annie mcdonnell, book review, Fiction, Historical Fiction, She Writes Press

#BookReview: Mountain of Full Moons by Irene Kessler ~ 4.5⭐️

Date of Release: April 14, 2020

Summary:

Thirteen-year-old Elisha lives in a village near Shechem in the Land of Canaan in ancient Israel. She wants to be like other girls but is unmarried, speaks to an angel, and composes and sings her own songs—a pursuit her parents disapprove of. When she tells the village women to stand up for themselves, the men are outraged he tribe banishes her.

After journeying alone through the desert, escaping bandits, wild animals, and men who would sell her as a servant, Elisha makes it to Jerusalem, where the angel guides her to study with Abraham and Sarah. She learns much including reading and writing, and Abraham even gives her Doron, his servant, to accompany her as she sings her songs throughout the country. Doron becomes her lover and her songs are well accepted—until she sings one about equality for women.

Mountain of Full Moons explores how we overcome our fears, go out into the world, and gain the courage to speak up and be whom we choose to be.

Review:

What a different book! Unlike at story I have ever read! Irene Kessler brings us back thousands of years to to the Ancient Land of Canaan and Jerusalem.
Her protagonist, Elisha is an intensely strong-willed and determined girl that I was rooting for through the entire story. Her village and family banished her because of something she believed in and stood up for!
This is the tale where following your Guardian Angel, and trusting your inner soul, you remember to stay true to inner self!
“Mountain of Full Moons” dares to teach us females lessons from way back in ancient times, all while watching a young lady try to deliver the message through song!!
I absolutely found the power and strength in this story!
I received a copy of this book from the author and GET RED PR in exchange for a fair and honest review.


4.5 Stars.

annie mcdonnell, Annie’s Favorites, British & Irish Literature, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Sparkpress

#BookReview: The House Children by Heidi Daniele ~ 5⭐️

Date of Release: April 9, 2019

Summary:

In 1937, Mary Margaret Joyce is born in the Tuam Home for unwed mothers. After spending her early years in an uncaring foster home, she is sentenced by a judge to an industrial school, where she is given the name Peg, and assigned the number 27. Amid one hundred other unwanted girls, Peg quickly learns the rigid routine of prayer, work, and silence under the watchful eye of Sister Constance. Her only respite is an annual summer holiday with a kind family in Galway.

At the tender age of thirteen, Peg accidentally learns the identity of her birthmother. Peg struggles with feelings of anger and abandonment, while her mother grapples with the shame of having borne a child out of wedlock. The tension between them mounts as Peg, now becoming a young adult, begins to make plans for her future beyond Ireland.

Based on actual events, The House Children is a compelling story of familial love, shameful secrets, and life inside Ireland’s infamous industrial schools.

Review:

Oh! Wow! “The House Children” is based on true stories shared with Heidi Daniele by 5 women raised in St. Joseph’s Industrial School in Ballinasloe, Galway, Ireland, 1940s and 50s. This story holds so much grief and regret, you actually feel the pangs of this absolute disappointment in what happened to the children at this time.
This deeply researched novel is not only absolutely fascinating, you sense Heidi’s sheer and utter passion towards the telling of this story. Reading this you sense this was Heidi’s life’s calling!
This alone makes the book worth the read! Add in all of her writing talents and you have a winning novel!

Be prepared to want to learn more about this story once you’ve finished!

This is a story that needed to be told! Thank you, Heidi Daniele!
I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

annie mcdonnell, Annie’s Favorites, Ballantine Books, book review, Fiction, Friendship Fiction, Historical Fiction, the write review

#BookReview: Lilac Girls(Lilac Girls #1)by Martha Hall Kelly ~ 5⭐️

Date of Release: April 5, 2016

Summary:

Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and secrets that were hidden for decades.

New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France.

An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.

For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.

The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.

Review:

This is historical fiction at its best! I was totally enamored with everything, I had to know more, to see which parts were true. I love flying down that research hole!
Martha Hall Kelly’s pen was meant to write this story! She was so invested, you could feel her love for her characters. I had the sense that special care went into each detail.
This is a Series to get lost in.

