Thursday, November 30, 2023

Book Review: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Pages: 531
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: January 1, 2014
Publisher: Scribner
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II."



Marie-Laure is a young twelve-year-old girl living in Paris and her occupation is imminent. So she and her father, Daniel, leave Paris for Saint-Malo, where his brother lives. Upon fleeing, Daniel takes a very valuable item with him that later the Nazis are very interested in. Years go by and D-Day just occurred a few months ago, so liberation must be soon. Marie-Laure's father is a talented locksmith and craftsman. He has built intricate model cities to help Marie-Laure get around safely and build independence. However, Daniel is called back to Paris and is sent to a camp, so Marie-Laure finds herself with her uncle on her own. In a parallel story, Werner Pfenning, a German orphan is living in an orphanage with his sister, Jutta. He shows promise when it comes to radios and transmitting, so the Germans take an interest in him and send him to their technical school. Eventually, he becomes part of their organization that tracks illegal radios, and that is where Werner and Marie-Laure's story intersects. Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See is a memorable WWII novel of war, but also illustrates the power of secrets and ultimately hope. 

Marie-Laure is such a charming character that I loved from the instance. My heart went out to her as she is blind and has to navigate life with so much difficulty. It's so hard to be blind during a normal time, but combine that with WWII and it seems almost impossible at times. I loved how her father built models of the town for her as well as intricate boxes that ultimately hold secret treasures. He did this so she could gain some independence and be familiar with Paris and then Saint-Malo. Marie-Laure's sense of touch is her way to "see" the world and the details surrounding this were done very well. It also hinted that there's more to things than just at the surface level. What secrets hide beneath?

Werner's story was also well done in All the Light We Cannot See. It showcased the other side of the war as Werner works for the Nazis, but it also painted him in a way to display his humanity. He is talented and can work with radios, so this is his ticket out of poverty in German, but in turn, he has to contribute to the Nazi war effort. While working for the Nazis, he hears Marie-Laure's transmissions and is curious about her. He also feels remorse and questions what he is doing collaborating with the Nazis. He really has no choice in the manner, but he does feel like he should help protect Marie-Laure as their connection grows. 

Doerr's writing style in 
All the Light We Cannot See was choppy at first. The chapters were mere glimpses into the character and I wanted more - a deeper dive into Werner and Marie-Laure's story, but slowly I realized that this was an effective way to intertwine the stories slowly. Before I knew it, Marie-Laure and Werner's story converged and I was very invested. I can easily see why this novel won the Pulitzer Prize as it's beautifully written and will certainly stay with me for a long time. I can't wait to watch the show based on this novel, which recently premiered on Netflix. 

So, have you read
All the Light We Cannot See? I am so glad I found time to finally read this gem. Did you see the show on Netflix? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 


Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Can't Wait Wednesday: Husbands & Lovers

Can't Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating! 


Husbands & Lovers by Beatriz Williams

Pub. Date: June 25, 2024


Goodreads says, "Two women—separated by decades and continents, and united by a mysterious family heirloom—reclaim family secrets and lost loves in this sweeping novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Wives. New England, 2022. Three years ago, single mother Mallory Dunne received the telephone call every parent dreads—her ten-year-old son Sam had been airlifted from summer camp with acute poisoning from a toxic death cap mushroom, leaving him fighting for his life. Now, in a search for the donor kidney that will give her son a chance for a normal life, Mallory’s forced to confront two harrowing secrets from her past: her mother’s adoption from an infamous Irish orphanage in 1952, and her own all-consuming summer romance fourteen years earlier with her childhood best friend Monk Adams—now one of the world’s most beloved singer-songwriters—a fairytale cut short by an agonizing betrayal.

Cairo, 1951. After suffering tragedy beyond comprehension in the war, Hungarian refugee Hannah Ainsworth has forged a respectable new life for herself—marriage to a wealthy British diplomat, a coveted posting in glamorous Cairo. But a fateful encounter with the enigmatic manager of a hotel bristling with spies leads to a passionate affair that will reawaken Hannah's longing for everything she once lost. As revolution simmers in the Egyptian streets, a pregnant Hannah finds herself snared into a game of intrigue between two men…and an act of sacrifice that will echo down the generations. Timeless and bittersweet, Husbands And Lovers draws readers on an unforgettable journey of heartbreak and redemption, from the revolutionary fires of midcentury Egypt to the moneyed beaches of contemporary New England. Acclaimed author Beatriz Williams has written a poignant and beautifully voiced novel of deeply human characters entangled by morally complex issues—of privilege, class, and the female experience—inside worlds brought shimmeringly to life."


You all know Beatriz Williams is one of my favorite authors! I'll read anything she writes. Her "historical beach reads" are books I enjoy every summer and I can't wait for this one! Let me know what you think in the comments below.


