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The Paris Secret Book Cover The Paris Secret
Karen Swan
Fiction
William Morrow Paperbacks
November 14, 2017
Paperback
416
Free from publisher

Somewhere along the cobbled streets of Paris, an apartment lies thick with dust and secrets: full of priceless artworks hidden away for decades.

High-flying Fine Art Agent Flora from London, more comfortable with the tension of a million-pound auction than a cosy candlelit dinner for two, is called in to asses these suddenly discovered treasures. As an expert in her field, she must trace the history of each painting and just who has concealed them for so long.

Thrown in amongst the glamorous Vermeil family as they move between Paris and Antibes, Flora begins to discover that things aren't all that they seem, while back at home her own family is recoiling from a seismic shock. The terse and brooding Xavier Vermeil seems intent on forcing Flora out of his family's affairs - but just what is he hiding?

 

My review:

This is my first foray into reading Karen Swan, and I like what I see! I'm going to call this an adult Nancy Drew, which is a big compliment, as I devoured these books as a kid. The mystery surrounding the artwork reminded me somewhat of the B.A. Shapiro books (The Art Forger and The Muralist), also favorites of mine. The story was intriguing, I loved the art references as well as the idea of working in the auction business. The details revealed that tie the story into the war years was also fascinating, and I couldn't wait to figure out just what was going on (kind of like Nancy Drew 🙂 ). I'm going to sound like a broken record when I say that the only thing I did not like about the book was the romance (why why WHY does there always have to be one of these?). I didn't like the love interest from the beginning, didn't believe that he would change, and just.....ugh! But enough of that, because this book had so much else going for it, that I'm going to pretend that part just didn't exist. The writing was fluid, the end of chapter cliff hangers were spectacular ways to keep me reading, and the way the mystery pans out was interesting and satisfying.

A great read, with art history, mystery, WWII tie-ins, and the proverbial romance (for those that like a little of that on the side). And we can't forget that it's set in Paris, which deserves a look all on its own. I'm impressed with this author's writing style, and will certainly be checking into some of her earlier works.

Radio Free Vermont Book Cover Radio Free Vermont
Bill McKibben
Fiction
Penguin
November 7, 2017
E-book
240
Publisher via First to Read

"I hope no one secedes, but I also hope that Americans figure out creative ways to resist injustice and create communities where everybody counts. We've got a long history of resistance in Vermont and this book is testimony to that fact." -Bernie Sanders A book that's also the beginning of a movement, Bill McKibben's debut novel Radio Free Vermont follows a band of Vermont patriots who decide that their state might be better off as its own republic. As the host of Radio Free Vermont--"underground, underpowered, and underfoot"--seventy-two-year-old Vern Barclay is currently broadcasting from an "undisclosed and double-secret location." With the help of a young computer prodigy named Perry Alterson, Vern uses his radio show to advocate for a simple yet radical idea: an independent Vermont, one where the state secedes from the United States and operates under a free local economy. But for now, he and his radio show must remain untraceable, because in addition to being a lifelong Vermonter and concerned citizen, Vern Barclay is also a fugitive from the law. In Radio Free Vermont, Bill McKibben entertains and expands upon an idea that's become more popular than ever--seceding from the United States. Along with Vern and Perry, McKibben imagines an eccentric group of activists who carry out their own version of guerilla warfare, which includes dismissing local middle school children early in honor of 'Ethan Allen Day' and hijacking a Coors Light truck and replacing the stock with local brew. Witty, biting, and terrifyingly timely, Radio Free Vermont is Bill McKibben's fictional response to the burgeoning resistance movement.

My review:

I was initially drawn to this book because it's about the state where I was born, and lived in for three and a half decades. Other than hoping for a casual reference to some places I remember, I wasn't sure what to expect. I LOVED this book! It was sometimes funny, but then would throw in some serious facts about the current state of our nation. The way that this merry band of misfits go about organizing the idea of Vermont becoming a free state was spectacular, in that there was absolutely no violence (only brains) involved. Vern was a great character, witty and wise from his long running radio show, and respected enough to begin to plant the seeds of what would happen if Vermont were to secede from the United States in order to get back to its small roots. There was a plethora of historical information about the early days of Vermont (the first state to outlaw slaves and allow same sex marriage), to what has become of small farms and businesses due to corporate conglomerates. And lest you think that it reads like a history book........oh my goodness not at all! Most of the information is given out while answering callers to Vern's radio show. Of course, once the government gets wind of what Vern is up to, shenanigans ensue with trying to get their information out without being tracked down and thrown in jail. I was definitely not ready for the book to finish, I hope the author comes up with a sequel!