5 Stars.

annie mcdonnell, Annie’s Favorites, book review, Fiction, Flatiron Books, Historical Fiction

#BookReview: The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner ~ 5⭐️

Date of Release: March 3, 2020

Summary:

In Poland, as World War II rages, a mother hides with her young daughter, a musical prodigy whose slightest sound may cost them their lives.

As Nazi soldiers round up the Jews in their town, Róza and her 5-year-old daughter, Shira, flee, seeking shelter in a neighbor’s barn. Hidden in the hayloft day and night, Shira struggles to stay still and quiet, as music pulses through her and the farmyard outside beckons. To soothe her daughter and pass the time, Róza tells her a story about a girl in an enchanted garden:

The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings. He sings whatever the girl composes in her head: high-pitched trills of piccolo; low-throated growls of contrabassoon. Music helps the flowers bloom.

In this make-believe world, Róza can shield Shira from the horrors that surround them. But the day comes when their haven is no longer safe, and Róza must make an impossible choice: whether to keep Shira by her side or give her the chance to survive apart.

Inspired by the true stories of Jewish children hidden during World War II, Jennifer Rosner’s debut is a breathtaking novel about the unbreakable bond between a mother and a daughter. Beautiful and riveting, The Yellow Bird Sings is a testament to the triumph of hope―a whispered story, a bird’s song―in even the darkest of times.

Review:

Jennifer Rosner taught me something new about WWII in her novel “The Yellow Bird Sings”! Everyone knows that when I learn new things, I’m standing at attention while reading. But, this book makes you want to snuggle up in a warm blanket…look around your room and appreciate all the luxuries that you have.
Jennifer writes with such exquisite prose and tone, only making the story lift from the pages. I couldn’t imagine all Roza & Shira had to do to remain safe in 1941, Poland, but Jennifer Rosner expresses their life with dignity while still being honest. The birds singing are noe extra sweet!
Jennife Rosner is an author to watch! Whatever she writes will be superb!
I received a copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

annie mcdonnell, Annie’s Favorites, book review, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Kensington Publishing Corporation, the write review

#BookReview: The Undertaker’s Assistant: A Captivating Post-Civil War Era Novel of Southern Historical Fiction by Amanda Skenandore ~ 5⭐️

Date of Release: July 30, 2019

Summary:

“The dead can’t hurt you. Only the living can.” Effie Jones, a former slave who escaped to the Union side as a child, knows the truth of her words. Taken in by an army surgeon and his wife during the War, she learned to read and write, to tolerate the sight of blood and broken bodies–and to forget what is too painful to bear. Now a young freedwoman, she has returned south to New Orleans and earns her living as an embalmer, her steady hand and skillful incisions compensating for her white employer’s shortcomings.

Tall and serious, Effie keeps her distance from the other girls in her boarding house, holding tight to the satisfaction she finds in her work. But despite her reticence, two encounters–with a charismatic state legislator named Samson Greene, and a beautiful young Creole, Adeline–introduce her to new worlds of protests and activism, of soirees and social ambition. Effie decides to seek out the past she has blocked from her memory and try to trace her kin. As her hopes are tested by betrayal, and New Orleans grapples with violence and growing racial turmoil, Effie faces loss and heartache, but also a chance to finally find her place . . .

Review:

Amanda Skenandore reminded me of The Reconstruction Era, an era in our history I had forgotten about. This story is one of my favorite’s this year. It is rich in actual-history, which had me looking everything up to teach myself more about this era.
Effie Jones is a character I would love to sit and talk with. She is a strong, powerful survivor!
Reading a book that makes me smarter is always an ace in the hole!!
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

Algonquin Books, annie mcdonnell, Annie’s Favorites, book review, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

#BookReview: The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai ~ 5⭐️

Date of Release: March 17, 2020

Summary:

With the epic sweep of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and the lyrical beauty of Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the BanyanThe Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Tran family, set against the backdrop of the Viet Nam War. Tran Dieu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Noi, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Ho Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that will tear not just her beloved country but her family apart.

Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Viet Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope. This is celebrated Vietnamese poet Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s first novel in English.

Review:

“The Mountains Sing” is a glorious novel which sweeps across land, generations and hearts. This is a novel you must open and absorb and get to know. Intimately!

Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai is someone you must get to know because you can feel the pulse of her novel being of generous mind and spirit, even though it is about her families experience with the Vietnam War!! To be a witness was a privilege!

Both Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai & “The Mountains Sing” will leave you feeling inspired!

Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai writes this story as if she is making a call to your soul to bring peace to the world! She wants us to read between the lines, and see and feel even more than her words! It is her writing that grabs you and won’t let go!

She pours this very essence onto her pages! You walk this journey with her. You weep, you bleed, you ache, yet….you still look up at the sun!

Quế Mai’s call to peace is heard as we flip the pages!! I trust that as her novel made its way around the globe, hearts are being moved like mountains and they are singing!!

“The Mountains Sing” has a clear message.

I believe this book is a gift to those who read it! To know more about Quế Mai is an honor! She is an entrancing author!

“The Mountains Sing” needs to be read by everyone!

It is a rare gem that I will never forget.

5 Stars.

annie mcdonnell, Annie’s Favorites, Author interview, book review, Fiction, Friendship Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Southern Fiction, womans fiction

#BookReview & #AuthorInterview: Little Tea by Claire Fullerton ~ 5⭐️

43D35A14-A0F5-4CB5-8E15-74C27DA1D80EReviewer: Annie McDonnell

Date of Release: April 28th, 2020

Summary:

Southern Culture … Old Friendships … Family Tragedy
One phone call from Renny to come home and “see about” the capricious Ava and Celia Wakefield decides to overlook her distressful past in the name of friendship.
For three reflective days at Renny’s lake house in Heber Springs, Arkansas, the three childhood friends reunite and examine life, love, marriage, and the ties that bind, even though Celia’s personal story has yet to be healed. When the past arrives at the lake house door in the form of her old boyfriend, Celia must revisit the life she’d tried to outrun.
As her idyllic coming of age alongside her best friend, Little Tea, on her family’s ancestral grounds in bucolic Como, Mississippi unfolds, Celia realizes there is no better place to accept her own story than in this circle of friends who have remained beside her throughout the years. Theirs is a friendship that can talk any life sorrow into a comic tragedy, and now that the racial divide in the Deep South has evolved, Celia wonders if her friendship with Little Tea can triumph over history.

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Review:

I’ve just discovered a rare gem!

Beloved author, Pat Conroy left behind a legacy that weaves it’s way through so much of southern fiction, but I trust he stopped by Claire Fullerton’s pen and whispered some of his wisdom! The proof is in her novel “Little Tea”!

She has that same knack of real-life, honest storytelling wrapped in beautifully eloquent prose.  Every word being composed so harmoniously with the next.

So refreshing!

Speaking of racism and social issues with both gentle heart and pulsating tension.

Love and relationships are lovely, exuberant, determined and even heartbreaking. When everything is cracking open like a broken glass on the hot Memphis asphalt, the sun is still shining through it.

Claire Fullerton speaks of the South and being a Southerner as a status only a few can attain. Almost a deserving right! The highest of honors! I love that she reveres the South so deeply and sincerely. She writes about the South with such love, you can sense her devotion! She elevates the Southern voice!! Claire is a true gift to both Southern and Literary Fiction!

I was completely enamored and enraptured with this story and each of characters. I even found myself beginning to put the book down one night, only to chose not to because I was just too captivated with even the places and more!! I just couldn’t sleep!

That same night, I found I was reading the last sentence, and I knew without a doubt I had been introduced to one of the most talented writers of our time!

In closing, I look forward to reading Claire Fullerton’s Collection! Time to order every single book!

