The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society

If I could just give a book *heart eyes* I would.  This book is like a million *heart eyes*.  I read this book between 8am and 3pm in one day!  (Thank goodness for the second to last day of work giving me the time!).

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I wanted to read the book before the Netflix film premiered….and….well…I’m now so ready to watch it.  My Friday night is booked!

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Set immediately after WWII, the book is told in letters.  Mostly between author Juliet and her best friends Sidney (also her publisher) and his sister Sophie (her oldest friend from school).  After acclaim for her wartime work, Juliet is looking for inspiration which comes in the form of a letter from the Channel Island of Guernsey.  Occupied during WWII by Germans, the islanders created their own clandestine society.  Started out of an illicit pig roast, when caught after curfew by Germans, member Elizabeth comes up with the idea for the literary society.  Potato Peel Pie is one of the rationed creations created by islanders.

Juliet receives a letter from Dawsey, former pig farmer, who found her name and address in an old book sold on the island.  Intrigued by the story of the literary society, Juliet starts a correspondence with the members of the group.  Learning their stories, she decided to go to the island for more information.  The islanders welcome her with open arms and open the society’s doors for her.  She learns more about life during the occupation, and starts a relationship with a young girl whose mother was taken off to a Concentration Camp for assisting German prisoners.  The story of Elizabeth and Kit is heartbreaking, but it is interspersed with lovely stories of the rest of the islanders taking over Kit’s care.  It made me want to pack up everything and move to the island.  Even though I had never heard of it until this book!

I honestly can’t say anything bad about this book….other than it was too short!  I need more stories of the cast of characters.  I also can’t wait to watch the show.

Also, it’s a tragic story of how the book was written too.  A labor of love by Mary Ann Shaffer, the book was started in the 1980’s.  By the time it was sold and being worked, she became ill and couldn’t get the stamina to continue writing.  She tapped her niece, Anne Barrows, the only other writer in the family.  She completed the book, but Mary Ann died before seeing how well received the book was.

If you’re in a book club, read this book!  It’s the perfect book to talk about.  Even in the midst of horrible war stories, there is a beautiful heart on this island that is just amazing.

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Anxiety

So, I’ve just recently had several bouts of anxiety that I’m not quite sure how to deal with.  I’m seeking help, b/c it’s annoying to deal with.  I’ve even started having random panic attacks which make every day life hard.  Luckily, they aren’t as severe as others, but still enough to disrupt life.  My anxiety mostly centers around travel, and in August I’m trying to head down to NYC for the Writer’s Digest Conference.  Everything is booked….and I was supposed to go last year….but that darn anxiety got the best of me.  So, here’s hoping that I can get my stuff together for a four day trip out of town.

Which, leads me to the book I want to talk about in this post.

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Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillan

Now, you might be saying to yourself….”what is Nicole talking about….this looks like a good old fashioned historical mystery, not some treatise on anxiety.”  And you’d be right.  It is a good old fashioned historical mystery (set in Boston no less!).  BUT it also depicts a character who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks as well.  And it doesn’t define him in the end, and he learns how to cope with the help of a sassy former debutante.

I get ahead of myself though.  Hamish DeLuca was a going to be a lawyer until a panic attack in the courtroom drove him from Toronto to Boston where his cousin was setting up the new Flamingo nightclub.  Regina Van Buren (yes, one of those Van Buren’s), Reggie to her friends, escaped a mundane life of high society in Connecticut to become the secretary for Hamish’s cousin.  She always wanted to be like the self-sufficient women she saw at the pictures, and this is the first step to her new life.  The office is located in the North End, with cannoli’s galore, and shady characters around every turn.

The Flamingo opens to great success, and becomes even more of a destination when a dead body is found in the club.  Hamish and Reggie think it’s murder, while everyone else wants to sweep it under the rug as a tragic accident.  Is it the mob?  Careless accident?  Jealous boyfriend?  Random gentlemen in the club?  The two decide to crack the case and on the way learn some surprising truths about themselves.

