Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Kitchen Front

The Kitchen Front
  The Kitchen Front
Author:  Jennifer Ryan
Publication Information:  Ballantine Books. 2021. 416 pages.
ISBN:  0593158806 / 978-0593158807

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "A glorious spring morning poured its golden splendor through the tall kitchen window as a whirlwind of boys raced in, shooting at each other in a ramshackle reconstruction of Dunkirk."

Favorite Quote:  "My grief is only equal to what I had that was lost, and if my sorrow is immeasurable, it is because the depth of our love, our world, and the joy we created, was so immense on the other side of the balance. I would not be without it for all the world."

Wars are fought on many different fronts including, as the title indicates, the kitchen front. This story is of World War II in England where food shortages abounded. The book touches on the bigger tragedies of the war, but the focus in on the kitchen front. Food shortages were prevalent; food rationing began in 1940 and did not end until 1954. 

In an effort to help, BBC, in cooperation with the Ministry of Food, began a radio cooking show. The show titled "The Kitchen Front, the cookery program helping Britain's housewives make the most of wartime food rations." The show aimed to educate the British housewife in creative use of rations. The show aired for four years in over 1,000 episodes.

Given that the women faced most of the challenges on the kitchen front, the show was aimed at women. This book picks up on this history and tells the story of a group of women in a small English village. Through the background of these women, it tells the story of war, of resilience, of a sisterhood rising to lift one another up. "Sometimes life doesn't turn out the way we expect. Sometimes we need to stand together."

The premise is a simple one. The radio show hosts a contest to be held in three courses - appetizer, main course, and dessert. The winner will have the opportunity to be a host on the radio show. The contestants are a war widow trying to provide for her children, a lady of the manor with secrets that belie the appearance of the manor, a shy maid who is a talented cook but who lacks the confidence in her abilities, and a trained fine dining chef relegated by circumstances to a country village factory kitchen. Through these four women, the book tells a story of the issues faced by women - the war, abandonment, unwanted pregnancies, working conditions, family affairs, motherhood, grief, medical illness, and so much more.

Being a book centered around a cooking show, the book does come with recipes:  hominy pie, Lord Woolton pie, curried salt cod, scrod St Jacques, sweet pickle chutney, hare with elderberry wind sauce, sardine rolls, spam and game raised pie, sheep's head roll, chicken cacciatore, whale meat and mushroom pie, to name a few. Based on the ration ingredients, I don't think I will be trying these recipes any time soon. However, as someone who enjoys cookbooks and food history, I do enjoy reading about them and the ingenuity of these wartime cooks.

Ultimately, this story of war turns into a feel good story about family we create and women banding together to better each of the lives individually and all their lives collectively. "Sometimes things seem to drown us... But then one day becomes a week, and then a month, and slowly you being to get on with life. The world readjusts around you, and you find new skills and talents you never know you had."

I leave this book, having learned yet a new aspect of World War II history. I also leave it inspired by the courage and strength of women in trying circumstances who rise above their challenges to meet life and who do it in a supportive, uplifting way. A feel good story of war if such a thing is possible.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Mango and Peppercorns

  Mango and Peppercorns
Author:  Tung Nguyen, Katherine Manning, Lyn Nguyen
Publication Information:  Chronicle Books. 2021. 224 pages.
ISBN:  1797202243 / 978-1797202242

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "As the Vietnam War came to a close in the spring of 1975 with North Vietnam victorious, people began to flee impending Communist rule."

Favorite Quote:  "Refugees are here because they have no choice. They also bring enormous gifts and talents, as Tung did. They just need an opportunity. I  hope our story inspires others to understand that people from different backgrounds can find common ground if we just listen to each other. We can all be bigger than our individual selves. We all have tremendous power to change the lives of others and help the world become more mixed and accepting ... Everyone can get to know people who are different than they are. Everyone can help where they see a need. We all have stories to tell, and the best thing we can do for ourselves and the world is to listen to each other."

Tung Nguyễn fled Vietnam in 1975, 23 years old, pregnant, and alone. She landed in Miami and had the good fortune to meet and be given shelter and friendship by Kathy Manning. Kathy Manning was a graduate student at the time and opened up her home to refugees. Upon their meeting, neither imagined how far their friendship and partnership would flourish. Neither imagined that they would become friends, family, and business partners. "Why has their friendship endured for so many years, despite so many differences in culture and personality? Their values are the same. They share a firm sense of right and wrong. They take care of others who need help, even when doing so makes their own lives harder. They both always stand on their own two feet, proudly defining and making their own success."

This is a story of the immigrant roots of our nation, the welcoming shore, the contribution of immigrants - first generation and beyond - to this nation. "In all this strangeness, this tree gave me comfort and familiarity and strength. It was once a young tree, planted in new soil. Now it had grown higher than Kathy's roof. its red flowers providing cover for the yard and the house. I began to think of myself as a tree, too: a young tree, planted in new soil in the land of America. Now that I had water and dirt, I, too, would grow - roots, branches, and soon, the first young leaf."

This is also a story of food. Tung Nguyen learned how to cook in her family home. The food comes from the heart, and she is an inspired cook. Kathy Manning saw the potential and encouraged a career based on that talent and passion. They began with home parties and went on to create the immensely popular restaurant Hy Vong. Tung was the chef, while Kathy managed the business. This led to both progress and conflict.

Sadly, the restaurant closed in 2015, but its following remains. The book, which includes family photos and 20 recipes from Hy Vong, is marketed both as a memoir and a cookbook. According to its website, the restaurant offers pick up on certain dates with a menu that changes with each pick up date.

Ultimately, this is a book about the American dream, and the challenges and hurdles that face who try to achieve it. Both Tung and Kathy face different struggles, each in their own way searching for that elusive ideal. This book chronicles their challenges and the occasional moments when they appear to have achieved it. This book gives a face - one of many - to refugees and immigrants wanting and working so hard to achieve the ideal they believe possible. Through Tung's story, it highlights just one story of why someone may leave all they love and know behind to begin again. It brings to life the challenge of life as an immigrant, where, at times, you seem to fit not in your adopted home and not in the place you left. In Kathy's story, it epitomizes the welcome and the support that created the melting pot of this nation. Given the political climate in this nation at this point, this is a timely book.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Monday, September 13, 2021

How to Order the Universe

How to Order the Universe
  How to Order the Universe
Author:  María José Ferrada (Author). Elizabeth Bryer (Translator).
Publication Information:  Tin House Books. 2021. 180 pages.
ISBN:  1951142306 / 978-1951142308

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "D began his career selling hardware items:  nails, saws, hammers, handles, and door viewers, brand name Kramp."

Favorite Quote:  "... most of the time, a good silence is more valuable than a good piece of advice."

