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 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 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
Barnes & Noble:
Indie Bound:
Apple Books:
Books A Million:
Kobo: Play:

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