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Blog Tour: The Fiction Writer

I'm back from the Thanksgiving break ready to share with you all some great reads that are perfect for the holidays and/or the upcoming winter season. I don't know about you, but I love to curl up with a thriller or a mystery when it's cold out. High up on my list is Jillian Cantor's new novel, The Fiction Writer. It's based on the true story of Daphne du Maurier, author of Rebecca, and her own issues with plagiarism. I can't wait to read this edge of your seat thriller, which comes out today. Thanks to Park Row Books, I am sharing an official excerpt from the novel. Let me know what you think!


Learn More About the Book:


ABOUT THE BOOK: "From USA Today-bestselling Jillian Cantor, THE FICTION WRITER follows a mid-list writer hired by a handsome billionaire to write about his family history with Daphne du Maurier and finds herself drawn into a tangled web of obsession, marital secrets, and stolen manuscripts. Last night I dreamt I went to Malibu again…

The once-rising literary star Olivia Fitzgerald is down on her luck. Her most recent novel--a re-telling of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca--was a flop, her boyfriend of nine years just dumped her, and she’s battling a bad case of writer’s block. So when her agent calls her with a high-paying ghostwriting opportunity, Olivia is all too willing to sign the NDA.

At first, the write-for-hire job seems too good to be true. All she has to do is interview Henry “Ash” Asherwood, a reclusive mega billionaire, twice-named People’s Sexiest Man Alive, who wants her help in writing a book that reveals a shocking secret about his late grandmother and Daphne du Maurier. But when Olivia arrives at his Malibu estate, nothing is as it seems. Ash is hesitant to reveal any family secrets, and he seems more interested in her than their writing project. The more Olivia digs into his grandmother’s past, the more questions she has—and before she knows it, she’s trapped in a gothic mystery of her own.

With as many twists and turns as the California coast, The Fiction Writer is a captivating story exploring the boundaries of creative freedom and whose stories we have the right to tell."


You can learn more about Jillian Cantor by visiting her website. You can also connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. You can purchase your own copy of The Fiction Writer at Bookshop, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and Amazon.  


Read an Excerpt From the Novel: 



Last night I dreamt I went to Malibu again.

I stood barefoot on the sand, the cool water nipping at my ankles. And there, high above me, perched on the edge of that magnificent cliff, his stunning house sat as it once had, alive, whole. It had ten bedrooms and was on three private cliffside acres, with a lap pool, a tennis court, and a garden blooming flush with pink and white bougainvillea. But from the beach down below all I could see was its long wall of privacy-tinted glass windows, slanting out toward the sea.

He could see me here, out on the beach. I was certain he could, even in my dream.

He was still behind those windows, watching my every step. Though I couldn’t see him. The glass was one-way. But I imagined him there behind the glass so vividly, it had to be real.
Until it wasn’t. Until the heat from the flames would shatter all the windows, break them apart, send smoke spewing from the piano room, down the cliff, evaporating in wisps into the lonely Pacific.

But in my dream, the flames hadn’t existed yet. Or, maybe they never would. He and his house were there, watching me. Wanting me. Haunting me.

“Come back!” His voice was a desperate echo, my undoing. The smoke was so thick, even out on the beach I couldn’t see, and I couldn’t breathe.

So that’s why I did it, in my dream. I turned away from the house, and I walked into the bone-chilling water. It was so cold, it numbed me, but I walked into the sea, up to my shoulders, my neck, my chin. Until I could no longer smell the smoke or hear his voice.

And then my entire head was underwater, and the tide was strong. It sucked me in, held me there.

But I wasn’t trying to drown. I really wasn’t. I was merely trying to escape the fire.

Excerpted from The Fiction Writer by Jillian Cantor, Copyright © 2023 by Jillian Cantor. Published by Park Row Books.


This sounds like such a compelling mystery. I can't wait to read The Fiction Writer. Did you add it to your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

27 Books to Curl Up With This Holiday Season


Believe it or not, a couple of years ago, I really wasn't into holiday books. Other than A Christmas Carol, I did not venture into holiday romances and the thought of a Hallmark Christmas movie made my eyes roll. But then the pandemic happened and I found myself craving a feel-good book where I could guarantee a happy ending, where the small town knows everyone's name, there may or may not be a gorgeous Christmas tree farm or bakery or bookshop, and it's always Christmas. While not all of these books are entirely 100% feel-good, they are all special holiday books in their own right. Whether you are looking for something that captures the spirit of Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years Eve, or even just winter in all its snowy glory, there's something here for everyone. 
1. The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan

2.  The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox

3.  An Island Christmas by Nancy Thayer

4.  Christmas in Peachtree Bluff by Kristy Woodson Harvey




5.  Let it Snow by Nancy Thayer

6.  Winter Street series by Elin Hilderbrand




7.  In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

8.  Christmas Bells by Jennifer Chiaverini



9.  One Day in December by Josie Silver

10.  10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston



11.  Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz

12.  The Christmas Wedding Guest by Susan Mallery




13.  Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

14.  Once Upon a December by Amy E. Reichert

15.  The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews

16.  Just Like Magic by Sarah Hogle 



17.  All I Want For Christmas by Maggie Knox 

18.  Holidays in Virgin River by Robyn Carr



19. The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer

20. Snowed in for Christmas by Sarah Morgan



21. A Winter in New York by Josie Silver

22. The Wake-Up Call by Beth O'Leary



23.  Midnight at the Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan

24.  Kissing Kosher by Jean Meltzer



25.  The Christmas Wish by Lindsey Kelk

 26.  Meet Me Under the Mistletoe by Jenny Bayliss



27.  This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens




On the TBR List:


1.  A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews

2.  Celebration at Christmas Cove by Carrie Jansen



3.  Faking Christmas by Kerry Winfrey

4.  The Christmas Cafe by Eliza Evans

5.  Meet Me at Christmas by Jenny Hale

6.  One Christmas Morning by Rachel Greenlaw

7.  Snowed In by Catherine Walsh

8.  Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory


9.  The Second Chance Year by Melissa Wiesner

So, have you read any of these books? Are they on your TBR list? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments below. Happy holiday reading! 


Friday, November 17, 2023

Book Review: A Winter in New York by Josie Silver

Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: October 3, 2023
Publisher: Delacorte
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: One Day in December
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "A young chef stumbles on a secret family recipe that might lead her to the love—and life—she’s been looking for in this stunning novel. When Iris decides to move to New York to restart her life, she realizes she underestimated how big the Big Apple really is—all the nostalgic movies set in New York she’d watched with her mom while eating their special secret-recipe gelato didn’t quite do it justice.  But Bobby, Iris’s best friend, isn’t about to let her hide away. He drags her to a famous autumn street fair in Little Italy, and as they walk through the food stalls, a little family-run gelateria catches her eye—could it be the same shop that’s in an old photo of her mother’s? Curious, Iris returns the next day and meets the handsome Gio, who tells her that the shop is in danger of closing. His uncle, sole keeper of their family’s gelato recipe, is in a coma, so they can’t make more. When Iris samples the last remaining batch, she realizes that their gelato and her gelato are one and the same. But how can she tell them she knows their secret recipe when she’s not sure why Gio’s uncle gave it to her mother in the first place? Iris offers her services as a chef to help them re-create the flavor and finds herself falling for Gio and his family. But when Gio’s uncle finally wakes up, all of the secrets Iris has been keeping threaten to ruin the new life—and new love—she’s been building all winter long."


It's 1985 in New York City and Vivien has spent two whirlwind days with Santo Belotti. Before she leaves him, he gives her his family's secret gelato recipe with the hope that she will return one day. Fast forward to present day and Vivien's daughter, Iris, is now on her way to New York City to start over after her mother's death and a bad relationship. She has her mother's favorite bowls and the gelato recipe they have enjoyed for years. Iris, a chef, takes a job at a noodle restaurant, and slowly tries to rebuild her life. Her friend takes her to Little Italy one day and it is there she recognizes Belotti's Gelateria from her mom's photos. This must be the place where her mom had a love affair with Santo. While visiting, she learns that Santo has suffered a stroke and can't remember the family's beloved gelato recipe, which brings in so many customers year after year. Iris knows it, but how can she share this information with the family? As she gets to know Santo's nephew, Gio, things get even more complicated. Josie Silver's A Winter in New York is a heartwarming, yet heavy holiday tale filled with family secrets, romance, gelato, and poor choices.

I felt badly for Iris in A Winter in New York. She is a bit lost when she comes to New York to start over and on top of that, she is escaping an abusive relationship. I really enjoyed her journey as a character; however, I did not always agree with her choices, which were a bit strange at times. On the other hand, I did enjoy her budding romance with Gio and her connection to her mother. This leads me to the flashbacks of 1980 New York, which were also well done and a glimpse into Vivien and Santo's love affair. My other favorite aspect of this novel was the gelatoria and the cast of family characters. The descriptions of gelato made me want to stop what I was doing and get some immediately.

My only issue with A Winter in New York was the lack of holiday feels. I thought this was going to be a bit more heartwarming and filled with some more holiday cheer, but instead there were some heavy issues that I think really weighed down the plot. Not only is Iris dealing with death and family secrets, she is also dealing with trauma from an abusive relationship. It all comes to a head at the end, which definitely didn't add to the holiday atmosphere of the novel.

So, if you like a holiday read with a bit more substance and serious drama rather than a Hallmark movie kind of feel, A Winter in New York would be a good fit. I must admit, I did enjoy Silver's One Day in December a lot more. Let me know in the comments if you are a fan of Josie Silver and if you've read or plan to read A Winter in New York.



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