Book vs Film #2 Brooklyn

Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America — to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood “just like Ireland” — she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind. Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.

I already talked about this film/book in another post, but I wanted to feature it in this new meme. This is one of those cases where I watched the film, fell in love with it and decided to read the book hoping to feel the same. Spoiler: I didn’t.

I watched the Brooklyn film back in 2015 and I’ve watched it probably 3 times more ever since (and I still want to watch it again). I’m fully aware that this is a rather “simple” film, in the sense that it’s not an epic romantic drama like Titanic or even The Notebook. Some people have told me that: “yes, it was okay, just nothing special”. But when I watched this movie, I hadn’t watched a romantic flick where I rooted so much for the characters in a very LONG time. I had already made my mind when I watched the trailer, as I remember thinking: this Italian “fella” is so cute. And sometimes, a story is justs perfect for you.

The story features various ingredients I really enjoy (no murders this time haha!): Irish immigrants in New York, Brooklyn (I’m completely in love with the Brooklyn area), Italian accents, Irish accents, the 50s, Sunday dances, genuinely good guys who are gentle, kind and funny…

The book wasn’t bad and I would’ve probably liked it better had I read it before watching the film. It just was so different, I found it rather “cold” and I didn’t care about the characters that much. The relationships didn’t feel genuine, I felt like Eilis didn’t really like any of the guys and I certainly want to feel something when I’m reading about a romantic relationship. Underwhelmed was the perfect word to describe my feelings while reading the novel.

So this time, the film is a clear winner. Saoirse Ronan was fantastic, and I want to be Eilis and have Emory Cohen’s Tony fall in love with me. Also, I can’t watch the final monologue without bawling like a baby.

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Review: The Wardrobe Mistress by @MeghanMasterson @StMartinsPress

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It’s Giselle Aubry’s first time at court in Versailles. At sixteen, she is one of Marie Antoinette’s newest undertirewomen, and in awe of the glamorous queen and her opulent palace life. A budding designer, it’s a dream come true to work with the beautiful fabrics and jewels in the queen’s wardrobe. But every few weeks she returns home to visit her family in the Parisian countryside where rumors of revolution are growing stronger. From her position working in the royal household, Giselle is poised to see both sides of the revolutionary tensions erupting throughout Paris. When her uncle, a retired member of the secret du roi, a spy ring that worked for the old King, Louis XV, suggests that she casually report the Queen s actions back to him as a game, she leaps at the chance. Spying seems like an adventure and an exciting way to privately support the revolution taking the countryside by storm. She also enjoys using her insight from Versailles in lively debates with Leon Gauvain, the handsome and idealistic revolutionary who courts her. But as the revolution continues to gain momentum, and Giselle grows closer to the Queen, becoming one of the few trusted servants, she finds herself dangerously torn. Violence is escalating; she must choose where her loyalty truly lies, or risk losing everything…maybe even her head.

I knew as soon as I started this book that it was unlike anything I’d read before. Maybe because of the times (late XVIII) or the fact that it was set in Paris, France. However, I’ve recently loved books based on real characters and the early reviews of this one helped me decide to read it. I was convinced.

The first thing you’ll notice when reading this novel is that Meghan Masterson’s writing feels both lyrical and easy to read. Based on the setting, I was afraid it was going to take me a while to get into the story, but instead I was quickly captivated by Giselle, the revolution, and her castle life. It is so different from what we’re used to that I simply wanted to know more and more.

This was my first book about the French Revolution and I must say I actually learnt a lot, something I always appreciate, especially if I’m enjoying myself at the same time. The Wardrobe Mistress was a thoroughly entertaining book and it certainly had a bit of everything: mystery, friendsip, love… And in addition, it was fun and sad when it had to be.

My only concern was that I thought the novel had its dose of cheesy moments, which I’m not really a fan of. Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely wanted Giselle and Leon to be together, but that included plenty of eye-rolling moments from my part. Oh boy, they could be saccharine. Despite those “harlequin-romantic-scenes”, I want to say I LOVED both characters and they were really well-written, as their actions made complete sense at all times. Giselle was strong and vulnerable and even though she made some mistakes, I think I would’ve done the same. It’s so easy to judge if you’re just an outsider. On the other hand, I have a weakness for the rebellious revolutionary type, so Leon was pretty much perfect from my point of view.

