Tag Archives: biographical fiction

Mini Audiobook Review: Enchantress of Numbers

14 Oct

One of my book clubs chose Enchantress of Numbers to further our goals of reading biographical fiction. We chose the book featuring Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace because we had read and enjoyed author Jennifer Chiaverini’s books and because it was not set in WWII. 😉 The story revolves around Lord Byron’s only child, Ada, and her fascination with all things mathematical and mechanical. Ada was quite the prodigy and is credited as the first computer programmer. There’s even a STEM holiday commemorating her. It was a long book, emphasis on long. While it did shed light on the era — Regency and early Victorian England — it was a bit of a slog. I listened to the audiobook borrowed from my library and had to renew twice. Another of our members stated that she felt like it was a school assignment to dread. No glowing recs from my group. It did emphasize the differences between educational and societal norms for women of the time and in our modern world. Ada was shaped by the legacy of her absent father and her domineering mother. I felt for Ada, but wish that the author had written more concisely. One of my group said she kept going with the novel in anticipation of something happening.

While we really can’t recommend the book, we were impressed by all that Ada Byron King accomplished. As always, reviews are subjective, but none of my group liked this book. Perhaps we were just not the target audience.

(I borrowed the audiobook from my library via Libby. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

The only legitimate child of Lord Byron, the most brilliant, revered, and scandalous of the Romantic poets, Ada was destined for fame long before her birth. But her mathematician mother, estranged from Ada’s infamous and destructively passionate father, is determined to save her only child from her perilous Byron heritage. Banishing fairy tales and make-believe from the nursery, Ada’s mother provides her daughter with a rigorous education grounded in mathematics and science. Any troubling spark of imagination—or worse yet, passion or poetry—is promptly extinguished. Or so her mother believes.

When Ada is introduced into London society as a highly eligible young heiress, she at last discovers the intellectual and social circles she has craved all her life. Little does she realize how her exciting new friendship with Charles Babbage—the brilliant, charming, and occasionally curmudgeonly inventor of an extraordinary machine, the Difference Engine—will define her destiny.

Enchantress of Numbers unveils the passions, dreams, and insatiable thirst for knowledge of a largely unheralded pioneer in computing—a young woman who stepped out of her father’s shadow to achieve her own laurels and champion the new technology that would shape the future.

Book Review — Fast Girls

5 Aug

The Olympics were a month away when my book club chose Fast Girls by Elise Hooper to discuss. Fast forward a few weeks, and the Olympics were in full swing and there were lots of obstacles that athletes faced being publicized. Especially women athletes. We enjoyed the book and found many parallels to the struggles of athletes today. Recommended by our group.

In the 1928 Olympics, Chicago’s Betty Robinson competes as a member of the first-ever women’s delegation in track and field. Destined for further glory, she returns home feted as America’s Golden Girl until a nearly-fatal airplane crash threatens to end everything. 

Outside of Boston, Louise Stokes, one of the few black girls in her town, sees competing as an opportunity to overcome the limitations placed on her. Eager to prove that she has what it takes to be a champion, she risks everything to join the Olympic team. 

From Missouri, Helen Stephens, awkward, tomboyish, and poor, is considered an outcast by her schoolmates, but she dreams of escaping the hardships of her farm life through athletic success. Her aspirations appear impossible until a chance encounter changes her life. 

These three athletes will join with others to defy society’s expectations of what women can achieve. As tensions bring the United States and Europe closer and closer to the brink of war, Betty, Louise, and Helen must fight for the chance to compete as the fastest women in the world amidst the pomp and pageantry of the Nazi-sponsored 1936 Olympics in Berlin. 

A New Englander by birth, Elise Hooper now lives with her husband and two young daughters in Seattle. 

She’s drawn to historical figures, especially women, who linger in the footnotes of history books yet have fascinating stories waiting to be told. 

