Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Review/Giveaway: The Last Summer At Chelsea Beach

The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach
by Pam Jenoff

Why did you choose this book? it’s WWII fiction with an Italy connection
When did you read this book? August 2015
Who should read this book? readers of WWII era historical fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
Here is a synopsis of The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach from Goodreads
Summer 1941  
Young Adelia Monteforte flees fascist Italy for America, where she is whisked away to the shore by her well-meaning aunt and uncle. Here, she meets and falls for Charlie Connally, the eldest of the four Irish-Catholic boys next door. But all hopes for a future together are soon throttled by the war and a tragedy that hits much closer to home.
Grief-stricken, Addie flees—first to Washington and then to war-torn London—and finds a position at a prestigious newspaper, as well as a chance to redeem lost time, lost family…and lost love. But the past always nips at her heels, demanding to be reckoned with. And in a final, fateful choice, Addie discovers that the way home may be a path she never suspected.
My Review

I really liked this one — a lot! — and yet it somehow left me disappointed. I can’t even say why I am disappointed, but somehow the story left me wanting for…..something.

This is a WWII era story, which is always a draw for me. One specific thing that attracted me to this book was a perceived Italy connection, but in truth, this connection is very minimal. Addie, the main character is indeed from Italy, but she comes over to America at the beginning of the story and there isn’t really much else said about Italy. A much more important part of the story is that she is a Jew during WWII; a dangerous time to be a Jew in Italy or any other part of Europe!

Addie is sent to the safety of America to live with her Aunt and Uncle, whom she has never met. There she meets and becomes part of an Irish-Catholic family and falls in love with the oldest son. When tragedy strikes the family, she runs off to Washington DC. While there she again runs into Charile, the oldest son, and then flees to London. I think one of my issues with the story was timing. Everything moved entirely too quickly. Though it felt like this took place over a span of years….at least a decade or two….the entire story took place in only 3-4 years! That seemed much too short a period to have moved past an event that was so life-changing!

Another issue I had was that I really didn’t like Addie very much. At the beginning of the book she seemed to be an independent, resourceful young woman. One example is that when her aunt and uncle failed to show up to claim her at the port where her ship docked, she managed to talk her way into the country anyway. But she quickly regressed to a girl lacking in confidence who lets the men in her life dictate how she should proceed with her life. I’m not sure, even at the end of the story, that she had gotten past that. And she made bad decision after bad decision always, in my opinion, choosing the wrong man and failing to recognize the signs that a man was interested. She also, while professing to be grateful to her aunt for taking her in, didn’t really demonstrate that she was grateful. More than once she chose to ‘follow a man’ when her aunt could have used her support and presence. Addie was really a pretty self-absorbed girl.

That said, I really did enjoy the story. Though I didn’t like Addie, or even Charlie, there were several characters I did like. If you enjoy WWII era stories, pick this one up!


And if you would like a copy, you are in luck! Pam Jenoff is gifting one of the readers of this blog with a copy of The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach PLUS a limited edition Chelsea Beach bag! (Sorry, US and Canada only). If you would like to win a copy of this book, leave a comment below telling me why you want to read this one! Contest closes at midnight (central) September 1, 2015.

About Pam Jenoff

Pam Jenoff is the Quill-nominated internationally bestselling author of The Kommadant’s Girl. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University and a master’s degree in history from Cambridge, and she received her Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania. Jenoff’s novels are based on her experiences working at the Pentagon and also as a diplomat for the State Department handling Holocaust issues in Poland. She lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.

Find out more about Pam at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

My Rating:  ★★★1/2    3-1/2 Stars

This book review is included in a tour by TLC Book Tours. I was provided a copy for review purposes.

Pam’s Tour Stops
Monday, July 27th: Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, July 28th: Raven Haired Girl – review and guest post
Tuesday, July 28th: The Lit Bitch
Wednesday, July 29th: Bewitched Bookworms – excerpt #1
Thursday, July 30th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy – excerpt #2
Saturday, August 1st: Romantic Historical Reviews – excerpt #3
Monday, August 3rd: Just One More Chapter
Monday, August 3rd: Books a la Mode – author guest post
Tuesday, August 4th: The Romance Dish
Wednesday, August 5th: Bibliotica
Thursday, August 6th: Mom in Love with Fiction
Monday, August 10th: Read Love Blog – author guest post
Tuesday, August 11th: West Metro Mommy Reads
Wednesday, August 12th: Let Them Read Books – Q&A
Friday, August 14th: Written Love Reviews
Monday, August 17th: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, August 17th: Luxury Reading – guest post
Tuesday, August 18th: A Novel Review
Wednesday, August 19th: Savvy Verse and Wit
Thursday, August 20th: A Literary Vacation
Friday, August 21st: Kritter’s Ramblings – Review
Friday, August 21st: Kritter’s Ramblings – Q&A
Monday, August 24th: One Curvy Blogger
Tuesday, August 25th: The Reading Date
Wednesday, August 26th: Time 2 Read
Thursday, August 27th: Life is Story
Friday, August 28th: Bookshelf Fantasies
TBD: Lavish Bookshelf
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Review: The Race For Paris

