Category: book review

#bookreview Love and Pollination by Mari Jane Law

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my candid review.

Love and Pollination by Mari Jane Law, published April 16, 2020 by Dubois Publishing

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A laugh out loud, quirky, adorable book

If you are in need of a pick-me-up sort of book, with quirky, adorable characters, grab yourself a copy of this book because it had me reading into the wee hours of the morning it was so good. I honestly couldn’t put it down.  It’s laugh out loud funny, endearing book filled with larger-than-life characters full of flaws, but you will root for them anyway.

I really loved Perdita and Saul’s story, along with Violet’s good-hearted meddling/matchmaking. As much as I loved Perdita and Saul, I honestly stayed for Violet, because she was the star of the book.

One of the most hilarious books I’ve read this year. Highly recommended.

#HFVBTBlogTours #bookreview #Rhapsody by #MitchellJamesKaplan

REVIEW:

I’m pleased to be on the blog tour for Mitchell James Kaplan’s Rhapsody. Some years ago I saw two biopics from the Golden Age of Hollywood focusing on two titans of the Jazz Age: Cole Porter, Night and Day from 1946 and George Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue from 1945. The moment I heard of Kaplan’s book, I knew I had to have it. I am convinced there needs to be a film about Kay Swift, and a screen adaptation of Kaplan’s Rhapsody is it.

Rhapsody is a joy for music lovers, romantics, and anyone who loves the golden age of entertainment. Kaplan’s lyrical tale of life in the Jazz Age is every bit as worthy of the praise of Fitzgerald. While the novel centers on Kay Swift’s relationship with Gershwin, Kay is rightfully the star here. You don’t always love her, in fact, at times I really didn’t, however following her journey as an artist versus being a wife and mother, which is what she was expected to be, is what is important here. Rhapsody shines a dazzling light on the first woman to write a hit Broadway play in a time where women of her status were told to just live a life of leisure and let men do the work. Her ultinate struggle is our struggle: Is life defined by what others think our happiness should be and soceity mores, or do we follow what sings to our souls? Do we stay in the status quo or do we risk everything to love that kindred spirit that gives us a piece of ecstacy? I ached for her and I celebrated with her.

This one of the best books I’ve read thus far for 2021. Highly recommended. Gimlet drinking optional.

Rhapsody by Mitchell James Kaplan

Publication Date: March 2, 2021
Gallery Books
Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook; 352 pages

Genre: Biographical/Literary/Historical

One evening in 1924, Katharine “Kay” Swift—the restless but loyal society wife of wealthy banker James Warburg and a serious pianist who longs for recognition—attends a concert. The piece: Rhapsody in Blue. The composer: a brilliant, elusive young musical genius named George Gershwin.

Kay is transfixed, helpless to resist the magnetic pull of George’s talent, charm, and swagger. Their ten-year love affair, complicated by her conflicted loyalty to her husband and the twists and turns of her own musical career, ends only with George’s death from a brain tumor at the age of thirty-eight.

Set in Jazz Age New York City, this stunning work of fiction, for fans of The Paris Wife and Loving Frank, explores the timeless bond between two brilliant, strong-willed artists. George Gershwin left behind not just a body of work unmatched in popular musical history, but a woman who loved him with all her heart, knowing all the while that he belonged not to her, but to the world.

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Praise

“Mitchell James Kaplan pens a lilting, jazzy ballad as catchy as a Gershwin tune, bringing to vibrant life the complicated relationship between classically trained composer Kay Swift and free-wheeling star George Gershwin. Their musical bond is as powerful as their passion, and jazz-soaked gin-drenched Broadway is their playground through the tumultuous years of the Great War and Prohibition. Rhapsody will have you humming, toe-tapping, and singing along with every turn of the page.” –Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of THE ALICE NETWORK and THE HUNTRESS

“We all know Gershwin, but how many know he was ‘the man behind the woman,” the conflicted, extraordinary Katherine ‘Kay’ Swift? Mitchell James Kaplan illuminates her in Rhapsody, bringing his impressive knowledge of history, composition, and the heart’s whims to bear on this shining rendition of Swift and Gershwin’s star-crossed love.” –Therese Anne Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of Z and A GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD

“In Rhapsody, Mitchell James Kaplan brings to lyrical life the romance between Kay Swift and George Gershwin. A gifted musician in her own right, Kay was no mere accompanist to Gershwin’s genius; she was a true partner, unfortunately little remembered today. Kaplan’s vivid prose and empathetic characterization shines a spotlight on this remarkable woman who contributed so much to American music.” –Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and Mistress of the Ritz

“Mitchell James Kaplan’s Rhapsody shines a blazing light on the celebrated George Gershwin, uncovering the man behind the legend through the story of the woman he loved, Kay Swift, a brilliant musician caught in the swiftly moving mores of New York’s Jazz Age. Rich with history and packed with intricate detail, Rhapsody soars.” –Randy Susan Meyers, bestselling author of THE WIDOW OF WALL STREET and WAISTED

“Mitchell James Kaplan has captured a whole world in his luminous journey through the jazz age in fast-paced New York City with this love story of composer Kay Swift and the brilliant but elusive George Gershwin. Kay first heard him playing his Rhapsody in Blue, but she was married to a wealthy man and Gershwin could be faithful only to his own genius. Through Broadway theaters and concerts, he was rising so fast that neither the Great Depression, nor the darkening rise of Hitler across the sea, nor the impossible difficulties of writing the first black folk-opera Porgy and Bess could stop him. Through their love affair, Gershwin and Kay gave fire to each other’s music until nothing could derail his meteoric success but time.” –Stephanie Cowell, American Book Award-winning author of CLAUDE AND CAMILLE and THE PHYSICIAN OF LONDON

About the Author

Mitchell James Kaplan graduated with honors from Yale University, where he won the Paine Memorial Prize for Best Long-Form Senior Essay submitted to the English Department. His first mentor was the author William Styron.

After college, Kaplan lived in Paris, France, where he worked as a translator, then in Southern California, where he worked as a screenwriter and in film production.

He lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with his family and two cats.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Sunday, February 14
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Monday, February 15
Review at Reading the Past

Tuesday, February 16
Review at With A Book In Our Hands

Wednesday, February 17
Interview at Jathan & Heather

Thursday, February 18
Review at Rajiv’s Reviews

Monday, February 22
Review at Chicks, Rogues, and Scandals

Tuesday, February 23
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Wednesday, February 24
Feature at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Thursday, February 25
Review at Bibliostatic

Saturday, February 27
Review at Reading is My Remedy

Monday, March 1
Review at Rebecca is Reading

Tuesday, March 2
Review at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, March 3
Review at Crystal’s Library

Friday, March 5
Review at Kellie Butler

Sunday, March 7
Interview at Reader_ceygo

Monday, March 8
Review & Excerpt at Books, Cooks, Looks

Wednesday, March 10
Guest Post at Novels Alive

Thursday, March 11
Review at The Review Crew

Friday, March 12
Review at Novels Alive
Review at Reader_ceygo
Feature at The Lit Bitch
Review at A Darn Good Read
Review at The Enchanted Shelf
Review at View from the Birdhouse

Giveaway

We have 2 paperback copies of Rhapsody by Mitchell James Kaplan up for grabs!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on March 12th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Rhapsody Tour

Book Review: The Sun Will Always Shine by John R. McKay

Not long ago I featured author John R McKay on my Northern Reads series. I was so fascinated with his WWI novel, The Sun Will Always Shine, that I had to read it.

Oh, friends, I’m glad that I did. I was introduced to McKay’s work with his WWII novella, V for Victory, so I was hoping for great things, and he delivered.

What I love about McKay’s writing is his ability put you into the shoes of the characters, and he did it straight away. His characters are nuanced and I felt I was in the middle of the dysfunctional Davenport family with man about town but abusive father Alfie, his cowering wife, sympathetic but abused daughter, and two sons, Charlie and Harry, that have a love/hate relationship with their father.

