Book Review – Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person — no mean feat for a black woman in the ’30s. Janie’s quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots.

Thoughts

An extremely heavy story following a woman’s journey through life and love and loss.

I did not realize that this book was written in the 1930’s. I won’t lie, I ended up downloading the audio version because the dialect was hard for me to follow. I’m glad I did that because Ruby Dee did an outstanding job narrating. I would definitely recommend listening to the audio version!

A powerful story that will stay with me for awhile.

I gave this book a 4 star rating.

Book Review – Pachinko

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant — and that her lover is married — she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son’s powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.

Richly told and profoundly moving, Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. From bustling street markets to the halls of Japan’s finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld, Lee’s complex and passionate characters — strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crisis — survive and thrive against the indifferent arc of history.

Thoughts

This book was long, but it moved at a very steady pace for me and I loved it! It gives the reader a glimpse into 20th century Korean history and the multigenerational storyline is filled with love and sacrifice. There’s a part of me that felt like the book ended abruptly; however, that just could be I didn’t want it to end!

A beautifully written book that earned 4.5 stars from me!

Book Review – The Four Winds

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance.

In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

Thoughts

To me, a great story teller is someone who transports the reader and makes them feel as if they are in the story watching it unfold within the pages and that is exactly what Kristin Hannah did to me with her latest book. I couldn’t help thinking as I read this story that even though it took place in the thirties it was so relatable as to what is taking place in our country today. I knew nothing of the dust storms that ravaged the Great Plains during this time in history. It broke my heart to learn that people who had lost so much went to a place they thought could provide them a new beginning but they were instead met with such hatred and made to feel less than. If this book isn’t on your radar, add it NOW, and in case you couldn’t tell, this one earned all the stars from me (5/5)!

Book Review – Lovely War

Lovely War by Julie Berry / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

It’s 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She’s a shy and talented pianist; he’s a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it’s immediate and deep–and cut short when James is shipped off to the killing fields.

Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who’s played Carnegie Hall, he’s a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that’s before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who’s already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans.

Thirty years after these four lovers’ fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.

Thoughts

Complete honesty – – – I totally bought this book because of the cover! I’m so glad I did because this book was beautifully written. I couldn’t get enough of the characters and their storylines. Don’t be intimidated by the length of the book because it reads very fast.

I gave this book 5/5 stars.

Book Review – The Tattooist of Auschwitz

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

Thoughts

I have always been drawn to historical fiction and WWII stories and had heard such good things about this book. I liked that the story focused on the real life relationship that developed between Lale and Gita and how they helped each other survive the horrors of being in a concentration camp. The book didn’t blow me away but it was good and I’m glad I read it.

I gave this book 3/5 stars.

Book Review – The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman / Genre: Women’s Fiction

Synopsis

Since the day Filomena Fontana cast a curse upon her sister more than two hundred years ago, not one second-born Fontana daughter has found lasting love. Some, like second-born Emilia, the happily-single baker at her grandfather’s Brooklyn deli, claim it’s an odd coincidence. Others, like her sexy, desperate-for-love cousin Lucy, insist it’s a true hex. But both are bewildered when their great-aunt calls with an astounding proposition: If they accompany her to her homeland of Italy, Aunt Poppy vows she’ll meet the love of her life on the steps of the Ravello Cathedral on her eightieth birthday, and break the Fontana Second-Daughter Curse once and for all.

Against the backdrop of wandering Venetian canals, rolling Tuscan fields, and enchanting Amalfi Coast villages, romance blooms, destinies are found, and family secrets are unearthed—secrets that could threaten the family far more than a centuries-old curse. 

Thoughts

I loved everything about this book! It made me laugh. It made me cry. It gave me all the feels! The dual timeline was done so well and towards the end of the book there is a twist that I didn’t see coming. The characters were great and everyone needs an Aunt Poppy in their lives. It also makes me want to take a trip to Italy!

I gave this book 5/5 Stars.

Book Review – A Hundred Suns

A Hundred Suns by Karin Tanabe / Genre: Historical Fiction

SYNOPSIS:

An evocative historical novel set in 1930’s Indochine, about the American wife of a Michelin heir who journeys to the French colony in the name of family fortune, and the glamorous, tumultuous world she finds herself in—and the truth she may be running from.

