Friday, August 27, 2021

The French Gift by Kirsty Manning


This book is set in two time periods with three different women narrating their stories. They are tied together by secrets and a mystery.

Evie Black's story is set in present day. She is Australian, was married to Frenchman Raph and has a teen son named Hugo. Raph died 18 months previously and Evie is now in charge of Raph's Aunt Josephine's estate , Villa Sanary in the French Riviera.  

Margo Bissett was a maid for the wealthy couple at Villa Sanary during the 1940's.  She is accused of murdering a wealthy American guest during a party but she was most definitely set up.  You read this immediately as this is how the book starts. She is told to hide on the terrace and when the fireworks start, Margo is meant to fire a loaded gun into the air.  This is the start of "murder" as a party game and her employers insists it's all a prop to start the game. She is arrested and her employer suddenly knows nothing about this "game."

Josephine Murant is a wealthy Parisian and accomplished author of crime/mystery novels.  She was also involved dicreetly with the resistance movement during WW II.  When she is arrested and placed in Anrath Prison she meets Margo and takes her under her wing. The conditions described are quite awful and the big twist with these two women are revealed around the 90% mark. 

Evie Black eventually figures out the mystery of her Aunt Josephine and convicted killer Margo Bissett.

Publication date is November 2, 2021 by William Morrow and Custom House.  Genre: Mystery and General Fiction.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

Sharing with Marg at The Intrepid Reader for the 2021 Historical Fiction Challenge.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Northern Spy by Flynn Berry

"It's difficult to know how scared to be.  The threat level is severe but then has been for years." 

Bodies can still be found in bogs, searches are conducted to find informers the IRA had disappeared, at certain funerals, men in ski masks would suddenly appear in the cortage, chamber their handguns and fire shots over the coffin.  This is how many people lived in the Belfast area, wondering daily if there was a credible threat.

The story focuses on two sisters. Marian and Tessa.  Marian is not married and has been a paramedic for over six years. Her face is always so open and bemused while  her sister Tessa's expression tends to be more grave, her having to reassure people she's not worried about anything.

Tessa is divorced and mother of a 6 month old boy named Finn.  She works at the BBC in Belfast and is asked by some friends how she can work for the English. She went to university at Trinity College is a program reporter, working with political guests. 

We start with Tessa narrating and learn Marian is on a vacation to swim and explore caves in the north.  Neither Tessa or her mother can get ahold of Marian but they assume she's in cellular dead zone or simply having fun exploring.

Then a robbery and raid happen at a local gas station the news anchor asks for help identifying those responsible. Tessa stares at the images of the terrorists and suddenly sees her sister's face on screen, Marian pulling a black ski mask over her face.  Tessa's world dissolves.

The only negative in this narrative is the description of The Troubles as if it's a current situation.  Perhaps I missed the time frame in this book but it had the feel of being set in present time or a few years earlier.  The plot appears to be during the height of the violence and near the peace agreement which would put it around 1994, right?   That being said, I loved the book and couldn't put it down.

I see why this is a best seller with over 3,400 four star ratings.  I plan to read all of Flynn Berry's novels in the near future.

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday. and Marg at The Intrepid Reader for the 2021 Historical Fiction Challenge. 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Masterpiece: Amercia's 50-Year-Old Love Affair with British Television Drama

This book was an Amazon Deal and I wish I had gotten the hard cover instead of a Kindle version when it was on sale. There are too few photos in my opinion but the book is interesting all the same.

Fifty years of detail about the different series and programs put on by Masterpiece Theater over the years will have you scrolling through the pages.  There are some programs I didn't know about so I will request those through the library.

 Here we have Kenneth Branagh as Wallander.

 The photography is very good but as I said, far too few photos.

There is a map for the shows as well.

Overall, this book isn't what I expected but I do like reading it here and there.  Warning about the Kindle version - the photos do not line up with the descriptions and that was quite confusing at first.  If you can get this on a deal price it will be worth it if you are a fan of Masterpiece Theater but after seeing it, I wouldn't have paid the $30 they are asking now.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Ballerinas by Rachel Kapelke-Dale

This is a story about friendship, secrets and competition in the ballet world with a touch of murder.  The first chapter starts with Delphine receiving an invitation to return to Paris as she reminisces about her turbulent past.

Another novel with the feature on ballet and it's competitive and harsh world.  When you are good at a something and you devote your entire life to it, your world is small.  You eat, breathe and live in the world of practice and performance. A devastating event causes Delphine, Lindsey and Margaux to keep a secret which wuld upend thier lives and careers.