It’s a tale that sucker-punches you from the beginning until the heartbreaking end. Brothers Charlie and Harry have different ways of coping with life and conflict, and their actions after their father mysteriously disappears, including their reasons to join up in the Great War are prime example.

Every character in The Sun Will Always Shine is so well-developed that just like in life, while we think we have someone figured out, we truly never know them.

McKay’s evocation of the time and place beautiful and his local knowledge of his native Lancashire is on full display. While I’m not a huge fan of battle scenes, it’s clear that the author’s research is impeccable. What drives this story, however, are brothers Charlie and Harry. Their experiences during the war set against the lives they are trying to leave behind will keep you reading.

I was so hooked into this novel that I read it easily in a day or two. Well recommended. Five stars.

The Sun Will Always Shine by John R. McKay

To purchase on Amazon, click here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01IVBN25E/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Book Review: Metropolis by Ellie Midwood

A Must-Read For Film Lovers

Ellie Midwood peers behind the camera in this must-have novel for fans of silent and classic film, if not film period. Exploring the world of Weimar Berlin and German cinema through the eyes of Margot, Grafin von Steinhoff, Ms. Midwood allows readers to go behind the scenes in one of the most ground-breaking films of the silent era, Fritz Lang’s brilliant masterpiece Metropolis. As someone who has seen the titled film, I was curious how Midwood would approach this novel, and I wasn’t disappointed.

What I loved about this book is how it captures what was so revolutionary about silent film: the presence of diversity within the industry, especially women behind the camera. Before the Hays Code overtook in the mid-thirties in Hollywood, the scope of subjects was unparalleled. Margot and her companions richly bring this to life as the reader gets swept away into the bohemian world of musicians, filmmakers, actors, models, and photographers. While reading I could easily hear a Kurt Weill song sung by a chanteuse, all while undertoned by the shadow of pending fascism represented in the brown shirts that would sweep the country just a few years later, forboding the exile of many filmmakers and actors that would become part of Hollywood legend. Those legends, such as Lang, would leave lasting imprints on filmmaking that we feel today. I can’t wait to read the next novel in this series! Highly recommended!

Review rating: 5 stars

Book Review: Milly’s Marvelous Mistakes by Peta Rainford

Milly’s Marvelous Mistakes, Illustrated and Written by Peta Rainford (Dogpigeon Books, February 2020)

Rating: 5 stars

Being the ‘author of a family saga series, I’m always searching for books that not only tell stories but also provide instruction. Having two artists in that series, especially my first one with teenage Lydia, I was immediately intrigued by Milly’s Marvelous Mistakes.

Some of the greatest lessons in life are found in books for young readers. With Milly, one of life’s great lessons is narrated in such a beautiful poetic form: good things require hard work, and to be good, you must also be willing to be bad first. Or as my grand would say, nothing good comes without patience and effort.

In a world of instant gratification, taking the easy way out, and so called “instant success” (which usually never is), we’re reminded that part of life is making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. They make us better people if we’re willing to learn from them, and they make us who we are.

While it’s important to strive for excellence, we can also remember that those bad spots make us unique, and sometimes more prized.

The book is beautifully illustrated with vivid colors and whimsical drawings that bring the story to life.

This is certainly a must give for any child on your list or for teachers of young children. It made me smile through and through.

Milly’s Marvelous Mistakes is available in paperback at Amazon and other fine retailers.

About the author:

Peta writes and illustrates her funny picture books on the Isle of Wight, where she lives with her husband, daughter, and hairy jack russell, Archie. Peta loves going into schools to share her books and inspire children in their writing and art. She has appeared at a number of festivals and other events, including: Barnes Children’s Literature Festival, Isle of Wight Literary Festival, Exmoor Dark Skies Festival and Ventnor Fringe. She is one of the organisers of the inaugural IW Story Festival, taking place in February 2020.

Book Review: Death on the Danube: A New Year’s Murder in Budapest by Jennifer S. Alderson

Today’s blog review features the first cozy mystery debut on the blog and it comes from award-winning author Jennifer S. Alderson.