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

Look, I GOT THEM!! I am all set now!

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Author Bio:

Claire Fullerton is the author of Little Tea, which is set in the Deep South and concerns female friendship, Southern culture, healing the past and the changing times of the racial divide. Little Tea is a Faulkner Society finalist and the August 2020 book club selection of the Pulpwood Queens book club. Her novel, Mourning Dove, is a 9-time award winner set on the genteel side of 1970’s Memphis, Claire’s novel, Dancing to an Irish Reel, a Kindle Book Review and Readers’ Favorite award winner is set on the west coast of Ireland, where she once lived. Claire’s first novel is a paranormal mystery set in two time periods titled, A Portal in Time, set in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Claire contributed to the book, A Southern Season with her novella, Through an Autumn Window, set at a Memphis funeral. She writes of the Deep South, the family dynamic, and the hidden emotions that motivate a character. She hails from Memphis, and lives in Malibu, CA. with her husband and 3 German shepherds. Claire is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Literary Agency. https://www.clairefullerton.com

Order Here:

 

 

Live Interview:

annie mcdonnell, Annie’s Favorites, Author interview, author spotlight, Book Release, book review, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Netgalley

#BookReview: The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

793D7907-DB63-450A-8360-57FA9F2310F6Reviewer: Annie Horsky McDonnell

Date of Release: July 21st, 2020

Summary:

Inspired by an astonishing true story from World War II, a young woman with a talent for forgery helps hundreds of Jewish children flee the Nazis in this unforgettable historical novel from the international bestselling author of the “epic and heart-wrenching World War II tale” (Alyson Noel, #1 New York Times bestselling author) The Winemaker’s Wife.

Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librarian in Florida, is shelving books one morning when her eyes lock on a photograph in a magazine lying open nearby. She freezes; it’s an image of a book she hasn’t seen in sixty-five years—a book she recognizes as The Book of Lost Names.

The accompanying article discusses the looting of libraries by the Nazis across Europe during World War II—an experience Eva remembers well—and the search to reunite people with the texts taken from them so long ago. The book in the photograph, an eighteenth-century religious text thought to have been taken from France in the waning days of the war, is one of the most fascinating cases. Now housed in Berlin’s Zentral- und Landesbibliothek library, it appears to contain some sort of code, but researchers don’t know where it came from—or what the code means. Only Eva holds the answer—but will she have the strength to revisit old memories and help reunite those lost during the war?

As a graduate student in 1942, Eva was forced to flee Paris after the arrest of her father, a Polish Jew. Finding refuge in a small mountain town in the Free Zone, she begins forging identity documents for Jewish children fleeing to neutral Switzerland. But erasing people comes with a price, and along with a mysterious, handsome forger named Rémy, Eva decides she must find a way to preserve the real names of the children who are too young to remember who they really are. The records they keep in The Book of Lost Names will become even more vital when the resistance cell they work for is betrayed and Rémy disappears.

An engaging and evocative novel reminiscent of The Lost Girls of Paris and The Alice Network, The Book of Lost Names is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of bravery and love in the face of evil.

 

 

Review:

I was left weeping and celebrating all at the same time! “The Book of Lost Names” pulled out emotions in me that were so intense I felt a true desire to do better, be better….Like Eva!!

When such raw beauty & awe resonates from the pages of a novel, it is because authors like Kristin Harmel can take a character like Eva and make her feel so real to us that we want to reach out and hug her in gratitude!

With the most tender kind of writing for a time in our history where the suffering was intensely exquisite, Kristin Hormel writes with delicacy and in such a warm way that this entire story leaves you breathless, closing the book grateful for knowing this part of history.

I am very grateful for all that I learned! Not only about history, but humanity and it’s desire to rise above darkness and truly be a bright light!

Eva and “The Book of Lost Names” is forever imprinted upon my heart. Like a tattoo!  As I am sure the true forgers had imprinted themselves on the hearts of so many children.

Bravo, Kristin Harmel! You took a cold, dark time and made it feel warm because of the hope of the people!

