Book Review – The Perfume Thief

The Perfume Thief by Timothy Schaffert / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

A Gentleman in Moscow meets Moulin Rouge in this stylish, sexy page-turner about Clementine, a queer American expat and notorious thief of rare scents, who has retired to Paris, only to return to her old tricks in hopes of protecting the city she loves when the Nazis invade in 1941.

Clementine is a seventy-two year-old reformed con artist with a penchant for impeccably tailored suits. Her life of crime has led her from the uber-wealthy perfume junkies of belle epoque Manhattan, to the scented butterflies of Costa Rica, to the spice markets of Marrakech, and finally the bordellos of Paris, where she settles down and opens a legitimate shop bottling her favorite extracts for the ladies of the cabarets.

In 1941, as the German’s stranglehold on the city tightens, Clem’s perfume-making attracts the notice of Oskar Voss, a Francophile Nazi bureaucrat, who comes to demand Clem’s expertise and loyalty in his mysterious play for Hitler’s favor. Clem has no choice but to surrender fully to the con, but while she knew playing the part of collaborator would be dangerous, she never imagined it would be so painfully intimate. At Oskar’s behest, and in an effort to win his trust, Clem recounts the full story of her life and loves, this time without the cover of the lies she came to Paris to escape.

Complete with romance, espionage, champagne towers, and haute couture, this full-tilt sensory experience is a dazzling portrait of the underground resistance of twentieth-century Paris and a passionate love letter to the power of beauty and community in the face of insidious hate.

Thoughts

Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday for providing me with an advanced e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

I enjoyed that this book was unlike anything I’ve read from this time in history in that it followed the LGBTQ community in Paris during WWII. The story was good, but I felt like there were some parts that were too long and dragged out.

I gave this book 3 stars.

Book Review – Golden Girl

Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand / Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Synopsis

On a perfect June day, Vivian Howe, author of thirteen beach novels and mother of three nearly grown children, is killed in a hit-and-run car accident while jogging near her home on Nantucket. She ascends to the Beyond where she’s assigned to a Person named Martha, who allows Vivi to watch what happens below for one last summer. Vivi also is granted three “nudges” to change the outcome of events on earth, and with her daughter Willa on her third miscarriage, Carson partying until all hours, and Leo currently “off again” with his high-maintenance girlfriend, she’ll have to think carefully where to use them.

From the Beyond, Vivi watches “The Chief” Ed Kapenash investigate her death, but her greatest worry is her final book, which contains a secret from her own youth that could be disastrous for her reputation. But when hidden truths come to light, Vivi’s family will have to sort out their past and present mistakes—with or without a nudge of help from above—while Vivi finally lets them grow without her.

Thoughts

I haven’t read all of Elin Hildebrand’s books, but I have to say I think this might just be my favorite so far! When I heard what the premise of this story was, I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it, but I loved the storyline and the characters.

There was some uproar (rightfully so) over a line in the book that references Anne Frank. While I do agree it was definitely in poor taste, the author has stepped up and apologized and indicated that the line will be taken out of all future publications of the book.

This book earned 4 stars from me.

Book Review – Same Beach, Next Year

Same Beach, Next Year by Dorothy Benton Frank / Genre: Contemporary

Synopsis

One enchanted summer, two couples begin a friendship that will last more than twenty years and transform their lives.

A chance meeting on the Isle of Palms, one of Charleston’s most stunning barrier islands, brings former sweethearts, Adam Stanley and Eve Landers together again. Their respective spouses, Eliza and Carl, fight sparks of jealousy flaring from their imagined rekindling of old flames. As Adam and Eve get caught up on their lives, their partners strike up a deep friendship—and flirt with an unexpected attraction—of their own.

Year after year, Adam, Eliza, Eve, and Carl eagerly await their reunion at Wild Dunes, a condominium complex at the island’s tip end, where they grow closer with each passing day, building a friendship that will withstand financial catastrophe, family tragedy, and devastating heartbreak. The devotion and love they share will help them weather the vagaries of time and enrich their lives as circumstances change, their children grow up and leave home, and their twilight years approach.

Thoughts

This was the first book that I read by Dorothea Benton Frank and I was not disappointed! It was a beautiful story of friendship, heartbreak and the ups and downs that marriages can sometimes go through. I’ll definitely be reading more from this author.

I gave this book 4 stars.

Book Review – The Last Thing He Told Me

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave / Genre: Mystery

Synopsis

We all have stories we never tell.
Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her.

Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers: Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.

As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered; as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss; as a US Marshal and FBI agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.

Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth, together. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they are also building a new future. One neither Hannah nor Bailey could have anticipated.

Thoughts

A great fast paced mystery which was also one of the Reese’s Bookclub selections with lots of twists and turns that kept me engaged from beginning to end!

I gave this book 4 stars.

Book Review – The Guncle

The Guncle by Steven Rowley / Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Synopsis

Patrick, or Gay Uncle Patrick (GUP, for short), has always loved his niece, Maisie, and nephew, Grant. That is, he loves spending time with them when they come out to Palm Springs for weeklong visits, or when he heads home to Connecticut for the holidays. But in terms of caretaking and relating to two children, no matter how adorable, Patrick is honestly a bit out of his league.