Please learn more: http://www.elisehooper.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elisehooperauthor/
Instagram: elisehooper
Twitter: @elisehooper

My Impressions:

My daughter was an athlete. Still is in many ways, although her competitive spirit is mostly seen in basketball pick-up games and adult league soccer. Throughout the years she was competing — rec league, then club teams, high school, and college — she was inspired by players that had made their mark on her sport. Fast Girls by Elise Hooper pays tribute to the women of the 1936 US Olympic track team who battled gender bias, racism, societal expectations, and even family opposition. The biographical novel focuses on Betty Robinson, Louise Stokes, and Helen Stephens, ordinary, yet extraordinary women, in their quest to achieve a gold medal. While a fictional account, Hooper does an admirable job of bringing the era to life. These three overcame so much in their personal lives to compete on an international level. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, with each woman being a favorite as I read through their stories. As I read the book, I couldn’t help seeing parallels even today. Women compete at all levels now, but they still face similar trials as the women who went before them. I loved learning about the women who allowed women’s access to sport today. My book club read/discussed this book — we all liked it. But those who read the book (I listened to the audio version) said they had trouble at first distinguishing the characters. The audiobook has several narrators, making the transitions easier for the listener.

Of note: This is general market fiction and includes some adult language and situations not found in most Christian fiction.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

What I’m Reading Wednesday — Biographical Novels

7 Jul

This summer I am choosing to read biographical novels, specifically those that feature women as the main character. So far I have read 4 — The Engineer’s Wife, Code Name Helene, The Queen of Paris, and Circling The Sun. All the women, well-known or obscure, made a big difference in their world.

Why read biographical novels?

If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know that I am a big fan of story. In the realm of biographical novels, I love to see how the author fleshes out the unknown aspects of a person’s life — conversations, thoughts, motivations. This was especially true in The Engineer’s Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood. The author took some liberties with the main character’s life and loves, but all in all I really enjoyed living in the 1800s through the eyes of a woman who wanted more than society dictated for her.

I also love how a novelist can add drama, suspense, and romance. Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon was a page-turner. Nancy Wake was really larger than life and Lawhon captures her well. Coco Chanel was the focus of The Queen of Paris by Pamela Binnings Ewen, and while I didn’t like her very much, Ewen’s portrayal of the fashion icon rang true.

Speaking of not liking the main character, that seems to be a pitfall for biographical novels. I appreciate the authors including all the warts. I don’t think the novels would have the same level of authenticity without them. I read The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki some years ago, and knew that Peggy Shippen Arnold, the wife of the infamous Benedict Arnold, would not be a sympathetic character. It’s okay not to like the main character. Maybe it’s more fun that way! 😉

I have at least two more books on my biographical novel TBR list which should finish out my summer reading challenge — Fast Girls by Elise Hooper, a novel of three American women who competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and The Only Woman in The Room by Marie Benedict, a novel of Heddy Lamar, movie star and scientist. I can’t wait to dig into these fascinating lives.

Do you like to read biographical novels?

Book Review: Circling The Sun

5 Jul

In my summer reading quest to read biographical novels featuring interesting women, I chose Circling The Sun by Paula McClain. I read Beryl Markham‘s memoir, West with The Night years ago, so I knew a bit about the life of the amazing woman who was the first ever (male or female) to fly solo across the Atlantic to North America. I wish I had stuck with this version of Markham. 😉 Read my thoughts below.

This powerful novel transports readers to the breathtaking world of Out of Africa — 1920s Kenya — and reveals the extraordinary adventures of Beryl Markham, a woman before her time. Brought to Kenya from England by pioneering parents dreaming of a new life on an African farm, Beryl is raised unconventionally, developing a fierce will and a love of all things wild. But after everything she knows and trusts dissolves, headstrong young Beryl is flung into a string of disastrous relationships, then becomes caught up in a passionate love triangle with the irresistible safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and the writer Baroness Karen Blixen. Brave and audacious and contradictory, Beryl will risk everything to have Denys’s love, but it’s ultimately her own heart she must conquer to embrace her true calling and her destiny: to fly.

