Book Review: Sea of Memories by Fiona Valpy

Title: Sea of Memories

Author: Fiona Valpy

Length: 275 pages (kindle edition)

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I am a huge fan of Fiona’s, loving her other book ‘The Beekeepers Promise’ and I had high hopes for this book. Did it live up to my expectations?

When Kendra first visits her ailing grandmother, Ella has only one request: that Kendra write her story down, before she forgets… In 1937, seventeen-year-old Ella’s life changes forever when she is sent to spend the summer on the beautiful Île de Ré and meets the charismatic, creative Christophe. They spend the summer together, exploring the island’s sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, and, for the first time in her life Ella feels truly free. But the outbreak of war casts everything in a new light. Ella is forced to return to Scotland, where she volunteers for the war effort alongside the dashing Angus. In this new world, Ella feels herself drifting further and further from who she was on the Île de Ré. Can she ever find her way back? And does she want to?

‘Never lose hope. Even when everything else is gone. Life without hope is a living death. Hope is what makes us human. Without it, we are in danger of losing touch with what it is to be alive.’

Fiona Valpy is a fantastic author. I could just leave the review there, but then I wouldn’t get to share about this fantastic book. There’s not many writers out there that can get you so emotionally invested in characters that quickly. It amazes me, a few pages in and I’m hooked.

This book is set in two different times. In the tumultuous beginnings of WW1 and in modern day Scotland. Fiona does both seamlessly. While the main focus of the book, in my opinion, is the story that set in the past, I found myself just as excited to read about the present day.

You follow the story of Ella, as she heads to spend the summer in France, with family friends, where she encounters new experiences, first loves and utter happiness until France and England become torn by war.From then on we see how this affects Ella’s love with Christophe and her life after.

Ella is such a likeable character, to follow her story is a real pleasure. To read about her falling in love for the first time is such joy. Fiona writes it so well, they fall in love quickly in the book, yet it’s totally believable. Then it’s fascinating to read what’s happen to Ella as war rages on.

Fiona Valpy really is a master at Historical Fiction. You really get a sense of the atmosphere, the fear, the panic and the fighting spirit of WW1. I found myself desperately wanting to go to Île de Ré because of Fiona’s descriptions. They are so detailed and atmospheric, it’s wonderful.

It’s also great to see a Woman’s side of the war. There aren’t enough books that focus on that, especially smart women like Ella. This story continues after the war, as we read Ella trying to put her life back together, whilst building a new future. This book, at multiple times, is heartbreaking. Don’t read this without some tissues near by. Why did you do that to me, Fiona?

So, if you haven’t read this book. Or any other of Fiona Valpys books, I seriously can’t recommend them enough. It’s Historical Fiction at its finest. Fiona also has a new book coming out later this year. I can’t wait, I’m already excited. Let me know, if you’ve read any or plan to read these books.

Until the next review

JTH

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100 followers + (E)ARC

Just a quick blog post today to say how thrilled I am about reaching 100 followers on my blog. It truly makes me happy. I read books and write the reviews because I love it. And it’s great to have you all along for the journey.

Also, last month I got approved for two books (thanks Netgalley). They are ‘The Tubman Command’ by Elizabeth Cobbs that comes out May 7th. And ‘Today We Go Home’ by Kelli Estes that comes out August 6th. Both are Historical Fiction novels, with the first being Young Adult also. I’m so excited to read them both.

Again, thank you so much for following. I hope the number continues to grow.

Until the next review

JTH

Book Review… The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Title: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Author: Heather Morris

Length: 293 pages

Publisher: Zaffre

⭐️⭐️/5

I think it’s fair to say there had been a lot of hype around this book. It was one of the best selling books of 2018 and I’ve been looking forward to reading it for a long time. But does it live up to expectations?

In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer – it was love at first sight. And he was determined not only to survive himself, but to ensure the woman, Gita, did, too.

‘ “What do you mean? She’s not a hero.”Gita said with some annoyance. “She just wants to live.” “And that makes her a hero. You too, my darling. That the two of you have chosen to survive is a type of resistance to the Nazi bastards. Choosing to live is an act of defiance. A form of heroism.” ‘

The first half of this book is disappointing to say the least. This book is set in a harrowing time, and it’s like this book forgets to mention it. I mean, obviously it doesn’t, but it mentions the ordeals the prisoners have to go through infrequently and flippantly. The second half of the book doesn’t get any better. It still glosses over one of the worst times in history. I just can’t believe you end up reading a love story.

I know the book is based on a true story, but it’s like the whole thing has been romanticised. Maybe it’s me? Maybe I didn’t expect to be reading a love story. In my opinion it’s not even a very good one. And I feel bad saying that because it’s a true story.

I certainly don’t like the way the book is written. Such a powerful subject is dealt with so carelessly. It almost become trivial. The book needed more depth, more grit. If need more details, this book felt hurried. That’s largely to do with how it’s written. Also, for the main character to have such a different imprisonment to the other prisoners didn’t help. It made this book miss the mark even more.