Death on the Danube: A New Years Murder in Budapest (Travel can be Murder Cozy Mystery Series Book One) by Jennifer S. Alderson (Traveling Life Press, Nov 2019)

Disclosure: Please note that the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission. When you purchase books using my Amazon affiliate link, they compensate me, which helps make this blog possible. Know that I only recommend books that I personally stand behind, or feel could enrich others’ lives.

Rating: Five Stars

This is the first book I’ve read of award-winning author Jennifer S. Alderson, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Her characters shine as former investigative journalist turned tour guide puts sleuthing to the test as she has to unravel a case of murder amidst a group of seemingly wealthy guests through the cultural beauty of Budapest.

I immediately fell in love with tour group owner Dotty and her friend Sally, as well as the Fabulous Five: a group of five widows who travel together regularly. Characters Carl, Helen, and Tom were all shifty as I worked to unravel their facades.

I normally can guess the murderer in most stories, but Aldersan had me guessing till almost the very end, a true testament to her craft.

If you like your murder served with a side of culture and brandy, pick up Death on the Danube.

To purchase:

Book Review: The Poseidon Network by Kathryn Guaci

Disclosure: Please note that the link below is an affiliate link and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission. When you purchase books using my Amazon affiliate link, they compensate me, which helps make this blog possible. Know that I only recommend books that I personally stand behind, or feel could enrich others’ lives.

Today on the blog, I’m pleased to share my review of USA Today Bestselling Author Kathryn Guaci’s latest spy thriller, The Poseidon Network (Ebony Publishing, 2019).

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I first fell in love with Kathryn’s work when I read Code Name Camille, her novella that was part of The Darkest Hour Anthology. Her background in textiles and love of art and all things culinary are woven into her works, and I was hoping that I would get another cracking book. I wasn’t disappointed.

A cocktail of a book as worthy as those of the legendary Shepheard’s Hotel, The Poseidon Network is an intoxicating mixture of intrigue, danger, and passion with a side of bitters. It’s a decadent, gripping page-turner that lingers on your tongue long after you finish it.

Set amidst the cosmopolitan circles of Cairo and Athens and the harsh landscape of the mountains of Greece during the Second World War, The Poseidon Network follows journalist and agent Larry Hadley as he is sent on a mission to find the “White Rose”, the leader of the titled The Poseidon Network, a resistance group committed to sabotaging their German and Italian occupiers.

Larry soon finds himself in a series of mysteries as he unravels what happened to the White Rose and exactly what side his alluring wife/widow Alexis Petrakis is on.

What I loved about Guaci’s writing is that she weaved in such detail that made me felt I was right there amidst the action, and kept me reading all night. A perfect read for a cold winter’s night. Highly recommended.

To purchase on Amazon: The Poseidon Network

Book Review: Auschwitz Syndrome by Ellie Midwood

Auschwitz Syndrome Review

Ellie Midwood,

Released Oct 11, 2019

5 stars

There are books you devour, and then there are books you chew on for a while. Auschwitz Syndrome, the latest book by Ellie Midwood, is one you chew on.

From the courtroom and backroom drama of a Denazification court, we’re asked a few questions: Is Franz Dahler guilty of crimes against humanity? Did he beat, rape, and abuse a female inmate who worked under his command, a woman, Helena, who is now his wife? And did he marry her to secure his clearance from the court? You’ll have to make your own decision.

Auschwitz Syndrome is such an emotionally raw and painfully real book that I had to put it down on several occasions. Even the courtroom scenes crackled with intensity as the judge had to bring down his gavel else chaos would have ensued (and sometimes I felt it did, as he kept going back and forth between prosecution and defense).

The dismal imagery portrayed in the novel is hard on the reader, but in a setting such as Auschwitz, readers need to be reminded of just how brutal things got. Trust me in that you’ll hug your pets or children after this one. I had some good snuggles with my dog and blasted The Young Rascals on repeat for a while.

Some of the language may be difficult for readers to take, but I felt it leant towards the reality of the situation. I felt Ms. Midwood handled the sensitivity of the situation with skill and stayed true to the story. There were tender moments between Franz and Helena that lighten things.