Such a short book that packs a whallop of facts and fun! A solid 4 star read, I'm sure an extra star had to be added because of all the Vermont references that had me squealing (I was born in Barre.......I mean Thunder Road....AHHH! ).  While most of the names have been changed, there are a few references in the book to current political office holders that may have you nodding your head. A definite for Vermonters, and a do not miss for others!

I received this book as part of the Penguin First to Read program. All opinions are my own.

 

It's my favorite time of year, and one (if not the only) readathon I've faithfully participated in each year since I've been blogging. I don't know about you, but I love holiday stories!

Hosted by Kimba over at Caffeinated Reviewer (click this link to read all about it), we spend a week reading holiday or winter themed books. There are contests and prizes associated, and I've truly enjoyed myself each year. I will set out my potential books I'm thinking of reading, and keep everyone posted along the way. At the end of the week, let's see how much holiday cheer I've packed in!

Here are the initial (always subject to change) books that I have selected.

Click the links for each book to be taken to the Goodreads description. I will update throughout the week once a book is completed, and give a wrap-up total at the end of the week.

Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan (link)
Read 11/14 - 11/15 150/295 pages
I didn't finish this one, but got halfway through before the end of the readathon. I've read the first two Little Beach Street Bakery books in this series, and even though I haven't finished, I can say that this one is right on par with the others. Will likely be a 3 to 3.5 star read.

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb (link)
Read 11/8 - 11/10 400 pages 4 stars
Loved that this one was all in letter format. A great new way to look at history with the correspondence between two soldiers, a war nurse, and the friends and family back home in London. This one takes place during the war years of World War I, which is not a war that is written about as often in historical fiction.

Winter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand (link)
Read (audio) 11/9 - 11/10 262 pages 4 stars
I teared up at the end of this fourth volume in the Quinn family saga. I'm going to miss my yearly dose of this family with all of their trials, tribulations, but enduring love for family. Loved it, but definitely suggest that you read the series in order.

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak (link)
Read 11/11 - 11/13 368 pages 4 stars
A highly entertaining story of a family forced to spend 7 days under quarantine in their home over Christmas week. Of course all sorts of issues come to light. There was humor, serious issues, family drama, secrets revealed and pretty much anything related to being house bound. Some parts were a little far fetched, but my overall enjoyment caused me to disregard them.

Hiddensee by Gregory Maguire (link)
Read 11/10 - 11/11 304 pages 2 stars
Firstly, go look for a copy of this to feast your eyes on the cover, because it is spectacular! Then read it for the great writing, and the parts toward the end that you will glean information about the Nutcracker story. These were all pluses for me. Being that I do not like magical realism, you can then understand why my rating is as low as it is. Once the knife started talking to the boy, a high rating was pretty much not going to happen. If you like a well done magical realism story, you will love this, and I can highly recommend. If like me, it's not your thing, there are still the parts above that make me glad I still read it until the end.

Total books read = 4 1/2
Total pages = 1484

Can't wait until next year! Happy Holiday reading!!

Here we go......how did I do this month with my tbr takedown?

Incoming = 17 (10 purchased, 7 free from publishers)

Outgoing = 22 books (8 audio, 13 physical, 1 e-book)

Total Incoming = 17
Total Outgoing = 22
Total for October = minus 5
Carryover from September = plus 56
New total = plus 51

I'm excited to try and crack that less than 50 mark. Cheer me on so I don't get distracted by holiday books releasing this month!

In the Midst of Winter Book Cover In the Midst of Winter
Isabel Allende
Fiction
Atria Books
October 31, 2017
Hardcover
352
Free from publisher

New York Times and worldwide bestselling “dazzling storyteller” (Associated Press) Isabel Allende returns with a sweeping novel about three very different people who are brought together in a mesmerizing story that journeys from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil. In the Midst of Winter begins with a minor traffic accident—which becomes the catalyst for an unexpected and moving love story between two people who thought they were deep into the winter of their lives. Richard Bowmaster—a 60-year-old human rights scholar—hits the car of Evelyn Ortega—a young, undocumented immigrant from Guatemala—in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn. What at first seems just a small inconvenience takes an unforeseen and far more serious turn when Evelyn turns up at the professor’s house seeking help. At a loss, the professor asks his tenant Lucia Maraz—a 62-year-old lecturer from Chile—for her advice. These three very different people are brought together in a mesmerizing story that moves from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil, sparking the beginning of a long overdue love story between Richard and Lucia. Exploring the timely issues of human rights and the plight of immigrants and refugees, the book recalls Allende’s landmark novel The House of the Spirits in the way it embraces the cause of “humanity, and it does so with passion, humor, and wisdom that transcend politics” (Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post). In the Midst of Winter will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