Paula McLain is the author of the the New York Times bestselling novels The Paris Wife, Circling the Sun, and Love and Ruin. Now she introduces When the Stars Go Dark, an atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies and heart-wrenching suspense. McLain was born in Fresno, California in 1965. After being abandoned by both parents, she and her two sisters became wards of the California Court System, moving in and out of various foster homes for the next fourteen years. When she aged out of the system, she supported herself by working as a nurses aid in a convalescent hospital, a pizza delivery girl, an auto-plant worker, a cocktail waitress –before discovering she could (and very much wanted to) write. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1996, and is the author of two collections of poetry, a memoir, Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses, and the debut novel, A Ticket to Ride. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, O: the Oprah Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Real Simple, Huffington Post, the Guardian and elsewhere. She lives with her family in Cleveland.

My Impressions:

Let me first begin by saying that Paula McClain is a very talented author. Her diligence in research and her ability to set the reader in a different time and place is showcased in Circling The Sun. Kenya of the early 20th century came alive to me. And I felt that I knew and understood the characters well. I just didn’t like them very much. 😉 That’s not the fault of McClain — this is a biographical novel, after all, and the warts are very much in evidence. Beryl Markham was an amazingly independent and progressive woman for her time, yet she continually makes the same mistakes in her relationships with men. Some of that can be chalked up to her hands-off upbringing and her parents’ negligence, but sometimes we just need to learn from our mistakes. Colonial Kenya seemed to be a place for those who bucked the norms of the day or the misfits who just didn’t fit in their home societies. The portrayal is fascinating. So I guess I shouldn’t have really expected a lot of high ground from the people who populated Markham’s life. Much of the novel features her early life and loves; less focus is put on her flying acommplishments. While I thought the book was very well-written, I’d recommend reading Markham’s memoir West with The Night if you only have a limited time to devote to the subject. It may be a little more biased, but I liked Markham more in it. (Please note: this is a general market novel — adult language and situations.)

Audience: adults.

(I downloaded the audiobook from my local library through Libby. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review — The Queen of Paris

1 Jul

This summer I am on a biographical novel reading kick. In my search for books with interesting women as the main character I came across The Queen of Paris by Pamela Binnings Ewen. I had read several of Ewen’s early novels and loved them, so I decided to give the book about fashion icon, Coco Chanel, a chance. I liked the book, but hated the character! LOL! See my thoughts below.

Legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel is revered for her sophisticated style — the iconic little black dress — and famed for her intoxicating perfume Chanel No. 5. Yet behind the public persona is a complicated woman of intrigue, shadowed by mysterious rumors. The Queen of Paris, the new novel from award-winning author Pamela Binnings Ewen, vividly imagines the hidden life of Chanel during the four years of Nazi occupation in Paris in the midst of WWII — as discovered in recently unearthed wartime files.

Coco Chanel could be cheerful, lighthearted, and generous; she also could be ruthless, manipulative, even cruel. Against the winds of war, with the Wehrmacht marching down the Champs-Élysées, Chanel finds herself residing alongside the Reich’s High Command in the Hotel Ritz. Surrounded by the enemy, Chanel wages a private war of her own to wrestle full control of her perfume company from the hands of her Jewish business partner, Pierre Wertheimer. With anti-Semitism on the rise, he has escaped to the United States with the confidential formula for Chanel No. 5. Distrustful of his intentions to set up production on the outskirts of New York City, Chanel fights to seize ownership. The House of Chanel shall not fall.

While Chanel struggles to keep her livelihood intact, Paris sinks under the iron fist of German rule. Chanel — a woman made of sparkling granite — will do anything to survive. She will even agree to collaborate with the Nazis in order to protect her darkest secrets. When she is covertly recruited by Germany to spy for the Reich, she becomes Agent F-7124, code name: Westminster. But why? And to what lengths will she go to keep her stormy past from haunting her future?

After practicing law for many years in Houston, Texas, Pamela Binnings Ewen exchanged her partnership in the law firm of BakerBotts, L.L.P. for writing. She lives near New Orleans, Louisiana. Her latest book, released in April 2020, The Queen of Paris, a novel on Coco Chanel, received a Starred Review from Publisher’s Weekly and was ranked No. 1 in Hot New Spring Releases in historical fiction by Amazon Kindle. This is the explosive story of Chanel’s newly revealed secret life during the Nazi occupation of Paris in WWII.

