Daughter of Moloka’i

Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Moloka’i was a bestseller and a favorite with book clubs, but I hadn’t read it until I heard about this forthcoming sequel. Daughter of Moloka’i is the compelling story of Ruth, an adopted Hawaiian-Japanese girl who grew up in Hawai’i and California, and was later sent to internment camps with her family during World War II. The daily life, joys, disappointments and hardships of the Watanabe family make for engaging reading. After Ruth is a mother herself, she receives an unexpected letter from her birth mother, Rachel, who lived in the leper settlement on Moloka’i. This poignant, family-centered, ultimately hopeful novel can be read before or after reading Moloka’i, and is a real pleasure for fans of character-driven historical fiction.
Brenda

We Must Be Brave

27We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet

This is a splendid, moving novel about a young woman and the girls she mothers in southern England in the mid 20th century. Ellen Parr, born well-off, struggles when her father loses his money. Trying to cope in a run-down cottage with her impractical mother, Ellen finds unexpected kindness from her schoolmate Lucy’s family and a local handyman. Ten years later, recently married Ellen finds young Pamela asleep on a bus after Southampton is bombed in December, 1940. Although Ellen’s husband, a miller, doesn’t want to keep Pamela, they do. Eventually, they have to give Pamela back to her relatives in a heart-wrenching scene. Much later, schoolgirl Penny needs somewhere to stay after a flood and during school holidays. This first novel, while a tearjerker at times, is a compelling, satisfying, and ultimately heartwarming read.
Brenda

Finding Dorothy

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts

Maud Gage, daughter of a suffragette, is a student at Cornell College in the 1880s when she meets Frank Baum. This is the story of their marriage, raising sons and struggling to make ends meet in South Dakota and Chicago until Frank’s storytelling makes him a success with the publication of The Wizard of Oz. The tone is bittersweet, especially the scenes with Maud’s sister and niece in drought-stricken South Dakota. Later in life, Maud visits the M-G-M studio during the filming of the Wizard of Oz and encounters young Judy Garland while trying to keep the film true to Frank’s stories. The Baum’s family life is vividly described, especially the ways Frank tried to make Christmas magical for their sons. Though I would have enjoyed more about their life after Frank started publishing the Oz books, Finding Dorothy is an absorbing, engaging biographical novel.
Brenda

Time’s Convert

Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness

Historical fantasy readers will enjoy this richly detailed novel. Vampire Marcus must stay away from his young fiancée Phoebe for 90 days after she becomes a vampire. In Paris, Phoebe’s struggle to adapt to her new strength, speed, and interests are often funny. While staying in the French countryside with his parent Matthew and Matthew’s wife Diana, Marcus relives his years as a boy and young man in the American Revolution, where he learns to be a medic. Matthew and Diana, a witch, have their hands full with twin toddlers Becca and Philip as their powers emerge. Becca has a tendency to bite and Philip has summoned a griffin named Apollo. This book is a good introduction to Harkness’ novels. Her All Souls trilogy begins with A Discovery of Witches. Francophiles may also enjoy Time’s Convert, as well as Outlander fans, with an intriguing blend of history, magic, and romance.

 

Brenda

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The Other Miss Bridgerton

bridgerton jacketThe Other Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

Simply delightful, this Georgian era romantic comedy is a compelling, entertaining read. Poppy Bridgerton leaves her chaperone in a tea shop while she hikes along the coast of Dorset. Exploring a cave, she is kidnapped and taken aboard the Infinity, ready to set sail for Lisbon. Captain Andrew James, a gentleman privateer with a secret, finds Poppy annoying, brave, and intelligent. With a gift for clever dialogue akin to Georgette Heyer, the author reveals the pair’s growing friendship and mutual attraction. When an outing in Lisbon goes awry, Andrew and Poppy have to work together for any chance at a future together. Laugh-out-loud funny, this is one of Quinn’s best books. Enjoy!

Brenda

 

Washington Black

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

A remarkable book to savor, about the remarkable journeys made by young Washington, from boyhood on a sugar plantation in Barbados, fleeing by airship and boat to Virginia then following a scientist to the Canadian Arctic. A young slave born in 1830 who doesn’t know his mother’s name, Wash is loaned to his master’s brother Christopher, a scientist building an airship. Pursued by a bounty hunter to the United States, Wash becomes a gifted illustrator and develops a fascination for marine life. Wondering why he was chosen and abandoned propels loyal, curious Wash from the Canadian Artic to Nova Scotia and eventually to London, Amsterdam, and a desert to find his answers. Compelling but not a fast read, character-driven but with a wonderful sense of place, this award-winning novel is one of the most memorable books I’ve read this year.

Brenda

 

That Churchill Woman

That Churchill Woman by Stephanie Barron

Jennie Jerome visits Europe with her mother and sisters in 1873 and catches the attention of Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill. She will become best known as Winston Churchill’s mother, but this book just covers her childhood and marriage to Randolph. Jennie is vividly shown here as glamorous and scandalous, but also smart, sympathetic, and complex. She can definitely keep a secret, had a fascinating childhood, and is a distant but loving mother. Jennie falls in love with a diplomat, finds that an old friend is not to be trusted, and is surprisingly loyal to Randolph in her own fashion. Colorful and sensational, this biographical novel is sure to please readers interested in the sumptuous Gilded Age.

Brenda