books to explore.

Book Love

New Historical Fiction for February

It’s the first week of February, so let’s take a look at some of the historical fiction titles that will be hitting the shelves sometime this month.

From authors who are part of American Christian Fiction Writers:

ProphetessThe Prophetess: Deborah’s Story by Jill Eileen Smith — Outspoken and fearless, Deborah has faith in God but struggles to see the potential her own life holds. As an Israelite woman, she’ll marry, have a family, and seek to teach her children about Adonai – and those tasks seem to be more than enough to occupy her time. But God has another plan for her. Israel has been under the near constant terror of Canaan’s armies for twenty years, and now God has called Deborah to deliver her people from this oppression. Will her family understand? Will her people even believe God’s calling on her life? And can the menace of Canaan be stopped? (Biblical from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

The Love Is Patient Romance Collection by Janet Lee Barton, Frances Devine, Lena Nelson Dooley, Vickie McDonough, Darlene Franklin, Jill Stengl, Connie Stevens, and Erica Vetsch — Enjoy the slow dance through the courtship of nine historical couples in the American west, including the territories of Arizona and Wyoming. Just at a time in life when they have nearly given up on finding love, romance enters their lives. But will it be true love, and will it be worth the wait? Find out in this delightful collection written by eight bestselling authors of inspirational romances. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Sweet MisfortuneA Sweet Misfortune by Maggie Brendan — Rachel Matthews isn’t one to rely on others to take care of her. Destitute and alone, she still wants to make her own way and her own money – even if she’s forced into the life of a dance hall girl. Horrified by her circumstances, Rachel’s brother sends a friend – the widely admired cattle baron John McIntyre – to rescue her, then sets off to earn enough money to buy back the family ranch. But when months pass without her brother’s return, Rachel isn’t sure she can take one more day in John McIntyre’s home – especially once she discovers that he’s the one who holds the deed to her family’s ranch. (Historical Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Spy DevotionA Spy’s Devotion by Melanie Dickerson — Langdon returns home to heal from a battlefield injury — and to fulfill a dying soldier’s last wish by delivering his coded diary. At a ball hosted by the powerful Whilhelm family, Langdon meets their beautiful and intelligent ward, Julia Grey. Honoring propriety, he keeps his distance — until the diary is stolen and all clues lead to Julia’s guardian. As Langdon traces an evil plot that could be the nation’s undoing, he grows ever more intrigued by the lovely young woman. And when Julia realizes that England – and the man she is falling in love with – need her help, she finds herself caught in the fray. (Historical Romance from Waterfall Press, an imprint of Amazon Publishing)

The Express Rider’s Lady by Stacy Henrie — Delsie Radford’s father may have kept her and her sister apart, but Delsie refuses to miss her sister’s wedding – even with only 18 days to get there. And she’s found the perfect escort in Pony Express rider Myles Patton. Myles can’t believe it when a pretty socialite hires him to take her cross-country through dangerous territory. He’s sure she’ll give up soon, but the longer they ride together, the more Myles notices the toughness and kindness beneath Delsie’s refined exterior. And though they may be worlds apart…they might just be perfect for each other. (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Northern LightThe Texan’s Engagement Agreement by Noelle Marchand — It’s been five years since Adelaide Harper broke Chris Johansen’s heart and their long-distance engagement. But when she steps off a train in Peppin, Texas, and strolls back into Chris’s life, he can’t help but panic. To avoid his parents’ plan to arrange a marriage for him, he’s let his family believe he and Adelaide are still engaged. Adelaide is facing her own troubles with a matchmaking mama and a parade of aggravating suitors. So pretending to let Chris court her could help them both. Surely after five years, there’s no need to worry their time together could reignite a long-buried love…is there? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Northern Light by Annette O’Hare — The Yankees took her fiancé’s life, but when a wounded Union soldier washes ashore, needing her help, will she learn to love again or will hate cost him his life? (Historical Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

 

Moonlit GardenA few from authors in the general market:

Rush-Oh by Shirley Barrett (Virago) – When Mary Davidson, the eldest daughter of a whaling family in New South Wales, sets out to chronicle the particularly difficult season of 1908, the story she tells is poignant and hilarious, filled with drama and misadventure.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby (Pan) – Mrs. Hudson and Mary Watson take on a case rejected by Sherlock Holmes.

The Ironsmith by Nicholas Guild (Forge) – The behind-the-scenes political plots to kill Jesus of Nazareth, and one man’s attempt to save his life.

The Farmer’s Daughter by Mary Nichols (Allison & Busby) – A WWII Suffolk girl managing her sick father’s farm enlists the help of a German POW and they fall in love, to local disapproval.

The Moonlit Garden by Corina Bomann – A widowed antique shop worker digs into history to learn the story and secrets of a violin brought to her. As she unravels the mystery of the previous owner’s story, she comes to see her own life in a new light.

Your turn: What sounds good to you? I know several will be added to my to-read list! Share what you think about these or if you’ve heard of another new release that the rest of us might enjoy.

Happy reading!
Leigh

Book Love

Book Review: The Nightingale

I read a lot of books, but don’t always take the time to tell people about them. I’m hoping to change that this year by getting back in the habit of posting reviews of stories I really enjoy. Who knows? You might find a new author to check out. 🙂

I’m beginning my 2016 reviews with The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.

 

The NightingaleAbout the book:
France 1939 — In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious 18-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gaetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.

The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France — a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women.

 

My review:
I think many of us who enjoy historical fiction have read our share of World War II novels, but The Nightingale took me to a place I’ve not been: deep into the war through the eyes of women trying to survive at home under Nazi occupation.

Vianne and Isabelle are sisters, but have very little in common beyond their parents. Life was good until their mother died and their father didn’t know how to handle raising two girls in the midst of his grief. He took them to a convent school, which Vianne soon escaped through marriage. Isabelle was too young to have a choice and spent years being moved from one boarding school or convent to another, rarely seeing Vianne or their father.

Kristin Hannah
Author Kristin Hannah

Then war comes to their front door. Living with rations and restrictions is one thing, but learning to live with Nazis overtaking every corner of your town is another. Vianne and Isabelle shift from being ordinary French women to patriots who will do whatever they must to survive and help their families – even when it means doing thing they never dared imagine.

Vianne and Isabelle are so richly drawn that once I got into the book I felt like I was living the events with them instead of just reading. It was a roller coaster of emotions — joy, horror, love, anxiety, terror, tenderness, pain, surprise, reconciliation. But every emotion was realistic, every storyline based on situations people really faced during that time. Fortunately, Hannah manages to balance the horrors of war with little glimpses of hope and just enough intrigue so you don’t put the book down because you’re too depressed to keep reading.

But that doesn’t make The Nightingale any less powerful. In fact, I think the contrasts are part of what make it such a strong book. No matter what your past might be or what kind of person you believe you are, you never truly know how you’ll handle the worst situations imaginable until you’re in them. You can only hope that you’ll still be able to find some positive things to hold onto along the way.

This was the first book I’ve read by Kristin Hannah, and it was thanks to my sister’s recommendation. I’m glad she let me borrow her copy, because it’s one of the most eye-opening novels I’ve ever read. The Nightingale will stay with me for a long time.

For more about Kristin Hannah and her books, here’s where you can find her online:

 

Your turn: Does this sound like a book you might like to read? Or, have you ever read any of Kristin Hannah’s other books? What World War II novel is your favorite?