If you’re looking for a quick-paced, entertaining historical novel featuring some romance as well, this is the ideal book for you. The Wardrobe Mistress proves that you can learn about history and enormously enjoy yourself at the same time.

Netgalley, St Martin’s Press, 2017

Review: Hold Back The Stars by Katie Khan

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After the catastrophic destruction of the Middle East and the United States, Europe has become a utopia and, every three years, the European population must rotate into different multicultural communities, living as individuals responsible for their own actions. While living in this paradise, Max meets Carys and immediately feels a spark of attraction. He quickly realizes, however, that Carys is someone he might want to stay with long-term, which is impossible in this new world. As their relationship plays out, the connections between their time on Earth and their present dilemma in space become clear. When their air ticks dangerously low, one is offered the chance of salvation—but who will take it? An original and daring exploration of the impact of first love and how the choices we make can change the fate of everyone around us, this is an unforgettable read.

Sometimes, you need a book that is different from your usual genre. A book outside your comfort zone. And that is what Hold Back The Stars was for me. I’ve stated multiple times that I watch plenty of sci-fi films and I love them. However, when it comes to reading, sci-fi it’s not a genre that I find particularly appealing, maybe because I prefer to watch the story take place on a screen. Still, every now and then, there are some titles that catch my attention and Hold Back The Stars was one of them. It came highly recommended, part Gravity, part One Day, two stories that I quite enjoyed back in the day. And this book ended up being quite a unique read for me.

This is a love story, plain and simple. It’s basically like the Gravity film, but with romance and a lot of flashbacks. I know it will sound weird because I usually love flashbacks, but in Hold Back The Stars, their present scenes were my favorite part. There were tension and great dialogue, and I couldn’t wait to know what happened next.

At times, I wish I could have read two different books, one focused on Carys and Max in space and another one dedicated to exploring Europia’s world. I find utopian/dystopian realities fascinating and the universe created by Katie Khan was incredibly attractive, but I felt like we were never given enough of it. I enjoyed both Carys and Max’s perspectives, as they were really likable characters and I wished the best for them. So yes, of course I wanted them to be together, but I didn’t fall in love with them or their relationship.

The ending is probably what made the whole story more meaningful for me. I had no idea of what was going on and I was confused but fascinated at the same time. I know some of you disagree because it’s a risky technique and it won’t be for everyone, but I love to be surprised and Hold Back The Stars managed just that.

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Netgalley, Gallery Books 2017

Guest Post & Review | The Returning Tide (Liz Fenwick)

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Two sisters and one betrayal that will carry across generations… In wartime Cornwall, 1943, a story between two sisters begins – the story of Adele and Amelia, and the heart-breaking betrayal that will divide them forever. Decades later, the efforts of one reckless act still echo – but how long will it be until their past returns? The Returning Tide will sweep you away to the beautiful Cornish coast, full of secrets and mystery.

A Guest Post by Liz Fenwick 

(Thanks to the wonderful Liz for writing this great post so quickly and letting us know about her writing process and sources of inspiration. And for the amazing soundtrack!)

Writing a novel that is two thirds historical gave me sleepless nights – many of them. All my previous books had been contemporary with historical touches. I love history, always have. My editor had to reassure me on a regular basis that I could do this. And I tried my best to believe her, I really did, but in the middle of the night I would wake worrying. It was a trying time.

I’d learned from writing A Cornish Stranger it was best not to do all the research before I finished the first draft. I only needed enough to put the story together. Because when writing A Cornish Stranger I was certain my older heroine was going to be in the SOE so I researched like mad…half way through the first draft I realised she was not…so much time had been lost.

Lesson learned this time I began writing with just enough to leave my draft full of XXXXs telling me I needed to return to these spots and fill in the missing pieces. This allowed me to discover the story.

