Blog Tour Review: Music From Another World

Title: Music From Another World
Author: Robin Talley
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, LGBTQ
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: March 31, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

It’s summer 1977 and closeted lesbian Tammy Larson can’t be herself anywhere. Not at her strict Christian high school, not at her conservative Orange County church and certainly not at home, where her ultrareligious aunt relentlessly organizes antigay political campaigns. Tammy’s only outlet is writing secret letters in her diary to gay civil rights activist Harvey Milk…until she’s matched with a real-life pen pal who changes everything.

Sharon Hawkins bonds with Tammy over punk music and carefully shared secrets, and soon their letters become the one place she can be honest. The rest of her life in San Francisco is full of lies. The kind she tells for others—like helping her gay brother hide the truth from their mom—and the kind she tells herself. But as antigay fervor in America reaches a frightening new pitch, Sharon and Tammy must rely on their long-distance friendship to discover their deeply personal truths, what they’ll stand for…and who they’ll rise against.

A master of award-winning queer historical fiction, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley once again brings to life with heart and vivid detail an emotionally captivating story about the lives of two teen girls living in an age when just being yourself was an incredible act of bravery.

Review:

Tammy and Sharon were set up as penpals through their Catholic schools in 1977. Tammy lived in Orange County with a very religious family, while Sharon lived in San Francisco with her mother and brother. Sharon’s brother and Tammy are gay. Sharon and her brother help the gay community in San Francisco by supporting Harvey Milk’s campaign. When Tammy gets in trouble at her school, she runs away to the only person she knows who will support her, Sharon.

This story was devastating at times. Tammy’s aunt and uncle, who ran the church in her community, were so extreme and closed minded. They constantly bashed gay people, which Tammy had to listen to. She also had to work against the gay community to promote her aunt and uncle’s beliefs. It was so upsetting to see her go against herself in these ways.

One good thing about this story, is that the world is much more welcoming today. It isn’t a perfect situation for queer people today, but I think Tammy and Sharon would have a more positive place to live today. There are still people like Tammy’s aunt around today, but there is more positivity for queer people.

This was a great story!

Thank you Inkyard Press for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki, Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

King, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju

Author Info:

Robin Talley studied literature and communications at American University. She lives in Washington, DC, with her wife, but visits both Boston and New York regularly despite her moral opposition to Massachusetts winters and Times Square. Her first book was 2014’s Lies We Tell Ourselves. Visit her online at robintalley.com or on Twitter at @robin_talley.

Have you read Music From Another World? What did you think of it?

Review: Blame the Dead

Title: Blame the Dead
Author: Ed Ruggero
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Forge Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: March 3, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The nurses of the US Army’s Field Hospitals, mobile units that operate just behind the battle lines, contend with heat, dirt, short-handed staffs, the threat of German counterattack and an ever-present flood of horribly wounded GIs. At the 11th Field Hospital near Palermo, Sicily in the bloody summer of 1943, nurses also live with the threat of violent assault by one of their own–at least until someone shoots Dr. Myers Stephenson in the head.

Enter Eddie Harkins, a tough former Philadelphia beat cop turned Military Police lieutenant, who is first on the scene. Although he has never been a detective, Harkins soon finds himself the lone investigator, either because the Military Police are under-staffed or because someone in power thinks this rank amateur will never get close to the real killer. When the hospital commander tries to derail Harkins’ investigation by transferring or harassing key witnesses, it becomes clear to Harkins that the unit is rotten to its core, that the nurses are not safe, and that patients who have survived Nazi bullets are still at risk after they arrive at this place that is supposed to save them.

Harkins fights–and worries that he is losing–multiple battles. He is driven to give hope to nurses who just want to do their life-saving work, to right at least a few of the wrongs around him, and to do penance for sins in his own past. The one bright note for Harkins is a rekindled relationship with Kathleen Donnelly, a nurse from Harkins’ old neighborhood; but even that is complicated when Donnelly becomes a victim. 

Review:

Eddie Harkins was a traffic cop in the United States before World War II began. When a surgeon is murdered at a hospital base in Sicily, he is brought to the base to investigate. He discovers many secrets and coverups that have been happening at the base, which makes his investigation complicated.

The writing in this story was clear and concise. I immediately felt sympathy for the characters. Harkins got some bad news fairly early on in the book, and I could feel his pain. The story was detailed, but also concise, so words weren’t wasted. The story was also fast paced, so it was difficult to put down.

There are some sexual assaults and rapes that Harkins uncovers in his investigation. One thing that I noticed right away was that the men in charge treated these accusations in the same way that they are often treated today. They either brushed them off as being a misunderstanding or blamed the women for leading them on or wanting to be touched like that. Unfortunately, that’s still often the response decades later. However, this made the story very timely, since there is more awareness about sexual assaults today.

I loved this book! I highly recommend it!

Thank you Forge Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

The First Men In: U.S. Paratroopers and the Fight to Dave D-Day by Ed Ruggero

Come From Away by Genevieve Graham

Have you read Blame the Dead? What did you think of it?

