The Girl from the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor

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Two very different women, from very different worlds, cross paths following the devastation of the Great War and embracing the Jazz era. Dolly Lane is a chambermaid from humble beginnings who seeks stardom, glitz and glamour. Loretta May is a beautiful and glittering actress and celebrity who wants to do a bit of good before she is taken by her terminal illness.

In a world of lost love, tragedy, and inhumanity, lives intertwine and a little sunshine peeks out. A musician must come to terms with his war trauma, a wounded soldier must remember what he has lost so he can move on with his life, a girl with a tainted past must face her past decisions and let go of her guilt, and a woman envied by all must use her gifts selflessly to finally get closure and let go of life.

The Girl from the Savoy, by Hazel Gaynor, is a novel about facing demons and embracing the future, and letting go of whatever is standing in the way of life and love. If you liked Hazel Gaynor’s previous works, The Girl Who Came Home, and A Memory of Violets, you will love The Girl from the Savoy. If you’re looking for a quick, fun weekend read, this one probably won’t be your best choice. The Girl from the Savoy will pull at your heartstrings and give you a lesson in human failings and that little glimmer of hope that keeps us all moving. If you want a book with a touch of historical fiction and a literary feel, pick up The Girl from the Savoy, by Hazel Gaynor, today.

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

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The Boston Girl, by Anita Diamant, came up as a recommendation on one of my many booklover sites (I believe it was librarything.com but it could have been goodreads.com). I read The Red Tent a year or two ago and found it gripping and heart-wrenching, so I approached The Boston Girl, by the same author, Anita Diamant, with caution. I thought it was likely that I would love the book but I was afraid of the commitment. Am I the only one who has that problem sometimes? The struggle is real.

Anyways, I buckled down and read The Boston Girl, and it was just as enticing and upsetting as I expected. Addie Baum is an elderly woman dictating the story of her life growing up in Boston to her granddaughter. The third daughter of Jewish immigrants in the early 1900s, her path was a rocky one, but full of sweet memories, love and good friends.

The Boston Girl addresses the struggle of immigrant families, the nuances of growing up Jewish during a tumultuous time, the difficult relationships between mothers and daughters and sisters, the shocking introduction of men and dating for a very naïve young woman, and the pain of loss followed by the warmth of togetherness shared by kindred spirits. If you love books that deal with women’s issues and focus on the feminine, The Boston Girl is a wonderful example…If you think you can handle it. And if you have a box of Kleenex by your bedside. The Boston Girl is not a fun summer vacation read, and not light reading by any standard…But I loved it. And some of you might love it, too.

The Lake House by Kate Morton

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One little boy disappears in the night. The family is devastated. Alice Edevane is a budding teenager with a flair for mystery fiction writing and she’s concocted the perfect crime. When it appears to have come to fruition in real life and the gardener has gone missing, the weight of what she might have put into motion weighs heavily on her for the rest of her life.

Decades later, a young London detective named Sadie Sparrow is taking some time off after she makes a terrible career mistake. She heads to Cornwall and the mystery of the disappearance of the little boy calls to her, piquing her curiosity and prompting her to fill the long days with investigation into what might have truly happened. Two plucky heroines meet in a crossing of paths as they find they both have an interest in whatever happened to the Edevane baby that night at the Lake House party…And the plethora of family secrets held in the walls of the estate are more than anyone could have ever expected from the private, respected family.

The Lake House, by Kate Morton, does not disappoint. I waited years for the release of the author’s most recent novel and as always, I adored the novel. Kate Morton is a genius in all things secretive and long buried, and she crosses time periods so perfectly so the past has no choice but to slowly resurface, creating perfect page-turning intrigue that will leave you reading deep into the night. If you read The Forgotten Garden, The Secret Keeper, The House at Riverton, or The Distant Hours (or in my case, all of the above), you will not want to miss The Lake House. Kate Morton takes long-buried secrets and mysteries to the deepest, and most intricate levels, leaving readers feeling drained and bereft by the end of her novels…And craving more.

If you are a regular follower on my site you probably already expected me to adore The Lake House. If you have the time and energy for a book that will rob you of all your reserves, you will want to pick up The Lake House today. If you don’t…. Too bad for you.

A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor

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A Memory of Violets, by Hazel Gaynor, is definitely making it onto my top 10 books for 2015. Anyone who knows me is aware that I have a penchant for long, descriptive stories full of mystery and family secrets. Kate Morton and Katherine Webb are my favorite authors of all time. Who didn’t love The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough? I was surprised when Hazel Gaynor’s latest novel sucked me in, right away, and I had a feeling right from the beginning that I was in for a ride.

