Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: Last Christmas In Paris by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb

Life is forever changed without her; without the sense of her somewhere near. ~ Opening of The Last Time in Paris

Last Christmas In Paris by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb
William Morrow, 2017
Fiction (Historical); 400 pgs

It may be surprising to learn I do not often read epistolary novels despite my long standing history in letter writing. It wasn’t that, however, that drew me to The Last Christmas in Paris. It had more to do with the World War I setting and the description of the novel about two young people, one a soldier on the front lines and another, a woman wanting desperately to do her part in the war as well. Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb joined forces to tell their story, doing so through letters.

World War I was supposed to be the war that ended all wars. At the start of the war, spirits were high, and it was believed the end to the fighting was in sight. Thomas Harding, an aspiring college professor, his best friend, Will Elliott and Will’s sister Evelyn believed it too. It was with anticipation, a dash of sadness, and a lot of hope that the two young men went off to war, expecting to be home by Christmas of that same year.

A much older Tom looks back on his life at the start of the novel, revisiting the war through letters he and Evie exchanged over the years, along with a smattering of letters from others as well, including Evie’s best friend Alice and Evie’s brother, Will. The reader is taken along the journey with him, and it is through those letters, the reader gets to know each of the characters, their lives, fears and dreams, as well as experience the horrors of war and how it irrevocably changed them.

At the heart of The Last Christmas in Paris is a love story, one that evolves slowly but undeniably over the course of the letters. Evie and Tom reminisce about their childhood pranks and the fun they had, while at the same time sharing their fears and the dire state of affairs both at home and on the war front. Tom longs to be home, the war a constant reminder of how fragile life is. Evie, on the other hand, longs to be in the thick of it, wanting to see for herself and help out as much as she can. A lady of society, her mother expects her to find comfort in knitting socks and gloves for the soldiers, but Evie wants to do more. Against her mother’s wishes, she volunteers to deliver mail, but even so, she is not completely satisfied.

Tom has worries at home himself—his ailing father and a foundering newspaper business with no way to help either. Despite his reservations, he reaches out to an estranged relative for help, which only leads to more problems. The government is coming down hard on the media, demanding they feed their audiences propaganda of a more positive variety instead of focusing on the realities of war.

It took me a moment to get into the flow of the narrative, although the opening section took my breath away. I soon was lost in the letters, wanting to know more and having a hard time not reading “just one more letter” when I had to set the book down.

I fell in love with Tom and Evie. Tom and his love for literature, his support of Evie’s writing and in  being her own person, his protectiveness, and honesty. I admired Evie’s longing for the truth, her will and drive, as well as both hers and Tom’s hearts. I hated to see the letters end, wanting to read more, to be a part of their lives for just a little longer.

Through the letters, the reader gets a sense of the war. The initial optimism to the reality of the damage and heartache the war brings with it—along with the exhaustion, dwindling faith in the cause, and the desperation and pain. There is a definite shift in the characters’ attitudes over the course of the novel. Evie comes to it later than the others, in part because she does not see it firsthand initially.

I enjoyed the historical tidbits, some I know better than others: the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) which assigned women to nonessential roles generally reserved for men in order to free the men to fight; the Order of the Feather, an organization of mainly women whose mission was to shame men at home who were not fighting in the war; the devastation caused at some of the worst battles during the war; and the treatment and stigma of those suffering from a war neuroses, what today we think of as combat fatigue or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is good, especially, to see attention paid to this last given how prevalent it is today. It brings home that this is not a new problem or occurrence.

Reading a novel written in letters creates an intimacy with the characters that one might not get otherwise, but it also limits the view of what is going on outside the letters. Both Gaynor and Webb do a great job of compensating for this overall. I was thoroughly wrapped up Tom and Evie’s story. Events speed up quickly towards the end, almost too quickly, but, emotionally, this book was a real hit with me. By the end, tears were streaming down my face, and I did not want to say goodbye to the characters.

To learn more about Hazel Gaynor and her work, please visit the author on author's website. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

To learn more about Heather Webb and her work, please visit the author on author's website. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about Last Christmas in Paris on the TLC Book Tours route!

Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour.  Review copy provided by publisher for an honest review.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

© 2017, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Wishing For Wednesday: The Secret, Book & Scone Society & A Spoonful of Magic

Can't-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings to spotlight and discuss the books we're excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they're books that have yet to be released. (Based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.)

The two titles I am featuring today first caught my attention because of their titles. You can probably guess why! The mention of books and magic? I can't resist either. And both of these sound right up my alley. 

The Secret, Book & Scone Society (Miracle Springs, North Carolina #1) by Ellery Adams (304 pgs)
Release Date: October 31, 2017 by Kensington
Miracle Springs, North Carolina, is a place of healing. Strangers flock here hoping the natural hot springs, five-star cuisine, and renowned spa can cure their ills. If none of that works, they often find their way to Miracle Books, where, over a fresh-baked “comfort” scone from the Gingerbread House bakery, they exchange their stories with owner Nora Pennington in return for a carefully chosen book. That’s Nora’s special talent—prescribing the perfect novel to ease a person’s deepest pain and lighten their heaviest burden.

When a visiting businessman reaches out to Nora for guidance, she knows exactly which novels will help. But before he can keep their appointment at Miracle Books, he’s found dead on the train tracks.

Stunned, Nora forms the Secret, Book, and Scone Society, a group of damaged souls yearning to gain trust and earn redemption by helping others. To join the society, members must divulge their darkest secret—the terrible truth that brought each of them to Miracle Springs in the first place.

Determined to uncover the truth behind the businessman’s demise, the women meet in Nora’s cramped and cozy bookstore to share stories and trade support. And as they untangle a web of corruption, they also discover their own courage, purpose, and a sisterhood that will carry them through every challenge—proving it’s never too late to turn the page and start over . . . [Goodreads Summary]

A Spoonful of Magic by Irene Radford (304 pgs)
Release Date: November 7, 2017 by DAW
Daphne "Daffy" Rose Wallace Deschants has an ideal suburban life--three wonderful and talented children; a coffee shop and bakery, owned and run with her best friend; a nearly perfect husband, Gabriel, or "G" to his friends and family. Life could hardly be better.

But G's perfection hides dangerous secrets. When Daffy uncovers evidence of his infidelity, her perfect life seems to be in ruins. On their wedding anniversary, Daffy prepares to confront him, only to be stopped in her tracks when he foils a mugging attempt using wizard-level magic.

Suddenly, Daphne is part of a world she never imagined--where her husband is not a traveling troubleshooter for a software company, but the sheriff of the International Guild of Wizards, and her brilliant children are also budding magicians. Even she herself is not just a great baker and barista--she's actually a kitchen witch. And her discovery of her powers is only just beginnning.

But even the midst of her chaotic new life, another problem is brewing. G's ex-wife, a dangerous witch, has escaped from her magical prison. Revenge-bent and blind, she needs the eyes of her son to restore her sight--the son Daffy has raised as her own since he was a year old. Now Daphne must find a way to harness her new powers and protect her family--or risk losing everything she holds dear.
[Goodreads Summary]

Do either of these sound like something you would like to read too?

© 2017, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Tuesday Favorites: A Favorite Book I Want to See Turned Into a Movie & Top Ten Books On My TBR Shelf With Some Sort of Food in the Title

Each week Maureen from Maureen's Books asks participants to share a favorite on the weekly designated topic.

This week's topic is My Favorite Book I Wish They Would Make a Movie Of.

So many of the books I can think of have already been made into movies or will soon be movies. I admit I have a weakness for a well done science fiction movie, and so choosing Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice seemed like a no-brainer. You can find my review of the novel here or click on the cover to go to its Goodreads page.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely ladies at Broke and Bookish.

This week's  Top Ten Tuesday is food related, and when I first sat down to prepare a list, I completely drew a blank. I know I have read a number of books featuring bakeries, restaurants, cafes, and bars, but none of them immediately stood out to me. Suddenly, staring out at me from my bookshelves, however, were several titles that I keep meaning to read with food-type items in the title. And so I am going with that. Here are Ten Books From My Shelves With Food or Food-Type Item In the Title (covers are linked to Goodreads):


The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows


The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender


The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie  by Alan Bradley


Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown


Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel


Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen


Chocolat by Joanne Harris


Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin


Big Cherry Holler by Adriana Trigiani

Have you read any of these? What did you think? What books on your TBR shelf mention a food in the title?

