The Huntress, by Kate Quinn

IMG_0973

I’ve been anticipating Kate Quinn’s next book for so long now! Harper Collins Canada kindly sent me an advanced copy, and The Huntress will be coming out on February 19th. Kate Quinn’s last novel, The Alice Network, was a New York Times best seller, and the book that I told everyone last year to read. It was fantastic! So when news broke about her writing another novel, I think that all the bookworms in the world started to rejoice.

It’s 1950, five years since the wreckage that WWII brought upon the world, and the world is far from able to forget it as much as they try to. Told through the perspective of three different characters, you are first introduced to the past of Nina Markova from Soviet Russia. Nina is full of piss and vinegar. Actually she probably was the one that that saying was invented for. She dreams of being a pilot, which she becomes, and ends up on the team of all female night bombers in the war, infamously known as the Night Witches. But when her plane is downed in Poland, she meets the notorious Nazi murderess, known as the Huntress. Luckily, Nina survives this encounter. Flash forward to 1950, where Ian Graham who has abandoned journalism to become a Nazi hunter… and also has a little history with Nina… has one target that he is determined to find. The Huntress.
Nina and Ian become a team, travelling around the world on this hunt, that eventually leads them to a young Jordan McBride in Boston, whose stepmother is a quiet, German widow who Jordan has suspected since meeting her is hiding something. Upon some digging it turns out, the secrets will unfold in a dramatic, and thrilling way!

This novel gets a standing ovation from me. All the gold stars, and everyone will be sick and tired of me talking about how incredible this novel is. First off, in the historical fiction world it seems that World War II novels are extremely popular. But this novel is a book about what happens after the War, which in this case was a Nazi hunt. Because I loved SO many things about this novel and I could go on and on about it, I will leave you with a bullet list:

  • Nina’s Russian accent. Kate Quinn captured this so perfectly! I actually found myself reading in a Russian accent. This is bullshit!! A line Nina loved, and I will never forget how well Kate Quinn translated this accent on the page.
  • Salzburg, Austria. This is a place I hold very dear to my heart! First of all, the Sound of Music was shot there, and secondly I made my poor husband go there on our honeymoon and take a 4 hour tour. It’s a stunningly, beautiful town, and I was given all the warm, fuzzy feelings when this town was one of the settings.
  • How the War lived on within these characters. I think for us to forget how the experiences of War are/were engrained in the brains of the people who lived through it. PTSD was something that wasn’t really a “thing” back then, but with our knowledge now, it’s pretty amazing that that generation moved forward.
  • Lastly, the Night Witches. These ladies were badass, and most of the characters that Kate Quinn referenced were real women. They flew, navigated, and bombed the night skies. These Russian women were under slept, peroxiding their hair, and the only flight regiment of women.

Okay, enough of my raving!! Just read this book, it is going to be quite the ride. There’s historical fiction, romance, and tons of thrill.

Happy Sunday!

Advertisements

The Dreamers, by Karen Thompson Walker

img_0904.jpg

Isn’t this cover dreamy?? Okay, I get it that I went for the easy joke there. But really, this book was absolutely fantastic. It was just published in January 2019, so it is hot off the Canadian presses, and I think The Dreamers will be a contender for one of my favourites this year.

In an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a freshman girl comes home from a party early because she isn’t feeling good. She stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep, and doesn’t wake up. Her roommate, Mei, notices that she doesn’t wake up that next morning. When she hasn’t woken up that evening, Mei tries to wake her up. She can’t. Neither can the paramedics who carry her away, or the doctors at the hospital. Then when a second college girl falls asleep, and then another, it is clear that this is spreading. It’s spreading across the campus, to the professors, to their families and neighbourhoods, and eventually across the whole time. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled, and stores begin to run out of supplies. A quarantine is established. The National Guard is summoned. While these doctors are studying the people who are sleeping, they discover that they never stop dreaming. Eventually, some of them wake up, but they have a hard time assimilating back to normal due to the disturbing nature of their dreams.