I enjoyed this immensely.  It was a great introduction to the characters and the city of Boston.  I can’t wait to follow the trail of the newly minted detectives in further books!

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Guys, the hype is well deserved for this book. (Now the inaugural book for Jimmy Fallon’s Book Club)

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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

The book reads like a movie.  I was entranced from the first chapter.  In a world with out magic, Zelie remembers a time before the “raid” with her family and their magic.  The current king eradicated the country of magic, which included Zelie’s mother.  As a young diviner, she is considered the lowest of the low and treated as such by the royal guards.  They harass her and other villagers on orders of the King to try and keep them kicked down.  Secretly trained in fighting by Mama Agba, Zelie is constantly searching for a way to help her family and friends.  Then suddenly everything changes.

The young princess of the country escapes with a sacred magical object and runs into Zelie while fleeing the guards. Zelie learns that magic isn’t gone forever, but needs to be brought back through a sacred ritual that only she, her brother, and the princess can complete.  Thus starts an adventure across the country.  A large cache of characters come and go in her life that all help lead her to where she needs to go.  Does the Princess really believe in her cause?  Will they make it to the sacred island before time runs out?  Who could she really trust?

The character of Zelie is astounding.  She is a flawed hero that makes mistakes, doubts herself, and tries to do the right thing.  She doesn’t always succeed, which makes the book super realistic even in the midst of the magical fantasy.

I was in it from the beginning.  And then the Author’s note at the back of the book broke me.  As a white woman, I know I can’t understand the struggles of POC in today’s society.  I just know that reading the note at the end and the attached articles make me want to make the world a better place.  This is the same feeling I got reading “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas too…..another great book.  Empathy is important, and I think this world could use more of it, especially with all that is going on in the US right now.#FamiliesBelongTogether

I cannot wait to see this on the big screen….and for the further adventures!  The book ends on a cliffhanger so big that I don’t know how I’m going to make it until the next book comes out.  Thanks Tomi Adeyemi!  One of my favorites of the year!

Current Book Obsessions

I have a lot of books in my TBR pile.  Like, a lot.  Up to about 400.  So, I’ve been trying to read like a crazy person to put a dent in the pile.  But, I’ve become obsessed with a few series over the past few months that I just had to talk about.

First, The Red Queen Series by Victoria Aveyard.

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The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Currently at four books (and some short stories), this series hooked me from the first book.  Mare Barrow lives in a world that is divided by blood.  Mainly, the ruling “Silvers” and the lowly “Reds”.  There is an undercurrent of rebellion in the red community, but Mare doesn’t have the drive to join the group until all her brothers are conscripted into the never ending war against the Lakelanders.  The Reds are used as cannon fodder for the Silver soldiers.  When given the opportunity to work in the palace of the Silver king, she takes the opportunity.  When a freak accident at the Queens trial reveals that Mare is something all together new, the manipulative Queen Elara brings her into the fold of the family under the guise of helping her family.  The Silvers have various powers that can  be called upon, and now Mare is found to have powers that were never seen before.  Known as a “newblood”, Mare must navigate family politics, dangerous Silvers, and the growing rebellion in the Red camp.

The next few books in the series follow the rebellion….does Mare join up with the rebels?  Will she survive against the Queen?  Can she find and save other New bloods?  I just got the fourth book, War Storm, and it’s crazy big.  But I’m cracking it open this weekend and hope I can spend the time out on the deck with the cats and a breeze.

The second obsession, The Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir

 

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Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Huh.  Weird…..this is also a book that involves an overpowering regime and a scrappy band of rebels.  With supernatural elements.  I think I sense a theme.