Some pragmatic facts to start with. This book is a very fast read. Its 180 pages have plenty of white space so it reads even faster than the short length would indicate. I do not feel that anything is lost in translation. The translation paints a factual and emotional picture. I cannot say it is the picture the author intends, but it is a picture that works for me.

Seven year old M's father D is a traveling salesman. D sells hardware supplies. To M, her father's life on the road - the travel, the car, the restaurant, the sense of being on holiday, the people, the perceived importance - seems ideal. Her mother maintains the order of school and life. M dreams of life on the road. She and her father often orchestrate situations in which M travels with him with her mother being none the wiser.

The book, told from seven year old M's point of view, is that child's view. Presumably, it is her attempt at seeing an order to her own universe. The author and translator manage to successfully create that idealized view of D and his life in a Chile run by dictator Augusto Pinochet. This was a time of persecutions, censorship, and military rule. That background, however, fades as this is a child's story.

Between the lines of the child's narration are realities an adult reader sees. Traveling sales is a dying business. D's life and lifestyle is perhaps not in the best interest of his family or even his own. The political climate creeps in. Between the lines, the relevance of regime also comes through for its impact is the story of M's mother. What this narrative does not say and spell out is almost as important, if not more so, than what it does say.

Along the way, D & M meet E, a photographer who photographs ghosts. In a regime with military rule and persecution, perhaps ghosts are what remain. The connection is an important and impactful one for all three even though the child may not realize it.

The idealism is sadly, shattered violently one day. M's life is perhaps never the same.

As with coming of age stories, M comes of age and begins to see the reality of her father's actions. The change is inevitable and at the same time so abrupt and tragic. It leaves me wonder that as a teenage M grows and matures further, perhaps in the future, she may make a different choice.

The fact that I think beyond the end of the book is a statement to the success of the story and the storytelling. I wonder what happens to these two people further in life.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Dangerous Women

Dangerous Women
  Dangerous Women
Author:  Hope Adams
Publication Information:  Berkley. 2021. 336 pages.
ISBN:  0593099575 / 978-0593099575

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I wish I didn't know, she thought."

Favorite Quote:  "That's what we, too, are like, us women. We're a patchwork. One person next to another, then her next to a third, and on and on, different people pushed together. Some neatly beside our neighbors, some out of shape and awkwardly sewn into a botched closeness. "

The history of this book is fascinating. The "dangerous women" are women incarcerated in England for crimes ranging from petty theft to prostitution to murder. In the 1800s, the British Ladies Society for the Reformation of Female Prisoners founded by Elizabeth Fry, set out to offer prisoners tasks deemed useful to keep them busy during their incarceration. Needlework was one such tasks. As the law dictated, some women were taken from the prisoners and essentially deported to Van Diemen's Land, a British colony on Tasmania. The intent was to offer the women a fresh start.

One such transport included 180 female prisoners on a ship named the Rajah. Along with the women came sewing supplies. The project created by the end of the journey is the Rajah Quilt. It is supposed that the project was led by Kezia Hayter, who was a free woman in charge of the prisoners. The Rajah Quilt still exists and is housed in the National Gallery of Australia and can be viewed only once a year due to its fragility.

Within this history is the story of this book, which reads somewhat like an Agatha Christie mystery. In fact, it reminds me of Murder on the Orient Express in structure and flow but not ending. The Rajah is in the middle of the ocean. The cast of character is limited to those on board. A woman is stabbed. The list of suspects, by definition, is limited to those on board. Is it one of the sailors? Is it one of the women? Why? What are the stories behind each individual's actions.

The story goes back and forth between the investigation (current time) and the introduction of the women as they come aboard (the past). Each woman has a story and, perhaps, a secret she hides. Some of the stories intersect as do some secrets. In this way, the story is more about this mystery than the creation of the Rajah Quilt, but the history is still one I would not otherwise have learned.

The story itself and the characters themselves hold interest as well. Through each woman's story, the author paints a vivid picture of the conditions - the poverty and the desperation - that leads these women to the crimes they committed. It creates an understanding of the risk they took, more often than not for their families, particularly their children. It speaks to the fear of an unknown land and what awaits them. This is the other historical aspect of this book. Through fiction, it brings to life the emotion of the history.

The conclusion of the mystery, when it comes, is more tragic than suspenseful. It adds to the history of these women and the impact on mental health of the tragedies these women have faced.

The book, however, ends on a hopeful note, perhaps to mirror the intent of these transports - a new beginning in more ways than one.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Love Proof

  The Love Proof
Author:  Madeleine Henry
Publication Information:  Atria Books. 2021. 288 pages.
ISBN:  978-1982142964

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Before they met, Jake Kristopher was sitting in the third row of Woolsey Hall, Yale's biggest auditorium, glancing up at the balcony behind him."

Favorite Quote:  "The most valuable insight of my life has been that the best use of time is to love. It's not a sophisticated idea, and that's exactly the point. People overvalue intellect. Life should be lived from the heart ... So, whenever I have the choice, I should spend my time with other people. Even if that means I leave less of a mark on the world at large."

I love the premise of this book. A young prodigy studying time at Yale. A young female prodigy. I love strong female characters and to follow a young scientist seems intriguing. The fact that she is to study time theory is even more fascinating. I want to be caught up in the science and a young woman's pursuit of scientific knowledge. I want to see a young woman balance relationship and career. I want to see a man be present and support of a strong, intelligent woman.

I walk away from this book frustrated because none of that happens and because I do not understand the why. The book focuses so completely on the romance (yes, I know love is in the title). Sophie's pursuit of science becomes an afterthought. In addition, because of the choices depicted, the two main characters end up relatively unlikable. The fact that the book then follows their story over decades without much change means I invest in it even less.

So many unanswered questions! So much unexplored potential!

From the beginning. How and why Sophie gives up on the dream of her lifetime so quickly after meeting Jack? How does an intelligent, coherent young adult turn into a simpering woman with no thought other than of a young man?

To the middle. How does a college romance have such long reaching impact? Why does the dream of love overshadow all other dreams?

To the end. Really? It was all a choice. Why does one individual make the choices, leaving no room for a conversation, a discussion, or a mature relationship between two adults?

This final question becomes my major stumbling block. Love and relationships exist or should exist between adults who are partners in that relationship. In this one, I feel that Jake makes all the decisions without ever consulting Sophie (who, by premise, is a smart young woman). That is annoying. The fact that Sophie lets it be and goes along with his decision seems not in keeping with her character of questioning and study. "A lot of people think science is sterile ... and heartless and boring, but not me. I've always had this feeling that there are eyes in everything that the world is alive down to the atom. But we grow up and start to see things the way we expect. We stop questioning, listening, but I think the universe is always talking to us: through symbols, our guts, or feelings we can't explain. I want to know as much as I can, especially about the big building blocks of reality." This is the same girl who asks no questions in a relationship. Really?

