Review: The Mothers of Quality Street

Title: The Mothers of Quality Street
Author: Penny Thorpe
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Release Date: March 5, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The ups and down of three plucky factory girls, set in Britain’s best loved wrapped chocolate factory.

The Quality Street Factory is fizzing with the news that the King and Queen and the two young princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, are going to visit the Mackintosh Factory where the country’s favourite wrapped chocolate is made. The factory floor is heady with excitement but plans are dealt a blow when a much loved staff member is the victim of a poisoning incident.

Everyone is under suspicion, which only adds to Reenie Calder’s woes, anxious that her new promotion has only made her stick out even more like a sore thumb. Can she and her friends, Mary and Diana, get their heads together and find the malicious troublemaker before something unthinkable happens?

Review:

The King is coming to visit the Quality Street factory. Everyone is excited about planning the event. They bring married women back to work, who lost their jobs when they got married, because they need more workers on the floor. A sudden scandal threatens to cancel their event when poisoned candy is found. They have to figure out how to make the workers happy, while also preparing to receive the King.

I loved the style of writing in this book. The first line was great: “The toffees for the window display had been carefully painted with strong poison.” I had never heard of candy being painted with poison, so this line hooked me right from the start. The poison was meant to deter rats from eating the candy, but the candies ended up in the wrong hands. Another great line was “She looked like a tart’s handbag turned inside out,” which described a new worker at the factory. These lines made the story so entertaining.

There was some great dramatic irony in this book. Dramatic irony is when the reader knows something that the characters don’t know yet. Right at the beginning the owner of the candy store paints the candies with poison, but then he doesn’t properly dispose of them, so a customer ends up buying them by accident. Throughout the first half of the book, we wait to see who will end up eating the poisoned chocolates, while the characters don’t even know they exist.

There were some other subplots as well, including ones about women returning to the work force after having children and the planning for the King’s visit. I found it so absurd to think that the women couldn’t return to their jobs just because they had gotten married or had children. It happened back then, in 1937, but it seems crazy to imagine today.

This is a great story! Make sure you have chocolates nearby while you read it!

What to read next:

The Quality Street Girls by Penny Thorpe

The Whispers of War by Julia Kelly

Other Books in the Series:

  • The Quality Street Girls

Have you read The Mothers of Quality Street? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Review: The Heirloom Garden

Title: The Heirloom Garden
Author: Viola Shipman
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Graydon House
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: April 28, 2020
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

In her inimitable style, Viola Shipman explores the unlikely relationship between two very different women brought together by the pain of war, but bonded by hope, purpose…and flowers.

Iris Maynard lost her husband in World War II, her daughter to illness and, finally, her reason to live. Walled off from the world for decades behind the towering fence surrounding her home, Iris has built a new family…of flowers. Iris propagates her own daylilies and roses while tending to a garden filled with the heirloom starts that keep the memories of her loved ones alive.

When Abby Peterson moves next door with her family—a husband traumatized by his service in the Iraq War and a young daughter searching for stability—Iris is reluctantly yet inevitably drawn into her boisterous neighbor’s life, where, united by loss and a love of flowers, she and Abby tentatively unearth their secrets, and help each other discover how much life they have yet to live.

With delightful illustrations and fascinating detail, Viola Shipman’s heartwarming story will charm readers while resonating with issues that are so relevant today. 

Review:

This book tells the story of two women from different generations who are brought together by their experiences of war. Iris’s husband was killed in WWII, and her daughter passed away a few years later. She now finds peace in her garden, but she hasn’t left her house in years, closing herself off from the world with tall fences. In 2003, Abby’s family moves into the house next to Iris’s, which Iris rents to them. Abby’s husband has just returned from the Iraq war, but he is a shell of his former self. Abby’s kind daughter, Lily, is curious about the old lady who lives next door, which leads to an unlikely friendship.

This book was a tearjerker. Iris is mourning her husband and daughter decades after their deaths. She still talks to them. It was heartbreaking to see show her life was standing still, for the most part, since they died. Even though Abby’s husband returned from his war, he was so traumatized that he wasn’t himself anymore. Abby and Iris had similar experiences with being left behind in the aftermath of a war.

I loved the dual narratives of Abby and Iris. They had different perspectives, being from two generations, yet there were similarities in their lives. Both of them had their husbands go to war. They were both working in scientific jobs, where they weren’t given opportunities they deserved because they were women. Though they were working in these fields fifty years apart, not much had changed in the way women were treated in the workplace.

I found the gardening aspect of this book fascinating. I don’t know much about gardening, but it was amazing how it brought people together in this book. There was also a scientific side of it, which was described by Iris. She created her own unique flowers. I also didn’t know about the process for saving plants through the winter. Iris would pack them away in her basement to save them for the spring. It made sense, but I had never thought about that process before.