Dessert (and a pumpkin)

© 2017, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

The body lay naked and facedown, a deathly gray, spatters of blood staining the snow around it. ~ Opening of Ancillary Justice

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1) by Ann Leckie
Orbit, 2013
Science Fiction; 410 pgs
Source: Purchased and read at my husband's recommendation.

Goodreads Summary: 
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren--a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose--to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch. 

Ancillary Justice has gotten mixed reviews from friends who have read it. I was not sure what to expect. From the description, I imagined it would be heavy on the technical, and in some ways it was. It took me a moment to get into the mindset of the first person narrator. Breq or Esk One Nineteen or Toren, isn’t your typical narrator. She is an ancillary, a part of a ship. Or rather the ship itself, depending on how you look at it.

In the end, I really liked Ancillary Justice--from the unique viewpoint the novel is told in to Breq herself, both as a whole and as a part. I loved the detailed world Leckie has created and the story she tells here. In the first part of the novel, Breq is on a mission to find someone who has something she wants—or rather, needs.

She runs into someone from her past who needs help, wanted or not. Breq isn’t quite sure why given she didn’t especially care for this person (Severign) when she knew her (or is it him? Gender in this novel is a bit confusing, and I'm not even 100% sure Breq is a woman--in my mind she is, so I went with it here), but she helps anyway.

Breq is passing as human—and does so quite well. She has spent the last twenty years practicing. She’s tough as nails, smart, and resourceful. She is the kind of person who gets things done. I found her relationship with Severign an interesting one. Breq clearly could have left Severign at any point to continue on her mission, and yet she doesn’t. She never quite trusts Severign—and frankly, I didn’t either—but she really has no one else. Nor does Severign.

Ancillary Justice takes the reader back and forth between the past and present as we learn what led up to Breq's current situation, and what she is up to in the here and now. Tension builds as the story progresses. I found it all very intriguing and had trouble pulling myself out of the book when I had to. The second half of the novel especially is more action packed and had me turning pages as fast as I could to find out what would happen next. There are a number of tense moments that had me unsure which direction the book would go.

Leckie has created a complex world, and it is in the telling of Breq’s back story that we more fully get to understand it, including the political climate of the times. She takes an interesting approach in narrating the story, and I imagine it was a challenge to capture the full essence of Breq and just exactly who she—or what—she is. I was quite impressed with this first novel in the trilogy and look forward to reading more by Ann Leckie.

You can learn more about Ann Leckie and her books on her website. She can also be found on Twitter.

© 2017, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

October 2017 TBR List Winner

I hope you all are enjoying your weekend! Mouse was back at soccer today after missing her last game due to illness. The team didn't fare so well, but they had fun playing. Hopefully we will get our Halloween decorations up this weekend--we're running behind if you look at all our neighbors' houses.

Thank you for helping me decide what book from my TBR collection I should read next:

My TBR List is a meme hosted by the awesome Michelle at Because Reading. It’s a fun way to choose a book from your TBR pile to read. The 1st Saturday of every month, I will list 3 books I am considering reading and take a poll as to which you think I should read. I will read the winner that month, and my review will follow (unfortunately, not likely in the same month, but eventually--that's all I can promise). 

I had a great turn out for this month's poll. Thank you to everyone who voted. Forty-one votes total! It started out as a very close race, but the winner ended up taking quite a big lead somewhere in there.

My three choices:

Shadow and Bone (Shadow and Bone #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer

And the winner is:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer!

I hope to read all three of these books before the year is out (wishful thinking, maybe, but one can dream), but I will definitely be diving into Cinder this month. My daughter is happy as she was rooting for this one--anything to do with Cinderella, even if a retelling. I look forward to finally starting the Lunar Chronicles! Thank you again to all who voted!

Have you read read this one? Is there a book you can't wait to get to this month? 

© 2017, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.