Laila, daughter of notorious rebels, escapes arrest in which her grandparents are murdered and her brother captured.  She finds her way to the same rebels her mother worked for and promises to spy in the notorious military academy in exchange for breaking her brother out of prison.  Of course, things aren’t always as they seem.  She encounters the sadistic martial of the academy, but also manages to make an uneasy alliance with Elias, the unwilling student looking for a way out.  Oh yeah, and he’s also the daughter of the head of the school.  There is an element of mystery that there is some shadowy figure looking to take over the ruling party, but that doesn’t really play out until the next book.  The newest book, A Reaper at the Gates, just came out and again it’s on my pile to read and I can’t wait to crack that one open too!

Another obsession is the author V.E. Schwab (Victoria Schwab)

Not only is she a great follow on the twitter/Instagram, her writing is just so good.

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Vicious by V.E. Schwab

The first book in the Villains duology.   Victor and Eli were college roommates from different sides of the tracks.  They became best friends until a shared research project goes horribly wrong, killing a person and leaving them with “extraordinary abilities.”  The book jumps forward ten years, Victor was in prison for attempted murder, and Eli is on a separate mission to get rid of those with these extra abilities.  Once friends, now arch enemies, this book leads to their ultimate showdown.  The second book in the series comes out this fall, Vengeful, and I”ve already pre-ordered it.

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A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

The Shades of Magic series shows the parallel worlds of London (Red, Grey, White, and the mysterious Black London).  Kell is the last of his kind who can travel between Londons with the help of a special token and magic.  Some London’s have more magic (Red, White), while the other London has no magic (Grey).  Kell is protected in his own London by being best friends with the Prince, and has determined to be his bodyguard as well.

When a trip to Grey London goes wrong, he encounters Delilah Bard, a thief with aspirations of being a pirate.  One of my favorite characters ever BTW.  She saves him, and he repays her by spiriting her away to another world.  The books provide a nice bit of escapism that we so desperately need in this world now.  I’m in the midst of the third book, A Conjuring of Light, at the moment, so I hope it continues to blow me away.

Finally, I just finished this book last night, and it was so good.

 

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A Different Kind of Evil by Andrew Wilson

I didn’t know this was the second in the series, but I really enjoyed it anyway.  So, it’s Agatha Christie, crime-fighter!  She’s still the same person, but now she finds herself assisting the British Secret Intelligence Service,  investigating a murder of an agent in the Canary Islands.  She is also using it as an excuse to continue her next novel and also get away from the drama in her life in England.  Traveling with her secretary Carlo, and young daughter Rosalind, she boards a cruise ship to head to her destination.  While on board, she witnesses a suicide.  Saddened by the event, she continues on the trip to the resort that she intended.  Featuring a diverse set of characters, Agatha finds herself in many precarious situations as she investigates the murder (s) on the island.  I was a big fan of this mystery and will probably go back and read the first one too!

And now, something completely different:

If you are horrified like I am at the thought of children being separated from their asylum seeking families at the border, please consider marching next weekend (June 30th) in support and also donating money to an organization to help those families become reunited.

One such organization is https://www.raicestexas.org/ their site has been inundated with support, and they have links to follow for other information.  #resist

 

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

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Love and Ruin by Paula Mclain

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This historical fiction is based on the real life marriage of Ernest Hemmingway and Martha Gellhorn (whose name tried to autocorrect as I wrote this….which is a travesty).

I’m not going to pretend that I knew all that much about Martha Gellhorn before diving into this book.  And while a fan of some of Hemingway’s work, I was more of a fan of his house in Key West overrun with six-toed cats.  This book paints a devastating picture of a woman trying to “have it all” with a tempestuous (insert another word for verbally abusive and jerkish) man considered a “genius” at the time.

Martha Gellhorn became one of the fiercest women reporters of wartime, embedding herself in with the Spanish Civil War.  She survived bombings, midnight raids, and even crossed borders by herself in a time when women weren’t exactly expected to that.  Even when forbidden to go over and cover D-Day, she snuck onto a hospital ship and was one of the first reporters on the scene of the devastating attack.