The Returning Tide began with my mother-in- law. She was a Wren telegraphist during WW2. One night over dinner we were discussing something that had been mentioned in the papers that morning about the Slapton Sands incident. She turned to me and said she was working that night with the Americans. She heard them die. The men went from code to using plain language. I shivered then and I shiver now. Although I asked several times for her to write down her experience she never did. Only while researching did I realise that she was still under the Official Secrets Act and she had held that experience inside her all those years carrying it alone.

From my mother-in- law’s experience, I built the story. I read the fabulous Debs At War by Anne de Courcy. This was a book I kept coming back to…to ‘hear’ the voices of the past. At the same time as writing I tried to discover more about my mother-in- law’s experience but somehow all her photos and letters from that time had been lost. I knew she’d been in Weymouth and Portland so through Twitter I contacted the Wrens Association there.

Christine Baker who runs the Twitter account was wonderful and she put me in touch with two women who served at HMS Attack the same time as my mother-in- law. Talking with both these women gave me an insight into a world that was so different.

Looking out to Portland on a glorious spring day it was hard to imagine it filled with ships and sailors. But their memories began to colour in the experience. One of the woman loaned me her diary from 1944. I cannot tell you how using a primary source helped. The hardest thing for me to understand was the not knowing. Today almost as soon as a bomb drops it’s on the news. But in the war no one really knew anything. By looking through her diary I knew what she saw on 28 th April 1944. She saw the bodies of young American soldiers on the quay side but she didn’t know why. That was incredibly powerful.

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After speaking with these women, I began tracking down books written by women who served as Wrens. Many of them were privately published. They had wonderful titles like I Joined for the Hat. These books helped to understand the mind-set of a young woman in the 1940s. Stockings or the lack thereof was almost universal in all the memoirs. In today’s world of plenty it’s important to understand the lack of things.

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I spoke with people who lived in Cornwall during the war. Currently Cornwall is a picture of loveliness but if you look you can still see evidence of the war along the Helford River.

Despite these relics, it’s hard to imagine it filled with landing craft. There are some fantastic film clips of the 29th Division available on line through Critical Past. Even though the beach at the bottom of Trebah Gardens is still mostly concrete, it’s hard to imagine it could have happened.

The other research that helped me ‘feel’ the past was music. Music for me acts as a time machine. Recently my teenage daughter has been discovering the music of my youth. Out of the blue she played a song I hadn’t heard in years…Smoking in the Boys Room. In that moment, I was in primary school with Sister Brigid Mary teaching and I could smell the disinfectant that they used to clean the floors. I then turned to the music of the war.

However I can’t write with music playing as I will drift into the story told by the song. But I found that I could use it before a writing session to put me in the ‘time’ or to wind down afterwards. I’ve made a Spotify playlist of the music referenced in The Returning Tide.

The Returning Tide was also the novel I found Pinterest came into its own for me. As I hunted down pictures I collected them on a page. The more I added the more Pinterest sent me to. I have done a board for every book but for this one the visuals were really important as I didn’t live through it.

Each story presents its own challenges and The Returning Tide aside from the lack of sleep allowed me to dwell in the past and gave a greater appreciation for those who lived through WW2. I hope those reading the story become as immersed as I did!

My Review

I knew I had to read this book as soon as I saw the beautiful cover. And the blurb said for fans of Kate Morton, so I was already sold. The Returning Tide was a dual-time novel featuring a beautiful love story and a complicated relationship between twin sisters. There’s nothing I love more than a tragic ending and this novel certainly delivered.

The prose was engaging and elegant, subtle and easy to read. I was equally interested in both the past and present story; the past because it was the main focus, and the present because I wanted the characters to reunite. Lara was my favorite and I admit I had a soft spot for Jack and his moody ways as well. They didn’t properly “meet” until later in the book, but I already felt the chemistry.

The past story, featuring Amelia, Adele and “the American” was simply wonderful. I loved that even though I already suspected what was about to happen, I nearly gasped out loud when I learned about the betrayal. And there was one part of the mystery that I definitely didn’t see coming and I admit I shed a few tears. I don’t want to say much more about the plot because it’s better if you find out by yourselves.

