Wickwythe Hall by Judithe Little

Wickwythe Hall by Judithe Little is set in England during World War 2.  The main characters are Annelle, Mabry, and Reid.  Each shares in telling the story by narrating alternating chapters. Their personal lives are revealed against the backdrop of the ever present war.  President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill are not main characters in this novel but they do make appearances are their presence is felt.

Reid is an American who has been sent to England by President Roosevelt to serve as an unofficial liaison between himself and Winston Churchill.  Annelle is a young French woman who along with her brothers was raised in a convent.  Annelle flees France when the Germans invade and the British military also flees back to their native land.  Annelle wants to reconnect with her brothers who are in service with the French Foreign Legion.  Mabry is an American woman married to an English man of means.  Mabry aids the war effort in various ways.  She is troubled by her inability to bear children.  She also knew Reid when she was a young woman and still lived in Virginia.

This historical fiction novel is Little’s first.  It is an impressive effort and I look forward to reading more by this author.  The writing is well crafted and keeps the reader engaged and wanting to discover what happens to the characters.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this novel.

Four out of five stars.


Trouble the Water by Jacqueline Friedland

This novel by new author Friedland is historical fiction at its best.  The reader can easily imagine both the story as well as the setting.  Set about twenty years before the Civil War begins, it contains all of the elements required to keep the attention of readers, including action, mystery, a bit of thriller, and also romance.

Abigail Milton is the daughter of English parents who have fallen on hard times.  She is sent to Charleston, South Carolina to live with an old friend of her father’s, Douglas Elling.  Immediately Abigail does not like him but is pleased when he leaves her in the care of a governess.  Time and circumstance cause changes in both Abigail’s opinion of Douglas as well as his opinion of her.

The descriptions in this book were superb.  Friedland easily captures the juxtaposition between the manners of the old south as well as the cruelty.  I look forward to reading more by this new author.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this novel.

Four out of five stars.

By the Book by Julia Sonneborn

Anne Corey is an English professor at a small California college.  Her college ex boyfriend, Adam,  becomes the president of the college.  As these things typically go, the break up was not on good terms.  Anne becomes interested in visiting writer, Rick.  Eventually it becomes clear that Anne is not over Adam no matter her involvement in Rick.

This story is loosely based on Jane Austen’s Persuasion, which I admit to never having read.  My favorite character in this story by far was Anne’s best friend Larry.  He was both flamboyant and funny.

This story was well written but there were times I could not get past how silly Anne could be.  Given her age and profession, I would have expected a little less silliness on her part.  For example, she wants Adam to hire Rick as a full time faculty member and thinks to herself in her discussion with Adam that he should hire Rick to keep her happy since she has not been happy in a long time.  It was immature and not the only example.  Overall, it was an enjoyable novel despite Anne’s lapses into silly thoughts and behavior.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this novel.

Three out of five stars.

White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht

White Chrysanthemum is the story of Korean sisters Hana and Emi.  The novel tells the story of Hana in 1943 and Emi in the present day.  The sisters come from a long line of divers called haenyeo. The divers make a living from their catch as well as feed their families.  It is considered to be an honorable occupation and is traditionally learned by daughters whose mothers have the occupation.

Hana, being about ten years older than Emi, is out diving with her mom one morning while Emi is left to play on the beach.  Hana spies a Japanese soldier and acts quickly to divert his attention away from her baby sister.  Hana is taken and ends up in a brothel dedicated to serving Japanese military men.

From that point forward the sisters spend their lives longing to get back to each other.  This novel is incredibly sad and the reader can easily imagine what is happening by the prose used to describe the lives of the two sisters.  As it turns out, neither sister has it easy.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this novel.

Four of out five stars.

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

In Bonfire, Abigail Williams, an environmental lawyer from Chicago, returns to her rural hometown in Indiana to investigate a local plastics company.  Growing up Abby always felt and was treated like an outsider among her peers in her hometown. Her return means facing old demons.  Her legal team investigates the potential ill health effects of the plastics company while she investigates the mystery of what happened to her childhood friend and later high school nemesis.

I was impressed with this debut novel.  It is well paced and well written.  I especially enjoyed the phrasing used, mostly within Abigail’s thoughts about what was going on around her.  She is a believable and likable character.  I would not mind seeing her again in a future novel by Ritter.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this novel.

Five out of five stars.


Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

I liked this story.  The story itself had plenty of twists and turns and kept you guessing as to what would happen next.  However, the main character, Vivian, could act so dumb at times.  It made it harder to sympathize with her.  Adding to the situation for me was her job.  Vivian works as a CIA analyst.  I expected better choices from her.

The writing was done well.  This author has potential.  I would read future books by her in case it was just me thinking the main character was dumb.  Because, as I have already stated the story itself was good.  I love a fast paced read.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for allowing me to read this advanced copy.

Three out of five stars.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen

It seems that since the release and popularity of Gone Girl, all psychological thrillers are lauded as the next Gone Girl.  I will be honest.  I liked Gone Girl but enjoyed Gillian Flynn’s other two books better.  With that said, The Wife Between Us, easily reaches the Gone Girl level and exceeds it by far.

There is not a lot I can say in a review about the plot that would not give away important plot points.  So I will just say this is a well written story and just when you think you know what is going on, you find out you really had no idea.  Set aside some time when you start reading this book because you will definitely not want to put it down at all once you reach the half way mark.  I could easily see this story being made into a movie.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this book.

Five out of five stars.

The Sisters of Glass Ferry by Kim Michelle Richardson

The Sisters of Glass Ferry by Kim Michelle Richardson is set in western Kentucky, bourbon country,  close to Lexington.  It has alternating timelines going back and forth between 1952 and 1972.  Toward the end of the novel the timeline shifts to present day.  Twins Patsy and Flannery are the main characters with Flannery being the narrator.  It is a well written story with the transitions between time seamless.

Early on it is fairly easy to come close to guessing what happens to Patsy in 1952 that leaves Flannery and her mother still devasted in 1972.  However, just because you have an idea of what will happen, you do not know the details and the details are where it is really at in this book.  Richardson excels at details. Not just in the nuances of the characters but in describing the community and interactions among characters.  One part had her describing how the father, Honey Bee, used old broken tombstones to make the floor of their house’s cellar.

This novel has a little bit of everything, the ties that bind families together, love, secrets, mysticism, alcoholism, rape, and death. Thank you so much to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this book.  I truly enjoyed the experience and plan to look for more novels by this author.

Four out of five stars.

Prairie Fires The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser

Prairie Fires The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser is a nonfiction biography of a lady so many of us grew up feeling like we knew and therefore we loved her dearly.  Fraser covers not only the life of Ingalls but that of her parents before her birth as well as framing her life within the larger picture of what was happening in the United States at the time.  Using this tool, Fraser is able to give a more rounded depiction of Wilder and her family.

Anyone with a passing interest in Ingalls knows that her Little House books were based on her real life but were by no means works of nonfiction.  Ingalls took liberties with the truth in part to make her books palatable for children as they were written and marketed towards a young audience.  Her own life was quite difficult at times, both in childhood and adulthood.

Fraser also covers Wilder’s relationship with her daughter, Rose, as well as Rose’s life outside of her time at home with Laura and Almanzo.  Fraser presents the facts in a straightforward fashion but seems to fall on the side of believing that while Rose guided Laura in her early writing, she did not actually do the writing for her mother.

This biography by Fraser is very well researched and is without a doubt geared toward a scholarly audience.  This book is not for those who possess only a passing interest in the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Fraser clearly spent a lot of time researching and writing this book.  What makes this biography of Wilder most unique among others that are out there is Fraser’s use of history to frame the coinciding times in Wilder’s life.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this book.

Four of five stars.


Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper

This was a fun read.  After a work disaster that costs her her job, Margot is approached by an elderly aunt that she didn’t even know existed, Aunt Tootie McCready.  Tootie makes Margot an offer that is difficult to refuse considering she is out of a job and about to be out of a home.  Tootie offers Margo a job working in the McReady Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop.  Yes, it is weird but not quite as weird as it sounds.  Margot packs and leaves Chicago for Georgia where her estranged father’s side of the family all lives.

Margot’s skills as an event planner loosely fit in with the funeral home work and eventually, she further puts her skills to use organizing a fundraiser for the town.   There were several funny moments in this book.  Obviously, there was plenty of material considering Margot was a fish out of water in her new country setting but there was also plenty of material provided by Margot’s extended family and their individual quirks.  For me, some of the most fun moments of this book revolved around Margot and her cousins that she never knew she had.  Frankie and Marianne become fast friends with Margot.  There is also some romance in this novel in the form of Kyle, the school principal.

This is my first book by Molly Harper but I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy.

Four out of five stars.