MY THOUGHTS:

This was the first book that I’ve read by this author. She did a beautiful job describing Indochine (which later becomes Vietnam) and making the reader feel like they were there. The book also deals a lot with societal class (upper class vs. working class . . . the haves and the have nots).

I would absolutely say that this is a slow burn but it doesn’t take too long for the story to heat up and grab the reader’s attention. As I was reading the book I felt as if the story could have almost been split into 2 separate books, but with that being said both of the story lines were tied together nicely at the end so it all made sense. A good read for anyone who enjoys this genre.

I gave this book 4/5 stars.

Book Review – Mrs. Everything

Mrs Everything by Jennifer Weiner Genre: Women’s Literature/Historical Fiction

Synopsis:

Do we change or does the world change us?

Jo and Bethie Kaufman were born into a world full of promise.

Growing up in 1950s Detroit, they live in a perfect “Dick and Jane” house, where their roles in the family are clearly defined. Jo is the tomboy, the bookish rebel with a passion to make the world more fair; Bethie is the pretty, feminine good girl, a would-be star who enjoys the power her beauty confers and dreams of a traditional life.

But the truth ends up looking different from what the girls imagined. Jo and Bethie survive traumas and tragedies. As their lives unfold against the background of free love and Vietnam, Woodstock and women’s lib, Bethie becomes an adventure-loving wild child who dives headlong into the counterculture and is up for anything (except settling down). Meanwhile, Jo becomes a proper young mother in Connecticut, a witness to the changing world instead of a participant. Neither woman inhabits the world she dreams of, nor has a life that feels authentic or brings her joy. Is it too late for the women to finally stake a claim on happily ever after?

Thoughts:

This book truly is EVERYTHING! The relationship between Jo and Bethie resonated with me and I thought about it long after finishing the book. It is beautifully written and I absolutely loved it!!! I will definitely be checking out other books written by Jennifer Weiner. I would highly recommend this book.

I gave this book 5/5 stars.

Book Review – Code Name Helene

Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon
Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis:

Told in interweaving timelines organized around the four code names Nancy used during the war, Code Name Hélène is a spellbinding and moving story of enduring love, remarkable sacrifice and unfaltering resolve that chronicles the true exploits of a woman who deserves to be a household name.

It is 1936 and Nancy Wake is an intrepid Australian expat living in Paris who has bluffed her way into a reporting job for Hearst newspaper. She is fighting to cover the disturbing reports of violence coming out of Vienna and Berlin when she meets the wealthy French industrialist Henri Fiocca. No sooner does Henri sweep Nancy off her feet and convince her to become Mrs. Fiocca than the Germans invade France and she takes yet another name: a code name.

Thoughts:

I received this ebook ARC through NetGalley. The book will be published on March 31, 2020 by Doubleday Books.

Nancy Wake was a real life spy and one of the most decorated women for her role during WWII. She went by four code names throughout the war (Lucienne Carlier, The White Mouse, Helene and Madam Andree). While the author did tweak some of the facts in the book, the majority of what you will read in this story really happened.

I enjoyed reading the relationship that was developed between Nancy and her husband, Henri and the heartbreak she endured at the end of the war.

What Nancy did during WWII was extraordinary and taught me that women who were involved during that war were true heroes and complete and total badasses.

If you like stories about strong women or Historical Fiction, I think you would enjoy this book and would definitely recommend it!

I gave this book 4/5 stars.

Book Review – Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis:

Memphis, 1939: Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge — until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’t Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parrents — but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s real-life director, the cruel Georgia Tann, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together.

Aiken, South Carolina, Present Day: Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career, a handsome fiance, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when she returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Thoughts:

This book is gut wrenching at times. To think of the horrors children lived through in the orphanage is unbearable, especially knowing that all of them didn’t survive. Rill Foss is a character that I will not soon forget about and this extraordinary story will stay with me for a long time. I can’t think of a better way to kick off 2020 than reading this book which is also the January pick for a book club I belong to. Please, if you haven’t read this book and you enjoy historical fiction, get this book and read it!

If it wasn’t apparent from my thoughts, I gave this book 5/5 stars.