I told myself I’d step up the reading in September, but then Mother Nature decided to throw a couple hurricanes into the mix. We here in New England were spared both, but the change in air pressure gave me a nice collection of migraines.
Speaking of hurricanes…. At the bottom of this column, I’ve posted links if people are interested in helping out the real victims – the people in Florida, Puerto Rico and Canada. I’m gutted by the damage and loss.
Turning to lighter topics, I read three great books this month. (Youtube watchers will note I added one of August’s books to my recommendations, The Family Remains, because it was so good.) All three of these books are fun reads. Even better, all three are in paperback so they’re affordable!
The Ways We Hide by Kristina McMorris: Kristina McMorris has been an author on my radar for years, so when I had the chance to review her newest release, I jumped at it.
The premise is intriguing. A female escape artist and magician gets hired by British intelligence and is sent on a rescue mission tied to her past. I loved the idea of a magician going undercover, and McMorris does a decent job with it. My one issue was that I thought there were too many close calls. Rather than heighten the tension, it felt repetitive. But that’s a quirk of mine. Others will no doubt disagree.
What I really liked was how McMorris used the real-life Italian Hall disaster as the catalyst for the protagonist’s fears. That one moment is so powerful and explains a lot about the heroine and her fears. I also liked how she didn’t wrap up the book in the traditional happy-ever-after fashion. There was a twist at the end that caught me by surprise and changed the entire book. I liked it because it fit with the idea that war isn’t fair.
McMorris is a lovely writer. I will definitely be reading more of her. I’ll give this book 4 1/2 stars for the lovely writing. 5 stars for originality. Thanks Netgalley for the advanced read. You can purchase your copy by clicking here.
Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce: Viewers of Step Into the Story will recognize this title as our book of the month, as recommended by Lindsey Mugeraur of Lindsey’s Little Library. The book was the perfect tone after last month’s complex read. The story is about a young woman in London during World War 2 who decides to answer the letters rejected by her advice-columnist boss.
There was a lot to like in this book. First, it was a nice break to read a WW2 story that didn’t involve the Resistance or the Holocaust. Second, Pearce does a marvelous job of capturing the British people’s pluck and resolve during the blitz. At first, it seemed strange to read about people going on with their regular lives during a war, but it quickly becomes apparent that the Brits considered it their patriotic duty to “Keep Calm and Carry On”. That doesn’t mean the war isn’t evident in this book. Quite the opposite. There are several scenes where the bombing hits home, turning what started as a light read into something quite poignant.
This is the first book in a series called the Emmy Lake Chronicles. I look forward to reading more of Emmy’s adventures in Book 2, Cheerfully Yours. Buy a copy at Bookshop.org to aid independent bookstores.
The Mayfair Bookshop by Eliza Knight. This book, part of the Step Into the Story Reading Challenge, surprised me. Based on the cover and title, I mistakenly assumed I was getting a lighter read about author Nancy Mitford of the famous Mitford sisters.
What I got was an emotional story of a woman desperate to have a voice. Several of her sisters dominated the headlines, both as great beauties and as fascist sympathizers. (One even lived in Germany as one of Hitler’s confidants.) Meanwhile Nancy was trapped with an unfaithful husband, a subpar writing career and a disapproving, overly critical mother. Any woman who has struggled to find a voice (and that’s pretty much every woman) will identify with her insecurities.
Over time, Nancy came into her own, but doing so wasn’t easy. She battled severe depression and low self-worth. It took a war for her to find herself.
Knight has a wonderful voice and, I thought, captured Nancy’s longings perfectly. I began this book thinking Nancy Mitford was the least interesting sister. I finished the book liking her the best. Buy your copy at Bookshop.org and support independent bookstores.
** Note: Bookshop.org works to give independent bookstores tools to compete online. Purchases financially support independent bookstores and help them maintain their presence in local communities. By purchasing through the Step in the Story bookshop.org link, Step into the Story receives a small percentage of the sale. All money earned is donated to charity to support reading and literacy.
RELIEF ORGANIZATIONS TO HELP FLOOD VICTIMS
Florida: The Florida Disaster Fund is the State of Florida’s official private fund established to assist Florida’s communities as they respond to and recover during times of emergency or disaster. For Hurricane Ian, all administrative and credit card fees have been waived so that 100% of every donation can be used to help Floridians recover. Donations may be made here: Florida Disaster Fund.
Puerto Rico: There are several organizations working to help rebuild Puerto Rico after the island was destroyed (again!) by Hurricane Fiona. A list of where you can help can be found in this Esquire article.
Canada: The Canadian Government has partnered with the Red Cross and will double any donation made to help those displaced or financially impacted by Hurricane Fiona. Donations can be made here: Canada Red Cross
I have to relationship with these organizations other than to list them. It’s wise to vet any organization before donating.