The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows #ThrowbackThursday

Renee @It’sBookTalk began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of our old favorites as well as sharing books that we’re finally getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. 

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Release: 2008
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre: Historical Fiction

Ever since I saw the trailer, I decided I wanted to read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society before watching the actual movie. The title was funny and weird, and I’ve always loved stories about book clubs and people gathering together, so I thought this could be a nice change from all the murders and psychopaths. And it was! I loved this cute little story and I can’t wait to watch Lily James as Juliet, Matthew Goode as Sidney and, of course, Michiel Huisman as Dawsey.

When I started the book, I totally thought Dawsey was a woman (I’m sorry, I’m not used to this kind of weird names!) Then I went back and read the first two letters again, just in case I had missed any flirting! I’m talking about letters because this is an epistolary novel, so everything is told in letters. It was fun and refreshing, I don’t think I had read a book like this since Where Rainbows End.

Ultimately, this was the definition of a feel-good story. I loved Juliet’s voice, she was strong-willed and fun, she’s the kind of character I love to read about. My favorites, however, were Sidney and Isola, who were amazing supporting characters. The story dragged a bit in the middle, but overall, I found it to be really cute and charming.

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The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa #ThrowbackThursday

Renee @It’sBookTalk began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of our old favorites as well as sharing books that we’re finally getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. 

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Release: 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Historical Fiction

The German Girl was a beautiful historical book set in 1939 and telling the story of Hannah (and Leo), who suddenly see their lives change when the Nazi rise to power. Hannah, her family, and her friends decide that they will move to Cuba, a place that is supposed to welcome them with open arms… or maybe not? At the same time, we learn about Anna, a twelve-year-old girl living in Manhattan who suddenly receives a letter from a distant relative from Cuba…

This book was indeed similar to The Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale, but, perhaps because I read those first, or because it wasn’t the right moment for me, I didn’t fall in love with this one as much as I did with the others. Something was lacking. At the same time, I need to say that I felt deeply moved by this novel and the fact that it was based on real events, but I found the present storyline to be pretty dull in comparison to Hannah’s perspective. Her relationship with Leo was so beautiful… And what about that ending? The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa is the perfect book for those who’re looking for a story that is both hopeful and heartbreaking.

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Review: The Cursed Wife by Pamela Hartshorne @PamHartshorne @PanMacmillan

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Release: 2018
Publisher: Macmillan
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Historical Fiction

I’m so happy I decided to read The Cursed Wife! It was nothing like I expected, but I really enjoyed reading something so different and fresh. I had been wanting to read a novel by Pamela Hartshorne for years, but somehow I never did. As soon as I saw this beautiful cover, I knew this would be my first.

What makes The Cursed Wife, so different from my other reads is that it is a psychological thriller -the kind we’ve all read and enjoyed-, but set in the XVIth century! If you’re wondering how that can be possible, I can honestly tell you that it did read like a true psychological thriller, and the fact that it was a historical read made it even more enjoyable in my opinion. After all, psychopaths had it harder back then.

This novel tells the story of a woman with a secret… and what happens when the past catches up with her. You know from the start that there’s a death, but you don’t know who’s the victim or the killer, although you know who was present at the time of the murder. In The Cursed Wife we find two different perspectives and two different timelines as well. The two main characters are called Mary and Cat. Neither of them is a saint, but Cat was one of those characters that you can’t help but despise with all your heart. My god, was she manipulative! And Mary, despite everything, I kind of felt bad for her.

Both the present and the past timeline were captivating, and I really wanted to find out what exactly had happened years ago between them. The ending featured an unexpected turn of events that I didn’t see coming. And that last paragraph was so creepy that I finished the book feeling quite satisfied. Pamela Hartshorne has delivered a unique and creepy historical novel blended with the best ingredients of a modern psychological thriller.

Many thanks to the publishers for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review

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Review: The Last Suppers by Mandy Mikulencak @DurangoWriter @KensingtonBooks

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Release: 2018
Publisher: Kensington Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Southern Lit

From the moment I watched The Green Mile many years ago, I became fascinated with stories about death row and prison inmates. Surprisingly, I haven’t read as many books about the topic as I would’ve wanted, so I was obviously excited to read Mandy Mikulencak’s novel as soon as I came across its intriguing blurb.

The Last Suppers tells the story of Ginny Polk, a young woman working as the head cook in Louisiana’s Greenmount State Penitentiary in the 1950s. Ginny’s father was a prison guard at that same prison but was killed many years ago and the murderer was put to death when she was eight years old. Ginny is now dating her father’s best friend, Roscoe, who happens to be the prison warden, but they have a very complicated relationship. And Ginny’s life is about to become even more complicated when she starts looking into her father’s mysterious death…

I absolutely loved the concept in this novel. Ginny was both kind and strong-willed and I really loved her as a character. She provides the prisoners’ last suppers and always tries to cook their favorite meals, no matter what she has to do in order to achieve that. Ginny feels they should be shown a little humanity during their last hours, and I deeply admired her determination.

The Last Suppers by Mandy Mikulencak was unexpected in many ways, especially because I didn’t know how the story would evolve. The “mystery” plot didn’t pick up until the last section of the book, but I found it quite compelling. The book dealt with several themes like racism, human rights and family relationships and I must say this is a little gem that I feel should be way more appreciated.

Many thanks to the publishers and Edelweiss for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review

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Review: White Chrysanthemum by @marylynnbracht ‏@ChattoBooks ‏

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Hana and her little sister Emi are part of an island community of haenyo, women who make their living from diving deep into the sea off the southernmost tip of Korea. One day Hana sees a Japanese soldier heading for where Emi is guarding the day’s catch on the beach. Her mother has told her again and again never to be caught alone with one. Terrified for her sister, Hana swims as hard as she can for the shore. So begins the story of two sisters suddenly and violently separated by war. Switch-backing between Hana in 1943 and Emi as an old woman today, White Chrysanthemum takes us into a dark and devastating corner of history. But pulling us back into the light are two women whose love for one another is strong enough to triumph over the evils of war.

White Chrysanthemum was a sad and beautiful novel that told a story based on real events that I honestly had no idea of. And I’m so glad I learned about what happened, even if the reality was hard to process. By the time I finished the book, I read the author’s notes and kept searching for more info about “confort women”. It was simply terrifying.

So, what the book is about: 1943, Jeju Island (Korea). Hanna is a sixteen-year-old girl who is considered a “haenyeo” woman (fema divers). One day at the beach, Hanna wants to protect her little sister from the Japanese soldiers, but she ends up being abducted instead. From that moment, we follow Hanna’s devastating story in 1943 as she becomes a victim of sexual slavery, and Emi’s life as a woman in her seventies, while she tries to come to terms with what happened many years ago.

This is not an easy book to read due to the subject matter, but I believe it’s an important read nevertheless. Maybe because of that, I felt much more connected to Hanna’s story than Emi’s, as hers wasn’t as “emotional” or shocking, but I guess it was still necessary so as to show us what happened to those women who remained in the island. By the way, the concept of “haenyeo” women was so fascinating, I wish I could be like them.

Despite the heartbreaking events that were portrayed in this novel, I believe Mary Lynn Bracht’s writing was beautiful and evocative and I would definitely read another book by hers. Let’s remember “comfort women” and don’t let history forget them…

ARC, Chatto & Windus, 2018