Just, why? The book is a lovely premise with a frustrating execution.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Where I Left Her

  Where I Left Her
Author:  Amber Garza
Publication Information:  MIRA. 2021. 304 pages.
ISBN:  0778332063 / 978-0778332060

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and the HTP Mystery/Thriller Summer 2021 tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Whitney wanted to get rid of her daughter."

Favorite Quote:  "When I tell you what happened, it will be easy to blame me. TO say it was my fault. But that's not fair. We all make our own choices, sure. But we don't live in a bubble. People influence us. Shape us into who we ultimately become."

***** BLOG TOUR *****


Whitney is a single mother to teenage Amelia. Ever since the Whitney and Dan's divorce, it's been the two of them. However, lately, Amelia is no longer Whitney's little girl. She is a sullen, withdrawn teenager. Whitney tries hard to find a way back into Amelia's world and to keep her daughter engaged. She wishes for the closeness and joy they once shared.

One way Whitney tries to keep the peace includes making the decision not to ask too many questions when Amelia asks to be dropped off for a sleepover at her friend Lauren's house. Lauren is a new friend, and not one Whitney knows a lot about. Actually, Whitney knows very little about Amelia's new friends. The issue is that Amelia disappears, and Whitney doesn't know where, how, or with who. She is not even sure entirely where she left her daughter. She has no last name and no address.

So begins this psychological thriller. It uses a 2 timeline structure - the weeks prior to the disappearance and the hours following the disappearance. In between are sprinkled other flashbacks, sometimes a line or two to sometimes a few paragraphs. The narrator of these flashbacks is unclear at the beginning, but becomes clear with the big reveal. The book keeps me guessing until the end as to how all three tie together. Once revealed, my reaction is that of course, that comes together. Implausible or not, the story comes together in the end. It all makes sense.

The book pulls together a lot of disturbing elements - an unreliable narrator with secrets in her past, an ex-husband in another country who has doubts about his ex-wife's past, a boyfriend with secrets of his own, teenage girls possibly engaging with older men online, a new girl on the scene, and shifting teenage friendships and sexual exploration. A grounded best friend is the perfect foil as a reminder of a well-adjusted adult in the midst of all the chaos of the main characters. The police are, of course, involved, but this book is really about a mother and her child.

My favorite aspect of this book is the author's depiction of a parent's anguish at the thought that her child is missing. However, the progression from a thought that something is of concern, anger at the thought of a willful child, growing anxiety, to full-blown panic is an interesting one to watch. I hope no parent ever has to know these set of emotions, but, as a parent, I could relate.

Some of the direction the story goes in is a little over the top and conveniently implausible, but it really does not matter. It takes me along for an entertaining, escapist, adventure ride. The ending does leave me wondering about what happens next. It provides a conclusion as to what happened but definitely leaves an opening as to what comes next. Wonder if a sequel might be coming?

About the Author

Amber Garza has had a passion for the written word since she was a child making books out of notebook paper and staples. Her hobbies include reading and singing. Coffee and wine are her drinks of choice (not necessarily in that order). She writes while blaring music, and talks about her characters like they're real people. She lives with her husband and two kids in Folsom, California.

Book Summary

From the author of WHEN I WAS YOU comes a spine-tingling new thriller about a mother's worst nightmare come true, when she goes to pick up her daughter from a sleepover, and she's nowhere to be found.

Whitney had some misgivings when she dropped her increasingly moody teenage daughter off for a sleepover last night. She's never met the friend's parents, and usually she'd go in, but Amelia clearly wasn't going to let something so humiliating happen, so instead she waved to her daughter before pulling away from the cute little house with the rosebushes in front.

But when she goes back to get her, an elderly couple answers the door--Amelia and her friend are nowhere to be found, and this couple swears she's at the wrong house. As Whitney searches for Amelia, she uncovers a trail of secrets and lies her daughter has told her--from Finsta accounts to rumors of a secret relationship. Does she really even know this girl she's raised, and can she find her before it's too late?

Book Excerpt

Excerpted from Where I Left Her by Amber Garza, Copyright © 2021 by Amber Garza. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

FRIDAY, 5:00 P.M.

WHITNEY WANTED TO get rid of her daughter.

How awful is that?

Not forever, of course, but for the night. She was weary of the sixteen-year-old attitude. The rolling of eyes, stomping of feet, the judging glances and biting remarks.

That’s why she wasn’t paying as much attention as she should’ve been when dropping Amelia off at Lauren’s. Her mind was back in their apartment, her butt planted on the couch, bare feet propped on the table, a pint of ice cream in her lap.

“The destination is on your right.” She turned the steering wheel, following the instructions given by the disembodied voice of the GPS in her daughter’s phone. Amelia held it up, giving the illusion that her palm was talking. The house in front of them was nondescript. A tract home, painted tan with beige trim, a cream door, two large windows overlooking the narrow front walkway. The only thing that set it apart from the others was the row of rosebushes lining the left perimeter of the yard, scarlet red petals and thorny, jagged stems.

Whitney pulled her car over, tires hugging the curb.

Amelia hopped out the minute her mother’s foot pressed down on the brakes, as if she was desperate to be free of her.

“You sure this is her house?” Whitney asked.

Amelia shrugged, glancing down at her phone and then back up. “This is the address she gave me.” Her tone was impatient, irritated. That’s how she’d been lately. Distant and moody. Everything her mom said and did annoyed her.

Originally, she’d planned to walk Amelia up to the front door and meet Lauren’s mom. But on the way over here, Amelia had begged her not to do that, pointing out that she was no longer a little girl.

As much as Whitney hated to admit it, she could see her point. Amelia was sixteen. As soon as she finished her driver’s training and passed her test, she’d be driving on her own and then Whitney wouldn’t even have the option of dropping her off at her friend’s. It was time she learned to let go, loosen the death grip a little.

Instead of following her daughter, Whitney stayed inside the car, watching through the smudged glass of the passenger-side window. Amelia’s dark hair swished down her spine as she sped to the front door. When she reached it, she readjusted the blue overnight bag that was secured on her shoulder while lifting her other hand to knock.

Lauren appeared in the doorway, flashing a smile at Amelia. She wore a pink headband that made her look much younger than seventeen. Amelia peered over her shoulder before stepping forward, her lips curling at the corners as she threw her mom another wave. It was the largest grin Whitney had gotten in days, and she welcomed it, grabbed hold of it and then gave it back.

After watching them both disappear inside, Whitney pulled away from the curb. Without even looking in the rearview mirror, she sped toward her night of freedom, dreaming of a couch to herself and a movie Amelia couldn’t make fun of.