Pamela is also the author of The Moon in the Mango Tree, awarded the 2012 Eudora Welty Memorial Award by the National League of American Pen Women, as well as a trilogy of novels on young women lawyers in New Orleans in the 1970’s — including Dancing on Glass, Chasing the Wind, and An Accidental Life. She also authored the Secret of the Shroud, and a non-fiction book, Faith on Trial, both now in second editions.

While practicing law Pamela served on the board of directors of Inprint, Inc., a non-profit organization supporting the literary arts in Houston, Texas, as well as on the Board of Directors of Junior Achievement in Houston. After retiring and moving to the New Orleans area, Pamela served on the board of directors of the New Orleans Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society, The Tennessee Williams Festival, and as President of The Northshore Literary Society. In 2009 Pamela received the St. Tammany Parish President’s Arts Award as Literary Artist of the Year. Recently, Pamela was recognized by Marquis Who’s Who for Excellence in Law and Literature.

Pamela is the latest writer to emerge from a Louisiana Family recognized for its statistically improbable number of writers. Cousin, James Lee Burke, (the Dave Robichaux books) and a winner of the Edgar Award, wrote about the common ancestral grandfathers in his Civil War novel White Dove at Morning. Among other authors in the family are Andre Dubus II (The Bedroom), Andre Dubus III, The House of Sand and Fog) Elizabeth Nell Dubus (the Cajun trilogy), and Alafair Burke (the Samantha Kincaid mystery series).

My Impressions:

The Queen of Paris is a well-written biographical novel featuring the life of Coco Chanel. Told in flashbacks in Coco’s own voice and a third person narrative during WWII, it reveals the very interesting personality of the fashion icon. Don’t expect a flattering or even sympathetic handling of the main character though. Pamela Binnings Ewen portrays Coco with warts and all — and there are a lot of warts! Coco is shown to be a shrewd businesswoman determined to preserve her brand and her fortune. She is both savvy and naive, which seems at odds, but just adds to the complex and infuriating woman who was Coco. The flashbacks serve to give the reader background on her early life, as well as showing how Coco’s personality evolved. She was a woman of many contradictions — selfish, yet loyal, self-serving, yet sacrificing. I wavered between being sympathetic to what she endured and being disgusted at how she saved her livelihood. Coco has long been accused of being a Nazi sympathizer, and Ewen explores that. The result of this well-researched book is what feels like a balanced and accurate portrayal. Paris during Nazi occupation is depicted well, though Coco’s view is certainly different than many of her countrymen.

Did I like The Queen of Paris? Very much. Did I like the main character? Not at all! I think that is the strength of the novel. Ewen created a book that kept the pages turning even though the reader can’t help but hope the main character gets her comeuppance. 😉 Did Coco? You’ll have to read the book to find out. (Please note: this novel was written for the general market. There are adult situations described.)

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: The Engineer’s Wife

21 Jun

My newest book club — the IWBC (Interesting Women Book Club 😉 ) — is meeting for a second time tomorrow. We chose The Engineer’s Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood for our discussion. This biographical novel focuses on Emily Warren Roebling, a very interesting woman! When her husband and chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge project, Washington Roebling, is struck down with a debilitiating disease common to the trade, she is thrust into a role never before performed by a woman. Her life is groundbreaking. A good read to understand the progress women made despite the numerous obstacles placed in their way.

She built the Brooklyn Bridge, so why don’t you know her name?

Emily Roebling built a monument for all time. Then she was lost in its shadow. Discover the fascinating woman who helped design and construct the Brooklyn Bridge. Perfect for book clubs and fans of Marie Benedict.

Emily refuses to live conventionally — she knows who she is and what she wants, and she’s determined to make a change. But then her husband asks the unthinkable: give up her dreams to make his possible.

Emily’s fight for women’s suffrage is put on hold, and her life transformed when her husband Washington Roebling, the Chief Engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, is injured on the job. Untrained for the task, but under his guidance, she assumes his role, despite stern resistance and overwhelming obstacles. But as the project takes shape under Emily’s direction, she wonders whose legacy she is building—hers, or her husband’s. As the monument rises, Emily’s marriage, principles, and identity threaten to collapse. When the bridge finally stands finished, will she recognize the woman who built it?

