The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

DABD3E65-901D-43BC-A254-4AE7E8E658FFThank you to Berkley Publishers for sending me a free copy of The Last Year of the War in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

Elise Sontag is a typical Iowa fourteen-year-old in 1943—aware of the war but distanced from its reach. Then her father, a legal U.S. resident for nearly two decades, is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to an internment camp in Texas, where, behind the armed guards and barbed wire, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar, including her own identity.

The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers. Together in the desert wilderness, Elise and Mariko hold tight the dream of being young American women with a future beyond the fences.

But when the Sontag family is exchanged for American prisoners behind enemy lines in Germany, Elise will face head-on the person the war desires to make of her. In that devastating crucible she must discover if she has the will to rise above prejudice and hatred and re-claim her own destiny, or disappear into the image others have cast upon her.

The Last Year of the War tells a little-known story of World War II with great resonance for our own times and challenges the very notion of who we are when who we’ve always been is called into question.

My Review:

I knew going into The Last Year of the War that I was in for a treat.  Last year I read another of Meissner’s books, As Bright As Heaven, and really enjoyed it.  TLYOTW did not disappoint!  Meissner is a skilled story teller and seamlessly weaves fictional characters in with real historic events.

One of the reasons why I love historical fiction so much is that in each novel I read, I learn about something new even if it’s about some aspect of history I thought I already knew a lot about. In TLYOTW, I learned about life for immigrants in American during the war and how they were treated, specifically German immigrants.  I also learned what life in an internment camp was like, which is something I haven’t yet read about.  I am always amazed, specifically with the WWII historical fiction genre, how there continue to be new stories to be told and new viewpoints to be seen.

I rated this one four out of five stars, the main reason I didn’t give it five stars being that a lot of this story focused on the friendship of the two girls.  I enjoyed their story, and I enjoyed the historical aspects of this book and all the new things I learned about, however I just wished for more historical reference.  So much was put into the girls trying to find each other, yet I didn’t feel like their friendship was all that natural to begin with. With that being said, I did like this one a lot.  The Last Year of the War is a very well written novel, many historical fiction fans will really enjoy it.

 

The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher

The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher

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Thank you to Berkley for sending me a free copy of The Kennedy Debutante in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Synopsis from the Publisher:

London, 1938. The effervescent “It girl” of London society since her father was named the ambassador, Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy moves in rarified circles, rubbing satin-covered elbows with some of the 20th century’s most powerful figures. Eager to escape the watchful eye of her strict mother, Rose, the antics of her older brothers, Jack and Joe, and the erratic behavior of her sister Rosemary, Kick is ready to strike out on her own and is soon swept off her feet by Billy Hartington, the future Duke of Devonshire.

But their love is forbidden, as Kick’s devout Catholic family and Billy’s staunchly Protestant one would never approve their match. When war breaks like a tidal wave across her world, Billy is ripped from her arms as the Kennedys are forced to return to the States. Kick gets work as a journalist and joins the Red Cross to get back to England, where she will have to decide where her true loyalties lie—with family or with love.

My Review:

The Kennedy Debutante is a perfect blend of history, faith, culture, love and life. Maher did a superb job writing Kick as the young, naïve girl she was. Kick is full of hope for the future mixed with the desire to please her family yet not lose sight of what is most important in her heart. I enjoyed getting to know more about the Kennedy family through a much un-talked about member.

A very well paced novel, The Kennedy Debutant takes the reader through the Kennedy family’s time in Europe, before the war and during. I was constantly shaking my head at their strong need to keep up appearances. Even though I know it was a different time, I still had a hard time reading through the difficulties Kick faced all because she had to make her family look good.  He hearts desires had to take a back seat to appearances.

The only part of this book that I didn’t love was the focus on Kick’s relationship with Billy Harrington.  I felt like a large chunk of the second half was going in circles about the adversity they were facing, being of different religions. However, the love/relationship part of any book is my least favorite part. It’s just not for me.  If you don’t mind love stories or enjoy them then it shouldn’t bother you at all.

I went into this book a little in the dark about the Kennedy family. I knew they were a big political family but that was about it.  Now I know so much more about not just Kick, but the rest of the family as well.  Yay to learning from books!  If you are interested in the Kennedy family or you just like historical fiction in general, this book should be on your TBR. I rate it 4/5 stars.

The Lost Carousel of Provence by Juliet Blackwell

The Lost Carousel of Provence by Juliet Blackwell

DD52A91A-BD62-4DDD-ACC9-D52232F2927EThank you to Berkley Publishing for sending me a free review copy of The Lost Carousel of Provence in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Synopsis from the publisher:

An artist lost to history, a family abandoned to its secrets, and the woman whose search for meaning unearths it all in a sweeping and expressive story from the New York Times bestselling author of Letters from Paris.

Long, lonely years have passed for the crumbling Château Clement, nestled well beyond the rolling lavender fields and popular tourist attractions of Provence. Once a bustling and dignified ancestral estate, now all that remains is the château’s gruff, elderly owner and the softly whispered secrets of generations buried and forgotten.