My review:

This was an interesting story about three people thrown together by circumstance when a horrific blizzard hits New York City. Richard inadvertently plows into the back of a car driven by Evelyn, who later comes to him for help getting her out of a bad situation with her employer. Because Richard cannot communicate with her, he enlists the help of his downstairs tenant Lucia. Both of these women have immigrated to the states from South America, and we go back in time as they tell their respective stories of their harrowing life experiences. Richard is also not without a sad story of his own. Together the three hatch a plan to take care of Evelyn's problem, and a grand adventure ensues. I loved the fact that two of the protagonists in this book were middle aged, it's so rare to find in books that I read. The way that their love story evolves (but doesn't take over the plot of the book) was poignant and real. I will admit that the adventure takes some rather silly turns, but at that point I was so invested in the characters, that I just went along for the ride (no pun intended). The writing was crisp, and even though we are going back in time with each character's story, it flowed together with the current timeline smoothly. Each of the three characters were really well drawn, and the ending has a little twist that I suspected, but was very satisfying.

This was a very engaging book with a unique plot, engaging characters, a wonderful backstory about immigration, and even a bit of mystery and suspense thrown in. The escapade these three characters embark on is a bit over the top at times, but that did not keep me from truly enjoying this story.

 

The Last Ballad Book Cover The Last Ballad
Wiley Cash
Fiction
William Morrow
October 3, 2017
Advanced readers copy
384
Free from publisher

The New York Times bestselling author of the celebrated A Land More Kind Than Home and This Dark Road to Mercy returns with this eagerly awaited new novel, set in the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina in 1929 and inspired by actual events. The chronicle of an ordinary woman’s struggle for dignity and her rights in a textile mill, The Last Ballad is a moving tale of courage in the face of oppression and injustice, with the emotional power of Ron Rash’s Serena, Dennis Lehane’s The Given Day, and the unforgettable films Norma Rae and Silkwood. Twelve times a week, twenty-eight-year-old Ella May Wiggins makes the two-mile trek to and from her job on the night shift at American Mill No. 2 in Bessemer City, North Carolina. The insular community considers the mill’s owners—the newly arrived Goldberg brothers—white but not American and expects them to pay Ella May and other workers less because they toil alongside African Americans like Violet, Ella May’s best friend. While the dirty, hazardous job at the mill earns Ella May a paltry nine dollars for seventy-two hours of work each week, it’s the only opportunity she has. Her no-good husband, John, has run off again, and she must keep her four young children alive with whatever work she can find. When the union leaflets begin circulating, Ella May has a taste of hope, a yearning for the better life the organizers promise. But the mill owners, backed by other nefarious forces, claim the union is nothing but a front for the Bolshevik menace sweeping across Europe. To maintain their control, the owners will use every means in their power, including bloodshed, to prevent workers from banding together. On the night of the county’s biggest rally, Ella May, weighing the costs of her choice, makes up her mind to join the movement—a decision that will have lasting consequences for her children, her friends, her town—indeed all that she loves. Seventy-five years later, Ella May’s daughter Lilly, now an elderly woman, tells her nephew about his grandmother and the events that transformed their family. Illuminating the most painful corners of their history, she reveals, for the first time, the tragedy that befell Ella May after that fateful union meeting in 1929. Intertwining myriad voices, Wiley Cash brings to life the heartbreak and bravery of the now forgotten struggle of the labor movement in early twentieth-century America—and pays tribute to the thousands of heroic women and men who risked their lives to win basic rights for all workers. Lyrical, heartbreaking, and haunting, this eloquent novel confirms Wiley Cash’s place among our nation’s finest writers.

My review:

This book was a huge hit with me! I've read Wiley Cash's previous two novels and enjoyed them very much (my review of A Land More Kind than Home is here), but this one is in a class of its own! Fascinating look at small town life in and around the Appalachian foothills of NC, and the process of setting up a union at the towns labor mills. This story is inspired by real people and events, but doesn't hit you over the head with historical facts, instead it reads as a beautiful story. Cash does such a phenomenal job of creating the settings, writing such wonderful prose, and the characters are fabulously fleshed out. I ached for these small town folk and their plight, and I learned so much history without realizing that's what I was even doing 🙂 This book is a timely exploration into race, blue collar factory jobs, communism, the labor movement, and big business. Did I mention the writing? Fabulous, that's all I can say.