The Race For Paris
by Meg Waite Clayton

Why did you choose this book? the idea of women correspondents during WWII intrigued me
When did you read this book? August 2015
Who should read this book? readers of WWII era historical fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
Here is a synopsis of The Race For Paris from Goodreads

The New York Times bestselling author of The Wednesday Sisters returns with a moving and powerfully dynamic World War II novel about two American journalists and an Englishman, who together race the Allies to Occupied Paris for the scoop of their lives

Normandy, 1944. To cover the fighting in France, Jane, a reporter for the Nashville Banner, and Liv, an Associated Press photographer, have already had to endure enormous danger and frustrating obstacles—including strict military regulations limiting what women correspondents can do. Even so, Liv wants more.

Encouraged by her husband, the editor of a New York newspaper, she’s determined to be the first photographer to reach Paris with the Allies, and capture its freedom from the Nazis.

However, her Commanding Officer has other ideas about the role of women in the press corps. To fulfill her ambitions, Liv must go AWOL. She persuades Jane to join her, and the two women find a guardian angel in Fletcher, a British military photographer who reluctantly agrees to escort them. As they race for Paris across the perilous French countryside, Liv, Jane, and Fletcher forge an indelible emotional bond that will transform them and reverberate long after the war is over.

Based on daring, real-life female reporters on the front lines of history like Margaret Bourke-White, Lee Miller, and Martha Gellhorn—and with cameos by other famous faces of the time—The Race for Paris is an absorbing, atmospheric saga full of drama, adventure, and passion. Combining riveting storytelling with expert literary craftsmanship and thorough research, Meg Waite Clayton crafts a compelling, resonant read.

My Review

Though I didn’t pick this one up for the cover, I do love the cover with those eyes peeking out over the vintage camera!

I picked this book up because it is WWII fiction about women in unusual roles (that that era.) This one did not disappoint. The writing is beautifully descriptive, even when the descriptions are not of beautiful situations. If you’ve ever wondered what it must have felt like to be hunkered in a foxhole with bullets whizzing overhead, this novel will let you feel that and more. I can’t say I enjoyed every moment of the book, because there were some sad and disturbing events that took place. However, this story was set during war times and these events felt real.

One thing I really appreciated about the novel is that each chapter began with a quote from a real journalist who covered the war. It not only introduced the events of the chapter but gave a feeling of authenticity to the book. The quotes let me know that these events and feelings were not all in the imagination of the author. I am amazed at what these women were willing to endure to get their stories!

I stumbled across this interview with Meg before I read the book and am so glad I did. It gave me a little background on the real women correspondents of WWII. I encourage you to listen to it here.

You will also want to visit Meg’s webpage for some background information about these women. I am so glad she took the time to bring them to life!

About Meg Waite Clayton

Meg Waite Clayton is the New York Times bestselling author of four previous novels: The Four Ms. Bradwells; The Wednesday Sisters; The Language of Light, a finalist for the Bellwether Prize; and The Wednesday Daughters. She’s written for the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the San Jose Mercury News, Forbes, Writer’s Digest, Runner’s World, and public radio. A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, she lives in Palo Alto, California.

Find out more about Meg at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

My Rating:  ★★★★    4 Stars

This book review is included in a tour by TLC Book Tours. I was provided a copy for review purposes.

Meg's Tour Stops
Monday, August 17th: Time 2 Read
Tuesday, August 18th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, August 19th: BookNAround
Thursday, August 20th: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Monday, August 24th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Wednesday, August 26th: Man of La Book
Thursday, August 27th: Raven Haired Girl
Monday, August 31st: FictionZeal
Tuesday, September 1st: Becca Rowan
Wednesday, September 2nd: Doing Dewey
Thursday, September 3rd: Dwell in Possibility
Friday, September 4th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Monday, September 7th: Diary of an Eccentric
Tuesday, September 8th: Anita Loves Books
Wednesday, September 9th: West Metro Mommy
Thursday, September 10th: Literary Lindsey
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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Review: Baker's Blues

Baker’s Blues
Bread Alone #3
by Judith Ryan Hendricks

Why did you choose this book? the synopsis was interesting
When did you read this book? August 2015
Who should read this book? readers who enjoy ‘foodie’ fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
Here is a synopsis of Baker’s Blues from Goodreads

In Wyn Morrison’s world a 5 A.M. phone call is rarely good news. It usually means equipment trouble at her bakery or a first shift employee calling in sick—something annoying but mundane, fixable. But the news she receives on a warm July morning is anything but mundane. Or fixable.