SATURDAY, 10:00 A.M.

Whitney had been up for hours, and still hadn’t heard from Amelia. Last night was restful. Quiet. Peaceful. All the things Whitney had wanted it to be. Much needed. But this morning she was suffering from a serious case of mom guilt. She missed her daughter. Was anxious for her to come home, attitude and all. Unlocking her phone, she shot her a quick text: Ready for me to pick you up?

Even after several minutes, no response came. Not that she was shocked. When Amelia had friends over, they stayed up all night giggling and talking. No matter how many times Whitney would remind them to keep it down, within minutes their muffled voices would return, drifting through the adjoining bedroom wall. Most likely, she’d done the same at Lauren’s and they were both still asleep.

The house smelled like Saturday morning—coffee, creamer, maple syrup.

French toast had been a weekend tradition for years. When Amelia was little, she’d wake up early and bound into her mom’s bedroom, eager for breakfast. But lately it seemed Whitney ate alone more often than not. Even when Amelia was home, there was no guarantee she’d join her. Amelia lived in her room, earbuds perpetually plugged in her ears, as if she’d grown another extremity. Still, Whitney couldn’t bring herself to stop the tradition altogether. The French toast would get eaten, even if it took a couple of days. Whitney didn’t mind leftovers, anyway. Not that she had many this morning. She’d gone for an extra-long jog and had been ravenous.

After cleaning up the kitchen, Whitney went back into her phone and clicked on the Snapchat app. Amelia may have been quiet around the house lately, but she had no problem sharing her life with the rest of the world. Whitney expected to be greeted by smiling selfies of her and Lauren, maybe some photos of the food they were eating, proof to all the other teenagers on social media that they were having a blast on their Friday night together. But nothing had been posted on her story in the last twenty-four hours.

With slick fingertips, Whitney closed out of Snapchat and checked Instagram. Nothing there either. A chill brushed over her neck, causing the hairs to stand on end. She shook the feeling away with an abrupt jerk of her head. Whitney had always been like this. Anxious. A worrier, especially when it came to Amelia. Perpetually thinking the worst. Amelia hated it. So had her ex-husband. It was one of the many things they fought about. And it was probably one of many reasons why Dan had ended up marrying that sunny, smiling, high-pitched preschool teacher. If Whitney had to take a guess, she’d say there were no skeletons in Miss Karen’s closet. No past indiscretions she was afraid of coming to light. No monsters from her past lurking around the corner.

No secret buried inside, so deep the roots had become invisible.

When Dan married Karen, Whitney remembered thinking how he had succeeded in finding someone completely opposite from her, just like he said he would. It didn’t take him long either. He’d met Karen less than a year after they’d split up. He and Karen were friends for a while, and then dated for several years before marrying.

That was how he always defended it.

We were friends first.

We took it slow.

But that was never the point. He should have made Amelia his priority. Whitney hadn’t dated at all while Amelia was growing up—she’d only started within the last couple of years. Once Amelia hit high school and started having a life of her own, Whitney figured it was time she did too.

Leaning against the counter, she stared out the kitchen window. There wasn’t a view. The window overlooked the apartment across the way. A man stood in his kitchen, his back to Whitney as he drank coffee. His build vaguely reminded Whitney of Jay, and it made her smile.

Going into her last text thread with him, she typed, I miss you.

Then she bit her lip. Too forward? Too soon?

They’d been dating for a couple of months, and he’d only been on an overnight business trip. He was returning later today. She didn’t want to come on too strong.

Backspace. Delete. She tried again: Hope your trip was good.

Too formal?

Whitney paused, thinking.

Why am I making this so hard?

She really liked Jay. That was the problem. He was the first guy in a long time she felt hopeful about. Usually by month two of dating someone, the red flags popped up and her interest waned. That hadn’t happened yet with Jay.

Turns out, she didn’t need to stress over what to text. Jay beat her to it.

Boarding the plane now. Will call you when I’m back, he texted.

Sounds good, she responded.

It was 10:30. There were a million things on the agenda today and waiting around for Amelia wasn’t one of them.

After hitting the grocery store and Target, Whitney swung by Lauren’s, using the memory of how they’d gotten there yesterday as her guide. It was a little tricky, since she hadn’t paid enough attention to Amelia’s directions yesterday, but after a few minutes of circling the neighborhood, she came upon a familiar street and turned on it. A couple of houses in, she recognized the rosebushes.

It had been well over an hour since she’d sent the last text to Amelia. Although there hadn’t been any response yet, Whitney was sure she was up by now. Probably hoping to buy more time with her friend.

Whitney had gotten Amelia a bag of gummy worms. She pulled it out of one of the grocery bags. It crinkled as she set it on the passenger seat. Amelia probably wouldn’t even eat them. Certainly, they didn’t fit within the parameters of her latest diet, but, still, Whitney couldn’t resist. Whitney’s habit of picking up treats at the store had started back when Amelia was a toddler, when she’d surprised her with a bag of cookies one afternoon when picking her up from preschool. Whitney would never forget how wide Amelia’s eyes got, how broad her smile became as she clutched the little bag. A lot of things may have changed between them over the past few years, but Whitney didn’t want that to be one of them.

After getting out of the car, she slipped the key ring around her finger and walked up the front walkway, flip-flops slapping on the pavement. It was a warm, spring day. Kids played outside a few houses down. A lawnmower kicked on. A couple rode their bikes past, bright neon helmets bouncing up and down like beach balls bobbing in the waves. Amelia used to love to ride bikes. For a while, it had been a weekend tradition. Whitney couldn’t remember the last time they’d hit the trails together, but she made a note to ask her about it. Most likely her answer would be a big resounding no, coupled with the same cringey, horrified look she had whenever Whitney suggested they hang out. Still, it was worth a shot. Sometimes Amelia surprised her with a yes, reminding Whitney of the girl she used to be before the teenage monster took over.

When Whitney reached the door, she lifted her hand to knock the same way she’d watched Amelia do the day before. A minute passed and no one answered. That funny feeling returned, but she shoved it down, feeling silly.

She knocked again, this time so hard it stung her knuckles. The girls were probably listening to music or something. Or maybe they were in the backyard. It was a nice day. Ears perked, she listened for the sound of her daughter’s voice or of music playing inside. Hearing neither of those, she frowned.

Finally, Whitney caught the hint of footsteps inside.

The door creaked open, an older woman peering out, eyebrows raised. She looked to be in her late sixties, maybe early seventies.

Whitney was taken aback. She’d never met Lauren’s mom, but there was no way this was her. Maybe Lauren’s grandparents lived with them. Recently, Whitney had watched a news report about how the cost of living had gone up, causing multigenerational homes to become a growing trend. And Lauren had mentioned that her parents were divorced. Whitney knew firsthand how financially taxing it was to raise a child alone.

