Keep the Home Fires Burning, Part One by S. Block

Synopsis from Goodreads1940, Great Paxford, Cheshire. In Britain’s darkest hour, an extraordinary community of women strive to protect the Home Front. When a plane crashes in the village, every one of their lives will change forever . . . The women of Great Paxford are no strangers to hardship and the extraordinary power of what women can achieve when they work together. But the most testing moment of their lives so far is hurtling toward them. Can Frances, Sarah, Pat, Steph and the women of the WI survive their greatest challenge yet?

Feelings: I am SO EXCITED about this, friends. This is part one in a new four part series of ebooks that will be published one per month from July-October. In October, you’ll be able to purchase the four parts together as one novel. This series picks up after the TV series Home Fires ended. If you’re unfamiliar with this series, you need to stop reading this blog and go binge watch it. Go now! I’m obsessed with it. Unfortunately, the final season was left on a HUGE cliffhanger because they were anticipating another season…but then they got canceled. So our story gets to continue in written form – yes!

This particular book starts literally at where the show left off and relays to us the scene we remember. Then we backtrack, setting it up, which is good if you haven’t seen the episode in a while or if you’ve never seen it at all. In fact, I’d say that more than a third of this book is spent giving us back story. I didn’t mind it that much because it was helpful to remember who everyone was, but I also knew that this was just the beginning of this four part story. So there’s plenty of upcoming pages for new things to happen!

Issues: There’s one character, Annie, that I remember not really liking in the series and that feeling continues in this book. She’s fine on her own, I just don’t like how she’s starting to confuse Teresa and make her question her decision to marry Nick. Teresa has committed to him, so I need Annie to back off a little bit. T’s got her own issues and doubts without Annie adding more.

The way it was written makes sense to me, but nothing really actually happened since where the series ended. This book was just kind of setting the stage and leaning into the next book. I get it and I think it was necessary, but again…it made it where nothing new took place.

Characters: Because of the way Block backtracked in most of this book, we didn’t get any real character development just yet. However, there are some new changes that’ll impact the characters in the very near future. Most likely what I’ll do for each installment is focus on a few characters. This story has a large cast, so covering all of them would take a lot of space!

Joyce – Oh, Mrs. Cameron. I didn’t care for her when the TV series started, but she really grew on me. I loved how she went off with Miriam and the others when M started going into labor. She’s really taking on a new role in their community, really being part of their lives. I’m also really grateful that Pat and Bob are living with her for the time being. Pat needs someone to lean on other than her jerk husband. But Joyce’s fawning over Bob needs to stop. I’m hoping Pat will open up to her so that she sees Bob for who he really is.

Sarah – She was a character that I couldn’t quite figure out and the book has helped me. Being in her head and seeing what she’s thinking has shown me how afraid she is about where Adam could be and what her true feelings were during her time with Nick. I hope she gets closure about Adam’s whereabouts, whether he comes home or she gets reliable information.

Miriam – I was worried about Miriam when David went missing during his time at sea. She was so convinced that everything would be ok that she was almost delusional. Then when she got pregnant and David came home, all really was well, other than David’s war wounds. The plane crash and the traumatizing rescue are a new obstacle for Miriam, both mentally and emotionally, as well as physically. In this book, she started to seem again like the Miriam that worried me.

Final thoughts: I would definitely recommend watching the series before picking up the books, however it’s not completely necessary. Block does a good job of giving us background information and character histories, so you could pick up the story with these books and have a full understanding of what’s going on and who these people are.

Pick this up if you liked:

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth (books or TV series)

Goodreads rating: 4.57/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.7/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Reading Challenge Update #2

It’s time for another reading challenge update! I posted my first update in March and at that time, I’d only “traveled” to 8 places in my reading. At this halfway point of the year, I’ve read about 16 places. I included London, England twice because those two books showed me very different experiences. I’ve done most of my book traveling in North America, so I’d like to branch out a little more soon. If you have any recommendations, let me know in the comments!