A Memory of Violets is about two girls born into poverty in the 1800s, into a life of selling flowers on street corners. Flora and Rosie barely have food to live on, but they have one another. One horrific day they are separated in a crowd and the never see one another again. Flora spends the rest of her days looking for her baby sister-and Rosie, too young to know how to get back home, must adapt to a new life.  Years later, Tilly Harper finds the journal of Flora when she starts a job at Mr. Shaw’s Training Homes for Watercress and Flower Girls-and she feels compelled to find out just what happened to Flora, and what happened to her lost baby sister Rosie.

If you read The Painted Girls, by Cathy Marie Buchanan, or , or you have a taste for novels that tear brutally at your heartstrings but come together in the end with perfect closure and new beginnings for much-loved characters, you won’t want to miss A Memory of Violets, by Hazel Gaynor. This reviewer couldn’t put it down.

The Wedding Bees by Sarah-Kate Lynch

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Sugar Wallace is a well-mannered southern gal who makes a hobby of traveling the world, spreading warmth and cheer with her very own honey, from her very own bees. Sugar likes to bring out the best in people around her, and her new apartment building is about to have a total transformation of it’s own. But Sugar has her own secret, dark past, and despite the joy she spreads among everyone around her, she is very much alone. She never wants to love again…So when a sexy Scotsman named Theo appears in her life and just doesn’t want to go away, Sugar must truly learn to practice what she preaches…And find a love of her own.

The Wedding Bees, by Sarah-Kate Lynch, is a warm novel of the women’s fiction genre. If you want something simple and sweet, be sure to pick up The Wedding Bees today.

Vintage by Susan Gloss

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The lives of three women intersect in a local vintage clothing store, three very different women:

Violet Turner is doing her best to make a living pursuing her dream, she owns her own vintage clothing store and avoids thinking about her complicated past at all costs…But she can’t seem to escape from where she came from, people keep creeping out from the shadows.

April Morgan is a young woman, set to start college with a serious complication-she’s in the second trimester of her pregnancy, and the father of the baby is no longer in her life. Her mother passed away recently and she is totally alone but for the child she will soon bring into the world.

Amithi Singh is a very traditional Indian woman who devoted her entire life to being a wife, then a mother, far from her family in the U.S. Her daughter is a grown woman and she has just realized her husband has been betraying her for many years. She is about to face a serious question: Who am I when I am not a wife and mother? What is my purpose now?

These three women are about to unceremoniously enter one another’s lives, and the results will be bittersweet, but, inevitably heartwarming.

If you like women’s fiction, this melancholy-turned-sweet novel will be a great choice. Vintage, by Susan Gloss, is a novel in the Meg Donohue vein, examining female relationships and the hardest thing we do in life-learning to trust in our fellow female.

The Taste of Appleseeds by Katharina Hagena

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Originally entitled “Der Gerschmack von Apfelkernen”, this novel has been translated into English from German, and has already been a literary success in Europe, translated into numerous languages and made into a German film (which I’m dying to get my hands on).

The story revolves around Iris, a woman who inherits her grandmother’s home upon her death and is forced to face some of the secrets of her family and her past. Her grandparents both had deep, dark secrets hidden in the walls that don’t tell tales. Tragedy struck more than once in the little home, more than one daughter was lost. Iris decides to speak with the man who has been tending the home, and with the lawyer representing the property (who is conveniently handsome) and see if she can put together the pieces left behind for her.

The Taste of Appleseeds, by Katharina Hagena, is a must-read for readers who love Kate Morton (The Forgotten Garden, The Distant Hours, The Secret Keeper, the House at Riverton) , Katherine Webb (The Unseen, The Half-Forgotten Song) , or Kimberley Freeman  (Wildflower Hill, Lighthouse Bay, Ember Island). What makes the novel original is that it has a touch of magical realism, faint but there nonetheless, which gives the story something special that you magical realism readers will love too.

Anyone who knows me well enough to judge can tell you that these types of novels are my very favorite. Long, delving back through generations, deep and dark family secrets, beautiful description and an almost magical feel, and a heroine who is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery at any cost…LOVE them. They aren’t for readers who want instant gratification or a short weekend read, but for patient readers who like to take a more languid path once in a while. If this sounds like you, then don’t hesitate to read The Taste of Appleseeds…And if any of you can figure out how to get any version of the movie available here in the states be sure to let me know!