Any Child with a Lost Name would be proud to read this novel and keep it close!

I received a copy of this book from the publishers through Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

I’ve added Kristin Harmel to my favorite author’s list!

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Author Bio:

Kristin Harmel is the #1 international bestselling and USA Today bestselling author of THE BOOK OF LOST NAMES, THE WINEMAKER’S WIFE, and a dozen other novels that have been translated into numerous languages and sold all over the world.

A former reporter for PEOPLE magazine, Kristin has been writing professionally since the age of 16, when she began her career as a sportswriter, covering Major League Baseball and NHL hockey for a local magazine in Tampa Bay, Florida in the late 1990s. After stints covering health and lifestyle for American Baby, Men’s Health, and Woman’s Day, she became a reporter for PEOPLE and spent more than a decade working for the publication, covering everything from the Super Bowl to high-profile murders to celebrity interviews with the likes of Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, OutKast, Justin Timberlake, and Patrick Dempsey. Her favorite stories at PEOPLE, however, were the “Heroes Among Us” features—tales of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. One of those features—the story of Holocaust-survivor-turned-philanthropist Henri Landwirth (whom both Walter Cronkite and John Glenn told Kristin was the most amazing person they’d ever known)—partially inspired Kristin’s 2012 novel, The Sweetness of Forgetting, which was a bestseller all over the world.

In addition to a long magazine writing career (which also included articles published in Travel + Leisure, Glamour, Ladies’ Home Journal, Every Day with Rachael Ray, and more), Kristin was also a frequent contributor to the national television morning show The Daily Buzz—where her assignments included flying to London three times to interview the cast of the Harry Potter films. She has appeared on Good Morning America and numerous local television morning shows–and even stumbled into a role as an extra in the 2003 American Idol movie while awaiting an interview with Kelly Clarkson.

Kristin was born just outside Boston, Massachusetts and spent her childhood there, as well as in Columbus, Ohio, and St. Petersburg, Florida. After graduating with a degree in journalism (with a minor in Spanish) from the University of Florida, she spent time living in Paris and Los Angeles and now lives in Orlando, with her husband and young son. She travels frequently to France for book research (and—let’s be honest—for the pastries and wine) and writes a book a year for Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster.

Live Interview:

Order Today from Kristin’s Favorite Independent Book Store…There are a limited number of autographed copies!

Writers Block Book Store

Orlando, Fl.

https://www.writersblockbookstore.com/book/9781982131890

annie mcdonnell, book review, Book Tour, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Netgalley

#BlogTour & #BookReview: The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

Reviewer: Annie Horsky McDonnell

Date of Release: May 26, 2020

Summary:

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

 


C98391E4-8383-4AAD-A7BA-4AA07B422F15Review:

I love all things Austen!

As Natalie Jenner quotes in her novel “The Jane Austen Society”, ‘But one can always read Austen’; I can definitely read about her at any time!

I was enamored with the idea of a society being created to preserve Jane Austen’s home and legacy! Even if you don’t know who Jane Austen is, you will feel the pull of this desire to hold on tight to her memories, and more!

We meet each member of the Society along the way, and as they create relationships with one another we feel their bonds growing! I was touched, moved and often inspired!

With an overall message of hope, I found this book to be truly delightful!

One that often had me smiling, because it simply radiated warmth! I am so happy I had the chance to read this story!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for fair and honest review.

4 Stars.

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Bio:

Natalie Jenner was born in England and emigrated to Canada as a young child. She obtained her B.A. and her LL.B. from the University of Toronto, where she was the 1990 Gold Medalist in English Literature at St. Michael’s College, and was Called to the Bar of Ontario in 1995. In addition to a brief career as a corporate lawyer, Natalie has worked as a recruiter, career coach, and consultant to leading law firms in Canada for over two decades. Most recently Natalie founded the independent bookstore Archetype Books in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs. A lifelong devotee of all things Jane Austen, “The Jane Austen Society” is her first published novel.

 

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