“Hi, I’m Whitney. Amelia’s mom.” Smiling, Whitney jutted out her hand.

But the elderly woman just stared at it, not saying a word. She glanced over her shoulder where a man around her same age stood. He furrowed his brows and stepped forward. Whitney’s body tensed.

Maybe she’s got dementia or Alzheimer’s or something. Whitney caught the old man’s eyes. “Hi, I’m Amelia’s mom. She spent the night here.”

“Nope. Not here.” Shaking his head, he came closer. “You must have the wrong house. They all kinda look the same in this neighborhood.”

Whitney glanced around. Hadn’t she thought the same thing yesterday? She must’ve turned down the wrong street or something.

Face warming, she backed away from the door. “I’m so sorry to have bothered you.”

“No bother at all,” the man said, and the woman offered a kind smile.

Whitney turned on her heels and made her way back to the car. She turned on the ignition and pulled away from the curb. The couple had already disappeared inside. Whitney drove to the main street and turned right. When she came up on another street, she turned onto it. The man was right. There were lots of houses that looked like theirs. She pulled up in front of one, scanning the yard.

Nope. No roses.

That’s what had set the other house apart. The one she dropped Amelia off at.

She moved farther down the street, carefully looking to the right and to the left, searching for a one-story house, roses lining the perimeter. Coming up empty, she swung the car around. Maybe her mistake had been turning right at the main street.

Backtracking, this time Whitney turned left.

This street was almost identical to the other two she’d just been down. Same tract homes. Manicured lawns. Shuttered windows. A sea of tan paint and beige trim. The odd red door or colorful lawn art. But, again, no roses. At least, not in the correct spot.

Turning onto another street, she finally found it. The simple house. The roses lining the side.

After parking in front, she leaped out and hurried to the front door. It was answered after only a couple of knocks.

She gasped, taking in the elderly man standing in the doorway. The same one she’d just spoken to a few moments ago.

Oh, my God.

She’d ended up right back where she’d started. As she backed away from the door, apologizing profusely, she took in the shuttered windows, the manicured lawn, the roses lining the perimeter of the yard. Peering back at her car, she envisioned Amelia in the front seat holding her phone, the voice of the GPS speaking in her palm.

There was almost no doubt in Whitney’s mind—this was where she’d left her.

Buy Links

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Social Links

Author Website
Twitter: @ambermg1
Instagram: @AmberGarzaAuthor
Facebook: @AmberGarzaAuthor

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Ladies of the House

Ladies of the House
  Ladies of the House:  A Modern Retelling of Sense and Sensibility
Author:  Lauren Edmondson
Publication Information:  Graydon House. 2021. 384 pages.
ISBN:  1525895966 / 978-1525895968

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The brick went through the window on P Street on what would've been my father's sixty-fifth birthday."

Favorite Quote:  "Like my father, someday we'll all be gone. We'll have lived and died within an era, within a chapter - a paragraph? - of a history book. We might not know what the pages will say. Or who will write them. For now, though, we will not worry about what will become of us. We will ask instead: what will the world become because of us?"

Disclaimer:  I found out after choosing this book that it is a retelling of Sense and Sensibility. I am generally not a fan of retellings. That being said, it's been a really long time since I read Sense and Sensibility. In this case, that is a good thing because I can read and enjoy this story independently, without constantly comparing it to the original. In some ways, I suppose that defeats the point of a retelling, but for me, it works better because, frankly speaking, who could compete or survive a comparison with Jane Austen?

The house is a lovely mansion on P Street in Washington, DC. The DC area is unique for national  politics becomes local news. Having spent time in the Washington DC area, the sights and sounds of the city were interesting to see depicted. For me, that was perhaps as interesting as the story of the Richardson ladies.

Gregory Richardson, the man of the house, was a US senator. At the beginning of the book, he has just passed away, leaving behind his wife and two daughters - the ladies of the house. Unfortunately, he has passed aways under dubious, compromising circumstances and left his wife and daughters a social and financial crisis to deal with in addition to the emotion of the loss and the betrayal. "This had been his biggest flaw: he'd clung so tightly to the displays he presumed would make him relevant and needed, and powerful, he forgot about where power truly lay. With us, his family, his wife and daughters, and the happiness and peace we'd found with each other and ourselves."

The story is about what happens next. Given the nod to Jane Austen, romance - unrequited and otherwise - finds its way into this story, but truly, the story is about the women. Cricket, the wife, deals with all of a sudden being the outsider in the Washington DC circuit, but perhaps she is not as meek or as dependent on that circle as everyone thinks. Wallis finds what she thinks is true love, but is it and will it stand up to the pressures of political machinations? At the heart of the story is Daisy, the daughter who followed her father into the political scene, albeit not as a candidate. Beyond the personal loss, she stands to lose her career for the political world hinges on reputation and perception.

Through the heartache, Daisy grows up and find her own voice. She learns an important lesson about people. "People aren't corrupted by power, Daisy. Power just amplifies who the already are." Even more importantly, she learns about herself. "Whatever they thought about me, finally, was not the same as what I thought about myself." Through it all, I enjoy going along on Daisy's journey. I appreciate it most for the message about self-discovery and self-definition regardless of family baggage and outside expectations. That is a lesson many women still need to learn and that still needs to be repeated.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Bookseller's Secret

  The Bookseller's Secret
Author:  Michelle Gable
Publication Information:  Graydon House. 2021. 384 pages.
ISBN:  152581155X / 978-1525811555

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and a publisher's blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "'Alors, Racontez!' the Colonel said, and spun her beneath his arm."

Favorite Quote:  "Why does a person like any book? It strikes the right note, at the right time."

***** BLOG TOUR *****


Disclaimer: Author Nancy Mitford is the historical figure around which this story is built. The author's note clearly states, "This is not a biography, and the point of a novel is to reflect the inherent truth of a situation, and not merely recite a list of facts. While the Nancy in my book does many things the real Nancy Mitford did not, I hope this novel is a reflection of the spectacular personality and wit of one of the most underrated authors of the twentieth century." I have not read and am not familiar with Nancy Mitford's work. I do not feel that this is a hindrance to enjoying the story, but my experience as a reader is likely different from that of a reader who may be a fan of Nancy Mitford's work. 

Now on to the story. Like many stories of the war, this book uses a two timeline approach. One timeline is that of Nancy Mitford. The other is of a woman in current times who has an interest or is led in some way to Nancy's story of the past.

The story of the past is that of war, but it is also one of family and the bohemian artist community that surround Nancy Mitford. Although she wrote many books, her claim to fame comes from two novels presumed to be semi-autobiographical. This story introduces the possibility of a missing manuscript, a memoir of her personal life, her unhappy marriage, and the exploits of her at-times notorious family.

