2021 Book #68 – Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

Title: Love and Ruin
Author: Paula McLain
Date finished: 8/13/21
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: May 1, 2018
Pages in book: 432
Stand alone or series: Sequel to The Paris Wife (since both are different periods of Ernest Hemingway’s life) but can be read as a stand alone easily
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

In 1937, twenty-eight-year-old Martha Gellhorn travels alone to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War and becomes drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in the devastating conflict. It’s her chance to prove herself a worthy journalist in a field dominated by men. There she also finds herself unexpectedly—and unwillingly—falling in love with Ernest Hemingway, a man on his way to becoming a legend.

On the eve of World War II, and set against the turbulent backdrops of Madrid and Cuba, Martha and Ernest’s relationship and careers ignite. But when Ernest publishes the biggest literary success of his career, For Whom the Bell Tolls, they are no longer equals, and Martha must forge a path as her own woman and writer.

Heralded by Ann Patchett as “the new star of historical fiction,” Paula McLain brings Gellhorn’s story richly to life and captures her as a heroine for the ages: a woman who will risk absolutely everything to find her own voice.

My rating:  4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have read other books by this author in the past and have enjoyed some and not really enjoyed others. I wasn’t expecting to love this book but I honestly couldn’t put it down. I thought it was astounding how the author took real historical figures and certain plot points of their actual lives and created flesh and blood characters that leapt off the pages. The reader can see the smoke from the bombings and hear the sounds of the shelling – it feels as if we’re right alongside the characters in the novel living on the front lines of war. The book was a little wordier than I usually enjoy but in this case it only added to the reader’s ability to experience exactly what Marty (and in certain cases Ernest) are feeling and seeing. Marty was an immensely interesting character – her bravery and determination to be right on the front lines reporting the war efforts was amazingly admirable and I loved reading about her. And while it was interesting to read about the development and ultimate deterioration of Marty and Ernest’s relationship, it was really Marty’s journey to find and fight for herself that I couldn’t tear myself away from. I’d definitely recommend this one, especially to historical fiction fans! It was a great read.

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2017 Book #32 – Hannah’s Moon by John A. Heldt

51bRO8XaIOLTitle: Hannah’s Moon
Author: John A. Heldt
Date finished: 4/12/17
Genre: Fiction, Time travel
Publisher: Self-published
Publication Date: February 8, 2017
Pages in book: 298
Stand alone or series: #5 in American Journey series
Where I got the book from: Author/publisher NOTE: I received this book for free from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

After struggling for years to have a child, Claire Rasmussen, 34, turns to adoption, only to find new obstacles on the path to motherhood. Then she gets an unlikely phone call and soon learns that a distant uncle possesses the secrets of time travel. Within weeks, Claire, husband Ron, and brother David find themselves on a train to Tennessee and 1945, where adoptable infants are plentiful and red tape is short. For a time, they find what they seek. Then a beautiful stranger enters their lives, the Navy calls, and a simple, straightforward mission becomes a race for survival. Filled with suspense, romance, and heartbreak, HANNAH’S MOON, the epic conclusion of the American Journey series, follows the lives of four spirited adults as they confront danger, choices, and change in the tense final months of World War II.

My rating: 3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Claire Rasmussen, who along with her husband, Ron, and brother, David, travel back in time to 1945 in order to adopt a baby. Claire and David’s uncle, Geoffrey Bell, guides them through the process and then, with his wife Jeanette, leaves them to their mission in 1945 while they go off to South America. Ron and Claire easily find a daughter available for adoption but they have to wait 3 months for the adoption to be final. During that time they befriend the woman living across the street, Margaret. David develops a particular attachment to her even though she is engaged to a Navy man. The plan is for Claire, Ron, their daughter Hannah, and David to head back through the portal as soon as the adoption goes through. But unfortunately fate is not that kind and there are not one but three major kinks thrown into their plans, all of which could keep them from returning at all.
Overall I liked this book. The plot line was really interesting for this one and had multiple things going on at once, which I liked. There were many points in this book that were moving and I thought the author did a great job of capturing the characters’ strength of emotions in those moments. Especially the pieces about Ron towards the end, there was a lot of tension and emotion in those moments that jumped out at me. The ending was interesting too because although it is the “finale” of the series I feel like it opens the door for a related series for future time travelers.

The bottom line: Overall I have enjoyed this series, and the time travel aspect in general is very interesting. There was some really good tension in this plot line, and there were some very emotionally touching parts as well. I would recommend, especially if you’ve enjoyed the other books in the series.

