The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

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The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

A) I didn’t know this was based on a true story

B) I was fascinated by the setting and the story

C) I totally believe in the Fairies now

Hazel Gaynor is one of my most favorite historical fiction writers.  I started with her “Girl from the Savoy” and have read just about everything she has written since then.  This book is her newest and I fell in love with the characters.  It centers on the story from during WWI/WWII of two girls who professed to find fairies in the English countryside.  They re-created pictures to show the family and it spins out of control even eliciting reaction from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  We meet these people through the written words of one of the girls, Frances.  Gaynor uses the present to ground the story, and I also fell in love with the “Something Old” bookshop.  It’s exactly the type of place I’ve always dreamed about working at/owning.

Even my Madeline enjoyed the book!

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Also, Hazel Gaynor is a great follow on Twitter!  When I was in Ireland this past spring, I tweeted her for bookstore recommendations in Dublin and she responded!  Unfortunately I didn’t get to any of them this trip (damn jet lag sickness), but next time!

This coming week I’ll be at the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC and I’ll be pitching my book again.  Hopefully it’ll attract some attention!

 

Recent Book List

Okay, I’ve read a TON of books in the past few weeks.  (Benefits of not being busy at work and there not being anything on TV recently).  So I’ve decided to a bunch of quick notes.  Just to give you an idea of some of the books I’ve taken a stab at this past month and a half.

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Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

The story of one girl and living with the legacy of her “missing” mother.  It touches on the relationship this young woman had with both of her parents and her hope that her mother is somehow still out there.  After her mother was missing for 12 months, the petition to have her declared dead is in the court system.  She starts to have visions of her mother and believes that her mother didn’t actually go missing and is somewhere still out there.  Billie Flanagan, her mother, went out on a hike one day and just didn’t return.  When reading the book, I went back and forth on if Billie was still alive or not.  I received this in my Mystery Pagehabit Box last month and it was definitely a good one.

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Death in Dark Blue by Julia Buckley

This is the second in the Writer’s Apprentice mystery series.  Lena London works as an assistant to celebrated gothic mystery author Camilla Graham.  We learned in the earlier book that her neighbor has been accused of murdering his wife.  He and Lena get closer and find that the woman is actually alive and he was falsely accused.  His wife’s best friend comes to the small town to apologize to him and ends up murdered around his house.  Is he the murderer or does the crazy amount of press in the town have something to do with it.  I enjoyed this entry in the series and want to read more.  I won this copy in a contest with the author on Facebook…it’s the best place to get book recommendations!

Now, to the fantasy series:

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A Court of Thrones and Roses by Sarah J Maas

Um, so I devoured the three books in this series without even really loving it.  Lots of violence, lots of sex, and lots of vulgar language.  Now, I’m no prude, but I couldn’t believe this was a Young Adult novel.  It definitely felt adult to me.  I liked that the story had a definitive ending after the third book, and even if the author writes more, I don’t know if I’d pick it up.  There were faires, monsters, sorcerers, shapeshifters, and all manner of terrifying things.  The main character is taken from her family and sent to live with one of the creatures that terrorized her town/life.  The story follows the highs and lows of that.  Almost like a Beauty and the Beast sort of thing.

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The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

This is the much better series of the two fantasy series in my opinion.  I’m on the third book now and love it.  The first book is the story of the new Queen of the Tearling, Kelsea, and her journey to the throne.  There is vague talk about the “Crossing” that we learn more about in the second (and third) books that I found to be fascinating.  These books felt a little bit more grounded to me, which I liked.  Even with a bit of magic involved, it never feels gratuitous.  I would definitely read more by this author.

Now, for my wheelhouse…books set in WWI and WWII

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Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff

This book travels between both WWI and WWII which was super interesting.  Lady Katherine Trenowyth grows up in the Hall but leaves in scandal and disgrace.  Her daughter, born Anna Trenowyth is now a nurse in WWII brought home after an accident.  When she finds out her adoptive parents have been killed during the Blitz (so sad), she is assigned to assist at a hospital located at Nanreath hall, the same place her mother grew up.  She decides to try and find out more about her mother and then her father.  The twist about her father in the end made me gasp out loud.  I had thought something totally different.  If Downton Abbey was your thing, this book would work for you.

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Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson

This was my favorite.  I LOVED everything about this one.  A plucky heroine, a dashing man in uniform, journalism!  Ruby Sutton is sent to London to cover the war and quickly learns how to survive bombings (the Blitz), British food, and heartbreak.  She ends up falling for her editor’s best friend, Captain Bennett, but through fits and starts.  She also continues to file stories reflecting on the every day happenings in wartime London with her trusty photographer Mary.  It’s just a beautifully told story and WWII comes to life in it.  Robson’s other books are great as well.  One of my favorite authors!

