First line: Everyone was calling it the wedding of the century.
Consuelo Vanderbilt, the American heiress to the railroad empire, is
marrying the future Duke of Marlborough. However, she is in love with
someone else and is being forced into the marriage by her strong willed
mother, Alva Smith Vanderbilt. The marriage is an unhappy one but
Consuelo hopes to use her influence as the Duchess of Marlborough to
help the lower classes living around Blenheim Palace.
My Thoughts: I have been a reader of Karen Harper for many years. I really enjoy her historical fiction even though she seems to elaborate her narratives a bit. Her most recent novel was a fast read about one of the American heiresses whose money helped sustain the British aristocracy. Having recently read, A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler, I was familiar with the Vanderbilt family at the turn of the nineteenth century.
was a force to be dealt with but it sounds like her daughter learned a
lot from her mother. I loved hearing about Consuelo’s life and the way
she tried to improve her circumstances and those of the poor. I cannot
imagine living her life though. She was forced into a marriage, had
unimaginable wealth and was very unhappy for many years. Harper does a
great job of breathing life into her characters. I loved “meeting”
Winston Churchill. As with most historical novels, I googled many of the
locations and people to see what they really looked like. This was a
fun romp through the Gilded Age and into the time of the world wars.
Nina dreamed of becoming a pilot. When the German army attacks her
native Russia, she enlists to help her country fight its invaders. As
one of the all-female bomber regiment called the Night Witches, she gets
her wish. Until one day when she goes down behind enemy lines and
encounters the evil villainous known as the Huntress.
spent the war years as a war correspondent. He everything from the
invasion of Omaha Beach to the Nuremburg Trials but he is determined to
find and bring to justice one person, the Huntress. With a personal
vendetta against the war criminal he joins an organization tasked with
finding members of the Nazi party that escaped punishment.
McBride is a young girl and aspiring photographer in 1946. Her father
recently married a mysterious Austrian widow but her story makes Jordan
suspicious. The more she learns the less she trusts her. She is
determined to find out who this woman is in order to protect her father.
Told in three narratives we piece together the story of the Huntress.
From the very first chapter I was hooked. I have been a longtime fan of
Kate Quinn and her newest novel does not disappoint. I think I can even
say with confidence that it is her best book to date. I loved the
different timelines and how each intertwine. This would be perfect for
fans of historical fiction and mysteries.
Nina was by far my
favorite character. She is strong woman but also has a deep seeded fear.
I enjoyed seeing her change and grow throughout the story. She starts
as a poor girl from eastern Russia who dreams of becoming a pilot. As
the war progresses she discovers more about herself and the country she
serves. I learned so much while reading her chapters. I had never heard
of female bomber teams during World War II. Even though Russia has a
history of being behind the times, this is a very progressive stance.
And for them to be highly decorated after the war for their courage.
Read the author’s notes at the end for more background on the story. You can tell that Quinn did a lot of research to build her narrative.
FYI: This reminded me a lot of the new release movie, Operation Finale, starring Oscar Isaac. It follows the search and capture of Adolph Eichmann, the mastermind behind the Holocaust.
First line: Dima heard the barn doors slam before anyone else did.
Nikolai Lantsov, the young king of Ravka, has spent the first several
years of his reign trying to hold his country together. With the help of
his Triumvirate he hopes to strengthen the borders, improve diplomatic
relations and rebuild the Second Army. However, as miracles continue to
happen around the country and a darkness still infects his land, he is
met with more than he imagined.
My Thoughts: Nikolai was
one of my favorite characters from Bardugo’s original trilogy. He has a
sharp wit and charisma that lets him steal every scene. I was so happy
when I learned that he was getting his own duology. Authors do answer
prayers! Ha! And Nina from The Dregs Duology has a starring role
as well. I loved every one of her chapters. She is daring and smart. And
she does not mind causing a little trouble along the way.
“But it’s a very arduous path,” Nikolai said. “Who will carry my snacks?”
In addition to past characters we meet several new
ones. I did not know how I was going to feel about them when they first
entered the storyline but they surprised me. It was a fun plot twist. I
am excited to see where these new characters take us.
half of the book was a little slower, a trait which I have noticed in
the other books. But when the action picks up the story flies by. Trust
me and stick with this. It is worth every minute you spend reading it.
finally that ending! Wow! It was shocking. It literally gave me
goosebumps as I was reading it. I will be highly anticipating the next
book. I hope I do not have to wait too long.