Mac, her ex-husband, is dead.

He’s not just in a different house with another woman, but actually, physically gone. Ineligible for widowhood, Wyn is nonetheless shaken to her core as she discovers that the fact of divorce offers no immunity from grief.

As Mac's executor, Wyn is now faced with not only sorting his possessions and selling the house, but also with helping his daughter Skye deal with financial and legal aspects of the estate--a task made more difficult by Skye’s grief, anger and resentment.

Ironically, just when Wyn needs support most, everyone she’s closest to is otherwise occupied. Her mother and stepfather have moved to Northern California, her best friend CM has finally married the love of her life and is commuting to New York, and her protégé Tyler is busy managing the bakery and dealing with her first serious love affair. They’re all sympathetic, but bewildered by her spiral into sadness. After all, it’s been three years since the divorce.

On her own, she stumbles at first. For the last several years Wyn has been more businesswoman than baker, leaving the actual bread making to others. Now, as she takes up her place in the bread rotation once more, she will sift through her memories, coming to terms with Mac and his demons, with Skye’s anger, and with Alex, who was once more than a friend. Soon she will re-learn the lessons that she first discovered at the Queen Street Bakery in Seattle…that bread is a process--slow, arduous, messy, mysterious--and best consumed with the eyes closed and the heart open.

My Review

I picked this one up because the synopsis sounded so interesting. If you enjoy ‘foodie’ fiction, you should enjoy this one. I could almost smell the yeast and flour and the baking bread as I read this….and it made me hungry! I also really enjoyed the food scenes when Wyn’s friend and fellow restaurant owner prepared dinners for her.

As the story opens, Wyn’s ex-husband, Mac, has just died in a drowning accident, and in this book, she retraces her time with him. She also helps his daughter, Skye, deal with the loss of the father she didn’t get to know until she was about 16.

This book was an emotional read, and at times a bit depressing. We really get to see how depression affects not only the person suffering from depression, but also those close to him. It was difficult to watch Mac go through this. I really didn’t like him very much through much of the book, though that changed as I got to know him.

This is the third book in a series, and though it works as a stand-alone, I highly recommend you pick up the first two books first. I really think I would have enjoyed the book more if I’d known the background story of how Wyn came to own the bakery. I also think I may have liked Mac better from the beginning had I read the previous books. As it was, I felt a bit like Skye must have felt, wishing I’d known Mac before his depression took over.

About Judith Ryan Hendricks

Judith Ryan Hendricks was born in San Jose, California, when Silicon Valley was the Santa Clara Valley, better known for orchards than for computer chips.
Armed with a degree in journalism, she worked as a journalist, copywriter, computer instructor, travel agent, waitress and baker before turning to fiction writing. Her experiences at the McGraw Street Bakery in Seattle led to her first novel, Bread Aloneand the sequel, The Baker’s Apprentice.
A life-long infatuation with the Southwest provided inspiration for Isabel’s Daughter and her fourth book, The Laws of Harmony. Hendricks’ fiction has been translated into 12 languages and distributed in more than 16 countries worldwide.
Her nonfiction has appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle and Tiny Lights, A Journal of Personal Essay, Grand Gourmet in Italy and The London Sunday Express. Her short fiction has appeared in Woman’s Weekly in Britain and AMERICAN GIRLS ON THE TOWN, an anthology, in the U.S. and U.K.
She lives in New Mexico with husband Geoff and dog Blue.
Connect with Judi at her website,

My Rating:  ★★★    3 Stars

This book review is included in a tour by TLC Book Tours. I was provided a copy for review purposes.