This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber

I’m a HUGE Anna Lee Huber fan.  I’ve read her Lady Darby mysteries probably since they started, and I couldn’t wait for her new series that just came out as well.  The first of her new series was “Secrets in the Mist”.  It was a gothic mystery and was super atmospheric and suspenseful.  I loved it.  I remember buying the book, but then it somehow disappeared in my massive amount of TBR books.  So, I ended up buying it again for my reader just so I could read it!

I’ve joined her Facebook group for fans, and she recently gave away copies of her next new series about Verity Kent.  And I won!  I was so excited to read this (and ironically the book was coming out on my 35th birthday this year (in September).

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This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber

In the immediate aftermath of WWI, Verity Kent is a young woman whose newish husband was reported killed in action.  She gets invited to a party on an Island by her husband’s close friend.  She wasn’t going to go, but then she receives mysterious letters that summon her to the island with the threat of her husband being involved with treason against the Crown.  On her way to the island, she runs into a man who was also summoned to the island in mysterious fashion as well.

The book has an undertone of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” (one of my favorite spooky Christie books….a definite must read).  Several other party goers are found dead under mysterious circumstances, so Verity and her new friend Max wonder if it has something to do with the summons that brought them to the island.

I love that Verity is a strong woman, quite ahead of her time and sort of ostracized by the other women at the party.  She even worked for the British Secret Service during the War (which I can’t wait to find out more about).  There were several twists that I honestly didn’t see coming, and it made so much sense when I thought about it afterwards.  I loved it and can’t wait to continue the series!

Time Travelling Goodness

Time travel is my new favorite thing to read about.  In fact, my most recently writing project has elements of travelling through time in it.

The first book I want to talk about is:

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The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn

In some undetermined/unmentioned period of time a mysterious institute recruits people to travel back in time during different periods.  Two of these people are recruited to go back to 1851 to meet Jane Austen and find an unpublished manuscript of hers for the leader of the institute.  Rachel is a doctor and her partner Liam is an actor.  Unceremoniously dropped in a field outside of London, the two have to use their wits and limited resources to secure entrée into the world of the Austen family.  It’s always fun to have modern people in a time period so unlike their own.  It shows how resourceful one can be.

They befriend Jane’s brother, Henry and work towards their goal of finding the manuscript and letters from the family to Jane.  Rachel and her “brother” Liam end up firmly entrenched in the Austen family, even going so far as to lead them on romantically, all the while keeping their relationship (or lack thereof) a secret.  The time period they are sent to is also about the time Jane got sick, prior to her death.  Rachel then has to determine if she uses her medical knowledge to diagnose Jane’s illness and change the future of possibly one of the world’s greatest writers, or let history play out the way it was.

The book plays on a lot of different themes, and it’s interesting to see how what one does in the past might affect the future at large.  Plus, Jane Austen is awesome.

The second book is quite a bit different and involves time travel and magic.

 

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The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.: A Novel by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland

This takes a similar pretense, travel back in time to change the future, but involves much more science and witches.  The science was mind-numbing, but basically some dude made a machine that allowed witches to practice magic, but it was now going to be used by a government agency to send people back in time and “tweak” things for a favorable outcome.  (Once such case was never having Russia as part of the Crimea, so that whole war thing never happened).  This involves going to pre-Shakespeare London, pre-American Revolution Massachusetts, and the 13th century Constantinople.

The premise is that magic disappeared in 1851, possibly by the advent of photography.  D.O.D.O (Department of Diachronic Operations) is created to make a network of witches and complete missions throughout history.  As the department progress, it become bogged down in bureaucracy and governmental red-tape, which I’m familiar with after working with the government for years.  It’s a long book, and the final 200 pages are the best in my opinion because it turns into a heist book with the time travel and magic throw in.

So if that’s your thing, it’s a good hefty read.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I’m having a day today.  I’m just not in the mood for anything. The job is just not working for me, the Government is a mess, and it feels like I’m taking crazy pills.

So let me tell you about a book I devoured in probably two days.  I’m obsessed with Old Hollywood.  The 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s were a fascinating time in our nation’s history, and the life the stars led in and around Hollywood is just filled with juicy details.  You’d think it’s fiction, but it’s not!

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Evelyn Hugo is an aging star who has worked through decades in the industry and is now ready to turn it all in.  Her daughter had recently passed away from cancer, so she decides to sell her collection of famous gowns in order to donate the money to a cancer charity.

Monique Grant is an author working at a magazine and get the honor of being personally handpicked to ostensibly write an article about the artist and her gowns.  When she shows up, she soon learns that Evelyn instead wants to dictate her life story to her.  She starts by asking Evelyn a relatively simple question.  “Who was the love of your life?”

