Historical Fiction, Romance

The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton

The Last Train to Key WestThe Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Out June 16th!

I fell in love with Chanel Cleeton after reading her books Next Year in Havana and When We Left Cuba. They both oozed Cuban culture and history. And although I wouldn’t technically classify them as a series, some of the characters translate from one book to the next. So I was ecstatic when I heard that Cleeton had a new book coming out titled The Last Train to Key West.

Told from the perspective of three strong female leads, The Last Train to Key West tells the story of each woman’s will to survive. Set during a hurricane in the Florida Keys in the 1930’s, they each are in search of something. Escape. Family. Love. Independence. And when their paths cross, their lives will be changed forever.

I always adore Cleeton’s writing and this novel was no exception. I always feel like I’m watching a movie in my head when I read her work. I can see everything so vividly. The story was captivating and I could not wait to see what happened next.

One thing that surprised me was the lack of Cuban history present in this story. The other two books were so rich in Cuban culture, I was expecting more of the same. While there is quick mention of Cuban government in Mirta’s story, the remainder of the book is lacking mention of Cuba. Instead, Cleeton swerved, focusing on the history of the Florida Keys post-Great Depression and WWI. It was equally intriguing but I just want to level set for anybody who has read her previous work and may be expecting another Cuban experience.

Overall, this was another strong novel by Chanel Cleeton. I think I prefer the first two books if I had to compare, but this is still a solid 5 star read.

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Chanel Cleeton, and Berkley Publishing for the opportunity to review.-

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General Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction, Mystery

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

Big Lies in a Small TownBig Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Out January 14th!

I fell in love with Diane Chamberlain’s writing last year when I read The Dream Daughter. She has this way of telling a story that draws you in and doesn’t let you go until the very end.

I honestly devoured this book. Told in two timelines (one of my favorite formats), Chamberlain created a story that combined the past and the present in such a beautiful way.

1940: Anna Dale is an artist who will a mural painting competition in a small town in North Carolina. During the painting of the mural, she finds that living in the South with its prejudices is a different ballgame than living in her hometown up North.

2018: Morgan Christoper is a young woman who finds herself mysteriously being released from jail early in exchange for restoring Anna Dale’s mural. And she will end up engrossed in learning about Anna Dale’s history.

Once I started reading this book, I couldn’t stop. It was a wonderful novel from start to finish with rich prose and descriptions that made me feel like I was in the story. It reminded me a little bit of Where the Crawdads Sing which was one of my favorite books in 2018. Overall, I would highly recommend this one to anybody who enjoys historical fiction with a touch of mystery.

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Diane Chamberlain, and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to review.-

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Historical Fiction

Keeping Lucy by T. Greenwood

Keeping LucyKeeping Lucy by T. Greenwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I fell in love with T. Greenwood last year when I read Rust & Stardust. So I was very excited to read her newest book Keeping Lucy. While I don’t think it was quite as good, I still did enjoy it.

Let’s rewind several decades. Now imagine you give birth to a child with Down Syndrome and your husband sends the baby to an institution for the mentally impaired against your wishes. Now imagine you have an opportunity to reunite with your child but you see that the conditions at the institution are more atrocious than you could imagine. What would you do?

I enjoyed this story and felt like I could relate to the mother. This is a pretty heartbreaking story. But that being said, there were pieces that were perhaps a tad over the top or unbelievable which is why I ended up giving it 4 stars instead of 5. Overall, really enjoyable read.

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, T. Greenwood, and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to review.-

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Audiobook Review, Historical Fiction

The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve

The Stars Are FireThe Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was the July pick for my book club. Genre: historical fiction.

It’s a tad hard to summarize The Stars are Fire because it’s kind of just an ongoing series of events. I didn’t really feel like it had a hook that drew me in and kept me wanting more. It was kind of just a story about a woman’s life from Point A to Point B.

Grace has a husband and two kids. Her husband is kind of a jerk. One day a fire takes over her home and her husband goes missing. Alone with two children she finds herself trying to start over. But as an isolated and sheltered housewife she will need to learn a whole set of life skills she hasn’t previously had to use.

The story was good and interesting so please don’t interpret my previous statements as overtly negative. I enjoyed the characters and appreciated their lives as told by the author. But, I did find myself losing interest along the way due to the lack of overall direction.

In addition, other than being set in the 1940’s it didn’t feel all that “historical.” Removing some of the references to the past, this story could have taken place in present day.

All in all, this one was just okay for me. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it.

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Audiobook Review, Historical Fiction

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid SunsA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is utterly life changing and I’m:

1. Sad that it took me so long to read it, and;
2. Pleasantly surprised that it was written by a man.

In one of the book-oriented groups I participate in on Facebook, somebody asked if her teenage daughter should read The Nightingale or A Thousand Splendid Suns for one of their high school classes. As The Nightingale is my favorite book of all time and I had never read A Thousand Splendid Suns, I was quick to recommend the former. But after reading the recommendations of others, several people remarked that young adults are provided with a plethora of information about WWII, but rarely are they given an in depth look at the struggles in the Middle East. I thought that was an excellent point, and decided to read the book for myself to learn more.

Wow, was I pleasantly surprised. This book really details the struggles of the Afghani people over the 3 decades leaving up to the tragedy on September 11th, 2001. How the Soviet Union played a role in shaping the country. How the Taliban slowly took power and wreaked havoc on the people of Afghanistan. And mostly, how the women of the country were affected. This is probably my favorite part of the book… the deep dive into how women endured and survived through horrific oppression and abuse. And I could not believe that it was written by a man. Incredibly impressive writing from Khaled Hosseini.

The story tells of a young woman who was born out of wedlock and is therefore not claimed by her father. At the age of 15, a marriage is arranged with a much older man named Rasheed who is horrendously abusive and she is shipped off to the city of Kabul. Meanwhile, a baby girl is born down the street. 14 years later, as the fighting escalates in Kabul, the baby-girl-turned-young-woman also finds herself the victim of Rasheed’s tyranny. The story revolves around the two women, their relationship, and how they withstood their awful circumstances in Afghanistan.

This book really gave me a glimpse into how lucky I am to have been born in America. It gives me an incredible respect for people who live in countries that must endure oppressive governments, horrific violence and abuse, and years of injustice. I think those who commented on the Facebook post that prompted me to read this book were absolutely right; this is an important book for young adults to read and understand. Although I must warn that there are significant potential triggers in the book including: rape, domestic violence, abuse, etc.

I know I’m late to the party on this one, but if you haven’t already read it, I would highly recommend it. It’s absolutely eye opening.

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