Well, for me this book certainly didn’t live up to my expectations. It felt like a wasted opportunity, however a lot of people have loved this book so maybe still pick this one up and give it a read. Comment and let me know.

Until the next review

JTH

Book Review ‘At Swim, Two Boys’ by Jamie O’Neill

Title: At Swim, Two Boys

Author: Jamie O’Neill

Length: 643 pages

Publisher: Scribner

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

This book was hard to get into at first, but it’s so worth it in the end. Whilst the storytelling and the writing is magical, it could’ve been shorter.

Out as the Forty Foot, that great jut of Dublin rock where gentleman bathe in the scandalous nude, two boys meet day after day. They make a pact: that Doyler will teach Jim to swim and, in a year, they will swim the bay to the distant beacon of the Muglins rock, to raise the green and claim it for themselves. As a turbulent year drive la inexorably towards the Easter Rising of 1916 and Ireland sets forth on a path to uncertain glory, a tender, secret love story unfolds.

‘All love does ever rightly show humanity our tenderness.’

There is something special about this novel. I’ve often read that people describe this book as lyrical and I completely see why. It flows as your reading it. Chapter 8, is truly one of the best chapters I’ve read in any book. It’s magical. It’s a great introduction to ‘MacMurrough’ who has since become one of my favourite characters I’ve ever read. He’s smart, witty and his character goes on a real journey. I think that’s the best thing about this novel, it’s the storylines that the characters embark on.

The love story between Jim and Doley, the main characters, is sweet and tender. It needed to be sweet because the rest of the novel is about the unrest in Ireland before the war hits the country. The romance is totally believable, and you find yourself rooting for them. I thought their love story was going to be the main focus of the book, but it wasn’t. It was at times the main driving point but often got pushed into the background. But it truly shined when these characters were at the forefront. The novel had a few subtle surprises in there, which kept it fresh. The ending was climactic which I didn’t expect.

Now there were a few things wrong with this book in my opinion. It was very long, and I don’t think it needed to be. The book needed less character perspectives because it just became overwhelming. To give them there own perspective didn’t anything to the book. I know the oncoming war was a big part of the story line, but Jim and Doyler should’ve been the main focus as it was there story that made this book special. It’s also written with Irish dialect which made it very hard to begin with but make sure you persevere, it’s worth it.

I would definitely recommend this book. Especially for people who like historical fiction, Irish history, LGBT romance and beautifully written books. Comment and let me know

Until the next review

JTH

Book Review: ‘The Secret Vow’ by Natalie Meg Evans

Title: The Secret Vow

Author: Natalie Meg Evans

Publisher: Bookouture

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

This is the first book I’ve read by Natalie Meg Evans, it won’t be the last. I didn’t know what to expect from this book, but I throughly enjoyed it.

Katya – young, beautiful and impoverished – arrives in Paris, hoping to begin a new life. She leaves behind a terrible secret, and her survival in this strange and beautiful city depends on nobody discovering who -and what- she is. Immediately Katya is swept up in the city’s glamour – particularly the boutiques on the main boulevard, where glittering gowns are hand sewn for exclusive clientele. Dare Katya dream that she may someday wear – or even design – one of these dazzling creations? It feels like an impossible wish, until she meets businessman Henry Morgan. Tall, handsome and well-connected, Harry could give Katya everything she wants and more…but at what price? And should she break the vows she made and trust him with her secret when her very survival could be a stake?

‘When I met you, I was a man of twenty-eight who wasn’t sure he’d make it to twenty-nine. You were hanging onto your life by your fingernails. We were birds crashing in flight, which doesn’t make it any easier.’

I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down. It’s such a good story with a wonderful plot. The female protagonist, Katya, is extremely likeable and you find yourself rooting for her from the beginning of this book. It’s a classic riches to rag story, but told so well. I loved reading about her chasing her dream, starting her new career. It was so well done. Look, I’m even writing about it as if it was real!

As for the love story that occurs, it’s beautiful. It’s one of the best love stories I’ve read in a while. It’s dramatic, passionate, loving, sweet and honest. I was rooting for Harry and Katya to be together at the end ( I won’t give it away, if they are or not).

The plot moves along really well. From the fleeing of Russia, starting a new life in Paris, Katya’s new business, the love story. It’s truly a book that will keep you entertained. There’s also a back story throughout this book, the keeps you guessing till the end. I had to know what happened. Speaking of the end of this book, it was amazing. It surprised me, it was suspenseful and cinematic. This book is the perfect candidate for a BBC miniseries.

It’s truly beautifully written. Natalie has a real talent. The emotion she conjures up is phenomenal. You truly feel for the characters. As for setting the scene, you get a real sense of Paris in the 1930s. Along with the description of the outfits, the machinery, it’s authentic.

So, if you like historical fiction, books about the fashion industry or a romance book, then this is the one for you. I can’t recommend it enough. Now excuse me, I’m off to buy some more Natalie Meg Evans books.

This ARC was given to me by Netgalley and Bookouture in return for an honest review.

This e-book comes out 11th December! Don’t miss it!

Until the next review

JTH