Review: My Plain Jane (The Lady Janies #2)

Title: My Plain Jane (The Lady Janies #2)
Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Owlcrate, Litjoy
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

Review:

This is another fabulous book by the Lady Janies!

This story is an adaptation of Jane Eyre. The three perspectives are Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë, and Alexander Blackwood. Charlotte attends Lowood school with Jane. However, Jane can see ghosts. She is recruited by Alexander to join a special ghost catching society, but she refuses so she can follow her dream of being a governess. Charlotte joins Alexander and her brother Branwell to try and convince Jane to use her unique powers to catch ghosts.

This story mostly followed the plot of Jane Eyre. Some of the strange plot points in the story were explained by ghosts appearing in this story. Other odd plot points were altered to make better sense in the story, like Jane’s sudden discovery of new cousins at the end of the original book.

Jane’s friend Helen, who died as a girl at school, is in this story as a ghost who follows Jane everywhere. I loved Helen’s commentary on the story. She commented on how ridiculous things were, such as the way that Jane insisted on being a governess when she could have had much more money in the ghost society.

I laughed out loud so many times while reading this book! I love Jane Eyre, so I really enjoyed the jokes about the novel. There were also loads of references to 19th century novels, such as Pride and Prejudice, which I also really enjoyed!

I can’t wait to read the next book in the Lady Janies series!

What to read next:

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Montague Siblings #1) by Mackenzi Lee

Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1) by Kerri Maniscalco

Other Books in the Series:

Have you read My Plain Jane? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Review: The Grace Kelly Dress

Title: The Grace Kelly Dress
Author: Brenda Janowitz
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Graydon House Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: March 3, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Paris, 1958: Rose, a seamstress at a fashionable atelier, has been entrusted with sewing a Grace Kelly-lookalike gown for a wealthy bride-to-be. But when, against better judgment, she finds herself falling in love with the bride’s handsome brother, Rose must make an impossible choice—one that could put all she’s worked for at risk: love, security, and of course, the dress.

Sixty years later, tech CEO Rachel, who goes by the childhood nickname “Rocky,” has inherited the dress for her upcoming wedding in New York City. But there’s just one problem: Rocky doesn’t want to wear it. A family heirloom dating back to the 1950s, the dress just isn’t her. Rocky knows this admission will break her mother Joan’s heart. But what she doesn’t know is why Joan insists on the dress—or the heartbreaking secret that changed her mother’s life decades before, as she herself prepared to wear it.

As the lives of these three women come together in surprising ways, the revelation of the dress’s history collides with long-buried family heartaches. And in the lead-up to Rocky’s wedding, they’ll have to confront the past before they can embrace the beautiful possibilities of the future.

Review:

This story follows three perspectives. The first is a bride in 2020. She has been given the wedding dress that her mother and grandmother wore, but she doesn’t want to wear it. The second perspective is the bride’s mother in the 80s when she was going to get married. Her own mother had give her her own wedding dress, but she has some uncertainties about getting married. The third perspective is a seamstress in Paris in the 50s. She suddenly has to take over the designer’s studio when she dies, and she has to secretly design a special wedding dress under the designer’s name.

This story had a lot more tension than I expected. There were cliffhangers at the end of many chapters, so I had a hard time putting the book down. There were some shocking twists that I didn’t expect.

I loved the way the wedding dress was woven throughout three generations, yet it had very different meanings to each woman. The original dress was inspired by Grace Kelly’s famous dress, but I expected Grace Kelly to have a much bigger part of the story. The theme of marriage and the meaning behind the dress was prevalent throughout the story.

This was a great story!

Thank you Graydon House Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson

The Whispers of War by Julia Kelly

Author Info:

Brenda Janowitz is the author of five novels, including The Dinner Party and Recipe for a Happy Life. She is the Books Correspondent for PopSugar. Brenda’s work has also appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, Salon, Redbook, and the New York Post. She lives in New York.

Have you read The Grace Kelly Dress? What did you think of it?

Review: The Forgotten Home Child

Title: The Forgotten Home Child
Author: Genevieve Graham
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback, Ebook
Release Date: March 3, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The Home for Unwanted Girls meets Orphan Train in this unforgettable novel about a young girl caught in a scheme to rid England’s streets of destitute children, and the lengths she will go to find her way home—based on the true story of the British Home Children.

2018

At ninety-seven years old, Winnifred Ellis knows she doesn’t have much time left, and it is almost a relief to realize that once she is gone, the truth about her shameful past will die with her. But when her great-grandson Jamie, the spitting image of her dear late husband, asks about his family tree, Winnifred can’t lie any longer, even if it means breaking a promise she made so long ago…

1936

Fifteen-year-old Winny has never known a real home. After running away from an abusive stepfather, she falls in with Mary, Jack, and their ragtag group of friends roaming the streets of Liverpool. When the children are caught stealing food, Winny and Mary are left in Dr. Barnardo’s Barkingside Home for Girls, a local home for orphans and forgotten children found in the city’s slums. At Barkingside, Winny learns she will soon join other boys and girls in a faraway place called Canada, where families and better lives await them.