Link to author website

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2016 Book #43 – Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

51jZGbaKlpL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Everyone Brave Is Forgiven
Author: Chris Cleave
Date finished: 5/7/16
Genre: Fiction, historical fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Pages in book: 432
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE:I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

London, 1939.
The day war is declared, Mary North leaves finishing school unfinished, goes straight to the War Office, and signs up.
Tom Shaw decides to ignore the war—until he learns his roommate Alistair Heath has unexpectedly enlisted. Then the conflict can no longer be avoided.
Young, bright, and brave, Mary is certain she’d be a marvelous spy. When she is—bewilderingly—made a teacher, she finds herself defying prejudice to protect the children her country would rather forget.
Tom, meanwhile, finds that he will do anything for Mary.
And when Mary and Alistair meet, it is love, as well as war, that will test them in ways they could not have imagined, entangling three lives in violence and passion, friendship and deception, inexorably shaping their hopes and dreams.
Set in London during the years of 1939–1942, when citizens had slim hope of survival, much less victory; and on the strategic island of Malta, which was daily devastated by the Axis barrage, Everyone Brave is Forgiven features little-known history and a perfect wartime love story inspired by the real-life love letters between Chris Cleave’s grandparents. This dazzling novel dares us to understand that, against the great theater of world events, it is the intimate losses, the small battles, the daily human triumphs that change us most.

My rating:  2.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book was about a group of young people and how their lives were affected by World War II. Mary North was born into a life of privilege, but when England declares war on Germany, she decides to sign up with the War Office to be put to good use. They assign her a teaching position, where she befriends a black student. It is through this teaching position that she meets Tom Shaw, who is an administrator for a school district. She falls in love with Tom but then she meets Tom’s friend Alistair while he is home on leave from the military for one night. Alistair stirs feelings in Mary that Tom doesn’t necessarily stir. But Mary is pretty sure that Tom is the one so she ignores her feelings for Alistair.
As we all know, war tends to bring many casualties and these young people’s story is no different. Mary and her friends both face many traumatic events, and Mary even has a sad morphine situation for a while. There were a lot of different story lines merging in this book, including the treatment of colored people in England during this time period and drug addiction and the effects of war. There was a lot going on and all of the story lines were really interesting but it almost felt for me like there was too much going on. I couldn’t really connect with the characters personally and it was just hard for me to get into. The description of Alistair’s experience during war time seemed very real and I thought that was one of the most interesting pieces of the book.

The bottom line: I found this book a little wordy but the story line was interesting. The book just wasn’t really for me, but it would definitely appeal to people who like historical fiction centered around World War II.

Link to author website

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2015 Book #112 – The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

81A7E+qtiuLTitle: The Japanese Lover
Author: Isabel Allende
Date finished: 11/1/15
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
Pages in book: 336
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, young Alma Belasco’s parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in their opulent mansion in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family’s Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to blossom. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichimei and his family—like thousands of other Japanese Americans—are declared enemies and forcibly relocated to internment camps run by the United States government. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forever forced to hide from the world.
Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care worker struggling to come to terms with her own troubled past, meets the elderly woman and her grandson, Seth, at San Francisco’s charmingly eccentric Lark House nursing home. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, eventually learning about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly seventy years.
Sweeping through time and spanning generations and continents, The Japanese Lover explores questions of identity, abandonment, redemption, and the unknowable impact of fate on our lives. Written with the same attention to historical detail and keen understanding of her characters that Isabel Allende has been known for since her landmark first novel The House of the Spirits, The Japanese Lover is a profoundly moving tribute to the constancy of the human heart in a world of unceasing change.

My rating: 3.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Alma Belasco and her family. Alma’s spent her first 8 years in Poland but her parents sent her to live with her aunt and uncle in San Francisco, CA to keep her safe from what was happening politically in Europe (Hitler). Thankfully they had the foresight to do this and Alma was spared the horrors of being sent to a Jewish concentration camp, but unfortunately they didn’t have the same urging to escape themselves. Alma was then raised by her aunt and uncle and her cousin Nathaniel, who was only a few years older than her. The book alternates between the past and Alma’s life growing up and then through adulthood with the present day where Alma is living in an assisted living community. It is there that Alma encounters and befriends Irina Bazili. Irina also becomes close friends with Alma’s grandson Seth, and together they begin to document Alma’s memoirs.
Seth and Irina become more and more interested in Alma’s life story, and they begin to notice signs pointing towards the fact that Alma is having an affair: gardenias arriving each week, a secret letter being delivered regularly, and that Alma will suddenly disappear for a couple days at a time having packed her nice silk lingerie. Both Irina and Seth become extremely curious as to who Alma is meeting with, and they start to delve into the part of Alma’s life she hasn’t yet fully divulged, that of her and Ichimei.
Overall I have to say this was not my favorite book. While the story line was interesting at times, I couldn’t get emotionally invested in the characters or in the story. It was hard for me to get a read on the story line, every time I thought I had it figured out like where the book was going, a new facet to the story line would pop up that leads the reader in a completely different direction. While it definitely kept me on my toes, it made it harder for me personally to get involved in the story. I did find the concurrent story of Alma’s parents’ fate at the concentration camp and Ichimei’s own experience in the US concentration camps to be interesting, the comparison between the two experiences was stark but the fact that there was still a valid connection makes you really think about the fear and drastic measures that were taken during that time period.

The bottom line: I would say if you want to read it then go for it. Not my favorite but it was a good book.

Link to author website

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