Travels Completed: 16/80

My reading has taken me to:

Africa

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (South Africa)

Asia

– Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai (Vietnam)

The Secret of the India Orchid by Nancy Campbell Allen (Bombay, India; Modern Day Mumbai)

Europe

London Belongs to Me by Jacquelyn Middleton (London, England)

– May I Have Your Attention, Please? by James Corden (London, England)

– Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison (Easbourne, England)

– The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho (Andalusia, Spain)

North America

– March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (Washington, D.C.; Troy, Alabama)

– The Inconceivable Life of Quinn by Marianna Baer (Brooklyn, New York)

It Started With Goodbye by Christina June (Alexandria, Virginia)

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan (Boston, Massachusetts)

Summerlost by Ally Condie (Utah)

– Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (Los Angeles, California)

– Geekerella by Ashley Poston (Charleston, South Carolina)

Jack & Louisa: Act 1 by Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead (Shaker Heights, Ohio)

– Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (Prince Edward Island, Canada)

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Top 5 Cinderella Retellings

You guys, I really love fairy tales. I’m not necessarily one of those Disney fairy tale crazy fans, but I just love the genre in general. Give me a set of prince and princess characters, a talking pet sidekick, and a happily ever after any day.

I also really get into fairy tale adaptations and retellings. There’s something really fun about reading a reimagination of a classic story and finding ways that they parallel. I’ve seen and read all kinds of adaptations over the years – Snow White, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood – but I think most often, I’ve read Cinderella retellings, so that’s what I’ll focus on today. These are 5 of my favorite Cinderella retellings.

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

This is the most recent Cinderella adaption that I’ve read and I really enjoyed it. We have a science fiction fandom twist to the classic story, which parallels the film “Ever After” more so than the original tale. It’s witty and chalk full of references to bigger fandoms. The love story is a little different from a classic fairy tale and their meet cute is unique. We’ve got a fun cast of characters here for this modern take on a classic – plus it’s a quick read!

 

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

I couldn’t leave out my favorite of them all! I remember seeing this book around for a couple of years before actually picking it up and I’m SO glad that I did. Cinder takes us on a galactic journey with this fairy tale twist and throughout this series, we see other adaptations as well, including Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, and Snow White. The connections to Cinderella are pretty prominent in this first book and it’s a gripping, hilarious story.

It Started with Goodbye by Christina June

This is another modern adaptation of Cinderella, with some looser connections. Our main character lives with her stepmother and stepsister and has a fairy godmother in her abuela. This retelling focuses less on the dynamic between the main protagonist and her “Prince Charming” character and moves it more towards family and friendship. The characters are all VERY real, which is great for a fairy tale adaptation!

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Time for a classic retelling of Cinderella! You may be thinking about the movie, but I’m just going to stop you right there. Don’t even. This is a classic case of the book being significantly better than the movie. It doesn’t even come close. This author is one of my favorites when it comes to fairy tales. All the elements are there – magic, friendship, self-discovery, hope, and a happy ending. Plus, a prince. Got to have a prince! If you haven’t ever read this book, give it a go. You won’t regret it!

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Another throwback example! I remember reading this in middle school. It was one of the first fairy tale adaptations I’d read and is probably the reason I love them so much today. This book gives us a look at the aftermath of Cinderella’s class tale – post-ball and post-wedding life. The twist with this retelling is that there’s no magical anything, it’s a more realistic take. This is a more empowering tale, as Ella didn’t go to the ball in search of a prince, but of a way out of her miserable life. Definitely a different take!

What’s your favorite Cinderella retelling? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

5 Books I Basically Consumed

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately. I have a hundred things going on and when I finally have a minute to myself, my brain is SO not in a place to engage with words on a page. So I decided this week to reflect back on some books that sucked me in and that I finished in less than one day. Sometimes I’m able to do that simply because I have the time to spare, while others involve me burning the midnight oil with zero regrets. Here are 5 books that I read so quickly that I may as well have devoured them.

It Started with Goodbye by Christina June

I think what connected for me so well with this book was how different it was from anything else I’d been reading at that time. This book’s main character, Tatum, is SO REAL that the storyline just flowed and I was deeply rooting for her. I just had to know how the conflict played out and whether or not it would all fall in place. Click HERE for my full review!

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

This was the last book I read in 2016 and I read it on the LAST day. I started it while I was alone at my parent’s house around 6 PM and was on the last page before midnight. I was SO hooked in by this premise and the gripping characters. This is a book that you should read about before diving in. The conflict and the world are both pretty complex, so it’s good to kind of know where it’s going. Click HERE for my full review! Girl power! The second book comes out this year and is titled One Dark Crown…I. Can’t. Wait.