It’s no mystery that I love reading novels set in the past. I’ve always thought that letters and old tradition make for great stories and they never fail to engage me. The events of this book would’ve never happened nowadays, which is definitely good for the characters, but at the same time our loss because we wouldn’t get to enjoy these beautiful tragedies.

All in all, this was a classic historical novel: poignant, beautiful and sad… I read it all in a sitting and it wasn’t exactly a short book. What can I say? I was swept away by The Returning Tide.

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ARC, Orion Books, 2017

Blog Tour | When We Danced at the End of the Pier (Sandy Taylor)

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Brighton 1930: Maureen O’Connell is a carefree girl, but her family is on the brink of tragedy, war is looming and life will never be the same again. Jack and Nelson have always been dear friends to Maureen. Despite their different backgrounds, they’ve seen each other through thick and thin. As Maureen blossoms from a little girl into a young woman, the candle she’s always held for Jack burns bright. But just as she’s found love, war wrenches them apart. The man she cherishes with all her heart is leaving. When the bombs start to fall, Maureen and her family find themselves living in the most dangerous of times. With Jack no longer by her side and Nelson at war, Maureen has never felt more alone. Can she look to a brighter future? And will she find the true happiness she’s dreamt of? An utterly gripping and heart-wrenching story about the enduring power of love, hope and friendship during the darkest of days. Perfect for fans of Pam Jenoff, Nadine Dorries and Diney Costeloe.

First things first: the title. Isn’t it beautiful? I absolutely adore it. I was worried: what if I didn’t like the book? No one wants to say they dislike a book with such a beautiful title :O Fortunately, When We Danced at the End of the Pier was a truly enjoyable novel that I can’t wait for you to read.

This is a story about family, friendship and love. A family saga that spans quite a few years and features Maureen, Brenda, Jack, Nelson, Monica, and Maureen and Brenda’s parents. If I had to choose a favorite part, I’d say that the father story broke my heart (and it will break yours too). I desperately wanted to know what was going on, although I kind of suspected. He was a sweet and loving dad and I wanted him to get better. When We Danced at the End of the Pier is one of those novels where all the main characters are good-natured people and you can’t help but root for them. They deserve to be happy (especially my little Brenda!)

Maureen was the protagonist and a classic goody two-shoes. I’m not saying she wasn’t as interesting as the others (after all, she was the key of everything), but there were times when I wanted to sit down and talk to her, knock some sense into her. For example, she falls in love with Jack the very first time they meet and she already knows they’re going to marry one day. She doesn’t even tell him about it! I wanted to tell her that you can fall in love more than once, that there are different types of love, and that your teenage sweetheart isn’t always the person you’re supposed to be with. Maybe yes, of course, but not always. I think you can now guess who I was rooting for 😉

Even though I was completely engaged from the beginning, I still felt the writing was maybe too saccharine, as I don’t have much patience when it comes to cheesy stuff. However, I noticed that, as the main characters grew up, the writing evolved as well. And I kind of liked that, as it felt natural and fitting: the writing being a reflection of the characters’ minds. It was a rather short book but it made a lasting impression.

This is not a book filled with action, as you can expect from the title, the cover and the blurb. I remember reaching 25% and thinking that not much had happened yet, but still, there hadn’t been a dull moment. I was totally engrossed by the setting, the story and these characters. I already felt they were part of my family and their day-to-day tribulations were as engaging as any thriller I’ve recently read.

I also remember moments when I felt I had something in my eye… Finally, don’t worry if you see this is #3 in a trilogy. I didn’t know that but this can be read as a standalone. And what a lovely read!

 

Netgalley, Bookouture, 2017

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About the author
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Sandy Taylor grew up on a council estate near Brighton. There were no books in the house, so Sandy’s love of the written word was nurtured in the little local library. Leaving school at fifteen, Sandy worked in a series of factories before landing a job at Butlins in Minehead. This career change led her to becoming a singer, a stand up comic and eventually a playwright and novelist.