Based on the true story of an American icon, The Engineer’s Wife delivers an emotional portrait of a woman transformed by a project of unfathomable scale, which takes her into the bowels of the East River, suffragette riots, the halls of Manhattan’s elite, and the heady, freewheeling temptations of P.T. Barnum. The biography of a husband and wife determined to build something that lasts — even at the risk of losing each other.

Tracey Enerson Wood has always had a writing bug. While working as a Registered Nurse, starting an interior design company, raising two children, and bouncing around the world as a military wife, she indulged in her passion as a playwright, screenwriter and short story writer. She has authored magazine columns and other non-fiction, written and directed plays of all lengths, including Grits, Fleas and Carrots, Rocks and Other Hard Places, Alone, and Fog. Her screenplays include Strike Three and Roebling’s Bridge. The Engineer’s Wife is her first published novel.
Other passions include food and cooking, and honoring military heroes. Her co-authored anthology/cookbook Homefront Cooking, American Veterans Share Recipes, Wit, and Wisdom, was released in May, 2018, and all authors’ profits will be donated to organizations that support veterans.


A New Jersey native, she now lives with her family in Germany and Florida, and loves to travel, so be careful giving out casual invitations, she will show up anywhere.


Ms. Wood can be followed or reached at:
Twitter: @traceyenerson
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010292407932

My Impressions:

The plot of The Engineer’s Wife fit into the theme of my summer reading goals — a biographical novel featuring a strong woman who broke society’s expectations. The book follows Emily Warren Roebling from her first encounter with Washington Roebling during the Civil War to the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge in the 1880s. Real life events and people are fictionalized as the author tells the story not only of the building of the iconic bridge, but a fascinating woman who wanted more than society dictated at the time. The construction struggles parallel the problems for a woman of the time. Did you know there was a law against women wearing pants?! Neither did I! Emily’s tenacity and loyalty are strong, and she is presented as a woman with flaws, but also fierce convictions and determination. I enjoyed this novel very much. The afterward lets the reader in on what is fact and what is fiction. I will admit that reading the author’s notes gave me a bit of a let down. There are some plot threads that added drama and tension to the novel, as well as an exploration of Emily’s character. These turned out to be purely fictional. It left me feeling like I really didn’t know the main character at all. That being said, I would still recommend The Engineer’s Wife. As a prospective reader, keep in mind that this is fiction. 😉 The novel is targeted to the general market. There is some language and adult situations.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Top 10 Tuesday — Summer TBR

15 Jun

It is definitely summer here in the sunny South. High temps are in the 90s, and I am melting on my morning walks! But that’s what I signed up for! We endure in the air conditioning and under the umbrella next to the pool. And a good book to take you away is always welcome.

Today’s Top 10 Tuesday list includes some of the books I am reading this summer. My TBR list is short, but I will be reading more than is on my current list — I am keeping my options flexible this summer. For more fun summer reading, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Books on My Summer TBR

The August surprise selection for By The Book is Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan. We are excited to read this dual timeline novel set in one of our favorite cities.

When Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop is asked to guest-curate a new museum collection focusing on artifacts recovered from the steamship Pulaski, she’s shocked. The ship sank after a boiler explosion in 1838, and the wreckage was just discovered, 180 years later. Everly can’t resist the opportunity to try to solve some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the devastating night of its sinking.

Everly’s research leads her to the astounding history of a family of eleven who boarded the Pulaskitogether, and the extraordinary stories of two women from this family: a known survivor, Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth, who was never found, along with her child. These aristocratic women were part of Savannah’s society, but when the ship exploded, each was faced with difficult and heartbreaking decisions. This is a moving and powerful exploration of what women will do to endure in the face of tragedy, the role fate plays, and the myriad ways we survive the surviving.

A small group of my friends formed IWBC (Interesting Women Book Club — for the books were are reading and of course us 😉 . The Only Woman in The Room by Marie Benedict fits that bill. I am going to lobby hard to read it, but if I get outvoted, I am still going to read this intriguing book.

Her beauty almost certainly saved her from the rising Nazi party and led to marriage with an Austrian arms dealer. Underestimated in everything else, she overheard the Third Reich’s plans while at her husband’s side and understood more than anyone would guess. She devised a plan to flee in disguise from their castle, and the whirlwind escape landed her in Hollywood. She became Hedy Lamarr, screen star.

But she kept a secret more shocking than her heritage or her marriage: she was a scientist. And she had an idea that might help the country fight the Nazis and revolutionize modern communication . . . if anyone would listen to her.

A powerful book based on the incredible true story of the glamour icon and scientist, The Only Woman in the Room is a masterpiece that celebrates the many women in science that history has overlooked.

My daughter is reading C. S. LewisSpace Trilogy. She gave book 1, Out of The Silent Planet to my husband, and I downloaded it from Audible (it was included in my subscription). I am hoping our 4th of July celebration will include the 1st Family Book Club. Wish me luck! I had a hard enough time getting my kids to read certain books when they were kids. Now that they are adults . . . .

Out of the Silent Planet is the first novel of the Cosmic Trilogy, considered to be C.S. Lewis’ chief contribution to the science fiction genre. The trilogy concerns Dr. Ransom, a linguist, who, like Christ, was offered a ransom for mankind. The first two novels are planetary romances with elements of medieval mythology. Each planet is seen as having a tutelary spirit; those of the other planets are both good and accessible, while that of Earth is fallen, twisted, and not known directly by most humans. The story is powerfully imagined, and the effects of lesser gravity on Martian planet and animal life is vividly rendered.

Two review books are up for July — The Nature of Small Birds by Susie Finkbeiner and The Chase by Lisa Harris. I can’t wait to dig into both of those books.

In 1975, three thousand children were airlifted out of Saigon to be adopted into Western homes. When Mindy, one of those children, announces her plans to return to Vietnam to find her birth mother, her loving adopted family is suddenly thrown back to the events surrounding her unconventional arrival in their lives.

Though her father supports Mindy’s desire to meet her family of origin, he struggles privately with an unsettling fear that he’ll lose the daughter he’s poured his heart into. Mindy’s mother undergoes the emotional rollercoaster inherent in the adoption of a child from a war-torn country, discovering the joy hidden amid the difficulties. And Mindy’s sister helps her sort through relics that whisper of the effect the trauma of war has had on their family — but also speak of the beauty of overcoming.

Told through three strong voices in three compelling timelines, The Nature of Small Birds is a hopeful story that explores the meaning of family far beyond genetic code.

US Marshal Madison James may not be sure who shot her three months ago, but she does know one thing — it’s time to get back out into the field. When her partner, Jonas Quinn, receives a message that a federal warrant just came in on a man connected to a string of bank robberies, Madison jumps at the chance to get back to work. What she and Jonas find is a bank robbery in progress that’s gone wrong — and things are about to get worse.

For these bank robbers, it’s never been just about the money. It’s about taking risks and adrenaline rushes, and getting caught is not part of the game. When the suspects escape, Madison and Jonas must hunt them down and bring them to justice before someone else — someone close to them — gets hurt . . . or worse.

From Seattle to the San Juan Islands, bestselling author Lisa Harris takes you on a nonstop chase where feelings are complicated and failure isn’t an option.

What are you reading this summer?

Audiobook Mini-Review: Code Name Helene

10 May

I am going though a biographical reading/listening phase — who knows how long it will last 😉 — but I am loving learning about very interesting women! A few of my friends and I are meeting to discuss them too. Yay!! The first book up was Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon. It is a must read for anyone who loves WWII fiction. There are a few caveats though. Check out my review below.

In 1936 Nancy Wake is an intrepid Australian expat living in Paris who has bluffed her way into a reporting job for Hearst newspaper when she meets the wealthy French industrialist Henri Fiocca. No sooner does Henri sweep Nancy off her feet and convince her to become Mrs. Fiocca than the Germans invade France and she takes yet another name: a code name.