The characters and storyline are largely based on real accounts, so if you want moving fiction, then pick up Auschwitz Syndrome. Just have puppies or kittens available for after you read it.

To purchase your copy, click here:https://amzn.to/2HDognH

 

Book Review: No Woman’s Land: a Holocaust novel by Ellie Midwood

Disclosure: Please note that the link below is an affiliate link and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission. When you purchase books using my Amazon affiliate link, they compensate me, which helps make this blog possible. Know that I only recommend books that I personally stand behind, or feel could enrich others’ lives.

Rating: Five stars

There is historical fiction, and then there’s Ellie Midwood. No Woman’s Land is a superb novel that brings the Minsk Ghetto to life in all of its harsh cruelty with a sense of hope and grace. Reading a story of the dour conditions of the Holocaust can be difficult on a reader, but Ms. Midwood has crafted a powerful story of the meaning of loyalty, friendship, and love in the bitterest of conditions. 

One can’t help but cheer on ghetto occupants Ilse , Rivka, and Liza as they navigate the treacherous dog eat dog world of the ghetto while still holding on to the ultimate thing that keeps them alive: love. Although these three women, and others in the ghetto, come from diverging backgrounds, they form a solidarity as they keep each other together and the hope for freedom alive. Through this narrative, they discover the only thing that keeps one alive is love during the harshest of conditions.
I appreciate Ilse Stein’s character arc as we meet her as a timid, sheltered Jewish girl who arrives in Minsk after she and her sisters are resettled into the ghettos. There she meets women like Rivka and Liza, savvy leaders who lost husbands as the winds of war rage over the eastern front. Isle learns just how strong she is as she vows to survive and keep her sisters safe.
Although disillusioned and jaded, she learns to trust as she meets Willy Schultz, an officer in the Luftwaffe who befriends her. Their love story is sweet, tender, and real as they let their guards down while coming to terms with being from opposing sides.
This book left me wanting to know more of what becomes of Ilse, Willy, Liza, and all of their friends after the book ended, especially because these people existed during World War II. Highly recommended. 

Book Review: The White Venus

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The White Venus, The Love and War Series Book Two  by Rupert Colley

Rating: Five Stars

Blurb:

When you trust your enemy more than your family

June 1940. A village in northern France awaits a garrison of conquering Germans. 

To their dismay, 16-year-old Pierre and his parents are forced to accommodate a German major. He is the enemy within their midst and, more pertinently, the unwanted lodger within their home. 

The problem, however, is that the German is annoyingly pleasant. The major, with a son of his own, empathises with Pierre in a way his father has never been able to

But when his father is arrested by the Gestapo, Pierre has to ask where his loyalties lie, and who are his friends and who, exactly, is the enemy. 

Desperate to prove himself a man, Pierre is continually thwarted by those he trusts – his parents, the villagers and especially Claire, the girl he so desires. 

Pierre’s quest brings to the fore a traumatic event in the family’s past, a tragedy never forgotten but never mentioned. Can Pierre confront his trauma, and prove himself a man in a country at war?

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission. When you purchase books using my Amazon affiliate link, they compensate me, which helps make this blog possible. Know that I only recommend books that I personally stand behind, or feel could enrich others’ lives.

It’s rare that I find a book that I want to read in one sitting, but I stayed up all night reading this brilliant book. Characters move stories, and I was instantly taken with young Pierre. His character arc is superb. He first comes across as this young boy who has difficulty killing a chicken, but as the novel progresses, Pierre finds his strength.

It’s hard not to feel for Pierre as so much of what he thought was true is called into question, yet the novel is filled with humor as a young man’s boyhood antics with his friend Xavier and his perpetual crush on the lovely Claire heighten all the joy and angst of adolescence.

You will laugh and cry as you read this superb read filled with all the wonders and pain of a coming of age tale. I cheered Pierre on all the way. This was my first read of one of Colley’s novels, and I will certainly read the rest of the series.

To purchase: https://amzn.to/38C1xo7