They sleep like children, mouths open, cheeks flushed. Breathing as rhythmic as swells on a sea. No longer allowed in the rooms, their mothers and fathers watch them through double-paned glass. Isolation – that’s what the doctors call it: the separation of the sick from the well. But isn’t every sleep a kind of isolation? When else are we so alone?

This is the first novel I’ve read by Karen Thompson Walker, but immediately upon finishing it I put her debut novel, The Age of Miracles, on hold at the library.  It is just so wonderfully written, and also, so creative. The thought she put into even just what type of virus it would that would spread was incredible. I loved the fact that it’s a “sleeping virus”, and that doesn’t seem as scary as Ebola, or the Spanish flu.

What else was incredible was the thin line that she walked between dreaming and reality. It was sometimes unclear as to which world the reader was living in, but it didn’t really matter. As the virus coursed it’s way through the towns people, the panic was multiplying as well. You see so many different types of people, and their reaction to what would happen when a town is hit with an emergency of which they cannot control.

This is the type of book that you just can’t put down, I was reading between clients at work. While cooking dinner, while my kids played… I just couldn’t stop. The writing just seemed to have this hypnotizing effect on me, and it wouldn’t let me stop reading it!

Anywho, go read this one. It’s fantastic, and just the book to curl up with a wintry day!

 

 

The Only Woman in the Room, by Marie Benedict

IMG_0905

I’m going to be honest with you. I purely put this book on hold at the library because it’s just such a gorgeous cover. I didn’t even know what it was about until I picked it up to read it, but in this case you can judge a book by it’s cover!

Hedy Kiesler, who is later known as the famous Hollywood actress Hedy Lemarr, is lucky. Her beauty leads to a starring role in a controversial film and marriage to a powerful Austrian arms dealer, which gives her a pass to the Nazi persecution despite her Jewish heritage. But Hedy’s not just a pretty face, she’s also intelligent. At lavish Vienna dinner parties, she overhears the Third Reich’s plans. One night in 1937, desperate to escape her controlling husband and the rise of the Nazis, she disguises herself escapes her husband’s grasp. Eventually Hedy has made it to Hollywood where she is on the big screen, but even through her success cannot shake the survivor’s guilt she is suffering from. Hedy’s past inside knowledge, leads her to a place where she decides to use it and invent something that would help save lives.

I really enjoyed this book, and was sucked in instantly. You are thrown into the 30’s glamour, and lavishness by experiencing Hedy growing up and becoming her own self. Obviously the fact that she decided to successfully invent a technology we still use today is impressive, but also the fact that she decided to escape a very abusive, yet monetarily comfortable, life, is where you see her strength begin to build.

The most chilling thing about this novel is the moments where Hedy is in the same room as the Third Reich and overhearing the terrible things that they believed, and wanted to put into action… and then they ultimately do even worse things than she could ever imagine. I loved learning these little details about Hedy’s early life, and I also enjoyed listening to a couple interviews with Marie Benedict talk about Hedy Lamar. Check out the Professional Booknerds Podcast if you want to listen to!

The technology that Hedy Lamarr invented was one that would help the communication of torpedos to be more accurate. But, each day you look at your cell phone, you are actually staring at technology that Hedy had invented. Not only was she a beauty, but she was a scientist. She put her mind to work in a way that she hoped would help save refugees lives. You will have to read the book to see just what happens.

Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.
-Hedy Lamarr

 

Waiting for Eden, by Elliot Ackerman

IMG_0886

While in one of my deep, dark rabbit holes of lurking Instagram one evening, I saw two ladies whose book taste I really trust had posted about Waiting for Eden. They had both said similar things in that it’s a small novel, that will give you all the feelings. So yes, I put it on hold at my library and it came in days later.

Eden Malcom is in a hospital bed, stuck in a body that is no longer recognizable, and even worse he is imprisoned in his own mind unconscious. He will never be the same, and never get to see friend and fellow soldier who didn’t survive the attack in a war-torn country. His wife, Mary, spends her days on the couch waiting for him to wake up, and torn between who she should be with, Eden or their daughter. When Mary makes the hard decision to go home for Christmas, she gets a call that Eden has gained consciousness. He begins to try to communicate to the nurses, his wife, and to his friend who has died. You learn the couples troubled past, through love, loyalty, and acceptance.