Judith’s Tour Stops
Monday, August 3rd: Farmgirl Fare – Review & A Conversation with the Author
Monday, August 3rd: Thoughts on This and That
Tuesday, August 4th: Kahakai Kitchen
Tuesday, August 4th: Jorie Loves a Story – guest post
Wednesday, August 5th: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, August 6th: Griperang’s Bookmarks
Friday, August 7th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Monday, August 10th: I Wish I Lived in a Library
Wednesday, August 12th: Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, August 12th: Time 2 Read
Friday, August 14th: Walking with Nora
Monday, August 17th: Guiltless Reading
Tuesday, August 18th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, August 19th: Bibliotica – review and author Q&A
Thursday, August 20th: 5 Minutes for Books
Monday, August 24th: girlichef
Tuesday, August 25th: BookNAround
Wednesday, August 26th: Bell Book and Candle
Thursday, August 27th: Thoughts from an Evil Overlord

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Review: In The Language of Miracles

In The Language Of Miracles
by Rajia Hassib

Why did you choose this book? The synopsis hooked me
When did you read this book? August 2015
Who should read this book? readers who enjoy coming-of-age stories
Source: Penguin First To Read
Here is a synopsis of In The Language Of Miracles from Penguin First To Read

Samir and Nagla Al-Menshawy appear to have attained the American dream. After immigrating to the United States from Egypt, Samir successfully works his way through a residency and launches his own medical practice as Nagla tends to their firstborn, Hosaam, in the cramped quarters of a small apartment. Soon the growing family moves into a big house in the manicured New Jersey suburb of Summerset, where their three children eventually attend school with Natalie Bradstreet, the daughter of their neighbors and best friends. More than a decade later, the family’s seemingly stable life is suddenly upended when a devastating turn of events leaves Hosaam and Natalie dead and turns the Al-Menshawys into outcasts in their own town.

Narrated a year after Hosaam and Natalie’s deaths, Rajia Hassib’s heartfelt novel follows the Al-Menshawys during the five days leading up to the memorial service that the Bradstreets have organized to mark the one-year anniversary of their daughter’s death. While Nagla strives to understand her role in the tragedy and Samir desperately seeks reconciliation with the community, Khaled, their surviving son, finds himself living in the shadow of his troubled brother. Struggling under the guilt and pressure of being the good son, Khaled turns to the city in hopes of finding happiness away from the painful memories home conjures. Yet he is repeatedly pulled back home to his grandmother, Ehsan, who arrives from Egypt armed with incense, prayers, and an unyielding determination to stop the unraveling of her daughter’s family. In Ehsan, Khaled finds either a true hope of salvation or the embodiment of everything he must flee if he is ever to find himself.

Writing with unflinchingly honest prose, Rajia Hassib tells the story of one family pushed to the brink by tragedy and mental illness, trying to salvage the life they worked so hard to achieve. The graceful, elegiac voice of In the Language of Miracles paints tender portraits of a family’s struggle to move on in the wake of heartbreak, to stay true to its traditions, and above all else, to find acceptance and reconciliation.

My Review

This one is a hard one to rate. At times it moves very slowly and some of the characters are a little annoying. I was really tempted to put the book aside several times, and even after I finished, I would probably have only given the book 2, or maybe 2-½ stars. But amazingly, one week after I finished this book, it has stuck with me. I can’t seem to stop thinking about Khaled and his situation. I’ve always felt that maybe the survivors of a criminal are also victims who suffer loss, and this book really shows that side of a crime.This would be a good book club selection

Let me tell you a bit about what I liked. First, even though there were characters I found unlikeable (Samir and Nagla, the parents), there were a couple of characters I liked very much. I liked Khaled, the main character. His feelings of being victimized by both his brother, who left the family behind to suffer the consequences when he murdered the girl next door, and by the community, who chose to look at him with suspicion as a Muslim, felt very real. I also loved his grandmother, Ehsan, an old Egyptian woman who barely spoke English. While she may not have been well educated or ‘smart’, she was definitely wise. One thing I really appreciated was her continuous praying over the ‘everyday’ in her life, constantly calling upon God to aid and watch over her and her loved ones. I also liked that at the beginning of each chapter, the author started with a quote in English and then a corresponding quote from Islam. It was a subtle way to point out that Muslims really aren’t very different from Christian Americans.

Now for some of the things I didn’t like so much. The book moves very slowly, especially at the beginning, and it is hard to figure out where the story is going. I didn’t like the characters of Samir and Nagla. Samir is arrogant and is so concerned with his image and with fitting in with his community, that he often sacrifices the well-being of his family. Nagla is sometimes a bit of his doormat, failing standing up to Samir and the actions which affect their children negatively. They have a troubled marriage, and even at the end of the book, after a fairly long epilogue, I am not sure how their story ends.

After thinking about this book all week, I’m raising my rating to 3 stars as an individual read and 4 stars as a book club selection, because it is one of those books that improve greatly with analysis and discussion.

My Rating:  ★★ ★   3 Stars

I was provided an advanced review copy of this book through the Penguin First To Read program. This did not affect my opinion of the book.

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