My Lady Jane by C. Hand, B. Ashton, J. Meadows

This book is SO GREAT. The longer I sit here and think about it, the more I want to start back at page 1 and give it another go. Magical elements that make sense, a fun twist on a sad bit of history, and good use of parenthesis…oh my! Read my full review HERE! If you like the style and humor in The Princess Bride, then you’ll enjoy the way this story is told.

The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone

I picked up this book at a time when none of the books on my shelf were calling to me. I couldn’t figure out what genre I was in the mood for. Did I want romance? Fantasy? Classics? I was coming up empty. So I went to the book store and was drawn in by this book’s cover. When I read the synopsis, it left me with a lot of questions…so it was perfect. All throughout this book, I wondered what the author would do with the ending. Would there be a magical cure-all happy ending? Or would it be sad and real? I was really satisfied with this story! My full review is HERE.

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

When this book came out, I decided to re-read the previous two books. Since this was the last book in the trilogy, I wanted to be able to pick up on everything and really enjoy it. I was worried that reading 3 books in a row would burn me out, but it didn’t. This book energized me! The author pulled out all the stops and didn’t do anything the way I expected her to and I LOVED it. This may be one of my top favorite series ending books ever. That’s saying something! I downed it. Then I wanted to have my memory erased so I could do it all over again. My full review for this book is HERE.

What are some books that you flew through? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Reading Challenge Update #1

Hey friends! This week, I wanted to update you on my reading challenge. In case you missed it, I decided to shake up my reading goals for this year. I usually create a list of challenges and then force books to fit the list by the end of the year and that totally defeats the point.

My goal this year is to travel in my reading. I want to learn about other cultures and perspectives and to also just experience life somewhere else. Reading is a great way to accomplish this. I’ve also decided to not limit myself to one year. I’ll reach this goal when I reach it! You can also keep track with me on the tab above. I track places my reading takes me that actually exist. I do read a lot of fantasy, so unless these stories start out in the real world somehow, they won’t count.

Here are where my reading travels have taken me so far this year!

Travels Completed: 8/80

Africa

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (South Africa)

Asia

– Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai (Vietnam)

The Secret of the India Orchid by Nancy Campbell Allen (Bombay, India; Modern Day Mumbai)

Europe

London Belongs to Me by Jacquelyn Middleton (London, England)

– May I Have Your Attention, Please? by James Corden (London, England)

North America

– March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (Washington, D.C.; Troy, Alabama)

The Inconceivable Life of Quinn by Marianna Baer (Brooklyn, New York)

It Started With Goodbye by Christina June (Alexandria, Virginia)

Do you have any books to recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

The Secret of the India Orchid by Nancy Campbell Allen

india-orchid

Synopsis from GoodreadsAnthony Blake is in love with his best friend’s sister, Sophia Elliot. But his plans to court her are put on hold when he is forced to resume his role as an undercover spy for the Crown. A secret document listing the names of the entire network of British spies-including his own-has been stolen. To protect Sophia, Anthony cuts off all ties to her and exchanges his life as an honorable earl for the façade of a flirtatious playboy.

Heartbroken and confused, Sophia travels to India, hoping to find healing in one of the most exotic regions of the British Empire. But the exotic land isn’t as restful as she had hoped. Instead, she finds herself embroiled in a mystery of a missing sea captain, a possible murder, and a plot that could involve the prince of India. And when Anthony appears at the British Residency, asking questions and keeping his distance from her, she is stunned.

She still loves him, and, in her heart, she knows he loves her too. But how can she rebuild her relationship with him if he won’t confide in her? Does she dare offer her heart to him a second time, or will their love be lost under the India sun?

Feelings:  One thing I really appreciated about this book were the cultural spotlights. She gave us a base – the British expectations and values – something most of us have a loose understanding of. Then as the story developed, she layered in the traditions and cultural norms of India. She compared the two worlds and showed how they impacted each other.

The author somehow managed to teach me about a culture I didn’t know much about, draw me in with a murder mystery, and keep me hoping for our two protagonists. There was a lot going on, to be sure, but I don’t think it was too much. I believe it was well balanced.

With murder mysteries, my main concern is usually that I’ll have it all figured out long before the final pages. With this story, I had some guesses, but I never could have predicted exactly how it would play out.

Issues: The ending felt a little too rushed for me. We spent so much time building up to who the murderer was and their motivations, then the truth comes out pretty quickly and it’s over. The epilogue helped the story to feel like it had a satisfying ending. Without it, I really wouldn’t have been thrilled.