Holy smokes, this is a little novel, coming in at 192 pages with small pages, but as sparse as it may look to a reader, it packs a big punch. The telling of this story is so important, for me it created so many feelings of empathy. You sit infront of your television, or computer, and have probably all heard the stories of the lives that soldiers have lost. You think of they families, and you have all the feelings. Then what happens, is you get up and go on with your day, and forget about it. This story makes you crawl into the skin of the family who has been deeply affected by the atrocities of war.

What Waiting for Eden isn’t, is… is a happy book. It will leave you feeling a little shattered. You learn the past of their relationship is rocky, but you see a wife who rallies to be by her husband’s side. It’s so moving, and sad. But very necessary.

The author, Elliot Ackerman, has served 5 tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and is the recipient of the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart. I can’t help but wonder how much of this novel has been written as a way for him to deal the the terrible things he’s seen, heard, and experienced.

Stay warm, friends, and I hope you are curled up under a blanket with a book that you don’t want to stop reading 🙂

The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown

IMG_0856

My mom had been pushing me to read The Boys in the Boat for almost a year! I had picked it up shortly after she suggested it at Vinnie’s Ptbo, and it has been sitting on my shelf since. This year I had made a goal of actually reading books that people suggest to me. Sometimes it’s easy to just get caught up in what you want to read, but there is so much pleasure in being able to share a the thoughts and feelings a great book can bring. The minute I finished this book, I called my mom to tell her she was right. This is a great book, in which you feel adrenaline, you cry, and you fall in love with the characters.

In the middle of the Depression you are introduced to Joe Rantz. He’s been abandoned at their family farm by his family when he isn’t even a teenager, and you learn quickly that even though Joe has nothing, he is unbreakable. He eventually goes to the University of Washington, and ends up on the rowing team. Here is where he meets the 9 man team in which will end up at the 1936 Olympics. This is the story that describes the making of a the boat, the mechanics of rowing, and the rhythm of a team in unison.

To see a winning crew in action is to witness a perfect harmony in which everything is right… That is the formula for endurance and success: rowing with the heart and head as well as physical strength.

Daniel James Brown was approached by Judy Rantz, the daughter of Joe Rantz, because her dying father was a fan of him and wondered if he could talk to him about the story of his rowing team who won gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. What he learned was the incredible story that became this book.

What I loved about this story was so many things, but here we go… this is when sport was just purely raw, and beautiful. Before the protein powders, insane calculations about body mechanics, and blood doping. These are boys who literally worked as lumberjacks, farmers, and smoked cigarettes, and ate whatever their hands could get a hold of. Daniel James Brown built a non-fiction book that reads as exciting as a fictional novel. The whole time you have the back story of the dark looming cloud that Hitler would bring upon the world after Germany hosted the 1936 Olympics.

You are introduced to the team, and the coaches, even the man who was behind the building of the boat. I became so intertwined in their lives that I ended up crying several times during this book. I even felt the adrenaline rushing through my veins as the races were being described. It’s an incredible story, that I can’t wait to see in movie form. One of the most interesting things is that in 1936, they had to travel by boat to get to Germany for the Olympics. Some of these athletes partied pretty hardy, others lost tons of weight due to sea sickness, or gained tons of weight because they were eating and not moving for the 2 week journey.

Well, that’s about all I think I will say about this one, otherwise I will be gushing for a LONG time. And Mom… if you are reading this, great book pick and I can’t wait to chat more about it 🙂

Then She Was Gone, by Lisa Jewell

IMG_0850

I put Then She Was Gone on hold from the library on a complete whim. Sometimes… when my hubby is working, and the kids are sleeping… Mommy gets on all the review/blogs/instagram, and goes down a huge rabbit hole putting hundreds of books on hold. This tends to get a bit awkward when I walk into the local library, and see the pile of books sitting waiting for me!! I had forgotten that this was one I had put on hold, and when I read the first page, I was completely sucked in.