But time has a way of exposing history’s dark stains, and when American photographer Cady Drake finds herself drawn to the château and its antique carousel, she longs to explore the relic’s shadowy origins beyond the small scope of her freelance assignment. As Cady digs deeper into the past, unearthing century-old photographs of the Clement carousel and its creators, she might be the one person who can bring the past to light and reunite a family torn apart.

My review:

The Lost Carousel of Provence is a unique historical fiction novel that weaves past and present together to show that family always stands the test of time, no matter the differences. Although I was a little unsure at the beginning, I found myself really enjoying this book, it has a lot going for it.

My favorite aspect of this book was the carousel history and descriptions that were sprinkled throughout the whole novel.  I loved learning about how carousel’s were made and the level of reverence people had for them in years past.  Just a few days after I finished reading this book, I went to a new-to-me mall inside of which there was a carousel.  Internally I was shouting “Oh, hey!  A carousel!” and took a much closer look at it than I would have before.  I love anytime a book changes my view of the world around me!

The serene Provence countryside setting in this novel was also beautiful detailed.  Blackwell did a good job of describing not only the scenery but also the differences in culture between people in small French villages and Americans.  Cady passed out many American saying to the French people she met that didn’t translate well and had me feeling embarrassed for her.

Cady’s character was well developed and her backstory as a foster child was woven into the story in small little bursts that helped the reader understand her actions better.  The reclusive Mr. Clement was also well developed and had my heart.  However, I felt that the supporting characters weren’t as well developed and I found some of their interactions with each other to be a little unnatural, especially in the beginning.  But once the story took off, I didn’t notice this as much.

Overall I did really like this book.  I found myself thinking about it when I wasn’t reading which is always a good sign! I rate this one 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to any historical fiction lover!

The Myth of Perpetual Summer by Susan Crandall

The Myth of Perpetual Summer by Susan Crandall

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Thank you to Gallery books for providing me with a free copy of The Myth of Perpetual Summer in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

From the publisher:

Tallulah James’s parents’ volatile relationship, erratic behavior, and hands-off approach to child rearing set tongues to wagging in their staid Mississippi town, complicating her already uncertain life. She takes the responsibility of shielding her family’s reputation and raising her younger twin siblings onto her youthful shoulders. When betrayal and death arrive hand in hand, she takes to the road, headed to what turns out to be the not-so-promised land of Southern California. Seven years later, she’s drawn home when her younger brother is accused of murder. Finally, she learns the truth of the terrible tragedy that has lain hidden for so long.

My Review:

This. Book. Was. So. Good!  I literally hugged this book when I turn the last page.  This is going to be a full out gushy review because I have not one bad thing to say about this book.

When I think about why I like to read, the only important thing that comes to mind is: love of a good story. I love to be told a good story or read a good story. The Myth of Perpetual Summer was such a wonderful story about people, family, life, and fighting through the challenges that come our way and coming out on the other side not unscathed, but smarter and stronger than before.

Crandall has written a dysfunctional family in such a realistic way that as the reader you feel such strong emotions about the things they do to each other.  I felt so angry at Tallulah‘s feckless parents and wanted to swoop in and rescue her and her siblings.  The family in this novel also got me thinking about the whole nature versus nurture argument.  In this book and in real life I do find that people under the same circumstances can react to them in a different way.  Tallulah and each of her siblings handled their very unconventional childhood in very different ways.

The setting in this novel was also stunning: summer in Mississippi in the 1960’s, with old fashioned ways and life on a pecan plantation.  Basically this was the perfect summer read and I really just couldn’t get enough of it. I am sad that it’s over.  This book is easily the best book I’ve read so far in 2018. I easily give this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 stars!

The Good People by Hannah Kent

The Good People by Hannah Kent

IMG_1661In my humble opinion, Hannah Kent has cemented her place as a must read historical fiction author.  The Good People is her second novel in the genre and it did not disappoint. Taking place in rural 19th century Ireland, Nora has suddenly lost her daughter, gained a grandson to raise, then lost her husband. Now all alone, Nora realizes that raising her 4 year old grandson, Micheal, on her own will be much harder without her husbands’ help.  She hires a hand, Mary, to help care for the unusual child who is failing to thrive and screams all the night long. He is weak, cannot walk and does not speak. When it becomes obvious that having a helping hand will not ease the burden that is Micheal, Nora enlists the help of an elderly woman named Nance who is know for her knowledge of healing and traditional (yet superstitious) spiritual cleansings. Nance deems Micheal a ‘changeling’, a weakling left by the fairies when The Good People took the real Micheal away.  The two women proceed with the old traditions for giving a changeling back to The Good People in return for the original child back.

Kent’s writing has a style all its own:  While being easy to read, the reader feels completely submerged into the time and culture within the pages.  The settings and characters seem so completely authentic it feels as if you are getting a real experience in the time and place rather than a more glamorous Hollywood version. I feel like I got a very true Irish folklore lesson in reading this book and I enjoyed it immensely. While the story did move along at a slow pace, I still give this book 5 out of 5 stars.  If you are interested in historical fiction, and you can be patient with a book, you will love this one.