My Reading List – Yet Another Update!

So I have an extensive to be read list which I thought I might share just a little of with you all.  As I read these books, I am reviewing them – these reviews can be found by following the links!

The Vintage Teacup Club, Vanessa Greene

Sleepless in Manhattan, Sarah Morgan

My Sister’s Secret, Tracy Buchanan

Waiting for the Bee Stings, Calvin Wade

The Lies We Told, Diane Chamberlain

The Midwife’s Revolt, Jodi Daynard

The Scandalous Duchess, Anne O’Brien

Montana Cherries, Kim Law

A Letter from America, Geraldine O’Neill

Hunger, Michael Grant

Me Before You, Jojo Moyes (must read this before the movie arrives – next on my TBR list!)

The Tea Planter’s Wife, Dinah Jefferies

The Masked City, Genevieve Cogman (review coming soon!)

Read along with me and let me know what you think!

Book Review: War Brides

The 14th novel I chose to read in the Goodreads Reading Challenge was Helen Bryan’s War Brides.

‘With war threatening to spread from Europe to England, the sleepy village of Crowmarsh Priors settles into a new sort of normal: Evacuees from London are billeted in local homes. Nightly air raids become grimly mundane. The tightening vice of rationing curtails every comfort. Men leave to fight and die. And five women forge an unlikely bond of friendship that will change their lives forever.

Alice Osbourne, the stolid daughter of the late vicar, is reeling from the news that Richard Fairfax broke their engagement to marry Evangeline Fontaine, an American girl from the Deep South. Evangeline’s arrival causes a stir in the village—but not the chaos that would ensue if they knew her motives for being there. Scrappy Elsie Pigeon is among the poor of London who see the evacuations as a chance to escape a life of destitution. Another new arrival is Tanni Zayman, a young Jewish girl who fled the horrors of Europe and now waits with her newborn son, certain that the rest of her family is safe and bound to show up any day. And then there’s Frances Falconleigh, a madcap, fearless debutante whose father is determined to keep her in the countryside and out of the papers.

As the war and its relentless hardships intensify around them, the same struggles that threaten to rip apart their lives also bring the five closer together. They draw strength from one another to defeat formidable enemies—hunger, falling bombs, the looming threat of a Nazi invasion, and a traitor in their midst—and find remarkable strength within themselves to help their friends. Theirs is a war-forged loyalty that will outlast the fiercest battle and endure years and distance.

When four of the women return to Crowmarsh Priors for a VE Day celebration fifty years later, television cameras focus on the heartwarming story of these old women as war brides of a bygone age, but miss the more newsworthy angle. The women’s mission is not to commemorate or remember—they’ve returned to settle a score and avenge one of their own.’ (synopsis taken from Amazon)

As I may already have mentioned I am a big fan of historical novels, particularly those set during World War II.  Women played a very important role during those turbulent years in the early 40’s and therefore, quite rightly, they often play a central role in novels set during this period.  This novels title, War Brides, clearly highlights that it is centred on a group of young women during this unsettled period as they support one another during times of love, loss and war.  The novel particularly follows five women; Alice, Evangeline, Elise, Tanni and Frances.  These five women all come from very different backgrounds, but find themselves thrown together in the small village of Crowmarsh Priors.  War brings these women together, as they find the men of the village slowly leave to join the war effort against an increasingly strong German force.  Left behind, these women find themselves fighting the battle on the Home Front as they, alongside women across the country, work hard to ensure their country is able to stay afloat, working the land, working in factories and protecting their homes.

I really enjoyed this novel, and can wholeheartedly recommend it.  My only criticism (if it can be called that) is the number of characters.  Whilst the book does centre on those five women, each has their own backstory and at times I found it difficult to keep track of who was related to who.  That could however be me trying to read the novel after particularly long days at work!  Do not let this put you off though, I found the back stories to be engaging and integral to the story as they showed you why each woman acted the way that she does.  This novel really does highlight the strength of women as they support one another whilst dealing with their own tragedies and losses, and it shows what a group of women can achieve under such traumatic circumstances.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Book Review: The Cherry Tree Cafe

The 13th book in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is The Cherry Tree Cafe by Heidi Swain.  Amazon synopsis states;

‘Lizzie Dixon’s life feels as though it’s fallen apart. Instead of the marriage proposal she was hoping for from her boyfriend, she is unceremoniously dumped, and her job is about to go the same way. So, there’s only one option: to go back home to the village she grew up in and to try to start again.

Her best friend Jemma is delighted Lizzie has come back home. She has just bought a little cafe and needs help in getting it ready for the grand opening. And Lizzie’s sewing skills are just what she needs.
With a new venture and a new home, things are looking much brighter for Lizzie. But can she get over her broken heart, and will an old flame reignite a love from long ago…?’

The Cherry Tree Cafe follows the story of Lizzie Dixon, a young woman who at what she believes to be her happiest moment, is unceremoniously dumped.  Whilst dealing with her heartbreak she finds herself returning home at her best friend Jemma’s request where she starts the journey back to her true self as she slowly discovers what she really wants from life.

Lizzie’s story is sadly all too typical…a young girl falls in love and finds herself changing to please the man that she adores.  It’s only when he is removed from her life that she is able to realise who she truly is, and that she never needed to change herself for the love of a good man.

This is a really light, enjoyable read – perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon in the sunshine (preferably surrounded by a sewing machine, plenty of fabric and some crafty ideas).  My only criticism would be that the romance was slightly lacking.  I enjoyed following Lizzie’s journey, and watching her make mistakes as well as great decisions however I would have enjoyed a little more romance along the way.

If you want a nice easy-read, then this is the book for you.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Book Review: A Letter from America

And so the 12th book in my 2016 Goodreads Reading Challenge is…A Letter from America by Geraldine O’Neill.  The synopsis, as provided by Amazon, is as follows;

‘It is the late 60’s in Tullamore, County Offaly, and life is full of exciting possibilities for Fiona Tracey, as she prepares to leave Ireland to work for a wealthy family in New York.

Fiona’s parents have the local shop and bar, and her younger sisters are already leading independent lives. Bridget is at a convent school preparing to be a nun and Angela has led a life of her own since she was hospitalised up in Dublin for years with childhood polio.

Then, sudden tragedy forces Fiona to postpone her departure for New York. As her mother sinks into illness and depression, her responsibilities mount. When help is offered by her aunt and cousin, Fiona is mystified by her mother’s animosity towards them.

As summer approaches, an American architect, Michael O’Sullivan, takes a room above the bar. Within a short time Fiona finds herself involved in an unexpected and passionate affair.

Then, as a surprising incident threatens Bridget’s vocation, Angela uncovers information which explodes old family secrets.

Before Fiona can embark on an independent life again, perhaps in New York, she must find a new understanding of her family – and of herself.’

This is a lovely story of three very different sisters, hit by tragedy, fighting to find their way in life in 1960’s Ireland.  A Letter from America follows their hopes and dreams, sometimes shattered, but always followed as life twists and turns.

Whilst I did really enjoy this story, I found that none of the sisters stories were in enough detail.  I didn’t feel like I learnt enough about them to really engage with them.  The novel contains stories of love and loss, and despite the fact that I enjoyed reading about them, they didn’t grip me in the way that I had hoped.  Please don’t be put off by these comments though – this book really was an enjoyable read and I certainly wouldn’t want to put you off.  This was a charming book about a troubled family who just want to follow their dreams.  Make a brew, grab some cake and curl up on the sofa with the Tracey sisters!

Rating: 3 stars out of 5