Meet Ellie Mack. She’s fifteen, the youngest daughter of three, and is the apple of her mother’s eye. She is a great student, friend, sister, and now a girlfriend of the high school hottie. It’s getting close to her school exams, and she’s looking forward to big plans this summer. And then she was gone. Ellie literally disappears. Her mother, Laurel, 10 years post disappearance, has let her other two children slip from her fingers, and her marriage has fallen apart. Then, Laurel meets a man in a cafe. Before she knows it, their lives become more intertwined, and she’s meeting his daughter, Poppy. Poppy looks alarmingly like her disappeared daughter Ellie. And from here, Laurel begins to try to put the pieces of her daughters disappearance together.

Whoa. This book was fantastic. Lisa Jewell is becoming a prolific British writer, with 16 novels now published. Yet this was my first novel of hers, and I thought it was brilliant. She took a classic “thriller-type” description, and blended a family drama, a pyschological  thriller, and a mystery. You are instantly sucked into the storyline of a mother’s love for her family. As much as Laurel is grieving the loss of her daughter, she is also grieving and struggling with the loss of the family members who are still her in life. Her ex-husband is just a gem of a man, and at one point you can see that he really misses his old family life, but too much damage has happened to them all.

As the father of your children, as a friend, as someone who shared a journey with you and as someone who loves you and cares about you. I don’t need to be married to you to be all those things. Those things are deeper than marriage. Those things are for ever.

Jewell’s writing is superb. You probably know the stigma… mystery/thriller… a driving plot, but ho hum writing. But, what I’ve noticed these days, is the blending of multiple genres is creating gorgeous, thrilling books… and these types of novels gained a ton of depth. Not that it’s anything like Louise Penny’s series, but the writing reminded me a lot of her style. It’s thrilling, but also poetic in nature. I 100% recommend this book to a lot of different types of readers. I actually bought Lisa Jewell’s next novel, Watching You, recently and am looking forward to digging into it soon!

Until next time, enjoy your weekend reading time!

The Proposal, Jasmine Guillory

img_0775.jpg

Okay, confession time… I would have said a couple books back that I don’t waste my time reading “chick-lit”. But this book is more than that!! After reading The Kiss Quotient, it was recommended to me that I pick up The Proposal… so I did!! Oh my goodness. If I didn’t have a household of people pulling me in every direction, I would have sat down, and devoured this whole book in a sitting. It was SO. DAMN. GOOD!!!

Deciding to spend your life together shouldn’t be a surprise.

When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Said actor boyfriend is a complete fool, whom Nik had no intention of anything other than sex. So when he proposes, her genuine shock and NO floors him and the whole crowd at the Dodgers game.

At the game with his sister, Carlos comes to Nik’s rescue and whisks her away from a camera crew by pretending to know her. Well, let’s just say from here the two can’t stop thinking about each other… Each not wanting anything serious the two embark on an rebound, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them gets realized the feelings are a little more serious!!

Where do I start?? How about the diversity in the characters… Nik is a successful black woman, Carlos is a super hot paediatrician, Nik’s friends include a lesbian, and a chunky Korean cupcake maven… I just loved the cast! What was so great about this book was there were no dull moments, it rolled along so well that at one point I realized I had reading 150 pages in a sitting… and that never happens! There was also a really background plot of Nik dealing with some past negative relationship stuff… she even joined a women’s self-defence class to help her overcome some of her self-doubt. In this day in age, Nik’s character is just the bomb. She’s a strong female presence, who finally decides that letting a man see the real vulnerable her doesn’t make her any less of the woman she’s worked on becoming.

Reading two well-written, extremely fun, “chick-lit” novels recently has taught me that when I previously judged the genre, I was knocking it before I tried it. I will now be opening up my mind to books that are in this genre. I think that there is a time and place for every book IF it’s well-written!!! I love to read diverse novels, with complex characters, and big issues. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be super fun. This book makes you remember that feeling when you were a kid, curled up around a book and hoping that no one interrupts you!

Until next time, stay warm & keep reading!