The story of the present is that of a struggling author facing a crisis about her own abilities who runs away to find comfort in her friend's home in London. Her friend Jojo directs her to the bookstore where Nancy Mitford worked during the war years and where a man named Simon has his own reasons for Nancy Mitford's past. Past and present come together at the Heywood Hill Bookshop in Mayfair.

The book alternates chapters between past and present. Parallels can be drawn between the two authors struggling to write, facing financial difficulty, finding a friend to support them, and finding love outside of a long-term relationship - a marriage in Nancy's case and a lifetime together in Katie's. That being said, I find very little actual parallel between the two timelines. I could have separated the two and read the chapters related to each independently. Other than the fact that Katie is somewhat researching Nancy, the two stories do not really connect. Even the reveal of the bookseller's secret at the end has no real impact on either story.

This book does effectively accomplish what I love about historical fiction. It introduces me to a historical figure I am not familiar with. It introduces me to another facet of World War II history. In this case, it introduces me to the fascinating Mitford family; I think that connection may be more Nancy Mitford's claim to fame rather than her written works. It sends me on a search to read some of the actual history.

About the Book

From New York Times bestselling author Michelle Gable comes a dual-narrative set at the famed Heywood Hill Bookshop in London about a struggling American writer on the hunt for a rumored lost manuscript written by the iconic Nancy Mitford—bookseller, spy, author, and aristocrat—during World War II.

In 1942, London, Nancy Mitford is worried about more than air raids and German spies. Still recovering from a devastating loss, the once sparkling Bright Young Thing is estranged from her husband, her allowance has been cut, and she’s given up her writing career. On top of this, her five beautiful but infamous sisters continue making headlines with their controversial politics.

Eager for distraction and desperate for income, Nancy jumps at the chance to manage the Heywood Hill bookshop while the owner is away at war. Between the shop’s brisk business and the literary salons she hosts for her eccentric friends, Nancy’s life seems on the upswing. But when a mysterious French officer insists that she has a story to tell, Nancy must decide if picking up the pen again and revealing all is worth the price she might be forced to pay.

Eighty years later, Heywood Hill is abuzz with the hunt for a lost wartime manuscript written by Nancy Mitford. For one woman desperately in need of a change, the search will reveal not only a new side to Nancy, but an even more surprising link between the past and present…

About the Author

MICHELLE GABLE is the New York Times bestselling author of A Paris Apartment, I'll See You in Paris, The Book of Summer, and The Summer I Met Jack. She attended The College of William & Mary, where she majored in accounting, and spent twenty years working in finance before becoming a full-time writer. She grew up in San Diego and lives in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, with her husband and two daughters. Find her at michellegable.com or on Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest, @MGableWriter.

Q&A with Michelle Gable

Q: What's the "story behind the story" for The Bookseller’s Secret? Why did you decide to write this book?
A: I’ve been a longtime fan of Nancy Mitford’s work and became obsessed with the entire Mitford clan after reading The Sisters by Mary S. Lovell, about twenty years ago. In short, Nancy was one of six beautiful sisters with very distinct (and controversial!) personas: Nancy the novelist, Pamela the countrywoman, Diana the Fascist (and “most hated woman in England”), Unity the Hitler confidante, Jessica the Communist, and Deborah the Duchess. Writing something about this crew has been in the back of my mind since long before I was published and when tossing around ideas, my agent brought up Nancy’s time at the Heywood Hill bookshop during the Blitz. I love London, and any novel set in a bookstore, as well as new takes on the World War II genre, so I was game.

As for the modern storyline, though Katie’s life is vastly different from mine, let’s just say we share some of the same writerly angst!

Q: What message do you hope readers take from the story?
A: I never write with a message in mind, I just hope something about the story sticks with readers, whether it’s a character, some piece of history learned, or a new way of looking at a situation. I’m shocked how few Americans know about Nancy Mitford (even fellow writers) so I do hope readers walk away with an appreciation for her brilliance (and humor!).

Q: Do you have any specific writing rituals (favorite shirt, pen, drink, etc)?
A: I don’t! Sometimes I handwrite, sometimes I write on a computer. Sometimes I have coffee, or water, or Diet Coke. Usually I work in my home office but have been known to write during my daughters’ softball games. I started this book in February 2020 so most of it was written when EVERYONE was home on lockdown. One of my daughters took over my office so I spent a lot of time writing in my bedroom, with the dog curled up next to me. This is when I learned my husband uses binders for work (click-click-click).

One “habit” that is consistent is that I always stop in the middle of something that is going well so it’s easier to pick up the next day. Few things are more daunting than staring at a blank page!

Q: Which character do you relate to the most?
A: I relate to Katie’s writerly angst, but I really connected to Nancy Mitford’s writing style. I’d like to think we have similar senses of humor but that is giving myself a lot of credit!

Q: What can you tell us about your next project?
A: Though I vowed no more WWII novels, I couldn’t help myself! This one takes place in Rome, near the end of the war, and centers on women who created propaganda to feed to the Germans, the goal to lower morale. It’s an exploration of how misinformation not only affects those receiving it, but those creating it.

Q: What do you think drives authors to continue to find stories to tell set around WWII?
A: I think because there are endless stories to tell! It involves most every country, even so called “neutral” countries, and people from literally every walk of life. Brave and scared. Rich and poor. Powerful and powerless. Obedient and rebellious. Every combination of the human experience!

Q: How are you hoping readers will relate to this story?
A: I don’t have any specific hopes, just that they do! And, of course, I want everyone to gain a new appreciation for Nancy Mtiford.

Q: What’s something that you connected with personally as you researched and wrote this story?
A: While she was working at Heywood Hill, Nancy was struggling with ideas for her fifth book just as I had been with my fifth book when my agent suggested writing about her! Also, her husband and mine look exactly alike which is a little creepy. You don’t see a lot of tall, blonde, adult men. And Nancy Mitford died exactly one year to the day before I was born, which also felt like it meant something.
Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

The Last Nomad

  The Last Nomad: Coming of Age in the Somali Desert
Author:  Shugri Said Salh
Publication Information:  Algonquin Books. 2021. 304 pages.
ISBN:  1643750674 / 978-1643750675

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and a publisher's blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "How can I be the last one?"

Favorite Quote:  "Survival is woven into the fabric of who I am. I never asked, 'Why did this happen to me?' bur rather, 'How can I overcome this situation?' It is easy to let past trauma or injustice rule your life forever, but I want to be free, so I needed to understand and forgive others ... above all, I keep in mind that my happiness is up to me now ... I am very proud of my ancestors, my home country, and my past. I have just learned to leave out the parts that don't serve me as a woman, a mother, a human."