This is a beautiful story!

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

What to read next:

Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

The Summer Cottage by Viola Shipman

Author Info:

Viola Shipman is the pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his writing. Rouse is the author of The Summer Cottage, as well as The Charm Bracelet and The Hope Chest which have been translated into more than a dozen languages and become international bestsellers. He lives in Saugatuck, Michigan and Palm Springs, California, and has written for People, Coastal Living, Good Housekeeping, and Taste of Home, along with other publications, and is a contributor to All Things Considered.

Have you read The Heirloom Garden? What did you think of it?

Review: The Queen of Paris: A Novel of Coco Chanel

Title: The Queen of Paris: A Novel of Coco Chanel
Author: Pamela Binnings Ewen
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: April 7, 2020
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel is revered for her sophisticated style–the iconic little black dress–and famed for her intoxicating perfume Chanel No. 5. Yet behind the public persona is a complicated woman of intrigue, shadowed by mysterious rumors. The Queen of Paris, the new novel from award-winning author Pamela Binnings Ewen, vividly imagines the hidden life of Chanel during the four years of Nazi occupation in Paris in the midst of WWII–as discovered in recently unearthed wartime files.

Coco Chanel could be cheerful, lighthearted, and generous; she also could be ruthless, manipulative, even cruel. Against the winds of war, with the Wehrmacht marching down the Champs-Élysées, Chanel finds herself residing alongside the Reich’s High Command in the Hotel Ritz. Surrounded by the enemy, Chanel wages a private war of her own to wrestle full control of her perfume company from the hands of her Jewish business partner, Pierre Wertheimer. With anti-Semitism on the rise, he has escaped to the United States with the confidential formula for Chanel No. 5. Distrustful of his intentions to set up production on the outskirts of New York City, Chanel fights to seize ownership. The House of Chanel shall not fall.

While Chanel struggles to keep her livelihood intact, Paris sinks under the iron fist of German rule. Chanel–a woman made of sparkling granite–will do anything to survive. She will even agree to collaborate with the Nazis in order to protect her darkest secrets. When she is covertly recruited by Germany to spy for the Reich, she becomes Agent F-7124, code name: Westminster. But why? And to what lengths will she go to keep her stormy past from haunting her future?

Review:

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was one of the founders of Chanel No. 5 perfume. One day, she received a notice that one of her former business partners, who owned 90% of the company, had stolen her perfume formula to create in the United States. She must figure out a way to prevent him from stealing her perfume. At the same time, World War II has started, with Germany taking over Paris. Coco gets involved when a close relative is taken as a prisoner of war. She has to take many dangerous risks to save her company and her family.

There were some flashbacks throughout the first half of the book to when Coco was a young adult. These were the only parts that were told in first person point of view, from Coco’s perspective. She seemed like a different person from the savvy business woman she was in the 1940s. These flashbacks did serve a purpose to show what Coco’s early life, and a life changing romance, were like. However, I didn’t like that she seemed like a completely different character from the woman she became in the 1940s.

I was surprised at some of the twists in the story. I didn’t think it was true because some things were quite scandalous and outrageous. At the end of the novel, there was an author’s note that talks about the parts of the story that were based on historical documents. Coco Chanel was a spy during WWII, though her exact missions aren’t clear. I had no idea that this famous designer had lived such a wild life.

This was a fascinating novel about Coco Chanel’s life

Thank you Blackstone Publishing for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

The Whispers of War by Julia Kelly

The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham

Have you read The Queen of Paris? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Review: Truths I Never Told You

Title: Truths I Never Told You
Author: Kelly Rimmer
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Graydon House
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: April 14, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

From the bestselling author of The Things We Cannot Saycomes a poignant novel about the fault in memories and the lies that can bond a family together—or tear it apart.

With her father recently moved to a care facility for his worsening dementia, Beth Walsh volunteers to clear out the family home and is surprised to discover the door to her childhood playroom padlocked. She’s even more shocked at what’s behind it—a hoarder’s mess of her father’s paintings, mounds of discarded papers and miscellaneous junk in the otherwise fastidiously tidy house.

As she picks through the clutter, she finds a loose journal entry in what appears to be her late mother’s handwriting. Beth and her siblings grew up believing their mother died in a car accident when they were little more than toddlers, but this note suggests something much darker. Beth soon pieces together a disturbing portrait of a woman suffering from postpartum depression and a husband who bears little resemblance to the loving father Beth and her siblings know. With a newborn of her own and struggling with motherhood, Beth finds there may be more tying her and her mother together than she ever suspected.