A lovely, lyrical, heartbreaking, historical fiction account of the labor movement of 1929. With a protagonist that I will not soon forget for her courage and bravery in helping those who followed her, and for fighting for a cause she believed in. Kudos to Mr. Cash for a spectacularly written book that I highly suggest you read!

It’s publication day for The It Girls by Karen Harper. Thank you to @williammorrowbooks for sending this for review. 📖📖📖📖📖📖 This book fell somewhere between okay and good for me. I really enjoyed the parts about the two sister’s careers (in fashion design and writing scandalous novels). Told in alternating chapters, the story flowed very well and the settings were interesting and well conceived. What didn’t really work as well for me were the two sisters themselves. They were entitled, many times mean to each other, made bad choices in men, and were pretty absent mothers. Because of that I didn’t find myself rooting for them to succeed. ⭐️⭐️💫/5 I would suggest that you give this one a try since I tend to form opinions about characters early on that may not be justified. These two do make strides in the end to redeem themselves. It didn’t change my mind, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be in the minority. 📖📖📖📖📖📖📖📖📖📖📖 #karenharper #theitgirls #williammorrow #bookblogger #bookreview

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Big thanks to @peggy_lampman for sending me a copy of her book for review! 👏🏻 This was a book as lovely as its cover. Although it is mostly about two cousins who open a diner in a run down section of Detroit, it’s also about trying to get the neighbors to frequent the establishment rather than letting it become the next trendy yuppie eatery. Lots of good food descriptions, a restaurant staff with diversity, and characters to root for, make this a satisfying read. My favorite part was that the romances didn’t all work out in the end (nothing annoys me more than having to ruin a perfectly good book with a romance you can see coming from a mile away)! Pick this one up when you need a sweet read as a palate cleanser after all the creepy October selections. ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 #lakeunion #thewelcomehomediner #peggylampman #bookblogger #bookreview #bookreviewer

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When We Were Worthy Book Cover When We Were Worthy
MaryBeth Mayhew Whalen
Fiction
Lake Union Publishing
September 12, 2017
Paperback
278
Free from publisher via SheReads

When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurtles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders—their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car—the only one to survive—is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge.

At the center of the whirlwind are four women, each grappling with loss, regret, shame, and lies: Marglyn, a grieving mother; Darcy, whose son had been behind the wheel; Ava, a substitute teacher with a scandalous secret; and Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with her friends, but wasn’t. If the truth comes out, will it bring redemption—or will it be their downfall?

 

My review:

What an enjoyable read! I felt like I was lifted into this small town, where football is king of the fall season. Of course along with the football, comes the privileges of not only the football players, but the cheerleaders. It's this kind of adulation that forms the crux of this story. Just how much can you get away with if you are one of "the chosen"? In this case.......quite a lot. However, this novel is much more than that, it also delves into the grief of two mothers, who find themselves on opposite sides of a tragedy. It's about a young girl with a secret that can bring down the entire football program, but at what cost?  It's about a small town where everyone knows everyone and everything that goes on, and has an opinion about it. And it's about a teacher who has been accused of a crime that she may not have committed. The novel is told through the perspective of four people, and the writer does a great job of weaving in and out of chapters to complete the picture of what really happens one fateful night following a home game. The story flowed well, the characters were all interesting and the suspense of what happened kept me turning pages as fast as I could! I even shed a tear or two over the letter near the end (you'll know what I mean if you read it).

A great book for anyone whose been privy to the happenings within a high school, particularly in regard to the social hierarchy.  A great expose of small town life, and the courage to rectify a wrongdoing.

This was a SheReads pick for fall. Click the link to be directed to their website, and look for other reviews on social media under #SheReads.

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I'm back (albeit a bit late) with my September wrap up. I'm taking a look at the number of books coming into my house within the month, versus the number I read. This is an attempt at taking down my gigantic to be read pile, which blossomed after BookExpo and my birthday in June. So, onto this month's results.

Incoming books I purchased = 5

Incoming from publishers = 6

Total Incoming = 11

Outgoing = 16 (9 physical 7 audio)

Monthly total: 11 incoming minus 16 outgoing = minus 5
Total last month = plus 61
New total = plus 56

Not quite as many knocked off this month, but that is mostly due to it being a light reading month compared to the last two. Even with that, I still headed in the right direction, so yay me!

How is your tbr (to be read) situation?