***** BLOG TOUR *****


The memoir begins by stating why it is written. "Stories have always created understanding and connection between humans. In this era of great misunderstanding, I wish to help rein us back in to our shared humanity. The beauty of my culture was imprinted on me when I was very young, and I cherish it so deeply that my desire to share it only grows. Like an archeologist desperately excavating a forgotten world, Want to bring the details of my nomadic upbringing to life before it is lost forever."

It then goes on to provide a snapshot. "The resilience I learned from surviving life in the desert carried me through the unexpected death of my young mother, being chased from my country by civil war, and defying my clan's expectations after I dared to fall in love with a man from the 'wrong' country."

The first person narrative then delves into the details of those stories and that journey that begins in the desert of Somalia and, today, continues in the hills of California. In between is death, abuse, genetic mutilation, near rape, an orphanage, a civil war, and a new country. However, in between also is family, faith, friendship, courage, resilience, and love.

The only hesitation I have about this book is the distance I sometimes feel. Perhaps that is the distance of an adult reflecting on her past. Perhaps it is the distance needed to not drown in the emotions this journey entailed. Perhaps, it is none of these and simply is a writing approach. This book tells of a heart wrenching reality. More often than not, it "tells" the story rather and making me feel as if I am "living" it. Not that I would wish to live some of these experiences. Yet, in a book, it is this difference that completely transports me into the world of the book. This transition happens at brief, emotional moments in the book, but then it reverts to telling the story.

Other than that, this memoir both moves and educates. I have friends who are from Somalia, but some of the experiences described in this book are not ones we would ever discuss. By her willingness to share her story, the author provides an insight into the culture and traditions of Somalia and provides me with a better understanding of my friends. For that, I am grateful.

The author brings to life her nomadic life in the dessert and pays tribute to her grandmother who sounds life a fierce, amazing woman. Interestingly, the young Salh is wrenched away from that nomadic life and brought to city life. Yet, for so much of her life, she remains a nomad due to circumstances - family choices, civil war, and life as a refugee.

The fact that she eventually finds a home in the United States makes this a particularly timely story. By describing the cause, the journey, the fact that no one becomes a refugee by choice, and the willingness to work for an adoptive home, the book speaks to the plight of people around the world forced into similar situations. Perhaps, the book may educate on that broader scale as well and promoting understanding.

About the Author

Shugri Said Salh was born in the desert of Somalia in 1974 and spent her early years living as a nomad. In 1992, she emigrated to North America after the civil war broke out in her home country. She attended nursing school at Pacific Union College and graduated with honors. And although this is her first book, Shugri has been storytelling since she could talk. From her grandmother and the nomadic community in which she was raised, she heard stories and learned of their power to entertain, teach, and transform. She lives in Sonoma County with her family.

About the Book

Born in Somalia, a spare daughter in a large family, Shugri Said Salh was sent at age six to live with her nomadic grandmother in the desert. The last of her family to learn this once-common way of life, Salh found herself chasing warthogs, climbing termite hills, herding goats, and moving constantly in search of water and grazing lands with her nomadic family. For Salh, though the desert was a harsh place threatened by drought, predators, and enemy clans, it also held beauty, innovation, centuries of tradition, and a way for a young Sufi girl to learn courage and independence from a fearless group of relatives. Salh grew to love the freedom of roaming with her animals and the powerful feeling of community found in nomadic rituals and the oral storytelling of her ancestors.

As she came of age, though, both she and her beloved Somalia were forced to confront change, violence, and instability. Salh writes with engaging frankness and a fierce feminism of trying to break free of the patriarchal beliefs of her culture, of her forced female genital mutilation, of the loss of her mother, and of her growing need for independence. Taken from the desert by her strict father and then displaced along with millions of others by the Somali Civil War, Salh fled first to a refugee camp on the Kenyan border and ultimately to North America to learn yet another way of life.

Readers will fall in love with Salh on the page as she tells her inspiring story about leaving Africa, learning English, finding love, and embracing a new horizon for herself and her family. Honest and tender, The Last Nomad is a riveting coming-of-age story of resilience, survival, and the shifting definitions of home.

Press Release

“I am the last nomad. My ancestors traveled the East African desert in search of grazing land for their livestock, and the most precious resource of all—water. When they exhausted the land and the clouds disappeared from the horizon, their accumulated ancestral knowledge told them where to move next to find greener pastures. I am the last person in my direct line to have once lived like that.” These lines open Shugri Said Salh’s captivating and utterly original debut memoir, THE LAST NOMAD: Coming of Age in the Somali Desert (Publication Date: August 3rd, 2021; $26.95.) Chronicling Salh’s remarkable journey from her idyllic childhood with a nomadic grandmother in Somalia to her escape from her country’s brutal civil war to her unfamiliar new homes in Canada and then California, THE LAST NOMAD is an unforgettable story of hope, survival, and the shifting definitions of home.

Born in Somalia in 1974 as the fourth daughter in a society that saw daughters as a burden, Salh was sent to live with her beloved ayeeyo (grandmother) at the age of six to learn a once-common way of life. She left behind her parents, her father’s multiple wives, her many siblings, and her home in the city of Galkayo. Though the desert was a dangerous place threatened by drought and hunger and plagued by predators, she grew up courageous and free, learning how to herd camels, raise her own goats, and become a part of the community found through the courtship rituals, nightly stories, and cooking songs of her ancestors. She was even proud to face the rite of passage - a brutal female circumcision - that all “respectable” girls undergo in Somalia.

After the death of her mother and the violent political turmoil that took over the country, Salh was wrenched from the nomadic life she loved. Living first in a refugee camp on the Kenyan border, and ultimately moving to North America, she became a different kind of nomad who was thrust into a new way of life – a life that required navigating everything from escalators to cold weather to marriage and parenthood. With engaging wit, a fierce feminism, and vivid writing that transports readers instantly, THE LAST NOMAD portrays a rich portrait of one woman’s indomitable spirit, and the many vastly different worlds she has encountered in one lifetime.

“There is a saying in my culture that loosely translates: death is inevitable, so make sure your words prevail,” Salh explains. “I realized that if I didn't write this story of mine, it would die with me. It is not only my story, but the story of my family, nomadic culture, my country, and what it is like to be a Somali woman. It is important for me to record my unique upbringing, so my children and their descendants know the strong women they come from. I hope my story ultimately inspires those who have faced adversity in their lives, and brings us all together as humans, regardless of our backgrounds, religion, nationality and gender.” Salh now lives in Sonoma County, California with her husband and three children, and works as an infusion nurse.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Radar Girls

Radar Girls
  Radar Girls
Author:  Sara Ackmerman
Publication Information:  MIRA. 2021. 400 pages.
ISBN:  0778332047 / 978-0778332046

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and the HTP Historical Fiction Summer 2021 blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "On Sunday mornings, while everyone else was singing and praying to the Lord above, Daisy could be found underwater with the pufferfish and the eagle rays."