The Hive by Gill Hornby

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A group of women are drawn together in the interest of the local private school attended by their children. The intention : to raise money for the school doing various fundraisers. The outcome : DISASTER. Playground politics are laid out brutally in a world where bullying occurs even among the mothers. The queen bee of the hive is power-hungry and thrives on exclusivity, and some of the mothers have truly had enough. What will happen when the tension is finally too much? Can the queen bee be overthrown?

Anyone who has ever been mother to elementary school-aged children knows about the politics that go along with participating in school events/fundraisers, etc. The Hive, by Gill Hornby,  is set in the U.K.,  but is easy to relate to, even for Americans. Good women’s fiction. I listened to the audiobook while I was at work and found myself smiling and shaking my head as I listened to this novel.

Swimming in the Moon by Pamela Schoenewaldt

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The year is 1904, and Teresa and her daughter, Lucia, are servants in the grand villa of a count and countess on the Bay of Naples. Lucia’s beginnings were shady, she doesn’t know who her father was, only that her mother was assaulted on the shore while working at a masquerade ball many years before. Still, they have a peaceful life, for the most part, cleaning the villa and keeping to themselves. One day, however, everything changes. Her mother aspires to sing opera, and who should appear before her but a famous male opera singer. She confronts him in effort to make him listen to her beautiful voice and she is cast aside and humiliated. News about the episode travels over the island, and the incident appears to be all the Count needs to escalate his poor treatment of Teresa, and to turn it’s terrible focus onto Lucia. Suddenly, the young woman and her mother are fleeing Italy and headed to America to find a new life.

Early 1900s America was a bustling place, full of opportunity and modern ideas…But life is not so wonderful as families in Italy were led to believe. Sweatshops fill the cities and immigrants are treated badly. Racism is powerful and there is no love lost between the Italians, the Polish, the Irish… All are competing for work and suspicion runs rampant. Still, Teresa gets a job and Lucia is allowed to learn English and go to school, and things go quite well for some time…But Teresa struggles, trouble finds them, and they must find a new path. Teresa decides to chase her dream and finally gets work as a performer in a vaudeville show. Lucia is finally able to graduate, but she receives terrible news about her mother, and her life and plans are put on hold…Maybe forever. Will Lucia ever find the life she wants, or will she continue to be beaten down, time and again?

Once in a while, an avid reader finds a novel like Pamela Schoenewaldt’s Swimming in the Moon and is thrown a little off-kilter by it’s originality and deep emotional pull. Many of us get trapped in genres, Paranormal Romance, or Historical Romance, or Fantasy, or ChickLit, and we never venture outside of our comfort zone. Swimming in the Moon is the type of book that takes you out of your comfort zone, although I would categorize it as women’s fiction because it outlines one of the greatest challenges faced by many females: the mother-daughter relationship. If you enjoy fiction with a lot of drama and feeling, you won’t want to miss Pamela Schoenewaldt’s Swimming on the Moon.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

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Vivian Daly was 8 years old when she woke to a house fire and was put into the custody of an organization that distributed orphans to foster families out in the country. She rode a train full of other children like herself, some gathered up from the streets and gutters. She is placed into a family, but quickly finds out that she is not intended to be a child, but to work for them without pay except room and board…When the depression hits, things unravel quickly, and she finds herself bouncing from home to home, trying to find her place in the world and survive as best she can, only her able body and her wits on her side.

Molly Ayer is a 17-year-old girl who has been in “the system” for many years. She has bounced from foster situation to foster situation, and she has learned that she has no one to count on but herself. She dyes her hair, gets piercings, wears gothic makeup…Whatever it takes to get people to just leave her alone. When she is sentenced to 50 hours of community service and placed in the home of an elderly woman named Vivian, she knows the whole thing is going to be a big snooze fest…But she finds that she and this old woman are not so different from one another. And an unlikely bond forms between these two strong women.

Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline, is a novel about the parallels and patterns in life that travel from generation to generation, the darkest sides of humanity, the people who stand up for others and the people who only care about themselves, and the pain of real life and hardship. This novel is not warm and fuzzy, although the end is very uplifting. More sensitive readers will want Kleenex nearby, as the flaws in the foster system of both generations are unearthed and exposed mercilessly. This novel is beautiful and intense, and I couldn’t put it down. Great story. Period.