Carol Warbuton

Petticoat Spy [Carol Warbuton]

Colonial Massachusetts, 1775
Abigail Stowell is a rarity for her time. The comely young woman is educated, outspoken, and attuned to the charged political climate around her. She is a staunch Patriot. In short, she is a rebel. So when Gideon Whitlock, an avowed Tory, rides into her village, Abby is not only put off by his politics and arrogance but is also annoyed by her undeniable attraction to him.

When she observes a clandestine meeting between her Patriot father and Gideon, Abby soon realizes that in a world divided by loyalties, not everything is as it seems. Soon she is drawn deeper into political intrigue than she ever dreamed possible. And just as feelings begin to heat up between Abby and Gideon, the shot heard round the world ignites the beginning of war between the colonists and the British redcoats. There is no time for hesitation, and Abby finds herself thrust into a world of intrigue, treachery, and terror. Lives hang in the balance, and Abby will stop at nothing to support the Patriot movement—but will her allegiance to the cause mean losing the man she loves?

My thoughts on the novel: Petticoat Spy had all the enticing ingredients to become a book I would utterly love — strong female character, historical tale, some spying, much family drama and a promising love interest… Even the sleek cover instantly caught my eye! I was supposed to adore it! So understand my frustration when I started to realise that I couldn’t relate to the story. Why on earth couldn’t I fully enjoy it and “get into” the book?

To be fair, I did find some scenes captivating, especially those where Abigail finds herself in danger. She has to be extra cautious, witty and inconspicuous. Given the context and the social climate, it was quite fascinating to watch her navigate her mission — an extraordinary destiny of hers. But I never really connected with the characters. I thought the intrigue began to gain intensity in the last half of the book with the whole drama surrounding her aunt Caroline and uncle Joseph. I thought it was quite well narrated.

I think it might have been a better idea to have Abigail begin her full-on infiltration mission in Boston much earlier in the plot. Maybe it lacked intensity in the first half. That could explain why I never really delved into the intrigue. Maybe it’s just the style that didn’t speak to me!?

Overall, I thought the book had great potential and I actually quite liked the ending which was satisfying and well-paced. I just wished I had connected with the overall intrigue on a much deeper, emotional level. I remain slightly disappointed but I believe it deserves 2 hearts which means “I liked the book” (which I did) according to my scoring sheet. If only I liked it more…

Finally, the author added some historical facts at the end of the book. A very good idea!

My Score: ♥ ♥

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Sandy Taylor

When we Danced at the End of the Pier [Sandy Taylor]

Brighton 1930: Maureen O’Connell is a carefree girl, but her family is on the brink of tragedy, war is looming and life will never be the same again.

Jack and Nelson have always been dear friends to Maureen. Despite their different backgrounds, they’ve seen each other through thick and thin.

As Maureen blossoms from a little girl into a young woman, the candle she’s always held for Jack burns bright. But just as she’s found love, war wrenches them apart. The man she cherishes with all her heart is leaving.

When the bombs start to fall, Maureen and her family find themselves living in the most dangerous of times. With Jack no longer by her side and Nelson at war, Maureen has never felt more alone. Can she look to a brighter future? And will she find the true happiness she’s dreamt of?

An utterly gripping and heart-wrenching story about the enduring power of love, hope and friendship during the darkest of days.

My thoughts on the novel: It was an absolute delight to read the novel When we danced at the end of the pier by Sandy Taylor. The story was deeply emotional and moving. As the reader, you see Maureen grow up at a time of great tragedy: the looming threat of a possible war and the actual horrors of the Second World War (deaths, bombing, evacuees), all in a poor section of Brighton called See Saw Lane.

Throughout their childhood, Maureen and her sister Brenda have had to deal with a “broken daddy” who seems to be wrestling with his own demons. It made them grow up faster, a matter that is obvious in Maureen’s narrative voice and strong personality. Apart from that, Maureen’s friends also have to deal with their share of family and personal drama, from poverty to abuse. She shares a very strong bond with her best friends, including Nelson, Monica and Jack! She will live an incredible love story, as well as an incredible loss that will move you to the core (courtesy of a great narrative and writing style from the author’s part).

All the characters are endearing and touching. The dramatic scenes are heart-wrenching, especially those dealing with bombings. The descriptions are incredibly vivid, which makes for a very realistic novel. You can almost feel and sense everything at the same time as Maureen. The author really managed to write a beautiful tale about family, true love and friendship. If you are a bit of a softie, expect a few tears rolling down your cheeks!

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Vanita Oelschlager

Postcards from a War [Vanita Oelschlager]

Postcards is intended for 4-8 year olds, ones who are old enough to understand that a parent in the military may have to go to a dangerous place, but maybe not why. It shows the important intergenerational bonding that families often experience during times of war.
The postcards and letters in the book were received by the author from her father during World War II.

Wilfred Bauknight sent home many letters and postcards that included his illustrations while on active duty in the Philippines in 1945-6. Wilfred was an engineer, skilled in draftsmanship. The illustrations he included with his correspondence look like they were « engineered » – a lot of detail!

My thoughts on this children’s book: Postcards from a War is a beautifully crafted children’s book. It is filled with lovely, sober sepia-coloured illustrations, giving the book an overall old-fashioned, elegant look and feel.

It offers some very helpful material to use if you need to talk to children about their parents who’ve gone to war. How to deal with their anxiety, fear and sorrow? How to soothe them when they worry about their parents’ safety overseas? I thought the collection of letters, drawings and souvenirs was a fabulous way to try and maintain some level of family life despite the distance. It also makes for an incredible keepsake.

I am sure that children will benefit from reading this book as they won’t feel alone. They’ll know that generations after generations, lots of children like them have had to go through a similar experience, and still do.

This touching book also conveys a beautiful message about peace and the future.

My score:  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Rebecca Raisin

Christmas At The Gingerbread Café [Rebecca Raisin]

Christmas At The Gingerbread Café (The Gingerbread Café, Book 1) par [Raisin, Rebecca]Christmas is the season the Gingerbread Café in Ashford, Connecticut was made for…but owner Lily couldn’t be feeling less merry if she tried. She’s spent another year dreaming of being whisked away on a sleigh-ride for two, but she’s facing festive season alone – again. And, just to give her another reason to feel anything other than candy-cane perky, a new shop across the road has opened… Not only is it selling baked goods, but the owner, with his seriously charming smile, has every girl in town swooning.
But Lily isn’t about to let her business crumble — the Gingerbread Café is the heart of the community, and she’s going to fight for it! This could be the Christmas that maybe, just maybe, all her dreams – even the someone-to-decorate-the-Christmas-tree-with ones – really do come true!

My thoughts on the novel: From the gorgeous cover to the yummy title, I knew I would delightfully delve into this festive short story. Not only is it filled with all the Christmassy elements you expect in such a seasonal novel, but it’s also very entertaining and fun. I really enjoyed the little war between Lily and her new, good-looking business neighbour.

You cannot but appreciate the lovely dynamic there is between Lily and business partner CeeCee, a real mother figure who helps Lily in the process of moving on from ex-husband Joel who broke her heart and left her for someone else. Will Lily finally get the happy ending she longs for?

All in all, Christmas at the Gingerbread Café is a great, enchanting story for this time of year. I’m definitely adding the next two installments in the Gingerbread series to my reading list for 2017!

Score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