Favorite Quote:  "Don't believe everything you hear about yourself. It tends to be false."

***** BLOG TOUR *****


As with Sara Ackerman's book Red Sky over Hawaii, the history of this book is 1941. Hawaii. Pearl Harbor. US enters WWII. The specific history is as follows.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, a civilian organization named The Women's Air Raid Defense (WARD) formed to support the military air defense of Hawaii. The requirements for the women recruited was 
to be ages 20-34 years of age, to have no children, and to pass an Army intelligence test. The women received two weeks of training in plotting airplane positions using radar technology. After the two weeks. they were assigned a location and put to work. The unit was disbanded at the end of the war in 1945 although some officers remained in civil service after. What makes this even more interesting is the fact that radar technology was new and experimental at the time. The necessity of having the radar stations staffed outweighed the social constructs of the time regarding women and their roles.

Within this history is the story of twenty-three year old Daisy Wilder in Waialua, O'ahu. There is sadness in her life with references to her father's death and her mother's physical and mental well being. Daisy is clearly the only social, emotional, and financial support for her mother. Daisy is said to prefer horses to people. Being in the right place at the right time leads to her recruitment.

The story then proceeds to the the challenges these women faced with new tasks, new technology, new environment, and many many naysayers about a woman's ability to do the job. For Daisy, this journey is also about finding friendship and acceptance and a sisterhood, things that have been forever lacking from her life. The fact that the story is set in the 1940s, where this was not the prevalent route for women, it is wonderful to see strong female characters.

As with Red Sky over Hawaii, the book also features a romance. That is clear from the description and from almost the beginning of the story itself. As with many wartime books, the romance is that of a soldier off fighting and a girl on the home front. The difference is that this soldier is a pilot, and this girl is a radar girl actively involved in ensuring the safety of the pilots. The romance, however, goes exactly in the direction I would expect it to.

There is an additional side plot about a missing horse. Needed or not, it becomes another example of women coming together to support and raise each other up.

Ultimately, the book does what I love about historical fiction. It teaches me something new and sends me off on a search to learn more about the actual history of the Women's Air Rad Defense.

About the Book

WWII historical fiction inspired by the real women of the Women’s Air Raid Defense, RADAR GIRLS follows one unlikely recruit as she trains and serves in secrecy as a radar plotter on Hawaii. A tale of resilience and sisterhood, it sees the battles of the Pacific through the eyes of these pioneering women, and will appeal to fans of Kate Quinn and Pam Jenoff.

An extraordinary story inspired by the real Women’s Air Raid Defense, where an unlikely recruit and her sisters-in-arms forge their place in WWII history.

Daisy Wilder prefers the company of horses to people, bare feet and saltwater to high heels and society parties. Then, in the dizzying aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Daisy enlists in a top-secret program, replacing male soldiers in a war zone for the first time. Under fear of imminent invasion, the WARDs guide pilots into blacked-out air strips and track unidentified planes across Pacific skies.

But not everyone thinks the women are up to the job, and the new recruits must rise above their differences and work side-by-side despite the resistance and heartache they meet along the way. With America’s future on the line, Daisy is determined to prove herself worthy. And with the man she’s falling in love with out on the front lines, she cannot fail. From radar towers on remote mountaintops to flooded bomb shelters, she’ll need her new team when the stakes are highest. Because the most important battles are fought—and won—together.

This inspiring and uplifting tale of pioneering, unsung heroines vividly transports the reader to wartime Hawaii, where one woman’s call to duty leads her to find courage, strength and sisterhood.

About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Sara Ackerman was born and raised in Hawaii. She studied journalism and earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine. She blames Hawaii for her addiction to writing, and sees no end to its untapped stories. When she's not writing or teaching, you'll find her in the mountains or in the ocean. She currently lives on the Big Island with her boyfriend and a houseful of bossy animals. Find out more about Sara and her books at www.ackermanbooks.com and follow her on Instagram @saraackermanbooks and on FB @ackermanbooks.

Q&A with Sara Ackerman

Q: What do you think drives authors to continue to find stories to tell set around WWII?
A: Perhaps it’s because there are still so many amazing untold stories out there? There are so many individuals with unique experiences during the war, all over the world, that the books could just keep coming. Also, I know for myself, while I’m researching for a novel, I often stumble upon something that makes me sit up and think, Wow, that would make a great story! And then I file it away for future consideration. This happened while I was researching for The Lieutenant’s Nurse, my second novel, and first heard about the Women’s Air Raid Defense. It’s how Radar Girls was born!

Q: How are you hoping readers will relate to Radar Girls?
A: I hope that readers will see a little bit of Daisy Wilder in themselves. I think it’s human nature to put yourself in the shoes of the characters and wonder about how you would react in a crisis. Would you rise to the occasion?

In Radar Girls, we have one woman trying to make her way in the world. Daisy is special in her own way, but no different than you or I, really. And then in one day, everything changes. Through her lens, we experience what it was like firsthand to live in wartime Hawaii, a very dark and scary time. We go along for the ride as she overcomes obstacles, deeply connects with other WARDS, falls in love, and proves herself as an important member of a critical command center Pearl Harbor. We feel her hopes, dreams and fears. As a reader, when I feel the humanity of a story, it makes me care. And when I care, I want to keep turning the pages. I hope that as readers turn the pages of Radar Girls, they will feel empowered and inspired and proud.

Q: What’s something that you connected with personally as you researched and wrote Radar Girls?
A: When I was reading about the real WARDs, the thing that stood out to me the most was how these women quickly became a sisterhood. And I know that many were still close and kept in touch until their dying days. I have a band of friends who I love like sisters, so this really resonated with me. I greatly admire how the WARDs held each other up and maintained such grace under pressure, as well as a great sense of humor throughout. It was so inspiring to me, and made me want to hug all of my friends.

Social Links

Author Website
Facebook: @ackermanbooks
Twitter: @AckermanBooks
Instagram: @saraackermanbooks

Buy Links

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/radar-girls/9780778332046
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Radar-Girls-Sara-Ackerman/dp/0778332047
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/radar-girls-sara-ackerman/1137495104?ean=9780778332046
Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=radar+girls
Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/radar-girls/id1527864335
Books A Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Radar-Girls/Sara-Ackerman/9780778332046?id=8062375558156
Target: https://www.target.com/p/radar-girls-by-sara-ackerman-paperback/-/A-81262195
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/radar-girlsGoogle Play: https://books.google.com/books/about/Radar_Girls.html?id=Y7v3DwAAQBAJ

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.