All that pales in comparison to her crazy war like marriage to Hemingway.  The book does a good job of showing Martha trying not to lose herself, even when faced with the love of her lifetime in Hemingway.    They met while he was still married, and she was still living at home.  It wasn’t until they were together in Spain covering the war that they began their affair.  Through the Spanish Civil War, life in Cuba, and his divorce, the book follows the years they were together and while they were apart.  It’s not a very flattering portrait of Hemingway, but it made me want to learn so much more about Gellhorn.  What an amazing woman who had one weakness which was Ernest and their life in Cuba.

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen

I’m gonna say it.  I love Rhys Bowen.  Her Molly Murphy & Royal Spyness series are just delightful.  I started with the Molly Murphy series and blew through those so quickly….I anxiously await the next one (book 17!).  Molly is a spunky Irish Immigrant living in turn of the century NYC and I just love the character so much!

But, the reason I’m here is because Net Galley & Berkley Publishing gave me the opportunity to read the latest in the Royal Spyness series (book 12!) coming out August 7.

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Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen

It was kind of fun reading this book with less than a week to go before the next Royal Wedding (Harry & Meghan forever!).  Lady Georgiana Rannoch is 35th in line to the throne and engaged to the dreamy Darcy O’Mara.  While related to royalty, she is not wealthy and at the beginning of the book living in her friend’s house using her maid.  Trying to find an apartment/house that both her and Darcy could afford was proving to be difficult.  Luckily, one of her mother’s former husbands (of which she has plenty), who happened to raise Georgie for a time, names her his heir.  He happens to be a world traveler and offers her and Darcy his grand estate for their use.  He only asks for space when he’s home from his various travels.

She readily jumps at the chance.  Prior to the wedding she decides to go up and start getting the house in order.  Upon arrival, she finds a curious set of employees, all different from those that previous worked under her stepfather.  They don’t seem to be the usual sort of servants, and Georgie tries her hardest to whip them into shape and get the house back in tip top shape.  Her old maid, Queenie (her of the “Bob’s your uncle) comes on board, and her mother comes to stay as well.  Mysterious happening occurs, and a very Jane Eyre situation rears it’s head.  I thought I knew what part of the mystery was, but the end was still a surprise with a twist.

The wedding itself between Darcy and Georgie gets rushed at the end, I would’ve liked to see more of the wedding itself.  BUT, the mystery of the book was great, and I still enjoy the characters very much.

I can’t wait for the next one!  See where Darcy and Georgie go now they are married.  Maybe duel spy missions?

Ruth Ware

Ruth Ware has quickly become one of my favorite authors.

It started when I read this book:

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The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Those who know me, know I have a few big fears.  Fire is one.  Cruise ships are another.  Being gaslighted is another.  This book checks two of those boxes for me, and I was hooked.  Did the main character witness a murder on a cruise ship?  It is a small cruise but there is something weird going on about it.  And I LOVED it.  A great thriller.  So, when her next book came out, I was onboard right away.

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The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

This book is set in a mysterious town in England near a boarding school.  It centers on four “friends” and how they survived during the school year and how they reconnect later.  Again, it’s a creepy thriller, and Ruth Ware is amazing with getting into psychology of women and friendship relationships.  Each time I read her book, I learn something new about female friendships.

So, I decided after reading these two books to go back and read her first book.

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in a dark, dark wood by Ruth Ware

This was my favorite of her books!  I’m so upset I didn’t read this sooner.  It’s a cabin based murder mystery, which I love!  A group of “friends” meet to celebrate one of their own getting married.  The reader learns bits and pieces about the relationship of those in the house, all while flashing between what happened in the cabin, and what is now happening in the present.  Leonora is the friend who doesn’t really know why she was invited to her old friend’s party, but succumbs to peer pressure to attend.  We first see her stumbling out of the woods covered in blood.  But who’s blood is it?  The book flashes back to the time in the cabin where we learn more about what exactly happened.  So good!

Ruth Ware’s new book comes out soon, and it looks super creepy and gothic, which I’m totally into right now.  So I’m a bit excited.  If you like twisty female driven thrillers….then Ruth Ware is for you!

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The Death of Mrs. Westaway