While there’s a lot going on in this story, there were a few times where I felt like…nothing…was going on. About a third of the way through, I started to lose interest. Then I just resolved to finish reading it and finished the other two thirds in one sitting. I couldn’t put it down! I think it was because we’d met our protagonists, a change in scenery had occurred, and then someone was murdered. I hadn’t really dug my heels into it yet; it didn’t feel like there was anything solid to hold onto. But then the story picks up and it sucked me in! So stay with it.

Characters: I thought the two main characters, Anthony and Sophia, were really sweet. I was worried that the tension would drag on too long, but it ended up being just right. They complimented each other well and I loved the way they understood one another. Because of the way the author paced the story, we got to know our main characters in doses. There wasn’t a major introductory information dump. In fact, for a while I had some questions, but the author had answered them all by the end. I like that because it forces me to pay better attention and look for specific things.

The minor characters added some value to the plot and gave us some more cultural insights. They included a wide range of individuals from different backgrounds and levels of society, which added some depth to the overall story.

Final thoughts: The setting was beautiful and totally jumped off the pages, the romance was clean and sweet, and the mystery wasn’t too predictable. I really enjoyed the author’s writing style and felt like I was reading some classic Austen, from time to time. This book was a great change of pace from what I’ve been reading lately and I’d recommend it to my historical fiction and mystery loving friends!

Pick this up if you liked:

My Fair Gentleman by Nancy Campbell Allen

Goodreads rating: 4.67/5

My rating: 4/5

*This book will be out August 1 of this year. I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review. All opinions are my own.

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

5 Books I Read Because of Hype

I’m one of those readers who runs on recommendations. I’m always looking for the latest craze or hype-inducing storyline. I want to know what I’m talking about when I join the conversation, so I always fall prey to hype. These are 5 books that I read because of all the conversations they started amongst the blogosphere and Goodreads threads.

anna and the french kiss

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

SO MANY people told me to read this book. I was skeptical because I hadn’t really gotten into the contemporary scene at that point. But I finally decided to dive in on a sick day and I’m so glad that I did. Since I finished reading about Anna and Etienne, I’ve read the next two books in this companion story trio and I loved them. This book is the reason I reach for a contemporary romance. Plus that cover art. *Swoon*

throne

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I love high fantasy. I’m always interested in new worlds and innovative magic systems. I’d heard a lot of people talk about this series after the sequel came out, but the cover threw me off. It seemed weird, I’ll be honest. But I watched a spoiler-free review of the first book and the vlogger was SO into it. I love fangirling, so I wanted what she was having. And now? I freaking love this series. I always pre-order the new books long in advance and anxiously await their arrival, even clearing my schedule for them. These stories consume me. There are so many characters and so much world building that I’m too invested to stop now.

outlander

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Everyone and their cat’s mom has talked about this series. I’m all about historical fiction and time travel, plus romance and Scotland…hubba hubba. But then, the romance also made me hesitated. I’m not one of those people who just LOVES blush inducing love scenes, call me crazy. Once the TV show started airing, I wanted to be part of the conversation, so I picked up the first book. I actually read it as I watched the episodes, which was pretty interesting. Then I watched the second season of the show and haven’t read the book. I AM glad that I read it. I thought the writing was powerful and the world was engaging. I would like to continue the series, but I haven’t settled on whether it’ll be print or TV, or both.

wrath

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

I read a few blog posts and watched some booktube videos of readers raving about this story, so I picked it up. I sat down and read it cover to cover in one sitting. Not necessarily because it was a work of genius, but because it hooked me in and I had the time. Since then, the sequel has been released and I have yet to read it. I don’t really remember what happened in the first book, probably because I read it TOO quickly. I don’t know that I’ll pick up the second book any time soon. I already have it on my Kindle, staring at me, longing to be given a chance. Maybe the hype sucked me in TOO much the first time around.

all the light

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Again I say, I love me some historical fiction. Last year, I was on a major WWII kick and read book after book about that time period. I was also teaching The Diary of Anne Frank along with a WWII unit, so I was thirsty for more information. Everyone kept telling me that I should read this book, but the page count was daunting. Once I finally decided to give it a chance, I flew through it. The characters lept off the page and I was so emotionally invested in their fictional little lives. I love this book. It’ll forever be one of my favorites.

What books has hype made you read? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn