The Paris Library

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Janet Skeslien Charles

Historical Fiction

Published February 9, 2021 by Atria Books

Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife.

Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.

A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are—family, friends, and favorite authors—The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.

My Thoughts:

I almost passed this up. I was tired of WWII books and was reluctant, but it sounded so good and it involved a library! I am so glad I requested it. I adored this book and have been glued to it all day. Trying to read while drying my hair? Check. While eating breakfast? Check. While brushing my teeth? Yup. In the carpool lane waiting to pick up my kids? Yes to that too. I ended up being late to work because I couldn’t put the book down. My heart was alternately racing while I read as fast as I could or breaking a bit for what I was reading. I never knew about the American Library in Paris or crow letters during the war.

I couldn’t decide whose story I loved more or who I was more emotionally attached to: Lily’s or Odile’s. I only wish there was more resolution when it came to Odile’s story. I want to know more!

To learn more, here is the link to The American Library in Paris. See pictures of the individuals you meet while reading The Paris Library.

To purchase this book, please consider using this link. I earn a tiny commission, but most importantly, Bookshop.org supports local bookstores. They give 75% of their profits to support local bookstores and authors.

Thank you to #NetGalley and #JanetSkeslienCharles for allowing me to read this book. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am sharing this review voluntarily.

The Last Garden in England

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Julia Kelly

Historical Fiction, Romance, Women’s Fiction

Published January 12, 2021 by Gallery Books

Present day: Emma Lovett, who has dedicated her career to breathing new life into long-neglected gardens, has just been given the opportunity of a lifetime: to restore the gardens of the famed Highbury House estate, designed in 1907 by her hero Venetia Smith. But as Emma dives deeper into the gardens’ past, she begins to uncover secrets that have long lain hidden.

1907: A talented artist with a growing reputation for her ambitious work, Venetia Smith has carved out a niche for herself as a garden designer to industrialists, solicitors, and bankers looking to show off their wealth with sumptuous country houses. When she is hired to design the gardens of Highbury House, she is determined to make them a triumph, but the gardens—and the people she meets—promise to change her life forever.

1944: When land girl Beth Pedley arrives at a farm on the outskirts of the village of Highbury, all she wants is to find a place she can call home. Cook Stella Adderton, on the other hand, is desperate to leave Highbury House to pursue her own dreams. And widow Diana Symonds, the mistress of the grand house, is anxiously trying to cling to her pre-war life now that her home has been requisitioned and transformed into a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. But when war threatens Highbury House’s treasured gardens, these three very different women are drawn together by a secret that will last for decades.

My Thoughts:

This was one of my favorite types of books. Historical fiction with some romance (clean) woven into the tale. Once I started reading this I could hardly put it down. 

Throughout the book we follow 4 different women in 3 time periods. At first it was a little confusing to keep track of the cast of characters, but I quickly sorted out who’s who and didn’t have trouble after that. I liked all the time periods and each of the women were strong individuals who had something about them that I admired. 

The garden is wonderfully described and loved that it is based on a real life garden. 

To buy your copy of this book, please consider doing so from this link via BookShop. I receive a tiny commission, but more importantly, BookShop is an online bookstore that contributes 75% of each book’s profit margin to independent bookstores. You can even select the bookshop you want to support via Find a Bookstore.

Thank you to #NetGalley and #JuliaKelly for allowing me to read this book. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Countdown

⭐⭐⭐ 1/2 

Deborah Wiles

Franny Chapman just wants some peace. But that’s hard to get when her best friend is feuding with her, her sister has disappeared, and her uncle is fighting an old war in his head. Her saintly younger brother is no help, and the cute boy across the street only complicates things. Worst of all, everyone is walking around just waiting for a bomb to fall.

It’s 1962, and it seems that the whole country is living in fear. When President Kennedy goes on television to say that Russia is sending nuclear missiles to Cuba, it only gets worse. Franny doesn’t know how to deal with what’s going on in the world — no more than she knows how to deal with what’s going on with her family and friends. But somehow she’s got to make it through.

Featuring a captivating story interspersed with footage from 1962, award-winning author Deborah Wiles has created a documentary novel that will put you right alongside Franny as she navigates a dangerous time in both her history and our history. 

My Thoughts:

This was another book that caught my eye as I was shelving books in my library. Countdown is set in 1962 and it was like entering another world for me. I wasn’t born until the late 1970’s and was 11 (same age as the main character) when the Berlin Wall came down so I don’t remember Russia (then the USSR) being an overwhelmingly looming threat. Wiles does a great job creating Franny’s world and the pages of propaganda and ads from that time period is a wonderful addition. It really cements the feel and climate of the 1960’s in the reader’s mind. Smoking, bomb shelters, duck and cover drills, race issues, women’s issues, etc were a daily part of the 1960’s.  While Franny and her family are worrying about Russia, Cuba, you also see that life goes on. Friend drama, family issues, etc. You see Franny grow up a bit through the book.  The only drawback to the book is you never find out what Jo Ellen’s secret is. It’s alluded to, and adults reading will have a pretty good idea, but I’m not sure the target audience of the book will figure it out and they will be left hanging. This is the first book of The Sixties Trilogy and I’m looking forward to reading the other two.