So when tragedy strikes and Maisie and Grant lose their mother and Patrick’s brother has a health crisis of his own, Patrick finds himself suddenly taking on the role of primary guardian. Despite having a set of “Guncle Rules” ready to go, Patrick has no idea what to expect, having spent years barely holding on after the loss of his great love, a somewhat-stalled career, and a lifestyle not-so-suited to a six- and a nine-year-old. Quickly realizing that parenting—even if temporary—isn’t solved with treats and jokes, Patrick’s eyes are opened to a new sense of responsibility, and the realization that, sometimes, even being larger than life means you’re unfailingly human.

Thoughts

A funny, endearing book that made me laugh out loud and shed a tear or two as well. Watching the relationship develop between Patrick, Maisie and Grant in the pages of this book is shear perfection.

An overall enjoyable read that I gave 4 stars.

Book Review – Us Against You

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman / Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Synopsis

After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.

Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.

Thoughts

I have yet to read a book by Fredrik Backman that I don’t love.

Book 2 in the Beartown series did not disappoint at all. Another emotionally charged read and I am patiently waiting for the third book to come out.

I gave this book 5 stars.

Book Review – Good Company

Good Company by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney / Genre: Contemporary

Synopsis

Flora Mancini has been happily married for more than twenty years. But everything she thought she knew about herself, her marriage, and her relationship with her best friend, Margot, is upended when she stumbles upon an envelope containing her husband’s wedding ring—the one he claimed he lost one summer when their daughter, Ruby, was five.

Flora and Julian struggled for years, scraping together just enough acting work to raise Ruby in Manhattan and keep Julian’s small theater company—Good Company—afloat. A move to Los Angeles brought their first real career successes, a chance to breathe easier, and a reunion with Margot, now a bona fide television star. But has their new life been built on lies? What happened that summer all those years ago? And what happens now?

Thoughts

Overall I liked this book. There were a few times the story switched between present and past and I didn’t realize it so that was slightly frustrating but the storyline was enjoyable.

I gave this book 4 stars.

Book Review – Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She’s barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark.

But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world–until the unthinkable happens.

A novel about a young woman determined to make her way in the wilds of North Carolina, and the two men that will break her isolation open.

Thoughts

I have not read a book that has made me this emotional since The Nightingale, and just like The Nightingale, I will talk about Where the Crawdads sing for the rest of my days.

If you are one of the few who haven’t read Where the Crawdads Sing, I implore you to do it!!

This book received 5 stars from me.

Book Review – The Forest of Vanishing Stars

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies. Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror. Stunned to learn what’s happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest—and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.

Inspired by incredible true stories of survival against staggering odds, and suffused with the journey-from-the-wilderness elements that made Where the Crawdads Sing a worldwide phenomenon, The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a heart-wrenching and suspenseful novel.

Thoughts

I was provided an advanced ecopy of this book from NetGalley and the opinions expressed here are my honest thoughts.

I’ve read my fare share of WWII books but never knew that there many Jews in Poland who fled into the woods near their communities in order to escape and hide from the Nazis. The heart of this story is about survival and family and discovering that family isn’t always about what you’re born into but rather about the people you surround yourself with.

It did take me until Chapter 3 to really get into the story but from that point forward the story moved along at a steady pace. It’s definitely an emotional read and I would strongly encourage anyone who reads the book to also read the author’s note at the end of the book.

I would think anyone who enjoys historial fiction (WWII in particular) would enjoy this book.

I gave this book 4 stars.

Book Review – Slightly South of Simple

Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey / Genre: Women’s Fiction

Synopsis

Caroline Murphy swore she’d never set foot back in the small Southern town of Peachtree Bluff; she was a New York girl born and bred and the worst day of her life was when, in the wake of her father’s death, her mother selfishly forced her to move—during her senior year of high school, no less—back to that hick-infested rat trap where she’d spent her childhood summers. But now that her marriage to a New York high society heir has fallen apart in a very public, very embarrassing fashion, a pregnant Caroline decides to escape the gossipmongers with her nine-year-old daughter and head home to her mother, Ansley.

Ansley has always put her three daughters first, especially when she found out that her late husband, despite what he had always promised, left her with next to nothing. Now the proud owner of a charming waterfront design business and finally standing on her own two feet, Ansley welcomes Caroline and her brood back with open arms. But when her second daughter Sloane, whose military husband is overseas, and youngest daughter and successful actress Emerson join the fray, Ansley begins to feel like the piece of herself she had finally found might be slipping from her grasp. Even more discomfiting, when someone from her past reappears in Ansley’s life, the secret she’s harbored from her daughters their entire lives might finally be forced into the open.

Exploring the powerful bonds between sisters and mothers and daughters, this engaging novel is filled with Southern charm, emotional drama, and plenty of heart. 

Thoughts

This was the first book I’ve read by Kristy Woodson Harvey and I have to say, I am now a fan!! I really enjoyed the dynamic relationships portrayed between the mothers, daughters and sisters. It’s heartwarming and funny and a quick read. The best part is that it’s the first book in a series and I can’t wait to read the next one!!

I gave this book 4 stars.