But Winny’s hopes are dashed when she is separated from her friends and sent to live with a family that has no use for another daughter. Instead, they have paid for an indentured servant to work on their farm. Faced with this harsh new reality, Winny clings to the belief that she will someday find her friends again.

Inspired by true events, The Forgotten Home Child is a moving and heartbreaking novel about place, belonging, and family—the one we make for ourselves and its enduring power to draw us home.

Review:

I loved this historical fiction novel!

The story follows Winny and Jack throughout two time periods. The first is set in the present, where Winny is telling her story to her granddaughter. The other time period is when Winny and Jack were sent to Canada from England as teenagers in the 1930s. Winny and Jack, along with some other friends, get separated into different homes and have to face some difficult times.

It’s unfortunate that we aren’t taught this part of Canada’s history in school. An estimated 12% of the Canadian population are descendants of the British home children. I recently found out that my own great-great-grandmother was one of them, though she came to Canada in the late 19th century, before this book is set. In the book, Winny’s great-grandson wonders why we aren’t taught about this in school. We aren’t taught much history in school, but this is an important part we should all learn.

This story was heartbreaking at times, but those scenes were quickly followed by optimism. I really enjoyed this story!

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Come From Away by Genevieve Graham

The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick

Have you read The Forgotten Home Child? What did you think of it?

Review: Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell #1)

Title: Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell #1)
Author: Hilary Mantel
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Release Date: July 1, 2010
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey’s clerk, and later his successor.

Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events. Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.

From one of our finest living writers, Wolf Hall is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion and suffering and courage. 

Review:

I love reading about English history. I especially like books written about Henry VIII and his wives. This book was great!

Since I love reading about this time period, I was familiar with a lot of the story. There were some interesting parts that I didn’t know, though. Whenever I read historical fiction, I find myself looking up things that happen in the story to find out if they really happened. There weren’t a lot of records kept for that time period, since it was hundreds of years ago, so I’m sure most of it is imagined, but it made a great story.

I found the writing difficult to follow at the beginning. Some of the dialogue was written without quotation marks, so it wasn’t easy to always recognize when someone was speaking. Another thing that was confusing was that the main character, Thomas Cromwell, was only referred to as “he” in the story, not by his name. Since most of the characters were men, it was confusing to figure out who exactly was talking sometimes.

I enjoyed this book! I’m looking forward to finishing the series.

What to read next:

Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell #2) by Hilary Mantel

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

Other Books in the Series:

  • Bring Up the Bodies
  • The Mirror and the Light

Have you read Wolf Hall? What did you think of it?

Review: The Other Windsor Girl: A Novel of Princess Margaret, Royal Rebel

Title: The Other Windsor Girl: A Novel of Princess Margaret, Royal Rebel
Author: Georgie Black
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

If you love The Crown, then this is the book for you!

Diana, Catherine, Meghan…glamorous Princess Margaret outdid them all. Springing into post-World War II society, and quite naughty and haughty, she lived in a whirlwind of fame and notoriety. Georgie Blalock captures the fascinating, fast-living princess and her “set” as seen through the eyes of one of her ladies-in-waiting. 

In dreary, post-war Britain, Princess Margaret captivates everyone with her cutting edge fashion sense and biting quips. The royal socialite, cigarette holder in one hand, cocktail in the other, sparkles in the company of her glittering entourage of wealthy young aristocrats known as the Margaret Set, but her outrageous lifestyle conflicts with her place as Queen Elizabeth’s younger sister. Can she be a dutiful princess while still dazzling the world on her own terms?

Post-war Britain isn’t glamorous for The Honorable Vera Strathmore. While writing scandalous novels, she dreams of living and working in New York, and regaining the happiness she enjoyed before her fiancé was killed in the war. A chance meeting with the Princess changes her life forever. Vera amuses the princess, and what—or who—Margaret wants, Margaret gets. Soon, Vera gains Margaret’s confidence and the privileged position of second lady-in-waiting to the Princess. Thrust into the center of Margaret’s social and royal life, Vera watches the princess’s love affair with dashing Captain Peter Townsend unfurl.

But while Margaret, as a member of the Royal Family, is not free to act on her desires, Vera soon wants the freedom to pursue her own dreams. As time and Princess Margaret’s scandalous behavior progress, both women will be forced to choose between status, duty, and love…

Review:

This was an exciting story about a rebellious princess.

Long before Will and Kate and Harry and Meghan were born, Princess Margaret was the royal who made all the headlines. She was the Queen’s younger sister, who liked to party. She caused many scandals, such as dating her father’s equerry and marrying a photographer.

This book was told from the perspective of a fictional lady-in-waiting for Princess Margaret. Vera was the daughter of a lord, and she wrote romance novels under a pseudonym. She quickly learned how to please the Princess, and worked for her through some of the most important periods of her life.

This story shows what Princess Margaret’s life was like, through the eyes of someone who worked with her. I was familiar with many parts of the story. However, there were also some scandalous parts, which were shocking, especially for that time period.

I really enjoyed this story.

What to read next:

The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson

Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown by Anne Glenconner

Have you read The Other Windsor Girl: A Novel of Princess Margaret, Royal Rebel? What did you think of it?