The story follows her chronologically through her seven husbands to try and answer that question.  There is a twist that I won’t spoil, but you can figure it out if you read between the lines of the early chapters.

In my head, I pictured Evelyn as an Elizabeth Taylor type character (which, you should read anything you can about her as well…so good).

She wanted to be famous, she wanted to be an actress, and she wanted to be loved.  She worked hard to get to where she was at, even at times doing things that might not be considered good in a modern world.

Monique also spends the book trying to figure out why she was chosen by Evelyn herself to write this book.  It turns out they have a pretty unexpected connection that I definitely didn’t see coming.  I thought she was going to be her child or something crazy like that.  Just know that is not the case.

I got this book through my Book of the Month membership…which I highly recommend to everyone.  I even got a copy of Elin Hildebrand’s new book (my mom is a huge fan) at a substantial discount from the bookstores.  The month prior I got Paula Hawkins “Into the Water” also at a discount.

If you want to sign up, use my link below!

My Book of the Month!

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

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The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Did you know that there was a whole network of women spies during World War I?  I didn’t.  I knew there were women involved in espionage during the 2nd World War, but I never really thought about the war before.  I guess it only makes sense.  Women want to fight for their country as much as most men, they are just not given the same opportunities especially at that time.

While the main characters of this book are fictional (according to the author), she uses two real life women to propel the story.  The head of the “Alice Network” is Lili (real name unknown until the end).  In 1915, a young woman with a stutter, Eve is desperate to join the war.  She is stuck filing and is recruited by a dashing Captain who sees her potential.  Another real life member of this network, Captain Cameron is one of the main architects of this network.  He trains Eve and sends her into France to infiltrate a café run by a collaborator and visited by German officers.  With the help of two other members of the network, she learns important information and passes it along.

The story is weaved into the tale of a woman in 1947 who is searching for her cousin who went missing in WWII from a similar restaurant and town.  It turns out that Eve is the last person to know what happened to the owner of the café and has her own reasons to search for him.  Charlie St. Clair taps Eve and her driver to help her search for her cousin.  The story weaves between Eve and Charlie, and we learn more about what women had to go through in the war in order to survive and help the war effort abroad.

These types of stories are amazing to me.  Especially after just watching Wonder Woman and knowing the women can be the fiercest of fighters and protectors.  Even though men at the time denied their influence, this network of spies provided information that could’ve turned the war around.  As it is today, sometimes men don’t listen to the information that women give them, and they miss valuable opportunities.  The women portrayed in this book are heroes and should be celebrated as such.

The Other Einstein: A Novel by Marie Benedict

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The Other Einstein: A Novel by Marie Benedict

Science!  Okay, not one of my best subjects.  I’m fascinated by smart people, but all the math is very intimidating.  I’ll stick with my literature and writing thank you very much.

So, we all know Einstein and the theory of relativity.  But did you know he wasn’t always the crazy white haired guy with the bushy mustache that we think of him as?  Before he became science famous, he was a student attending a prestigious physics academy where he met his first wife.  This book is about her and her journey in Einstein’s circle.

Mitza Maric is a young girl from Eastern Europe who has an affinity for math and learning the physics of the world.  Marred with a “deformed” hip that causes her to limp, she hardens her heart against outsiders and with the approval of her father becomes one of the first women to attend school in Zurich.  In a small class of six other men, including Albert Einstein.  They strike up a friendship that later turned into a love affair.  Even though they cement their relationship on a trip to Lake Cuomo which leads to a pregnancy.  At the time, Albert became distant and focused on a job search, neglecting Mitza and their soon to be born child.  She has the baby at home but eventually returns to him, leaving the child with her parents.

She finally convinces Albert to marry her to provide for her child.  They never send for their daughter, and Albert almost pretends she doesn’t exist.  An unspeakable tragedy happens, and their tenuous relationship fractures even more.  The book posits that Mitza helped refine Albert’s theory of relativity, even coming up with the main idea herself.  She finds her name expunged from the records of the findings, and slowly slips into a deep depression.  Finding her way out consumes the rest of the book, and it definitely doesn’t make Albert seem all that great of a guy in the long run.  Maybe it’s because he’s a genius, but his interpersonal skills so evident in his student days disappear around his wife.

I didn’t know about this part of history, and I find it amazing that this woman could have had a hand in some of the greatest theories of the time.  While there is no proof she authored anything, it is believable that a woman who studied physics would be a sounding board for her equally inquisitive lover.  The book ends on a satisfying note and I would be interested to read more books about women in history and the men they shaped.

 

**Note:  Still querying my novel.  All edited and updated.  Have about 100 queries out there….and will hopefully be able to query more at the Writer’s Digest Conference in August and Bouchercon in October!**