Told in interweaving timelines organized around the four code names Nancy used during the war, Code Name Hélène follows Nancy’s transformation from journalist into one of the most powerful leaders in the French Resistance, known for her ferocious wit, her signature red lipstick, and her ability to summon weapons straight from the Allied Forces. But with power comes notoriety, and no matter how careful Nancy is to protect her identity, the risk of exposure is great — for herself and for those she loves.

Ariel Lawhon is a critically acclaimed author of historical fiction. She is the author of The Wife, The Maid, And The Headmistress (2014), Flight of Dreams (2016), and I Was Anastasia (2018). Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, Indie Next, One Book One County, Costco, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, four sons, black Lab, and a deranged Siamese cat. She splits her time between the grocery store and the baseball field.

My Impressions:

I downloaded the audio version of Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon after finding out it was included in my Audible subscription. What did I have to lose — it was free after all. What I won was an excellent reading experience featuring a courageous woman who really existed. This book sucked me in from the get go as it detailed the exploits of Nancy Wake, a tough and determined woman who was invaluable to the French Resistance during WWII. This was a story that needed to be told! Nancy’s story — from international journalist prior to WWII through her work as a super-spy — is told in two storylines. I loved how Lawhon revealed key parts of the story in this way. It also helped to soften the hard experiences that are laid out. The historical details are well-researched and had me googling for more. Nancy’s character, as well as others, are well-drawn and made me feel like I really knew them. This book is a must-read for WWII fiction fans, but please be aware that it is filled with adult elements — language and situations. If it was a movie it would get an R rating, especially for violent images and language. If this doesn’t bother you, then I highly recommend it. A few of my friends gathered to discuss this book, and they all loved it too. The narration for the audiobook is excellent as well. The handling of the many accents was an achievement in its own right.

Highly Recommended. (caveats — adult language and situations, violence)

Audience: adults.

(I downloaded the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Top 10 Tuesday — Recent Reads

4 May

After a slow reading year in 2020 and a busy wedding schedule this year, I am trying to get my reading groove back. It’s been a slow process, but I think I am hitting my stride again. That being said, I’m sharing my most recent reads for Top Ten Tuesday this week. Have you read any of these books?

For more Top Ten Tuesday fun, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top 10 Recent Reads

Blackberry Beach by Irene Hannon

Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon

Facing The Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti

Hope Between The Pages by Pepper Basham

The Lady in Residence by Allison Pittman

More Than Meets The Eye by Karen Witemeyer

Present Danger by Elizabeth Goddard

The Secret Place by Camille Eide

A Tapestry of Light by Kimberly Duffy

Trial And Error by Robert Whitlow

Currently reading:

Aftermath by Terri Blackstock

Circling The Sun by Paula McLain

Whispers in The Branches by Brandy Heineman

Reading Road Trip — Washington, D. C. (and surrounding Metro area)

8 Jan

I am on a literal road trip today, so I thought I would post a literary one for those looking for some great books. My first grandchild was born right after Christmas, and I am finally going to get my hands on her today! She and her parents live outside of the Washington, D. C. area, so I thought it would be fun to spotlight books that are set in and around the Metro area. I have included some historical novels, as well as contemporary suspense so that there is something for everyone. The first novel in my list is a biographical novel of Martha Washington. I know that Washington, D. C. didn’t exist in the Revolutionary-era, but Mount Vernon is so close that any trip to D. C. should include it. 😉 I have not read the last book on my list, but I have heard so many great things about it. I’ll be listening to the audiobook on the plane.

 

Hope you enjoy your Washington reading journey!

 

 

Reading Road Trip — Washington, D.C. (and surrounding area)

 

Washington’s Lady by Nancy Moser

Known for moving first-person novels of Nannerl Mozart, Jane Austen, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Nancy Moser now brings to life the loves and trials of the first First Lady of the United States. When a dapper, young George Washington comes into her life, Martha Custis is a young widow with two young children. Their love and loyalty toward each other — and the new nation they fight for, lasts a lifetime and is an inspiration even now, after 250 years. Washington’s Lady was a Christy Awards finalist.

Wedded to War by Jocelyn Green

It’s April 1861, and the Union Army’s Medical Department is a disaster, completely unprepared for the magnitude of war. A small group of New York City women, including 28-year-old Charlotte Waverly, decide to do something about it, and end up changing the course of the war, despite criticism, ridicule and social ostracism. Charlotte leaves a life of privilege, wealth-and confining expectations-to be one of the first female nurses for the Union Army. She quickly discovers that she’s fighting more than just the Rebellion by working in the hospitals. Corruption, harassment, and opposition from Northern doctors threaten to push her out of her new role. At the same time, her sweetheart disapproves of her shocking strength and independence, forcing her to make an impossible decision: Will she choose love and marriage, or duty to a cause that seems to be losing? An Irish immigrant named Ruby O’Flannery, who turns to the unthinkable in the face of starvation, holds the secret that will unlock the door to Charlotte’s future. But will the rich and poor confide in each other in time?

Wedded to War is a work of fiction, but the story is inspired by the true life of Civil War nurse Georgeanna Woolsey. Woolsey’s letters and journals, written over 150 years ago, offer a thorough look of what pioneering nurses endured.

With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden

In the shadow of the nation’s capital, Kate Livingston’s respectable life as a government worker is disrupted by an encounter with the insufferable Trevor McDonough, the one man she’d hoped never to see again. A Harvard-trained physician, Trevor never showed the tiniest flicker of interest in Kate, and business is the only reason he has sought her out now.

Despite her misgivings, Kate agrees to Trevor’s risky proposal to join him in his work to find a cure for tuberculosis. As Kate begins to unlock the mysteries of Trevor’s past, his hidden depths fascinate her. However, a shadowy enemy lies in wait and Trevor’s closely guarded secrets are darker than she ever suspected.

As revelations from the past threaten to destroy their careers, their dreams, and even their lives, Trevor and Kate find themselves in a painfully impossible situation. With everything to lose, they must find the strength to trust that hope and love can prevail over all.

The Bishop by Steven James

FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers’s cutting-edge 21st-century geospatial investigative techniques and impeccable logic have helped him track some of the country’s most grisly killers. But those skills are pushed to the limit in this new installment of the highly-acclaimed, award-winning The Bowers Files series. This time it’s a congressman’s daughter who is found dead even as her killers launch a spree of perfect murders in the Northeast.

With nothing to link the crimes to each other, Agent Bowers faces his most difficult case yet–even as his personal life begins to crumble around him.Known for his intricately woven, masterfully plotted novels of high-octane action and spine-tingling suspense, Steven James delivers once again.
The Bishop is a gripping, adrenaline-laced story for readers who are tired of timid thrillers. Strap on your seatbelt and get ready for a wild ride. The game is on.

End Game by Rachel Dylan

When elite members of the military are murdered on the streets of Washington, DC, FBI Special Agent Bailey Ryan and NCIS Special Agent Marco Agostini must work together to bring the perpetrator to justice. Unfortunately, all evidence points to a Navy SEAL sniper whom Bailey refuses to believe is guilty.

When Bailey and Marco start to connect the dots between the victims, including a link to a powerful defense contractor, they wonder if there’s a deeper cover-up at play. Then Bailey is targeted, and it becomes clear that someone is willing to kill to keep their dark secrets.

With the stakes getting higher by the moment in a twisted conspiracy, there’s a rush against the clock to determine whom they can really trust. As allies turn to enemies, the biggest secret yet to be uncovered could be the end of all of them.

State of Lies by Siri Mitchell

Someone wants Georgie Brennan dead. And the more she digs for the truth, the fewer people she can trust.

Months after her husband, Sean, is killed by a hit-and-run driver, physicist Georgie Brennan discovers he lied to her about where he had been going that day. A cryptic notebook, a missing computer, and strange noises under her house soon have her questioning everything she thought she knew.

With her job hanging by a thread, her son struggling to cope with his father’s death, and her four-star general father up for confirmation as the next secretary of defense, Georgie quickly finds herself tangled in a web of political intrigue that has no clear agenda and dozens of likely villains.

Only one thing is clear: someone wants her dead too. And the people closest to her might be the most dangerous of all.