Exploring the expectations society places on women of every generation, Kelly Rimmer explores the profound struggles two women unwittingly share across the decades set within an engrossing family mystery that may unravel everything they believed to be true. 

Review:

Beth has been struggling since she had her son. She doesn’t know why she hasn’t adjusted to motherhood, but she’s uncomfortable with this new life. Her stress gets worse when her and her siblings have to move her father, who has dementia, into a nursing home. Beth volunteers to clean out his house, where she finds some secrets about her mother. Beth’s mother, Grace, married young against her parents’ wishes. She quickly has children, and she also has trouble adjusting to this new life. However, parts of Beth’s memory and Grace’s story don’t add up. Beth has to figure out what happened to her mother, while dealing with her own struggles.

This story had two perspectives: Beth in 1996 and Grace in 1957. They have similar experiences with depression after they have children, but they don’t know how to ask for help. When Grace asks for help, she’s told she needs to be stronger. Beth is scared to ask for help because her job as a psychologist could be compromised if she is diagnosed with depression. Though their stories take place forty years apart, they still have the same challenges.

There were feminist themes in this book. Some of the issues were abortion, contraception, and postpartum depression. Between the two storylines, there was some progression, though there still was a stigma attached to these things. Even today, the stigma is still there. Someone like Grace would get more help for her depression than she got in 1957, but I imagine that someone in Beth’s position would still have a problem with being diagnosed with depression as a psychologist. The world has improved for women since Grace’s time, but it isn’t perfect yet.

This was an emotional and moving historical novel.

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

What to read next:

Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer

Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

Author Info:

Kelly Rimmer is the worldwide and USA TODAY bestselling author of Before I Let You Go, Me Without You, and The Secret Daughter. She lives in rural Australia with her husband, two children and fantastically naughty dogs, Sully and Basil. Her novels have been translated into more than twenty languages. Please visit her at www.Kelly.Rimmer.com 

Have you read Truths I Never Told You? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Review: They Went Left

Title: They Went Left
Author: Monica Hesse
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: April 7, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Germany, 1945. The soldiers who liberated the Gross-Rosen concentration camp said the war was over, but nothing feels over to eighteen-year-old Zofia Lederman. Her body has barely begun to heal; her mind feels broken. And her life is completely shattered: Three years ago, she and her younger brother, Abek, were the only members of their family to be sent to the right, away from the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Everyone else–her parents, her grandmother, radiant Aunt Maja–they went left.

Zofia’s last words to her brother were a promise: Abek to Zofia, A to Z. When I find you again, we will fill our alphabet. Now her journey to fulfill that vow takes her through Poland and Germany, and into a displaced persons camp where everyone she meets is trying to piece together a future from a painful past: Miriam, desperately searching for the twin she was separated from after they survived medical experimentation. Breine, a former heiress, who now longs only for a simple wedding with her new fiancé. And Josef, who guards his past behind a wall of secrets, and is beautiful and strange and magnetic all at once.

But the deeper Zofia digs, the more impossible her search seems. How can she find one boy in a sea of the missing? In the rubble of a broken continent, Zofia must delve into a mystery whose answers could break her–or help her rebuild her world.

Review:

When Zofia is released from a hospital, where she was recovering from her traumatic experience in a concentration camp, she returns to her home to look for her younger brother. However, she quickly discovers that her brother, Abek, is not at their home and has not returned since the war. She then goes on a journey across the country to follow hints of where her brother could have ended up.

This was a different kind of book about WWII because it takes place during the weeks following the war. Most books about that time period talk about events during the war, but they usually end when the war ends. This story shows the trauma that everyone felt following the war. Even though the war was over, people like Zofia couldn’t just return to their homes and their regular lives because there wasn’t anything left there for them.

This story was so suspenseful. There were ups and downs, when Zofia would find a clue to where her brother could be, and when she figured out that he wasn’t there. There were also gaps in Zofia’s memory, which made her unreliable at times. There were some parts of her past that she couldn’t remember, such as the last time she saw her brother. This appeared to be a form of PTSD where she had blocked out painful moments, like saying goodbye to her family. This increased the tension, because she couldn’t give a reliable account of her history.

This was an amazing and heartbreaking story.

Thank you Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Author Info:

Monica Hesse is the New York Times bestselling author of Girl in the Blue Coat, American Fire, and The War Outside, as well as a columnist at The Washington Post writing about gender and its impact on society. She lives outside Washington, D.C. with her husband and their dog

Blog Tour Schedule:

https://fantasticflyingbookclub.blogspot.com/2020/03/tour-schedule-they-went-left-by-monica.html

Have you read They Went Left? What did you think of it?

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?