FYI: I would highly recommend you read The Shadow and Bone Trilogy and The Dregs Duology
before picking this one up. There are lots of characters and storylines
that carry on into this latest addition to the Grishaverse.
I had never heard of Erich Kastner before my recent trip to Dresden, Germany. I passed by the museum dedicated to him and his work several times. My German sister, Elisabeth, told me that I needed to read some of his books. I was lucky to find two on Hoopla. Luckily we have such an amazing database available for our patrons where they can find obscure books, music and movies. While I was searching I even stumbled across the fact that patrons can check out items in foreign languages as well. As I continue to work on my German I will keep this in mind to help with my study.
Lisa and Lottie is a story that is very well known but under a different name, The Parent Trap. Who knew?! Not me for sure.
*This is only available via Hoopla or interlibrary loan.*
Summary: When Lisa from Vienna meets Lottie from Munich at summer camp, they realize that they are identical twins who have been separated at a very young age. During the weeks at camp they devise a plan to switch places without telling their parents.
Highlights: This was a fun little story that I know very well. I have watched both versions of The Parent Trap (Hayley Mills and Lindsay Lohan) and loved them. Kastner’s story is a little less detailed than the movie versions but still a fun novel for young kids. The illustrations were very simple and worked well within the story especially when we see the twins together. I am glad that I picked this up and I plan to read a few more of Kastner’s books as well.
FYI: This is only available in digital format on Hoopla or you can interlibrary loan it as well.
Living in Kansas it seems to be guaranteed that everyone knows the story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. However, the book and the movie (starring Judy Garland) are quite different. But how much do you know about the man who wrote the story? Years ago there was a made for TV movie called The Dreamer of Oz, starring John Ritter, who portrayed Mr. Baum and detailed his life and the writing of his famous novel. In a new book by Elizabeth Letts we get a look at Maud Gage Baum, the wife of the author.
First line: It was a city within a city, a textile mill to weave the gossamer of fantasy on looping looms of celluloid.
Summary: Maud Gage Baum, the widow of the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, visits the set of the filming of The Wizard of Oz where she meets the young star, Judy Garland. Maud immediately feels a connection and need to protect the sixteen year old actress who will be portraying Dorothy. Told through flashbacks we see Maud’s life with husband, L. Frank Baum as they start out touring the country with a theater group to owning their own dry goods store to becoming a literary success.
Highlights: This was a fun jaunt through the history of one of the greatest movies/books of all time. I remember watching the movies numerous times as a child before I ever picked up one of the books. It is so much different but each are wonderful in their own ways. Nothing beats Judy Garland singing ‘Over the Rainbow’.
I know that the author took some liberties with the history to help suit the timeline and layout of her novel but the background of this iconic story is fascinating. Such a successful man (or so I would have assumed) struggled so much trying to find his place in the world. He tried multiple different careers before he wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Even though his story is entertaining, his wife was the strong one.
Maud Gage Baum was the daughter of famous suffragette, Matilda Joslyn Gage. She was a strong advocate for women’s right to vote, fighting alongside Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Maud learned from her to be bold and speak her mind. As I read I could tell that having such a strong mother helped Maud navigate her life with an eccentric husband and battling the studio to do justice to his novel.
I loved every interaction that Maud had with Judy Garland. It is hard to imagine that Judy was only sixteen when she was cast in the role that sky rocketed her career. The poor girl had to deal with unbelievable things while preparing for this role including smoking 80 cigarettes a day and taking diet pills to keep her trim. It is outrageous. Maud tries to help Judy as much as possible in order to keep her promise to Frank to watch over “Dorothy”. This is the most heartwarming part of the novel, watching Maud make sure that Judy is Dorothy and Dorothy is Judy, and fighting for her.
Lowlights: There were several historical inaccuracies that are easily overlooked but at times also drove me a little crazy. One of Maud’s sisters was completely left out of the story. And the idea behind the character, Dorothy, was changed. However, the story does not suffer for any of this. Letts does a great job of weaving a fun and intricate story filled with all the magic of Oz.