I enjoyed reading about the backstage world of ballet and would probably read more by this author.

Publication date December 7, 2021 by St. Martin's Press.  Genre: Mystery, Thrillers and Women's Fiction.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Beyond the Olive Grove by Kate Hewitt


The description of this historical fiction grabbed me right away.  An old house in Greece, a family secret and a change to start over in another country. I've enjoyed books by Kate Hewitt before but this one is a bit different, a literary fiction which I very much enjoyed.

This novel is told in a dual timeline: In present time we read Ava's story. Her grandmother Sophia died and left her an old farmhouse in Greece. Ava is having trouble in her marriage and has recently suffered a tragedy.  She decides to leave England and move to Greece temporarily. She wonders why she left England for a place where she doesn't know anyone to restore a farmhouse no one had lived in for over 60 years.

Ava's grandmother Sophia never spoke about her ancestry or her life during WW II so there are plenty of secrets to unravel.

Sophia's story starts in 1942 in a small village in Greece.  You will read more about her family and their sacrifices from food shortages and fear of the Nazi's invading their village.  Sophia's story is one of bravery and I was happy to see Ava slowly uncover details about her grandmother's past. 

This isn't a fast paced novel and some of the "memories" are rehashed a few time but overall it's a nice historical fiction with a satisfactory ending.

Publication date August 13, 2021 by Bookouture.  Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction.  Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

Sharing with Marg at the Intrepid Reader for the 2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge. 

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Stolen by Tess Stimson


This story has an explosive beginning and a surprise ending.  If you plan to read this book be prepared to ignore everything else as you'll have trouble putting it down.

Alexa Martini faces the worst nightmare of any parent.  Her 3 year old daughter Charlotte is abducted during a wedding celebration in St Petersburg Florida. As you read about Alexa and Lottie you'll find it's hard to like the little girl.  She is so hard to handle, disobedient and quarrelsome. Alexa is a human rights attorney in London and has flown to Florida for her best friend Mark's wedding. Her Italian husband was killed in a bridge collapse years earlier and she is now the sole caregiver of their daughter Lottie. 

The world is watching as news stations report on the abduction and put Alexa in an unflattering light.  Is she a good mother?  Public opinion is strong about "what they would have done" but that's to be expected in this day and age. Alexa has her supporters but she also has those who vilify her character and actions through social media and news outlets.

Days turn to years as Alexa never stops looking for her daughter.  False leads and troubling revelations about family will sway your opinion regarding the kidnapper. Was I surprised? Absolutely!

This is my first book by this author and I will most certainly be looking for more of her work. Great suspense, emotionally moving and fast paced.

Publication date is August 5, 2021 by Avon Books UK.  Genre: Mystery, Thrillers and Women's Fiction.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

Sharng with Joy's Book Blog for Brtiish Isles Friday.

Friday, August 6, 2021

The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein

The Enigma Game is a historical fiction set in the WW II time period in Scotland and England.  I read the review at Joy's Book Blog and this interested me enough to request it from the library. 

From the book jacket:

Facing a seemingly endless war, fifteen-year-old Louisa Adair wants to fight back, make a difference, do something--anything to escape the Blitz and the ghosts of her parents, who were killed by enemy action. But when she accepts a position caring for an elderly German woman in the small village of Windyedge, Scotland, it hardly seems like a meaningful contribution. Still, the war feels closer than ever in Windyedge, where Ellen McEwen, a volunteer driver with the Royal Air Force, and Jamie Beaufort-Stuart, a flight leader for the 648 Squadron, are facing a barrage of unbreakable code and enemy attacks they can't anticipate. Their paths converge when a German pilot lands in Windyedge under mysterious circumstances and plants a key that leads Louisa to an unparalleled discovery: an Enigma machine that translates German code.

I don't often quote from the jackets but this summed it up better than I could.  The characters are engaging and I loved Louisa and Ellen.  The plot development was perfect, fast paced enough to keep me turning the pages.  Also, the description of Scotland the inn where they are staying is so vivid I could see myself at a table enjoying a pint.

This is the second book by Wein which follows Code Name Verity but it can be read out of order.  Much thanks to Joy for introducing me to this author.

Sharng with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday and Marg at The Intrepid Redaer for the 2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Roundup

 I had signed up for the book challenge at Shelleyrae's site  Book'd Out  and went for the Nibbler category of six books.  Here'...